SBD/April 1, 2011/MLB Season Preview

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  • Yankees Maintain Highest Team Payroll; 12 Teams Crack $100M Threshold

    A record 12 MLB teams "have payrolls of more than $100 million" at the start of the '11 season, and while the Yankees "reduced their payroll from a year ago by $3 million to $203 million," they still lead all MLB teams, according to Nightengale & Boeck of USA TODAY. The Phillies and Red Sox, who "each committed more than $125 million in free agency last winter, are as close to the Yankees as any teams have been since 2002." The Phillies' Opening Day payroll is $173M after the addition of P Cliff Lee, while the Red Sox' signing of LF Carl Crawford bumped their payroll to $161.8M. The average player salary is $3.3M, up 1% from '10. Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez again leads all players with a $32M salary (USA TODAY, 4/1).

    TEAM
    PAYROLL
    TEAM
    PAYROLL
    Yankees
    $202.7M
    Mariners
    $86.5M
    Phillies
    $173M
    Brewers
    $85.5M
    Red Sox
    $161.8M
    Orioles
    $85.3M
    Angels
    $138.5M
    Reds
    $75.9M
    White Sox
    $127.8M
    Astros
    $70.7M
    Cubs
    $125M
    A's
    $66.5M
    Mets
    $118.8M
    Nationals
    $63.9M
    Giants
    $118.2M
    Blue Jays
    $62.6M
    Twins
    $112.7M
    Marlins
    $56.9M
    Tigers
    $105.7M
    D'Backs
    $53.6M
    Cardinals
    $105.4M
    Indians
    $49.2M
    Dodgers
    $104.2M
    Padres
    $45.9M
    Rangers
    $92.3M
    Pirates
    $45M
    Rockies
    $88.1M
    Rays
    $41.1M
    Braves
    $87M
    Royals
    $36.1M

    RECORD-SETTING FIGURES: In St. Louis, Joe Strauss reports the Cardinals' payroll is a "franchise record for the start of a season." Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said that the payroll figure "squared with a projection" made by himself and Chair Bill DeWitt Jr. after last season. Mozeliak: "It was all about allocation. Both Bill and I realized it was going to take a large investment to change the dynamics of what we were doing" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/1)....In Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt noted 1B Prince Fielder and P Zack Greinke combine for "nearly 33% of the Brewers' franchise-record" payroll. Fielder's $15.5M salary is the "highest single-season salary in club history" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 3/31).

    PAYROLL COULD GO UP: D'Backs President & CEO Derrick Hall sat for a Q&A with the ARIZONA REPUBLIC's Nick Piecoro and was asked whether the team would increase its payroll "if things go the way you anticipate things going this season budget-wise." Hall said, "Anything we do -- there are other streams I'm looking at right now to increase revenue -- that's going to go right into the product on the field and go into major league payroll. If we are successful this year and if our revenues are strong, at least on projection, if we're in a position where we need to make moves, we're going to do it and add to the payroll" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/1).

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  • YES Network, DirecTV Face Friday Deadline For Renewal Of Carriage Deal

    Tigers-Yankees game on Sunday is scheduled to air on YES Network

    While SportsNet N.Y. and Dish Network are "negotiating for a renewal of a carriage deal" that was set to expire at midnight Thursday night, YES Network and DirecTV are "doing the same while facing" a Friday deadline, according to CABLEFAX DAILY. YES "has run an on-air spot alerting customers to a potential blackout on DirecTV, addresses the situation on its Website and has had its on-air talent mention the matter as well." DirecTV "stressed that it plans to keep YES on its lineup during negotiations and said to blame the net if darkness occurs, statements about which the net had no comment." Dish has never distributed YES. Meanwhile, there was no word from either Dish or SNY "concerning their own talks, and from both YES and MSG about any ongoing negotiations with Dish." MSG and MSG Plus "have been dark on Dish since Oct 1" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 4/1). Saturday's Tigers-Yankees game will air on Fox, but Sunday's matchup is on YES (NEWSDAY, 4/1). In Albany, Pete Dougherty wrote DirecTV "generally has a good track record in negotiations with sports networks ... but this one will be tricky." Dougherty: "While I try to stay optimistic that this dispute won't get to the point where YES gets pulled off the air, you can tell by the comments on the blog that people are not happy about recent price increases from DirecTV. The YES demands could create another rise in costs" (TIMESUNION.com, 3/31).

    NO CALLS TO KEEP QUIET: Mets TV play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen said he does not feel "one iota of pressure" about broadcasting the team's games this season on SportsNet N.Y. amid the ongoing off-field issues facing the team. Cohen: "I don't think it will be different for me at all. I'm a baseball broadcaster and we're going to be broadcasting a season of baseball beginning Friday night." In N.Y., Bob Raissman notes Cohen is "not oblivious to what's going on with the Wilpons," as he "outlined the Madoff situation early in the first spring training broadcast on SNY." The situation also was "discussed during subsequent spring training telecasts." Cohen said of his broadcast partners Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling, "We have no muzzles on us. All three of us feel free to express opinions on what we feel strongly about. The problem here is you're talking about a subject we don't have any expertise in." Raissman writes viewers during SNY's coverage of Friday's Mets-Marlins game can "expect Cohen to present an overview of ownership's financial situation and all relevant developments." Raissman: "There will be more questions as the days of this season pass and spring turns into summer. The only certainty here is that the story of the Wilpons, Madoff and Irving Picard ain't going away anytime soon" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/1).

    NO PROGRESS ON PADRES PICK-UP: In San Diego, Mike Freeman notes some Padres fans are "frustrated that cable's monopoly on carrying the games locally remains in place despite 10 months of negotiations between Cox Communications and rival pay TV providers." Cox is "in the final year of a 10-year exclusive TV rights deal with the ballclub in San Diego County," and the MSO broadcasts 140-145 games annually on Channel 4 San Diego. Cox "licenses Channel 4 to Time Warner Cable and a few other small cable systems who aren't direct competitors," but "for years it refused to provide the content to head-to-head rivals DirecTV, Dish Network and AT&T U-Verse." Regulators last year "closed the loophole" that allowed that to happen, and Cox "announced in June that it would enter talks with DirecTV, Dish and AT&T." But "since then, most involved have been mum about the talks." Local subscribers to AT&T's U-Verse and satellite TV services "had gotten their hopes up that a deal would be reached by opening day," but now they "feel let down" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/1).

