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12-Year Look at MLB Attendance Shows New Ballparks, Key Clubs Factors in Growth PDF Print E-mail
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Maury Brown Article Archive
Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 30 May 2013 17:09

MLB Attendance

Each year, those watching paid attendance numbers in MLB announce how total or average sales ebb up or down from the year prior, and with it, assign whether the sport is increasing or decreasing in popularity. This is an understandable approach (note, we at The Biz of Baseball do so), but does not paint a clear picture as to why.

A failing by some is that the analysis given assumes the league is static. Rarely—if ever—do reports take into account how off-season moves, the win-loss record, or opening of new ballparks account for fluctuation.

While every nuance is difficult to capture such as how scheduling from year-to-year can skew the numbers, some key factors can.

Below shows average paid attendance over the course of 12 years from 2001 to 2012.

MLB Average Attendance

Tied to the graph is supporting data that shows not only average attendance for a given year, but total attendance, and if any new ballparks opened in that year:

YEAR

LEAGUE TOTAL

TOTAL GAMES

MLB AVG

BALLPARK OPENINGS

2001

72,530,213

2,423

30,058

Miller Park, PNC Park

2002

67,858,176

2,420

28,134

None

2003

67,688,994

2,424

28,052

Great American Ballpark

2004

73,022,969

2,420

30,401

Citizen Bank Park, Petco Park

2005

74,925,821

2,415

30,974

None

2006

76,078,766

2,425

31,425

Busch III

2007

79,503,175

2,421

32,785

None

2008

78,591,116

2,419

32,543

Nationals Park

2009

73,385,022

2,402

30,324

Yankee Stadium, CitiField

2010

73,053,807

2,413

30,138

Target Field

2011

73,451,522

2,412

30,352

None

2012

74,859,268

2,413

30,895

Marlins Park

With the exception of three ballpark openings (Mets, Yankees, Cardinals), attendance in the year that they opened was up from the last year in a club’s old ballpark. The Cardinals, who moved from Busch II into Busch III saw a nominal drop (3 percent), with the large drops coming from the Yankees (down 13 percent) and the Mets (down 22 percent), but this was expected. In the instance of both New York clubs, there were not only deep cuts in overall seating capacity (-6,649 for the Yankees, and a massive drop of 15,333 for the Mets) but fans flocked to both old Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium to send them off.

As to the decline in seating capacity, as part of new ballpark design, lowering capacity (and with it, the idea that demand will increase) has been part of every upgrade in the 12-year study:

Club

Ballpark

Year
Opened

Yr Prior
Attendance

Yr. 1 Avg

%
(+/-)
Prior to Yr
One

Winning %
(Yr 1)

Prior
Ballpark

Cap Prior

Cap New

Cap (+/-)

Brewers

Miller Park

2001

19,427

34,704

79%

.420

Milwaukee County Stadium

53,192

41,900

-11,292

Pirates

PNC Park

2001

21,591

30,430

41%

.383

Three Rivers Stadium

47,952

38,362

-9,590

Reds

Great American Ballpark

2003

22,911

29,077

27%

.426

Riverfront Stadium

52,952

42,059

-10,893

Phillies

Citizens Bank Park

2004

27,901

40,125

44%

.531

Veterans Stadium

62,306

43,647

-18,659

Padres

PETCO Park

2004

25,063

37,244

49%

.537

Qualcomm Stadium

67,544

42,500

-25,044

Cardinals

Busch III

2006

43,691

42,589

-3%

.516

Busch II

49,676

43,975

-5,701

Nationals

Nationals Park

2008

23,998

29,005

21%

.366

RFK Stadium

45,596

41,546

-4,050

Yankees

Yankee Stadium

2009

53,070

45,918

-13%

.636

Old Yankee Stadium

56,936

50,287

-6,649

Mets

CitiField

2009

49,902

39,118

-22%

.432

Shea Stadium

57,333

42,000

-15,333

Twins

Target Field

2010

29,466

39,798

35%

.580

Metrodome

46,564

39,504

-7,060

Marlins

Marlins Park

2012

18,772

27,400

46%

.426

Sun Life Stadium

38,560

37,442

-1,118

When adding the “honeymoon effect” (that period after a new ballpark opens when fans attend to see a team’s new home) and when the effect wears off in the lower seating capacity, the outcome becomes a spike and then lower attendance in subsequent years if winning is not the norm. And, large swings can occur when multiple ballparks open in a given year, or when there are new ballparks opening in close proximity year after year, as has been in the case under Bud Selig’s tenure leading to artificial gains.

