Therein lies the nut of the problem. On the one hand, baseball execs can be counted on to lambaste Forbes’ numbers each year, while declining to give hard numbers of their own. “A lot of these teams are privately held,” says the Journal Sentinel’s Walker, “so you really don’t know.”


Yet Forbes does not make things easy. In the current issue of the magazine, it presents all 30 teams’ franchise values, revenues, debt and operating income in a large, impressive chart — explaining some of the factors it took into consideration but offering not a word about its sources. Where did the numbers come from? Essentially, Forbes is asking its readers to accept its evaluation of every major league team’s financial health on blind faith.


So who to trust? It’s important to remember that Forbes’ numbers are estimates, not certifiable facts — and that, on their side, the teams can adjust their financial figures in different ways.


But until both baseball teams and Forbes are more forthcoming, we’ll have to give the magazine the benefit of the doubt, while advocating some healthy skepticism.


“Ozanian and Forbes do almost the best they can, given the limited access they have,” sports economist Andrew Zimbalist told us. “As journalism, it’s a good effort. But if you try to go to the bank with these numbers, you’re making a big mistake.”

Edward B. Colby was a writer at CJR Daily.