    Print | Tags: YES Network, DirecTV, MLB Season Preview
  • Country Strong: A's Switch Flagship To KBWF-FM After Talks With KTRB Fall Through

    A's pregame show will be cut from 60 to 45 minutes with the switch to KBWF

    The A's announced a four-year agreement Thursday for KBWF-FM to be "their new flagship radio station," according to Joe Stiglich of the OAKLAND TRIBUNE. The agreement takes effect with Friday's regular-season opener against the Mariners, and "all of the team's pregame and postgame programming elements remain intact." The announcement "ends the uncertainty that surrounded the A's radio situation after their efforts to purchase" previous flagship station KTRB-AM dissolved. A's VP/Broadcasting & Communications Ken Pries said that the team "had signed a letter of intent a month ago to purchase KTRB, which is in receivership." But Pries contends that about 10 days ago, KTRB's receiver "changed terms of the agreement and scrapped plans to broadcast the A's this season when the team didn't agree to the new terms." The asking price for the station "was reported to be as high as $12 million at one point, but it's not known if the A's offer approached that neighborhood." Stiglich notes the A's will be a "supplemental piece in KBWF's country format." The team's "pregame show, for instance, will be reduced from an hour to 45 minutes." But Pries said that A's fans "will benefit from KBWF's strong signal" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 4/1). In S.F., Susan Slusser reports the A's bid for KTRB was believed to be "in the range" of $7M, which sources indicated was "more than double KTRB's likely worth." In addition, the A's were "preparing to spend an additional $2 million to upgrade the nighttime transmitter." Pries: "In one sense, it's too bad we're not in control of our own radio station, which we would have preferred, but there's also a sense of relief that we don't have to take on the obligations and problems of the station as a whole" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/1).

    STAYING IN BOSTON: WEEI-AM and Entercom Thursday announced that Dave O'Brien has "agreed to a contract extension to remain in the Red Sox radio booth for the foreseeable future." O'Brien, also the play-by-play voice for ESPN's "Wednesday Night Baseball," confirmed that the WEEI deal "begins next year and is for three years with a fourth-year option." O'Brien, who is "absent from 25-30 Sox broadcasts a season because of his ESPN duties, is appreciative of the flexibility his employers provide" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/1).

    FINAL COUNTDOWN? On Long Island, Neil Best notes Suzyn Waldman's status as a Yankees broadcaster for WCBS-AM is uncertain with her contract expiring at the end of this season, and she said that she "has not gotten any indication from management about her future and has not sought one." Waldman, in her 25th season covering the Yankees, said that she "has not tired of the grind and would like to continue 'until they tell me to go away.'" Best notes with the "possible exception of WFAN host Mike Francesa, there are no more reliable lightning rods in local sports media than Waldman and John Sterling," whose contract also is up at the end of '11. This is the "first full season after the death of George Steinbrenner, who was loyal to both radio voices, Waldman in particular" (NEWSDAY, 4/1).

    Print | Tags: Oakland Athletics, MLB Season Preview
  • MLB Media Notes: FS Midwest Apologizes For Opening Day Mistake

    FS Midwest cut away from Cardinals starting-lineup introduction

    In St. Louis, Dan Caesar reports FS Midwest is "apologizing for a snafu in its coverage of the pregame festivities" before Thursday's Padres-Cardinals season opener. As the players in the starting lineup "were being introduced Thursday, FSM cut to a taped introduction of the game telecast, then went to commentary from the announcers in the broadcast booth" just after Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols -- "who has been the subject of contract haggling that has angered some fans -- received loud cheers from the crowd." Viewers were "left in the dark as the rest of the lineup was introduced." FSM Senior VP & GM Jack Donovan: "It was a mistake for us to cut away during the introduction of the lineup, and we apologize to Cardinals fans" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/1).

    SEEKING MORE STREAMERS: MLBAM President & CEO Bob Bowman said that MLB.tv "will attract between 1.5 and 2 million subscribers during the upcoming season." However, MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds wrote it is a number MLBAM "would clearly like to expand," as Bowman noted it is "only 5% of those who visit" MLB.com. Meanwhile, the Yankees and Padres are currently the only two teams who stream their games locally, and Bowman said that "talks continue with Fox, 'where we might be able to get 13 teams." But Bowman noted Fox Sports Media Group co-President & COO Randy Freer "gets most of his money" from subscriber fees. Bowman: "It's complicated" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 3/30).

    BACK IN THE BOOTH: In Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt notes Brewers radio announcer Bob Uecker during Thursday's Brewers-Reds game "was back in the radio booth for his 56th consecutive opening day as a player and broadcaster." Uecker last year "knew he was headed for heart surgery," and a "decision was made to do it in late April." His recovery "went anything but smoothly," as he "developed a staph infection at the site of the heart valve replacement, causing it to begin leaking again." He had been "preparing to take a postseason trip to Florida when he decided instead to go in for a checkup." Uecker: "Had I not gone for that checkup, I would have died, no doubt." Haudricourt notes Uecker "has gained back most of the 24 pounds he lost after those two surgeries and looks and feels much healthier" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 4/1).

    OPENING DAY JITTERS: In DC, Tracee Hamilton writes Nationals TV broadcaster Bob Carpenter and new analyst F.P. Santangelo, who is replacing Rob Dibble, so far "seem too similar" on the team's broadcasts. Carpenter during Thursday's Braves-Nationals game at times "almost had to interview Santangelo to get him to contribute to the conversation." But Hamilton writes, "A broadcast team is not unlike a married couple: It's going to take them some time to get into a groove. ... What these two need more than anything is time -- time to get to know each other's ebbs and flows on the air, time to get to know each other off the air as well" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/1).

