SBD/January 23, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
MLB Rangers P Yu Darvish "has the potential to drive up attendance unlike any pitcher here since team president Nolan Ryan was still a hired hand on the mound," according to Jeff Mosier of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Rangers Exec VP/Communications John Blake said, "Certainly in April, we’re expecting there will be a significant spike in attendance because of all the attention.” With a record-setting contract and posting fee for a Japanese player, Darvish’s deal is "generating headlines similar to the Rangers’ then-record signing of slugger Alex Rodriguez" in '00. At least "100 members of the media -- close to half from Japan -- crowded into a corner of the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame to see the team’s newest pitcher at a news conference Friday night." In addition, the international nature of the Rangers' signing "has already made this a lucrative opportunity for some retailers." GoodsFromJapan.com's Robert Brown said that sales on his website "doubled after Darvish announced late last year that he would seek a major league contract." It is a "fair prediction that Rangers jerseys and hats will gain popularity in Japan," but the Rangers "will only get a small share of that." Sales in the international markets "are split evenly among the MLB teams." Rangers GM Jon Daniels Thursday on KTCK-AM said that his team "only gets the full amount of its merchandising revenue sold within about 50 miles" of the ballpark. He "encouraged fans to buy Darvish gear at Rangers shops so the team gets more of the money." Because of MLB marketing restrictions, Darvish jerseys "can’t be sold until the team’s April 6 opener against the Chicago White Sox." The ballpark menu also could "see some tweaks to accommodate the Rangers’ new Far East flavor." Delaware North Companies Sportservice spokesperson Glen White, whose company handles ballpark concessions, said that there "are plans to test a few new items." Blake said that there is also an "opportunity for the Rangers to work with travel companies to bring fans from Japan to see Darvish pitch in Arlington" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/21).
COMING UP ACES: MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan said Friday was the "biggest news conference for a Rangers player since the club signed" Rodriguez, and team officials "came away impressed with the way Darvish handled himself" (MLB.com, 1/20). In Ft. Worth, Jeff Wilson wrote at the press conference, Darvish "had good stuff and earned a complete-game victory Friday in his introductory news conference" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/21). Daniels said at the press conference, "There haven't been too many off-the-field moments as big as the one that brings us here today" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/21). Meanwhile, in Dallas Gerry Fraley noted if "form holds, the Rangers likely will open next season in Tokyo," as the addition of Darvish "has raised the Rangers' profile in Japan" (DALLASNEWS.com, 1/22).
Rangers co-Chairs Ray Davis and Bob Simpson Friday wired a $51.7M posting fee to P Yu Darvish's former Nippon Professional Baseball team and "that mere act helps explain why ticket price increases are necessary," according to Brad Townsend of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Simpson said that the franchise "has operated at a deficit despite going to the World Series each of the last two seasons, during which payroll has increased from $57 million to an expected $125 million" in '12. Simpson said, "I want fans to understand that we’re committed. We’re putting money in and not taking any money out. So if we have to raise ticket prices, we’re all partners in this thing together. And financially, we’ve got to get it sustainable" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/21). Meanwhile, Simpson said of adding free agent 1B Prince Fielder to the Rangers' roster, "He's been considered, but given our set of cards, too pricey. If that were to change, I guess they'd look at it harder. Right now he's priced himself out of what we could do." ESPN DALLAS' Richard Durrett noted when it "comes to the club's finances, Simpson talked about a strategy to make the Rangers a 'dynasty.'" He said, "You're trying to take it to a new level, a sustainable level, where it is a dynasty franchise like the Dallas Cowboys achieved. Then in the off-years, and inevitably you'll have some, they still support you" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 1/21).
