SBD/December 8, 2011/FranchisesPrint All
The Angels this morning have come to terms with free agent 1B Albert Pujols on a 10-year, $254M contract, the second-largest contract in MLB history. It is behind only the 10-year, $275M deal Alex Rodriguez signed with the Yankees in '07 (Mult., 12/8). In St. Louis, Joe Strauss reports the Angels "officially entered the fray on Pujols on Wednesday after the Miami Marlins were eliminated." After "several club officials denied the Angels' involvement in talks for Pujols on Tuesday, a franchise infamous for its inability to land elite free agents stepped forward with a more generous guarantee than the Cardinals." A source said that the Cardinals' "modified proposal was believed to be worth a potential $220 million for up to 10 years; however, only nine years are guaranteed" (STLTODAY.com, 12/8). The Angels deal "includes a full no-trade clause and could reach $260 million" (MLB.com, 12/8). MLB Network’s Chris Rose said, “For the last few years, we’ve heard Arte Moreno say, ‘Boy, 10-year deals, $250 million deals -- there’s no way we can play with that.’ Where did he come up with this?” Verducci said the signing is a “game-changer for the Angels.” Verducci: "Two straight years without playoffs and Arte Moreno had enough of that” (MLB Network, 12/8). Yahoo Sports' Tim Brown, who broke the story, said, "This is something that the Angels can absorb. They have a new TV deal coming, this is an organization that expects to win, that is feeling badly and angry about missing the playoffs two years in a row. Arte Moreno has missed out on free agents recently -- Teixeira and Crawford and Beltre -- and you knew when they jumped in, they jumped in to win because they were not going to finish second again” ("The Dan Patrick Show," 12/8).
NEW TV DEAL KEY: SI.com's Jon Heyman notes the Angels' new TV deal "is the key, insiders say." The team "may get $150M" per year, compared to having "been getting only $50M" (TWITTER.com, 12/8). Reports surfaced in October as part of the Dodgers' bankruptcy case that the Angels were close to a new TV deal (THE DAILY). ESPN's Buster Olney said there is a "concern within baseball circles" about the impact massive local TV deals are having on teams' spending. Olney: "As we were leading up to the labor agreement, I was hearing more and more from executives with small-market teams and they were looking at deals like the Rangers just got and the Angels now have in place and other teams and they were saying, ‘That’s what’s going to really fuel the disparity increasingly going forward’” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 12/8).
WILSON ALSO HEADING TO ANAHEIM: The Angels today also signed free agent P C.J. Wilson to a five-year, $77.5M contract, and ESPN's Olney said the deals "will put them into that Red Sox-Yankees neighborhood" of around $170M for payroll in '12 ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 12/8). The L.A. Times' Bill Shaikin noted the Angels "won World Series in 2002 with $62 million payroll." Pujols, RF Vernon Wells and CF Torii Hunter "might make that much all by themselves next year" (TWITTER.com, 12/8).
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE DODGERS' DECLINE: FOXSPORTS.com's Ken Rosenthal writes the Angels' "spending spree makes sense" in part because they will "face renewed competition in greater Los Angeles once the Dodgers are sold." Rosenthal: "The Dodgers, under Frank McCourt, are not currently in position to sign a Pujols or even a Wilson. It would behoove the Angels to press their competitive advantage while they still have it" (FOXSPORTS.com, 12/8). SI’s Tom Verducci said of Moreno wanting the Angels to take over the L.A. market, "Clearly it has been a part of his plan for years since he bought the team in ’03. ... Now the Dodgers in the last couple of years with some of their financial issues have forfeited a lot of the ground in Los Angeles to the Angels” (“Intentional Talk,” MLB Network, 12/8). MLB Network's Harold Reynolds said Moreno “is reaching into L.A. and going, ‘I know that franchise (the Dodgers) is fractured, but I have the guy that everybody wants to see.’ When the Cardinals went to L.A., who drove out to see him in Dodger Stadium? Everybody went to see him. They are saying now, ‘Bring Albert here.’ He’s a gate attraction, he’s a tremendous player and this is all part of the plan" ("Hot Stove," MLB Network, 12/8). ESPN's Olney said execs on other MLB teams "have looked at this situation developing, and in these last few years when the Dodgers franchise has been in erosion the feeling around baseball is, ‘Boy, the Angels aren’t really exploiting this as much as they possibly could.’" He said Moreno could look at the Dodgers and the "possibility that someone like a Magic Johnson could come riding in on a white horse and turn that franchise around and he feels like, ‘You know what, I better strike.’” ESPN’s Karl Ravech: "The Dodgers appear on the verge of eventually getting a huge owner with big money, whether it be the Magic Johnson-led group or others. They get Matt Kemp for a long time, they have Clayton Kershaw. Now you've got a Weaver-Pujols, Kershaw-Kemp thing going out there” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 12/8). The Buffalo News' Mike Harrington wrote, "Holy checkbook, Angels! Dodgers just got a whole lot more irrelevant in LA" (TWITTER.com, 12/8).
