SBD/February 8, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
The Mariners are close to signing P Felix Hernandez to a new contract worth $175M over seven years, the richest contract ever given to a pitcher and the "ninth-largest contract to date," according to Geoff Baker of the SEATTLE TIMES. News of the deal set off a "celebration and collective sigh of relief from Mariners fans long used to seeing top players leave the team." The deal would see Hernandez "earn more than a quarter of the team payroll by himself in 2013." The team was "just over" $78M in salary commitments Thursday, not counting the new Hernandez deal. The club also is "on the verge" of signing free-agent P Joe Saunders, which would "likely take the Mariners beyond $90 million for their current roster and close to a payroll limit the team set when the offseason began." The Mariners "must find a way to surround Hernandez with added talent," and one thing "that could help is added television revenue the Mariners look poised to secure in coming years." The team will receive "at least $25 million in additional revenue from new national television deals," and an opt-out clause in the Mariners' deal with Root Sports in '15 "could enable the Mariners to score a monster contract" (SEATTLE TIMES, 2/8). In Tacoma, Ryan Divish notes Hernandez has "embraced his role as the team's franchise player." He lives year-round in the area and he has "made it clear that he wants to stay here and help the Mariners return to being a winning franchise" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 2/8).
TAKING A NECESSARY RISK: In Seattle, Larry Stone writes the Mariners are "taking a huge risk by giving so many dollars for so many years" to a young starting pitcher, but the "only risk bigger than signing Felix Hernandez to a megadeal was letting him get away." Stone: "At this stage of the franchise's existence, with fan disenchantment at its highest point ever, this is one case where the psychological value of retaining their most popular, and most productive, player can't be minimized." Trading Hernandez for several top prospects "might have been sellable from a baseball standpoint, but sometimes you have to do something that appeases the masses now" (SEATTLE TIMES, 2/8). In Tacoma, John McGrath writes there can be "no more moping about Seattle's star-crossed history of keeping its stars." The team is "pulling a show-off stunt" by guaranteeing that much money to Hernandez, but after losing out on top offseason targets Josh Hamilton and Justin Upton, team ownership "sent a message to the next wave of free agents." McGrath: "By assuring Felix Hernandez will make more money than any pitcher who has ever lived, the Mariners are sending a message that’s turning heads on two coasts, all while awakening a sleepy, cynical fan base" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 2/8). MLB Network’s Larry Bowa said the Mariners front office is showing fans that "we’re going to build this team around this guy" ("MLB Tonight," MLB Network, 2/7). NBC Sports Network’s Dave Briggs asked, "Did I mention it was Seattle that’s signing him to this? They don’t spend that kind of money" ("The Crossover," NBC Sports Network, 2/7).
MOVE COULD COME BACK TO BITE THEM: FOXSPORTS.com's Ken Rosenthal writes there is "no denying that long, expensive contracts for starting pitchers rarely provide good value," and the Mariners' decision "forever will be weighed against the hypothetical bounty that they could have received for Felix in a trade." Rosenthal: "To management -- and to many M's fans -- it was unthinkable that the team would part with a homegrown superstar who -- unlike former Mariners Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez -- clearly wanted to remain with the franchise. ... But get back to me in a few years, and tell me if everyone still holds the same romantic view" (FOXSPORTS.com, 2/8). MLB Network's Chris Rose noted the AL West is a tough division to compete in and said, “I’m not so sure it makes great business sense." He noted it is a "great PR move," but added, "I’m just not so sure it helps them in the long run” ("Intentional Talk," MLB Network, 2/7).
