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LWIB: Major Changes to NCAA Baseball, Examining the Mets RSN Worth, Plus Tidbits PDF Print E-mail
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Pete Toms Article Archive
Written by Pete Toms   
Monday, 07 February 2011 14:24

Last Week in Bizball by Pete Toms

This week in “Last Week in BizBall”, NCAA baseball “turns back the clock“, how much is the Mets RSN worth?, plus tidbits

BIG CHANGES IN NCAA BASEBALL

In less than two weeks the NCAA baseball season begins. I don’t watch NCAA baseball and don’t know if it is even carried on any of the hundreds of cable channels that I subscribe to in Ottawa. But after reading LWIB about some fundamental changes to college baseball which will be in effect this season, maybe I should seek out NCAA baseball. Because, the NCAA is about to “turn back the clock” in baseball with more emphasis on defence and base running and less on the HR. The story title in Baseball America, Defense Even More Important With New Bat Standards, caught my eye and led me to poke around Google News in search of an explanation of the meaning of BBCOR. Ball-Bat Coefficient of Restitution is the new standard in NCAA baseball governing bat technology. I’m not interested in the science of baseball bats but what does interest me is that this NCAA baseball season will be played with less “lively” bats. The BBCOR bats evidently closely duplicate the performance of wood bats. The change to less lively bats appears to have been motivated out of concerns over player (pitcher) safety. Janie McCauley reported for the AP that last season saw a handful of severe brain injuries sustained by NCAA pitchers in Northern CA. If NCAA coaches are correct, the changes made to protect pitchers will result in a more retro “small ball” style of play this season. From the aforementioned piece by Aaron Fitt in Baseball America:

…Everyone knows pitching and defense is important—it might be the most recited baseball cliché in the mammoth book of baseball clichés. But there is a strong sense from coaches across college baseball that an even greater premium will be placed upon defense starting this spring, as new bat standards take effect.

The new BBCOR-certified bats play more like wood. Coaches overwhelmingly reported a dramatic decrease in offense with the new bats during fall ball. The days of sitting back and waiting for a game-changing three-run home run are over. "It does seem like runs are at a premium," South Carolina coach Ray Tanner says. "If the bats play like a lot of us anticipate, it's going to be more low scoring. Defense is always important, but it may go to another level."

And from the aforementioned report from Janie McCauley:

Many college players have been swinging the new bats since fall workouts, getting a feel for what it's like to have the sweet spot shrink from some 22 inches to barely more than 5. Coaches and players figure power numbers and batting averages will be worse this spring and ERAs much improved in the initial season as everybody adjusts.

AND

"I think it's the biggest adjustment on offense that our game will ever see," said 13th-year USF coach Nino Giarratano. "It's really going to bring the game back to being fun. You'll see a drop in average and better pitching numbers. You'll definitely see the home run totals diminish and time of game will be shorter. What it does is give the inside of the plate back to the pitcher. True power is going to be true power."

The NCAA first imposed regulations on bat technology after the 98 season set records for both average runs scored (14.2) and HR (2.2) per game. While those changes had the desired effect, some NCAA coaches were quoted in media reports about BBCOR questioning if it will decrease offence to the point where it negatively impacts fan interest. From Andy Gardiner in USA Today:

…Based on feedback from fall practices, the consensus among coaches is that home runs and offense will drop dramatically.

"I feel we've taken this too far," said Paul Mainieri, who led LSU to the 2009 title. "I'm very concerned that we are going to create the type of game that is not very appealing to our fans.

"One of the things that separates college ball from the majors is we have more offense and that gives us a niche. If we have a lot of 3-1, 2-1 games, I'm worried how the fans will react."

And from a separate report from Mr. Gardiner:

"I would have preferred to go more slowly," said coach Mark Marquess, who has won two national championships during his 35 years at Stanford. "Everyone likes the idea of becoming more like wood, but let's say all our games were 2-1 and our attendance was down 50%. What do we gain from that?

"Our game is more successful than it's ever been and the power numbers from back in 1998 aren't an issue any more. None of us really knows how this will turn out but at this stage of my career, I want to be sure the game continues to grow."

And if you, like me, are in the camp which finds it irritating that MLB games routinely take 3 hours to complete, the NCAA is implementing another change that you might find appealing. Again from Andy Gardiner, “In addition to adjusting to the new bats, college players will also work with a 20-second pitch clock this season designed to speed the pace of play. The new rule requires a pitch to be thrown within 20 seconds when there is no one on base. Pitchers who fail to comply will be issued a warning. After that a ball will be added to the pitch count for every violation.”