Prior to the Angels signing 1B Albert Pujols and P C.J. Wilson this morning, the Marlins had continued to "dominate the news at the winter meetings," formally introducing SS Jose Reyes and agreeing to contract terms with P Mark Buehrle, according to Clark Spencer of the MIAMI HERALD. The team since Sunday has reached deals with three players, "whose future salary commitments total $191 million." The Marlins have gone from "paupers to fat cats in a blinding flash, spending money in a bewildering sequence of signings that has turned them into baseball rock stars." The team's bid for free agent 1B Albert Pujols "generated the biggest buzz," but the club withdrew its offer yesterday. Nonetheless, all of the activity by the Marlins "has generated excitement in South Florida." Marlins President David Samson said that the team’s "souvenir stores spread throughout the region sold out of dozens of replica Reyes jersey[s] in a matter of hours Wednesday after his signing was formally announced," adding that "more jerseys were ordered." Samson also said that ticket sales "increased every day since Friday." He said, "With the team we’re putting together, we expect there to be very few empty seats at this ballpark ever" (MIAMI HERALD, 12/8). In West Palm Beach, Joe Capozzi notes the addition of Buehrle "gives the Marlins an estimated $83 million in contract commitments in 2012 for nine players." The team's "final payroll next year should top $100 million." Guillen said, "People always criticize the Marlins because they never spend any money. Now they are spending money and they are criticizing how much money they got. I can't figure it out" (PALM BEACH POST, 12/8). Samson said yesterday, "I have great respect for the process and we could not be happier with Jose Reyes on this team with Heath Bell. When we drew up our offseason plan and how we wanted our team to look, we are in the 'A' box right now" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 12/8).
EXTREME MAKEOVER -- MIAMI EDITION: In Miami, Greg Cote writes the Marlins are "redefining 'extreme makeover' with one of the most astounding metamorphoses in the history of pro sports." It is the "new spending, the voracious aggressiveness of it, that has made this club the talk of South Florida, and of baseball." The Marlins are the "biggest player in baseball free agency even without" reaching a deal for Pujols, and they are "showing no signs of ending their shopping spree." In a "normal year," signing either Bell, Reyes or Buehrle "would have legitimately topped the marquee on this team’s offseason shopping." The idea of Owner Jeff Loria "increasing the payroll sufficient to land all three of them is mind-boggling" (MIAMI HERALD, 12/8). CBSSPORTS.com's Scott Miller wrote under the header, "In Stunning Transformation, Marlins Become The Talk Of Winter Meetings." Miller: "There are not enough ooohs and aaahs in the state of Texas for what they're doing. ... Odds were you would have seen elves in your living room and reindeer on your roof before you would have seen free agents flooding to South Florida on I-95" (CBSSPORTS.com, 12/7). In L.A., Dylan Hernandez notes the Marlins "turned the baseball world upside down at the winter meetings this week" (L.A. TIMES, 12/8). The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair writes Loria and Samson are "turning the baseball world on its head" (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/8). In Toronto, Bob Elliott writes under the header, "Marlins Spend Like Drunken Sailors" (TORONTO SUN, 12/8). SportsNet N.Y.'s Jonas Schwartz said, “They seem to have money coming every which way. ... No question, the Marlins are making the biggest splash in baseball right now” (“Daily News Live,” SportsNet N.Y., 12/7). MLB Network’s Greg Amsinger said, “Again, we’ve got to talk the Miami Marlins, not because we’re biased and we’re season ticket holders, but they’re making the most headlines” (“Hot Stove Live,” MLB Network, 12/7). Agent Scott Boras said, "It’s almost like we have a new expansion franchise, isn’t it. It’s like the minnow has become the marlin. It’s fun to watch" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/8).
