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The Biz of Baseball :: Business of Sports Network
NESN Announces New Series Following Sports Figures "After the Game" PDF Print E-mail
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Media News (Television, Radio, Internet)
Written by Joe Tetreault   
Tuesday, 24 August 2010 08:48

Regional Sports Networks, as highlighted yesterday in Pete Toms' weekly column, and as we're seeing in the leaked financial documents have become vital sources of revenue for many professional baseball clubs. Among the pioneering RSNs is NESN, the joint venture of the Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins and one of the most successful regional cable networks on the dial. NESN has gained a reputation for innovation in reaching audience through programming that is sports-related, but not sports-centric. And wouldn't you know, they are at it again.

NESN announced yesterday they are launching a lifestyle program modeled after MTV's successful "Cribs" program, but that focuses solely on prominent New England athletes and sports figures. The NESN series takes an important lesson from current economic conditions by also examining the philanthropic efforts of the figures profiled. The series is slated to premier on September 3rd, 2010.

Part of NESN’s new Made in New England programming lineup, “After The Game” is produced by Linda Pizzuti Henry and Kelly Boullet of Nacho Mama Productions. Pizzuti Henry and Boullet bring a combination of Hollywood production experience and insider Boston sports knowledge to get fans the rare access they crave to their favorite athletes. Each athlete shares his/her favorite non-profit and why it deserves their as well as viewers' attention.

The first episode features Tim Wakefield walking viewers through his Florida home, explaining how he became the famous Red Sox knuckle-baller, and sharing why he takes time to support Space Coast Early Intervention Center and Pitching in for Kids-- his primary philanthropic commitments. Wakefield has been nominated by the Red Sox seven times for the Roberto Clemente which is presented annually to a player who demonstrates the values Clemente displayed in his commitment to community and understanding the value of helping others.

Future episodes will center on the Bruins' Patrice Bergeron, The Patriots' Matt Light, David Ortiz, skier Bode Miller, Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner, Boston Breakers forward Kristine Lilly, former Boston College star Doug Flutie among other sports figures. The show aims to help highlight both the lifestyle of these local celebrities who have worked hard but also the good they do by giving back. Show sponsor Hess Corporation has pledged to grant $5,000 to each athlete’s featured charity.

Red Sox fans will famously tune into to just about anything related to the club. Past NESN efforts at building an audience included Sox Appeal, which lasted two seasons as a Red Sox fan focused dating reality show where a fan went spent two innings with three different "dates" before deciding during the seventh inning stretch with whom he or she would want to continue the evening.


Joe TetreaultJoe Tetreault is Managing Editor 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 can be contacted here through The Biz of Baseball

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In Defense of Carlos Beltran PDF Print E-mail
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Lance Gurewitz Article Archive
Written by Lance Gurewitz   
Thursday, 26 May 2011 21:50
Beltran
Fred Wilpon dissed himself over the Carlos Beltran deal. But, was he right?

By serving as the subject of a long-form article in The New Yorker on Monday, New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon sought to rehabilitate his and his team’s image. Hidden in the compelling story of his career, however, Wilpon slipped in just a few too many thoughts about his premier players. Clearly, such words will not improve the team’s public image, inspire the club, or increase the team’s value when it is at least partially sold. Despite this clear slip-up, fans may be intrigued by this rare opportunity to hear ownership’s view of particular players. Regarding Jose Reyes, David Wright, and Ike Davis, Wilpon’s comments were more harsh than insightful but ultimately appear to be on point. However, Carlos Beltran somewhat shockingly drew the harshest criticism of all. Wilpon’s disparaging remarks represent a gross failure to understand Beltran’s value.

