SBD/December 17, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
Saturday marked "another new beginning" for Angels LF Josh Hamilton, whose five-year, $125M contract was made official, according to Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. TIMES. The Angels' pursuit of Hamilton "began in early December at the winter meetings in Nashville, where [GM Jerry] Dipoto, while telling reporters he was '100% focused on pitching,' had a lengthy lunch meeting" with Hamilton and his wife, Katie. Angels Owner Arte Moreno, his wife, Carole, and President John Carpino "flew to Texas to meet Hamilton at his home Monday." But Hamilton said things did not get "serious" until Wednesday, when the Angels made their formal offer. Hamilton: "They like to get after it. They like to get things done." He "didn't get that same feeling from" his former team, the Rangers. Hamilton said, "I gave them everything I had for five years. I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me a little bit that they didn't put the press on." DiGiovanna reported Hamilton's "heavily back-loaded contract includes a $10-million signing bonus, payable up front, and salaries of $15 million in 2013 and 2014, $23 million in 2015 and $30 million in 2016 and 2017." As part of the deal, which "includes a full no-trade clause and use of a luxury suite, the Angels will make a $2-million donation to Hamilton's charitable foundation." There is "no language in the contract protecting the Angels from a relapse involving drugs or alcohol." But Hamilton must "undergo three drug tests per week, and he is subject to penalties under baseball's joint drug program should he test positive." The Angels also hired Shayne Kelley, Hamilton's "accountability partner" last year with the Rangers. Kelley will "travel with the Angels and serve as Hamilton's chaperone, confidant and advisor" (L.A. TIMES, 12/16).
BRINGING THE BUZZ: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes the Angels "delightfully did what they always seem to do this time of year." They gave their fans the "gift of hope, they gave Dodgers fans the lumpy coals of annoyance, and they filled the Southern California sports landscape with the blessing of buzz." Moreno said, "Think about how much fun it's going to be. Dodger fans and Angel fans get to argue about whose team is better, who's stronger, who's weaker … do you know how much fun it's going to be?" He added, "We have every statistical analysis but the reality is, at the end of the day, people want hope. I look at this positively and I said, 'I hope'" (L.A. TIMES, 12/17). The Dodgers' new ownership group is pushing the team's payroll over $215M, and Moreno said, "I think it's just great. I'll tell you why I think it's great: Because those fans have been invested in that team since they moved here in '58, and they've had great success." MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez noted Moreno "intended to go into the offseason with a payroll between $140 and $145 million." He said, "We just made a decision in saying we have to get a couple relievers and a couple pitchers and try to take care of business then. Then if I want to bust the budget like I did last year, I just say, 'If there's a crack in the door, and we have a shot at getting one of the best players ...'" Hamilton's contract "puts the Angels' 2013 payroll at roughly $165 million, which would be a franchise record and $5 million more than they finished at last year" (MLB.com, 12/15).
THE ARTE OF WAR: ESPN.com's Howard Bryant said without the "bluster and vitriol of George Steinbrenner," Moreno has become the "owner in baseball to watch." Bryant: "He likes big stars, big names and isn’t afraid of a big payroll. Sound familiar? He also likes to win, not just on the field, but to be the signature team in Los Angeles" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN2, 12/16). In L.A., Steve Dilbeck wrote under the header, "Is Angels Owner Arte Moreno Obsessed With The Dodgers?" Dilbeck: "It's kind of strange, Moreno's fixation with the team from Chavez Ravine." It is almost "as if he goes to bed every night wresting with thoughts of how he can usurp the Dodgers' spell over Los Angeles" (LATIMES.com, 12/16). But Moreno insisted that he "wasn't trying to keep up" with the Dodgers. The AP's Beth Harris reported dozens of Angels fans "lined up outside a restaurant where Hamilton was introduced." The team had a table "set up for ticket sales, and he signed autographs on his way inside" (AP, 12/16).
