Former Reds owner Marge Schott might be screaming from the afterlife if the DH comes to the National League
Call it what you will. Say itâ€™s the further erosion of the history of the game of baseball, but itâ€™s time for the American League and the National League to come together on the use of the Designated Hitter. This isnâ€™t some far flung discussion about the merits of pitchers hitting or not (although, thereâ€™s ample articles and discussions about that), itâ€™s about what realignment has and hasnâ€™t done.
For the first time in MLB history, a National League team in the Astros has moved to the American League. This allowed for a balanced scheduled and put the AL and NL at 15 clubs a piece. The flip side is, because of the odd number, interleague is now spread out across the entire season. And while thereâ€™s been talk of addressing the DH for sometime, this balancing to 15 clubs a piece might be a forcing function.
The only way that you get away from daily interleague due to the odd numbers in each league would be the addition of one club in each league (donâ€™t even think about contraction), and in speaking with several executives, that doesnâ€™t seem in the cards in the near future. As one exec said, â€śExpansion of the league is something that has to be done carefully. There doesnâ€™t seem to be a push for it currently.â€ť
There are concerns about the use of the DH across both leagues, and itâ€™s more concrete than just a matter of holding to traditions. This is about increases in player payroll that come with the position leaping over to the National League.
According to the MLBPAâ€™s annual report on average salaries that comes out each December, for 2012, there were seven DHs in the AL that played in 80 or more games with an mean salary of $8,009,112; a sizeable sum. That group included Billy Butler, Adam Dunn, Edwin Encarnacion, Kendrys Morales, David Ortiz, Luke Scott, and Delmon Young. Itâ€™s here that National League execs will certainly focus. While Ortiz and Dunn skew the mean, it highlights the costs associated to the position. By comparison, the average DH salary for 2011 in the MLBPA report was higher still at $9,324,807. Historically, the DH has been the focus of veteran players, which makes some sense as career longevity is increased by not having them in the field on defense. Of the players listed in the MLBPA report, the average major league service time was 6.935, which is above the free agency threshold. Here are the players from the report by service time and salary in 2012:
2012 Salary (millions)
And while NL owners and GMs may fret about the additional salary they would take on at the DH, it is one part of the reason that the MLBPA would back the move of the DH to the National League as opposed to removing it from the American League. The move would increase salaries for players, extend career life (not only for position players, but potentially pitchers in the NL that could get injured on the base paths). Conversely, the union for the players is never going to allow the DH to go away as it lowers average salary across the league, and puts players out of work.
So, the purest be damned, the DH is most likely coming to the National League. Expansion doesnâ€™t seem to be in the cards anytime soon, the clunky matter of playing interleague everyday due to the 15-15 balance of teams after realignment is moving you closer to it, and letâ€™s be honest, itâ€™s not like this hasnâ€™t happened in other sports. Yes, itâ€™s baseball with its sense of quirky history which is endearing and makes it unique. But, if the NFC-AFC merger in the NFL can happen, well, itâ€™s a precedent that somewhere, someone is bringing up to make a case for the DH in the National League.
When you hear the saying, â€śWeâ€™re golden,â€ť itâ€™s not often that you think of a team uniform in Major League Baseball. There have been highlights of it (the Nationals come to mind), but not to the extent about to unfold.
When the San Francisco Giants receive their second World Series rings on Sunday, April 7 they will be wearing these specially-designed jerseys from Majestic and caps from New Era embossed in gold to commemorate their 2012 World Series Championship.
And, since itâ€™s well known that fans (and clubs) love to see uniform options light-up cash registers, these official New Era caps and Majestic jerseys will be available this weekend at Giants Dugout Stores and online through MLB.com. One could say you not only get to support the Giants, but in doing so, wear some bling.
Autism. It used to be that thing you werenâ€™t quite sure of. It was that thing that you learned out of watching TVâ€™s version of Parenthood, or the movies Rain Man or Whatâ€™s Eating Gilbert Grape? Itâ€™s still not something that impacts every family, but by now, if you think about it, you know someone with a family member that has autism, or have heard about it.