In the midst of all this is, of course, winning and losing, something that for all but a few is a cyclical affair. If winning seasons happen with large market clubs that see sizable seating capacities, it can bolster the whole. The Phillies in recent seasons have been a good example. Leading the league in attendance in 2012-11, and #2 behind only the Yankees in 2009 and behind the Yankees and Dodgers in 2008, Philadelphia assisted in keeping attendance fairly steady when the national economy was anything but healthy. They also offset the Dodgers in the final year of the Frank McCourt tenure when LAD went from a key attendance bellwether to dropping out of the top 10 in overall attendance in 2011. The Dodgers are always key as they sit in baseball’s second largest market, as well as boast largest seating capacity in the league with Dodger Stadium at 56,000.

So, as these large market, storied brands go, so does the league. While there will be spikes and valleys with other clubs due to winning or new stadiums, the league’s attendance performance hinges on how well the likes of the Yankees, Dodgers, and Phillies perform. The league is also tied to those storied brands in markets that are not as large, but boast solid fan bases. The best example of this is the St. Louis Cardinals, seen as one of—if not the best—fan base in all of baseball.

So, with this as the backdrop, is baseball really “a dying sport”? Hardly, but don’t expect much growth in attendance any time soon.

Since 1991, there have been 23 new ballparks build, and key renovations to two others (Fenway Park, and Kauffman Stadium). With only the Chicago Cubs actively on the edge of getting Wrigley Field renovated, no other new ballparks are on the horizon as the Athletics and Rays continue to be in limbo. That means the league will not have honeymoon effects for new ballparks artificially edging numbers up. What it will mean is that depending on winning or losing and weather issues that can plague the league in Spring and early Fall, attendance will ebb and flow in the next few years by as much as 2-3 percent. Short of a “perfect storm” (a strike or lockout, key clubs performing poorly over a period of two or more seasons) should fans and analysts should not expect to see any dramatic downturn.

To the analysts that may take pictures of empty ballparks and bemoan (falsely) that baseball is a dying sport, let’s hope they can take a broader view than a single season, look to elements that impact attendance, and provide something better than pictures to give fans and the media something better to base their opinions around the strength or weakness of a league’s popularity.


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 here.

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Are Suspensions in Minor League Baseball Finally Slowing PED Use? PDF Print E-mail
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Maury Brown Article Archive
Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 23 May 2013 12:53

PED use in baseballOne of the more complex questions surrounding drug testing policies in sports is whether suspension numbers being up or down are good or bad. Fans often point to the increase in drug suspensions and say the sport is full of cheaters, while the leagues often say that it shows the testing has gotten better, and therefore, more players are being caught.

In Minor League Baseball, it’s not nearly as sophisticated as in the Majors. While MLB players have lucrative contracts and therefore have increased opportunity to find a high-priced chemist that can provide designer PED cocktails designed to get around the tests, MiLB players aren’t afforded the salaries that MLB players are and with it, players often suspended for steroids or drug of abuse.

Because of the clear differences between the two levels of baseball, when the number of suspensions in Minor League Baseball go up or down it’s likely due to players taking tainted supplements, or those willfully looking to increase player performance artificially. The league has taken lengthy steps to inform players on the dangers involved in both, and provides a list of NFS Certified supplements that have—to date—never been found to be tainted with a performance-enhancing substance.

As of today (Thurs, May 23, 2013) there have been no positive tests in the Majors and 20 positive tests in the Minors for a total of 1,050 games. At this point last season, there were two players that had been suspended as part of the MLB drug testing policy (Guillermo Mota of the Giants and Eliezer Alfonzo, although he had his 100 game suspension rescinded based on chain of custody that was in the last CBA). In the Minors, suspensions were more than twice as many by this date as we’re seeing this year. As of May 18, there had been 42 drug suspensions in the Minors for a total of 2,100 games.

