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How Does the 7-year, $175 million Contract for Felix Hernandez Rate All-Time? PDF Print E-mail
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Maury Brown Article Archive
Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 07 February 2013 15:55
Felix Hernandez

He’s call him the “King” and now he’s getting paid like one.

Today, the Seattle Mariners reached an agreement with former AL Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez to a 7-year, $175 million contract. In doing so he becomes the highest-paid pitcher in baseball. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the deal is expected to be finalized before Spring Training. As reported by Nightengale:

Hernandez was scheduled to earn $19.5 million in 2013 and $20 million in '14. Instead, his new contract will take effect this season and pay him a record average annual value of $25 million through 2019.

So, how does the contract rate against his current and former peers?

By average annual value (AAV) he ranks #4 tied with Ryan Howard and Josh Hamilton at $25 million, and surpasses the Dodgers’ Zack Grienke  who’s AAV for his 2013-18 deal is $24.5 million as the highest AAV for a starting pitcher.

As mentioned, in terms of total dollars he surpasses CC Sabathia’s 7-year, $161 million deal that runs 2009-15 as the highest paid pitcher. He ranks #9 overall below Mark Teixeira of the Yankees who has a 8-year, $180 million deal that runs 2009-16.

And while the total dollars are nothing to sneeze at, the contract length is fraught with risk. The 7-year deal ties him with Sabathia, and Kevin Brown’s deal in 1998 for $105 million with the Dodgers as some of the longest in MLB history for a starting pitcher. Only the 8-year, $121 million contract that Mike Hampton reached with the Colorado Rockies in 2000 ranks longer for an active player. Prior to the 1977 season, Wayne Garland signed a 10-year, $2.3 million deal with the Cleveland Indians. He retired after the 1981 season and Garland never played through the entire contract length.

Hernandez is now 26, turning 27 on April 8. By the time the contract expires in 2019 he will be  33 years old.

And while the deal looks extraordinary now, just wait... Justin Verlander is waiting in the wings and is more than likely to top Hernandez sometime soon.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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FOX Sports San Diego and DISH Reach Deal to Carry Padres, Clippers, and Ducks Programming PDF Print E-mail
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Television
Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 17:00
Dish

FOX Sports San Diego and DISH today announced that as of April 1, 2013, DISH San Diego customers will have access to the Padres, Clippers and Ducks, plus other local sports events for the Southern California franchises.  FOX Sports San Diego will be available for local DISH customers with the America’s Top 120 Plus and Latino Dos packages. Financial terms were not released.

The Padres receive $200 million in upfront money as part of the Fox Sports San Diego rights deal valued $1.2 billion over 30-years. The club has a 20 percent ownership stake in the regional sports network.

“We're delighted that DISH is making Padres on FOX Sports San Diego available to their valued customers,” said Henry Ford, Senior Vice President and General Manager, FOX Sports San Diego. “On Opening Day 2013 Padres baseball will be delivered to more households than ever before.”


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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The Never Ending Story Called Relocation of the A's PDF Print E-mail
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Articles & Opinion
Written by Angie Picardo   
Friday, 01 February 2013 21:54
Cisco Field
What could have been... Cisco Field in Fremont

This is a guest article by Angie Picardo

"It's getting ugly in Oakland" might best describe the A's ongoing battle. Despite over 40 rich years of history in their fair city, the Athletics are preparing for a future approximately 40 miles south in San Jose. The man behind the upheaval of an Oakland institution is none other than A's owner Lew Wolff. To paint Wolff as a Grinch may be uncalled for. He's simply a businessman with roots in the real estate industry, who has gone on record as starting that there is no viable long term solution in Oakland. To many in Oakland, however, he is evil incarnate.

Despite a season that defied expectations and included a Western Division title and the organizations first playoff berth since 2006, the A's are no closer to obtaining a new home than before. However, 2012 brought a renewed interest in the team, and their passionate fans were lauded for their support during the season’s final weeks. Overall attendance still failed to impress.  A total attendance of 1,679,013 made their way thought the turnstiles in 2012, leaving the A's in the very bottom of the league and finishing 27th out of 30 teams. This is nothing new to Wolff and fellow owners, who have watched attendance plummet since taking over the team in 2005.

Wolff's first move in Oakland was to propose a move south to Fremont, California in 2006 (see computer renderings of the Cisco Field design in Fremont). The inception of the idea was generated around the idea of the creation of a "baseball village" which would include a grand shopping, residential, and sports facility that would be constructed over a 143-acre parcel of land near interstate 880. The plan was met with a mixture of confusion and animosity from A's fans, who didn't understand why Wolff would move their team to a less populated area. In Fremont, Wolff saw the opportunity to implement his vision without the constraints of Oakland's economy and lack of suitable space for development. The idea fell through before they could break ground due to concerns over public transportation and a high level of resistance from the Fremont community and city council.

