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MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, speaking during the '11 MLB Draft last night in Secaucus, N.J., said once again he anticipates a hard-slotting system being implemented for draft pick compensation, as well as a worldwide draft. "I do believe there will be a hard-slotting system and a worldwide draft. I believe in them," Selig said, adding that clubs internally have overwhelmingly voted in favor of pursuing them. "Everybody [among clubs and management] is for slotting." The commissioner, however, did not say whether they will definitely happen in time for next year as a result of collective bargaining negotiations now occurring with the MLBPA, or even if the union will be receptive to the ideas. "Time will tell. ... But I'm confident we need it," Selig said. He added such a system would not necessarily result in a large wave of talented athletes choosing other sports due to pre-ordained compensation levels for baseball draftees. "The positives [with improved competitive balance] outweigh the negatives," he said (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). MLB.com's Mark Newman notes the "intent of hard-slotting would be to even the playing field for all clubs, fostering a system in which the top talents go to the teams with the first picks and eliminating the possibility of better players falling to teams that have larger budgets, due to bonus demands." When asked if he "thought a slotting system might hinder the ability to sign" multisport athletes in the future, Selig "shook his head." He said, "The clubs have voted, the GMs have voted, and everybody's for slotting" (MLB.com, 6/7).
INSIDE THE STUDIO: MLB Network broadcasted last night's Draft live for the third consecutive year from its Studio 42 in Secaucus. Similar to last year, the production included a one-hour pre-event show, look-ins to 22 team war rooms, up from 20 a year ago, and several HOFers on-site at MLB Network studios as team representatives. The Pirates selected UCLA P Gerrit Cole with the first overall pick, giving agent Scott Boras his third straight top overall selection following the Nationals taking P Stephen Strasburg in '09 and RF Bryce Harper a year ago. Despite the continued growth in the draft's prominence and importance, a MLB Network producer last night still sought to prompt the in-studio crowd to make more noise after Selig announced each pick, not unlike some other TV productions. His wording, however, generated some awkward laughter among the assembled fans. "Even if it's fake, it's good for TV," the producer said (Fisher).
The NFL asked a federal court late yesterday to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit filed against the league on March 11 by 10 players. U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson set a September 12 hearing on the motion. The NFL’s reply was due yesterday to the lawsuit, Brady, et al, v. NFL, which seeks to remove most free agency restrictions. The NFL in a two-page filing said it was seeking the dismissal “for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted (in whole or in part), or, in the alternative, for an order dismissing or staying the cases.” The cases refer to both the lawsuit brought by the Brady class, as well a separate one brought by four retired players. The NFL had asked the court to delay its reply until early July, when the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals may have ruled on the league’s appeal to overturn Nelson’s injunction lifting the lockout. The 8th Circuit has already stayed that ruling, and the league contended the appeal decision might provide the justification for dismissal of the antitrust lawsuit. The league apparently felt it already had enough justification to file the motion to dismiss. September 12 is the day after the first Sunday of the scheduled regular season. It is also six months and one day after the NFLPA decertified. That is significant because Judge Duane Benton, in questioning the NFL lawyer last week during the 8th Circuit appeal hearing, suggested six months might make sense as a grace period before the NFL’s exemption from antitrust laws under the labor laws might expire. The NFL asked for a year after decertification before the players would gain access to the antitrust laws (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).
GOING ABOUT IT THE WRONG WAY: ESPN.com's Mike Sando wrote some NFL coaches "resent the fact" that the NFLCA filed an amicus brief last month in support of the players "without soliciting more input from coaches or at least getting ahead of the story through better public relations." NFLCA Exec Dir Larry Kennan indicated that he "followed standard procedure, going through his executive committee and emailing all coaches, including head coaches, with the necessary info." But Sando noted "quite a few have been on vacation, and some felt this was a bad time to make waves." The Redskins were the first team to speak out against the NFLCA filing, and Kennan said, "Once the Redskins did this, the owners have gotten to their guys and said, 'We need this, too.' What are the coaches going to do, say no?" Sando: "I suspect Kennan underestimated the response this filing has generated. In retrospect, he should have finessed this story from the front end, better informing his membership" (ESPN.com, 6/6).
