Matt Antonelli remains one step away from returning to The Show.
After spending most of spring training with the major league club, the Baltimore Orioles have assigned Antonelli to triple-A Norfolk. While his goal was to make the opening day roster, the former first-rounder is much closer to his ultimate goal than he was one year ago. Last April, returning to the major leagues seemed merely a pipe dream.
To begin the 2011 season, Antonelli was stuck in extended spring training. He was recovering from yet another injury while trying to sort out a rust-riddled swing.
At that time, the newest member of the Norfolk Tide was in camp with the Washington Nationals, who had signed him after he was released by the Padres following the 2010 season. During the spring he received few chances to show the Nats what he could do – and the chances he did get did not go so well.
Antonelli had only played one game in 2010 and just 59 in 2009 – all while battling a broken hamate bone in his wrist. Last year, his wrist was healed, but swing timing was out of whack.
It turns out hitting a 90 mph fastball isn't at all like riding a bike.
“I learned a lot about staying positive,” Antonelli said via email last spring. “When nothing seems to want to go your way. If I had given up after my first surgery didn't work, I wouldn't be playing right now. I've learned a lot about being patient and staying determined in the face of adversity.”
In addition to regaining his swing, Antonelli pulled his hamstring near the end of the spring. When he finally began his 2011 season, the Nationals assigned the him to their double-A affiliate Harrisburg. The injury gave Antonelli time to recover his swing. When the season finally began in mid-May, he hit well and was quickly moved up to the Nationals' triple-A team the Syracuse Chiefs.
In Syracuse, finally feeling like the same player who was a star at Wake Forest University and hit 21 home runs between high-A and double-A in 2007, Antonelli picked up where he'd left off before his wrist injury. In 86 games, he hit .297 with a .393 on-base percentage and eight home runs.
No matter his performance, the Nationals placed another barricade in his road back to the show, electing not to call him up in September.
He entered the off-season wondering if he'd gone from top prospect to four-A. From once called the “best prospect at second base” to a triple-A lifer, bound to drift from club to club Crash Davis style.
But one thing Mr. Davis didn't benefit from when Bull Durham was released in 1988 was sabermetrics. While Antonelli was headed back to his Massachusetts home – worried more about asking his girlfriend to marry him and buying a house than where he'd play next year – former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette was being hired by the Orioles. (His girlfriend said yes, by the way)
Duquette got busy playing catchup with the behind-the-times O's. He hired financial and statistical analysts and often noted new stats as being “accepted in baseball.” That was good news for Antonelli, whose specialty – drawing walks – is highly regarded by statisticians.
When Duquette signed Antonelli to a major league contract in late November, the team's press release noted his impressive on-base percentage and OPS (on-base plus slugging) numbers in the minor leagues.
“My coach in college used to yell at me,” Antonelli said last week from Orioles camp in Sarasota, Fla. “I would always take the first pitch and it would drive him nuts. I don't know why, but I've always had this ability to work walks.”
From the moment he arrived at spring training with the O's, everything was different from the year before. This time, he wasn't feeling his way around like a kid on his first day of school. He was confident he could make the big club instead of being hopeful to just stay healthy.
“This time around it doesn't feel strange at all,” he said over the phone, likely with a smile on his face. “I felt like I was an experienced veteran at switching teams even though I'd only done it once before.”
Unlike Nationals' camp last year, Antonelli was given significant time with the big club. He started off hot, getting on base 12 of his first 25 plate appearances.
But over the last week, he went 0-for-9 without a walk and the Orioles elected to assign him to triple-A. Of course, there were other circumstances that caused the big club to send him down. The O's had picked up another infielder Ryan Flaherty in the Rule 5 draft. Under Rule 5, the player has to make the 25 man roster or be sent back to his old team – which in Flaherty's case is the Chicago Cubs. Flaherty performed well and gave the Orioles little choice.
“I learned a long time ago that it just isn't up to you,” Antonelli said. “I used to drive myself crazy thinking about whether I would be the next guy called up. I would think, maybe if I get a couple hits today or whatever. I've learned to just play my game and let everything else take care of itself.”
Where Antonelli's career goes from here? In the minors, you can hit, hit, hit and never see a call. He knows how the business works, but understands he's much closer to his dream than he was one year ago.