During this time, Wolff quickly dismissed any and all overtures from the city of Oakland to keep the team. With the outdated and decrepit Oakland Coliseum failing to meet the needs of either the team or fans, options and proposals have bet set forth with little resolution.

Wolff has turned his attention further south to the tech savvy and affluent San Jose area, aligning himself with the supportive city council of the city. He has made progress in recruiting corporate sponsorship through Cisco enterprises, and has purchased land around the proposed area for a stadium. In many ways, the team is operating under the belief that San Jose will be the eventual future home of the Athletics. Standing in their way are the San Francisco Giants, who refuse to relent territorial right over the area. These rights however, are only in their hands thanks to the goodwill of former Athletics owner Walter Haas who gifted the Giants with the territory in the mid 80's when they sought to relocate away from Candlestick Park.  For now, an agreement that appeases both ownerships is on the agenda for Commissioner Bud Selig whose had not been able come up with a compromise after more than two years of sitting on the issue.

The city of Oakland, fighting to hold onto a trio of teams that desperately want to leave have continually stood by the stance that they have the ability to support professional sports.  A committee organized by the mayor's office, has proposed a pair of locations within the city to build a park to keep the Athletics. Both locations which near Jack London Square, have been shot down by Wolff and his cohorts and deemed as having "no ability to be implemented for a ballpark".

With the team's future essentially on hold, and playing season after season in the only active multi-purpose ballpark in sports, the time is now for a decision. If the Athletics cannot be moved within the Bay Area, Lew Wolff must sell the team to a buyer who will form an alliance with the city and build the stadium that the true fans deserve. After all, isn't it true that "if you build it, they will come"?

We'll just have to wait and see.


Angie Picardo is a staff writer for NerdWallet, a personal finance website.

 
What Is the Fallout from MLB's "East Coast BALCO"? PDF Print E-mail
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Maury Brown Article Archive
Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 30 January 2013 15:51
A-Rod note
This note from Tony Bosch's ledger appears to show Alex Rodriguez using PEDs

It may have been a story that had its beginnings with Manny Ramirez in 2009. At the time, the former slugger who was then with the Dodgers, had a drug testing sample come up with high levels of testosterone. Upon further testing it was found that he had been using  human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, a female fertility drug that is used to help kick start the body’s ability to create testosterone. Upon investigation, the prescription for the drug was written by a 71-year-old Floridian named Pedro Publio Bosch.

But, it was yesterday that the lid was blown off on what this Floridian company named Biogenesis is involved in that is giving it the name, the "East Coast BALCO."

A ledger of Pedro Bosch’s son, Tony, shows that not only was Ramirez a client, but players that have been suspended last year for elevated levels of testosterone (Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, and Yasmani Grandal), but Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez, Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, and baseball’s highest-paid player, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez (see A Miami Clinic Supplies Drugs to Sports' Biggest Names). In the scathing article, documentation outlines how players were paying and receiving performance-enhancing drugs.

On Alex Rodriquez:

{T]here was his name, over and over again, logged as either "Alex Rodriguez," "Alex Rod," or his nickname at the clinic, "Cacique," a pre-Columbian Caribbean chief. Rodriguez's name appears 16 times throughout the records New Times reviewed.

There, at number seven on the list, is Alex Rodriguez. He paid $3,500, Bosch notes. Below that, he writes, "1.5/1.5 HGH (sports perf.) creams test., glut., MIC, supplement, sports perf. Diet." HGH, of course, is banned in baseball, as are testosterone creams.

That's not the only damning evidence against A-Rod, though. Another document from the files, a loose sheet with a header from the 19th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging and Aesthetic Medicine, lays out a full regimen under the name Cacique: "Test. cream... troches prior to workout... and GHRP... IGF-1... pink cream."

On Gio Gonzalez:

Gonzalez's name appears five times in Bosch's notebooks, including a specific note in the 2012 book reading, "Order 1.c.1 with Zinc/MIC/... and Aminorip. For Gio and charge $1,000." (Aminorip is a muscle-building protein.)

On Nelson Cruz:

According to his July 2012 client sheet, Bosch sold $4,000 of product to Nelson Cruz, whom he nicknames "Mohamad." Cruz, the power-hitting Dominican outfielder for the Texas Rangers, has whacked 130 bombs in his eight-year career without any links to performance-enhancing drugs. Until now. Bosch writes in his 2012 book: "Need to call him, go Thur to Texas, take meds from April 5-May 5, will owe him troches and... and will infuse them in May."

The story caused a massive ripple through Major League Baseball. The league and clubs issued statements on the matter, all of which points to an on-going investigation and a closing of ranks until the matter is closed.