SUMMER CAMP: In Rochester, Sal Maiorana noted this is the last year of the Bills' training camp agreement with St. John Fisher College, so it is "possible that if the lockout stretches through the summer and there's no camp in Pittsford, there may not be another one, at least not in the near future." Bills CEO Russ Brandon said, "We're in continuous discussion about extending the agreement. Rochester is very important to us regionally and it has been a phenomenal partnership and relationship" (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 6/5). Meanwhile, in San Antonio, Tom Orsborn noted the Alamodome is "holding open 20 days" for the Cowboys' training camp this year. San Antonio Dir of Convention, Sports & Entertainment Facilities Michael Sawaya said that the Cowboys "have informed him that, should the lockout end in time for teams to train in normal fashion, camp tentatively would run from July 25 through Aug. 13." This is the "final year of the Cowboys' five-year, rent-free contract with the Alamodome." Sawaya said that the city "would not seek compensation for lost parking and concessions revenue should camp be canceled" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 6/4).
NASCAR yesterday announced that it fined NASCAR team owner Richard Childress $150,000 and "placed him on probation through Dec. 31 for instigating a brawl" with driver Kyle Busch after Saturday's Camping World Truck Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas Speedway, according to Randy Covitz of the K.C. STAR. The probation "includes all NASCAR-sanctioned events." Childress yesterday "took the blame" for the altercation, saying, "I'm responsible for my actions, plain and simple. ... In this instance, I let the passion and my emotions get the best of me." Childress was "upset with how Busch ... bumped the car of RCR rookie Joey Coulter on the cool-down lap of Saturday's race after Coulter had out-dueled him for fifth place." Fox analyst Larry McReynolds said, "I think Richard just had enough of it. Between Kyle pushing and destroying the No. 29 car in post-race at Darlington, and then what he did to Joey Coulter's truck post-race at Kansas, when the truck didn't have a scratch on it, I think Richard was fed up." But McReynolds added NASCAR "can't have the Wild, Wild West" despite its "boys, have at it" mantra. McReynolds: "They can't have an owner just going up to a driver in the garage area, putting him in a headlock and punching him" (K.C. STAR, 6/7). The AP's Jenna Fryer noted it is "not clear what probation means in relation to Childress as a car owner." It "could only mean that he must stay away from Busch for the rest of the year." Childress in a statement said that he "accepts the penalty, but he did not apologize for his actions" (AP, 6/6).
MISPLACED PUNISHMENT: ESPN.com's Terry Blount wrote the decision to fine Childress and place him on probation, while doing nothing to Busch, is the "most unpopular penalty in ages." Blount: "What happens on the track, and goes relatively unpunished, brings about other actions off the track that do get punished. ... Have-at-it-boys on the track leads to increased incidents off the track, and one is a more serious offense than the other. The wrong one." However, Blount wrote he is sure Childress "considers it money well spent," and added, "Realize NASCAR probation means absolutely nothing" (ESPN.com, 6/6). In Milwaukee, Dave Kallmann wrote, "I'm just not seeing much of a penalty. And I'm not seeing much of a deterrent for the next guy who might be inclined to take a poke at Busch" (JSONLINE.com, 6/6).
SUPPORT IN THE GARAGE? ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said of Childress' situation, "The fact that he’s 65 and he took on a guy probably close to 40 years younger than him, he’s being applauded throughout NASCAR” ("PTI," ESPN, 6/6) ESPN’s Tim Brewer said, “Money's not going stop a man when he’s got as much pride as Richard Childress. ... Richard Childress doesn’t sell cars. He doesn’t sell anything. He sells racing. He is a dedicated person at that and I don't blame him for what he did.” ESPN's Ricky Craven: "Richard Childress sells racing. He is a dedicated person at that and I don't blame him for what he did" ("NASCAR Now," ESPN2, 6/6). But ESPN's Bomani Jones said, "The bottom line is this: You can't have team owners at the age of 65-years-old going up to people that legitimately cannot hit them back. What else do you do against a guy like Richard Childress when this sort of thing happens?” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 6/6).