“One of the reasons I came to Baltimore is that I thought I'd have an opportunity hopefully at some point to play in the majors,” he said. “Whether it would be at the very beginning or whenever to be contributing at that level. That's my goal. Hopefully all the things I did last year will give me a chance this year, that's really all I'm looking for.”
Matthew Coller is asenior staff member of the Business ofSports Network, and is a freelancewriter. He can be followedonTwitter
Major League Baseball’s league-owned all-baseball channel MLB Network launched in 2009, and to date, it sees the largest distribution base of any of the other league networks. But, as of today, MLB Network is not seen in Canada, a case of being caught up in the approval process of the Canadian Television-radio Commission.
"MLB Network's market research in the U.S. and Canada indicates that Major League Baseball fans have a considerable demand for more information and insight about the sport of baseball," the network wrote in a letter supporting Rogers' application to the CRTC.
"MLB International believes that MLB Network should be added .... in doing so, the Commission will ensure that Canadian consumers are able to access a non-Canadian service that will provide unique programming content in a genre that does not currently exist in Canada."
Rogers argues in its application that the pay service would be complementary to existing coverage provided by its own spots channel, as well as those operate by RDS and TSN.
"Of the 2,430 live regular-season games in Major League Baseball, MLB Network only features up to 150," the application states. "In other words, the percentage of live games offered on MLB Network is minimal compared to the number of live games that are available through Canadian specialty services like Rogers' Sportsnet. Any overlap in programming is insignificant to consumers today."
According to the report, the application for MLB Network in Canada is open for comment until mid-July.
MLB Network would not be the first sports channel from the United States to gain access into Canada. The CRTC has previously authorized the NFL Network, the Golf Channel and Speed for Canadian distribution.
Last week, MLB released their 2013 schedule and with it, Katy Feeney and the staff at MLB is responsible for piecing the schedule together that has to be one of the toughest in sports. The schedule has to balance local holidays, team travels, political conventions, concerts, national television contracts, competition from other sports leagues, and the team themselves in putting together the schedule. Some teams are happier than others with their tentative 2013 schedule. Others will have a tougher time selling more tickets with their schedules during the off-season. It’s important to note that the 8 worst road draws in baseball this season were the Royals, Mariners, Rangers, A’s, Indians, Twins, Blue Jays, and Rays. This could change for any of these teams with the signing of Josh Hamilton. Plus, a deep playoff run for the Rangers or A’s could help them on the road next year as well. The best road teams are all large markets including: Yankees, NY Mets, Philly, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Braves, and welcome to the big-time Nats. The Braves TBS roots still sell on the road and it appears all baseball fans couldn’t get enough of the Bryce Harper show on the road. Missing but not forgotten are the Red Sox who still claim to be a top 5 brand and given the number of transient former Boston students will continue to sell on the road. If you’ll notice none of the best road draws come from the AL Central or AL West. This puts teams at a definitive box office disadvantage from the NL Central who play the AL West and teams from the NL East who face the AL Central. One advantage for all teams this year is that rivalry interleague games will be played during the week which should sellout and their increases are greater than the decreases on a weekend series. That change alone should net teams ~35,000 tickets sold or about a million tickets sold league-wide. One trend to keep an eye on is the use of concerts made popular in Tampa, Washington, and the LA Angels to drive attendance. Given the multitude of projected slow weekends across the league many teams will adopt a Friday Fireworks and Saturday Concert model. Concession discounts during the week and promotions will continue in abundance as well. Without further ado here are the 2012 schedule release winners and losers.
