ESPNU Studio Ops Moving To Bristol Chargers Reach TV, Radio Deals In L.A. Plan To Replace Pimlico Gets Backing Bleacher Report Debuts Brand Campaign Hawks-Wizards Has Early Start Time Timbers Unveil Stadium Expansion Plan ESPN Begins Laying Off Around 100 Personalities Where Does NASCAR Go With Dale Jr. Leaving? Manfred: Bush-Jeter Deal For Marlins Not Done David Abrutyn's Career Intertwined With Caps History
SBD/April 5, 2012/MLB Season PreviewPrint All
Marlins Park hosted its first regular-season game last night, and “it took just one night for the sparkling spaceship of a stadium to feel like home,” according to a front-page piece by Beasley & Rabin of the MIAMI HERALD. A crowd of 36,601 fans “shared in an unforgettable evening.” Beasley & Rabin write, “This wasn’t about a baseball game. Not on this night. It was Miami showing the world what it can do with roughly two-thirds of a billion dollars, and a boss with a taste for colors and curves.” Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria’s vision for the ballpark “was to create a unique entertainment experience that reflected the best of Miami,” and it is “hard to argue with his results.” Former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, whose administration helped approve the building of the venue, said, “It’s been a long road, as you well know, but it’s something I believe in. Today is a dream come true. Today is a day I feel extremely proud of.” Beasley & Rabin note the night was “a celebration, even if there was a glitch or two, like the scene in section 320, where an emergency truck hit a water fountain and water came cascading over some fans’ seats” (MIAMI HERALD, 4/5).
WELCOME TO MIAMI: YAHOO SPORTS’ Steve Henson writes most ballparks "don’t characterize their city,” but Marlins Park “projects a distinctly Miami feel.” South Beach bar The Clevelander is “ensconced beyond the left-field wall, providing a swimming pool, umbrella drinks and salsa music.” Next to it is “a home run sculpture, a tangle of marlins, seagulls and flamingos that will burst into 30 seconds of frenzied movement when a Marlins player hits a home run.” The mango slaw on the hot dogs is “of the same festive color scheme as the sculpture, julienned orange and yellow and green and blue” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/5). CBSSPORTS.com’s Jon Heyman wrote Marlins Park “reflects this lively, fun, splashy city.” Heyman: “There isn't a red brick in the house. The place is glass and steel, and it's colorfully crazy and plenty chaotic. It's a look into the future, and it's totally cool.” The ballpark is “lively with colors and sounds,” steel and glass “comprise a modern masterpiece, and the colors are at the very least awakening” (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/4). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes the stadium “accomplished what few sports venues ever do.” Hyde: “It defined this locale perfectly. It said South Florida wonderfully.” He continues, “How many sports venues give off a visual vibe and electric hum of their city from the first game?” The venue “looked like South Florida, right down to having a costumed stone crab, octopus, sea horse and shark run a race between innings in what will become a regular feature” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/5). MLB.com’s Mike Bauman writes, “The new ballpark is visually striking. It is colorful. It is lively. It is diverse. It says ‘Miami’ and it says ‘impressive’ in the same paragraph” (MLB.com, 4/5). ESPN's Dan Shulman said, "If you’re a fan of lime green, if that’s your favorite color, you have come to the right place.” ESPN's Terry Francona: “It’s amazing the differences in cultures (among MLB teams). I’d like to see them put that left field sculpture up inside Fenway.” He added, "It has the South Beach flair to it that you’re not going to see at Fenway or Yankee Stadium. But this is what they wanted" ("Cardinals-Marlins," ESPN, 4/4).