“We are always extremely disappointed to learn of potential links between players and the use of performance-enhancing substances.  These developments, however, provide evidence of the comprehensive nature of our anti-drug efforts.  Through our Department of Investigations, we have been actively involved in the issues in South Florida.  It is also important to note that three of the players allegedly involved have already been disciplined under the Joint Drug Program.

“The recommendations of the Mitchell Report have once again played a critical role in Major League Baseball’s ongoing efforts against performance-enhancing drugs.  MLB implemented all of the recommendations made by Senator Mitchell in 2007, several of which emphasized the significance of installing proactive investigative services.

“The establishment of our Department of Investigations has represented a critical advance in these comprehensive efforts.  In the years since its formation, DOI’s work has proven pivotal to bringing to light information regarding the use of performance-enhancing substances.  Furthermore, DOI has built strong working relationships with federal and local law enforcement authorities.  These relationships are crucial because only law enforcement officials have the capacity to reach those outside the game who are involved in the distribution of illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

“Vigilance remains the key toward protecting the integrity of our game.  We have the best and most stringent drug testing policy in professional sports, we continue to work with our doctors and trainers to learn what they are seeing day-to-day and we educate our players about the game’s unbending zero-tolerance approach.  We remain fully committed to following all leads and seeking the appropriate outcomes for all those who use, purchase and are involved in the distribution of banned substances, which have no place in our game.

“We are in the midst of an active investigation and are gathering and reviewing information.  We will refrain from further comment until this process is complete.”

The impacts of the story are far reaching. It also is a story that does not seem at its end. Here’s some topics that have surfaced and possible answers:

Is there a common thread through the players associated in the ledger? The New Times story talks about how all the players have some ties, one way or the other, to the Miami area. That’s true, but don’t think that the league isn’t looking into player representation. Remember the strange case of Melky Cabrera’s fake website that he was going to try and use to feign ignorance on the substances that he had been using? At the time, there were potential allegations that his agent representation through ACES was tied to it. In looking at the list of players in the Bosch ledger, along with Cabrera, Gio Gonzalez, and Nelson Cruz are also ACES clients. Bartolo Colon is with the Wasserman Media Group, Yasmani Grandal is with The Legacy Agency, while Manny Ramirez explored coming back this season being represented by Barry Praver. In total, ACES doesn’t appear to be the common theme because of the other players having different agents, but after the Cabrera debacle, it certainly doesn’t help having two more players being linked Bosch. ACES could be getting a closer look.

Could the Yankees try and void A-Rod’s contract? They’re looking into it, but it depends on a host of matters, namely whether there are direct ties that provide irrefutable evidence that Rodriguez used the drugs in question that are outlined in Bosch’s ledger.

"(The Yankees) can't do anything until the MLB investigation is concluded and they take action, if any," a source told ESPNNewYork.com.

In 2004, the Yankees explored getting out of Jason Giambi’s contract when he admitted using steroids. The loophole was the clause in the Uniform Player Contract that reads, “The player must agree to keep himself in first-class physical condition and adhere to all training rules set by the club.” The key here was that Giambi admitted using. The problem now, as it was then, is you can’t really act upon voiding a contract based on a newspaper story. There’s going to have to be more… a lot more.

If the league gets enough evidence to suspend Rodriguez, could the Yankees consider releasing him? This is a different matter. Based upon his injuries, the heavy contract load on the Yankees' player payroll, and a case where he were suspended, the Yankees might simply look to release A-Rod. If so, the remainder of his contract would be eaten as a sunk cost.

If the Yankees release Rodriguez, how does it impact the Luxury Tax for the Yankees? If he were released, the average annual value (AAV) of $27.5 million on his contract would count against the Yankees player payroll each year of the remainder of the contract which runs through 2017.

Could Rodriguez be called on the carpet by MLB? You can pretty much bet on this, and yes, the use of words has some meaning. Remember, Rodriguez has been scolded by the league before over gambling, and has been under close watch by the league since admitting in 2009 that he had used PEDs from 2001-2003 in his career. That was a convenient timeframe as the league had not yet begun drug testing until 2004. In 2003, the MLBPA and league agreed to do a “survey test” to determine if there was a need to institute a comprehensive drug policy that Rodriguez came up positive for testosterone and Primobolan. The ironic thing is, about the time he’s holding a press conference to admit using PEDs is when Bosch’s ledger picks up. It shows that he provided performance-enhancing substances from 2009 to 2012.

What about the other players, namely Gio Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz? There will be question to answer, that’s for certain. But, as the league statement said, the investigation is ongoing and there’s not going to be a whole lot being said until then. A good example was the statement from Nationals VP of Baseball Operations and General Manager, Mike Rizzo.

“The issue is currently being reviewed by Major League Baseball and it would be inappropriate for the Nationals to comment until that review is completed,” Rizzo said.