Whether parents are getting the diagnosis earlier, the growing awareness of it in the medical community, the expansion of the mental disorderâ€™s classification, or the fact that itâ€™s becoming more and more common regardless of these factors, autism now touches everyone. Below illustrates the alarming expansion of those on the autism scale:
Today marks the beginning of International Autism Awareness month. As the father of a â€śclassicâ€ť autistic child, I have worked with those in sports and entertainment to bring about a heightened awareness of the mental disorder. To date, there is no direct understanding of why autism occurs (although science is getting much closer). To date, no matter what some may say, there is no cure. There is, however, a great deal of hope in therapyâ€”therapy that needs to start at the earliest point a diagnosis can be made, and it is here that you can make a world of difference. Somewhere, there are parents wondering if their child is autistic. Or, there are parents out there that see different behaviors than they would expect from their child, and arenâ€™t aware of the signs. That is what this autism awareness campaign is about.
The Business of Sports Network Autism Awareness Challenge requires no donations (although we encourage those that do wish to donate to click the link provided to Autism Speaks).
We challenge you to this:
Spread the details below to others. Pass the link via Twitter or Facebook. Encourage someone you know that may think their child could have autism to read. In doing so, you help increase awareness.
Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a personâ€™s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a "spectrum disorder" that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and funding can help families today.
In March 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their ADDM autism prevalence report.Â The report concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 88 births in the United States and almost 1 in 54 boys.Â The spotlight shown on autism as a result of the prevalence increase opens opportunities for the nation to consider how to serve these families facing a lifetime of supports for their children.
Currently, the Autism Society estimates that the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism ranges from $3.5 million to $5 million, and that the United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs for autism (this figure includes research, insurance costs and non-covered expenses, Medicaid waivers for autism, educational spending, housing, transportation, employment, in addition to related therapeutic services and caregiver costs).
Know the Signs: Early Identification Can Change Lives
Autism is treatable. Children do not "outgrow" autism, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes.
Here are some signs to look for in the children in your life:
Lack of or delay in spoken language
Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
Little or no eye contact
Lack of interest in peer relationships
Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
Persistent fixation on parts of objects
If you are someone who has been directly impacted by a recent diagnosis of a child on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) scale, I highly encourage you to read the First 100 Days Kit (PDF) put out by Autism Speaks. This guide has invaluable information to help not only the parents dealing with this news, but also family and friends.
Finally, realize that autism is not something that has gone unaware. It is not something that is thought of as a stigma. Realize that in growing awareness of the disorder, you may not be able to change the child or adult with the disorder, but you change how society sees them. That is as important as anything else you can do. Please join these athletes, entertainers, and media members that support the Business of Sports Network Autism Awareness Challenge:
Stan Kasten - President and CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers
Allan Walsh - NHL player agent, Octagon
Martin Havlat - Right Wing, San Jose Sharks
Matt Kemp - Outfielder, Los Angeles Dodgers
Peter Gammons - MLB Network, MLB.com, NESN
John Thorn - Author, Official Historian Major League Baseball
Chuck Armstrong - President, Seattle Mariners
Larry Cancro - Senior Vice President of Fenway Affairs for the Boston Red Sox. Also Chairman of Autism Speaks, New England. Board member Melmark, New England a school that specializes in autism and similar cognitive disabilities
Jim Trotter - Senior NFL writer, Sports Illustrated
Sean Foreman - President, Sports Reference, LLC
Ken Davidoff - National baseball writer, Newsday
Kathy Conners - Principal & Founder KMC Consulting
Doug Farrar - Writer for Football Outsiders, Yahoo! Sports, Sportspress Northwest and The Washington Post
Chuck Greenberg - Founder, Greenberg Sports Group, Owner, Myrtle Beach Pelicans and State College Spikes
Jim Duquette - Sirius/XM Radio MLB Network Radio, former GM Baltimore Orioles, New York Mets
David Kahn - President, Basketball Operations, Minnesota Timberwolves
Wendy Thurm - Author, Baseball Nation
Scott Jackson - Host of Last Call on Sporting News Radio, Co-Host of The Brian Mitchell Show on 1067 The Fan DC and SBNation DC Columnist
Lou Imbriano - CEO at TrinityOne Sports & Professor of Sports Marketing at Boston College. Former CMO of the New England Patriots & 2011 McGraw-Hill Author
Gordon Edes - ESPNBoston.com
Peter Abraham - Boston Globe
Devon Teeple - Business of Sports Network
Jordan Kobritz - Business of Sports Network
Joe Tetreault - Business of Sports Network
Alyssa Milano - Television, screen and stage actor
Ryan and Dawn Neufeld - Ryan is 7-year NFL veteran playing tight-end; Dawn has been featured on VH1's "NFL Wives", honorary chairs of Dallas Rocks Against Autism
Jonathan Schaech - Actor and social activist. As seen in the movie "That Thing You Do" and more.
