SBD/July 13, 2011/Franchises

Selig Discusses Rays', Indians' Attendance Struggles At Midseason

Rays are last in AL attendance this season, drawing 19,115 fans per game
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig yesterday spoke “in generalities” about the Rays’ “attendance problems but declined to say much more,” according to John Romano of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. Selig said the Rays are “a terrific organization, very competitive, more competitive even this year than people thought they would be.” Selig: “The first thing I do every day is look at the 15 attendances to see how we're doing, and I agree with [Rays Owner] Stu Sternberg: You have to be concerned. He has to be. If you want to put a competitive club on the field, there has to be revenue to support it. And they've done a brilliant job, but this year (attendance) has surprised me." The Rays are last in the AL in attendance “with an average of 19,115 fans per game,” a 14% “decrease from the same point last season.” Romano notes a homestand beginning Friday featuring the Red Sox and Yankees “could be an interesting barometer with the Rays chasing both in the AL East.” MLB Exec VP/Administration & CIO John McHale said that the league “continues to have faith in Tampa Bay as a market.” But when asked if the Rays need a new stadium in Tampa, McHale said, "I don't think I'm allowed to have an opinion on that. I'll leave that to the owners in Tampa Bay" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 713). Meanwhile, in Cleveland, Paul Hoynes notes the Indians rank 26th in MLB in attendance, drawing 949,809 at Progressive Field. But Selig "does not share the same concerns about Cleveland as he does about Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla." Selig: "Not that I'm a front runner, but the first two games I note with interest, and I have 15 games to watch on my satellite dish, are Pittsburgh and Cleveland No.2. I'm enjoying those two situations very much. I really think the demographics in the areas are strong" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 7/13).

SLOW BUT SURE: Selig’s task force studying stadium options for the A’s is now in its 30th month, with no endpoint in sight. But the commissioner, as he has many times in the past, said, “It is better to be right than to be fast.” Selig cited the Expos’ relocation to DC, another protected, multiyear process, as support for his ongoing deliberativeness. “That took a long time, but it’s worked out well. There were a lot of lessons learned” (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). When asked about the length of the investigation, the future of the A's in Oakland or San Jose, and the Giants' territorial rights to the South Bay, Selig said, "We're working all that out. The committee has come back. There's a myriad of options. There's a lot of stuff we studied. The one thing I want to be sure about is to look at every conceivable option and analyze all of them" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 7/13)

SALES UPDATES: Selig yesterday also confirmed that he "has cleared" hedge fund manager David Einhorn to purchase a share of the Mets. Selig said, “Once the financial deal is done, yes. He played baseball in my backyard. How can I turn him down?” Einhorn "spent part of his formative years in Milwaukee, and his best friend lived next door to the Seligs." Selig said he was “not concerned” about the loan design of the deal. Selig: “It’s a very good deal for the Mets” (NEWSDAY, 7/13). The Mets yesterday before Selig’s comments said their owners were “engaged in exclusive, positive discussions” with Einhorn and declined further comment (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/13). Meanwhile, Selig said the sale of the Astros by Drayton McLane to Jim Crane is “going smoothly” (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/13).
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