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Nationals Sign Top Overall Draft Pick To Five-
Year, $9.9M Deal Seconds Before Deadline
The Nationals less than one minute before the midnight deadline to sign draft picks agreed to a five-year, $9.9M deal with OF Bryce Harper, the “richest draft deal ever signed by a position player,” according to Adam Kilgore of the WASHINGTON POST. The deal includes a $6.25M signing bonus. Nationals President Stan Kasten said, “With a full minute to go, [GM Mike Rizzo] and I both thought we were not going to have a deal.” However, Kilgore reports as the deadline approached, the Nationals and Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, “pushed aside small differences.” Harper will begin his career in the Gulf Coast League “within days,” and he will head to DC to meet with the media during the Nationals' homestand next week. The team is “certain he will participate in the instructional league in Florida after the minor league season ends, and he might play in the Arizona Fall League.” The Nationals before agreeing to a deal with Harper “finished off three signings for well over the price recommended” by MLB. The Nationals “pledged $13,699,000 in a single day -- still about $1.4 million less than the total contract signed by their first pick in 2009,” P Stephen Strasburg (WASHINGTON POST, 8/17). Harper last night said, “I knew everything would go down to the wire. … Twenty seconds before the deadline, we got it done” (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 8/17). CSN WASHINGTON's Mark Zuckerman writes the major-league deal for Harper “was a bit of a surprise.” But the Nationals were “willing to make that commitment because they feel Harper can reach the big leagues in short order.” The $9.9M total package breaks Mark Teixeira’s previous record of $9.5M (CSNWASHINGTON.com, 8/17). ESPN.com’s Keith Law wrote the deal is a “win for both sides, right down to the funny structure of the deal: $9.9 million spread out over five years plus $100,000 in salary, allowing the Nats to say it was under $10 million and Harper and Scott Boras to say it was” (ESPN.com, 8/16).
TIME FOR NATS FANS TO DREAM: In DC, Thomas Boswell writes a franchise and a town are “lucky if they have one” individual player who can “amaze or inspire.” By adding Harper to a roster that already includes Strasburg and 3B Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals now have “three players with face-of-franchise talent.” Five years after baseball’s return to the city, DC fans are “getting a reward that, while perhaps not as cherished as a World Series, ranks enormously high.” Boswell: “Every scenario is now open, plus plenty we can’t imagine” (WASHINGTON POST, 8/17). CBSSPORTS.com's Scott Miller writes under the header, "Score It Another Big Night For The Nationals." Miller: "An otherwise non-descript summer's evening has every chance to be historic if the Nationals continue to close the talent gap on their rivals with nights like this" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/17). Meanwhile, MASNSPORTS.com's Phil Wood reports the Nationals "never reassigned #34 after they released Elijah Dukes in March." Wood: "The only question now is whether Harper merchandise will be available at the team store by the next homestand" (MASNSPORTS.com, 8/17).
Parker Inks Deal With Rockies That Will Let
Him Play Football At Clemson This Fall
QB SNEAK: In L.A., Bolch & Baxter report the Dodgers reached a deal with first-round draft pick P Zach Lee, “luring him away from the Louisiana State football team with a $5.25-million signing bonus, more than double the largest bonus the team had paid for a draft pick.” Lee, one of the nation’s “top prep quarterbacks, was regarded as the most unlikely first-round pick to sign after being selected 28th by the Dodgers.” The money “will be spread out over five years, which protects the Dodgers should Lee decide to return to college and football.” But it still “marks a major investment for an organization that has been among baseball’s thriftiest in the draft in recent years.” Dodgers GM Ned Colletti: “This says when we have the right player, we’ll do what we have to do to get the right player signed” (L.A. TIMES, 8/16). Also in L.A., Steve Dilbeck noted many “suspected the Dodgers selected Lee because they had no intention of actually spending first-round money on a draft pick while owners Frank and Jamie McCourt were going through” their divorce. Dodgers Assistant GM/Amateur & Int'l Scouting Logan White said of McCourt, “We had discussed this with him before we made this pick and Frank certainly had the courage to still allow us to do it, even though he was going to be criticized” (LATIMES.com, 8/16). Meanwhile, BASEBALL AMERICA’s John Manuel reports Clemson Univ. QB Kyle Parker signed a contract with the Rockies for $1.4M that “allows him to play football this fall for the Tigers” (BASEBALLAMERICA.com, 8/17).
