SBD/Issue 84/Franchises

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  • Marlins' Samson Gets Into Contentious Interview Over MLB Deal

    Samson (l) Gets Into Heated Discussion
    On WAXY's "The Dan Le Batard Show"
    Marlins President David Samson made his weekly appearance on WAXY-AM’s “The Dan Le Batard Show” yesterday, but things quickly became rather contentious between the two when Samson refused to discuss the team’s agreement with MLB and the MLBPA to put more of the money it receives from revenue sharing into club payroll. Samson said, “There was a joint release sent out by the union and the Commissioner’s office and the team, and I’m no help to you on this one. No comment on it further other than what is in there. That’s part of the agreement and there won’t be another word said about it by me. … I’m happy to do a funny show. I’m happy to talk about movies. I will not talk about yesterday” ("The Dan Le Batard Show," WAXY-AM, 1/13). In West Palm Beach, Joe Capozzi wrote the back-and-forth dialogue between Samson and Le Batard "made for a sometimes funny, sometimes uncomfortable 30 minutes of radio." Le Batard said at the end of the show, "This was a disastrous segment. This didn't feel good at all for any of us" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 1/13). The following are several excerpts from the show.

    Le Batard: “You know what is going to happen, David. It’s going to appear like you’re hiding. You got tax payer money. You got a stadium.”
    Samson: “It has nothing to do with anything, and that’s it. Onto the next.”
    Le Batard: “So you can’t tell me why you guys have been singled out? Why it’s not the Padres, why it’s not the Pirates, why it’s not the Kansas City Royals?”
    Samson: “I have earned this over the years, Dan, with you. … I have earned the right to tell you that I cannot and will not say one word about yesterday.”

    Le Batard: “Can you explain to me why? Why would you agree to not talk about something? You’re not afraid to talk about anything.”
    Samson: “That’s exactly right. I cannot and will not talk about this. It’s a non-starter. … There is obviously a reason and the reason is that we committed, all parties committed to have no further comment and there would be no further comment. That’s it.”
    Le Batard: “Well, not being able to talk about it and not being willing to talk about it are two completely different things.”

    Le Batard: “I’m uncomfortable because you realize that it seems silly to jump from being in the middle of the news and doing a weekly show with you to all of a sudden, reviewing a movie. … You do realize it puts me in the spot of making me look like a clown.”
    Sampson: “The fact of the matter is that I have told you on air that I just won’t talk about it. … I think over the years, I’ve earned that right on this subject.”
    Le Batard: “Don’t you sort of forfeit the earned right to be quiet on something like this when you’re in bed with the city? When you’re publicly financed? When it becomes a partnership? … Doesn’t asking for tax payer money sort of change that discussion a little bit?” (WAXY-AM, 1/13).

    All-Star Josh Johnson Could Be Someome
    Marlins Target For Long-Term Contract
    NO SPIN ZONE: In Miami, Greg Cote wrote, "The Marlins are free to admit no wrongdoing and spin it 'til it's dizzy but the bottom line is clear. They have been cheating the rules and shortchanging their fans, and they got caught. The club will now spend at least the minimum required on payrolls not because it's right or because it's the rule, but because they got publicly shamed into it" (MIAMIHERALD.com, 1/12). ESPN.com's Rob Neyer wrote, "I don't know if the Marlins were 'cheating' -- if they really weren't plowing their revenue-sharing money back into the franchise -- but I do know that whatever they were doing just looked bad. It's all about appearances. ... You spend $25[M] on payroll and people are going to wonder what you're doing with all that money the Yankees gave you" (ESPN.com, 1/13). Meanwhile, ESPN's Tim Kurkjian said while the Marlins will not "go out and trade for a guy who's making $18(M) a year," it may allow them to "put more money into the signing of (P) Josh Johnson long term." Kurkjian: "I think they'll have him signed long-term sooner rather than later because, again, they have to, and now with this internal pressure I think they have to even more" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 1/13).