Larry Stone - National baseball writer, The Seattle Times
Victor Rojas - Television play-by-play voice of the LA Angels, formerly with MLB Network
Will Carroll - Bleacher Report
Jesse Sanchez - MLB.com
Troy Renck - MLB beat reporter, Denver Post
Kevin "'Duk" Kaduk - Editor of Y! Sports' Big League Stew
Dave Goren - Executive Director of National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association & Hall of Fame
George Atallah - Assistant Executive Director of External Affairs for the NFL Players Association
Mike Donnelly - Media Coordinator for the NFLPA
Ken Rosenthal - FOXSports.com, MLB Network
Dave Sims - Television play-by-play commentator for the Seattle Mariners, radio play-by-play for Sunday Night Football on Westwood One, television play-by-play host for UFL on VERSUS
Joe Hamrahi - Baseball Prospectus
Richard Justice - Sports columnist, MLB.com
Todd Radom - Graphic artist, sports logo creator
Joe Briggs, Esq
Curt and Shonda Schilling
Mike Ferrin - Host & Anchor, MLB Network Radio
Brent Gambill - Executive Producer, Sirius/XM Radio
Dave Barr - Producer, Sports Talk With Bo Mattingly. KREB 1190 Fayetteville, KTTG ESPN 96.3 FM Ft. Smith, KABZ 103.7 FM Little Rock
Russ Levine, VP of Digital Production for NHL.com
Jamie Newberg - NewbergReport.com
Pat Courtney - MLB VP Public Relations
Mike Dilorenzo - NHL spokesperson
Jason Rosenberg - Itâ€™s About the Money, Stupid blog
Jason Collette - DRaysBay.com /BaseballProspectus/Rotowire
Autism knows no race. It knows no social-economic class. It is something that touches all walks of society. Take a moment and watch this Autism Speaks PSA with pro golfer Ernie Els, himself, an active autism awareness advocate (see Els For Autism)
Thank you for your help. In doing what seems like something small, you could change lives.
Maury Brown President Business of Sports Network Bizball LLC
While Brian Cashman and the Yankees are being slammed for the Vernon Wells trade, they're smarter than you think
This isnâ€™t to disparage Mr. Vernon Wells, but at this point in his careerâ€”both in terms of performance and his contractâ€”heâ€™s not exactly seen as a good bargain. In fact, talk to most and they would argue that his contract is one of the worst in recent memory. So when word of the pending trade that would see Wells move coasts from the Angels to the Yankees, many bemoaned that Brian Cashman and the Yankees brain-trust had lost their minds. It may be crazy, but in reality if contract structures are setup correctly it has the potential to be crazy like a fox.
While the â€śplayerâ€ť is certainly not going to bring any long-term benefits, the contract structure against the backdrop of injuries, does. While the Yankees would never publically admit it, this year is not a hard push to be competitive, but rather priming the pump for the future. The trade has not yet been approved, although itâ€™s possible it could be done as early as today (Wells has already flown to Tampa to be with the club).
Wells is owed approximately $42 million ($21 million in each of the next two seasons), but the Angels are reportedly picking up $29 million of it, leaving the Yankees to cover $13 million over the life of the contract. Itâ€™s here that things get tricky and play into the Yankees overall plans to address getting under the Luxury Tax threshold.