THE FUTURE'S SO BRIGHT....: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale, who broke the Hernandez extension, writes Hernandez' deal likely "bodes well" for several top pitchers who will become free agents in the next couple years. Tigers P Justin Verlander and Dodgers P Clayton Kershaw can be free agents after the '14 season, with Rays P David Price eligible for free agency in '15, and "any of them could become baseball's first $200 million pitcher" (USA TODAY, 2/8). MLB Network's Sean Casey said of other ace pitchers around the majors seeing this deal, "Back up the Brinks’ truck for these guys" ("Intentional Talk," MLB Network, 2/7). In N.Y., Ken Davidoff notes the Mariners' long-term deal for Hernandez is "no aberration when it comes to stud starting pitchers." Davidoff: "Don't bet on either Detroit's Justin Verlander or the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, both apparently content with their generous employers, to reach their scheduled freedoms after the '14 season; Hernandez-like extensions are more likely" (N.Y. POST, 2/8). The N.Y. Daily News’ John Harper said, “More and more now, teams are locking these guys up. There’s more money in baseball, even for the smaller markets. It’s rare when these guys get to become free agents” ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 2/7).
The Pacers enter Friday's game against the Raptors with a 31-19 record and riding a 15-game winning streak at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but there have been "lots of empty green seats in the building" this season, according to Mike Wells of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. The team ranks 26th in the NBA with an average of 14,592 fans per game. While it is an increase of 1,320 fans per game "from last season, that's still not enough." Pacers G George Hill said of the turnout, "It's very disappointing. The fans show up when we play the marquee teams, but they show up wearing the marquee team's clothes." Wells noted fans "had every right to stay away" during the team's "long rebuilding period." The players on the team several years ago also "were an embarrassment at times to the city," but the current roster is stocked with "players who care about the community." Hill: "That's what bothers me. We're doing the right thing. We're staying out of trouble, being positive role models in the community." Pacers coach Frank Vogel said after Tuesday's win over the Hawks in which just 12,578 fans were in the arena, "I'm hopeful that all you Pacers fans sitting at home watching on TV start coming out and seeing us because this is a special team that we're putting together here." Wells noted "times are tough around the economy," but the Pacers have "offered a variety of ticket promotions." Data compiled by the team showed the average Pacers ticket price is 60% "less than the league norm" (INDYSTAR.com, 2/7).
The Blue Jays have restricted the sale of "their popular 'ballpark passes' this year, leaving many fans feeling disgruntled and left out," according to Brendan Kennedy of the TORONTO STAR. Some worry a "price hike might be next." The team has seen ticket sales "up and demand growing" following an offseason that included the addition of SS Jose Reyes and Ps R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson, among others. But "frustrating fans" might be "simply the cost of doing better business" for the team. Blue Jays Senior VP/Business Operations Stephen Brooks: "It’s a good problem to have when there’s an increased demand for your tickets." Kennedy reported the "highly discounted tickets grant customers a seat in the nosebleeds for every home game excluding opening day for just $99." Prior to last season, fans could "present the fan pass card at the ticket window and receive a hard-copy ticket, based on what seats were available." A change was made last year in which each pass was "assigned a specific seat, and the pass itself was the ticket." The Blue Jays said that they "made the switch to experiment with digital ticketing and also to reduce scalping." However, only the "account holders were allowed to buy passes and sales were restricted to two per person" this year. Brooks said the decision to limit the passes was "simply a reflection of increased demand." Blue Jays ticket prices "haven’t increased in four years, but if the team succeeds in 2013 and demand continues to grow, expect the rules of basic economics to take effect" (TORONTO STAR, 2/7).