So, is the system working? Are the suspensions acting as a deterrent? There is nothing truly definitive to say as much, but the dramatic drop may point to a decline in PED use in the Minors. Whatever the reason—short of players figuring out how to beat the system—the numbers should be seen as good news to those that want to see less performance-enhancing substances being used in baseball.


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 here.

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Vendor at Astros Minute Maid Park Takes Snow Cones into Bathroom Stall PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 23:09

Astros Snow Cones

A snow cone vendor at Minute Maid Park took a rack full of snow cones into a bathroom stall and then returned to the ballpark to sell them according to a report Houston’s Local 2 complete of video of the event. According to the report:

Cell phone video shows a ball park snow cone vendor sitting on a toilet in a stall with an entire box full of the products he’s about to sell. They sit on the bathroom floor right next to him.

The person who recorded the video and gave it to Local 2 said: “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This guy is taking a dump. There’s no doubt about it. What sane person could possibly think, yeah this is a good idea. I’ll just put the food that I’m about to sell on the floor.”

The Astros and ARAMARK, the Minute Maid Park concessionaire both released statements after the incident.

Reid Ryan, who just recently took over the helm of the President of Business Operations said in a statement:

“The Astros were notified immediately by our partner ARAMARK of the incident involving a vendor on Monday night. We commend the swift reaction displayed by ARAMARK of terminating the employee immediately upon learning of the incident that evening. This isolated incident was a clear violation of our food safety practices and is not reflective of our standards.

“The Astros share ARAMARK’s view on the importance of food safety and will work with them to ensure that our fans have a safe and outstanding experience at Minute Maid Park. We also commend the fan for his vigilance in pointing out the inappropriate actions of the vendor. The Astros personally thanked him and advised him of the swift action taken in regard to the employee.”

ARAMARK added in the joint statement:

“Food safety is extremely important to us.  This vendor’s actions were a clear violation of our food safety practices and are not reflective of our standards. This was an isolated incident by a third-party subcontractor and we promptly dealt with the matter when it was brought to our attention.”


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 here.

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MLB to Honor Vets on Memorial Day with Special Uniforms PDF Print E-mail
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Sponsorships, Promotions
Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 14:41

Memorial Day MLB jerseyBaseball uniform traditionalists have scoffed at it, but the fact that America and baseball are intertwined makes “why” the league does it far more important.  As Major League Baseball has done now for several years, each team will wear specially designed caps and jerseys featuring an authentic military digital camouflage design licensed from the United States Marine Corps on Monday, May 27 in honor of Memorial Day.

MLB will also conduct a moment of silence prior to all games throughout Memorial Day weekend to honor members of the military who lost their lives serving their country. On Memorial Day itself, MLB will join the National Moment of Remembrance where all games will stop for a moment of silence at 3:00 p.m. local time.

MLB has committed $23 million to Welcome Back Veterans (welcomebackveterans.org) since its inception in 2008 and as part of that ongoing effort the league will donate 100% of its net proceeds from sales of the caps and jerseys to Welcome Back Veterans.

According to the league, MLB Clubs will have the opportunity to wear the uniforms on other days where they honor the military.

MLB Memorial Day hats


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 here.

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In the Midst of Rebuilding, Astros Lose Leverage in CSN Houston Negotiations PDF Print E-mail
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Television
Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 14:13

Astros

In advance of the overall strategy for the sale of the Houston Astros to Jim Crane, former President and CEO George Postolos, and the Houston Rockets approached NBC Sports Group about the creation of a new regional sports network that would become Comcast SportsNet Houston. The deal which sees the Astros own 46.384 percent, the Rockets owning 30.923 percent, and NBC Sports Group owning the balance at 22.693 percent was smart given the rapidly changing landscape of media deals. With the move to the American League West, the Astros would be competing with the Rangers and Angels, both of whom had landed media rights deals at a reported total of $3 billion. While the Astros wouldn’t be garnering that much, they at least would be able to potentially top out in excess of $1.5 billion over the life of the agreement.

But, a couple of things happened along the way that has CSN Houston not reaching the revenues anticipated. In fact, the Astros and Rockets could potentially have the new RSN a loss leader, as opposed to a key revenue stream.