According to initial reports, the Angels are picking up $9 million for 2013, and the remaining $20 million would come in 2014. On paper, it appears that the Wells deal works as a â€ścreditâ€ť as the clubs are charged the Average Annual Value (AAV) of multi-year contracts (base salary, plus any deferred comp, and signing bonus money) for Luxury Tax purposes. Since the Wells deal is for $126 million the AAV is $18 million. Throw the money in that the Angels are sending, plus the section in the CBA dealing with cash considerations that reads that the â€śassigned Player shall include such cash consideration in its Actual Club Payroll in the Contract Year in which the cash consideration is paid,â€ť and you suddenly could think, â€śthe Yankees are actually getting a $3.5 million â€ścreditâ€ť by the Angels sending cash in the manner that they are.
But, in speaking with a source close to the deal that could not go on record, this â€ścreditâ€ť aspect will not occur. It will in fact be a â€śnet zeroâ€ť and there will be no credit aspect. As the source said, if that were allowed to be approved, youâ€™d get clubs taking on player contracts that appear to have actual dollars that increase them over the Luxury Tax threshold, but on paper would work to put them under.
Still, with the changes in the latest CBA that now add extra penalties for exceeding the Luxury Tax threshold, the Wells deal with cash considerations from the Angels plays against the Yankees efforts to get below the $189 million threshold in 2014. As Hal Steinbrenner said recently to The New York Times, â€śMy firmly held belief is that you donâ€™t have to have a $200 million payroll to be world champion,â€ť he said. â€śAnd the historical data that led me to that conclusion is rock solid.â€ť As to that â€śhistorical dataâ€ť, one need only look at the last two World Series to see what he means. In 2012, the Giants had a player payroll of $131,980,298 while the Tigersâ€™ player payroll was just slightly higher at $132,994,000. In 2011, the Cardinals player payroll was $109,798,000 while the Rangers saw a player payroll of $96,713,370.
Donâ€™t expect Wells (or for that matter, recent add Kevin Youkilis) in a Yankees uniform in 2014. In fact, when you couple in that Mariano Rivera is retiring and that Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Hiroki Kuroda, Boone Logan, Phil Hughes, and Andy Pettitte are all free agents after this season, it plays into the grand plan of getting under that $189 million threshold in 2014. But, hereâ€™s something worth watching out for. Hereâ€™s something to consider. Sure, Hal Steinbrenner said you donâ€™t need a $200 million payroll to compete for a World Series. Sure, the player payrolls of recent World Series teams have been almost half or more of what the Yankees have been known to saddle. That doesnâ€™t mean that you wonâ€™t see the Yankees break the Luxury Tax threshold again. In fact, getting under the threshold in 2014 ostensibly does a â€śresetâ€ť on the steep tax rate the Yankees have hit year in and year out. It wouldnâ€™t be $200 million, but he didnâ€™t say they wouldnâ€™t break the Luxury Tax threshold in the future, either. The most interesting time for the Yankees isnâ€™t nowâ€¦ it could be in 2015.
One could argue that prospects would be better served in pinstripes than Vernon Wells. Maybe. But, this year is not quite like any other in recent memory for the Yankees. In fact, one could argue that this year shouldnâ€™t be a barometer on which way the club is going. You get the sense that this season is nothing more than a tact to get stronger winds in the future that pushes the Bronx Bombers upstream.
When it comes to sports, what every owner looks for is repeat business. And, if you want repeat business, â€śloyaltyâ€ť is king. Through good times and bad, the stronger your fan loyalty, the better off you are.
So, with Opening Day this Sunday, Brand Keys has released their 21st annual report, the Brand Keys 2013 Sports Fan Loyalty Index. Even with a roster thatâ€™s old as dirt and a trade for Vernon Wells in the offing (believe it or not, this makes more sense than you think), the New York Yankees return to the #1 spot, knocking the Phillies off the top perch after seeing two consecutive disappointing seasons. The 2012 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants move from the #4 to the #3 position while Cardinals and Braves move up the list. If youâ€™re in Boston, a concern is the Red Sox who held the top position from 2008-10 and havenâ€™t been out of the top five for a considerable period of time. After two consecutive years of controversy, the Red Sox drop completely out of the top 5.
