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SBD/January 19, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
The MLB Rangers and Japanese P Yu Darvish "agreed to a six-year, $60 million deal Wednesday afternoon only minutes before a 4 p.m. deadline at the end of a 30-day negotiating window," according to Jeff Wilson of the FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM. Darvish will be "introduced at a news conference Friday evening at Rangers Ballpark." Rangers GM Jon Daniels said that Darvish can "opt out of the deal after five years and become a free agent if he meets a list of demanding performance thresholds." Also included in the contract is "an interpreter and a trainer, but that was the extent of the personal touches he wanted included in the deal." Daniels also said that there were "never any contentious moments in the process, which started with the Rangers being announced as the highest bidder on Dec. 19." But Wilson notes the team "chewed up almost 30 days to get the deal done" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/19). WMG's Arn Tellem, Darvish's U.S.-based agent, said that negotiations "went down to the closing bell." In N.Y., David Waldstein reports the two sides "held a marathon session Tuesday from early in the morning until past midnight, and resumed talks Wednesday" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/19). ESPN DALLAS' Richard Durrett noted the Rangers won the right to negotiate with Darvish "by submitting a record $51.7 million posting bid." Including the posting fee, the Rangers "paid more than $111 million to sign Darvish, which is more than the $103 million" that the Red Sox gave up to negotiate with and sign Daisuke Matsuzaka in '06 (ESPNDALLAS.com, 1/18). In Dallas, Evan Grant notes while the Rangers "loved Darvish’s talent all along, they weren’t sure they’d be able to afford him." But team co-Chairs Ray Davis and Bob Simpson "stepped up shortly after" the Angels announced the signings of 1B Albert Pujols and P C.J. Wilson (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/19).
NEW SHOW IN TOWN: In Ft. Worth, Drew Davison notes the Rangers "expect 75-100 members of the Japanese media to cover the team at spring training, and then the number will dwindle to approximately 20 who travel during the season." Even though Darvish's popularity in Japan "is unquestioned, the Rangers aren’t viewing it as a way to subsidize their $51.7 million posting fee." Rangers President & CEO Nolan Ryan said that the "potential international business perks -- jersey and hat sales, for example -- weren’t factored into the pitch to ownership." Ryan said, "If his popularity continues over here as it [has] over there, it might be a unique opportunity. But to try and make some type of prediction? You’d just be pulling a number out of the air" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/19). FOXSPORTS.com's Jon Paul Morosi asked the "biggest remaining question in Texas: When will Darvish make his debut?" If the Rangers’ "salesmanship is as bold as their offseason plans, Darvish should throw his first major-league pitch on Monday, April 9." That is the "fourth game of the year -- presumably, a night when Rangers Ballpark might not otherwise sell out." The Rangers "can host the home opener, raise the American League pennant and distribute rings over the weekend, before giving the stage to Darvish on Monday." The opponent that night is the Mariners, who feature Ichiro Suzuki (FOXSPORTS.com, 1/18). ESPN Dallas' Durrett said the excitement level in the Dallas area around Darvish is “pretty high actually.” Durrett: “This team captivated the area thanks to the two straight trips to the World Series. The attendance has been up the last two years, season ticket sales are up. Big fan fest last weekend had fans excited. There was a buzz about Yu Darvish even there. It is a big deal" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/18).