While the Houston Rockets made the playoffs this season, the Astros are years from the postseason. As part of the sale to Crane, then owner Drayton McLane began unloading player payroll. By the time the sale was approved in November of 2011, the team had finished the season with 106 losses and attendance ranked 19th at 2,067,016. In 2012, the Astros again finished with over 100 losses (107, to be exact), and attendance had dropped to 28th with a total of 1,607,733, a whopping decline of 459,283 in paid attendance or -22% from 2011. And, it appears that the team will surpass the 100 loss season mark this year.

All of this has played into the hands of carriage negotiations for CSN Houston. According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, the “Astros/Rockets/NBC Sports Group partnership is low on funds and faces ‘tough decisions’ about its future,” according to Astros owner, Jim Crane. Currently CSN Houston is not being carried by DirecTV, Dish Network and AT&T U-verse or regional carriers such as Suddenlink and Time Warner Cable. Currently, the new RSN is only being carried on approx. 40 percent of available 2.2 million televisions in the Houston area due to the impasse. Due to limited carriage, Houston Rockets ratings were down one-third for the season that recently ended.

Imagine that.

The issue is one of conflicting interests. The owners of CSN Houston, knowing that carriage deals of up to 20 years carries with it the need to get the most while they can, are sticking to their guns on getting the best rate possible. According to reports, that could be as high as $3.40 per subscriber—a lofty sum, especially in light of the dismal performance by the Astros, and the possibility that it could be several years before the rebuilding gets the club into competitiveness. The owners of CSN Houston are looking at the market that has not only provided those $3 billion deals for the Rangers and Astros, but $2 billion for the Mariners as part of the majority purchase of ROOTS Sports NW, the Dodgers waiting for approval on a $6-$8 billion media rights deal with TWC, and the outcome of a potential bidding war between FOX Sports and Comcast for a new Phillies deal. It is actually the cumulative weight of all these media rights deals, coupled with the self-inflicted wounds that the Astros have taken on with the fan base as part of the rebuilding that place the Astros/Rockets and NBC Sports Group at a considerable disadvantage.

And, it’s not like having Jim Crane say that CSN Houston is going to have to make “tough decisions” doesn’t add more leverage to those carriers that the RSN is trying to get top-dollar for. Ask yourself: if you know that an RSN is wounded, that ratings are down, and public perception of the club is low, why would you give in and offer a high rate that you are stuck with for 20 years?

And then there’s the “perception” matter. The carriers on the sideline see the Astros, Rockets, and MLS Dynamo that are carried on CSN Houston as “a small market” and therefore, not worth the amount being sought as a regional channel offering. New Astros president Reid Ryan said of the negotiations, There’s a real desire from Jim to get it right because (Crane) knows if he doesn’t get it right, it could affect this club for a very, very long time,” Ryan said. “There’s a perception out there nationally that Houston is a small market, and what we’re hearing is that people want to treat us as a small market. This is the fourth-largest city in America. It’s kind of a slap in the face to call Houston a small market.”

There is possible movement on the matter, but it’s hard saying when that movement may come, if at all. On Monday, representatives from the Astros, Rockets, NBC Sports Group and Suddenlink Communications met with Houston Mayor Annise Parker. The meetings were described as “positive” but that no resolution was reached, and none were expected soon.

The Astros may be part of bad timing as well as negotiating from a position of weakness. As we’ve been saying, it’s possible that the media rights bubble may be close to bursting. When you couple that with the Astros poor showing in the standings and other matters such as bad PR with the sudden, unexpected resignation of George Postolos, the Astros may get broader carriage, but not at the rate they feel they deserve, or want. It's just one more thing on top of many others that have the Astros needing to slow down with all the change.


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 here.

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MLB Owners Meetings: Pension Plan Discussed PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 16 May 2013 12:53

MLBOn second and final day of the meetings with Major League Baseball’s 30 owners in New York, the topic of the pension plan for those working for clubs was discussed. The matter, first reported by Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, has been brewing for several years. According to the report, a small market club raised the issue of eliminating some pension plans, despite the league seeing record gross revenues in excess of $8 billion.

But the matter was not brought to a vote today, and no action has been taken. Sources reiterated what was said when the story first broke that the matter is not about eliminating pension for personnel, rather giving clubs more flexibility in what they offer. It was not said whether that could possibly mean the downgrading of pensions for some clubs.

