It's not just the snakebitten Mets, and it's not just the divorcée Dodgers, but a startling number of presumably successful baseball teams owe more money than is healthy.
The LA Times reports that nine teams are in violation of MLB's guidelines on how much debt they can carry: they owe more than ten times their annual earnings. What this means in terms of numbers isn't clear, but one of the teams on the list, the Marlins, reported a profit of $3.9 million as recently as 2009. That would put their debt load north of $40 million.
The teams named are the Mets, Dodgers, Marlins, Phillies, Rangers, Tigers, Cubs, Orioles and Nationals.
Some of these inclusions aren't surprising, like the Rangers, who took a loan from MLB last year all the while increasing payroll. But some certainly are, like the Cubs and Phillies who sell out every game and have lucrative TV deals. But then, the Cubs are paying Soriano and Zambrano $38 million this season, and the Phillies are paying Cliff Lee more money than any pitcher in history.
Taking on debt is a fairly common practice, and doesn't necessarily speak to a team's financial health. Running a major league franchise isn't cheap. So when your owner says he can't afford to keep your favorite player even though the team seems to be doing well, maybe you should believe him: they might be having trouble staying above water as it is.