MORE FISTICUFFS? The AP's Fryer noted NASCAR officials "wouldn't say Monday whether Ryan Newman secretly was fined $50,000 for allegedly punching Juan Pablo Montoya during a meeting last month at Darlington." The two drivers were "summoned to NASCAR's at-track office on May 6 to discuss their ongoing feud," and NASCAR afterward said the meeting "did not go as well as we had hoped it would." Rumors of the penalty "began to leak on Monday in response" to the Childress fine (AP, 6/6).
F1 Management Chair Bernie Ecclestone held an “urgent round of negotiations last night to try to overturn the decision to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix,” according to Kevin Eason of the LONDON TIMES. Ecclestone “called for a new vote ... to cancel the October 30 date handed out by the FIA as he launched an intense round of talks with the 12 Formula One teams.” The teams insisted that “they did not want the revised schedule" decided by the FIA after hearing evidence presented by FIA VP Carlos Gracia. Gracia, who was sent as a “special envoy” to spend a day in Bahrain, “reported on the four policemen killed in street riots and the 180 injured.” But he “made no mention of the estimated 32 dead protesters nor the 47 doctors and nurses detained and being tried under martial law this week for tending to injured demonstrators.” Gracia said there were no indications “of any problems or any reason why Bahrain’s grand prix should not return to the 2011 calendar.” His conclusion “is said to have swayed the 26 council members.” As FIA President Jean Todt yesterday “held court to justify the FIA’s decision, Ecclestone was at work behind the scenes in talks with teams, who are against the return of Bahrain in the October slot that was reserved for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix.” The India race now “faces being shunted to a December 11 date” by the FIA (LONDON TIMES, 6/7). In London, Tom Cary notes Todt “defended Gracia's report, saying that many accounts of alleged human rights abuses, such as one from a former member of staff at the Bahrain circuit, were untrue.” He also “denied there had been any commercial consideration to the decision.” It is “understood that only a unanimous vote can effect a change to the calendar, something which was necessary last Friday and may be again shortly” (London TELEGRAPH, 6/7).
SLOW MOVING: In Montreal, Randy Phillips notes “only one of 11 reserved-seating grandstands was sold out” for this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix as of yesterday afternoon. Octane Management National Press Officer Marie-Pierre Laflamme, whose company promotes the F1 event at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, said, "I can't say how many tickets have been sold up to now. Attendance (figures) only will be known after the weekend." Phillips notes attendance for last year's three-day race weekend “topped 300,000 for the ninth consecutive year." The ’10 event “was sold out the day before practice sessions began on Friday” (Montreal GAZETTE, 6/7).
SCHEDULE CHANGE: Todt said that F1 “will have 20 races next year and not the record 21 listed on a calendar published last week.” He did not say "which race might be axed although Turkey already has an asterisk against it.” Todt: "We don't know which one will go, but the world championship will be 20 races." REUTERS' Alan Baldwin notes the Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul on May 6 “was listed as subject to confirmation after being called into question when local organisers said it faced the axe because of a disagreement over payments to Ecclestone” (REUTERS, 6/7).
CONTINUING TO HEAD IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: FORBES' Tom Van Riper wrote under the header, "Another Promising Season For NHL." The league's business "generally remained steady this year after a nice bump in 2010, when post season television ratings moved up thanks to the strong showing of the U.S. and Canadian Olympic teams and the rise of the Blackhawks." Eighteen of the 30 teams "increased attendance from last year, led by Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Nashville, which all drew at least 1,100 more fans per game." Only nine teams "saw attendance fall." Sports Business Group President David Carter said, "You have to look at the NHL as the most stable of all the major sports leagues right now. Turnstile count is strong, they're attracting more sponsorship dollars, and they have relative labor peace" (FORBES.com, 6/6).