    NEW SEASON, NEW ROLE: In Baltimore, Van Valkenburg & Meoli report MASN's Amber Theoharis is "shifting to a new role this year" during Orioles broadcasts. Theoharis, who has served in the on-field role since the net's inception, will now be "focusing on interviews and features" for the net's "Mid-Atlantic Sports Report." The move is due to Theoharis having a baby last October. Theoharis said that the net "offered her the chance to return to her sideline reporting job, but she reluctantly declined" (Baltimore SUN, 4/1).

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  • MLB Roundtable: Writers Discuss Hot-Button Issues Facing League

    MLB enters the '11 season with plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of the game. The league is riding an unprecedented wave of labor peace, while also witnessing the rise of several young stars poised to become the new faces of the national pastime. But the sport is not without its trouble spots. As the season commences, questions over the Dodgers' and Mets’ ownership situations continue to be a cause for concern, and the Rays and A's are still searching for ballpark solutions. Also, the Red Sox' and Phillies' offseason acquisitions have renewed the debate over the gap between the haves and have-nots in the league. To put all of the hot-button issues into perspective, THE DAILY offers a writers’ roundtable with national and local writers.


    Q:
    Will the labor tranquility in MLB continue?

    ESPN's Buster Olney: Yes, because the working relationship between the players and MLB has probably never been stronger. The players and teams are splitting a lot of money, and I have thought that perhaps the strife in the NFL and NBA is almost an affirmation for the folks involved in baseball's labor talks. They must be thinking, "Thank God we've already been through that."

    SI.com's Tom Verducci: Yes. The owners have stopped tilting at the salary cap windmill and have seen revenues rise in great part because of 16 years of uninterrupted labor peace. There are no issues on the table this time that appear big enough and troublesome enough to cause a shutting down of the game.

    L.A. Times' Bill Shaikin: Yes. Baseball owners long ago gave up the fight for a salary cap, so the prevailing question is not how much revenue to share with players but how owners share revenue among themselves. With MLB generating $7 billion per year in revenue -- and holding steady even in a deep recession, with tremendous fortunes to come via MLBAM -- there is no compelling reason for owners to shut down the game for an intramural fight.

    Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal: Yes. Too much at stake for a stoppage and the issues in baseball aren't as pronounced as they are, say, in the NFL. The baseball owners, for example, know they're not getting a salary cap. Revenue sharing needs to be tweaked, but that's more of an owner-owner issue than an owner-player issue. But the other issues -- the future of the draft, for example -- are not the kind that will bring the game to a halt.

    ESPN N.Y.’s Andrew Marchand: Labor tranquility will continue. The Players Association and the Commissioner’s Office know that they have a really good financial thing going. With revenues growing and salaries staying high, I don’t think you will see either side trying to make drastic changes to the financial system. 
     

    The Yankees have the highest payroll in MLB, while
    the Rays reduced their payroll by 40% this year
    Q: Is the disparity growing between the rich and the poor teams?

    Olney: The disparity is growing, but I think that generally, all the teams involved are at peace with this, because they know it's not going to change. The Rays are never going to spend as much money as the Yankees -- and they all know that the only way they could would be if the system was blown up (with major labor strife).

    Verducci: This is a continuing issue in baseball because the sport is intensely local and dependent on the size of the market. New ballparks have helped smaller revenue clubs, but the gap continues to widen because the big markets can generate money on a much larger scale because of higher ticket prices, advertising and especially where there is ownership of regional sports networks.

    Rosenthal: Yes, but not only in a financial sense. That has existed for some time now. The bigger problem perhaps is that some of the rich teams are now operating as efficiently as some of the smarter poor teams, making the gap seem even wider. The one thing the poor teams could count on in the past was the inefficiency of many of the wealthier clubs.

    Sporting News’ Anthony Witrado: It’s not growing to the point where it’s all of the sudden a new problem. The disparity has always been there but success by teams like Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Cincinnati show there is still enough parity to not cause a panic.

    St. Petersburg Times’ Marc Topkin: I don't know that the disparity itself is growing, or can grow any larger, but the gap between the teams has increased because the rich teams are getting smarter. They are operating under many of the same principles that the smaller-market teams do, which means they are getting even more for their money, and increasing their advantage over the small-market teams.

    Q: Will the playoffs be expanded this season?

    Olney: It won't be expanded for this season, but I think it'll be expanded for 2012. When Bud Selig suggests something might happen, as he has in this case, it usually means the decision has already been made.

    Verducci: No. The owners want to run this by the players, so it's being folded into CBA talks. The earliest you will see expanded playoffs is 2012. Baseball's TV partners aren't crazy about adding to the inventory of non-clinching playoff games, so the appetite for a three-game series between second-place teams is tepid. A one-game knockout round -- March Madness style -- makes much more sense.

     

    Q: What is the Rays' future in the Tampa area if a new ballpark deal is not completed?

    Topkin: Ugly. Principal owner Stu Sternberg had made it clear that the team can't stay in Tropicana Field for the full term of the lease -- through 2027. So if there isn't a deal for a new ballpark, there are likely to be threats of moving the team or eliminating the team through contraction, with MLB playing the heavy and the possibility of lawsuits and counter suits and excessive public discourse. The issue is complex because the lease is with the city of St. Petersburg and the mayor, at least thus far, won't allow the team to look at other sites in the Tampa Bay area that are outside the city limits -- i.e., Tampa. And the Rays have said they won't look at new sites in St. Petersburg unless they can look at all sites in the area.

    Marchand: The future doesn’t look good. The Rays are magicians in how they run their franchise, but David Price spoke for his teammates last year when he lamented how empty the Trop was when the Rays were clinching the division. It is the location that is the problem. If there is not a new stadium, then the Rays may have to go elsewhere or be contracted.