In total, Wilpon’s comments amount to an admission that he regrets signing Beltran to a 7-year, $119 million deal after the 2005 season. He first referred to Beltran by mockingly reenacting Beltran’s infamous bases-loaded strikeout in Game Seven of the 2006 NLCS; as if that weren’t enough, this was his response to a question about whether the Mets might be cursed. With similar distaste, Wilpon describes Beltran as “sixty-five to seventy percent of what he was” at the time of the signing. Finally, he criticizes himself for paying Beltran “based on that one series”, referring ambiguously to either the NLDS or NLCS in 2004, in each of which Beltran posted an OPS over 1.500 for the Houston Astros. Though Wilpon does not, of course, make a full-fledged case against Beltran, these comments sufficiently demonstrate his misguided opinion.

First, Beltran’s infamous strikeout has always been a foolish excuse for the 2006 Mets’ NLCS loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. If that strikeout had been a final flourish of futility for Beltran in the series, Wilpon might have had a case. However, Beltran, having batted .296/.387/.667 and belted four home runs, would have been an NLCS MVP candidate had the Mets pulled out the win. It is typical of sports media—and, apparently, sports ownership—to criticize the player who does not come through in the clutch. However, if one Met is to be blamed for the NLCS loss, Billy Wagner (3 G, 1 SV, 16.88 ERA), Steve Traschel (1 GS, 45.00 ERA), or any position player besides Carlos Delgado would make more sense. Ironically, if Beltran had not already performed so well throughout the series, he probably never would have had the at-bat that led to the criticism he received from Mets fans and ownership alike.

To denounce Beltran’s contract as a mistake is equally naïve. Wilpon’s self-deprecating comment here reflects blatant regret, but the truth is that Beltran completely held up his end of the deal. Using Wins Above Replacement (WAR), FanGraphs values Beltran’s performance to date at $119.9 million—already a touch over his total salary even as more than half a season remains. The one thing that would devalue Beltran’s production is the Mets’ futility during his contract. After all, wins generate more revenue for playoff-caliber teams than mediocre ones. Thus, while the Mets paid fair market value for Beltran, they likely struggled to recover his total earnings in revenue. However, this is far from Beltran’s fault. Rather, the culprits are those whose failures held the Mets back from contention in recent years, such as Luis Castillo, Jason Bay, Oliver Perez, and a particularly devastating slew of injuries to Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, Beltran himself, and still others. Without their combined contributions, Beltran had no chance to justify his contract from a revenue standpoint, but in isolation, he did exactly what his paychecks demanded.

Ultimately, the fact that Beltran is a shadow of his 29-year-old self is unsurprising and irrelevant. In fairness, Wilpon would be correct in that regard, but analyzing only the closing years of the contract ignores the phenomenal surplus value Beltran provided in his prime. It should come as no surprise that most of Beltran’s production came toward the beginning of his contract, from when he was 28 until he was 31. What may be harder to grasp is the amount of surplus value Beltran’s peak seasons provided. In his first season with the Mets, Beltran posted a disappointing 2.7 WAR, but he followed up with 21.0 WAR in the next three seasons—good for fifth in MLB during that span, trailing Grady Sizemore and David Wright by less than one win. Although few players can hope to break the $20 million-per-year salary threshold, this indisputably elite production was worth $86.4 million at market value. With these near-MVP-caliber seasons, made slightly more discreet than most by his defensive value, Beltran fulfilled most of his contractual expectations in those three phenomenal years. That his performance has dropped off over time does not change that fact.

In short, there are many decisions that the Mets have made in recent years that they likely wish they could take back. They could have picked up on warning signs on Oliver Perez and other free agents. They could have done a better job developing true contributors. They could have avoided investing with Madoff. Is it fair to criticize the Mets for all of these? Maybe not. Every club makes mistakes, especially in baseball operations. Carlos Beltran, however, was not one of them, and that the Mets’ owner fails to recognize that may help explain how the team has gone from first to worst.


