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Garber Is Confident MLS Will
Announce A 19th Team Shortly
MLS Commissioner Don Garber Thursday said that the league "hopes to announce another expansion soon, this time to Montreal," according to Ronald Blum of the AP. Garber during a meeting with the APSE said, "We're confident that we'll be able to announce a 19th team shortly, and our hope is that 19th team will be in Montreal." He also said that MLS "would like to return to the southeast, either to Atlanta or South Florida." Garber: "Eventually I'm sure we'll get back to the southeast broadly and Florida more specifically. I'm not quite sure what the timing is of that, but I can't imagine this league will be fully expanded without having a team in Florida or south of Washington, DC. We continue to have discussions in Atlanta. I think Atlanta's a good sports market, also has some competition for its size, but lots of youth participation and a massive and growing Mexican population in Atlanta." MLS after the '01 season folded its two Florida franchises in Miami and Tampa, and Garber Thursday conceded that the league "does find some obstacles to returning to Florida." He said, "We in the sports business sort of look at Florida as a difficult market. Many of the pro sports teams there have challenges, and there's a lot of reasons for that: a lot of transient residents, a lot of international visitors that own second homes." Garber indicated that he thinks MLS ultimately "will grow larger than comparable first divisions in Europe," where leagues commonly have 20 teams. While eventually he would "like to see relegation and promotion, it's not on the horizon because there isn't a financially viable second division that would be acceptable to MLS owners if their teams went down" (AP, 4/22).
SETTING A BAD EXAMPLE: Thursday night's nationally televised Sounders-FC Dallas game drew an announced crowd of 8,512 to 21,193-seat Pizza Hut Park, and in DC, Steve Goff writes why, in MLS' "most problematic market, this particular match was played on a Thursday on national TV remains a mystery." MLS has enjoyed an "attendance increase this season, but you'd never know it by turning on ESPN2 and seeing thousands of empty seats" in Dallas (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 4/23). ESPN's JP Dellacamera: "Attendance has been a problem here in Dallas. ... FC Dallas has been averaging under 10,000 fans a game after two games this season. You wonder why: A terrific field, terrific seats" ("Sounders- FC Dallas," ESPN2, 4/22).
Selig Unsure When HGH
Study Will Be Completed
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said that the league's science adviser, UCLA professor Dr. Gary Green, is "examining the human growth hormone blood test available through" WADA but "isn't sure when the study will be completed," according to Ronald Blum of the AP. The USADA "insists the test is valid," but Selig Thursday during his annual session with the APSE said that Green "hasn't made a determination." Blum noted while HGH is banned in MLB, the sport "doesn't test for it." Players "currently have only urine testing," though the MLBPA has said that it "would consider a blood test if it is validated." Meanwhile, Selig said that while attendance is down between 1-2% so far this season, "advance ticket sales for the rest of the season were up" 7% as of April 15. He said, "We've had a little weather problem, a little here and there, but I feel pretty good about it." Selig has "noticed the low crowds" at Rogers Centre, Citi Field and other ballparks. Selig: "It doesn't overly bother me. Some clubs it depends on winning and losing. But it's April, schools are still in, weekday games. When you are within 1 or 2 percent, it just doesn't add anything to get concerned about." Selig also noted that he is "against expanding the first round of the playoffs to seven games, a proposal the players' association says it might make during bargaining for a labor contract that would start in December 2011." Blum noted expanding the playoffs was "brought up by Selig's new committee examining on-field matters." Meanwhile, Selig, who has been commissioner since '92, reiterated that he "intends to retire when his contract expires at the end of 2012." But he said, "There are a lot of club owners who don't believe that" (AP, 4/22).
KEEP UP THE PACE: In N.Y., Teri Thompson notes Selig's "14-member committee on improving baseball on the field may have an important announcement soon: How to speed up the pace of games." Selig Thursday said the panel will have "something meaningful soon" to say about the length of games. When asked about his reaction to umpire Joe West's comments earlier this month criticizing the Yankees and Red Sox for their slow pace of play, Selig said that he "would have preferred the veteran ump address the matter internally" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/23).