Marlins Park contains bright colors normally
not found at MLB venues
WORKING OUT THE KINKS: In Miami, Hanks, Sampson & Wooldridge “set out to test the new stadium from a fan’s perspective,” and write Opening Night “had its share of raves, flubs and hiccups.” Despite the “angst over parking, we were able to find a spot at a public garage on the Jackson hospital complex without too much hassle,” for a cost of $10. Public transportation was “more of a challenge.” The trip from downtown “via Metromover and Metrorail took us one hour and 15 minutes, and much of the delay came waiting for the new Miami stadium trolley.” The WiFi “worked surprisingly well in most places.” The one exception was “an area between center field and third base, where WiFi was impossible to access.” There were enough bathrooms, and even with a “sold-out crowd, there was virtually no wait when we visited.” However, fans should expect to “wait in line for food.” The concession stands “struggled to keep up Wednesday night, and the Marlins’ effort to serve higher-end food appears to be the culprit” (MIAMI HERALD, 4/5). In West Palm Beach, Ben Volin notes there were “many fans who braced for bad traffic.” Although there “were a few complaints,” most fans were “pleasantly surprised by the lack of problems.” The Marlins have “only 5,700 on-site parking spaces in their garages and lots.” Those were “sold out Wednesday but are still available for other games.” Fans yesterday “found other options, taking shuttles from off-site lots and a Metrorail station.” Some people even “arrived via the Miami Water Taxi, which has a stop a couple of blocks away on the river.” Most fans “parked in private residences in the surrounding neighborhood, just as they did when they went to football games at the Orange Bowl.” The “priciest spots, close to the stadium, went for $40, but parking could easily be found for $20 or less within two or three blocks” (PALM BEACH POST, 4/5).
A NEW ERA: SI.com’s Eric Mack writes the Marlins "have a new lease on life.” The ballpark is “a new piece of Americana and the energy is South Beach-quality.” Mack: “This feels like a major league city now. It feels like a big-league team. These sound like big-league fans, and home-centric ones to boot.” In the “realm of natural noise, fans are right on top of the action, something you did not get before at Marlins games.” There is “no longer the question of which team these fans are rooting for, which hasn't always been the case” (SI.com, 4/5). In Miami, Greg Cote writes, “Baseball was born again here Wednesday.” The night was “bigger than one game or one result.” It was about “assuring an endless parade of them, assuring the Marlins’ permanence in Miami.” Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said, “It’s a new era not just for Miami -- for baseball.” Cote notes the Marlins “hadn’t had an Opening Day this anticipated since the very first one in 1993” (MIAMI HERALD, 4/5). In West Palm Beach, Dave George writes under the header, “Miami Marlins’ First Night Is A Loss In The Standings But A Smash Nonetheless” (PALM BEACH POST, 4/5).
WEIGHING IN: MLB Commissioner Bud Selig yesterday said that Marlins Park “is a ‘phenomenal’ facility that will ensure the foreseeable baseball future for both this franchise and this area.” Selig said, "It's huge. Every time you can take a franchise, and now know for the next two or three generations that you have it solidified, it's huge.” Selig “referred to the difficulties in getting this facility built and said that it would all prove to be worthwhile.” Selig: “It's an interesting phenomenon, because you go through that period, and taxpayers understandably want to know who's paying for what and why -- perfectly justifiable. But then things happen. The stadium is up.” He added, "It's the sociological value -- what does it do for a community? And five years after the stadium is up, all the people who were critics are gone” (MLB.com, 4/4). Selig said of the park, “It’s a long way from Joe Robbie Stadium” ("Cardinals-Marlins," ESPN, 4/4).
ALL-STAR GAME ON HOLD: Selig said that Marlins Park “won't be receiving an All-Star Game until 2015, at the earliest.” He said that “an abundance of new stadiums in the league -- there have been nine built in the last decade -- has led to a backlog of viable venues” for the game. Selig: "I haven't [awarded] the '13 or '14 All-Star games yet. So let me award that and then we'll talk about it." Selig did say that there “have been discussions about having a World Baseball Classic final at the new Marlins Park” (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 4/4).