At the bottom of the list, the Astros, who have taken on extreme cost cutting, and move from the NL to the AL this year, drop to the â€śleast loyal fansâ€ť spot at #30 after never being in the bottom five since The Biz of Baseball began tracking yearly data back to 2008. The Royals, who continue to languish move from 28 to 29 while the Pirates â€śimproveâ€ť from the worst in 2012 to 28th. In news that is bound to make Baltimore happy, after years of being on the wrong side of winning, the Orioles drop out of the bottom five after holding the #30 position in 2008 and the #29 position last year. Winning does cure ills. Rounding out the bottom five, the Mets, who are just now beginning to crawl out from under the Bernie Madoff scandal, and Mariners, who have languished at the bottom of the AL West standings for years now, hold their spots at 27 and 26 from last year.
The Brand Keys Sports Fan Loyalty Index was designed to help professional sports team management identify precise fan loyalty rankings in their home and national markets. â€śThese insights enable league and team management to identify areas, particularly emotional ones, that need strategic brand coaching,â€ť said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keysâ€™ founder and president.
Current 2013 MLB top-5 and bottom-5 brand standings are listed (Note: #â€™s in parentheses are team rankings for 2012):
Top-5 Teams â€“ 2013 (2012 rankings)
1. New York Yankees (#2) 2. Philadelphia Phillies (#1) 3. San Francisco Giants (#4) 4. St. Louis Cardinals (#5) 5. Atlanta Braves (#6)
Cellar Dwellers 2013 (2012 ranking)
30. Houston Astros (#23) 29. Kansas City Royals (#28) 28. Pittsburgh Pirates (#30) 27. Seattle Mariners (#27) 26. New York Mets (#26)
The Sports Fan Loyalty Index, which measures all the teams in the four Major Leagues, provides an apples-to-apples comparison of the intensity with which fans within a teamâ€™s SMSA support the home team versus corresponding values for fans of other teams in that market.
â€śThatâ€™s important because fan loyalty correlates very highly with broadcast viewership, merchandise purchase, and ticket revenues. And happier fans as well,â€ť noted Passikoff. â€śEverybody loves a winner, but itâ€™s important to note that win/loss ratios do not entirely govern fan loyalty. There are three other emotionally based factors that must be taken into account.â€ť
SELECT READ MORE TO SEE HISTORICAL BRAND LOYALITY DATA AND HOW THE METHODOLOGY FOR THE RANKINGS
It has long been sought by the league, has had fits and starts, and will have large impacts if it does, or doesnâ€™t happen. The topic is an International Draft in Major League Baseball, and according to a report in todayâ€™s SportsBusiness Journal, talks are intensifying on the subject. The reason for the focus on it is a June 1 deadline within the labor agreement reached between the MLBPA and MLB last year. Within the CBA, details of the worldwide draft spell out what occurs with, or without an international draft by the June 1 deadline.
As the CBA outlines, hereâ€™s what would happen if no joint agreement on an international draft were to happen by June 1
If a draft (or drafts) covering international amateur players does not commence in the 2013 season, and irrespective of whether the conditions set forth in I.E have been satisfied, the Office of the Commissioner may provide notice to the MLBPA that it intends to commence operation of a draft (or drafts) covering international amateur players for the 2014 season and subsequent seasons. Written notice of such intent must be provided to the MLBPA by no later than June 1, 2013, and such notice must include a detailed explanation of the rules and procedures that the Office of the Commissioner intends to use for the draft. The MLBPA may veto the commencement of a draft (or drafts) covering international amateur players for the 2014 season and subsequent seasons by providing written notice of its objection to the Office of the Commissioner by June 15, 2013.
But in speaking with MLBPA Executive Director, Michael Weiner in 2012, well in advance of the latest CBA being reached, he voiced that the union was for making it happen, but that there were difficulties in its implementation. Those difficulties are sizeable. As defined in the CBA, the following has to be addressed before an international draft can occur:
The Committee will be charged with advising the MLBPA and the Office of the Commissioner on the following matters:
1. If there is an international draft, whether international players should be part of a single worldwide draft (including players currently covered by the Rule 4 Draft) or a separate draft (or drafts).
2. The appropriate age at which international amateur players should be signed to professional contracts.
3. If there are to be multiple drafts, whether players from Puerto Rico should remain in the Rule 4 Draft or instead be part of an international draft.