SPRINGTIME SLUMP: SPORTINGNEWS.com's Dan Levy noted overall MLB attendance is "already down from last year." And while the numbers "may prove to be statistically insignificant (down by an average of just 647 fans this year), the numbers for 2010 are clearly buoyed" by the Twins' new Target Field, which has "already seen an increase of nearly 16,000 fans per game this season." It is "clear a team like the Mets benefited from a new ballpark last year as well, as their attendance is already down more than 6,600 fans per contest through nine games, so you may be able to make the numbers work for the opposite argument as well." Levy added, "It's unfortunate that we've come to expect 12,192 fans to show up to PNC Park in Pittsburgh and 11,191 watch the Nationals get over .500 with a win over the Rockies, but under 15,000 fans showed up to see the Padres host the Giants? No more than 17,000 fans showed up to the South Side to see Mark Buehrle against the talented Rays lineup?" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 4/22).
Jackson Fined Recently For Comments He
Made Regarding Kevin Durant, Referees
NBA Commissioner David Stern is "fed up with NBA coaches criticizing referees and said he would not back down from penalizing them," according to Mike Bresnahan of the L.A. TIMES. Stern Thursday said, "Our referees go out there and knock themselves out and do the best job they can. But we've got coaches who will do whatever it takes to try to work them publicly. What that does is erode fan confidence. So our coaches should be quiet because this is a good business that makes them good livings and supports a lot of families, and if they don't like it they should go get a job someplace else." Stern said that he "wished the fines were more severe" for coaches who criticize refs. He said, "If I had to do it again ... the price wouldn't be a modest $35,000 fine. It would be whatever a day's pay is and then two day's pay and then a week's pay. And if someone wants to try me in the rest of this playoffs, make my day" (L.A. TIMES, 4/23). ESPN L.A.'s Dave McMenamin noted Lakers coach Phil Jackson last week was "fined for comments made regarding" Thunder F Kevin Durant prior to the Thunder-Lakers Western Conference Quarterfinal series. Jackson said of Durant, "I think a lot of the referees are treating him like a superstar; he gets to the line easy and often." Stern attended Thursday's Lakers-Thunder Game Three at Ford Center and said of seeing Jackson, "I just came by and said, 'Hi,' and he said, 'I don't like you today,' and I said, 'I like you.'" Stern: "I think Phil's a great coach. He's a friend of many years" (ESPNLOSANGELES.com, 4/22). Meanwhile, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy was fined $35,000 for "publicly criticizing game officials after" the team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Game Two win over the Bobcats Wednesday (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 4/22).
ARE PLAYOFFS TOO LONG? The AP's Antonio Gonzalez reported Van Gundy prior to Wednesday's game said that the NBA's first-round playoff format, which spreads games out for primetime TV, is "difficult on teams." Van Gundy: "It's almost like you're on a high school schedule or a college schedule playing twice a week." He added, "Baseball gets their whole playoffs and World Series done in like three weeks. Us, it takes us the first round to go three weeks." Van Gundy suggested that the NBA have "back-to-back games in each city, then allow for a day off for travel." He said that the first-round schedule "throws teams off because it's so different from the regular season." Van Gundy: "The thing is they stretch all of it out in the first round for TV, and it really is strange because you get into a routine in the regular season where every once in a while you get a few days off" (AP, 4/21). Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw: "The only reason this happens is because the NBA wants all its games on TV. That's not such a bad thing for NBA fans. It doesn't happen after the first round" (“Around The Horn,” ESPN2, 4/22). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser, on a prolonged first round, "Does it hurt the appeal? Yes, because it takes far too long and everybody knows that. Does it hurt the quality? Not necessarily" (“PTI,” ESPN2, 4/22).
Predators One Of Only Two Teams To Make The
Playoffs After Spending Less Than $50M This Year
While the salary cap "has evened the playing field" in the NHL, money "still has a say in making the playoffs and staying competitive," according to Kevin Allen of USA TODAY. When the salary cap was introduced, Red Wings GM Ken Holland "predicted every team would miss the playoffs at least once over the next five years," and the Devils, Sharks and Red Wings are the "only teams to make the playoffs every season." But sixteen teams "spent 94% or more of the five-year cap total" since '05-06, and 13 of them "have made the playoffs at least three times." Nine teams have "spent less than 91%," but only the Predators (four) and Capitals (three) "made it more than once" to the playoffs. Four NHL teams "spent less than" $50M this season, two of which, the Predators and Coyotes, made the playoffs. The Predators have been the "most efficient at managing the budget," as the team "never has spent more than 91% of the annual salary cap while making the playoffs four times in five years." Predators GM David Poile said that the "secret to success on a budget is drafting well, building a strong farm system and scouting well enough to identify free agent bargains." Still, Allen notes "good scouting does not fully offset the fact that most teams spend $10[M] more than the Predators." Coyotes GM Don Maloney: "For teams like us and Nashville, we can't afford to make any contract mistakes" (USA TODAY, 4/23).