Is this the end? The story is not going away. In fact, it seems that the story is far from over. After all the FBI and DEA are involved, and in that, we might not be done for years. Remember, the Bonds case, which had ties to BALCO, cost taxpayers millions of dollars with very little to show for it. It may be that in this case, Biogenesis is the focus (where did the actual hGH, and testosterone come from?), not going after Rodriguez or the other players, but the chance is always there. After all, it’s not as if going after Bonds may have been a case of “trophy hunting.”

What is the case is matter of history somewhat repeating itself. In BALCO, Victor Conte was not a doctor that could legally administer the drugs, but rather a nutritionalist and one that did analysis on an athlete’s blood work. He eventually began moving PEDs to athletes in not only baseball, but other sports. In that, the parallels to Tony Bosch and Biogenesis are very similar. This story is not yet fully told.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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Dodgers, TWC Announce Landmark TV Deal Creating SportsNet LA PDF Print E-mail
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Television
Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 28 January 2013 13:12

Dodgers

As anticipated, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Time Warner Cable today announced a new regional sports network with the working name of SportsNet LA that will launch at the beginning of the 2014 Major League Baseball season. In addition to being the exclusive local home for all of the Dodger games, SportsNet LA will provide comprehensive behind-the-scenes Dodger programming, featuring more insights, analysis and commentary. The landmark agreement is worth a reported $7-$8 billion, making it the most lucrative RSN launch in MLB history. The agreement with TWC is subject to certain closing conditions.

The deal has not yet been approved by Major League Baseball over concerns involving a capped amount of revenue-sharing attached to the deal. That issue surfaced as part of the bankruptcy process when Frank McCourt formerly owned the club. It is not believed that the current state of MLB not approving the deal will scuttle it entirely, but without league approval, the possibility of some structural contract changes could come about to address concerns.

Time Warner Cable (TWC) has agreed to be SportsNet LA’s charter distributor, and will carry the new network for its customers throughout Southern California and Hawaii under a long-term affiliation deal. In addition, in return for agreeing to make payments over the life of the deal, TWC will be the exclusive advertising and affiliate sales agent for the new network and will have certain branding and programing rights with respect to the network, and therefore, will guarantee subscription fees. TWC will also provide certain non-game production and technical services to American Media Productions, LLC (AMP), the arm of the Dodgers ownership that was created to launch the RSN.

Mark Walter, Chairman of the Los Angeles Dodgers, said, “We concluded last year that the best way to give our fans what they want - more content and more Dodger baseball - was to launch our own network. The creation of AMP will provide substantial financial resources over the coming years for the Dodgers to build on their storied legacy and bring a World Championship home to Los Angeles. Just as we are actively transforming the team and the stadium, we want the Dodgers to be exhibited on the very best sports network in the country - one that will provide an unrivaled fan experience.”

Todd Boehly, a principal owner of AMP, said, “We are greatly pleased that Time Warner Cable, the largest distributor in the marketplace, has come aboard to support the Dodgers and SportsNet LA as our charter distributor. Their presence in Los Angeles will be invaluable in helping us serve Dodger fans and our community with excellence.”

“We are delighted to support the Dodgers and their ownership group in their launch of SportsNet LA. The Dodgers have one of the most passionate and loyal audiences in sports, and we look forward to helping deliver this new network to their fans,” said David Rone, President of Time Warner Cable Sports. “This deal, like our Lakers’ deal, furthers our efforts to attain greater certainty and control over local and regional sports programming costs.”

“The launch of the new regional sports network is a historic development for the Dodgers and our passionate fans,” said Stan Kasten, CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers. “Our commitment from day one has been to build the Dodgers into the best team possible, both on and off the field. Our fans deserve the best - the best players, the best baseball, and the best experience - whether that’s at the newly renovated Dodger Stadium or on television.”

“Our mission is to have the most fan-friendly sports programming, and we welcome ideas and suggestions from our Dodger Community. We look forward to sharing updates with fans in the coming months. In the meantime, we remain very excited about the upcoming 2013 season where we will be showcasing our incredible new roster and the many enhancements to Dodger Stadium, as well as continuing our commitment to broadcast excellence with our current partners Fox Sports and KCAL 9.”


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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The Specter of PEDs and Alex Rodriguez Resurfaces PDF Print E-mail
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Articles & Opinion
Written by Will Carroll   
Saturday, 26 January 2013 20:09
Alex Rodriguez

The New York Daily News and their I-Team investigative unit unleashed another fastball at Alex Rodriguez on Saturday. The article claims that MLB and it's internal investigation unit is investigating two Miami-area figures with connections to several MLB players, with the article focused on Alex Rodriguez.

On Friday, Brian Cashman discussed the possibility that Rodriguez might be out for the season, though he did not indicate any reason for this. Rodriguez is currently expected to be back around mid-season. There is no indication that Cashman believed this investigation of Rodriguez, who admitted to previous steroid use in 2009, will make the Yankees third baseman unavailable due to suspension.

