Forbes Bloggers Fighting Over Astros $99M Profit Projection

Brother fights can be brutal. I don't know this firsthand because I'm an only child (cue sad string ensemble). But, I have learned about it from friends and relatives. It's kind of expected. But, one place you don't expect to see fighting -- at least not the extremely public version we've seen this week at Forbes -- is among bloggers (not writers, apparently) covering similar beats at the same publication.

And all it took to cause such a conflict was the Astros. Figures.

The result is an altogether different kind of news story, one that meets at the intersection of media scrutiny and local sports and looks a lot like a prize fight if the opponents were pasty business bloggers instead of chiseled pugilists. But, let's get ready to rumble anyway.

In one corner is Dan Alexander, the Forbes blogger who reported that the Astros would be making $99 million in profits this season thanks to the lowest payroll in baseball. That figure would make them the most profitable single-season team in MLB history. In the other corner is Maury Brown, another Forbes contributor who called Alexander's story garbage (I'm paraphrasing).

Within hours, Alexander rebutted. It's like The Thorn Birds except set inside a national magazine instead of the Australian Outback, and there's no priest or poor Irish immigrants. Ok, so it's nothing like The Thorn Birds, but it is rather soap operatic.

Brown, in his response to Alexander Thursday morning, said that Alexander's story "paints the Astros as greedy based on a flawed premise." Brown goes on to enumerate significant problems with Alexander's story including the fact important items like revenue sharing, losses at CSN Houston and startup costs were not factored into the original author's initial equation.

In fact, Brown essentially eviscerated Alexander's story saying, "The Astros are not even remotely close to being the most profitable in history, let alone this year." This is not to say he thinks the Astros are going to lose money. He does believe they will be profitable, but not $99 million, MLB-record-setting profitable.

Not surprisingly, that sparked a response from Alexander less than 7 hours later claiming that his estimates were accurate and the gaping difference between the two bloggers, "Depends on how you count."

He finished up his response with a puzzling retort that sounded more like what accounting firm Arthur Andersen did for Enron. "As longtime-baseball executive and current Toronto Blue Jays President Paul Beeston famously said, 'Under generally accepted accounting principles, I can turn a $4 million profit into a $2 million loss, and I can get every national accounting firm to agree with me.' As we said, it all depends on how you count," Alexander wrote.

The Astros are no doubt thrilled with the controversy. The original story painted them as money grubbers who value profit over success on the field though no one would dispute their approach to rebuilding a moribund minor league system. One thing we can all agree on is that the CSN deal is an anchor around the necks of both the Astros and Rockets and a thorn in the side of fans. Now, if the guys at Forbes could just agree upon exactly how much of one. But, I guess it depends on how you count.

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