SBD/October 4, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
Yesterday's victory by the Nationals' Teddy Roosevelt mascot ended a losing streak that was "a contested issue, both inside and outside the team offices," according to Dan Steinberg of the WASHINGTON POST. Several Nationals players "had long advocated for Teddy to win the fan-pleasing race, which is typically held in the fourth inning of every Nationals home game." Fans "wondered if a Teddy win would kill the race’s charm, while team employees debated whether a Teddy win followed by a Nats loss would be seen as a bad omen." But the groundwork for yesterday's win "had actually been laid weeks ago." While there had been "several false alarms in past seasons, the momentum this time seemed inescapable, especially after ESPN aired a long piece in mid-September narrated by Ken Burns and detailing Roosevelt’s many losses." Sen. John McCain and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney last week opined on Teddy's losing streak, and it also "made the front page of the Wall Street Journal." A crew from “ABC World News Tonight” shadowed the mascot on Monday and the team "fanned the flames" by announcing the final three home games "would be dubbed the 'Teddy in 2012' series." The mascot yesterday was "outfitted with an Under Armour headband and gold Under Armour shoes." Octagon First Call Managing Dir David Schwab said, "People have been talking about it for weeks. And they turned it into a publicity stunt while taking care of an existing sponsor at the same time." Steinberg notes Nationals COO Andy Feffer and his staff are "already working on concepts for 2013, with plans to make the race more interactive, adding social media components and at least one significant twist" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/4).
NATS' BANNER YEAR: In DC, Dan Daly writes this is the season "that everything changed" for the Nationals. The team had previously "been little more than an opponent on another club’s schedule, a card to be punched." But now the Nationals are "officially one of the Haves, with a future as bright as their present." A season like '12 "basically announces to the world: You can win in Washington. It’s no longer just a Paycheck Place." Daly: "It also tells the players on the current Nationals roster, who will be free agents one day: The grass isn’t necessarily greener somewhere else. The contract might be greener, but grass might not be." With the Nats "trying to build something lasting, it can be a helpful selling point" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/4). The WASHINGTON POST's Thomas Boswell writes until Orioles Owner Peter Angelos "ran the Birds into the ditch, Washington was blocked, no matter how big and rich it became." But, "luckily for DC, Angelos succeeded in damaging his team so much that 29 other owners couldn't have cared less what he wanted and saw the good sense of putting the Expos in DC." Now, "both Washington and Baltimore have teams in the playoffs, and the combined average crowds of the two clubs are 56,529." Boswell writes, "If you don’t think that number will hit 65,000 by 2013 or ’14, you’re out of your mind." The Nats this season "not only turned the corner but virtually ensured that the entire Southeast waterfront renewal project, including the District’s gamble in building a new park and giving it to the Nationals, will work out to the city’s benefit and the entire region’s pleasure" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/4).
FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: In DC, Mike Wise writes, "This is the first time, the best time, and nothing that came before or follows will ever have the same majesty again." If it is "true you never get over your first crush, then Washington’s baseball fans might as well enjoy the infatuation period" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/4). Also in DC, Sarah Kogod noted the Nationals went through "60 bottles of champagne and 480 cans of beer" during Monday's clubhouse celebration, and "one of the empty bottles can be yours for a cool $100." The team is selling the used bottles to "benefit the Nats charity arm, the Dream Foundation." Fans also can "apparently buy a cork for $50" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 10/3).
SAFE AND SECURE: Mayor Vincent C. Gray's office said that "efforts to ensure a safe and enjoyable environment around Nationals Park will cost the city" up to $75,500 per game in October. Gray said that he is "confident the city will make up the money in game-related sales-tax revenue" at the stadium and local businesses. His administration is "looking at everything from the fan experience outside the stadium to staging areas for television satellite trucks" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/4).
Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos "has significantly more money to work with as he prepares to mine the free-agent market for starting pitchers this winter," according to John Lott of the NATIONAL POST. Anthopoulos said, “It’s not a bottomless pit. It doesn’t mean we can have everyone we want. We’re going to have to be creative and make some things fit, but it’s definitely more to work with than we did last year and that will certainly be exciting.” He added that “'quality' rotation help is his top off-season priority." Anthopoulos also said that manager John Farrell "will be back, and hinted -- for the first time -- that the skipper’s contract could be extended sometime next year." Anthopoulos "hopes to retain prospects he might have otherwise traded in order to make 'major additions' to the rotation." He said, “If there’s a little more flexibility from a payroll standpoint, free agency might make more sense. If you look at the return and you can say we get to save these four players in a trade and spend the dollars on a free agent, that ultimately might make more sense" (NATIONAL POST, 10/4).