SUSTAINABLE FRANCHISE: Simpson said of the Rangers’ front office, “I believe them and trust them. They've done a lot of work. But it goes back to the theory of are you in a sports organization to try to second-guess them. We don't do that. … If you think you can improve your management personally as an owner, you need to get somebody else and not try to do it yourself. That's where I disagree with the owners that are so proactive and involved technically. It's like, knock yourself out if that's fun for you. That's in hobby area. Here you get the very best people and support them. We were fortunate in that we had such superb staff when we bought the thing that we're not reinventing anything." Asked how he balances spending with generating revenue, Simpson said, “Winning comes first, and then support comes. We can't ask fans to come to every game when you're losing and help you increase your revenues.” He added, “The one thing we know for sure is money can’t buy [wins]. Silly guys get in with big egos and a lot of money and just make a mess. I don’t believe that is going on here. You’ve got thoughtful spending behind superb management. That’s a different model.” Simpson said, “Payroll has gone from $57 million to maybe $125 million this year. That's $70 million. When ticket sales are $70 million, you can't expect it to be covered quickly. It'll need further increases in ticket prices, and this TV increment for revenue, and a winning team. Then we'll have a sustainable model. But people who invest in a baseball franchise are, in our case on the financial side, looking for ultimate appreciation of the value of the team. We're not looking to take money out. We also are putting in money now” (FT. WORTH STAR TELEGRAM, 1/22).
The NHL is in talks with the Devils to "advance the team money so it can continue to operate through the season," according to Kosman & Everson of the N.Y. POST. Sources said that under the league's plan, Devils Chair & Managing Partner Jeff Vanderbeek would "continue to run the team while he pursues a long-term financing solution." An NHL spokesperson "called a report that the league was considering funding the Devils 'inaccurate,' but declined to elaborate." The team is "on track to lose up to $20 million this season," and has "not been able to repay an $80 million principal payment that was originally due Sept. 1." Vanderbeek has been "looking to raise money by securitizing the team’s long-term television rights deal with the MSG cable sports network" (N.Y. POST, 1/21).
Rams Exec VP/Football Operations & COO Kevin Demoff is "aware of the collective nervousness of the team's fan base" following Friday's announcement that the club will play a game in London in each of the next three seasons, but he insisted that there is "no sinister plot to move the team out of St. Louis," according to Jim Thomas of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Demoff said, "We are extremely aware and extremely sensitive to that, but we still have to make the decisions we think are best for the franchise. If there wasn't a lease issue out there, people wouldn't be trying to make one plus one equal three. Our goal is to build a winning franchise on and off the field in St. Louis. We view this (London) element as contributing to that goal long-term." In a "worst-case lease scenario, the Rams could be free to leave St. Louis following the 2014 season, which also is the year of the last London game." But Demoff said, "This isn't designed to move the team to Europe, or move the team anywhere else. It's designed to improve our standing in the NFL and grow our brand. And the stronger our brand is, the stronger our franchise is, the better that is for St. Louis." He added, "I don't blame the fans for our attendance. We've put a bad product on the field and there's been very little to be excited about. So if we had a full capacity at the Edward Jones Dome it might make this (London) decision slightly tougher, but I don't think so. This is a great opportunity for the Rams and for St. Louis." Meanwhile, NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello noted, "We have not said: 'We want a franchise in London. We have responded to questions about the feasibility of a franchise in London someday and our answer has been that's possible" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/21).
COMING OR GOING? Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Owner Stan Kroenke "reassured me they're going to do everything possible (to stay in St. Louis). ... My gut feel, and my hope, is that they get things worked out, because this is the place where this team needs to be." In St. Louis, Bernie Miklasz wrote L.A. is "still the biggest threat to the Rams." Miklasz: "I'm told Kroenke has no desire to own an NFL team in London because it would be a logistical mess and an impediment to winning. ... He can make money in Rams-related deals in sponsorships and media rights, and gain popularity in his role as the generous American who's sharing his NFL team with his new friends and business associates across the pond. And Kroenke gets to pull this off without dealing with the inevitable headaches that come with having a full-time London-based NFL team" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/21). The ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH's Miklasz wrote the Rams can "spin it as they choose, but no sale." There is "simply no way to turn this decision into being perceived as a fan-friendly, pro-St. Louis move." Miklasz: "The bottom line: at a time when Rams fans are on edge and becoming increasingly paranoid about the team's future here, Kroenke is pulling a home game from the market for each of the next three seasons" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/20). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said it is “completely absurd" that the Rams will play three games in London. Kornheiser: “I don’t get this. But it indicates that there’s no juice for that team at all in St. Louis. The solution is to move the Rams back where the Rams belong, in Los Angeles” ("PTI," ESPN, 1/20). ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio said, “Rams fans are going to be even more nervous about a possible relocation. Owner Stan Kroenke has been very noncommittal. ... Even if the team stays put, there's increased anxiety about a relocation, not just to Los Angeles" ("NBC Sports Talk,” NBC Sports Network, 1/20).
