Sunoco Debuts "Essence Of Racing" Campaign Executive Transactions Isiah Thomas Expected Backlash Over Hiring FanDuel Brings On Most Of Zynga Sports Team Georgia Approves Increased Athletic Budget Kentucky Adding Ribbon Boards At Rupp IndyCar Ponders How To Attract Fans Long Term Jeff Gordon Hired As Full-Time Analyst For Fox Danica's Sponsorship Status To Be Telling For NASCAR Classified Advertisements
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Alderson Intrigued By Location, Resources
That Exist In New Role Of Mets GM
New Mets GM Sandy Alderson during his introductory news conference on Friday "dismissed the notion" of having full autonomy, and he "sees himself as an executive who will work with ownership in decision-making," according to David Lennon of NEWSDAY. Mets Owner Fred Wilpon said that Alderson will have "more latitude in the role than anyone" since Frank Cashen, who served as Mets GM from '80-91. Alderson said, "In some instances, I will make decisions. In other instances, I will make recommendations. That's the way it should be" (NEWSDAY, 10/30). Alderson agreed to a four-year contract through '14 with a club option for '15, and Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said, "It's a new direction and it's a new voice for the fan base and for ownership." In N.Y., Andy Martino wrote Alderson on Friday "projected exactly what the Mets wanted from their next general manager: a person whose stature, experience and confidence could assure ownership and the fan base that the future will be better than the recent past." Fred Wilpon said, "He's got a lot of experience. Loves the game. He's very excited about this job (and) he's had a great history. ... It's nice to have articulation like that. He has ideas and he's able to express that. That's good" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/30).
DIAMOND VISION: Alderson made clear his "stated goals: Unify the entire organization with an underlying ideology; refurbish the minor-league system; achieve payroll flexibility to compete in free agency" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 10/30). In N.Y., Harvey Araton wrote the Mets "needed Alderson a heck of a lot more than he needed them." Alderson said, "This is not a job I would have taken anywhere." He took the job "because he was intrigued by the location and the resources -- at least what he imagines those Bernie Madoff-challenged resources to be -- and because" MLB Commissioner Bud Selig "promoted him to Wilpon for the chore of putting the Mets’ tattered house in order." Jeff Wilpon stressed his role with the team "hasn't changed." He said, "What your perception of my role is and the fans' perception of my role is not correct." But Araton noted "longtime whispers ... run contrary to the claim" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/30). ESPN N.Y.'s Ian O'Connor wrote Fred Wilpon "called the past two years the most difficult of his ownership career," and he hired Alderson "to make his on-field troubles disappear" (ESPNNEWYORK.com, 10/30). Fred Wilpon said, "It helps Jeff particularly because he has that kind of professional relationship with someone who has a lot of experience, enabling him to concentrate on other areas, as well, which he might not have been able to concentrate on" (NEWSDAY, 10/30).
Alderson (c) Hired To Reverse Recent On-Field
Results, But Payroll Will Not Be Unlimited
NOT MUCH TO WORK WITH: Alderson "refused to say this is a rebuilding situation, but he also said he is a 'realist' about their short-term and long-term goals." Alderson acknowledged that the Mets "have very little payroll flexibility for 2011 and the Wilpons went as far as to say they're pretty much at the 'maximum' right now" at about $130M. As a result, Mets fans likely can "forget about any big-ticket free agents such as Cliff Lee or Carl Crawford this winter." Alderson said, "We want to be in the market every year. Will we be in the market this year aggressively? Unlikely" (NEWSDAY, 10/30). More Alderson: "I think what we're looking at for 2011 is a little less flexibility than we'd like to have." Jeff Wilpon added, "I assume we're close to the maximum. ... And I don't think he would recommend, and hasn't recommended, going above that right now" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/30).
