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Who Gets What From Postseason Ticket Revenue

Major League Baseball had several reasons for adding a second Wild Card this season. The reasons we heard most frequently were that the new format would keep more fans interested and excited down the stretch and that it would give an advantage to teams winning their division. The one we heard less frequently — but which was no less important — was that two more postseason games meant more money.

More money for whom?

MLB has very specific requirements for how postseason ticket revenue is divided among the league, the postseason teams, and the players. The framework is set out in the Major League Baseball Rules, an internal document that is not typically shared with the public. The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the owners and the Players Association adds an additional layer. If the Rules and the CBA disagree on any of these points, the language in the CBA controls. Maury Brown of the Biz of Baseball website obtained a copy of the MLB Rules in 2010 and published it on his site. Here’s the link. The Players Association website has a link to the CBA here.

First things first. What type of postseason revenue must teams share with each other, the league and the players? Ticket revenue. Under MLB Rule 26, “paid attendance receipts” is defined as the “total sum of gross receipts from tickets sold” to each postseason game, minus any admission tax, sales tax or use tax. Game-day concessions, merchandise and other non-ticket revenue are not included.

MLB Rule 45 gives the Commissioner’s Office 15% of the paid attendance receipts for all postseason games. The remaining 85% is divided as follows:

The Players Pool money is divided among players on the postseason teams. The more successful the team, the more money to that team’s players. Here’s how the funds are distributed, per the CBA:
  • World Series Winner: 36%
  • World Series Loser: 24%
  • Two Championship Series Losers: 24%
  • Four Division Series Losers: 13%
  • Wild Card Losers: 3%

The CBA guarantees certain minimums for the Players Pool for each round of the playoffs. For example, players on the World Series winning team are guaranteed to share at least $4,608,000 this year. If the percentage contribution doesn’t equal at least that amount, the Pool is adjusted upward. Same for players on the teams that lost the World Series, the Championship Series, the Division Series and the Wild Card game. Were that to happen, there’d be less money for the teams themselves. These guaranteed minimums are adjusted year-to-year to reflect the increase in ticket prices.

The most interesting aspect of the ticket revenue distribution plan is the requirement that the two teams in each series share their portion of the ticket revenue equally, because ticket prices for Division and Championship Series games differ significantly depending on the home team.

Below is a chart showing the range of ticket prices for each of the remaining eight teams in the postseason. Price information was gathered from each team’s website, where available. I estimated the Cardinals ticket prices for the Division Series, as that information was no longer available after both games in St. Louis had been played. I also estimated the Orioles ticket prices for the Championship Series, as those tickets will not go on sale until Wednesday.

Team Division Series Championship Series
Athletics $35 – $98 $35 – $100
Tigers $35 – $135 $75 – $170
Yankees $25 – $390 $45 – $515
Orioles $20 – $100 $35 – $150 (estimate)
Nationals $35 – $450 $70 – $450
Cardinals $50 – $175 (estimate) $64 – $200
Reds $35 – $150 $45 – $320
Giants $65 – $275 $113 – $513

The Orioles get a postseason revenue boost by playing the Yankees in the Division Series. So do the Reds, who are matched up against the Giants. The A’s and Tigers won’t clear nearly as much, as they both have relatively low ticket prices.

At this point, we don’t know how long each series will last or how many tickets will be sold at each price. We do know that whatever ticket revenue is generated for each game, the Commissioner will take his 15% cut, the Players Pool will get the next big chunk for the minimum number of games in each series, and the teams in each series will share the remaining revenue equally.