The Marlins hosted their first regular-season game at the new Marlins Park last night, and the team “greeted a fan-filled stadium ... with a spectacular pre-game show that began with footage of the city from a speedboat slicing through waterways and ended with fireworks, a flyover of fighter jets and a guest appearance by boxing legend Muhammad Ali,” according to Spencer & Yanez of the MIAMI HERALD. Jose Feliciano sang the National Anthem and a “thunderous applause filled the stands.” The show “paid tribute to South Florida music with snippets of songs by a long list of artists,” and "high school and middle school students from across South Florida” performed prior to the first pitch. Players were “escorted onto the field by Copacabana-style showgirls” (MIAMI HERALD, 4/5). In Miami, Andre Fernandez writes a “distinct tropical feel continued during the pregame introductions as Marlins starters were escorted one at a time to the diamond by showgirls with colorful, feathery garb.” The national anthem was “followed by the traditional fly-over by fighter jets and more fireworks” (MIAMI HERALD, 4/5). The Latin theme was “unmistakable” as three hours before game time fans streaming toward the stadium were “serenaded by brassy soul and Latin favorites from the strolling Miami Street Band” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/5). In Chicago, Phil Rogers writes it was “quite the event.” Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said, "Very unique, very different opening day” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/5).
FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY: MLB.com’s Sanchez & Frisaro note Ali’s appearance at Marlins Park “was in the works for two months.” Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria said, "I wanted to give the fans the sense that we're doing special things here. At first I brought him in to see the players, and they were very happy. A total surprise for everybody." Ali passed the game ball to 3B Hanley Ramirez as “chants of ‘Ali, Ali, Ali’ erupted” (MLB.com, 4/5). Loria said of Ali, "He's still the most famous person on the face of the Earth” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/5). Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, defeated Sonny Liston in Miami Beach in '64 to win the heavyweight title for the first time. But the AP's Tim Reynolds wrote on his Twitter account, "Outside of Miami, do many people know Muhammad Ali's connection to this city?" Baseball writer Keith Law wrote, "The fans seem as puzzled by the inclusion of Muhammad Ali as I am" (TWITTER.com, 4/4). Meanwhile, in Sacramento, Victor Contreras writes you “couldn't help but feel sorry for Ali as he sat slumped riding in a cart, his hands shaking violently from Parkinson's disease.” He seemed “unaware of where he was or what he was doing as he dropped a ball into Hanley Ramirez's hand” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/5).
ESPN earned a 1.8 overnight for the Cardinals' 4-1 win over the Marlins last night in the regular-season debut of Marlins Park, flat compared to the net's Dodgers-Giants opener last year. The game earned a 5.4 local rating in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, which is the net's highest regular-season MLB telecast ever in the market. St. Louis led all U.S. markets with a 15.9 local rating, marking the best Opening Night rating in any market on ESPN or ESPN2 in the last five years. Meanwhile, ESPN2 earned a 2.1 overnight for the Thunder-Heat game last night, which was moved to accommodate Cardinals-Marlins. The telecast earned a 3.6 local rating in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale. The game also marked ESPN2's best rating ever for an NBA game on the net (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
MIC CHECK: Former MLB manager Terry Francona made his regular-season debut as part of ESPN's primary MLB announcer team last night, but it was partially spoiled by some sound issues. ESPN in a statement said, "We had some technical issues with the sound from Terry's microphone. We made adjustments to address it" (THE DAILY). The Globe & Mail's Bruce Dowbiggin wrote on his Twitter account, "Is Terry Francona using the gargle microphone? Sounds like they placed it right next to his glottis." Baseball America's Ben Badler wrote, "What's up with Francona's microphone? Sounds like he's about to tell us we're headed for mild turbulence." SportsBusiness Journal's Don Muret wrote, "Terry Francona sounds like he's in a tunnel. Or else he's chewing tobacco again." Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks wrote, "When is Terry Francona going to break out some 'Yellow Submarine' sound effect vocals? Perfect opportunity."