AROUND THE HORN: BASEBALL AMERICA’s Jim Callis notes 14 players signed yesterday for a total of $48.5M in bonuses and MLB salaries before the deadline. Three first-rounders “failed to sign, the most since” ’89. The Pirates inked P Jameson Taillon for $6.5M, the “highest bonus ever given to a high schooler” and second only to Strasburg’s $7.5M last year in draft history. The Orioles gave SS Manny Machado a $5.25M bonus, the “sixth-highest ever for a high schooler.” The Reds signed C Yasmani Grandal to “one of three major league contracts,” and his “total guarantee is roughly” $3M. D’Backs draft pick P Barret Loux, as expected, "didn’t sign after failing a club physical in July” (BASEBALLAMERICA.com, 8/17). The Orioles reached the deal with Machado “3 minutes before midnight.” The Indians and No. 5 overall pick P Drew Pomeranz came to terms on a $2.65M deal. However, the Brewers “did not agree with their No. 1 pick,” P Dylan Covey, who was “recently diagnosed with diabetes.” Brewers GM Doug Melvin said that that “played a pivotal role in his decision not to sign” (Jon Heyman, SI.com, 8/17). The Padres also failed to come to an agreement with their first round pick, P Karsten Whitson. Padres GM Jed Hoyer: "We offered him a fair deal. But there was a point after the draft where his worth skyrocketed and it never came back to reality" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/17).
WAITING TO SIGN JUST PART OF THE GAME: CSN's Zuckerman noted MLB a couple years ago created the system where approximately August 15 would be the signing deadline, as under the previous system "you could go all the way to the following summer, so guys would hold out even longer." Zuckerman: "By doing it this way they figure, 'Okay, it gets it done quicker.' But then what that's in turn done is given the agent a reason to say there's no reason to sign earlier. If I have that sliver of possibility in their mind that maybe this kid isn't going to sign, maybe at the last minute I'm going to up the price a little bit." He noted MLB is not "necessarily going out of their way to discourage teams from doing it this way because what they don't want to have happen is for the Nationals to sign Harper on June 15th for $15 million." Zuckerman: "Now he's set the bar really high, and all the other picks get $11 or 12 million. So there is incentive on both sides to wait until this last minute" ("Washington Post Live," Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 8/16).
Rodriguez Is Owned $11.5M Next Season,
With $17.5M Vesting Option In '12
The Mets are "looking into the possibility of voiding closer Francisco Rodriguez's contract" after he suffered torn thumb ligaments during a fight with his girlfriend's father last week, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com. The Mets "could save at least $17 million, and potentially more," if they are successful. The club is checking on whether the contract "can be voided based upon Rodriguez injuring himself outside the course of play." Team sources said that voiding the rest of the contract -- which includes $11.5M for both '10 and '11 as well as a $17.5M vesting option in '12 -- "is something that's on the table for team higher-ups." Heyman noted the MLBPA "might have a position on this, though, as the Mets were only able to suspend Rodriguez initially for two games due to the power of the players union" (SI.com, 8/16). In N.Y., Martin & Sherman report the Mets could decide today "whether to put Rodriguez on the Disqualified or Restricted List." Should the team put him on the Restricted List, the Mets "will probably just be going after his salary while he is not available to pitch, which would include the $3.1 million he has left the rest of this season." Placing Rodriguez on the Disqualified List likely means the Mets "are going to try and void what remains on his contract." An MLBPA official last night said that the union "had yet to be notified that the Mets have filed the necessary paperwork to grieve the case." Martin & Sherman note if the Mets "file a grievance, the union will definitely counter-file." MLB teams have "not had a lot of success going after players' salaries when it comes to domestic-abuse issues." However, the Mets have working for them the fact Rodriguez' fight "took place at the ballpark" and that he "suffered his injuries as a result of the fight and can now not render his services to the team" (N.Y. POST, 8/17).