MLB has reportedly turned over information regarding Anthony Bosch and his father, Dr. Pedro Bosch, to the Drug Enforcement Agency. Anthony Bosch is a well-known consultant to several baseball players while his father is a physician. Dr. Bosch first came to the attention of MLB when Manny Ramirez was first caught using banned substances. Dr. Bosch wrote the prescription for HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin), the substance Ramirez tested positive for in 2009.

The Boschs reportedly have connections to several other players, including Alex Rodriguez, and have been consulting with them on blood tests. The suggestion is clear that MLB believes that these blood tests could be used to help circumvent MLB drug tests.

In essence, the Daily News is asserting that the Bosch's are a Florida-based BALCO. BALCO provided nutrition-based testing, blood testing, and other legitimate services that also dovetailed with it's use of performance enhancing drugs. BALCO was known as the major source for "The Clear," an anabolic steroid that was unknown up to that point (2003) and could not be tested for. BALCO also used banned substances like a testosterone cream that was specially compounded and prescribed drugs like modafinil, a non-stimulant drug designed to treat narcolepsy.

The Daily News focuses on the belief that exogenous testosterone, used in doses small enough to not trigger the ratio (4:1) test, is a problem. BALCO founder Victor Conte has on several occasions asserted that he believes this type of "microdosing" is rampant in sports. Conte, when asked by me on Twitter, asserted that he is no longer working with any MLB players:

No RT @injuryexpert: @victorconte Any current MLB players? Know you've had a couple in the past.

— Victor Conte (@VictorConte) January 21, 2013

MLB moved to correct this issue with new testing guidelines. In addition to increased HGH blood testing, urine samples will now be monitored for any change in testosterone levels. This so-called "biological passport" will be used in concert with the ratio testing, as well as increased CIR/IRMS testing.

While Conte and others have called for all samples in MLB to undergo CIR testing—it is the gold standard of testing—the fact is that the cost and sheer number of samples make this impossible. The expensive machine and skilled technicians at the Montreal lab that conducts MLB's testing would have to do nothing other than process MLB's tests for twelve hours a day, 365 days a year, if this were the case.

With names involved beyond Alex Rodriguez and Ramirez, the Daily News suggests there may be some connection between the Boschs and other MLB players that have tested positive for various substances. Those players, such as Melky Cabrera, Yasmani Grandal, and Carlos Ruiz all tested positive last season, though Ruiz tested positive for a stimulant. (Ruiz's suspension of 25 games indicates that this is his second positive test for a stimulant.)

Rodriguez has had other situations similar to this. He was known to have associations with a doctor involved in prescribing drugs to BALCO. (This same doctor is currently working to make a new type of blood therapyundergone by several high level athletes like Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning available in the United States.)

Rodriguez was also involved with Dr. Anthony Galea, who was prosecuted for smuggling HGH and other substances into the U.S. from his Toronto base. Galea treated many well known athletes, including Rodriguez, Tiger Woods, and Jose Reyes. None of those athletes ever tested positive and Dr. Galea insisted he used no banned drugs.


Will Carroll is a member of the BBWAA. He currently writes for Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @injuryexpert on Twitter.

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The Rays and MLB's No-Win Situation in Their New Stadium Efforts PDF Print E-mail
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Maury Brown Article Archive
Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 25 January 2013 14:27
Rays

Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg went into battle again on Thursday. The former Wall Street investor, who in 2005 purchased the majority interest in the club, has been looking for a way to get out of Tropicana Field, but to no avail. His audience was one with a keen interest in the Rays as he was invited by the Hillsborough County commissioners to speak about the health of the club as the county has been targeted as a possible relocation destination.

"Major League Baseball doesn't believe anymore in the Tampa Bay area," Sternberg said, and that was backed shortly thereafter by a statement from the Commissioner’s Office

“The Commissioner has had conversations with Stuart Sternberg and is disappointed with the current situation in the Tampa Bay market.

The status quo is simply not sustainable. The Rays have been a model organization, averaging nearly 92 wins per year since 2008 and participating in the Postseason three times, including their inaugural World Series in 2008.

Their .565 winning percentage over the last five years is second among all American League Clubs and third in all of Major League Baseball. Last year, the 30 Major League Clubs averaged nearly 2.5 million in total attendance; the Rays, who finished with a 90-72 record, drew 1,559,681, which ranked last in the game.

The Club is an eager contributor to worthy causes in the Tampa and St. Petersburg communities and takes pride in meeting the social responsibilities that come with being a Major League franchise. We are hopeful that the market will respond in kind to a Club that has done a marvelous job on and off the field.”

The matter brings up a host of issues, none of which are as clear-cut as the league not believing in the Tampa Bay market any longer. For every argument, there seems to be a counter-argument.