A record 14 MLB players will earn at least $20M this season, "more than double from two years," according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. While MLB's "average salary increased" 4% to $3.4M, it is "getting crowded at the top of the pay scale, a trend that will continue." Nineteen player next season will earn at least $20M, and 26 players "will eclipse the barrier in future years." Six players last year earned at least $20M. Meanwhile, the Yankees enter the '12 season with a payroll of $197.9M, their lowest since '07. However, they still have the "highest payroll" in MLB for the 14th consecutive year (USA TODAY, 4/5).
TEAMTOTAL PAYROLL TEAMTOTAL PAYROLL Yankees$197,962,289 Braves$83,309,942 Phillies$174,538,938 Reds$82,203,616 Red Sox$173,186,617 Mariners$81,978,100 Angels$154,485,166 Orioles$81,428,999 Tigers$132,300,000 Nationals$81,336,143 Rangers$120,510,974 Indians$78,430,300 Marlins$118,078,000 Rockies$78,069,571 Giants$117,620,683 Blue Jays$75,489,200 Cardinals$110,300,862 D'Backs$74,284,833 Brewers$97,653,944 Rays$64,173,500 White Sox$96,919,500 Pirates$63,431,999 Dodgers$95,143,575 Royals$60,916,225 Twins$94,085,000 Astros$60,651,000 Mets$93,353,983 A's$55,372,500 Cubs$88,197,033 Padres$55,244,700
ON THE THRESHOLD: In Philadelphia, David Murphy notes the Phillies will "once again enter a season on the verge of the luxury-tax threshold." The Phillies are "so close that we probably will not know until the end of the year whether they have eclipsed it." The club currently has a "projected official payroll" of about $170.63M, but only $166.57M of that is "in the form of guaranteed contracts." The luxury-tax threshold is $178M, but "each team is charged" about $10M for player benefits. That leaves the Phillies "actually sitting at about" $180.63M right now (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/5).
Some 15,000 Mets fans “have been offered one free seat” for Saturday or Sunday's game against the Braves “in exchange for every ticket they buy for today’s opener” at Citi Field, according to David Li of the N.Y. POST. Plenty of the 41,880 seats for this afternoon’s game against the Braves “were still available early today.” If the Mets “don’t sell out, it will be the first home opener since 1997 that didn’t fill their stadium.” The Mets sent “more e-mails yesterday, cutting ticket prices for today’s game by between $4 and $22, depending on the seat.” The Mets spun the two-for-one Opening Day offer “as a bid to get families out to Citi Field this weekend” (N.Y. POST, 4/5).
UNHAPPY CAMPERS: In N.Y., Bill Madden writes the Mets were “less-than-thrilled to be spending the final day of the Grapefruit League season in Tampa, barely 24 hours before they would be opening up the real season at Citi Field.” The Yankees and Mets “completed their mystifying home-and-home, end-of-spring series at Steinbrenner Field” yesterday, and Mets GM Sandy Alderson “apologized to the team for this spring-ending insanity.” Madden writes it was “a decision from above, all designed to replenish the Mets’ empty coffers with the proceeds from one last sold-out exhibition game at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie Tuesday.” League sources said that when the Mets’ front office “learned the Yankees were scheduled to make a rare trip to the east coast of Florida at the end of spring training to open up the new Miami ballpark, they asked if they would consider extending their Sun Coast stay an extra day to play a game in Port St. Lucie” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/5). On Long Island, David Lennon writes yesterday's game “killed any chance of a workout day to help get comfortable at Citi Field” for the team. The ballpark's redesign “is going to affect the Mets in plenty of obvious ways, but also in some you might not expect.” Mets 1B Ike Davis: "For me, like with throws from the shortstop and stuff, there used to be a huge wall there and it used to be black. Now it's going to be not there and I'm not sure how I'm going to see the ball from the fielders when they throw it" (NEWSDAY, 4/5).
