Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Joey Votto, TV markets and some Reds history

by: Josh Bethel
Staff Writer

With Votto locked up through the 2023 season I'm finally glad to be rid of one of the most furious topics of debate among Reds fans. The majority of discussion about since last off season wasn't about how much the Reds would sign Joey Votto for, but who Walt could get for him in a trade or which big market club would shell out the most cash for his services when he hits free agency. While this is a great move that keeps the "Votto Window" open for the next decade and keeps a possible future Hall of Famer in the Queen City through the rest of his career, a new debate has arisen questioning whether or not this deal will handcuff the Reds in the future. And in a market like ours, it's a legitimate concern.

But what many are not considering is the Reds TV contract. Currently, it's awful. The deal favors Fox Sports in such a way that they should be arrested for robbery, if not rape. The rumored value of the deal is $10 million a year. That's not even enough to cover what Arroyo makes in a season. Meanwhile, TV contracts around the league are more lucrative than ever and plenty of clubs have cashed in, all with Fox Sports. The Angels recently inked a 20 year, 3 billion dollar deal ($150 million per year). The Rangers with 1.6 billion over 20 years (80 million a year) and the Tigers raking in 1 billion over 10 (100 million per year). The Padres old contract in the same ballpark as the Reds at 14 million a year, but they're currently working on a deal rumored to be in the neighborhood of 75 million. The least of those is still 7.5 times what the Reds are getting. I told you it was robbery!

For the time being, the Reds are stuck at the bottom of the barrel of television contracts until 2016. And while that sucks, it can also be a blessing in disguise. As these contract continue to raise in value, by the time it's the Reds turn at the negotiating table they could earn much more than their TV market would normally command. They have an MVP on the roster, plenty of young up and coming players, a historic franchise and a pretty die hard fanbase.

And the Reds are no slouch when it comes to bringing in viewers either. Last season the Reds ranked fifth among all MLB teams with 7.2% of local viewers tuning in. While the market in Cincinnati is one of, if not the smallest in the country, that's still a lot of eyeballs watching Reds baseball. Especially during a disappointing season last like 2011's.

But the radio market is where the Reds really shine. They come in first place by a landslide with 25% of all radios in the greater Cincinnati area being tuned to the game when the Reds are on. The next closest markets are Detroit (21%) and St. Louis (19%). If you're going by total listeners instead of percentage, the Reds clock in 10th in all of baseball, a very impressive feat that topples the radio ratings of many big market clubs.

So while you may worry that the Reds might have put their future in jeopardy by signing Joey to the fourth largest contract ever, don't panic just yet. The front office has been pretty creative with it's money, making it stretch far beyond the small market boundaries and low rate TV deal they have to contend with. After they leave the negotiating table in 2016, they'll have plenty of revenue to build a perennial contender around our premiere first baseman.

Until then, we have Cueto, Latos, Bruce, Marshall and Mesoraco as a young core, all signed to long term deals. It's refreshing to know we can sit back and enjoy some baseball without the cloud of a big market club swooping in to take away our homegrown talent hanging over our heads.

On this day in Reds history...

I'd also like to point out that two notable events that happened on this day in Reds history. On April 3rd, 1994 the Reds hosted the first Sunday Night Opening Day game in Major League history. The Redlegs fell to the Cardinals, 6-4 in front of the smallest opening day crowd ever at Riverfront, due to the game being played on Easter Sunday. On April 3rd, 2008 Johnny Cueto made his first big league start and it was a historical performance. He struck out 10 batters in 7 innings (8 of the first 13 he faced) leading the Reds to a 3-2 victory over the Diamondbacks. He was the first player to have 10 strikeouts and no walks in his first start and the third to have 10 strikeouts and give up only 1 hit.

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