SBD/Issue 241/Franchises

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  • Strasburg's Injury Dims Prospect Of Him Elevating DC Baseball

    Strasburg Unlikely To Pitch In MLB
    Again Until 2012 Season

    Stephen Strasburg "may still be the one who fills the stadium, lifts the woeful Nationals franchise to prominence," but that vision "got a little fainter" on Friday with news that the pitcher is expected to undergo Tommy John surgery and be sidelined until the '12 season, according to a front-page piece by Dave Sheinin of the WASHINGTON POST. The Nationals on Friday said that Strasburg "won't pitch again in 2010" and is "unlikely to pitch" next season. While the news "feels devastating to the thousands of fans who had come to build their television-viewing or ticket-buying routines around Strasburg's every-fifth-day schedule, the long-term prognosis is not terrible." Scott Boras, Strasburg's agent, said, "What we're dealing with here is something that's very manageable." The Nationals knew the severity of Strasburg's injury by Thursday, but team GM Mike Rizzo said that the pitcher "asked that the news be held until Friday, so as not to overshadow the team's introduction" of Bryce Harper, the No. 1 pick in this year's draft (WASHINGTON POST, 8/28). Nationals Owner Mark Lerner said, "We are not holding our heads down. We are going to survive this and we will continue to put the best product on the field. It's our goal to build a championship" (MLB.com, 8/27).

    SCREECHING TO A HALT: ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote Strasburg was the "centerpiece of the Nationals' franchise, and now Washington has to sell itself without its star attraction." The team "will take all due caution during Strasburg's rehabilitation period, and if he needs time, they'll give him time; the Nationals won't push him, recklessly." But some appearances by Strasburg "near the end of next season could be very important to the team." He is "lost as a marketing tool for 2011, but he could help in the run-up to 2012 -- which could also be the first year that Bryce Harper has serious playing time" (ESPN.com, 8/29). In DC, Mike Wise wrote, "Strasburg was so much more than a pretty good young pitcher. He was boffo box office, the sole reason the Nationals became a national story this past June." It is a "bad thing for a young phenom" and a "bad thing for a franchise that just stopped mattering again until 2012" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/28). Washington Post reporter Barry Svrluga: "What do you sell next year? I don't know. Strasburg's the only thing that has been a real draw at the gate that this franchise has ever had" ("Washington Post Live," Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 8/27). In DC, Tom Boswell wrote the "growth in interest that has encircled the Nats this summer will be put on hold." Perhaps when Strasburg does return, "with his fallibility firmly established, maybe he will blend into the fabric of the game more, not stand above it -- heralded as the future face of the Nats and, perhaps, of the whole sport, too" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/28).

    SAD DAY FOR DC, BASEBALL: In N.Y., Waldstein & Ward note "no baseball player has generated as much interest or excitement this season as Stephen Strasburg" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/28). The N.Y. POST's Joel Sherman wrote Strasburg was "not just a phenom, not just a coming attraction." He gave a "laughingstock organization an image, a cornerstone, a marketing gold mine." Sherman: "It is hard to imagine a more devastating injury in recent times in any sport" (N.Y. POST, 8/28). YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan wrote the repair of Strasburg's elbow "will almost assuredly succeed." Mending a "dispirited fan base, on the other hand, will take years" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/27). MLB.com's Marty Noble wrote, "What a disappointment! And not only in Washington. The game in general has taken a punch to the solar plexus" (MLB.com, 8/27). ESPN's Tim Kurkjian said, “People come to the ballpark here to watch him pitch, and now he's probably going to miss an entire year." The Nationals "put a good face on this," but it is a "really bad day for the Nationals and a bad day for baseball" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/27). ESPN's John Saunders: "This was a franchise that without this kid basically has empty seats and is almost non-existent. They were building their entire franchise around this kid" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 8/29). The Nationals averaged 33,446 fans for the seven home games Strasburg pitched this season, compared to an average attendance of 22,590 for the other 55 games prior to this weekend (THE DAILY).