Ravens officials on Thursday said that they “won't extend an open invitation to fans again without first passing out free tickets," as Tuesday's Super Bowl celebration at M&T Bank Stadium drew "larger-than-expected crowds ... and an 11-year-old boy was trampled,” according to a front-page piece by Justin Fenton of the Baltimore SUN. An estimated 200,000 people “packed downtown for a parade that began at City Hall and ended at the stadium" to celebrate the Super Bowl XLVII winners. Ravens President Dick Cass said that neither the team nor police “anticipated a crowd that large.” Cass: "They would be free tickets, but we would hand out tickets so people would know they could get into the stadium. If you didn't have a ticket, you couldn't go. I think that was probably the major potential safety issue. Next time we do this, we'll know better.” Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti at the rally said that team officials “had expected 30,000 fans and thought they might have to open the stadium's upper deck to accommodate the crowd.” Ravens fans “actually filled all stadium seats and much of the field.” Cass: "I don't think any NFL team had had a celebration quite like that, with that type of crowd, as large as it was, both on the streets and in the stadium” (Baltimore SUN, 2/8). Ravens coach John Harbaugh appeared on CBS’ “Late Show” Thursday last night, and host David Letterman asked, “The parade go well in Baltimore?” Harbaugh: “The parade was good. We had people trying to climb into the stadium after we locked the gates. That's Baltimore. It’s fantastic” ("Late Show," CBS, 2/7).
WIN WILL NOT LEAD TO PROFITS INCREASE: Bisciotti on Thursday said that the Ravens' Super Bowl victory “will not lead to an increase in profits next season." In Baltimore, Jack Lambert noted while the Super Bowl “will help build the team’s brand nationally and in Maryland, it won’t significantly add to the Ravens’ bottom line.” Bisciotti said, “When so much of our money comes from the national level, it doesn’t make that much of a difference. We won’t see a spike in revenue because we’ve won a Super Bowl.” Meanwhile, the Ravens are “set to begin off-season team training on April 10.” Bisciotti said that the team will “look to continue its state tour during training camp.” The team last year “held open practices at M&T Bank Stadium, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and Stevenson University Mustang Stadium in Owings Mills before the start of the season.” While the team has not confirmed any dates, Bisciotti said that he would “like to continue the pre-season tour” (BIZJOURNALS.com, 2/7).
STILL FLYING HIGH: Members of the Ravens continue to make the late-night talk-show rounds. WR Jacoby Jones appeared on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Thursday night wearing dark sunglasses. Jones said, “People, forgive my shades. I’m not being Hollywood and all uptight. In the excitement, I busted a blood vessel in my eyes so they’re bloodshot red.” Kimmel noted Jones is “known for your touchdown dances” and is that “something you plan out beforehand?” Jones:”I have my dances, I make them up and during the week of practice I do them … and see what teammates think of them.” Kimmel asked whether he would consider competing on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and Jones replied, “Let me ask you this: Do polar bears pooh on ice?” Kimmel: “I think people would like to see you doing that” (“Jimmy Kimmel Live,” ABC, 2/7). Meanwhile, Harbaugh said on "Late Show" of the Super Bowl, “I like the way it turned out. That was good. It started well, it finished well. There was that little thing in the middle that was a little distracting.” The broadcast showed video of Harbaugh visibly upset and yelling at an NFL official during the blackout, with Letterman asking, “What is the issue?” Harbaugh: “There was a concern about the restaurants after the game. New Orleans has got a lot of great restaurants, Dave. We weren't sure about where to go" (“Late Show,” CBS, 2/7).
Several Redskins fans with seats in the upper deck of FedExField have complained that their percentage increase in season-ticket prices for the '13 season "was much larger" than the 40% jump the team said would be the largest increase, according to Dan Steinberg of the WASHINGTON POST. The Redskins in '11 removed "thousands of 400-level seats to create party decks," forcing the team to relocate fans in that area "whose seats had been eliminated." Those ticket holders were "moving from the cheapest end zone seats in the stadium ... to more expensive seats in the corners or on the sidelines." The team "promised these plan holders that their prices would not be increased until the team raised prices on other seats." However, prices are now "being raised, so the grandfathered price freeze no longer applies." And many plan holders are "seeing their per-game per-ticket price increase from $48.40 to $75.90, an increase of 57 percent." Redskins Senior VP/Communications Tony Wyllie said that 806 accounts "are affected by the elimination of those grandfathered prices." Steinberg noted if the team is "bragging that prices haven’t increased in seven years ... then it sort of has to acknowledge that hundreds of fans are now facing a 57-percent price increase from one season to the next" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/7).