    Q:
    Will the Mets owners’ financial troubles overshadow this season?
    Witrado: Absolutely. The team stood still this offseason because of those troubles and it is simply in a hope-to-contend mode and if it does not, then don’t expect any upgrades. The team has already eaten big contracts before the season started and could do more of that during the season.
    Marchand: There is no doubt that the Wilpons’ financial troubles will not only overshadow the Mets’ season, but it will define it. Unless in the unlikely event the Mets somehow contend for the division or the wild card, the financial question will be raised in every move the Mets make from Francisco Rodriguez’ usage (he has a $17.5 million option that kicks in if he finishes 55 games) to if they will trade free-agent-to-be Jose Reyes, to any other noticeable financial shortcuts the team takes.
    Sporting News’ Stan McNeal: If they win, the financial troubles will become secondary to what happens on the field. If they lose, financial troubles will remain on the media's front burner. They likely will try harder to trade high-salaried players such as Carlos Beltran. If they trade David Wright, we'll know just how serious the financial troubles are.

       

    The McCourts' legal battle over ownership of the
    Dodgers will continue into regular season
    Q: How much of an impact, if any, has the McCourts' divorce and subsequent ownership battle played in the Dodgers' offseason?

    Verducci: I don't see much of a short-term impact in baseball operations, though long-term investments, such as long-term contracts and international signings, could be compromised.

    Shaikin: The Dodgers increased their payroll significantly from last season, and they were active in free agency. They stayed out of the bidding for the marquee free agents, including Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee, but even before the divorce, the Dodgers had not signed any players to $100 million contracts under McCourt ownership. The Dodgers won't say how far their season-ticket sales have fallen, but it would be difficult to separate the impact of the divorce proceedings from the impact of a lousy season in 2010. Ultimately, the issue might be one of perception: If the Dodgers play well and fans stay away, would that indicate fans are tired of the McCourts and anxious for new owners? Or, if the Dodgers play poorly, would fans blame not just the manager and general manager but the ownership?


    Q: A’s Owner Lew Wolff has previously denied his interest in buying the Dodgers should they be available for sale. Do you think he would change his mind if no ballpark option is found for his team in the next year?   

    Verducci: He is focused on San Jose. I think he will have to explore other options if the door closes on moving there.

    Rosenthal: That situation is fluid, to say the least!   

    Q: Which young player will become the most marketable face of MLB in the next five years?

    Olney: The 25-year-old Felix Hernandez, who has climbed from being a really good pitcher to being a dominant pitcher. He's got a great personality, and he either is going to command a Ripken-like respect for his desire to stay in one city, or he will be traded by the Mariners in a couple of years to New York or Boston, where he will gain star power.

    Verducci: So much depends on postseason exposure, especially the World Series. Tim Lincecum and Buster Posey of the Giants are off to a good start. Robinson Cano of the Yankees has the advantages of the New York market, tremendous talent and a great smile that makes him so accessible. And keep an eye on Bryce Harper of the Nationals, who could be in the big leagues next year and is one of the rare players in the sport who has a national profile before even playing a game in the big leagues.

    Rosenthal: Troy Tulowitzki would be perfect -- he's a model player on and off the field. But I'm not sure a player in Colorado would get that kind of marketing attention. Buster Posey would be another good choice.

    Witrado: There are a lot of options, but I think guys like Joey Votto, David Price, Prince Fielder and Matt Kemp, if he can produce and stay out of the dog house, are the next faces of the game.

    McNeal: Bryce Harper, Nationals.

    Print | Tags: MLB Season Preview
  • Rangers See Unprecedented Demand For Tickets To Friday's Home Opener

    Rangers have already sold more than 1.5 million tickets this season

    The Rangers have "generated never-before-seen demand for tickets" to Friday's home opener against the Red Sox, according to Leigh Munsil of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Rangers Exec VP/Communications John Blake: "It was an unprecedented demand that we had never experienced before for an opener. You might be able to make a point that there was more demand for this game than there may have been for postseason games." Blake noted that the increased demand for Opening Day tickets "prompted the club to hold a lottery in February for the 'considerably less than 10,000' tickets still available for individual sale after season ticket packages were distributed." The lottery, the first in club history, resulted in 120,000 entries, and the club "turned away thousands of disappointed fans." The game as of Wednesday was the "third-hottest ticket of its kind on the secondary market." FanSnap.com Dir of Corporate Communications Christian Anderson indicated that the "only higher-priced opening day games" are the Red Sox' April 8 home opener against the Yankees and the Giants' April 8 home opener against the Cardinals. Anderson added that the average ticket price for Red Sox-Rangers was $207 as of Wednesday, and the "cheapest standing room spot was $60." Munsil noted as of Wednesday there were "1,000 or so tickets still available for Saturday -- when the players will be presented with their American League Championship rings." Also, "4,000 tickets are available for Sunday." The Rangers have already sold "almost 1.5 million tickets for the 2011 season," up 66% over the same point last year. Blake noted the team "did not reach 1.5 million tickets sold last year until June 22" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/31).

    PLAYOFF PAYOFF: In Ft. Worth, Randy Galloway wrote after a decade of "mostly sagging attendance and interest, the Rangers are by far the hottest ticket in town." The 1.5 million tickets sold is the "highest opening day total in a decade," and new Rangers season-ticket sales have "reached 3,500, more than the last five seasons combined." The team also has "surpassed the 15,000 mark in full season ticket equivalents for the first time since 2001." Galloway: "The powerful and emotional surge for baseball that exploded in October and into November ... has carried over rather well." This is despite Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban admitting that the "current local market is as tough a sell as he's seen for his NBA club that keeps winning its 50 plus games a season." The Rangers also had a "docile, uneventful, uninspiring off-season, followed by a tepid spring training," but fans "didn't prove to be skeptics when it came to the hip pocket" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/31).

    QUIET MONEY MEN: In Dallas, Barry Horn notes Rangers co-Chairs Ray Davis and Bob Simpson are the two men who "rescued the Rangers last summer when they led a partnership group that bought the team out of bankruptcy." But during last season's World Series run, the two "never set foot in the front-row owners box next to the home-team dugout at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington." Davis and Simpson "tiptoed out front when they flanked" team President & CEO Nolan Ryan at the news conference to announce that former Managing Partner & CEO Chuck Greenberg was leaving the franchise, and Davis in his opening remarks "pointed out he was attending his first Rangers news conference and probably his last." But Davis said that he and Simpson "are scheduled to be on the field" when the Rangers receive their ALCS rings on Saturday (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/1).