HIGH-STAKES GAMBLING: In L.A., Vincent Bonsignore writes, "I can't help feel a sense of trepidation as our baseball teams enter their new eras of free-spending, win-at-all-costs operations when recent history suggests moderately priced payrolls are just as likely to win it all as high-priced ones." Bonsignore: "I'm just wondering if fans will get stuck with a hefty bill at some point." That is "not even pondering the worst-case scenario for Angels fans -- their team fleeing Anaheim for Los Angeles in search of a stadium and location that creates better revenue streams" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 12/17).
STUCK IN THEIR WAYS: In Ft. Worth, Randy Galloway wrote it has been a "brutal winter" for the Rangers. They appear "foolish, but worse yet, they also have come across as absolutely clueless, with some arrogance thrown in." The Rangers have been "everybody's darlings, not only locally, but also nationally." But it appears "some front-office egos got in the way" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 12/16).
The Dodgers under Owner Guggenheim Baseball Management have "invested close to $1 billion in player contracts, stadium renovations and the purchase of controlling interest in the stadium parking lots," and the L.A. TIMES' Bill Shaikin wondered if this is the "folly of novice owners, or a shrewd business model." Sports business analysts "run the numbers, and they see red." Guggenheim President and team co-Owner Todd Boehly said that the owners "hope to extend the Dodgers' reach into Mexico and Asia and use the team as a marquee property in what could become a sports and entertainment empire." Next up "could be the acquisition of AEG, which could make Guggenheim the kingmaker for sports and concerts in Southern California." Boehly said, "Our core strategy will prove itself out. We'll be able to hold our heads really high." GBM since the season ended has "poured $100 million into renovations." Boehly said, "If we believe what we believe, which is that we invested $2 billion that is now worth $3 billion, we have $1 billion to invest over time, back into the enterprise." If Boehly and Dodgers Chair Mark Walter were to "buy AEG, they would have full ownership of the Dodgers" and NHL Kings, partial ownership of the Lakers and "control of Dodger Stadium, Staples Center and L.A. Live." Boehly said, "Obviously, we look at lots of deals. This one, we look at with great interest because of the community that it is in. It would do tremendous things for what we could deliver to the Los Angeles community." Boehly: "At the end of the day, I think Mark probably is going to be one of the most enlightened owners in sports franchise history because of how thoughtful he is about how the pieces work together. ... He is perfectly aligned with giving the fans the best experience, because that is what creates the most value" (L.A. TIMES, 12/16).
KASTEN'S CONCLUSION: Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten said, "What's really happening here is the building of a franchise. ... Stadium infrastructure, organizational infrastructure -- those are the critical things on which long-term success is built." Kasten: "We're going to be using all the tools that we can, not just spending money" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/15). Kasten added, "I think when we took over we had about 17,000 season ticket-holders, which may have been an all-time low, and we're up around 25,000 right now. Our TV ratings were up the second half of last season and we're all just looking forward to what the season brings" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/16). ESPN L.A.'s Mark Saxon wrote the Dodgers will "have a payroll exceeding $230 million in 2013, easily a major league record." Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said that the high rate of spending is a "result of artificially low payrolls in the final seasons" under former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. Colletti said, "Our payroll a year ago was $90 (million). We're up over $200 (million) now. If you added it all up, it might be over 300 (million) over two years. Had we been at 150 last year and 150 this year, nobody would be saying a word, right?" (ESPNLA.com, 12/14).
Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones yesterday “defended the club's decision to have troubled nose tackle Josh Brent on the sideline” yesterday during the team’s game against the Steelers, according to Tom Orsborn of the SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS. The team last week “placed Brent on the reserve/non-football illness list” after he was charged with intoxication manslaughter in the death of teammate Jerry Brown. Brent yesterday had Brown's No. 53 jersey “draped over his left shoulder during a moment of silence for his former Illinois teammate before the game.” Jones said that the decision “was in keeping with the wishes of Stacey Jackson, Brown's mother.” Jones said of Brent, “Jerry's mother asked us directly as a group to support him, help him. ... His teammates wanted (Brent) down there with them. I do know that certainly there's the other side of the coin, that there will be criticism.” Orsborn notes the Cowboys “also honored Brown by wearing a decal bearing No. 53 on the back of their helmets” (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 12/17). Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said, “That’s just our guys understanding the situation and understanding Stacey Jackson’s wishes. She considers Josh a son” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/17). USA TODAY’s Jarrett Bell writes the move is “striking in the image-conscious NFL.” Bell: “How many times have we seen teams distance themselves from players in trouble at the drop of a hat?” Brent received “a number of phone calls from his teammates, with this essential instruction: You're coming to the game.” The Cowboys “sent a message, too, that they are all-in with their support and apparent concern for Brent's mental state” (USA TODAY, 12/17).