4. The development of appropriate country-by-country plans for playing and development opportunities for players prior to draft eligibility, including expansion of the El Torneo Supremo.
5. The development of appropriate plans to provide undrafted or unsigned players (including players age 18 to 21) from Latin America with an opportunity to continue their development, including the creation of a new league or leagues, or the addition of centrally-operated Clubs in the Dominican Summer League (â€śDSLâ€ť).
6. Whether and how regulations should be put in place regarding representation of international amateur players (e.g., â€śindependent trainersâ€ť and agents).
7. Improving the education and acculturation programs of Clubs at their international academies.
8. What safeguards should be established in relation to any signing bonus payments made to international amateur players.
9. The laws of the countries from which international players are signed and how those laws should affect the actions of the parties.
10. What actions are necessary in order to achieve the negotiation of a revised agreement between MLB and the Mexican League that allows players greater choice of where to play and promotes a fair and open system of player movement.
11. What actions are necessary in order to achieve the negotiation of revisions to the protocol agreements with the Korean Professional Baseball League, the Japanese Professional Baseball League, and the Taiwan R.O.C. League to accommodate a draft.
12. How Cuban players should be treated under an amateur talent system in light of the legal and political factors that affect their signability.
Those items are becoming more important as the season and the June 1 deadline near.
â€śThere are plans to sit down and get serious about the negotiations this spring,â€ť said David Prouty, MLBPA general counsel to Liz Mullen of the SBJ. â€śWe are up against a deadline. If we donâ€™t come up to an agreement, there will be more serious restrictions.â€ť
As to those restrictions, as further reported by the SportsBusiness Jounal:
Without a draft deal, teams next year overspending their international signing caps by 15 percent or more will be subject to a 100 percent tax and a two-year restriction from signing any foreign amateur player to a bonus of more than $300,000. Even a 5 percent overspending by a club would limit an individual signing bonus to $500,000. Current international signing regulations assess only a 75 percent tax for less than a 5 percent overspend, building to a one-year prohibition on bonuses above $250,000 for overspending the pool by at least 15 percent.
Every few years, the debate arises over the popularity of the World Baseball Classic. â€śItâ€™s a marketing tool to grow the game globallyâ€ťâ€¦ â€śFans outside of the U.S.A. are more passionate and thatâ€™s because in the U.S., we simply want Major League Baseballâ€™s regular season to start so we can catch all the stars of the gameâ€ťâ€¦
And while MLB Network has a large subscriber base, a large swatch of the US still doesnâ€™t have access to it to watch. So itâ€™s somewhat surprising that the league-owned network got a decent ratings win this past weekend.
Team USAâ€™s win over Canada on Sunday in the Pool D elimination game of the 2013 World Baseball Classic was the most-watched non-Postseason game ever on MLB Network, averagingÂ 760,000 viewers, up 26% from the previous high, a New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox game on October 2, 2012. The USA vs. Canada game peaked withÂ 1.25 million viewers during the final innings, fromÂ 7:00 â€“ 7:30 p.m. ET, which included the USAâ€™s four-run rally in the ninth inning.
The strength of 15 World Baseball Classic game telecasts helped MLB Network to itsÂ most-watched weekend ever, drawing an average ofÂ 252,000 viewers* from Friday, March 8 through Sunday, March 10.
MLB Networkâ€™s two other 2013 World Baseball Classic game telecasts featuring Team USA are among the top five most-watched non-Postseason game telecasts in the networkâ€™s history. Fridayâ€™s Mexico vs. USA matchup averagedÂ 673,000 viewers, the networkâ€™s second-most viewed non-Postseason game telecast, while Saturdayâ€™s USA vs. Italy game drew an average ofÂ 576,000 viewers. The Dominican Republicâ€™s defeat of Puerto Rico on Sunday averagedÂ 513,000 viewers, the most-viewed non-USA game telecast of the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
So, it will be interesting to see what the ratings do if Team USA makes it to the finals. After all, theyâ€™ve done no better than fourth (that was 2006). America loves a winner. If they do pull it off, it could be a game changer for not only the WBC, but MLB Network.