    STILL IN HICKS' HANDS: In Dallas, Jeff Mosier reported though former Rangers Owner Tom Hicks "no longer has a stake in the team he lost in a bankruptcy court auction last year," most parking at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is "still in Hicks' hands." Arlington Deputy City Manager Troy Yelverton said that the two sides are "still negotiating lease terms as this season approaches." Yelverton added that "all the contracts with Hicks' companies and the Rangers specify that there must be parking for the baseball games," and that even if contract talks "continue into the season ... fans shouldn't see any difference" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/31).

    Print | Tags: Texas Rangers, Baseball, Franchises
  • Offseason Acquisitions Helping Boost Red Sox’, Brewers’ Bottom Lines

    Red Sox' signing of Gonzalez paying dividends across multiple metrics

    The Red Sox’ active offseason, highlighted by the additions of LF Carl Crawford and 1B Adrian Gonzalez, has renewed excitement in Fenway Park and has led to an across-the-board growth in the team’s major business metrics. Merchandise sales are up 10% at the team's Yawkey Way Store over last year, and Red Sox Exec VP & COO Sam Kennedy said the addition of Crawford and Gonzalez has been a “huge factor in that uplift.” Kennedy noted a T-shirt featuring Crawford’s name and number has been the team’s "hottest seller" so far, but other areas are also seeing growth. "The old adage of the rising tide lifting all ships applies because our business is up across the board," he said. "Not just Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford name and number T-shirts, but all categories are up." The excitement has spilled over to sponsorship sales. Kennedy noted the team is up about 7% in sponsor revenue, and he expects to have slightly more than 100 companies on board this season. New sponsors include Hyundai, Nikon and ADT. "With the re-commitment to continuing to spend dollars, some new sponsors and existing sponsors have renewed to support the team," explained Kennedy. The sight of empty seats during some late-season games at Fenway Park and a 38% drop in TV ratings on NESN suggested the team was in need of a boost this offseason. The big-ticket offseason acquisitions and the increased expectations for this year’s team mean the club will likely continue its MLB record 631–game sellout streak at Fenway Park into the foreseeable future. The Red Sox have sold 2.65 million tickets for the upcoming season, on par with totals at this point last year. But there has been a big bump in premium seating sales, up 35% over last season. "This is my 10th season in Boston," said Kennedy. "I think it's safe to say for a variety of factors this is one of the more highly anticipated baseball seasons that we've experienced."

    SOMETHING GOOD BREWIN’: The Red Sox were not the only team to make a big splash this offseason acquiring players. The Phillies made headlines by surprisingly signing P Cliff Lee, and the Brewers made an equally unexpected move in trading for P Zack Greinke. Milwaukee's addition of Greinke has helped them post growth across several business metrics, including setting a new record regarding merchandise sales heading into the season. Greinke leads the team in merchandise sales, and Brewers COO Rick Schlesinger said, "He's been number one in jersey sales and T-shirt sales since we traded for him, and that number is not diminishing." The team also has set a record for sponsorship revenue, which Schlesinger expects to be up 10% over last year. Though the club begins the season with fewer sponsors than last season, first-year and returning sponsors are spending more. With the addition of Greinke, the team also is seeing gains in ticket sales. The Brewers in both '08 and '09 drew more than 3 million fans, and they hope to do so again in '11 after a drop last season. Schlesinger noted the club is up 7% in ticket sales and 5-8% in the season-, individual- and group-ticket categories. He noted after the December trade for Greinke, the team immediately revised its attendance forecast. "I told our sales staff that whatever might have been our budget is no longer our budget and we should all be focusing on 3 million," said Schlesinger. He feels the Greinke acquisition is sending a powerful message about the franchise. "We may not be the biggest market in baseball, but we're planning on playing with the big boys in the fall," Schlesinger said. "Greinke I think is a symbol of the commitment of the team and ownership to doing what it takes to win."

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  • Making Progress: At Least Two Minority Bids For Mets Have Been Submitted

    At least two bids for minority shares of the Mets, without any option to assume control for the team, have been submitted to the team’s investment banker, Allen & Co., a key source said. Allen & Co. declined to comment. With the market rife with talk for weeks that the Mets would not be able to sell a minority share in the team, especially one not tied to the club’s RSN SportsNet N.Y., the team has received such bids. However, whether they are for the amount embattled Mets Owner Fred Wilpon is looking for, this source would not say. Financial sources said Wilpon had in recent days agreed conceptually to a deal that might include pathway to control, but this source said that decision has not been made. Wilpon, an investor with Bernie Madoff, is being sued by the bankruptcy trustee in that case for more than $1B in ill-gotten gains. Allen & Co. has 10-12 active bidders it is dealing with. This source said that the process should be finished in the next week, and a decision will be made soon after. It is possible if one of those bidders unsolicited offered a significant sum for control, and a much smaller offer for a minority share, then Wilpon might evaluate that, this source said. Wilpon has been looking to raise $200M in the sale of the minority interest and by all accounts does not want to give up control (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).

    TURTLE WAX: In N.Y., Michael O’Keeffe reports a group of bidders for a minority share of the Mets that includes "Entourage" Exec Producer Doug Ellin “has star power.” Sources said that if the group can reach a deal with the Wilpon family to buy a share in the club, Ellin “will enlist actors Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon and Ed Burns to bring their star power to Citi Field.” Connolly said that the actors “are willing to do whatever Ellin and his partners ask them if the group purchases a stake in the Mets” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/1).

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  • Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg Has Some Fun In A Lighthearted Q&A

    Sternberg has been told he looks like Tom Hanks or Martin Hewitt

    Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg recently sat with the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES’ Marc Topkin for their annual lighthearted Q&A session. Below are excerpts from the interview:

    Q: Since there's now a book out about the Rays, let's go ahead and cast a movie. Who plays you?
    Sternberg: I've been told I look like Tom Hanks, or Martin Hewitt, who was in the movie "Endless Love." 

    Q: Manager Joe Maddon?
    Sternberg: How about (late longtime comedian) George Gobel?