TOTAL OPPOSITES: In N.Y., John Harper writes the sense is that the gap between the Yankees and Mets “has never been wider.” It is “impossible to examine the disparity that exists between the local franchises and think the pecking order is likely to change dramatically in the foreseeable future.” Their unmatched revenues “allows the Yankees to erase their mistakes like no other team in baseball.” Harper: “And that’s really the heart of the matter between the Yankees and the Mets at the moment.” The perception is the Mets “have no money to spend, as they continue to recover from bad contracts to the likes of Ollie Perez and Luis Castillo, on top of the Bernie Madoff-related financial problems.” The current gap “may shrink,” but circumstances “all but guarantee it won’t disappear” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/5).
S.F. city officials yesterday said that the Mission Rock development the MLB Giants “plan to build on the bleak parking lot across from AT&T Park could provide a missing piece for the massive Mission Bay development,” according to John Wildermuth of the S.F. CHRONICLE. An official announcement was made of the team's plan for a 27-acre site that includes Pier 48 and also features a "waterfront park, 1,000 apartments, 1.7 million square feet of campus-style office space and plenty of restaurants, shops and other retail space, designed to serve not only baseball fans, but also the workers and residents in the new development and the fast-growing neighborhood around the ballpark." Giants CEO Larry Baer: "There's an increasing demand for neighborhood services, opportunities for cafes, stores and shopping. This will truly be a mixed-use urban project." Wildermuth reports the “exact details” of the plan could change before construction starts in ’15 “depending on market factors, and the design is likely to be refined during what is expected to be a two-year environmental review.” Giants Senior VP & General Counsel Jack Bair said that talks with the city and the port "over the development terms, including who pays for what when it comes to infrastructure improvements, and other financing questions are expected to take months to resolve.” He added that while the project has been discussed for years, “there have been few complaints from the surrounding community.” Bair: “In general, people feel we're creating an amenity for the area and Mission Bay.” S.F. Mayor Ed Lee: “I have every faith we'll work as a team ... to get this through and not have the traditionally tortuous process." The team will partner with Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. on the project (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/5).
Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine has signed a deal with ESPN Radio 1050 N.Y. to "do a weekly manager’s segment on 'The Michael Kay Show,'" according to Bob Raissman of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Not only is the station's move "unprecedented, but it has Kay, the TV voice of the Yankees, squaring off against Valentine, the manager of the hated Red Sox." Valentine yesterday said, "There aren't any Boston fans in New York? I've known Michael for a long time; [I've] known ESPN for a long time. They asked and I agreed." While Raissman notes the move will "not sit well with a segment of Yankees fans who can’t stand the Red Sox and already despise Valentine," ESPN 1050 execs are "hoping these fans will tune into hear this man they love to hate." The move "marks the first time a manager from other than either the Mets or Yankees has signed a contract to make regular appearances" on a local N.Y. sports talk station. Sources said that WFAN-AM "also had interest in Valentine and reached out to his representatives." For ESPN 1050, the "driving forces in bringing the controversial -- and talkative -- Valentine on board are ratings and sponsorships." Not only does the station "not have radio rights to either the Yankees or Mets, it doesn’t have any significant baseball personalities under contract" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/5). In Boston, Steve Buckley writes, "Try to imagine various Red Sox coaches throughout history doing weekly New York radio hits. Not even Red Auerbach, who was born in Brooklyn, would have done it." Valentine "tried to suggest that the show wasn't really a New York show at all." He said, "Actually, it's an ESPN show, I think. And they'll be happy that I turned down the show with 'FAN, which is totally a New York show." However, Buckley writes it is "hilarious for Valentine to think of Michael Kay's radio show as anything other than pure, unfiltered New York sports talk" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/5).