    A WIN FOR WEINER: The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair wrote the Marlins' pledge to increase spending is a "significant first victory" for new MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner, who "did the nasty legal roadwork in recent years, and it has made for a seamless transition" from former Exec Dir Donald Fehr. Meanwhile, Blair wrote there is a "lesson here for the NHLPA," as a situation like this is "why you hire somebody with collective bargaining experience to be your union head" (GLOBESPORTS.com, 1/13).

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  • Mannion Says Economy Continues To Hurt Dodgers' Ticket Sales

    Mannion Says McCourts' Divorce
    Saga Not Impacting The Dodgers
    Dodgers President Dennis Mannion yesterday said the economy is continuing to have a major impact on the club's ticket sales, and that fans are holding on to their money as long as possible before making a purchasing commitment, much like last year. The club to date has sold about 20,000 full-season equivalents for the '10 season, 16% below last year's base of 23,900. A deadline, however, is coming up tomorrow and the team still has a large group of fans who have said they want to renew their accounts but have not yet paid. "The purchasing patterns are very similar to last year," Mannion said. "On paper we're slightly ahead, but there are still a lot of those unpaid accounts." To that end, Mannion said the ongoing divorce saga of team Owner Frank and Jamie McCourt is not impacting the club, but instead the inability to firmly project revenue is. "We're not hamstrung (by ownership). If anything, we're more challenged by the economy. It's tougher to make a gamble on talent without knowing your revenues" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

    DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY: In L.A., Bill Shaikin noted the Dodgers have "yet to sign a major free agent" this offseason, but Mannion contends that they have "not been flooded with complaints about the team's offseason inactivity." Mannion: "I can honestly tell you we're not seeing any density of phone calls about the composition of the team. ... It's the economy. We have a very interesting baseball team. We have plenty of star power." Meanwhile, Mannion also said that the Dodgers will "impose a premium on single-game ticket prices for 28 popular games, including those against" the Angels and Yankees. The club has frozen prices on season tickets for this upcoming season, but has yet to announce prices for single-game tickets (LATIMES.com, 1/13).

    STILL NOT CONCERNED ABOUT DIVORCE: MLB Commissioner Bud Selig yesterday reiterated that he is "unconcerned about the operation of the Dodgers" awaiting the McCourts' divorce trial, scheduled to begin in May. Selig: "I don't have any concern until I feel like I have something to be concerned about. We'll let the situation play out" (LATIMES.com, 1/13). ESPN's Tim Kurkjian noted the Dodgers are interested in signing free agent P Joel Pineiro, but they have to "figure out where they're going to get the money from" during the divorce proceedings. Kurkjian: "It's going to come eventually, I'm told. They're just not sure when the money from the divorce is going to arrive" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 1/13). Dodgers manager Joe Torre said of the ownership situation, "That's more for our general manager because he has to deal with Frank McCourt and he's the one that really controls the purse strings." He said he hopes it "doesn't affect us, but ... it remains to be seen how it's going to affect our 2010 club" ("Tavis Smiley," PBS, 1/14).

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  • Drayton McLane Says He Has No Firm Desire To Sell Astros

    Astros Owner Puts Chances Of Sale At Less Than 50%
    Astros Owner Drayton McLane maintained he and his family hold no firm desire to sell the club, despite engaging in an exclusive negotiating period with a N.Y.-based investment group that extends to the end of the month. "We have not solicited this, and even if this is found to be a viable bid, there's no guarantee of a sale. All we've said is that if a viable bid does surface, my family will consider it." McLane declined to say whether the oft-rumored price tag of $650M is accurate, but said, "We have a very valuable franchise and a good RSN situation (with FS Houston)." McLane likened the matter to a car dealer who phones a prospective client about a new car that arrived to the lot. "I didn't go to the showroom. They called me. Whether we go and look remains to be seen," he said (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). SI.com's Jon Heyman wrote while McLane has said that there is "'less than a 50-50 chance' that a deal will occur for 'various reasons,'" the investment group is "serious" about buying the team. But the main reason why "all ownership deals are having difficulty now is the economy," as banks are "requiring more money down than ever and rich people aren't quite as rich or risk-inclined as they were before the crash of 2008" (SI.com, 1/13).