PROTECTING THEIR INVESTMENT: ESPN DALLAS' Durrett wrote the Rangers "need to be right about this one." They will "have to be careful not to put too much pressure on Darvish." He is going to "have enough to deal with as he makes the transition to the big leagues." This is "not a low-risk signing for the Rangers." They have "made a major investment and they have to get a good return." They "made a choice this offseason and decided they wanted Darvish" rather than Wilson, and that "speaks volumes about their trust in Darvish's abilities" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 1/18). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote, "No way around this but this deal is a massive risk." From a "cash standpoint, Yu's arrival should generate revenue that this club never has before overseas, and establish an even greater footprint in the states." From a "baseball standpoint, this deal only works if the Rangers win the World Series and he is a contributing member to the cause." Yu has to be a "celebrity ace that this team currently lacks" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 1/18). In Austin, Kevin Lyttle notes 38 Japanese pitchers have played in MLB and "none have struck it really big." Lyttle: "What makes Darvish different? He's younger, throws harder (92-94 mph regularly), is much taller (6 feet 5 inches), creating difficult angles for hitters, and has a fiery demeanor" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 1/19). CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman said of Darvish compared to Matsuzaka, "This is a better pitcher coming over. ... Texas got a win because they’ve got a star, a No. 1 pitcher, in his prime” (“Hot Stove,” MLB Network, 1/18). MLB Network's Kevin Millar: "This is a huge signing for them" ("Intentional Talk," MLB Network, 1/18).
GOING FOR BROKE? In Seattle, Larry Stone notes Ryan "has a lot of hefty decisions to make -- namely, can the Rangers afford both Darvish and [free agent 1B Prince] Fielder, and if so, can they then afford Darvish, Fielder and Josh Hamilton?" Hamilton "is entering the final year of his contract." He has said that he will "cut off negotiations once spring training starts" (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/19). SI.com's Joe Lemire wrote, "Most telling of the premium Texas placed on Darvish? It prioritized him over free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder, whom they may no longer be able to afford" (SI.com, 1/18). ESPN DALLAS' Durrett cited sources as saying that it was "doubtful the club could sign both Darvish and Fielder, but not completely out of the question" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 1/18). Durrett said with the money the Rangers are giving to Darvish, getting a deal done with Fielder “would take some creative on Scott Boras’ part and the Rangers’ part to try and make a deal work.” Durrett: “At this point, the more likelihood is they’ll let Hamilton play out 2012 and see what happens at the end of the season” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 1/18).
David Beckham has decided to "leave a few million dollars in Europe to stay" with the MLS Galaxy through '13, according to Kevin Baxter of the L.A. TIMES. Details of the new two-year deal “were not released, but published reports valued it at $15 million -- below the 18-month, $18.7-million deal the deep-pocketed Qatari owners of French club Paris-St. Germain wanted to give him.” The $7.5M he will receive in each of the next two seasons is “an MLS record.” The deal also includes an option for Beckham and his business manager Simon Fuller “to buy a future MLS expansion franchise at a discount.” In addition, the Galaxy will “allow Beckham to leave the team this summer to play for Britain in the London Olympics, an event he played a major role in bringing to his hometown” (L.A. TIMES, 1/19).
GOOD FOR THE GAME: ESPN.com’s Scott French wrote the announcement that the league's “biggest star would be back in 2012 -- and 2013, it turns out -- was the culmination of negotiations that crept on for two weeks after we'd learned, pretty authoritatively, that Beckham was staying in L.A.” He was not “going anywhere, and that's important for so many reasons -- marketing, promotion and MLS's image abroad included -- but his return might be most vital on the field” (ESPN.com, 1/18). FOXSPORTS.com’ Ives Galarcep wrote the new deal “may not be as glamorous or ambitious as the hype-filled hysteria that surrounded Beckham’s arrival in the United States five years ago, but it is no less important.” Beckham was “always more of an ambassador for American soccer than a savior.” Now he will have two more years “to show just how good an ambassador he can be, and just much he has changed during his first five years in MLS” (FOXSPORTS.com, 1/18). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER’s Mike Barnes wrote Beckham’s return “is great news for Time Warner Cable, which will begin televising Galaxy matches next season as part of a 10-year, $55 million local rights deal.” TWC will “launch two fledgling regional sports channels -- one in English, one in Spanish -- this year” (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 1/18).