The Padres begin the '12 season today against the Dodgers, but fewer local HHs "will be able to watch the first pitch this year than last year," according to Mike Freeman of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Fox Sports is "embroiled in a bitter fight" with Time Warner Cable -- which has about 210,000 local subscriber HHs -- over carriage fees for FS San Diego, which has the rights to the team. AT&T's U-Verse and Dish Network "also haven't inked deals yet" to carry the games. Only Cox Communications and DirecTV currently have a deal to carry FS San Diego. Analysts said that it is hard to see the feud between Fox and TWC "dragging on all season." FS San Diego "needs pay TV providers to sign up to make its TV rights pact with the Padres pay off." The net is expected to pay the Padres up to $40M this season, compared to the $15M the team received last year from Cox Channel 4. TWC "has a history of balking at ever escalating programming fees," but the danger "lies in its customers switching to competitors." DirecTV has "already run advertisements in San Diego touting the fact that it offers Padres games." TWC says that FS San Diego is seeking a 400% increase "from what it was previously paying to broadcast the Padres." While TWC claims the sides are talking, TWC San Diego Media Relations Manager Ann Kelsey said Fox' demands "are unfair and unreasonable." Fox counters that both Cox and DirecTV "have already agreed to its asking price, thus setting the market rate." Freeman writes how long the dispute lasts "may center on how well the Padres perform early in the season" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/5).
In an effort to keep up with the rapidly changing social media world, MLB and its 30 teams will now have a presence on the photo-sharing site Pinterest. Although they are not fully populated with content, many teams have already introduced their pages through a soft roll out. MLBAM will initially assist the teams in setting up their boards and filling them with pictures, aka pins. Tigers Dir of Marketing Ron Wade said that the simplicity of Pinterest is great. “You really don’t have to write a lot of text, you don’t have to post a story, you just post a picture of something. And if somebody likes it they will pin it on their board and then their friends will see it,” Wade said. MLB Dir of New Media Andrew Patterson added, “The idea of visual content and just re-pinning that content and sending it around is great.” He said the league wants to have a presence “where the fans are.” “Our goal is to have a conversation, it’s not just one way, it’s also hearing what fans are saying.” Patterson said, “Pinterest really allows you, more so than Facebook or Twitter, as a way of re-pinning content, having fans follow specific boards and having fans tuning into their specific interests.” MLBAM currently has set up specific boards on all team pages including men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and player boards. Teams can create other boards as they see what is popular with their fans. Orioles Dir of Communications Greg Bader said although they have not yet discovered their demographic following on the site, they understand that it is "not always the same person using all social media platforms.” Bader said, “The possibility exists that there are many individuals out there who are going to find one that is their preferred way of communicating and sharing their personal thoughts and ideas.”
SALES PUSH: The site is not only being used to connect with fans, teams are using the site to push merchandise. Wade said, “In a lot of households we know that women control the entertainment dollar. And if we can get those pictures of those promotional items … or get some pictures of kids’ Tigers gear … we know that those are the eyes that we need to be in front of.” Some teams such as the Tigers will be pushing the sites through other social media platforms after their opening game. Bader said that the Orioles, however, will officially launch their page in the first half of the season. He added, “As an organization, obviously we want to as quickly as reasonably possible get up and fully running but at the same time we feel like there is plenty of time to do our roll out right.”
Fenway Park celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, and several media outlets are publishing tributes and retrospectives, with the BOSTON GLOBE leading the way so far. The Globe's Dan Shaughnessy penned a piece focusing on the ballpark's signature feature, the Green Monster. In another piece, Shaughnessy wrote, "In a world where kids grow up and move out on their own, and lifelong colleagues retire from a workplace, and friends and family die, Fenway stays the same." Nick Cafardo wrote under the sub-header, "New ballparks try to blend modern amenities with a nostalgic touch of yore, but nothing comes close to Boston's nonpareil shrine." Peter Abraham noted, "The Green Monster has been a backdrop for far more than baseball in the last century." Bob Hohler wrote of people's personal connection to the venue: "Humanity at its best and worst in an emerald memorial to us, the sons and daughters of a baseball century. We are Fenway Park."