At the time of the report in March, the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation had an emergency conference call to discuss the matter. Those that have been scouts for some time were reassured that they would not be impacted by any change, but it was unknown whether new scouts would see adverse impacts, if or when, the league’s owners vote on changes to the pension plan.


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 here.

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Yankee Stadium to Host Two NHL Games Featuring Devils, Islanders, and Rangers PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 15 May 2013 15:15

Yankee Stadium in Snow

The allure of the NHL outdoors in ballparks continues. The NHL and New York Yankees announced today that two outdoor regular-season NHL games will be played at Yankee Stadium during the 2013-14 season as part of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.

The two games scheduled for Yankee Stadium are:

  • New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils - Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014 - 12:30 p.m. ET
  • New York Rangers at New York Islanders - Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 - 7:30 p.m. ET

The two games at Yankee Stadium complete the four-game 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series  scheduled for next season. On Jan. 25, the Anaheim Ducks will play the Los Angeles Kings at Dodger Stadium. On March 1, the Chicago Blackhawks will host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field.

"The innovative nature of the Stadium Series affords the opportunity to have all three NHL teams in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area play, outdoors, at one of the most-celebrated stadiums in the world," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "We'll be able to create a multi-faceted, multi-day experience for our fans, and we thank the teams, Coors Light, the New York Yankees and Yankee Stadium for their support of this memorable NHL event."

The 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series  will be the first time Yankee Stadium has been used for hockey.

"We have long thought that Yankee Stadium would be a great venue for outdoor hockey," said Lonn Trost, New York Yankees Chief Operating Officer. "In addition to being a first-class baseball facility, Yankee Stadium was designed to house unique and memorable events, such as the NHL Stadium Series™. Hosting two of the NHL's classic rivalries at Yankee Stadium will be a great kickoff for the worldwide sporting events in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area scheduled in early 2014."

"The New Jersey Devils are proud to have been selected to host the first of two games at Yankee Stadium," said Devils President/CEO/General Manager Lou Lamoriello. "The NHL Stadium Series will be a memorable experience for our organization, our players and, most importantly, our fans. We are thrilled to play our divisional rival, while adding to the legacy of one of the nation's most recognized sports facilities."

"The New York Islanders are honored to take part in the National Hockey League's outdoor stadium series," Islanders General Manager Garth Snow said. "Our fan-base is one of the most passionate in the NHL. The support we consistently receive from our fans was on display during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs and I expect it to be on an even greater scale when we take on the Rangers. This is what makes the games against the Rangers one of the best rivalries in the league. I look forward to seeing a strong contingent of the orange and blue in the stands at Yankee Stadium."

"The New York Rangers are honored to participate in these two historic games at Yankee Stadium, bringing hockey into the home of another one of New York's iconic sports franchises," said Rangers President & General Manager Glen Sather. "Playing hockey outdoors takes the game back to its roots and reminds us all why we laced up our skates as youngsters. We are excited to be able to bring that experience and thrill to our fans and the city of New York."

"The teams playing in these two games - the Rangers, Islanders and Devils - have tremendously loyal fans and the rivalries are intense because of their proximity and playoff history," said Mathieu Schneider, NHLPA special assistant to the Executive Director. "Yankee Stadium is a landmark venue in New York City and to see hockey played in such a celebrated setting will be extremely memorable to the players and everyone involved."

According to the NHL, further details on this special NHL event, including national broadcast information and specifics on ticket opportunities for the season-ticket holders of each team, will be released shortly. Fans interested in receiving more information on ticketing, news and special offers around the event should register at www.NHL.com/2014NewYork.

NHL Network and NHL.com will provide extensive coverage live from New York leading up to and after the games. NHL Social will have exclusive coverage on all social platforms, including the use of the hashtag #StadiumSeries.

The NHL recently announced that the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 1, when the Detroit Red Wings will host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium on the University of Michigan campus. The NHL anticipates that the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic  could set a world record for attendance at a hockey game.

The first-ever NHL regular-season game contested outdoors was played in 2003 when the Edmonton Oilers hosted the Montreal Canadiens at Commonwealth Stadium. Since then, the NHL has played six additional regular-season games outdoors with 2009 (Wrigley Field between the Red Wings and Blackhawks), 2010 (Fenway Park between the Flyers and Bruins), and 2012 (at Citizens Bank Park between the Rangers and Flyers) all occurring at MLB ballparks.