    Q: Team president Matt Silverman?
    Sternberg: (After some talk of Anson Williams, who played Potsie in "Happy Days") Let's go with Steve Carell, from "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."

    Q: Executive VP Andrew Friedman?
    Sternberg: Jesse Eisenberg.

    Q: In your five-plus years of ownership, what is the decision you are most proud of?
    Sternberg: Hiring the senior executives that I did, specifically Andrew, Matt, Brian (Auld, VP business operations) and Mike (Kalt, VP development and business affairs).
     
    Q: And what has been the worst?
    Sternberg: Trying to keep signing a designated hitter. It's always going to come back to that. Also, we had key night, where we made up Rays keys with a burst on them and people could take them and get their house keys made. I was the lone wolf on that, and it didn't go over well.

    Q: How do you respond if someone says, "You're a rich guy, why did you cut the payroll so much?"
    Sternberg: It shouldn't have been that high in the first place (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 4/1).

    NO PLACE LIKE HOME: The Rays announced Thursday that their home opener Friday against the Orioles will be a sellout. A ST. PETERSBURG TIMES editorial notes the crowd “will find new food choices, a new playing surface and plenty of new players,” but what the franchise “needs to ensure its long-term future in the region is a serious conversation about a new stadium.” The editorial: “The more time passes, the less leverage the region has, the more discouraged the Rays get and the more likely Tampa Bay fans could wake up one day without progressive team ownership or even a baseball team to cheer for on opening day” (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 4/1).

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  • MLB Franchise Notes: Mariners Remembering Late Broadcaster Dave Niehaus

    "Entourage" Exec Producer Doug Ellin reportedly interested in Mets stake

    In Seattle, Danny O’Neil noted a “patch on the Mariners' right sleeves” this season will honor longtime broadcaster Dave Niehaus, who died in December. That patch is a black oval with "DAVE, My Oh My!" stitched in white, along with “the image of an old-time microphone.” The patches “will be available at Mariners team stores, for $10, beginning April 8, the day of the Mariners' home opener.” Proceeds will benefit the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/31).

    A DAY IN THE PARK: In California, John Maffei notes the Padres “will show every televised road game this season on the big screen at the Park in the Park at Petco Park.” All of the “elements of the public park will remain open for 'Away at the Park,' including Picnic Hill, the beach area, the youth baseball field and the children's tot lot adjacent to J Street.” Fans can also “bring leashed dogs” (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 4/1).

    DON’T BANK ON IT: In Denver, Penny Parker reported FirstBank, the Denver-based company “that intended to give out free Rockies tickets for home games Friday, Saturday and Sunday, pulled the plug on the plan late Tuesday after a ‘miscommunication’ between the bank and the Rockies.” The tickets instead “were given to Mile High United Way, which handed them out to various charities to give to recipients of their services” (DENVER POST, 3/31).

    A BRAND NEW YEAR: In Cleveland, Bud Shaw writes under the header, “Opportunity Is There For Cleveland Indians To Win Back Some Fans.” Shaw: “Indians fans in 2011 need not be ardent believers convinced the glory days are a'comin. … Casual fans will do just fine. Present and breathing is enough to start out.” After three years of “hurt feelings, alienation and recrimination, Opening Day 2011 feels as much like a re-start in marriage counseling as it does a new beginning for town and team.” The Indians have “a lot” to do to “take advantage and win back some love and support.” Shaw: “More than they appear capable of given their youth, the team payroll and other not-so-piddling considerations” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 4/1).

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  • MLB Facility Notes: Rockies Spent $2.5M On Coors Field Upgrades For This Season

    New Rockies bar features open-seating area, tequila and nachos vendor

    In Denver, Jordan Steffen notes the Rockies spent $2.5M on updates to Coors Field for this season, including “the addition of a new bar and improvements to restaurants and other concession stands.” Among the additions is Camarena Loft, an "open-air bar on the northwest side of the ballpark.” The bar, which “required the removal of three rows of seats, features an open-seating area, tequila and a nachos vendor.” Also, the new Wazee Market “will offer fans brick-oven pizza and gelato.” Rockies Owner Dick Monfort said that the “price of some concessions will increase 25 to 50 cents” (DENVER POST, 4/1).

    DIRECT CONNECT: In Minneapolis, Michael Rand noted the Twins are “adding a free Wi-Fi network throughout Target Field that is expected to be fully functional on Opening Day” on April 8. The club is also “improving infrastructure that enables cellphone providers to beef up service to customers within the ballpark.” Target Field “will have more than 100 access points that cumulatively should handle up to 4,000 fans on the Wi-Fi network at once.” Rand wrote the Twins are “trying to keep up with the changing times, and seem to be ahead of the curve among most MLB teams.” Twins Corporate Communications Manager Chris Iles said that the Giants and AT&T Park “are the standard by which the Twins are measuring themselves” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/30). Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Margaret Newkirk noted AT&T is “installing Wi-Fi capability” at Turner Field after putting new antennas at the ballpark a few months ago. AT&T Corporate Communications Dir Dawn Benton said that the service is “free to everyone” (AJC.com, 3/29).

    I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW: The Mariners on Thursday unveiled new Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision LED video boards in Safeco Field that are on the wall of the Wells Fargo Terrace Club stretching from the Press Box down the first and third base lines, and above the Lower Outfield Reserved seats in right field. The new LED boards along the first and third base lines are over four-feet high, and total more than 734 feet in length. The video screen above the Outfield Reserved seats is 160-feet wide by six-feet high, combining the three previous static, lighted sponsor signs and matrix boards into one video display (Mariners).

    YEARLY UPKEEP: In Pittsburgh, Michael Machosky notes PNC Park “has a number of tweaks and small changes this year.” There is a “new vendor, the Memorabilia Store by Hunt Auctions, which has an array of game-used jerseys, autographs, vintage baseball cards, programs and tickets.” Flat-panel HDTVs “have replaced all the boxy old tube TVs throughout the stadium, and new energy-efficient lights help the park save energy” (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 4/1).