*Â All figures per Nielsen;Â weekend viewership includes Friday-Saturday from 6a-6a and Sunday from 6a-3a
Unlike other sports, Opening Day in Major League Baseball is one ofâ€”if not theâ€”most highly attended game for each club in the league. Hope springs eternal for all teams, and fans that have pent up energy over the long, cold winter are ready to begin thinking about the warming days of summer.
So, itâ€™s no surprise that the one game of the year that nearly every club has little problems selling out is Opening Day. Or, that seems to be, unless youâ€™re named the Miami Marlins.
Yes, after the massive unloading of players this past off-season, and the PR debacle that owner Jeffrey Loria unleashed, getting fans to purchase tickets hasnâ€™t been easy. Few lined up for single-game tickets, and now, the Marlins are working a ticket promotion to at least get some fans into the new stadium, that is just coming up on its second year.
Yes, sales are so bad that the Marlins are running a promo that if you buy a ticket to Opening Day, theyâ€™ll give you complimentary ticket for any home game in April or May. So, not only are they trying to get people in the gate on Opening Day, theyâ€™re looking to get fannies in the seats during what is historically the most difficult two months of the season to make sales.
So, remember, when you see a bunch of empty seats in April and May at Marlins Stadium, it speaks to the fact that not only is the club having a hard time selling tickets, they canâ€™t give them away at a rate that fills the seats, as well.
Whether it happens, or not, the fact that thereâ€™s conversation about Nolan Ryan leaving the Texas Rangers is big news. It is, after all, Nolan Ryan, a figure that looms large in the history of baseball as a Hall of Fame pitcher, and a man thatâ€™s carved out a place as a front office man either through ownership in the minor leagues, or now as part of the Rangers. Whether the title has been President or CEO, the point is, heâ€™s got clout, and then some.
The reason the story that broke Sunday night has more than a whiff of some far flung rumor has been that Ryan hasnâ€™t responded. No denials. No confirmation. Itâ€™s as if heâ€™s standing on the mound shaking off signs, and you donâ€™t really know what page heâ€™s on. Itâ€™s clear that ownership wants him to stay, and that the man just promoted wants him to, as well.
â€śFirst of all, I donâ€™t want him to leave,â€ť new President of Baseball Operations, Jon Daniels told ESPN Dallas 103.3â€˛s Fitzsimmons and Durrett Show. â€śI donâ€™t think anybody wants him to leave, and I know Iâ€™ve expressed that to him. In my mind, (that pushing Ryan out) would not be the case.â€ť
I said it when Daniels was given the promotion of President of Baseball Operations/General Manager, but no one really caught the importance of it. That in moving Daniels up the chain, it assists in insulating him from being firedâ€”that the promotion was by design and a means of setting direction for years to come. Daniels still would report to Ryan, but the move to President puts Daniels in a position where canning him isnâ€™t something that Ryan could easily push forâ€”for one reason or anotherâ€”as ownership made a statement that they like the direction that JD has in place, and plan to build around that long-term. Ask yourself when the last time a President of Baseball Operations was fired? With the exception of Tal Smith of the Astros (which was about a new owner coming in and putting his stamp on the club), you just donâ€™t see it.
So, this is about Ryan. About how he is feeling diminished. After all, this is the man largely responsible for pushing former owner Chuck Greenburg out the door. If it was going to come down to Greenburg or Ryan, it was obvious it was going to be Ryan. How ironic would it be for Ryan to depart just after the end of Spring Training, just as Greenburg did?
So, what if he leaves? What are the impacts?
First off, this notion that Ryan is just some figurehead is a bit overstated. Iâ€™m not saying that heâ€™s solely the one responsible for making the Rangers the success they are today on the field, but heâ€™s not just shaking hands and kissing babies, either. Heâ€™s a great scouting mind, so you lose that. But, the reality is, if you lost Daniels, and not Ryan, it would be a harder hit. Itâ€™s why majority owners Bob Simpson and Ray Davis gave Daniels the promotion in the first place, even if they didnâ€™t anticipate that Ryan might potentially walk.