The NHL Panthers have not been in the playoffs since '00, but the team is "using the offer of deeply discounted playoff tickets to drive" season-ticket renewals for next season, according to Craig David of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. The team, which currently is tied for first place in the Southeastern Division, this week sent an invoice to season-ticket holders. One letter to a fan stated it would cost $6,845 for his two lower bowl seats in the playoffs through the Stanley Cup Finals if he “doesn't promptly renew his season tickets for next year.” The team gave “the option of renewing by Feb. 13 and buying the same strip of playoff tickets for $2,285, a savings of $4,560.” Panthers President & COO Michael Yormark said it is "one of the most aggressive playoff-ticket prices that you'll see" in the NHL. Yormark: "It's a much better value for that season-seat holder than somebody that just purchases a ticket via Ticketmaster. I think because it's been so long since we made the playoffs, people don't realize what other teams price their playoff tickets at." Yormark said that 98% of season-ticket prices for the '11-12 season are “remaining the same or decreasing slightly from this season.” Still, David notes many fans “received discounts and will end up paying more.” Yormark: "This franchise has been working toward building its brand and filling its building for the last couple years, and we've had promotional offers. As we move forward, we are pulling back on some of those special promotional offers." Craig notes the Panthers will “resume charging for parking next season except for those buying full-season ticket plans” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/19).
THE RIGHT MIX: SI’s Brian Cazeneuve notes the Panthers on paper "appear to be an ungainly amalgamation of castoffs," but the club has “proved to be a legitimate playoff contender.” Panthers GM Dale Tallon said, "It's surprised us to be ahead of schedule. How (everybody) would fit together was a total unknown." Cazeneuve notes much of the teams' success is "seemingly a result of the Panthers' lack of identity becoming their actual identity. Panthers D Ed Jovanovksi, who re-joined the team this offseason after playing with them from '95-99, said, "There's a real culture change with this group tasting success and wanting more" (SI, 1/23 issue).
The Titans have promoted Mike Reinfeldt to Senior Exec VP & COO after he served as the team’s GM for the past five seasons. Reinfeldt will oversee all football and non-football aspects of the organization and will report to Titans Owner Bud Adams. VP/Player Personnel Ruston Webster was elevated to Exec VP & GM and will assume control of all football operations for the team. Lake Dawson has been promoted to VP/Player Personnel (Titans). In Nashville, Jim Wyatt notes the moves "kept the front office intact and laid the groundwork for some new decision-making." Reinfeldt "endorsed the decision" by Adams and "praised Webster." Webster said that he is "not expecting a dramatic shake-up as he switches caps and takes over" as GM (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 1/19). ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky wrote, "It's a bold move to keep together a trio the organization likes a great deal." It is an "effective move by the Titans to play keep-away with Webster and Dawson who were candidates" for the Rams' GM opening (ESPN.com, 1/18).
Peter O'Malley and Shamrock Holdings President & CEO Stanley Gold "recently met to discuss whether the family of the former Dodgers owner and the family of the late Roy Disney might join forces in bidding for the Dodgers," according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. Opening bids for the team "are due Monday, although prospective bid groups are expected to consider mergers before and after that day." Meanwhile, Shaikin reported federal agents yesterday "arrested Jon Horvath, a New York technology analyst; he is charged with insider trading." The Wall Street Journal reported that Horvath "works at a division of SAC Capital Advisors, whose founder Steven Cohen is bidding for the Dodgers." Neither Cohen nor his firm "has been charged," but the development is "particularly ill-timed for Cohen, as Major League Baseball conducts investigations on potential Dodgers bidders" (LATIMES.com, 1/18). Meanwhile, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said of the prospective bidders, "We have five or six terrific groups, or maybe even more and I'm very confident that out of that will come an excellent owner. You look at the quality of the people in each group and they're very very good." Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban, who has been open about his interest in the Dodgers, said Monday, "It's an iconic team. There's only a few franchises like that. And it's always better to buy a team like that when they're down" (ESPNLA.com, 1/18).