MAKING UP FOR LOST GAMES: SI's Peter King cites a league office source as saying that a "major selling point to the teams playing overseas is if you give up a home game, the league will compensate the team with a payment above and beyond what it made for a regular home game." King: "That payment, I'm told, will be at least $5 million per home game lost. So if the Rams can pocket an extra $15 million to $25 million over the three years of the deal, they shouldn't have any excuses about paying out the kind of guaranteed money that some teams in the bottom quartile of NFL revenue -- which the Rams are in -- have to pay to attract and pay legit free agents" (SI.com, 1/23).
STAYING LOCAL: Patriots Owner Robert Kraft said that the NFL approached his team about a "long-term commitment of games" in London, but he noted that they "weren’t willing to give up a home game." Still, Kraft "praised the support that the team has received from fans in" the U.K. (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/21). TrinityOne Sports President & CEO and former Patriots CMO Lou Imbriano "sees positives in the Patriots making the trip." He said, "They’re an East Coast team, so the travel is roughly comparable to flying to the West Coast. ... If I was running the marketing, I would love the exposure to the European market and to London. I’d want to become London’s team" (ESPN.com, 1/20). Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas noted the Buccaneers had "appeared ticketed for an annual overseas game," having played in London in October and in '09. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had said that the "Bucs had expressed interest in playing an annual game." But, "very quietly, Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said that interest had disappeared." Earlier this month, Glazer "let it be known that the Bucs had informed the league they didn’t want to 'host' London games in the foreseeable future." Yasinskas wrote when the Buccaneers "pulled out, I think they were quietly admitting they’re focusing on their local fan base" (ESPN.com, 1/21).
UNDER CONTRACT: In London, Ashling O'Connor noted Wembley Stadium has an "exclusive five-year deal with the NFL," which gives the league an option to "host more than one game a year" at the facility. All NFL teams were "asked to play at least one regular-season home game a year in Britain for up to five years." It is also "understood that there could be some interest in taking an NFL game to Ireland." News of the deal will "come as a blow to the ambitions of the Olympic Park Legacy Company as it seeks uses for the [US$756.6M] Olympic Stadium in Stratford after the Games this summer." Legacy officials had "expressed interest in hosting NFL games at the 60,000-capacity stadium, which will reopen in 2014 after completion of a [US$467M] construction programme to upgrade it from a Games venue to a commercial sports and entertainment arena" (LONDON TIMES, 1/21).
The Dolphins on Saturday introduced Joe Philbin “as the 10th coach in franchise history,” according to Barry Jackson of the MIAMI HERALD. Philbin most recently served as Packers offensive coordinator, and Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross “preferred to hire a coach with an offensive background.” Ross said, “His intelligence stands out. His leadership skills are unparalleled. He’s a man of integrity. He has tremendous, innovative ideas.” Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland said, “There is not one person out there that doesn’t respect him not only as a coach, but as a person. Fifteen minutes into our first meeting, I knew this was a guy we should seriously look at.” Ross said, “We interviewed six people in person, many who will eventually be head coaches in the NFL. They were all outstanding candidates” (MIAMI HERALD, 1/22). In West Palm Beach, Ben Volin reported Philbin reportedly “signed a four-year deal, though financial terms were not immediately known.” Ross said, "He really impressed me, just listening to him, his organization, his plan, how he'll execute it and make us a winner as fast as possible." Ross added, "He has a lot of the same attributes as the most successful coach the Miami Dolphins have had in the past, and that's Don Shula" (PALM BEACH POST, 1/22). Ireland acknowledged the Philbin “has ‘100 percent’ control over the Dolphins coaching staff, and what type of offense or defense the team runs” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/22). Ross said that after Philbin’s interview “he talked to Carl Peterson, his long-time friend and adviser, and Peterson told him it was the best presentation by a coach he'd ever seen” (MIAMIHERALD.com, 1/21). In West Palm Beach, Brian Biggane wrote, “From players to broadcasters to fellow coaches and front-office types, the overwhelming sentiment has been that not only has Philbin, 50, earned this opportunity, but that he will excel at it” (PALM BEACH POST, 1/22). Ross: "I really believe that people that work in great winning organizations learn how to win and that's what it's all about. That's the primary reason and who he is as a person and what he will do for this organization are the reasons why Joe Philbin is the coach of the Miami Dolphins" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/22).