  • “Tropicana Field is in a bad location and is a bad ballpark experience.”…. “No matter what, when the Rays are in playoff contention or seeking a playoff berth, fans should be showing up.”
  • “The economy in the area has impacted discretionary income, and that means fans aren’t buying tickets.”… “The dour economy impacts many markets around the country, so why is Tampa Bay all that different?”
  • “Current ownership knew what they were getting into when they purchased the club.”… “When you purchase a club that has had lackluster performance on the field, when you get them winning, that should right the ship. Winning cures all ills… except for in Tampa Bay.”
  • “Tampa Bay/St. Pete has a large transient population. It takes time before you build fan loyalty.”… “Then how is a new ballpark going to really fix this?”

But, the real issues run deeper. Far deeper.

If you want to get down to it, one of the largest issues is getting to Hillsborough County, which bumps into a conflict with Pinellas County where the Rays currently reside in Tropicana Field. To add to matters, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster has been adamant about the Rays staying put going so far as threatening to sue the Hillsborough County commissioners from meddling. For Foster, the issue is about the Rays sticking to their lease at the Trop which runs till 2026.

So, what is one to make of it all? What can one read from Selig’s and Sternberg’s comments? What actions, if any, can they act upon? The reality is, there’s not much either can do, short of some nuclear options. Here’s a Q&A:

Can the league dissolve the Rays via contraction? The short answer is, no. At least not for a while and maybe, never. At the very least, contraction is off the table within the latest CBA which expires in 2016. But even then the odds are exceptionally long. The MLBPA would likely sue over loss of jobs to the players, as would Pinellas County and others that have a vested interest such as Sun Sports.

Is the Rays’ lease “ironclad’? – Yes, the lease on Tropicana Field doesn’t expire for another 14 years. Does that make it “ironclad”? The answer is no. What it does mean is it’s likely too expensive to buy the lease out at this point, but the closer and closer one gets to that expiration date, the easier it is to negotiate out of it. Politicians love to rattle sabers, but the truth is, if a deal can be reached to buyout the lease, it would seem hard to not consider allowing for it.

Why can’t the Rays simply look to put pressure on by seeking relocation options outside of their broadcast territory? They could, but it would be a veiled threat. Broadcast rights fees have continued to escalate, and with it, the club territories have become highly guarded. Look at what happened with Peter Angelos and the Orioles when the Expos relocated to DC and became the Nationals. It took the creation of an regional sports network (MASN) where the Orioles controlled the lion’s share to placate them.

If you could indemnify the TV issue, could you then relocate? Well, sure, but they say the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. In other words, the Rays have a good understanding what their market is capable of. Other markets, Northern New Jersey the exception, would be smaller in one capacity or the other. You might get attendance up, but your television deal may not be as strong. You might get higher overall attendance, but corporate sponsorships and suite sales would be an unknown.

Are their any markets that the Rays could move to now? Not really. For one, you’d need to get out of the lease, move into an interim facility and then wrestle with the same issue that the Rays face now which is funding for a new ballpark.

You mentioned “nuclear options”. What are those? The one that’s occurred before with the Expos being the example is, the league and its owners could purchase the Rays, and then work to sell or relocate them. While this seems like a contradiction, the difference is that when a league purchases a club, they have no intention of holding onto it for any period of time. If the shorter is better, then municipalities that are really in the hunt for an MLB club have more political cover to work from. The Rays going it alone becomes a “possible sale” while a derby for a club by the league comes off as “really going to happen.”

Any other options? Bankruptcy? The one that is hanging out there, but would seem a reach, is bankruptcy. In that case, it would fall to the courts and in that, an auction by which an owner comes up with a method to not only purchase the club but satisfy debt comes into play. This is an extreme longshot at this point. There’s been no wind of the Rays missing their lease payments, so it’s a farfetched scenario.

So, what are the options? It’s a stalemate. At this point, the league and Rays don’t seem to have a lot of options. It seems clear they need a new facility, but getting it on the public dime is going to be tough, as if it wasn’t before the Marlins pulled their stunt with public funding. No, much like the A’s, the Rays are in a state of purgatory. The most dramatic thing that could happen is a possible sale of the club, but as Schott and Hoffman did in selling the A’s to Wolff and the Fishers, all you’re really doing is changing deckchairs on the Titanic.