TURNING THE PAGE: In New Jersey, Bob Klapisch wrote, "It took guts for the Wilpons ... to hire a tough, self-confident man like Alderson, because it means they'll both have a lower profile from now on" (Bergen RECORD, 10/30). On Long Island, Ken Davidoff wrote the hiring of Alderson as GM "represents nothing less than the dawn of a new era." Alderson "gets it." He understands New York, the Mets, "he gets the Wilpons," and perhaps "most important, he gets baseball" (NEWSDAY, 10/30). In N.Y., Mike Lupica wrote the Mets "officially got better Friday." Lupica: "All you had to do was watch the way Alderson carried himself, the things he said and the way he said them" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/30). In New Jersey, Tara Sullivan wrote, "The innovative thinker, in combination with the seasoned leader, presented quite a picture Friday, offering the Mets a strong, experienced voice that was lacking in six years under former GM Omar Minaya" (Bergen RECORD, 10/30). NEWSDAY's Lennon noted Alderson now has to "pick up the pace on any front-office hires, as well as appointing a manager, to have them in place" by the MLB GM meetings beginning on Nov. 17 (NEWSDAY, 10/31). Alderson, 62, is the "oldest current general manager" in MLB (N.Y. POST, 10/30).
Greenberg Hopes World Series Run Results
In Expanded Presence For Team Around Dallas
MLB Rangers Owner Chuck Greenberg and the rest of the team's new ownership group are "looking for ways to turn fan interest into a higher national profile for the team and its players," according to Melissa Repko of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. As the team prepares to host Game Five of its first World Series tonight at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, "T-shirts sporting the club's now-famous claw-and-antlers will be nearly as present as the five-pointed blue star that symbolizes sports in North Texas." Greenberg said, "We have such likable and charismatic players. Now what we need to do is be innovative and aggressive on the business side to convert all of that interest we have into something that is more lasting regionally as well as nationally." Greenberg admitted that he was "unimpressed with the Rangers' previous marketing strategy." He said he plans to use the team's postseason run to "completely transform the franchise," noting Rangers officials will be "thoughtful and strategic in how we reach out to our fans." Still, Repko noted the team's "marketability remains somewhat paradoxical." Rangers CF Josh Hamilton, the team's "most valuable player," has had "off-field drug problems that could limit his endorsement prospects." Also, P Cliff Lee "could end up wearing another team's jersey next year." The Marketing Arm Senior VP & Managing Dir Bill Glenn said, "The Rangers right now are more likable than marketable. If you don't have players who have high awareness nationally, they won't have the ability to represent a brand." But MLB Senior VP/Licensing Howard Smith believes that Hamilton "shows endorsement potential, despite and perhaps because of his troubled past." Smith: "Madison Avenue is looking for somebody that is inspirational. As a 14-year-old boy, would I want to be like Josh Hamilton? Yes. Girls admire him. The kid has been to hell and back" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/30).
BEHIND THE SCENES: In Ft. Worth, Mitchell Schnurman noted North Texas sports fans are "accustomed to sports owners who command as much airtime as the players," but the Rangers are "rolling out a different model, designed more like a publicly traded company than a sole proprietorship." XTO Energy Chair Bob Simpson, who along with former Energy Transfer Partners co-CEO Ray Davis "put up more than half" of the club's $593M purchase price, said, "This isn't going to be my new job." Simpson wants to "bring XTO values to baseball," offering Greenberg and Nolan Ryan "more equity if they hit financial targets and sharing the wealth with workers." Schnurman noted one of the "first moves was to enroll about 250 Rangers employees" in MLB's pension plan, a perk that is "practically unheard of today." There are "big plans for fans, too, starting with a giant replay screen" at Rangers Ballpark likely to cost around $20M. Above all, the new owners "expect to sign their stars." The team's payroll, "among the lowest in baseball, could double in coming years." Simpson said, "We're going to go after Cliff Lee -- hard, and we have the financial firepower to do that. Guys like Josh Hamilton, we will take care of those guys. And we'll do it within a model that's sustainable" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 10/31).
BITTERSWEET SYMPHONY: Former Rangers Owner Tom Hicks attended this weekend's World Series games in Arlington and called the team's success "very bittersweet." Hicks said, "The sale was Aug. 4. We were already eight games in first place. I've had a real outpouring of friends and people who are important to me call me or email or written me letters, recognizing that this team didn't start on Aug. 5." Hicks believes that the Rangers "will increase their full-season ticket equivalents from 12,000-13,000 this year to 25,000 or even 30,000 next season." He said, "When you go to the World Series, your season-ticket base probably more than doubles the following year. So this has only been a sleeping giant of a market. ... And that gives you the revenue to keep the best players." Hicks said that he "watches every Rangers game," but "not so for Liverpool," the EPL club he sold to New England Sports Ventures last month. Hicks: "I never became as ... big a soccer fan as I am a baseball fan" (AP, 10/31).