KIND OF BLUE: In Toronto, Cathal Kelly wrote Blue Jays employees are "hired to be fired." That is "true everywhere, but nowhere more so than at a ball club without the willingness to overreach." Getting a job with the Blue Jays "must seem like getting hired on at a coal mine, being handed a shovel and told to dig until you hit China." Blue Jays Owner Rogers Communications has "only one role in this process -- to sign cheques." But the company "won't sign the cheques." Rogers has "identified a niche in our market and expertly exploited it." The niche "is not baseball," but "failure." Toronto is "mired in sporting failure, which suits everyone who owns a sports team and no one who roots for one." As long as "no one is succeeding, everyone gets to float along on a profitable raft of mediocrity." Kelly: "If the choice is between rotten vegetables and rancid meat, fans still have to eat" (TORONTOSTAR.com, 10/3).
The AFL New Orleans VooDoo will play most of their home games in the '13 season in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome because “upcoming construction" on the New Orleans Arena after the Hornets season made it necessary for the team to "find another venue to play after its first three home games,” according to Rachel Whittaker of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. The VooDoo announced that the Superdome “will house the team from May to July.” VooDoo co-Owner Dan Newman said that in case an agreement with the Superdome was not reached, the “team had been talking with the Baton Rouge River Center, the Cajundome in Lafayette and the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi as possible sites to play.” He said that “average attendance per game last season in the New Orleans Arena was 7,000-10,000 fans.” Newman said, “People think 'wow 60,000-plus seats, that's a lot of seats to fill.' Most of our fans are season-ticket holders who understand we're in a situation where it's make it work in the Superdome or don't play.” Logistics to work out before the VooDoo's first of six home games in the Superdome “start with how to set up the 50-yard field that arena football teams play on.” Newman said that the “added space between seats in the Superdome is a factor to consider.” It has been “20 years since an arena football game was played in the Superdome," when the New Orleans Night played in the building in ‘91-92. Newman said during that span the field was "pushed to one end zone and stretched across the field." He added that a configuration for the ‘13 season “isn't definite yet” (NOLA.com, 10/3).
Sports consultant Andy Dolich said the A’s surprise playoff run this year “should sell a lot of season tickets for next year.” Dolich: “This is, without doubt, the most exciting story in baseball. ... But this circumstance about constantly threatening a move someplace is killing an opportunity to basically celebrate what is one of the more surprising, wonderful seasons in baseball.” Dolich added, “You’re only going to sell the games out if that team is committed to Oakland. We know it’s not” (“Chronicle Live,” Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 10/2).
HOW TO DARN SOX: In Boston, Nick Cafardo writes of Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, "Nobody should have only one season to prove themselves." Cherington "deserves the chance to rebuild this team." With the "complete backing of ownership, he will return to give it another try." Cherington's first order of business "likely will be to end the managerial tenure of Bobby Valentine ... after one year." Cherington before yesterday's season finale against the Yankees said, "I made some decisions that didn't work out. I still believe in a lot of the players here and those we acquired. It didn't work out." Cafardo writes Cherington "will get one more year." He "likely will get two or three years, and he should." He will get "a legitimate amount of time to get things straight and to rebuild after some of the poor decisions he helped [former GM] Theo Epstein make" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/4).
HALO EFFECT: In California, Jeff Miller writes under the header, "Dipoto Gets Pass This Time Around." The '12 Angels season was "very much a failure, an all-timer, the worst in franchise history." Angels Owner Arte Moreno "didn't invest $159 million in payroll for the Angels to miss the playoffs, especially this year." While the team has missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, manager Mike Scioscia and "all his coaches will return next spring." Miller writes Angels Senior VP & GM Jerry Dipoto may be "rewarded for this rare display of loyalty, for having the patience to promote continuity." If not, the '13 season "will be another failure, one for which he very well could be faulted" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 10/4).
NORTHSIDE SLIDE: In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmer asks, "Where do the Cubs go from here?" After finishing the '12 season with a 61-101 record, the front office "has embraced a historically significant -- and perhaps unnecessary -- road to its promised land of eventual 'sustained success.'" In the free-agency era, "no big-market, big-revenue team in the majors has undergone an intentional youth-driven, multiyear rebuilding process." But "to their credit, the Cubs' top execs have been increasingly transparent." Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said, "We’re not trying to hide the ball. We’re trying to be honest with (the fans)" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 10/4).