    Strasburg's Absence Expected
    To Impact Nats' Bottom Line

    THAT'S THE BOTTOM LINE: MASN's Ben Goessling wrote it is "difficult, if not impossible, to quantify what Stephen Strasburg meant to the Nationals from a pure dollars-and-cents standpoint this year, but we can safely assume it was big." In addition to the increase in home attendance when he pitches, Strasburg's jersey was the "the top seller in baseball in June, and the Nationals have sold more Strasburg jerseys than any in their history." Business of Sports Network President Maury Brown said that he "isn't sure what the Nationals will do to make up for the loss of Strasburg buzz, but he thinks there's certain to be a financial hit" (MASN.com, 8/28). In N.Y., Belson & Sandomir noted Strasburg's absence "will hurt MASN." His 12 starts on the RSN "averaged a 3.85 rating, or 89,897 households in the Washington market, more than twice that for Nationals games over all." MASN Senior VP & General Sales Manager John McGuinness noted that "ad rates had tripled for the games that Strasburg pitched and increased" by 25% for those that he did not. He added, "I’ve been in the regional sports network business for almost 20 years now, and I’ve never seen any player come on the scene and have such an impact" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/28).

    TRACKING BACK? MASN Nationals announcer Rob Dibble appeared on Sirius XM MLB Network Radio Friday to discuss Strasburg's diagnosis, "in light of his previous comments" about the pitcher. Dibble said, "To take my comments from Monday, my comments were made about a healthy, 100 percent, strong, strapping kid. And it was more so directed as a pep talk, it was never directed toward Stephen in general, it was more my own opinion." He added, "Now, to have someone transcribe that, twist it and say Dibble's telling Strasburg to suck it up, that wasn't the gist of the conversation. And to have sick individuals twist it to try to make me look bad, that's fine. You can hate on me all you want. But now there's a bunch of sick individuals in cyberspace that are deriving some kind of sick pleasure from this injury to this young man. This young man doesn't deserve any of that. He doesn't even deserve to have me in the same breath" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/27).

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  • Marlins Respond To Criticism In Wake Of Leaked Financials

    Marlins Earned Reported
    Profit Of $49M In '08-09

    The Marlins issued a statement Saturday night in response to "criticism over their financial status," according to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. Leaked documents revealed that the Marlins earned about $49M in '08 and '09, "which was used to pay down debt and secure financing for a new ballpark." The team in a statement said, "While it is impossible to respond individually to all the misleading information and rumors contained in media reports related to your Marlins, the recent reports about the team's financial statements are so misleading that the record needs to be set straight. Financial statements of the team were recently released and have been widely misunderstood and inappropriately analyzed." The Marlins added attempting to "draw conclusions of a baseball team's financial health is very hard to do by only taking a cursory look at a two-year snapshot." The team continued, "Reducing the debt was and remains critical so that we can fulfill our contribution to the new ballpark. ... The reduction of debt was a critical component of the team's operation, because losses from previous years had led to excessive debt balances. This large amount of debt would have made it impossible to contribute to the ballpark's construction and would have put baseball in Miami in jeopardy. The promises made during the ballpark negotiations have all been met, and in fact, surpassed" (MLB.com, 8/28).

    WHOSE TO BLAME? Miami-Dade County Commissioner Joe Martinez said, "The profit wasn't so much my concern. We're putting up all the money, I want to see the finances to see can you afford this? ... Not only could they have done that, they could have put a hell of a lot more money in than they did." County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez said that he "blames county administrators, not the team, for the ballpark deal." Gimenez: "The Marlins job was to make us pay as much as possible. The administration's job was to pay only what was equitable" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 8/28). ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote if the Marlins are "guilty of blatantly lying to the representatives of taxpayers, then the Marlins' would-be customers -- who are footing the bill for the ballpark -- sure as hell have the right to know." The taxpayers "can't get their money back but, at the very least, they should have the right to know whether the Florida baseball franchise is operated with integrity or whether the Marlins got their public funding through deception." Olney: "Somebody in power needs to call a hearing. Somebody needs to send out the subpoenas and administer some oaths. Somebody in power needs to start asking questions. Sounds like a job for an attorney general" (ESPN.com, 8/29).