COUNTING THEIR CHICKENS BEFORE THEY HATCH? SI.com's Joe Lemire writes the Marlins "are baseball's nouveau riche, ready to build a sustainable long-term contender by hedging the bets of future revenues in their soon-to-open ballpark." It is a "risky endeavor as they try not to become a sporting equivalent of last decade's housing bubble burst or last century's dot-com crash." If the fans of the "historically fickle baseball market do respond with attendance that meets the Marlins' projection of 2.8 million ticks of the turnstile," then the team presumably "would also have the ability to retain the club's incumbent young talent," including RF Mike Stanton, LF Logan Morrison and 1B Gaby Sanchez (SI.com, 12/8). The N.Y. Times' Tyler Kepner said the Marlins "are banking on the fact that a fickle fan base will finally start to show up believing that having the retractable roof will cure everything." Kepner: "That ballpark is in a different part of Miami -- it's farther away from Ft. Lauderdale -- and the fans have had their hearts broken a lot by this ownership group and previous ownership groups. There is a lot of skepticism there, even if they get these star players. Who's going to end up paying most of these contracts?" YES Network's Jack Curry said, "You look at what they brought in last year, about a million-and-a-half fans. Jeffrey Loria said he's hoping for 2.8 million. That is a huge leap. You could win 110 games and not go from 1.5 million fans to 2.8. ... I would be shocked if they draw 2.8 million fans next year" ("Yankees Baseball Daily," YES Network, 12/6).
ATTENTION FOR BALLPARK NAMING RIGHTS: Samson indicated yesterday that the signings of Reyes and Bell and the "pursuit of more big-name free agents has sparked interest in companies wanting to attach their name to the retractable-roof park in Little Havana." Samson said, "We certainly have gotten more calls in the past week than I would have expected from people we have never spoken to before, so I’m kind of glad there was nothing announced prior." In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis noted that would "suggest that companies aren’t concerned with implications from the federal investigation by the Securities Exchange Commission into the controversial financing of the ballpark that surfaced last week." Davis also noted the team "plans to sell secondary sponsorships to the four quadrants of the ballpark, but Samson said they wouldn’t finalize those until the primary deal was done" (SUNSENTINEL.com, 12/7).
The Dodgers' contract with Fox Sports "restricts the team's ability to launch a regional sports network even after the contract expires," according to sources cited by Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. Fox and the Dodgers "faced off in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Wednesday over whether the team could hold an accelerated sale of television rights." Fox "is asking the court to enforce its contract as is, most notably a provision that forbids the Dodgers from negotiating with another media outlet for another year." However, sources said that "under a previously undisclosed provision, the contract also hampers the Dodgers' ability to form a regional sports network after the contract expires so long as Time Warner Cable, Comcast or ESPN is an equity partner." The contract "would not absolutely prohibit those Fox competitors from partnering in some form in a Dodgers cable channel, but what could be costly hurdles would in theory give the team an incentive to stick with Fox" (L.A. TIMES, 12/8).
The Trail Blazers Tuesday debuted a local commercial that "signaled the beginning of an aggressive campaign" to "not only remind fans the team is returning to the court but also to smooth over any ill-will that may have developed" during the NBA lockout, according to Joe Freeman of the Portland OREGONIAN. At the end of the 60-second spot, "three simple words appear at the bottom of the screen: 'We’re Locked In.'" Trail Blazers Senior VP & COO Sarah Mensah said, "I think it sets the right tone, which is of humility and a sense of, wow, it’s been really empty here and now it’s great to be back." Teams across the NBA are in the "early stages of putting together a host of fan-friendly events and promotions designed to rekindle any lost connections with local communities." In Portland, there are "no plans for a complete rebranding ... but there will be a season-long effort to remind fans they are the most important aspect of the business." The Trail Blazers "plan on increasing their presence in the community by ramping up appearances by players and ex-players through sponsors and their 'Make it Better' campaign." Fans will be at the "centerpiece of everything." The Trail Blazers will "hold their annual free Fan Fest scrimmage Dec. 16, featuring more giveaways and fan interaction, offering the first opportunity for fans to see the new-look Blazers in person this season." They also have "made changes to their fan shop and already have added 500 new items to their online gift shop" (Portland OREGONIAN, 12/8).
Local TV ratings are "up -- as is conversation about the Bengals -- but the team’s surprising push toward a possible playoff spot has not translated to increased ticket sales," according to Joe Reedy of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. Sunday’s game against the Texans is one of the "top games on the NFL’s Week 14 schedule, but the Bengals announced Tuesday that the game will not be a sellout and will not air locally." It will be the Bengals' "fifth blackout in six home games this season." Through five home games, the Bengals are "averaging a league-low 49,619 fans, which is 75.7 percent of capacity at Paul Brown Stadium." Only two games have "drawn more than 50,000." Bengals Owner Mike Brown has "said over the past year that he knew there were going to be attendance problems this season and that he hoped winning would draw them back." Brown in October said, "We have to earn back our people, they lost belief in what we were doing. I think we’re starting to do that." Last season, the Bengals were "10th in the league in attendance, drawing an average of 60,364." The only other team in the NFL "below 80 percent capacity this season is Miami, which is at 78.3 percent" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 12/7).