2013 Schedule Winners
Los Angeles Dodgers: Host NY Yankees (2 games) and Boston Red Sox (3 games)
Toronto Blue Jays: April weekend with Yankees, Plus weekday hosts to Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, & Yankees
New York Mets: Host 84th all-star game in July but host Royals, Tigers, White Sox in interleague and only 2 Yankee games
New York Yankees: Host SF and Red Sox in September weekends – 2 Red Sox series plus Dodgers, Mets during week
Chicago Cubs: 9 April games, host Rangers in interleague, weekends vs. PHI/LAD/STLx2/ATL/NYM
LA Angels: Red Sox, Yankees weekend - Dodgers/Cubs/Cards midweek
Colorado Rockies: Host NY Yankees (3 games) and Boston Red Sox (2 games)
Detroit Tigers: 21 home games before Memorial Day weekend, ATL/PHI/BOS weekend series
Oakland Athletics: Red Sox & Cards on weekend plus Giants, Yankees, Cubs midweek
Minnesota Twins: Host Mets and Red Sox on weekend, plus Yankees and Phillies during week – then 2014 ASG
Cleveland Indians: Mets & Nats on weekend, plus 10 early weekday games vs. Phillies/Red Sox/Yankees
2013 Schedule Losers
Boston Red Sox: 17 April home games, Yankees first visit is July 19th, interleague host of Padres, DBacks
Chicago White Sox: 15 April games, face Sox, Cubs, and Yankees during the week
Arizona Diamondbacks: Host Rangers, Rays, Orioles, and Blue Jays in interleague
Baltimore Orioles: Play Dodgers in April, 1 Yankee weekend, plus interleague with Rockies & Pads
All NL Central not named the Cubs: Host AL West in Interleague play
All NL East not named the Mets: Host AL Central in Interleague play
Off the 9 interleague series to never happen it appears that MLB tried aggressively to get them all in as there will be 7 first time series in 2013:
Dodgers @ Yankees
White Sox @ Mets
Braves @ Royals
Rangers @ Cardinals
Cubs @ Athletics
Cardinals @ Angels
Rays @ Dodgers
Looking ahead to 2014 the following interleague matchups have never been played:
Twins @ Braves
Padres @ Blue Jays
David Simmons is a graduate of the University of Central Florida who worked in the front office of the Los Angeles Dodgers over 4 seasons and has a decade of ticketing experience.. He serves as CFO for Players For The Planet and currently resides in Baltimore. You can follow David on Twitter @davidesimmons
Major League Baseball approved the sale of the San Diego Padres from John Moores to the group led by the Seidler/O’Malley families and Ron Fowler during its quarterly meetings, today in Milwaukee, MLB Commissioner Selig announced today. Mr. Fowler will serve as the new ownership group’s control person. The involvement of the grandchildren of Walter O’Malley – as represented by the Seidler/O’Malley interests in the team - marks the return to Major League Baseball ownership for his family. Walter O’Malley owned the Dodgers in both Brooklyn and Los Angeles from 1950 to 1979 while his son Peter ran the club after till 1998 when the club was sold to New Corp.
“On behalf of Major League Baseball, I am pleased to congratulate Ron Fowler, the Seidler and O’Malley families and all of their partners as they become the new stewards of the San Diego Padres. With significant local representation and extensive baseball experience, this group understands the Padres’ binding role in the community, and I believe that its collective long-term vision and passion will serve the fans of San Diego well in the years ahead.
“I appreciate all that John Moores has done for the City of San Diego and applaud his exceptional sense of personal philanthropy, which has benefited many worthy local causes since his purchase of the Club in 1994. I wish John and his family all the best.”
The sale has been reported to be $800 million with $200 million of that as upfront money Moores receives as part of the media rights deal with Fox Sports San Diego that that Padres brokered prior to the beginning of this season.
While the Miami Marlins took on more than $200 million in total player payroll less than a year ago at the Baseball Winter Meetings, they ended the season moving Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante (Tigers), and Hanley Ramirez (Dodgers). On Tuesday evening they made that look like child’s play by moving Jose Reyes (2013:$10M, 2014:$16M, 2015:$22M, 2016:$22M, 2017:$22M, 2018:$22M club option - $4M buyout), Josh Johnson (2013:$13.75M), Mark Buehrle (2013:$11M, 2014:$18M, 2015:$19M, plus a $4M deferred signing bonus), John Buck (2013:$6M), and Emilio Bonifacio who is arbitration eligible this year and (get this) $4 million in cash to the Blue Jays for Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis, minor league pitchers Justin Nicolino and Anthony Desclafani and minor league outfielder Jake Marisnick. All told, the Marlins stripped $163.75 million off the books and that doesn’t include the option year or buyout on for Reyes, plus what Bonifacio will get in salary arbitration this year.
That deal was approved, but the conversation lingers.
Today on 790AM/FM 104.3 The Ticket in Miami, Maury Brown talked about the deal, the Marlins finances, and some personal history with one of their execs. Take a listen.
CLICK TO LISTEN TO THE RADIO SEGMENT WITH MAURY BROWN BELOW