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 here.

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MLB Owners Meetings: Instant Replay Discussed, A’s to San Jose and Blackouts Not on Agenda PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 15 May 2013 13:53

MLBMajor League Baseball’s 30 owners begin their two-day quarterly meetings in New York today, and with a continued discussion around expanded instant replay. A committee that includes former and current managers Tony La Russa, Joe Torre, Jim Leyland, and Mike Scioscia  as well as executives such as Frank Robinson, John Schuerholz, and Mark Scapiro was created in 2009 to look into on-the-field matters such as instant replay. The media has focused more closely on instant replay in recent weeks after a blown call during the Angels-Astros game last week that saw umpire crew chief Fieldin Culbreth suspended two-games and fined for misapplication of the Official Baseball Rules. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports! there is “support, approval and, most vital, funding from ownership” into looking at expanded instant replay. But, according to sources, don’t expect any changes to come about immediately. While there is support, how it is implemented and to what degree is still something that could have 30 differing views.

Beyond committee meetings, nothing earth-shattering is expected to come out of the meetings that occur today and tomorrow (although, anything is possible). While “something” could come out of the meetings, sources indicate there will not be movement on two languishing issues.

As has been the case since 2009, there is not expected to be any recommendations or movement on the issue of the Oakland Athletics moving to San Jose. With San Jose being part of the San Francisco Giants territory the current World Series Champions aren’t in any hurry to relinquish the market.

The Dodgers still await MLB’s approval on what is expected to be a $6 to possibly $8 billion television deal, and there has been a massive explosion in television rights fees across the league. With it, there has been renewed focus on the league’s blackout policy. Both MLB and the NHL are defendants in a class-action lawsuit, and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) last week introduced the Television Consumer Freedom Act that would allow consumers to purchase channels on an a la carte basis. This could impact MLB Network and other networks, as well as league blackout policies. In speaking to the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet yesterday, McCain said that as part of the bill it, “seeks to end sports blackouts for teams that play in publicly financed stadiums. The antiquated government blackout rules were created in 1975 and are unfair to taxpayers who finance the vast majority of major stadiums these days.”

And yet with this renewed pressure nothing is on the agenda for the quarterly meetings to address the blackout policy at the local and regional level. As part of the new national television deal with FOX that kicks in next year, nationally broadcasted games that were previously blacked out on MLB Extra Innings and MLB.TV due to an exclusivity agreement will be lifted. But that’s just the Saturday game of the week. The issue of local and regional blackouts—at least for the time being—are expected to remain.


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 here.

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From the Jump to The AL to Stripping Payroll and More: Why the Astros Need to Slow Down PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 14 May 2013 14:56

Houston Astros

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is a smart man. One doesn’t get rich and build global business without being as such. But there’s some advice that he needs when it comes to owning and running an MLB club, and it’s this:

Slow down.

I get that you saw the need to fix aspects of the organization. You might even have wanted to put your own stamp on it, but since before you purchased the club actions—some not all of your doing—have transpired that when taken in total are scaring fans off now, and possibly in the future.

McLane Dumps Salary to Make the Sale

To make the sale happen, Crane worked with former owner Drayton McLane. For the better part of two seasons, McLane shed player payroll. This helped not only with the sale, but played into a strategy that Crane is deploying now: strip out most everyone but prospects and rebuild.

The Move to the American League

I said not everything is of Crane’s doing, and this is one of them. As part of the sale the league pushed the Astros into the American League. It is the first time in the history of MLB that a team has moved from the NL to the AL.

The Complete Gutting of the Front Office

When McLane left, pretty much everyone else in the front office went, as well. Be it Tal Smith, or Ed Wade as examples, “out with the old, in with the new” came with the sale. This isn’t uncommon. In fact, those that watch the comings and goings in sports business expect it. It’s change that comes with change.

Rebranding

This is actually a smart move, and makes sense, but it’s (again) just one more thing. With the move to the American League, the club rebranded itself based on the old Houston Astros logos. New colors… new logos… something else that is new for fans to try and absorb.