MOVE PANNED BY CBS ANALYSTS: The Cowboys' decision to have Brent on the sideline was criticized by CBS' "NFL Today" studio show crew yesterday. Analyst Boomer Esiason said, “It was the last thing I thought I’d see today. I think it’s disgraceful by the Dallas Cowboys to put that young man on the sideline. I spoke to a Dallas official who told me that because of the words of Stacey Jackson, Jerry Brown’s mom, at the funeral, she wanted the team to support Josh Brent. I think it’s a wrong move. I think it’s insensitive and I think really it’s something that has to be looked (at) because it sends a really bad message.” Analyst Bill Cowher said, “It’s an insensitive move. ... This isn’t just about Josh Brent. This is about everybody who’s involved with making those types of decisions" ("Steelers-Cowboys," CBS, 12/16).
STEEL CURTAIN: The SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS’ Orsborn noted a “season-high 95,595” fans yesterday were on hand to watch Steelers-Cowboys. Jones said of the Steelers fans, “We got it counted. It was about 15,000. They’re loud and they’re great.” He added, “I was told by all of my people here in tickets and in the stadium that we were going to have a lot of (Steelers) fans there. Well, we’re used to dealing with that ourselves on the road a little bit. There are a lot of Cowboy fans that are on the road for us” (MYSANANTONIO.com, 12/16).
The Mets have raised '13 single-game ticket prices "for nearly every seating category, regardless of whether it is for the most expensive dates like opening day and the interleague series against the Yankees or for less appealing matchups early and late in the season against less popular teams," according to Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. The Mets also have "lowered prices for some games that are purchased as part of season-ticket plans," meaning fans are "offered small discounts" for renewing. The strategy "seems to be to get fans to buy tickets to games they might not otherwise attend." For instance, to get a lower-priced ticket for opening day, fans can "buy tickets to 14 other games." Mets Exec VP/Business Operations Dave Howard said that the higher single-game ticket prices were "designed to encourage fans to buy season-ticket plans that include access to a top-valued game as well as discounts on tickets in other categories." But Belson noted fans that opt for single-game tickets can "get ready for some eye-popping increases." For what the Mets label marquee games, the cheapest ticket is $63, 75% more than last season, "when the cheapest seat for such games was $36." Metropolitan Box seats -- the "most expensive nonclub seats at Citi Field -- jumped to $245 from $160," a 53% increase. For what the Mets label premium games, "most of which take place during the summer," prices rose by amounts ranging from 2-78%, while single-game tickets for "less desirable games" rose by as much as 57%. The cheapest available tickets "went to $15 from $12" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/15).
KNUCKLING UNDER: A source said that the Mets yesterday agreed to trade P R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays "for top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard and others." In N.Y., Andy Martino reports the deal is "pending an agreement between Dickey and the Blue Jays on a contract extension." A separate source said that the parties "had already begun preliminary talks on Sunday afternoon, in advance of a Tuesday deadline." The source said that they "did not know when an agreement would be reached" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/17). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Daniel Barbarisi writes the reported trade "signals a commitment to a brighter future -- and virtually assures a dismal present" for the Mets (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/17). In N.Y., Tyler Kepner writes the Mets by trading Dickey "essentially told their fans that they do not expect to contend for the next three years" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/17).