    KEEPING SCORE AT HOME? In Miami, Rabin & Beasley noted the team's leaked financial documents reveal that the Marlins reaped more from MLB's revenue sharing "than the team paid for player salaries the last two years -- a disparity fueling the $52 million in operating income the franchise pocketed in that time." The Marlins received $92M in revenue sharing the last two seasons, "enough to cover the team payroll in that time with close to" $20M "left over to go toward ballpark construction or other costs." The documents also show that the Marlins "were last in concession sales and next to the bottom in television and radio revenue." In addition, the Marlins paid $5.4M in '08 and '09 to Double Play Company, whose partners include Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria and President David Samson. Samson said that "some of that money covered expenses like the hiring of architects and engineers." The documents also show that Loria collected $16M "from the team the past two years." Samson said that the money "represented repayment of a loan Loria provided the team to help with stadium costs." Samson: "The team needed money. Jeffrey lent the team money and the team has to pay him back" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/29). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde wrote, "One winner from the Marlins' finances going public last week was Forbes magazine's valuations of sports teams. The Marlins lied for years about the kind of money Forbes insisted the team was making" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 8/29).

    DOUBLEHEADER: YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan wrote Samson has "perfected the art of doublespeak," and "lies are simply part of how the Marlins do business." Loria and Samson during the Marlins' quest for a new ballpark "made statement after misleading statement and got away with it." Loria is an "excellent businessman, and he knew the repercussions." The Marlins "hoodwinked local politicians so caught up in the excitement of keeping the team in Miami, they forgot with whom they were dealing" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/27). In Miami, Dan Le Batard wrote Samson is the "voice for this team on sensitive issues, and that voice can be condescending and snarky." He is "very presidential in practice, but not very presidential in presentation." Le Batard: "I can't figure it out, as fans shout and the media feeds, if the Marlins are guilty of anything other than good business and bad PR. But, in this sport, this climate, this America, are you going to trust him?" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/29).

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  • Selig Says MLB Has No Issues With The Pirates' Finances

    Sources Say Pirates' Payroll Increase Next
    Season Likely To Be In The $50M Range

    MLB Commissioner Bud Selig Friday said that he has “no issues with the Pirates’ finances in light of the team recently divulging that it made $35 million in profits from 2007-09 and distributed $20.4 million of that to ownership for taxes and repaid loan interest,” according to Dejan Kovacevic of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. Selig also “appeared to applaud” Pirates President Frank Coonelly’s statement last week that the team “could have a ‘meaningful’ increase in payroll” for ’11. The Pirates’ 40-man roster payroll “projects to finish the season at $44 million, lowest in the majors.” Team sources said that the “likeliest target for an increase … would be in the range of $50 million, which still would be among the lowest in the majors.” Selig said, “I feel comfortable with telling you that the union wanted to talk about Pittsburgh six months ago. They did and left satisfied. Let me say this to you: We constantly check everything. The players’ association has all the numbers.” Selig also “emphasized the Pirates’ investment in the draft, which has been the highest in the majors the past three years” at $30.7M (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 8/28). Selig said, “People can talk about money, but they’ve spent a lot of money on scouting, a lot of money on player development. The frustration levels, I understand it from the fans’ standpoint. But it takes time to show. I’m satisfied that they are making good progress right now.” Meanwhile, Selig said of the leak of the financial documents, “I would rather it was not done. It was not done properly. It’s sad, in a way, that people violate confidences" (MLB.com, 8/27).