Lance Gurewitz is currently a sophmore at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. You can read and discuss his baseball analysis and other sports musings in 140 characters or less by following @LanceWG42 on Twitter

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Matt Antonelli and the Road Back to the Show, Part III - The Injury Snake Bites PDF Print E-mail
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Matthew Coller Articles Archive
Written by Matthew Coller   
Monday, 06 June 2011 08:32
Matt A
Matt Antonelli as a Padre

This is Part 3 of a series of articles written by Matthew Coller co-authored with professional baseball player Matt Antonellii  about his 2011 baseball season.The series will chronicle Antonelli's journey trying to make it back to Major League Baseball. Read Part 1 here about Antonelli being non-tendered, then signed, and Part II here about his time with the Washington Nationals

Half way through yet another extended spring training game, Matt Antonelli's manager took him out of the game. He told the former first-round draft pick to get his stuff and leave. Antonelli hustled to his vehicle and jumped on the highway and made the two hour drive back to his hotel.

Matt runs pretty hard to first base. I'd be willing to bet he hustled harder to pack up his things, check out of his hotel in Viera, Fla. and start heading North.

It takes 16 hours and 39 minutes to travel the 1,023 miles from Viera to Harrisburg, Pa. Unfortunately, there would have to be another night in a hotel. South Carolina seemed right. If he hit the road early, Matt could make it to Harrisburg before Senators manager Tony Beasley made out the lineup card.

The last time he slept in a bed that he had to make was three months ago. The 26-year-old, who was designated for assignment by the San Diego Padres last off-season, signed with the Washington Nationals because there seemed like a good chance he could return to the Major Leagues. Mid-way through Spring Training the ugly head of injury reared, keeping him in Florida. Keeping him in a hotel.

Injuries had kept Antonelli from The Show since 2008, where he'd played 21 games on a September call-up. This one, was a hamstring. Standing on second base with the back of his leg on fire, a million thoughts started to run through his head.

First to his mind was the two years playing with severe pain in his wrist, then the eight months recovering. He remembered how at first, he took cortisone shots. Then he saw specialists. Then he saw more specialists. Nobody could figure out exactly what was causing the pain that was deflating his career. Every swing was like being stabbed by knives. More specialists, more confusion and the growing concern that he would never play baseball again without being stabbed in the hand.

Turns out the knife was a broken hamate bone. “I was actually relieved,” Antonelli said. “Since I was told for so long that nothing was wrong with me, I thought I would never be able to play pain free again, because there was nothing to fix. Knowing that there had been a problem, and that I hadn't gone crazy, was actually good news. “

Surgery was the easy part. Rehab is what sucked. He was used to having power and precision in his hands, after the surgery he struggled to take a shower or hold a cooking pan. The rehab started with making little stacks of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. Then weeks of boredom and menial tasks like squeezing a rehab ball and lifting weights fit for the elderly. His girlfriend was there to hang out, but Matt took rehab like a border collie takes being locked inside on a rainy day.

So, he stood on second base in Viera, Fla., with a fire burning in his hamstring, thinking about rehab. Walking off gingerly, reminding himself about how the pain in his wrist that dragged him under came back a few months later and about a cyst that developed after the first surgery. He walked into the dugout, remembering his second surgery, second time stacking pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters and his second time thinking his career might be over.

“I guess I learned a lot throughout my eight months of surgery and rehab,” Matt said. “I learned a lot about staying positive 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. I've always believed that certain things happen for a reason, that helped me continue to stay patient and positive.”

Turns out his hamstring injury wasn't serious. And he hasn't felt pain in his wrist in months. After a few weeks of exhibition games, he was headed North to get back into one that would at least show up on Baseball-Reference.com under “minors” for the Double-A Senators.

What else is there to think about during a 16-hour drive except, oh, everything? Breaking down every line-drive during the Spring, thinking about how to repeat it. Picturing short hops and off-balance throws. Trying not to think about his wrist. Trying to think about how it felt to hit a home run in The Show. Dying to do it again.

But Matt would never admit to thinking such things. Maybe he isn't even lying. Ballplayers perform psychological magic all the time, tricking their minds into only focusing on the next game or next plate appearance. It's kind of like tight rope walkers teach themselves to not look down. He calls it the “Yes, Yes, No” approach in a video made for young ballplayers. “The only thing you can think about is the pitch,” he says.

