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Cleveland Indians: Tribe ranks 24th on Forbes’ most valuable list

(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Indians have moved up in the latest rankings of MLB team values by Forbes.

Just last year, the Cleveland Indians were the 27th most valuable franchise, with a team value of $920 million. But in 2018, the Tribe is valued at over one billion dollars for the first time.

The Indians are ranked 24th out of 30 MLB teams this year by Forbes with an overall value of $1.045 billion, marking a 14 percent one-year increase, with a year over year increase of seven percent. Those percentages may not sound very large but considering the money involved, that’s a considerable increase.

Larry Dolan bought the team in 2000 for a price of $323 million, and since then the value of not only the Indians, but MLB franchises in general have skyrocketed. But with the overall increase in team values, the Indians have stayed in the bottom third of the franchise rankings. There are a few factors that play into this.

Small Market

As far as market size goes, Cleveland among the smallest in baseball. Playing in a city like New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles will have a big effect on the value of the franchise. That’s why the New York Yankees have topped this list for the past several years.

The Cleveland metropolitan market isn’t likely to change anytime soon, so this is kind of locked in. With a listed metro area population of 2.1 million people, there isn’t as much monetary value in Cleveland sports teams, even though the Tribe have been among the more successful teams in recent years.

These rankings are purely objective and only look at things from a numbers standpoint. It’s not meant to be a knock on Cleveland, but with a smaller metro area, there isn’t as much value on the franchise. But there’s another factor.

Low ticket sales

Forbes acknowledges that the Tribe have more than doubled their season ticket sales base over the past five years. But there was barely more than two million fans through the gates at Progressive Field in 2017. That was actually the first time the organization has reached the two million mark since 2008.

In comparison, the Milwaukee Brewers, who are ranked beneath the Indians in terms of value and have a smaller metro market, were able to draw 2.6 million last year and have drawn at least two million every year since 2004. They’ve drawn over three million three times since 2008. The Indians have had better teams most of those years and are still outdrawn.

On the flipside, the Cleveland Indians have the highest local TV ratings in baseball. The fanbase is definitely there, but watching on television appears to be the more attractive option. That’s great, but the revenue the team gets from SportsTime Ohio is locked in for the next several years while ticket revenue is not.

Again, this is not a knock against fans, but simply numbers that Forbes uses to determine team value.

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This is quite the increase in value for the Indians actually. At a 14 percent increase in value, they’re tied for the second highest increase in baseball with the Houston Astros. The Athletics saw the highest percentage jump with 16 percent.