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  • Bevy Of Baseball-Themed Books Being Released Around Start Of MLB Season

    As the '11 MLB season begins, the following presents a list of baseball-themed books. Some of the following titles are already available on bookshelves, while others will be released in the coming weeks or months. View a more comprehensive list (THE DAILY).

    Remembering Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the home of the Boston Red Sox
    Author: Harvey Frommer
    Publisher: Stewart, Tabori & Chang
    Publishing Date: March, 2011
    The House that Ruth Built: A New Stadium, the First Yankees Championship, and the Redeption of 1923
    Author: Robert Weintraub
    Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
    Publishing Date: April, 2011
    Stan Musial: An American Life
    Author: George Vecsey
    Publisher: ESPN
    Publishing Date: May, 2011
    Nobody's Perfect: Two Men, One Call and a Game for Baseball History
    Author: Galarraga, Joyce & Paisner
    Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
    Publishing Date: May, 2011
    Taking the Field: A Fan's Quest to Run the Team He Loves
    Author: Howard Megdal
    Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
    Publishing Date: May, 2011

    RAYS OF LIGHT: USA TODAY's Steve Weinberg reviewed "THE EXTRA 2%" by JONAH KERI, a "combination baseball book and business book" that is "about the rise of the Rays." Keri's "dual expertise" of baseball and business "shows throughout the fascinating, well-written book." Author MICHAEL LEWIS eight years ago "reached best-seller status" with his book "Moneyball," a "combination baseball-business book" that focused on the A's. Weinberg: "It is often cited as a great book, and deservedly so. Keri's book is a worthy successor." The "wonder of Keri's book is that it holds interest for anybody interested in business successes and failures, because unlike most books 'about' baseball, it transcends baseball" (USA TODAY, 3/28). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Tim Marchman noted "so close is Mr. Keri's attention to the front office that he gives less than a page to the team's thrilling run through the 2008 postseason" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/19).

    REMEMBERING 'DEM BUMS: In Philadelphia, Stan Hochman wrote the best of the newly-released baseball biographies is NEIL LANCTOT's "CAMPY." The book tells the story of Baseball HOFer ROY CAMPANELLA, who "became the second African-American to be signed by the Dodgers." Campanella "played in JACKIE ROBINSON's huge shadow for years, and Lanctot describes the tense relationship between the men." Lanctot also "details the differences between the men, the jolly Campanella and the solemn Robinson." Hochman: "It's a thorough portrait, rich in detail, shimmering with warmth" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 3/30). BASEBALL AMERICA's James Bailey wrote the book "provides a balanced view of one of baseball's greats." It is a "strong read, and has staked its place as one of this year's notable biographies" (BASEBALLAMERICA.com, 3/23). Meanwhile, SI's Ben Reiter writes "so many unforgettably drawn characters populate JIMMY BRESLIN's wonderful" biography of Baseball HOFer BRANCH RICKEY that they "seemingly threaten to burst the book's slim binding." Rickey helped break MLB's color barrier by signing Robinson, a story that "has been told before, but never as colorfully or entertainingly as it is by Breslin." The book is "all good, all 146 pages of it." Reiter: "You might read a longer baseball book this year, but you won't read a better one" (SI, 4/4 issue).

    GUIDE TO THE SEASON: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Marchman reviewed several annual MLB guides, and wrote Baseball Prospectus has "for more than a decade produced perhaps the best of the yearly guides." What makes the book "worthwhile is the thought put into its 30 chapters, one for each major-league club, featuring a lengthy discussion of the team's recent performance as well as capsule write-ups of the major players." But Marchman wrote for "depth of insight" the choice is "THE HARDBALL TIMES BASEBALL ANNUAL." The book has "chapters on every team and fancy (if possibly superfluous) statistics," but the "emphasis of its various contributors tends to be on discursive writing about the game as it is played" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/31).

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  • MLB Names In The News: GQ Profiles Yankees Derek Jeter

    Jeter is the cover story
    for GQ's April edition
    Yankees SS DEREK JETER is profiled by Seth Mnookin in a cover story for the April edition of GQ magazine, and Mnookin notes Jeter will “always be best known as a leader, a champion, a class act in an era when athletes are expected to be cheaters and boors.” After earning “hundreds of millions of dollars in salary and endorsements, after building a 30,000-square-foot mansion in Tampa that the locals refer to as St. Jetersburg, after a string of famous girlfriends that stretches from MARIAH CAREY to MINKA KELLY, Jeter comes across as a genuine, down-to-earth good guy.” Mnookin: “He's TIGER without the car crash, KOBE without the rape trial, BRADY without the jilted pregnant girlfriend, A-ROD without the ... well, everything” (GQ, 4/ ’11 issue).

    PRESIDENTIAL PARDON
    : YAHOO SPORTS’ Kevin Kaduk noted PRESIDENT OBAMA “elected to skip his standing invitation to opening day festivities at Nationals Park -- or any other ballpark, for that matter.” The White House “didn’t cite an official reason for staying home, but it’s not too hard to speculate why he left the Nationals’ first pitch duties to representatives of the five branches of the armed forces this time.” Kaduk: “With the war going on in Libya and Japan still trying to recover from its natural disasters and nuclear threats, perhaps President Obama and his advisers felt it wouldn't be appropriate to take an afternoon off from his duties to create a frivolous headline with more serious matters at hand” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/31).

    RECOGNIZING A PIONEER: Baseball writer Murray Chass noted MLB and the MLBPA on Tuesday announced “a way of dealing with concussions” without “fanfare, without a hint that it was coming, without Congress or any other body or individual urging them to do something.” The two groups announced a new 7-day disabled list, and Chass wrote N.Y. Times reporter ALAN SCHWARZ' “name should be attached to the list because he singlehandedly has created the coverage of concussions in all sports.” Chass: “His has been the most remarkable feat in sports journalism history.” Schwarz has “done it for all sports and all levels of sports, from pee wee leaguers on up.” Chass: “When you read about what any sport is doing about concussions and other head injuries, think Alan Schwarz. No one paid any attention to those injuries before he began writing about them.” Chass also wrote MLB and the MLBPA deserve credit “for confronting the problem without being dragged kicking and screaming into doing something, as the National Football League had to be” (MURRAYCHASS.com, 3/31).