RIGHT MAN FOR THE GIG? In Miami, Armando Salguero wrote Philbin “won the news conference on Saturday,” as he was “energetic, he was enthusiastic, he was prepared, pleasant and even-keeled.” Still, Philbin’s success “will be determined, like every Dolphins coach, by how much talent he has at his disposal and specifically how large his quarterback’s exploits become the next half-decade or so” (MIAMI HERALD, 1/22). Also in Miami, Greg Cote wrote Philbin “has become the man in charge of hope for a fan base so desperate for that.” Cote: “He must win. Now.” The hire “qualifies as a big gamble” for the Dolphins front office and it is a “justifiable hire if only based on that shiny title Philbin brings here.” But the Dolphins again “have rolled dice and offered themselves up as a proving ground for a man who arrives with his training wheels still on in terms of the job he has been asked to take on.” Cote: “That makes Philbin, good as he might prove to be, the second choice. The guy the Dolphins ultimately settled for” (MIAMI HERALD, 1/22). In West Palm Beach, Dave George wrote, “The hope is that he's no ordinary Joe. Ordinary is the most odious of fates for an NFL franchise” (PALM BEACH POST, 1/21). But FOXSPORTSFLORIDA.com’s Chris Perkins wrote Philbin “seems to be a man of substance and reality, not the quick fix.” But the hiring is still “a major disappointment” and will make a “tough sell to a dwindling fan base” (FOXSPORTSFLORIDA.com, 1/21).
In St. Louis, Jeff Gordon wrote Tom Stillman, who reportedly signed a purchase agreement to buy the Blues Friday, “is unabashedly pro-St. Louis.” He is “highly visible at Blues games, offering steady encouragement to players, coaches and management.” Stillman “really, really wants to keep the Blues right where they are, winning game after game at Scottrade Center.” The potential sale “should reassure Blues fans that have become increasingly fretful about this team’s two-year ownership limbo.” But Gordon wrote this “is only good news if this new ownership group has the wherewithal to sustain a competitive payroll year after year” (STLTODAY.com, 1/20).
SAVED BY A PRINCE? In L.A., T.J. Simers wrote under the header, “Want To Boost The Value Of The Dodgers? Sign Prince Fielder.” The winning bidder for the Dodgers will be “on the hook to pay all the deferred money owed to players signed by” outgoing Owner Frank McCourt. And most of McCourt’s deals “have involved putting off payment.” Yet no one “seems to be balking.” Simers asked, “Are we still to believe the signing of Fielder would be troubling to a new owner given the gigantic TV deal that awaits? … Are we to believe the signing of Fielder, which should boost the Dodgers and thereby improve attendance, would turn off bidders?” (L.A. TIMES, 1/22).
OWNER'S MANUEL: Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov said last week that he "would ‘send my shares (of the Nets) to a blind trust’ should he become prime minister.” In N.Y., Stefan Bondy noted giving his shares to a blind trust “doesn’t mean Prokhorov would relinquish his investment, just that trustees would be given full discretion over the Nets’ assets.” Prokhorov, “who hasn’t attended a Nets game in almost a year, downplayed any change in his ownership duties as status quo.” Prokhorov: “Even now I’m more on the strategy side than the day-to-day routine and I never interfere in my manager’s job” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/21).
SHOW ME THE MONEY: In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette wrote Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan has “made it clear he wants to be held accountable and that the team will spend up to the salary cap.” That is “good because when NFL free agency opens up on March 13, the Jaguars should throw big money at several positions craving an upgrade.” How the team “spends in the open market will be a major test of Khan applying action to his words.” If the Jaguars “are going to live up to Khan's high expectations, it starts with opening up his checkbook” (JACKSONVILLE.com, 1/21).