OTHER OUTLETS: BOSTON MAGAZINE published a list of the 100 "most fascinating characters, moments, and tales" in the ballpark's history." AVCLUB.com and MLB.com both have published reviews of the recent National Geographic documentary "Inside Fenway Park: An Icon At 100." On OVERTHEMONSTER.com, part of the SB Nation family of blogs, Matt Sullivan reviewed the new book, "Fenway Park: A Salute to the Coolest, Cruelest, Longest-Running Major League Baseball Stadium in America," by Jon Powers and Ron Driscoll. The PROVIDENCE JOURNAL is accepting reader submissions documenting their memories of Fenway for an April 11 special section to commemorate the 100th anniversary. MLB.com's Quinn Roberts connected the 100th anniversary with other baseball milestones this year, including the 50th anniversary of Dodgers Stadium and the 50th birthdays of both the Astros and Mets franchises. The Red Sox open their season tonight against the Tigers in Detroit. Look for more articles on Fenway at 100 as the team's home opener, an April 13 contest against the Rays, draws closer.
In Houston, David Barron noted Astros TV announcer Milo Hamilton is beginning his final season as a full-time broadcaster, and he plans to "keep doing business as usual through the All-Star break and then begin contemplating" his last season. Hamilton said, "After the All-Star Game, I’ll be seeing guys for the last time like Pat Hughes (with the Cubs) and Bob Uecker (with the Brewers), and I’m looking forward to good visits. ... That’s when things will get nostalgic for me." Hamilton will "take two road trips" this year -- to Miami, as Marlins Park will be the 59th MLB stadium in which he "has broadcast a game," and St. Louis, where it "all started for him." He will "broadcast a few games" in '13, including a trip "to Detroit for ballpark number 60 and, perhaps, a series of 'Milo’s Mondays' home game appearances" (CHRON.com, 4/4).
ON-GOING NEGOTIATIONS: MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said that the talks between the Nationals and Orioles Owner Peter Angelos "over the Nationals' share of the revenue produced by MASN remain ongoing." Selig on Monday said, “Nothing’s been determined by that discussion. I do understand the importance of television. It’s under very serious discussion.” He added MLB has involved itself in the discussions “at the appropriate committee level.” In DC, Adam Kilgore noted the Nationals are “trying to increase their cut of the revenues produced by MASN, the regional sports network they own roughly 13 percent of compared to Angelos’s 87 percent share” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 4/4).
COVERING N.Y.: CABLEFAX DAILY reports Verizon FiOS is giving N.Y. area subscribers “access to Yankees and Mets games in HD via VOD,” as well as “other popular YES and SNY programming.” Verizon said that it is the “only provider in the NY metro area to offer the content in HD on VOD.” The first HD games available will be the Mets opener against the Braves today and the Yankees-Rays game tomorrow (CABLEFAX DAILY, 4/5).
CONTRACT RENEWAL: BROADCASTING & CABLE’s George Winslow reported MLB Network has renewed its contract with HTN Communications for HTN “to provide fiber backhaul services for the network's Ballpark Cam system.” HTN has served as the “fiber transmission provider for Ballpark Cam since MLB Network's inception in 2009.” The new contract “will extend the partnership for another three seasons.” In addition to “providing live HD transmissions for every MLB game, HTN installed and manages the full-time private fiber network for the Ballpark Cam system” (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 4/3).
In a special to the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts writes, “This offseason, I believe, will be remembered as a turning point in the history of the Chicago Cubs. When we decided it was time for new leadership in our baseball organization, I knew that we needed to aim high and to get the right person for [the] job. Fortunately, Theo Epstein decided that he was up for the challenge.” Ricketts continues, “The Cubs Way is more than just a saying. It is a set of baseball principles and coaching practices that are designed to ensure our players at every level are taught the game correctly and consistently. The Cubs Way, when combined with great scouting and first-class training facilities, will lead us to our goal of being the best organization in baseball and, ultimately, winning a championship.” Ricketts: “As a Cubs fan, I have never been more confident in our future. And our future begins today” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/5).