FIGHT LOOMING: In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes the Mets should suspend Rodriguez "without pay for the rest of the season ... and tell the Players Association you will have as much of a fight with them as they want to have on this." Lupica: "It will be interesting to see, in the modern world of guaranteed contracts ... why Rodriguez or the people who run his union think that he deserves to get paid after behaving this way" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/17). On Long Island, Ken Davidoff wrote he always bets "on the union in these instances." But if the Mets "focus on this specific amount of time, AND K-Rod either settles on a deal with Queens County or gets convicted ... well, I think they'd at least have a puncher's chance" (NEWSDAY.com, 8/16). ESPN's J.P. Ricciardi said the Mets "wouldn't be doing their job if they didn't go out and try to see if they could get out from the under the contract." However, it is a "lot easier said than done." Ricciardi: "I don't see them being able to win it, but I do see them being able to go out there and at least challenge it" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN2, 8/16). A player agent said that for the Mets to void the contract, they "would need to wait for K-Rod to plead guilty or be convicted of assaulting his girlfriend's father." However, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes while a guilty plea or conviction "could be viewed as a clear violation of Rodriguez's contract," the Mets could be "stuck with K-Rod even if they converted the rest of his deal to non-guaranteed" (FOXSPORTS.com, 8/17).
TEAM'S CREDIBILITY AT STAKE? ESPN's Jayson Stark said the Mets “have to make clear to people … that this is really not about the money.” Stark: “It's about some kind of moral high ground, because the Mets have this disconnect with their fan base now where their fans are really questioning what the whole organization stands for. This is really, to me, not about dollars. It's about the credibility of the franchise" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN2, 8/17). ESPN's John Kruk said, "You can't let a guy go out, get into a fight, hurt himself, has to have surgery ... and expect to go with pay. You have to set an example to the rest of the players" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/16). However, ESPN.com's Rob Neyer wrote he is "not sure why the Mets would want to void Rodriguez's entire contract ... assuming that he's healthy after the surgery." Neyer: "If the Mets are going to overpay for a closer, they might as well overpay for this one. Unless ... axing Rodriguez is part of a larger strategy that involves spending money more wisely and (or) not putting up with ridiculously anti-social behavior. Given the Mets' recent history, I doubt if such a strategy is in the offing" (ESPN.com, 8/16).
Jeff Wilpon Has Had Diminished
Presence Around Team Of Late
PART OF DEEPER PROBLEMS: SI.com's Joe Lemire wrote under the header, "Time For Mets Owners To Speak Up As Chaotic Season Gets Worse." With the '10 season "in danger of spiraling ... out of control," neither Mets Owner Fred Wilpon nor COO Jeff Wilpon have "been heard from much." Jeff's absence is "especially conspicuous given that his one bold act of leadership from earlier in the season worked," when his talk to the team led to a 20-7 stretch. The Wilpons have been a "diminished presence around the team ... and the players have noticed." The Mets appear to have made GM Omar Minaya "management's sole voice of the team." Meanwhile, attendance at Citi Field is down around 5,000 per game this season, and "as a result so are revenues, all of which suggests that this season's $130 million payroll may ... have to be trimmed before next season" (SI.com, 8/16). MLB Network and NESN's Peter Gammons said the Mets "really need a team CEO" because the "problem is not" Minaya or manager Jerry Manuel. Gammons: "The problem is that it's just not a very functional organization" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 8/16).
Ticket Scalpers Seeing Decline In Interest
For Red Sox Tickets This Season
The Red Sox "are not the hot ticket they were five years ago and scalpers on Brookline Ave. are feeling it, too," according to Robert Mays of the BOSTON GLOBE. For more than seven years, the team has "claimed that for every home game, the number of tickets sold and distributed has eclipsed the seating capacity" of Fenway Park. But recently, the "task of filling those seats has grown more difficult." TV ratings also "are down, and marketing campaigns have been revved up." Some scalpers blame Ace Ticket, the secondary ticketing company and Red Sox sponsor that set up an office on Brookline Ave. But the company "charges similar prices to the scalpers for similar seats," and Ace Ticket Founder & President Jim Holzman said that it has "no priority access to tickets, simply re-selling tickets sold to it, often by season-ticket holders." Ace has been "left holding tickets this season, sometimes as many as 100 per game." Some scalpers "blame a rise in ticket prices," as a seat at Fenway "is the second-priciest ticket" in MLB at an average of $52.32. Mays writes scalpers agree on one thing "they have noticed the last few years," which is that since '07, "many people have become sick of the Red Sox" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/17).