It will be interesting to see what this NCAA season brings in terms of run scoring, length (time) of games and fan support. No doubt the folks at 245 Park Avenue will be monitoring the situation as well and I hope they like what they see.

SELECT READ MORE TO SEE "HOW MUCH IS METS RSN WORTH?" AND THIS WEEK'S TIDBITS

HOW MUCH IS METS RSN WORTH?

Regular readers know I’ve blogged a lot about the explosive growth in recent years of the value of MLB local TV rights. Clubs are either cashing huge cheques for rights fees from RSNs or launching their own extremely lucrative channels. (Search my archives if you’re interested.) In some instances the club owned channels appear to be worth more than the franchises, the most oft cited example being Yankees/YES. The saturation coverage in the NYC media of the Wilpon/Katz/Madoff implosion has included speculation about the worth of SportsNet NY, the Mets owned RSN. (The Mets reportedly own about 2/3 of the channel) Estimates of the value of the channel LWIB varied but if the reporters are accurate, the Mets TV channel is worth considerably more than the baseball franchise. Last year’s Forbes valuations estimated the worth of the Mets at $858 million. The Wilpons’ announcement that they want to sell 20-25% of the baseball franchise led practically all the sports biz watchers to predict that a deal will not be concluded unless a stake in SNY is included. So, how much is SNY worth? Depends upon who you read LWIB. First, Richard Sandomir in the NY Times:

SNY generates about $120 million in cash flow a year and could be worth $1 billion…

AND

SNY’s subscriber revenue should be at least $260 million this year, based on the research firm SNL Kagan’s estimate of its $2.37 monthly subscriber fee and total subscriber count of 9.3 million. Advertising revenue augments the subscriber cash.

SNY’s main expense is the rights fee that it pays the Mets, which is believed to be $60 million to $70 million.

The WSJ estimated SNY’s revenues from sub fees at well below Mr. Sandomir’s figure but did also value the channel over the baseball franchise, “The network is Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon's most lucrative sports asset. It generates more than $150 million per year in subscriber fees alone.”

Mike Ozanian of Forbes assigned an even greater value to SNY, The team’s 60% stake in SNY could fetch about $1.3 billion…..and has proportionally $270 million of debt, giving the team’s stake a book value of $1,030 million.”

I don’t know what SNY is worth, but unless everybody has it wrong, the Mets situation is another example of how the gap between the “rich and less rich” in MLB is increasingly not resulting from disparities in ballpark generated revenues but the value of their media content.

TIDBITS

  • Does Jeff Moorad actually own the Padres? Does he own part of it and is incrementally acquiring more of it? Did you know that, “More than two years after Jeff Moorad and the Diamondbacks parted ways….he still owns about 12% of it? How are you allowed to own a stake in two franchises for this long? FOB? This report inspired that little rant.

  • In September I blogged that the Yankees and Red Sox had pioneered the “out of market” RSN. “YES National” and “NESN National” had agreed to carriage deals with video providers outside the Yankees and Red Sox home territories. I wrote, In order to protect MLB‘s “out of market” MLB.TV and Extra Innings offerings, neither NESN National nor YES National are allowed to broadcast live games. Nonetheless, cable, telcos and sat providers have agreed to carry the channels because of the value of the “shoulder programming” to the displaced Red Sox and Yankees fans amongst their subscriber base.” LWIB, NESN National announced:

Time Warner Cable – Midwest Region recently completed a launch of NESN National on its sports tier, Sports Pass, making the service available in 17 DMAs within the 6 states of Ohio, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Missouri and Wisconsin.

The Time Warner Cable Midwest Region’s launch of NESN National marked the largest NESN National launch to-date. Combined with previous launches, NESN National is now available to more than 7 million cable homes in 13 states.

You can read the entire NESN press release at Fang’s Bites.

  • San Jose continues to put together a plan to acquire the remaining land required for a MLB stadium. Some think that there is more urgency to finalizing the acquisition given CA governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to close the state’s redevelopment agencies. Ballpark Digest does a great job covering this ongoing story.
  • CSN California “went dark” on Dish Network November, 24. Good news for Dish subs who are also A’s fans, the two sides reached a deal. See MultiChannel News.


Pete Toms is senior writer for the Business of Sports Network, most notably, The Biz of Baseball. He looks forward to your comments and can be contacted through The Biz of Baseball.

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