Pain for Gain

While there are some that see the method upon which the Astros are rebuilding as a bit radical (this author included), it’s always difficult to say to your fan base that you’re rebuilding. Given how drastic the plan is, it could be several seasons before the Astros are competitive, and that banks on decisions that are being made pan out. Fans don’t like it, but if the pains are short, they might live with it. Several seasons can rot a fan base. Don’t believe me? Ask the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Launch of CSN Houston

As part of the grand design, getting into a regional sports network was in the works at the purchase. This was a smart move in the overall, but adds to the mountain of change. To date, the RSN isn’t being carried by any of the major carriers such as DirecTV or Time Warner Cable. That’s hurt the club as many fans simply can’t watch Astros games.

George Postolos Resigns as President and CEO

 Maybe it was not being able to get CSN Houston those needed carriage deals. Maybe it was something else. But yesterday, George Postolos, the President and CEO of the Astros resigned. In speaking with sources close to the matter, the club currently has no one to replace him, nor are they done in searching for one. It’s been just over a year since Crane purchased the club, and the highest-placed exec below Crane has left the building. Yet more instability.

Astros Cancel Annual Fundraiser for Houston Area Women's Center

On the same day that Postolos resigned, the Astros made a move with a charitable foundation. This latest move is not only another change, it’s very bad PR. The Astros canceled The Black Ties and Baseball Caps gala that was an annual event at Minute Maid Park put on by the Astros Wives Organization. According to the club, the team’s charitable foundation is changing directions and will focus on at-risk youth and youth baseball programs and the Astros Wives Organization has been officially disbanded. Women’s center CEO Rebecca White said losing the money is a huge setback.

"I don’t know if we will cut anything because we can’t. We have to serve the people who come to our doors," White said. "The alternatives are too horrible to imagine."

Add it All Up, and You Need to Slow Down

To Mr. Crane, one needs to treat the ownership of sports clubs differently than other businesses. If you don’t think that applying business methods that work in other industry fails when it comes to sports ownership, take some time and sit down with Kansas City Royals owner David Glass. The herky-jerky, all-too-fast changes that you are making not only are doing damage to your short-term fan loss, you’re likely setting up losses far into your tenure. Remember, you’re only a steward of the Astros for a relatively short time. The Astros will be around a lot longer than you or I. What you’re doing now could have broad reaching effects on the Houston fan base. Before you do more, why don’t you let fans try to acclimate to everything that’s been thrust upon them. They’re probably woozy just reading this, let alone living through it.


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 here.

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George Postolos Resigns as President and CEO of Houston Astros PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 13 May 2013 14:03

Astros

The Houston Astros have announced that George Postolos has resigned as President and CEO of the club. Postolos was cited as being instrumental in working with Astros Owner and Chairman Jim Crane and his group in the purchase of the Astros, had been Astros President and CEO since November of 2011. He worked for seven years with Crane to acquire a sports franchise.

“I am very proud of what Jim accomplished with my help – acquiring a major league franchise with a strong and diverse ownership group, developing and implementing a good plan for the team’s future, and assembling a first rate management team,” Postolos said. “I look forward to helping other investors pursue their objectives in sports knowing that Jim and the Astros organization are off to a great start and well positioned for future success.” 

Postolos will be returning to his consulting practice advising investors on acquisitions and strategy in major league sports. There is currently no information on a successor or plans to search for one, although the possibility is there that it could happen in the coming days. A looming question that will inevitably surface is the status of former Astros and Rangers Hall of Fame pitcher, Nolan Ryan. Ryan, who was reportedly on the edge of resigning from the Rangers as CEO after the  Rangers promoted general manager Jon Daniels and Rick George, said just after the start of the season that he was staying with the organization, but it’s unclear what—if anything—was done to make that contractually binding.

During his tenure with the Astros, Postolos spearheaded several changes within the organization, including the Astros overall rebranding process, which included new team uniforms, colors and logos. Postolos also revamped the marketing and foundation departments and emphasized the importance of feedback from Astros fans, taking part in several face-to-face meetings with Astros season ticket holders and long-time fans. 

Under his guidance, the Astros nearly tripled the size of the ticket sales staff dedicated to providing relationship-based services to their clients.

“We appreciate George’s hard work in the acquisition of the Astros and his commitment to the organization,” Crane said. “I’d also like to personally thank him for the assistance that he has provided to me over the last several years and wish him the best of luck in the future.” 

More details as they become available.


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 here.

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