    SMALL-MARKET SUCCESS STORY: In Pittsburgh, Bob Cohn noted the Pirates “have limited resources, even with their slice of revenue sharing.” In a “world free from salary-cap restraints, big-market teams with deep revenue streams always will have a competitive advantage.” But that “doesn’t mean modest spenders in smaller markets can’t win from time to time.” The NL West-leading Padres, who had the second-lowest payroll on Opening Day, are “getting the most bang from” their bucks this season (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 8/29).

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  • NBA Franchise Notes: Nuggets' Ujiri Has A Lot Of Work To Do

    Ujiri Plans To Meet With Carmelo
    Anthony About New Contract

    In Denver, Chris Dempsey wrote Nuggets Exec VP/Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri, who "got started Friday in his new capacity," is "going to have to solve a bucket's worth of problems." Carmelo Anthony "has not signed a three-year, $65 million contract offer the Nuggets have on the table," and Ujiri said that he "plans to meet with Anthony to discuss any possibility of a future with the organization." In addition, F J.R. Smith is "facing an investigation into allegations he choked another player at the Nuggets' training facility during a pickup game" (DENVER POST, 8/28). But Ujiri said, "I love this opportunity. I would have taken the job if I had been offered $5. Who could say no to this great challenge?" (DENVER POST, 8/28).

    MAGIC PRICING ACT: In Orlando, Josh Robbins reported the Magic will "base their single-game ticket prices on demand this upcoming season." The Magic for the first time will "employ variable pricing for single-game tickets to all 41 of their regular-season home contests." Magic officials "will set prices based largely on the game's day of the week and the quality of the opponent." Single-game ticket prices "could rise if the opponent adds a superstar through a trade" and "could fall if the opponent has lost key players to injury" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 8/28). 

    HOT TICKET: Ft. Lauderdale-based ticket broker Todd Chitoff said that "some courtside seats for the Heat's Oct. 29 home-opener against the Orlando Magic are selling for $7,500-a-piece." In West Palm Beach, Jose Lambiet noted "nosebleed" tickets with "face values around 50 bucks are going for an average of about $450" for both the Oct. 26 Heat-Celtics season opener at TD Garden and the Magic-Heat game. SeatGeek.com indicated that the games are "expected to be the two most expensive home openers of any NBA team," and the Oct. 27 Heat-76ers game is the "third most expensive, at an average scalper's price of $332" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 8/27).

    TALKING PISTONS: Hurricanes Owner Peter Karmanos, when asked about his interest in the Pistons, said the NBA is a "tough business." Karmanos: "There are 30 (NBA) teams and 22 lost something like $600 million. That's a lot of cash." Meanwhile, former Ilitch Holdings President Denise Ilitch said of her family, which owns the Tigers and Red Wings, buying the Pistons, "There would be a lot of synergy that could go with it. We've proven we know how to run things, how to run teams and how to win. We know how to perform" (FREEP.com, 8/28).

    UNIQUE JOURNEY: In Boston, Gary Washburn wrote the road traveled by new Trail Blazers GM Rich Cho, the "first Asian-American GM" in the NBA, is "unlike any other executive in league history." Cho: "When I was growing up, we struggled a lot and we were on welfare and food stamps. That's part of who I am. I am not ashamed of it. It's why I am grateful for this opportunity. I've had a lot of odd jobs and some of it was to help the family out." Washburn noted Cho "has long been considered a brilliant mind, the salary cap expert who earned his engineering and law degrees during his tenure" with the Sonics. But even after Cho "helped build the Thunder's current foundation, he remained in near anonymity beyond the tight NBA circles" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/29).

    BUILDING AN IDENTITY: New 76ers President Rod Thorn said relevancy is "definitely our first order of business." Thorn: "It's up to us to put a product on the floor that the fans can identify with. Historically, Philly fans want their teams to compete, to win their share, to play tough. That's what we have to build" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 8/28).

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