PEAKS & VALLEYS: FANHOUSE.com's Tom Krasovic noted the Red Sox' declining TV numbers and wrote Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino "isn't taking the plummet lightly but seems less than alarmed." Lucchino: "We've had six or seven years consecutive when we have led Major League Baseball in TV ratings, and not just led, but led by significant amounts over the second- and third-place teams in the ratings. So, you have to put it in some historical context." Lucchino added, "There are probably a lot of reasons, including the Celtics' very deep run in the postseason though mid-June, the Bruins' rising into the postseason, the World Cup (of soccer) this year, which is a very popular event in Boston." Lucchino also mentioned the "slow start by the Sox, and a relentless stream of injuries that weakened the team" (FANHOUSE.com, 8/16).
New MLB Rangers Managing Partner & CEO Chuck Greenberg during Sunday's Red Sox-Rangers game was "bouncing from seat to seat," as he "took in the game from various vantage points at Rangers Ballpark, and even spent time and his own money at the newly reduced concession stands," according to Jeff Wilson of the FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM. Greenberg said that the purpose was to "get in touch with their fans, hear their opinions and experience what they see and hear -- or don't see and hear." Greenberg: "It's important to see what the fan experience is like from all different vantage points." Wilson notes Greenberg "plans to make regular trips to the stands" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 8/17).
Hicks Conspicuously Absent From Selig's
Statement On Sale Of Rangers
GOOD RIDDANCE: Baseball writer Murray Chass wrote he gets the "distinct feeling" that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is "delighted to have" former Rangers Owner Tom Hicks out of the league. Selig in his statement regarding the sale of the team "couldn't say enough good things about the new owners," and it "would not be a stretch to read some unspoken criticism of Hicks and the way he operated the Rangers." But the "telltale sign of Selig's view of Hicks is in something he didn't say." The statement "doesn't mention Hicks," and in "this kind of sale statement, Selig has always mentioned and lauded the outgoing owner" (MURRAYCHASS.com, 8/15).
NEXT IN LINE: ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote with the Rangers sold, the "next franchise presumably moving to the front burner" for MLB will be the A's. The team's current lease at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum "runs out in three years and the team thinks it has no future in the city." A's Owner Lew Wolff feels the club is "set up well to move forward if the territorial rights are re-drawn or negotiated and the A's are permitted to move into San Jose" (ESPN.com, 8/13).
T'Wolves Unveil Modified Uniform
To Be Worn Next Season
The T’Wolves during the upcoming season will wear a “slightly modified uniform.” The most “noticeable difference is the disappearance of green from the palette, leaving blue, silver, black and white as the colors.” The font style for the numbers “has also been altered.” The T’Wolves will wear “white at home and blue on the road, but they also plan to introduce an alternate road jersey at midseason” (AP, 8/16). Meanwhile, the T’Wolves “finalized their eight-game exhibition schedule” yesterday, highlighted by the team’s participation in the NBA Europe Live series and a trip to Syracuse Univ., where G Jonny Flynn and F Wesley Johnson played. The team will open the preseason on Oct. 4 against the Lakers at London's O2 arena. The European trip also includes an Oct. 6 game in Paris against the Knicks (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 8/17).
STRIKING A NEW NOTE: In Utah, Loren Jorgensen notes the Jazz yesterday “showed off the team’s new look during a fan fest.” The new “navy blue-based road uniform” features the “old-style Jazz musical note logo on the chest in white and a gold number” on the stomach and back. The new home uniforms are “white with green numbers, navy letters with the Jazz note logo and gold stripes on the side.” The team also unveiled an “800-pound banner on the northeast side” of EnergySolutions Arena featuring F Al Jefferson, F Paul Millsap and G Raja Bell in the new jerseys (DESERET NEWS, 8/17).
HOT TICKET: In Boston, Fee & Raposa report the Celtics’ Oct. 26 home opener against the Heat is “one of the hottest tickets on the secondary market.” The average cost of a seat to the game is $460. That is the “second-highest Opening Day ticket in the NBA” behind the Heat’s Oct. 28 home opener against the Magic, which is selling for an average of $550 (BOSTON HERALD, 8/17).