McNair (r) Authorized Officials To
Look For Banned Substances
Texans Owner Bob McNair recently "recommended his players throw out anything in their lockers that wasn’t approved by the NFL" after the team lost "two players to NFL suspensions this season," according to John McClain of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. McNair, GM Rick Smith and coach Gary Kubiak "believe they have reduced the risk of another player being suspended." Kubiak said, "In this business, it’s hard enough to overcome injuries, and when guys miss games for other reasons, you should take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/30). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell noted the Texans are "believed to be the first team to have staff members physically remove any such products." McNair said, "We've gone through the locker room and anything that wasn't manufactured by the two or three that are authorized are thrown out. They can't have it in the locker room at all. Even though it might be something that's pretty innocuous, you just can't run that risk. You just don't know what's in some of these products." McNair said that the "locker room sweep turned up some products that could include banned substances." He would not "identify the players or substances involved in the cases -- and there are no other known cases pending with the league regarding violations of the policy" (USATODAY.com, 10/28).
ANOTHER SIDE TO THE STORY: SI's Peter King writes the reports of the Texans "doing drug sweeps in the wake of two of their players being suspended this year for testing positive for PEDs are a little off-base." The Texans "met with their players and told them the only supplements they wanted to see on the premises were NFL-approved supplements." Team officials "did a visual inspection, though not very close and involved, to make sure players were complying." Smith said that if a player "had unapproved supplements behind a door in his locker, for instance, the team wouldn't have gone in there to inspect." Smith: "We didn't go down there and search through lockers. We just wanted players to know the only way you could avoid testing positive for sure would be to only take the NFL-approved supplements'' (SI.com, 11/1).
THE RIGHT WAY TO DO IT? ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky wrote the way Texans officials "went about things seems clumsy," and it "created a situation where players could feel their bosses didn’t trust them and invaded their privacy." Team officials "could have gone through lockers with players present, explaining what they were trying to do and getting the same results without leaving any room for issues regarding trust and privacy." Kuharsky added, "I’m shocked the NFLPA didn’t respond immediately" (ESPN.com, 10/30). In Houston, Richard Justice wrote, "Finally, we have an owner willing to stand up and tell the world he's sick and tired of cheats." McNair had to be "embarrassed that his team was leading the NFL in players testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, and instead of wringing his hands, he did something about it." Justice: "If one player complains, we will learn more about that player than about McNair. McNair sent the right message. Good for him" (CHRON.com, 10/29).
Maloofs Hopeful Of Kings Staying In Sacramento,
But Will Listen To Alternatives From Other Cities
NBA Kings Owners the Maloofs continue to "profess their loyalty to Sacramento and its fans ... despite an aging facility at Arco and several years of lean attendance," but for the first time they are "talking openly about their willingness to consider alternatives," according to Dale Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Kings co-Owner Joe Maloof: "I think any smart businessman has to look at options." Maloof added that the Kings "have been courted occasionally by cities such as" Las Vegas, Seattle, Anaheim, San Jose and K.C. He said that those inquiries "represented nothing more than 'a five-minute conversation' but the family is frustrated over the failure to get a deal" for a new arena done in Sacramento. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has "championed a communitywide effort to build an arena." The leading proposal "involved a land swap that called for redeveloping Cal Expo," but when the state agency that runs Cal Expo "objected, the plan collapsed." Maloof said, "Sooner or later, there has to be an option -- everybody knows that." Johnson is "trying to cobble together a new plan," and he "especially wants to talk with Inland American Real Estate, the firm that just took over redevelopment of the downtown railyard." Inland has said that it is "willing to discuss a new arena." Meanwhile, Arco's sponsorship of the team's arena is set to expire "next spring," which "symbolizes the uncertainty facing" the Kings. Kasler noted Joe and co-Owner Gavin Maloof "have been fixtures at Arco, leading the cheers from their courtside seats and reveling in the attention that ownership brings." But they "aren't governed completely by sentiment." Last year they folded the WNBA Monarchs and "imposed layoffs for the first time throughout the Maloof Sports & Entertainment organization." The Kings' average attendance last year was 13,254, "next-to-last in the NBA." But Kings officials said that the arena "will be full or nearly full" for tonight's game against the Raptors and Wednesday's game against the Lakers. Joe Maloof: "The most important thing we have on our plate right now is to try and get people back into the arena" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/30).