THE NAME GAME: The POST's Steinberg noted it seems "notable" that DC Mayor Vincent Gray "is evidently refusing to speak the name" of the Redskins. Gray during his State of the District address Tuesday called the "Nats by name," but did "not name the Redskins." Gray recently said the name "has become a lightning rod." Steinberg noted there are "relatively few cities represented by pro sports teams whose mayors refuse to speak their names" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/6). In DC, Courtland Milloy writes, "We don’t mean to offend anybody by using it." Redskins fans "will understandably fight to keep" the name, as that is what DC residents do. Milloy: "The Native Americans I know who live around here don’t go around complaining about the name. Here’s how they put it: We are happy for you when your team wins; we wish we could be happy with you. But for the name, they could" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/8). Meanwhile, NBC Sports Network’s Michelle Beadle said, “Redskins and politics: I feel like once a year we do talk about this, and it’s up again." NBC Sports Network’s Dave Briggs: “I don’t think a bunch of columnists at the Washington Post should be debating this story” (“The Crossover,” NBC Sports Network, 2/7).
In Illinois, Mike Imrem writes this week's partnership between the Cubs and Northwestern Univ. "can't be good news" for the White Sox and the Univ. of Illinois. The alliance is "just another sign that the Cubs and NU are energetically and creatively operating 21st century businesses, while the Sox and Illini are stuck in the 20th century." Cubs Owner the Ricketts family recently has been "wheeling and dealing and moving and shaking and shaking and baking." The White Sox' "response pretty much is a new pricing structure to draw fans to Comiskey Park." If they have "other innovations to market their ballclub and ballpark they need to publicize them better" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 2/8).
FINDING HIS GROOVE: In Chicago, Paul Sullivan writes this could be "considered the high point of the Ricketts era." It is "obvious" Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts has "found a comfort zone in his fourth year at the helm." Sources said that he "desperately wants to be considered someone with whom the average fan can relate, not just a rich owner focused on profit margins." Sullivan: "Job No. 1 for Tom Ricketts is to get the renovation started. But many questions remain about his plans, including where the Cubs hope to install lucrative signage that can be seen on telecasts for maximum exposure" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/8).
CULTURAL APPEAL: In L.A., Dylan Hernandez writes if Fernandomania "made baseball appealing in the 1980s to Mexican immigrants who previously had little or no interest in the sport," then Dodgers 1B Adrian Gonzalez is "positioned to connect with their more culturally assimilated offspring." According to a recent study by the team, the Dodgers "estimate that 40% of their fans are Latino." Of that group, 60% are bilingual. The Dodgers used Gonzalez' "crossover appeal to their advantage this winter," as no player made "more public appearances than Gonzalez." Dodgers Exec VP & CMO Lon Rosen said, "Being bilingual and bicultural, he's been able to spread the Dodgers brand everywhere" (L.A. TIMES, 2/8).
NO SPIN ZONE : CBSSPORTS.com's Scott Miller noted Padres fan David Marver has "spent his spare time over the past few years collecting and bookmarking video and sound bites in which various Padres officials send one truth after another through the spin cycle." He recently "aggregated his work into a 36-minute documentary that he took public this week through his Change The Padres Facebook page." He is "not trying to sell" the film, titled, "The Padres: The Sad Truth." He said, "The goal is for people to stop spending their money on the Padres until they change their behavior" (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/7).
CARDINAL RULE: In St. Louis, Derrick Goold notes the Cardinals' new batting practice cap, which "has a blue shell and draws inspiration from a cap worn in 1950s during Stan Musial's era, is a departure from the flex caps worn the past few years." These new-look New Era caps "are fitted." The caps also could be "worn as a team during workouts this spring training." The team's blue road cap "will be worn less this coming year as a result of some changes to the team's overall uniform" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/8).