You have to feel for the Rays. They continue to be the most creative club with player development and contract structure that has allowed them to be very competitive for some time. They’ll likely be playing to an empty warehouse called Tropicana Field (again) this year. At some point, one wonders about Sternberg selling or cutting his margins. If it’s the latter, you wind up getting the current state of the Astros or what has gone on historically over the last decade with the Pirates. The logic goes, if you’re going to play to an empty room, getting revenues in alignment to counter the abysmal gate numbers at least keeps you in the black. Let’s pray that’s not the case. The Rays are a great story in every fashion… except the empty seats at the Trop.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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The Complete 2013 MLB Regular Season Schedule with Game Times PDF Print E-mail
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MLB News
Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 24 January 2013 12:47

MLBBaseball season is not far away… MLB has released the following:

Major League Baseball today announced the game times for its master 2013 regular season schedule, which will begin on March 31st with ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” when the Houston Astros host the Texas Rangers at 8:00 p.m. (ET) / 7:00 p.m. (CT).  The final day of the 2013 regular season, which features 11 divisional match-ups, is scheduled for Sunday, September 29th.

Opening Night in Houston between the Astros and Rangers marks the first-ever game for the Astros as an American League Club and it begins ESPN’s 24th season televising Major League Baseball.  Twelve games will be played on Monday, April 1st, when traditional Opening Day returns to a Monday for the first time since 2010 (the 2011 season opened on a Thursday, while 2012 began with one game on a Wednesday night and traditional Opening Day on a Thursday).  The first full slate of 15 games will be played on Wednesday, April 3rd.

ESPN will continue its coverage of Opening Week presented by Budweiser with four games on Monday, April 1st, which feature the winners of the past seven World Series.  Opening Day coverage on ESPN begins at 1:00 p.m (ET) as the Boston Red Sox visit the New York Yankees, followed by the San Francisco Giants at the Los Angeles Dodgers at 4:00 p.m. (ET)/1:00 p.m. (PT).  At 7:00 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2, the Philadelphia Phillies will visit the Atlanta Braves, followed by the St. Louis Cardinals at the Arizona Diamondbacks at 10:00 p.m. (ET)/7:00 p.m. (PT).

MLB Network will have extensive coverage of Opening Week, featuring the return of its regular season programming lineup of The Rundown, Intentional Talk, MLB Tonight and Quick Pitch with look-ins at live games in progress, previews, highlights and analysis.  MLB Network’s Showcase Game schedule will begin on Tuesday, April 2nd with the Los Angeles Dodgers hosting the 2012 World Champion San Francisco Giants at 10:10 p.m. (ET) / 7:10 p.m. (PT).

Among the other highlights of the 2013 regular season:

  • The Cincinnati Reds open their season against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Great American Ball Park on Monday, April 1st at 4:10 p.m (ET), marking the start of the 17th season of Interleague Play, and the first to feature Interleague contests for the duration of the season.
  • The San Francisco Giants square off against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park in their home opener on Friday, April 5th at 4:35 p.m. (ET) / 1:35 p.m. (PT) in a rematch of the 2012 National League Championship Series.
  • The Detroit Tigers open a three-game series against the New York Yankees at Comerica Park on Friday, April 5th at 1:05 p.m. (ET) as the clubs see one another again after the 2012 American League Championship Series.
  • The Dodgers will host the Padres at Dodger Stadium at 10:10 p.m. (ET) / 7:10 p.m. (PT) on Monday, April 15th, which is designated as Jackie Robinson Day throughout Major League Baseball.
  • Interleague series featuring prime rivals will have back-to-back two-game series beginning on Monday, May 27th (Memorial Day), with the host club shifting on Wednesday, May 29th.  The match-ups include: Nationals-Orioles; Mets-Yankees; Marlins-Rays; Reds-Indians; Cubs-White Sox; Cardinals-Royals; Angels-Dodgers; Giants-Athletics; Phillies-Red Sox; Braves-Blue Jays; Tigers-Pirates; Brewers-Twins; Rockies-Astros; Rangers-Diamondbacks; and Padres-Mariners.
  • The 2013 All-Star Game, to be hosted by the New York Mets, is scheduled for Tuesday, July 16th at Citi Field.

Select READ MORE for the complete 2013 Major League Baseball regular season schedule with game times (PDF)

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Dodgers Set to Announce $6-$7 Billion TV Deal on Thursday PDF Print E-mail
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Television
Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 23 January 2013 20:57

On Thursday, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Time Warner Cable will announce a new television contract that will have the team starting its own channel. While terms will not be officially released, it has been known for some time that the Los Angeles NL club would pull in $6 billion to $7 billion making it by far the most lucrative local broadcast deal that has ever been reached in baseball.

What makes the deal even more amazing is that TWC had already inked a $4 billion broadcast deal that sees the Los Angeles Lakers at the heart of the programming. All told, TWC will be committing between $10-$11 billion to two Southern California franchises.

For the Dodgers, the effects are already being felt. While the club saw a 2012 end of year payroll of $129,080,186, ranking them 8th out of the 30 clubs, they have already planned to go into “Yankee territory” for 2013. In interviewing Dodgers President Stan Kasten at the Winter Meetings he said that there was “a good chance” that they would break the Luxury Tax threshold  adding, “We’re not done yet.”