MOVING ON UP: CBSSPORTS.com’s C. Trent Rosecrans wrote it “doesn't matter what anyone says, the Cincinnati Reds are no longer a small-market team.” Reds Owner Bob Castellini committed $225M to 1B Joey Votto, “just $15 million less than his group spent on purchasing the team six years ago.” Votto’s deal is “another sign that owning a baseball team is an even more lucrative business than playing baseball.” Castellini yesterday said, “First of all, the franchise has the capability to meet its financial challenges, even as a small-market team. Is it risky? No doubt. That's the environment that we live in, especially as a small-market team. We feel confident that Joe will be a cornerstone, a foundation of our franchise” (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/4). In Cincinnati, John Fay notes the contract “doesn’t go over $20 million until 2017 -- the year after the Reds’ current contract with Fox Sports Ohio expires” (CINCINATTI ENQUIRER, 4/5).
GLAD THE SEASON HERE: In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy writes on the “heels of the worst collapse in baseball history, the wealthy Red Sox went into small-market mode” this offseason. They sent the message “to their fans and all of baseball that they’re done spending stupid money.” Shaughnessy: “Did any team have a worse winter than the Red Sox? They fired the manager who won them two World Series. They let their Camelot GM go to the Cubs while he was still under contract, then received a non-prospect pitcher in return.” They are “coming off the club’s most shocking collapse in 33 years and they’ve done little to inspire confidence or optimism in a loyal fan base that loves the team almost unconditionally” (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/5).
LEAVING HIS MARK: In San Diego, Tom Krasovic notes a case can be made that Padres Vice Chair Jeff Moorad “did good things for the club" despite dropping his attempt to buy the club last month, specifically the "farm system, which is now a consensus top-three outfit.” He “changed the Padres in a big way.” When asked if Moorad will attend the season opener, Padres officials said that “they don’t know but their sense is he’ll watch from home.” A league source said, “Jeff started off in a bad situation with the Padres because he had people in the game who don’t like him, and they were looking for any reason to justify him not getting the vote” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/5).
The Cubs yesterday announced a series of corporate sponsorships at Wrigley Field for the '12 season, including two branded seating areas. The Audi Legends Suite will be located on the first-base side of the Nuveen Investments Suite Level with room for 14; the Budweiser Patio in the right field bleacher section will include a 75-foot Panasonic LED board. Additional signage from Target, Tervis Tumbler, the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, CDW and Under Armour will appear in the ballpark (Cubs). Cubs 1B Jeff Baker said that he asked Exec VP and Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Wally Hayward “what would happen if someone from the patio section falls several feet into the basket while trying to retrieve a home run ball.” Baker said, “That's going to be nightmare, people trying to jump over and 'Curious George' it down in the basket. It looks like a cool place to watch the game though" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/5).
THINKING AHEAD: In Baltimore, Kevin Cowherd writes the Orioles "sure do stadium renovations well.” Orioles VP/Planning & Development Janet Marie Smith said, "When Camden Yards was built, we were thinking of the hard-core fan as a guy with a No. 2 pencil and a scorecard in a fixed-slat chair. And today, our hard-core fans have an iPhone or BlackBerry in their pocket and 14 games are coming in at once and they're trying to stay on top of a lot more than just the game in front of them." She added, “We're trying to do a lot of things in real time. And so this notion of staying in a fixed seat for nine innings doesn't appeal to everyone.” Cowherd notes the new roof deck in center field “figured to be enormously popular.” It will “have a bar up there … and deck seating with a nice view of downtown” (Baltimore SUN, 4/5).
SMOKERS NOT WELCOME: In Minneapolis, Paul Walsh writes for the Twins' first two seasons at Target Field, smokers were “relegated to a corral outside left field on the promenade.” That “final nicotine outpost will no longer exist at Monday's home opener, after the Minnesota Ballpark Authority came to the team with the idea to make Target Field smoke-free.” The ban includes “not only inside the stadium but all of Target Plaza” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/5).
CALLING TRAVIS FRY-MAN: Sportservice GM Tom Olson yesterday said that there “will be a ‘fry bar’ on the field level near Section 106 at Miller Park this year.” Olson said that he “saw the success the State Fair has with deep-fried food and thought he'd try out a few items to entice fans” (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 4/5).