DODGERS PARKING: The L.A. TIMES' Shaikin notes outgoing Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt "has the option to sell the Dodgers but keep the surrounding parking lots." If the lots "are not sold with the team, the new owner would lease them from McCourt for $14 million a year." The annual lease payment "would rise in 2015, and every five years thereafter." Sources said that most bidders "are expected to ask McCourt to include the land in the sale." However, Shaikin notes McCourt "could try to develop the land in a way that could rehabilitate his battered civic image." One source said, "There is no doubt in my mind he wants to hold on to the property. L.A. is his home. It will remain his home." Anaheim Sports, Entertainment & Conventions Exec Dir Greg Smith, who oversaw Anaheim Stadium on behalf of the city, said, "Obviously the ideal situation is whoever has the team controls the parking. If that can't happen, the buyer needs to make sure it is very specific about what can happen in the parking lots. If they don't want development, it's got to be stipulated in the agreement" (L.A. TIMES, 1/19).
The question is "no longer whether Tropicana Field is a viable stadium" for the Rays, as St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster said yesterday the team now has questions about the "ability of the region to support baseball," according to Michael Van Sickler of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Foster in the wake of Tuesday's "much-anticipated meeting with team officials" said, "It wasn't a question of St. Petersburg or Tampa. ... That was the most striking thing about this conversation. Tropicana Field, and whatever its deficiencies, never came up." Van Sickler notes the Rays are "contractually obligated" to play at Tropicana Field through '27. Foster yesterday on WQYK-AM said, "There are huge questions about Tampa Bay's ability to support three professional sports franchises. That was a point that was made when I left there." He also noted that the "best immediate strategy for keeping the team is fan support," adding that he and Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg on Tuesday "discussed how to better market the team." Foster: "If the region wants the Rays to stay in the region, then Tampa Bay needs to support this team this year by putting their backsides in the seat and going to the game." Sternberg said that he "'had to defend' the Rays' marketing efforts during his meeting with the mayor, but quickly added that Foster thought the club was doing a fine job marketing." Foster yesterday said he was "absolutely satisfied" with the Rays' marketing efforts. He added that the city "will help market the team, and later, on WQYK, said that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn also agreed to help" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/19).
The Padres are a "puzzle with at least one of the pieces missing," according to Tim Sullivan of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. If there is a money problem with team Vice Chair & CEO Jeff Moorad’s ownership group, it "should have surfaced before his final payment reached the escrow account last month." If there is a "personality conflict in play, it should have played itself out somewhat earlier in a process now in its third year" as he seeks to buy the team from Padres Chair John Moores. As a result, "what you get is intrigue." D'Backs Managing Partner Ken Kendrick has been "described by another major-league executive as 'obsessed' with blocking Moorad from gaining complete control of the Padres." Asked to confirm that he had "drafted a letter opposing Moorad’s confirmation on Wednesday, Kendrick declined comment." When told he had been "characterized as 'obsessed' with thwarting Moorad," Kendrick replied, "I don’t think I have obsessions in the context of what we’re talking about." He added, "Anything I would have to say, I would say to baseball." Though Moorad has "repeatedly placed the net worth of his partnership above $4 billion, enough questions linger about its liquidity and the specifics of its commitment that Padres’ stability remains a moving target." Those "opposed to Moorad’s ownership may not have the eight votes necessary to prevent him from becoming the Padres’ 'control' person." But an ownership transition that "appeared inevitable 10 days ago should now be reclassified as 'probable.'" At least one investor in another NL club has "expressed interest in pursuing the Padres should the Moorad deal collapse." Since his group’s final payment to Moores is "completely in cash and already in escrow, Moorad’s confirmation still seems the most likely scenario." Kendrick said, "We probably all are a little more sensitive to the importance of ownership and the quality of ownership and the depth of its financial (strength). I think baseball is being more careful in the process. Look at the situation in Los Angeles as a reason why you’d want to be cautious with any ownership" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/19).