The presumption within baseball is that the Detroit Tigers have been absorbing financial losses for years, owing to Mike Ilitch’s deep desire for a World Series title.
Consider the payrolls of clubs similar in market size and geography. The Cleveland Indians operate in a similar-sized market as the Tigers, and last year they had a payroll of just under $80 million. The Cincinnati Reds’ was just under $110 million. The Milwaukee Brewers' payroll was about $85 million. The Pittsburgh Pirates spent about $80 million.
The Tigers, on the other hand, had a payroll of about $150 million despite inhabiting a city that has had tremendous financial trouble. Ilitch, who is 84, has done everything he can to build a winner in Detroit, and the fans have certainly responded: The Tigers finished fifth in AL attendance in 2012 and third in 2013. Some rival executives, including owners, have marveled at Ilitch’s willingness to essentially dig into his own pockets, from his personal wealth, to try to win.
“God bless him, he wants to win,” said another owner. “I don’t think anybody in baseball wants to win more than he does, and he puts his money where his mouth is.”
But an often-asked question in baseball is: What will the next generations of Tigers ownership be like?