So, would this be, as Randy Galloway put it in the story on Sunday, a â€śPR disaster?â€ť Only if itâ€™s about not seeing what the impacts to Ryan would be before the promotion. Clearly, they should have gone to him and said, â€śIf we do this, is going to madden you enough to walk?â€ť No, if itâ€™s about Ryan leaving, Iâ€™m not sure â€śdisasterâ€ť is the right word.
First off, while Ryan is an owner of the club, he's a minority owner, with aforementioned Simpson and Davis being the real money men that made the ability of Greenburg and Ryan to win the bankruptcy auction purchase of the club to begin with. They'd pay Ryan off if he wanted to sell, or Ryan could still retain ownership if he didn't sign on with someone else.
There will certainly be fans that will be upset to see him go. But then again, these are mostly the same people that see him as an iconic figurehead, and not the reality that the Rangers donâ€™t rise and fall by his decisions. Thatâ€™s been in Jon Daniels court, and as weâ€™ve seen, JD has done more than any GM with the club prior to get them to rise in the standings.
Would it impact attendance? Marginally. Ryan leaving would be forgotten as soon as the team wound up at the top of the AL West. If theyâ€™re sitting in as low as third come mid-June, then certainly the stories will start to surface that somehow letting Ryan walk had some kind of impact, but anyone worth their salt would poo-poo that as youâ€™re made or broken largely by what happens in the off-season and Ryan walking after the end of Spring Training would make him associated with that.
And while weâ€™re at this point talking about Ryan walking (and for the record, the silence right now could be as much about ensuring he doesnâ€™t walk just as much as him contemplating heading out), letâ€™s talk whether heâ€™d be hired elsewhere.
For one, Ryan doesnâ€™t strike me as a man looking to retire, but lest you think that means heâ€™s headed over to the Houston Astros, Iâ€™m not so sure. Iâ€™m sure that Jim Crane would about froth at the mouth over the PR win bringing Ryan in would be, but about the second the press conference would be over, reality would set in. After all the whole direction of baseball ops right now is as sabermetrically inclined as any front office done before. General Manager Jeff Luhnow has offered up the â€śGoogle ruleâ€ť, hired Kevin Goldstein and Mike Fast away from Baseball Prospectus, stripped the roster down to its axels in a rebuild, and with it, the direction is anything but â€śNolan Ryan.â€ť To hire him and fire current president George Postolos would be to say that the entire direction of the club would change. In other words, it doesnâ€™t make a heck of a lot of sense.
No, if Ryan doesnâ€™t stay with the Rangers, hereâ€™s the possible next place of employment: Major League Baseball. Yes, like Joe Torre, or Frank Robinson, Ryan would fit in near perfect with the league. He has all the pedigree to make the jump and would add to helping get things done on the business side of the league.
But, then again, this is all about Nolan at this moment. Heâ€™s holding the cards. Heâ€™s the one to decide. He may want to be the one making the trades, running the Draft board, and making recommendations on who the club should sign. One thing is certain, heâ€™s not going to be the key man doing that work, if he ever was. The regular season is right around the corner. Weâ€™ll all see which side of the rubber Ryan is on, soon enough.
You knew it was coming. No, itâ€™s not an infographic created by some media outlet, but rather by Major League Baseball itself. Since they say pictures speak louder than words, here it is. The infographic includes:
An overview of theÂ teams, pools, venues and dates (beginning with Australia @ Chinese Taipei tonight atÂ 11:30pm ET).
Broadcast information (MLB Network and ESPN Deportes airing all 39 games in the U.S. along with 36 international broadcasters televising games in 13 languages in more than 200 countries.Â Click here for a full list of all international broadcasters).
Top players participating (43 former All-Stars, including eight different MVP or Cy Young Award winners).
Social mediaÂ facts and figures, including the ten participating players with the most Twitter followers (led by Team USAâ€™s Brandon Phillips with more than 950,000). Â Official World Baseball Classic social media channels:Â Twitter (@WBCBaseball),Â Facebook.
An overview of theÂ tournament rules and regulations, including pitch counts, tiebreaker scenarios and early termination rules.
A summary of topÂ sponsors for the tournament (60 in all, more than double the inaugural tournament, led by global sponsors Delta, Konami, MetLife and Brand USA).
Important examples of how the World Baseball Classic isÂ impacting the growth of baseball around the world.