Phillies' Montgomery talks money

Dave Montgomery said Shane Victorino and other starters up the middle are key for the Phillies.
Dave Montgomery said Shane Victorino and other starters up the middle are key for the Phillies. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 12, 2012

Thinking big, David Montgomery says, is not difficult.

The Phillies president sits in a building that has hosted sellout crowds for 204 straight regular-season games. His team plays before the highest-rated local television audience in baseball. He could outspend the next closest National League team in payroll by more than $50 million - for the second straight year.

But the 65-year-old Montgomery, a 41-year team employee, still bristles at comparisons to the Yankees and Red Sox. The Phillies, he says, have a National League identity. They have risen to baseball royalty, he says, because of unprecedented fan support.

"We're just trying to stay ahead of the group for one more year. And then one more year after that," Montgomery said. "I see us differently."

As he prepares for another spring in Clearwater, Fla., Montgomery still alludes to his roots watching games at Connie Mack Stadium and selling tickets in the infancy of Veterans Stadium.

The current Phillies are a veritable baseball power, one constantly searching for new sources of revenue with packed minor-league ballparks, a never-ending stream of merchandise sales, and fan travel packages for road games.

So why is Montgomery concerned with how his game-day employees greet fans at Citizens Bank Park?

"I don't like to refer to it as a machine," Montgomery said. "The reality is it's all human. I strongly believe how you treat your fans is tied to how you treat your employees. Some of the nicest compliments we've had since we've been here is, 'It's friendly.' That all adds up."

In a recent interview, Montgomery offered insights into financial questions the Phillies face.

Question: Is there any reason why this franchise, when devoting the current amount of financial resources, cannot consistently be competitive?

Montgomery: We've had tremendous fan support. That enables us to do things other franchises can't. We've used that to try to win as much as we can now. So we've gone ahead and acquired people with some minor-league talent that if you weren't enjoying that fan support, you couldn't necessarily do.

That being said, the task of Ruben [Amaro Jr.] and the organization is to have our eye on both today and tomorrow. We don't want to have to stay with one group for so long that regardless of the fan support, you just don't have any young talent to infuse. Some of the nice things last year were in the bullpen, and in Vance Worley's case we had some young people emerge.

We still remain a club that is dependent on the guys up the middle - Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Carlos Ruiz. There's Ryan Howard for offense. We've become a pitching club. Hopefully, pitching and defense can give you more longevity in this opportunity than perhaps some other things. But you have to keep that pitching and that defense healthy.

I'm certainly not saying we're going to be in there every year. But the hope is if we continue to enjoy this type of fan support, we know we can turn around and put that to use in payroll commitment to make this club competitive for quite some time. 

Q: Can the team's payroll, currently projected at approximately $180 million, keep increasing?

Montgomery: I wouldn't expect it to go up. Ideally, we'd like to sustain a position where we can be north of some of our brethren and give us more opportunities.

Q: Is paying some amount of luxury tax in 2012 avoidable?

Montgomery: "I'm not sure. It's not so much a one-year thing. You just don't want to get in the habit of marginalizing your future opportunities because you've spent past a limit that hurts you.

You don't want to get into a situation where part of your capacity to pay draft picks and 40-man roster players is limited because you have some of your expenses being used in an unproductive fashion.

Q: Your current TV-rights deal with Comcast expires in 2015, and all across baseball, teams have cashed in with massive agreements. Is that the next source of significant revenue?

Montgomery: We've already crossed that frontier. We were one of the early regional sports networks. We benefited in 1977 from having games on Prism. It's not like we've been lapped by the field. We're currently in the midst of a 15-year deal with Comcast SportsNet. Again, our fans have enabled us to enjoy solid ratings there. That accrues to our value when we talk to them about an extension. We actually hold on to the advertising [revenue] for the games. The fact that they're rated well gives us the ability to take advantage of that.

We will see. Right now, we're enjoying tremendous popularity. We would hope our friends at Comcast would see that as well. I'm sure they will.

Q: Is a team-owned network out of the question?

Montgomery: It's not out of the question. It's a possibility. But that's an enormous undertaking. We've had enough trouble figuring out how to run a baseball franchise without also trying to run a TV property. But you never know. This is Comcast's home market. They're proud of that. We're the Philadelphia Phillies and we're a big part of their network. Hopefully, in time, we'll get together.

Q: Has there ever been talk of adding seats to Citizens Bank Park?

Montgomery: We talk about it, but we talk about adding twos and fours and not thousands. We believe a lot of the appeal for the ballpark comes from the intimacy of the facility. We tried hard to have the best sight lines we could. If you start to readjust your thinking and take away some of the amenities currently in the ballpark, you may do more harm than good. We don't wish we were playing in the L.A. Coliseum with 98,000 seats at this point.

Q: Where do the new sources of revenue come from then?

Montgomery: "Our growth has been literally on the backs of the popularity of this club. I believe that popularity is because our fans have identified our talent both as players and as people. The most important job for the franchise is continuing to have quality people play at a high level for us. One of the things we place emphasis in is getting quality individuals. That has increased fan identification. We're fortunate right now. Our biggest challenge is to chug along and see if we can't prolong the current interest in the club.

Q: Citizens Bank Park is one of nine stadiums yet to host an All-Star Game. Are there any plans for that?

Montgomery: I'm very proud of this city and its significance in American culture. I thought it was pretty special to have the All-Star Game here at our Bicentennial in 1976. It turned out we had one in '96 and there are 30 teams. So if we waited 30 years, it would take us to 2026 and the 250th anniversary of this country. I for one think an All-Star Game should be here. We're also not a club right now that's in need of an All-Star Game. It can be more beneficial in other places.


Contact staff writer Matt Gelb

at mgelb@phillynews.com, 215-854-2928, or @magelb on Twitter.

 

|
|
|
|
|