SNOWBALL'S CHANCE? In Minneapolis, Jerry Zgoda wonders if T'Wolves fans "have a prayer that their snowbound, small-market franchise can ever compete" with a team like the Heat that in Fs LeBron James and Chris Bosh and G Dwyane Wade has "such superstar power concentrated in one place." NBA Commissioner David Stern said, "It takes time. Hold management accountable. They've got the draft picks. Maybe Ricky (Rubio) will come someday. The deal here is the draft rewards teams for bad performance and then you get a chance to correct yourself and then there's free agency." Stern added of James, Bosh and Wade all playing for the same team, "The idea that this is a terrible thing that these players colluded to go somewhere ... they didn't collude anything. They decided to use their free agency here to try and win. They may or may not" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 11/1).
Tigers' Average Ticket At Comerica Park
Will Cost $27.50 During '11 Season
The Tigers are "raising ticket prices for 2011, the first price hike at Comerica Park in three years," according to Lynn Henning of the DETROIT NEWS. Two weeks before "invoices are to be sent to season-ticket holders, the average premium ticket will get a $2.20 boost, with the average seat overall being hiked" by $0.97. There will be a "price decrease for 4,300 seats." The average price for a Tigers ticket in '11 "will be $27.50." There will be 17 separate price points "between the highest- and lowest-priced seats, with the $5 ticket remaining for all games." The "high-end ticket in 2011 will be prime-time box seats for so-called 'premium' games against the Tigers' marquee opponents." Those seats "will move from $77 to $82, while mainstream lower-deck box seats will get a boost from $70 to $73." Although the Tigers "have not formally announced the price hike," team sources said that "higher overhead has made a slight increase necessary" (DETROIT NEWS, 10/30).
In N.Y., Josh Kosman cited a source as saying that Tigers and Red Wings Owner Mike Ilitch is "expected to seal the deal" on his purchase of the Pistons with a bid of more than $450M. However, a second source said that the final price "will be less than that, once last-minute negotiations are completed." Kosman reported in the past year, "as many as nine teams -- or about 30 percent of the league -- have been put on the block," and sources said that "four other teams may not find buyers." Two sources said that the Bucks "could be had for the right price," but there is "limited interest" in the team. But Bucks Owner Herb Kohl through a spokesperson said that the team is "not for sale." The Hawks also reportedly "have been seeking a buyer for months" (N.Y. POST, 10/30).
Arison's (r) Heat Seen As Most Stable
Pro Sports Franchise In South Florida
MODEL OWNER: In West Palm Beach, Ethan Skolnick wrote since Owner Micky Arison took over the Heat in '95, the team "has been the model professional sports franchise in South Florida -- the most stable, most innovative, most consistently successful." CAA's Henry Thomas, who reps Heat G Dwyane Wade and Fs Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem, said of Arison, "Dealing with him as many years as I have, I don't think there's any better owner out there. In terms of how he approaches his job, how he allows his basketball guys to do what they do, and then he comes in when it's necessary to come in." Skolnick wrote the Heat now have a "chance to become a long-standing power, and Arison has plenty to do with that" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 10/31).
SAVING GRACE: In Ft. Worth, Clarence Hill Jr. cited a source as saying that Cowboys coach Wade Phillips' firing is "just a matter of when, not if." But the "mitigating factor is the unsettled labor situation and the possibility of a lockout shortly after the Super Bowl," which Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones "alluded to last week when he emphatically predicted that no team in the league would make an in-season change this year." A Cowboys source said, "Tell me how the lockout is going to go and I will tell you what we are going to do. Nobody wants to pay a new coach to do nothing" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 10/31).
FOLLOW THE LEADER: In London, Duncan White reported EPL clubs are "starting to look at American methods of using statistical analysis to help improve performance and recruitment," and Liverpool "will be a fascinating test case" under the new ownership of Red Sox Owner John Henry. New England Sports Ventures has "yet to decide how the club's executive team will be set up but it is understood that Henry wants to take an active role in defining the football strategy." NESV Chair Tom Werner "has spoken of the need to find value in the transfer market and they will try to apply the intellectually rigorous methods that were so successful in Boston" (London TELEGRAPH, 10/31).