In San Jose, Tim Kawakami noted the Giants have "failed to add a truly significant bat up to this point of the winter," which is "not what fans want to hear from a franchise that sold out every seat in the house last season." One could "argue that the Giants are rolling in dough and that ownership surely can afford to lift the payroll above $130M without too much sweat." But ownership could "point out that $130M is a lift over last year, and that last year was a major lift over the almost $100M World Series payroll, which even then was in the top third of baseball’s financial tier." In three years, the Giants "will have gone from a payroll of about $97M to $130M -- a 25% jump, which is no small change by any measurement." The team's ownership group "is dedicated to keeping the Giants’ pitching core together, and it knows that this will take a lot of money for now and for the future" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 12/7).
FOR THE BIRDS: The GLOBE & MAIL's James Christie noted the Blue Jays "have said they will spend dollars -- big dollars -- when the time is right." But for now, they are "playing financial small-ball and have gone into baseball’s winter meetings with a miserly mindset." They have a payroll "reported at $70-million, and it could rise -- but probably not enough to sign" free agent 1B Prince Fielder. If he reached a deal with the Jays, Fielder "would have to boost attendance beyond the average of 22,500 where it sits now to make it financially palatable." GM Alex Anthopoulos must "convince the Jays to pry open the purse strings or agent Scott Boras has to ease up his contact demands for Fielder." Christie: "Neither looks likely to happen" (THEGLOBEANDMAIL.com, 12/7).
NEW ERA IN NEW YORK: SportsNet N.Y.'s Chris Carlin said of the Mets, "What message does it send if they start shopping David Wright? It doesn't [send] a good one to your fans. ... When you really go ahead and think about trading David Wright, then you are just completely and publicly packing it in. That's not something the Mets are doing right now, and that's not something that you can sell to the fans" ("Loud Mouths," SportsNet N.Y., 12/6). The N.Y. Daily News' Frank Isola said of the Mets' losing SS Jose Reyes to the Marlins, "There is no salvaging the off-season when you let your best player just walk. They clearly didn't want him. They clearly want to rebuild." The N.Y. Daily News' Anthony McCarron said Mets GM Sandy Alderson "has to sell some tickets to everyone out there. ... He's got to make sure that it doesn't go back to the '70s when there were 5,000 people in the stands" ("Daily News Live," SportsNet New York, 12/6).
BATTLE OF THE BAY: In San Jose, Mark Purdy notes two "recent developments -- a pointed comment by a powerful baseball owner and a lawsuit filed by a front group for the San Francisco Giants' interests -- seem to indicate that [MLB Commissioner Bud] Selig and MLB are leaning toward a San Jose solution to the A's" ballpark problem. White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf said he was "totally supportive" of A's Owner Lew Wolff pursuing a new ballpark in San Jose. Purdy notes Reinsdorf is "not only one of MLB's longest-tenured proprietors but also one of the most powerful, known to have Selig's ear" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 12/8).
In Green Bay, Mike Vandermause wrote, "Count Packers players among the thousands who have gotten swept up in the craze to buy a piece of the team." DL Ryan Pickett had "just received the paperwork to purchase Packers stock and said he was planning to buy shares for himself, his wife and five children." WR Greg Jennings said Tuesday that he "wasn't planning to buy stock, but when he returned home, his wife, Nicole, told him: 'Babe, by the way, (we) bought three (shares)' -- one for each of the couple's three daughters" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 12/7).
PURSUING A NEW SUIT: In England, David Bartlett notes the "spectre of a multi-million pound lawsuit no longer hangs over Liverpool FC from former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett." Hicks and Gillett in a statement "have declared for the first time they are not interested in pursuing new owners Fenway Sports Group." Instead, their "latest legal action in the High Court seeks damages from former Liverpool FC directors Sir Martin Broughton and Christian Purslow, current managing director Ian Ayre and the Royal Bank of Scotland for agreeing to the sale." Hicks has "always maintained that the club was sold for [US$472.9M] against his will in an 'epic swindle'" (LIVERPOOL DAILY POST, 12/8).
BACK IN BLACK: The NBA Kings yesterday unveiled a new black alternate jersey, which the team will debut in its home opener Dec. 26 against the Lakers. The Kings for that game plan to hold their first-ever "blackout," during which complimentary black T-shirts will be distributed to every fan in attendance. In addition, they are offering fans the "Back-in-Black Pack," which starts at $149 per seat for each of the team's first four home games this season. The pack includes five limited-edition black T-shirts, two for the "blackout" game and one for each of the additional three games included in the pack (Kings).