He doesn't arrive in time before his skipper makes out the lineup card. After 16 hours on the road, he'll wait 24 more trying not to look down.

What landed him in Double-A was a rusty Spring Training bat. Maybe the injury was a blessing, giving him time to get his swing back because the night after his 16 hour drive, he started at third base and went 2-for-4. “Feels good to be back playing again!” He wrote in an email.

That's as much as he's had time to talk, lately. After a week-and-a-half in another hotel, Antonelli was looking for apartments in Harrisburg. He was looking for a three-month lease. Good thing he didn't find one. Just a few weeks after his manager in Viera sent him packing, Triple-A came calling.

“Just arrived in Rochester, New York,” he put out on his popular Twitter page. Another long drive – Harrisburg is at least six hours from Rochester – and then another 24 hours out of the lineup before he can step into the box as a Syracuse Chief. And another night of room service.

There was his name on the big board at Frontier Field in Rochester, batting eighth hitting .222, then .180 something after his first at-bat, then .250 or so after a hit. He showed range to both sides, making a diving play to prevent a run in the third inning then later making an off-balance throw behind second base to nab the runner. At the plate, he struck out twice then lined a single off the pitcher.

Funny thing about strikeouts is when you've been through hell to get back to the Majors, getting called out on strikes is one thousand times more devastating. The Chiefs were up by six runs or so when Antonelli was rung up on a high curveball. He didn't argue or show up the umpire, but as he was putting away his bat and gloves, he indicated to a teammate with a flat hand waived across his chest that the pitch had been high. He shook his head back and forth, not with rage but as if to say: “that guy just hurt my chances.”

Antonelli also made a throwing error, rushing a toss to second base. He stared down at his hand with the same face he made after striking out looking.

He didn't seem quite comfortable then, playing like someone was looking over his shoulder or down at his wrist. But, as they say, hitters hit. And with a healthy wrist, Matt Antonelli is nothing if not a hitter. After 14 games, he is batting .359 with a .432 on-base percentage and .970 OPS.

Matt has been able to shut out that guy looking over his shoulder. He's been able to shut out looking down at injuries that almost ended his career. Now, he's looking for a three-month lease in Syracuse. Maybe he won't need that one, either.


SPECIAL BUSINESS OF SPORTS NETWORK REPORTS:


Matthew CollerMatthew Coller is a senior staff member of the Business of Sports Network, and is a freelance writer. He can be followed on Twitter

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2013 World Baseball Classic Qualifying Round Expands from 16 to 28 Countries PDF Print E-mail
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World Baseball Classic
Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 01 June 2011 09:43

WBCWorld Baseball Classic, Inc. (WBCI) today announced, with the endorsement of the tournament Steering Committee, the introduction of a new World Baseball Classic Qualifying Round for the 2013 World Baseball Classic which will expand the competitive field from 16 to 28 countries. The new round will feature 16 teams divided into four pools of four teams each. The teams invited to participate will include the four World Baseball Classic teams from 2009 that did not win a game. The 16 countries receiving Qualifying Round invitations are:


Brazil
Canada*
Chinese Taipei*
Colombia
Czech Republic
France
Germany
Great Britain
Israel
New Zealand
Nicaragua
Panama*
Philippines
South Africa*
Spain
Thailand

*Participated in the 2009 World Baseball Classic

The Qualifying Round games will take place in Fall 2012 and each of the four pools will feature a six-game modified double-elimination format. The composition of the pools will be determined once the Qualifying Round venues are selected and will be based on geographical location, competitive balance and regional rivalries.

The winners from each qualifying pool will advance into the World Baseball Classic tournament, scheduled for March 2013.  Those four teams will join the 12 countries – Australia, China, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela – that receive automatic invitations based on their performance in the 2009 tournament. 
       
“Growing the game of baseball around the globe is the primary objective of the World Baseball Classic. By expanding the competitive field of the 2013 tournament, we are demonstrating our commitment to this goal and reinforcing that the World Baseball Classic is the premier showcase of baseball around the globe,” said Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. “The tournament is a unique experience for fans to witness the excitement of this great game and I encourage organizations around the world to bid for the chance to host this wonderful baseball event.” 
        