    FINAL HURDLES: MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan noted the 30-day exclusive negotiating period granted to prospective MLB Rangers Owner Chuck Greenberg ends Friday, and "one significant issue that remains is how big of a role" Rangers Owner Tom Hicks "will play in the new ownership group." Hicks yesterday made it clear that he and his family "will remain a significant investor in any new ownership group." Hicks: "You're not getting rid of us." Hicks "could be the second largest investor in the group." But it is "still unknown what role Hicks will have," and "word is the negotiations have been complicated" (MLB.com, 1/13). In Ft. Worth, Jeff Wilson notes the Rangers fan base "just assumes that the transition from" Hicks to the Greenberg group, which includes Rangers President Nolan Ryan, "is a done deal." But the job "isn't done." Three things could be announced late Friday or sometime Saturday:  An agreement is "reached, the process moves to baseball's ownership committee, and Greenberg-Ryan is that much closer to seizing control;" an agreement "isn't reached, but both sides pledge to continue working toward one by the start of spring training;" or Hicks "casts aside public sentiment and the momentum generated the past month by announcing that he is seeking another investment group" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/14).

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  • NLL Minnesota Swarm Tie Player's Contract To Ticket Sales

    Swarm's Zack Greer Has Section 88
    Ticket Sales Tied Into Contract
    The NLL Minnesota Swarm have "created a unique contract centered around 'Section 88,' a rooting area specific to" F Zack Greer, the No. 3 pick in the '09 NLL Draft, according to Michael Rand of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Under the terms of the contract, the more tickets Greer "helps sell in that section, the more money he makes." Additionally, fans buying tickets in the section "earn credits toward having him come to a community appearance, an autograph session or even a clinic." Swarm Owner John Arlotta said there was "no precedent" that he could find for the contract. Arlotta: "This is more a matter of my business, sales and marketing background. I don't mind paying someone, but I like to pay for performance." Rand noted while attendance at Swarm home games "routinely tops 10,000, the organization operates at a budget deficit and has struggled to make consistent inroads with a burgeoning group of youth players in the metro area." Greer, who is "contractually obligated to live in the Twin Cities," said he "wanted to be in the community." Greer: "We were both on the same page" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/13).

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  • Franchise Notes

    Mark McGwire yesterday acknowledged that he "realized early on that accepting the job" as hitting coach with the Cardinals was "going to mean addressing the suspicions of his steroid use." He said that "by doing so this week he eliminated anything that could cloud his ability to coach, or connect with players" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/14). Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said, "Hiring him was totally my idea. I wasn't trying to rehab Mark McGwire. I just asked the organization and they said yes" (L.A. TIMES, 1/14). SI.com's Jon Heyman reported MLB Commissioner Bud Selig "made clear to McGwire that he would have to come out and explain himself" upon rejoining the Cardinals organization (SI.com, 1/13).

    Cavs' Fans Face Dilemma As
    James' Future Still Unknown
    WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM: In Ohio, Bob Finnan reports Cavaliers season-ticket holders are "facing a bit of dilemma," as the club is asking for their "first installment on 2010-11 season tickets by March 26," before it is clear whether F LeBron James will re-sign this offseason. Season-ticket holders either can "make a full payment on March 26, or make four- or eight-part installments." The Cavaliers have sold out 53 consecutive games at Quicken Loans Arena, and team President Len Komoroski said, "We have operated in this fashion for years in terms of season tickets and playoff tickets. We've done many surveys and much research and we've found that the vast majority of fans intend to renew their seats for next season" (Lorain MORNING-JOURNAL, 1/14).

    HOLD THAT LINE: The Redskins will not change general admission ticket prices next season for the fifth consecutive year. The Redskins have only increased general admission prices twice since '99 -- prior to the '00 and '06 seasons -- and are one of only two NFL teams that have not raised prices since '06 (Redskins).

    SHORT-HANDED: The Predators through the first 24 home games this season are averaging 13,511 fans at Sommet Center, down 1.3% from the same point last season. The team needs to "average at least 14,000 in paid attendance to qualify for the NHL's full revenue sharing" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 1/14).

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