What’s interesting is how revenue-sharing could possibly be capped, something that MLB was very concerned about when the Dodgers were looking at the deal prior. According to the LA Times, that issue opened the door for TWC:

The Dodgers’ current contract with Fox Sports expires after the 2013 season. The team had discussed a new deal with Fox last fall, worth at least $6 billion over 25 years. However, as MLB and the Dodgers debated how much of that money would have to be contributed to baseball’s revenue-sharing program, the Fox exclusive negotiating window expired, enabling Time Warner to initiate negotiations with the team.

Fox was believed to be willing to restructure its offer but was not believed to be willing to significantly raise the amount. The Time Warner Cable deal is believed to be worth between $6 billion and $7 billion.

What has been on the lips of many sports fans is, will deals like this rain down like money from heaven? The answer is, no. Los Angeles is the nation’s second-largest market. The Dodgers are a storied brand. Frank McCourt had depressed the potential of the club. The franchise was on the cusp of a new television deal. The new owners have exceptionally deep pockets and are doing everything to renovate not only Dodger Stadium but the roster, as well… it was a perfect storm for the largest deal in history to happen. Don’t expect it to occur again.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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Images and Details Show Possible Rebirth of Wrigley Field PDF Print E-mail
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Facility News
Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 22 January 2013 01:02

Since the Ricketts family purchased the Chicago Cubs, one of the looming questions has been renovating baseball’s second-oldest ballpark in Wrigley Field. With the Red Sox completing a 10-year renovation to the league’s oldest ballpark, it was shown that renovation over a completely new facility could be done in a way that would modernize even the oldest of structures to allow modern day amenities for both fans and the players.

The problem has been gaining funding. Whether the dour economy or the fact that some municipalities may have grown weary of providing the lion’s share of the funding, getting renovations off the ground for the Cubs has been about as easy as winning a World Series for the Ricketts since purchasing the club in 2009. In 2010 a state funding bill withered and died in the Illinois legislature.

But, that could finally change… if the city of Chicago corporates.

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said this past weekend at the Cubs Convention that if some restrictions are lifted, the club will fund a 5-year, $300 million renovation that will provide wider concourses, all new clubhouse, restaurants, a new landing in left field, a much-needed set of batting tunnels, work on suite, and much more. The first phase would be a massive upgrade to the clubhouse.

SEE COMPLETE DETAILS, PLUS ALL 20 IMAGES OF THE PROPOSED WRIGLEY FIELD RENOVATION

“The fact is that when you look at all of the limitations that we have, whether that’s signage in the outfield, which we are not allowed to do, or what kind of stuff we do in the park or around the park, I think we’d just like a little more flexibility to have some options on that stuff,” Ricketts said at the Cubs Convention.

“We have an opportunity cost there that’s tremendous. Just give us some relief on some of these restrictions, and we’ll take care of (renovating) Wrigley Field.

“We’re told what we can do to the park. We’re told what we can do in the park. We’re told what we can do around the park. We think, from our position, if you just let us run our business, we can get started on some substantial renovations, make the fan experience better, make the player experience better, and really preserve the park for the next 50 years. We’re not a museum. We’re a business.”

The restrictions that Ricketts made reference to included:

Signage: The bleacher vista may be significantly altered if the Cubs get their way. In 2010, the Cubs agreed to a four-year moratorium on additional advertising signs that would rise above the Wrigley Field bleachers in order to gain city approval of a Toyota outfield sign. That moratorium expires after this season, and the Cubs would like to increase their outfield signage, along with other areas in the ballpark. They’re the only team with signage restrictions.

Co-owner Laura Ricketts said the restriction on signage puts the team at a disadvantage, “but also forces us to be extra creative in the advertising that we do have, and that makes Wrigley Field, in my opinion, the most special place to watch a ballgame in all of baseball… With our renovations, that’s definitely something we want to preserve going forward.”

Night games: A city ordinance granted the Cubs permission to play 18 night games a year starting in 1988. In 2004, the city council approved an increase of four night games per year through 2006, giving them their current allotment of 30. The Cubs haven’t said how many more night games they need, but one source said “half,” or 41, would suffice, including an occasional Saturday night game. The Cubs also would like the return of 3:05 p.m. starts on Friday, believing the weekend restrictions are an anachronism in a commercialized area.

Concerts: An agreement in 2005 between the Cubs and the city gave the Cubs permission to hold two Jimmy Buffet concerts that summer, with the team donating $150,000 of the proceeds to neighborhood schools and reserving 3,000 concert tickets for purchase by people who lived within one mile of the ballpark. The Cubs agreed to hold 29 night games in 2006 instead of the permitted 30. In 2009, the city allowed the Cubs to hold three concerts, including two by Elton John and Billy Joel. The Cubs haven’t said how many concerts they’d like, but they’d like to increase it without having to ask for city permission.

See more images of the proposed Wrigley Field renovation


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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