SBD/April 4, 2012/MLB Season Preview

Selig Optimistic About '12 MLB Season, Projects Second Straight Attendance Increase

Selig predicted this year's total attendance likely to finish between 75 and 77 million
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said he is projecting a second straight aggregate attendance increase for the league, with this year's total likely to finish in a range between 75 and 77 million, a sum that would be about 3-5% above the '11 season. The predicted attendance hike for the '12 season closely mirrors Selig's optimism going into last season. But several unforeseen events including the Dodgers' bankruptcy and a historically large spate of rain in the Northeast and Midwest last spring helped bring the final '11 attendance to 73.4 million, up only 0.5% from '10. This season, the Marlins are likely to add at least 1 million to their full-season attendance with the opening of Marlins Park, and the Dodgers are also likely to see a strong rebound in ticket sales under the new ownership of Guggenheim Baseball Management. "I feel really good about this season. Business is very strong," Selig said. "There's a lot of confidence that this is going to be a very big year." Several factors are helping fuel strong offseason ticket sales for many teams, including still-rising competitive balance in which traditional powers such as the Yankees and Red Sox were not major players in the offseason and continued active involvement by the league in local ticket sales. The Commissioner's Ticket Review Committee, formed prior to the '11 season, is actively exploring several major issues facing ticketing, including dynamic pricing, and recently introduced the new FanPass brand to encompass the sport's efforts around digital ticketing. MLB ticket sales remain a critical measure of the industry, as baseball has more ticket inventory to sell than any other sport. And for most MLB clubs, gate attendance remains the single largest revenue source (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

READY TO GET THE SEASON STARTED: Selig appeared on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning” today and addressed some of the issues facing the league. ESPN’s Mike Greenberg noted the “biggest addition” to MLB this year is the additional Wild Card team. Selig said, “The more I watched, the more I said to myself, ‘We really need two more teams.’ Ten out of 30 is not a bad number, it’s a good number. It isn’t like we’re doing anything to make it easy to get into the playoffs. On the contrary, we still have the lowest number of teams in the playoffs of any sport.” He added the new Wild Card position “puts a premium on winning your division.” Selig called Brewers LF Ryan Braun’s successful appeal of his 50-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancement policy “unusual.” Selig: “There’s no question that it was startling to everyone who was there, but it’s up to (MLBPA Exec Dir) Mike Weiner and (MLB Exec VP/Labor Relations & HR) Rob Manfred to work out any changes that they may want to make. I’m not sure after talking to all of our experts that we really need to make any changes cause the same procedures we’ve used on the other 4,800 tests we’ve had no problem. … All it proves is we have the toughest testing program in sports, but yet there’s an appeal procedure that is fair.” The Marlins host the Cardinals tonight in the first regular-season game in the U.S. after the A’s and Mariners split two games in Tokyo last week. Selig called the Japan Games a “great success.” He said, “This is the only time we can do it. We need to internationalize this sport. … I heard from both the Seattle and Oakland teams, they loved being there. It was a huge success for baseball on-the-field and off-the-field. Do I think it took away from the games that are starting this week? Absolutely not” (“Mike & Mike in the Morning,” ESPN Radio, 4/4).

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE: FOXSPORTS.com’s Tracy Ringolsby wrote under the header, “Give Selig Credit For MLBs Success.” Selig’s legacy “includes having been in charge of the sport during one of its stormy periods.” He “weathered the storm, and has brought about the most prosperous eras in the history of the sport, including the top eight attendance totals in baseball history the last eight years, and soaring values of franchises.” Ringolsby wrote Selig could “well go down as having had the biggest overall impact of any commissioner in history of the game.” He had his “challenges," including cancelling the ‘94 World Series and the steroid scandal, but a positive “came out of both.” Selig’s tenure has “included the building of new stadiums” for 20 of MLB’s 30 teams, the expansion from 24 to 30 teams and “realignment into three divisions per league.” Nothing, however, “ranks in Selig’s mind like the revenue-sharing plan he was able to get the teams to adopt, the key element of ‘an economic overhaul.’” Selig said that “that has helped the game create better parity on the field” (FOXSPORTS.com, 4/3).
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