“The expansion of the World Baseball Classic from 16 to 28 teams is a testament to the sport’s continuing growth in participation and popularity around the world,” said Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner. “The overwhelming fan, player and media support bestowed upon the first two World Baseball Classics is at the root of this decision, which makes the World Baseball Classic a truly global competition.”   
       
WBCI determined the 12 new teams for the Qualifying Round based on criteria established to create the most competitive international baseball event in the world. Some of the key factors involved in team evaluation and selection included: strength of native player base, number of professional players, IBAF international rankings, viability of domestic baseball programs, participant’s impact on baseball development in country/territory and diverse global representation. 
       
World Baseball Classic Inc. also announced the commencement of the venue selection process for hosts of the four Qualifying Round pools, as well as the 2013 World Baseball Classic games. Parties including MLB Clubs, governments, international federations, promotional and event companies are invited to formally express interest in hosting a pool, or pools, of the tournament. Interested parties will be provided a formal bid document including detailed requirements and bid submission guidance. WBCI welcomes bids from bidding groups who can deliver a strong and compelling bid that effectively combines both public and private support for promoting and hosting part of the World Baseball Classic. The bidding process for the Qualifying Round venues is expected to conclude by September 2011 with the venues for the World Baseball Classic tournament to be finalized by December 2011. 
       
Added Riccardo Fraccari, President of the IBAF, baseball’s world governing body: “On behalf of the IBAF and its 119 national federations, it is wonderful that the quality of baseball internationally has warranted the expansion of the World Baseball Classic. The expansion to 28 teams will be beneficial not only for the worldwide development of baseball, but also to raise the technical level of play in many countries that were previously unable to compete at such levels. The tremendous passion and interest from players, fans and the international community makes the World Baseball Classic a special celebration of the game of baseball.”

Source: MLB, MLBPA


SPECIAL BUSINESS OF SPORTS NETWORK REPORTS:
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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, as well as a contributor to FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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Jaime Jarrín To Return for 54th Season of Spanish-Language Broadcasting with Dodgers PDF Print E-mail
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Radio
Written by Maury Brown   
Sunday, 28 August 2011 17:45

First Vin Scully, now this good news…

Hall of Fame broadcaster Jaime Jarrín will return to the broadcast booth for his 54th season in 2012, he announced during today’s broadcast on Univision Radio KTNQ 1020. He will continue calling all 162 Dodger games at home and on the road for KTNQ 1020.

“The Dodgers have invited me back for another season, so you will have to be by my side again,” Jarrín joked with analyst Fernando Valenzuela on air during the second inning. “I love what I do. It’s something I love and it brings me great joy to work alongside you and Pepe Yñiguez. I’m pleased to serve the Spanish-language community and really share baseball with them – such a beautiful and pristine sport.”

Jarrín has been rated as the best Spanish-language broadcaster of all-time and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.

A native of Ecuador, Jarrín has become one of the most recognizable voices in the world to Spanish-speaking listeners. He joined the broadcast team in 1959, one year after the team moved to Los Angeles and three years before the team moved into Dodger Stadium. In 1973, he became the club’s No. 1 Spanish-language broadcaster and has been honored countless times ever since.

From 1962 to 1984, Jarrín called close to 4,000 consecutive games spanning 22 seasons, never missing a game. The streak was broken only when he took charge of all Spanish-language radio coverage and production for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Jarrín calls every game alongside Yñiguez and the duo is joined at home games and on West Coast road games by the legendary left-hander, Valenzuela. Jarrín became a household name across the country in 1981 when he served as the interpreter for Valenzuela when the southpaw set off the phenomenon known as “Fernandomania.”

The Dodgers, with Jarrín and Vin Scully, are one of only two Major League teams to feature a pair of Hall of Fame announcers, joining Florida (Felo Ramirez and Dave Van Horne).

Source: Los Angeles Dodgers


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, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. 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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