A Q&A session with Pirates management at the team’s fan fest Saturday afternoon was “slightly more confrontational than it had been Friday night, when season-ticket holders comprised the audience grilling” team President Frank Coonelly, GM Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle, according to Tom Singer of MLB.com. Fans asked “provocative questions about the team's player-development philosophy,” and the execs were “prepared with patient, thoughtful and detailed responses” (MLB.com, 12/15). In Pittsburgh, Bill Brink wrote under the header, “Pirates Brass Catches Some Flak From Fans At Fest.” Coonelly on Friday said, “We're going to learn from the good times. We're going to learn from being 16 games over .500. We're also going to learn from the fact that we have failed over the end of the season and we're going to figure out how to finish.” Coonelly said that the team's signing bonus from its TV rights deal with Root Sports "helped the Pirates spend heavily in the amateur draft before the new collective-bargaining agreement limited draft allocation” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 12/15). MLB.com's Singer in a separate piece wrote PirateFest was a “huge success, with a record 16,986 fans attending the three-day event.” That total represented "an increase of more than 400” from last year (MLB.com, 12/16).
A MODERN-DAY PIRATE: The Pirates on Friday unveiled a new alternate home uniform that is an update of the uniform first introduced in ’70. It will be worn for Sunday home games and includes a new mustard gold cap and pullover style jersey. The team also introduced a new batting practice cap (Pirates).
Trail Blazers President & CEO Chris McGowan “knows there might as well be eggshells scattered around the Rose Garden these days, with the way some are gingerly walking about, trying to avoid becoming the next Trail Blazers employee fired by the boy-faced president,” according to Jason Quick of the Portland OREGONIAN. After McGowan called a staff meeting to announce the firing of three longtime execs, he “asked if there were any comments or questions.” It was “crickets and tumbleweeds,” as “nobody spoke." It “didn't help that he mispronounced the last name of one of the fired employees, who had been there nearly 20 years.” It also “didn't help that in his speech, he warned that more layoffs could be ahead.” McGowan said of the meeting, "Weird. That was weird. To go into a room with 170 people, and it's only the second time I've addressed the staff in an all-staff fashion, and I'm delivering that unfortunate news to them. And you want to be available to answer questions, but nobody wants to ask in a group setting. ... So, yeah, that wasn't a very good day." McGowan is “motivated by numbers and ideas” and “driven by order and efficiency.” He is also “confident that the business of the Blazers is about to change.”
TIGHTER SHIP: McGowan said that he is “under no directives" from Trail Blazers parent company Vulcan Sports & Entertainment. McGowan said his orders are "to simply run a better organization and improve the results.” McGowan: "I'm a real active president. I'm an operator. I will have more direct reports than previous leaders had, that's just my style.” To improve the results, McGowan has “ambitious goals.” If things “go right, by the start of next basketball season, a sponsor will have purchased seven-figure-a-year naming rights for the Rose Garden.” Boxing, tennis and a wider variety of concerts “will fill the Rose Garden more often.” And the four contracts “that expire this summer -- the arena management company, food and beverage, ticketing and radio rights -- will be negotiated to benefit both the Blazers and their customers, not simply renewed on good faith.” McGowan has “inherited a staff that is not accustomed to his competitive focus on numbers and goals.” The team had “become a happy and comfortable place to work in recent years, a calculated result by former president Larry Miller, who resigned in July after five years.” Some staffers “wondered if McGowan was stripping the Blazers of their family-oriented culture and replacing it with a robotic, corporate approach.” McGowan: “I want morale to be based on accomplishing things together, not because we are letting people come to work whenever they want, or wear whatever they want, or because they do a bunch of staff get-togethers” (Portland OREGONIAN, 12/16).
EPL club Manchester City has "knocked down reports" that it is close to paying US$100M to "create a new American team calling it New York City and hiring David Beckham," according to Mike Keegan of the MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS (12/15). Man City in a statement said, "Manchester City are not buying an MLS club" (London DAILY MIRROR, 12/15). Sources said that Man City "will pay more than two times the previous record for an MLS team," which would be "known as the New York City Football Club." Sources added that the team "has contacted former England national team captain David Beckham about a role." BLOOMBERG NEWS' Scott Soshnick cited sources as saying that MLS officials have been "working for three years to bring a new team to New York" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 12/15).