    NO REST FOR THE WEARY: MIKE O'HARA, one of two fans chosen by MLB to spend the '11 season in its Fan Cave, was featured on Thursday's episode of CBS' "The Early Show." CBS’ Chris Wragge asked, “Is it a little bit daunting to think that you have to watch over 2,400 Major League Baseball games? In the dog days of August -- no offense to the Nationals or Pirates -- but you’re going to have to sit through some dogs at some point, right?” O’Hara: “I love baseball. I’m a guy, like I saw ‘Ghostbusters’ 150 times. At least this will be different every time so it’s not a big deal” (“The Early Show,” CBS, 3/31).

    NAMES: Late Tigers announcer ERNIE HARWELL's voice "lives on," as Detroit Public Television is "circulating a link for a five-minute video it taped of Harwell reading 'Casey at the Bat' to a studio audience of children" in June '03 (CRAINSDETROIT.com, 3/31)....YES Network's and MLB Network's AL LEITER Thursday morning participated in the "daily bell-ringing ceremony" at the N.Y. Stock Exchange along with one of Anheuser-Busch's Clydesdales (MLB.com, 3/31)....Angels Chair DENNIS KUHL ran in Sunday's Angels 5K, and the 63-year-old "finished a respectable 10th in his age division with a time of 28 minutes, 10 seconds." He also recorded a "personal-best pace of a 9:03-minute mile" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/30).

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  • MLB Sees Slight Increase In Average Spring Training Attendance

    MLB teams averaged 6,717 fans per game during Spring Training, up 0.6% from last season. The Cactus League saw a 2.3% increase in average attendance to 6,867, while the Grapefruit League saw a slight dip in average attendance, down 1.1% to 6,568. The D'Backs and Rockies saw the biggest gains in their first seasons at their shared Salt River Fields at Talking Stick complex. The D'Backs drew 10,946 fans per game, up 64.7% from last season. The Rockies averaged 10,598 fans per game, up 102.1%. The chart below lists Spring Training attendance for every MLB team (THE DAILY).

    CACTUS LEAGUE
    TEAM
    '11
    GMS
    TOTAL
    AVG.
    '10
    GMS
    TOTAL
    AVG.
    +/-
    Arizona Diamondbacks
    19
    207,976
    10,946
    15
    99,698
    6,647
    64.7%
    Chicago Cubs
    17
    160,536
    9,443
    14
    152,493
    10,892
    -13.3%
    Chicago White Sox
    15
    91,749
    6,117
    13
    81,634
    6,280
    -2.6%
    Cincinnati Reds
    14
    53,050
    3,789
    16
    66,725
    4,170
    -9.1%
    Cleveland Indians
    16
    59,744
    3,734
    14
    61,240
    4,374
    -14.6%
    Colorado Rockies
    16
    169,571
    10,598
    15
    78,638
    5,243
    102.1%
    Kansas City Royals
    15
    72,900
    4,860
    15
    79,149
    5,277
    -7.9%
    Los Angeles Angels
    15
    88,413
    5,894
    16
    111,038
    6,940
    -15.1%
    Los Angeles Dodgers
    14
    103,114
    7,365
    14
    124,502
    8,893
    -17.2%
    Milwaukee Brewers
    16
    74,330
    4,646
    15
    79,651
    5,691
    -18.4%
    Oakland Athletics
    16
    80,145
    5,009
    15
    89,493
    5,966
    -16.0%
    San Diego Padres
    15
    75,906
    5,060
    14
    79,671
    5,691
    -11.1%
    San Francisco Giants
    16
    160,574
    10,036
    15
    155,819
    10,388
    -3.4%
    Seattle Mariners
    16
    112,338
    7,021
    14
    120,358
    8,597
    -18.3%
    Texas Rangers
    15
    103,507
    6,900
    14
    90,513
    6,465
    6.7%
    TOTALS
    235
    1,613,853
    6,867
    219
    1,470,622
    6,715
    2.3%
     
    GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE
    TEAM
    '11
    GMS
    TOTAL
    AVG.
    '10
    GMS
    TOTAL
    AVG.
    +/-
    Atlanta Braves
    17
    136,360
    8,021
    14
    106,065
    7,576
    5.9%
    Baltimore Orioles
    16
    115,417
    7,214
    15
    102,219
    6,815
    5.8%
    Boston Red Sox
    16
    120,613
    7,538
    16
    123,997
    7,750
    -2.7%
    Detroit Tigers
    17
    119,516
    7,030
    15
    112,560
    7,504
    -6.3%
    Florida Marlins
    16
    70,450
    4,403
    15
    72,574
    4,838
    -9.0%
    Houston Astros
    17
    65,367
    3,845
    15
    59,784
    3,986
    -3.5%
    Minnesota Twins
    16
    129,453
    8,091
    13
    104,712
    8,055
    0.4%
    New York Mets
    16
    87,413
    5,463
    17
    84,707
    4,983
    9.6%
    New York Yankees
    15
    163,085
    10,872
    15
    158,611
    10,574
    2.8%
    Philadelphia Phillies
    16
    153,377
    9,586
    14
    132,331
    9,452
    1.4%
    Pittsburgh Pirates
    16
    88,003
    5,500
    14
    68,184
    4,870
    12.9%
    St. Louis Cardinals
    15
    92,652
    6,177
    14
    96,910
    6,922
    -10.8%
    Tampa Bay Rays
    15
    87,291
    5,819
    15
    97,971
    6,531
    -10.9%
    Toronto Blue Jays
    15
    68,195
    4,546
    11
    52,550
    4,777
    -4.8%
    Washington Nationals
    15
    65,958
    4,397
    12
    54,452
    4,538
    -3.1%
    TOTALS
    238
    1,563,150
    6,568
    215
    1,427,627
    6,640
    -1.1%
    MLB TOTALS
    473
    3,177,003
    6,717
    434
    2,898,249
    6,678
    0.6%

    NOTE: Chart does not include games played outside of home spring training facilities or games against non-MLB opponents.

    Print | Tags: MLB Season Preview, MLB
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