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NBA Kings fans "targeted Saturday's game" against the Jazz to "put as many fans as possible inside Sleep Train Arena to let the NBA know the Kings are wanted and supported by the region," according to Jason Jones of the SACRAMENTO BEE. The game was "part of the 'Here We Buy' movement to keep the Kings in Sacramento." The game saw an announced crowd of 16,913, including Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. The final minutes of the game were "dominated by a 'Here We Stay!' chant, a 'Sacramento' chant and the wave" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/10). HereWeStay founding member James Ham said it was "a critical game" for the group because it was the team's first home game since the announcement of the Chris Hansen-Steve Ballmer group's purchase agreement. In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin wrote the game's atmosphere "offered a reminder: There aren't many places like Sacramento." Voisin: "Nineteen sellout seasons in 27 years. The only game in town." If the "money men" from the partnership between Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle and 24 Hour Fitness co-Founder Mark Mastrov "come up with a viable plan to purchase the Kings ... then the NBA board of governors will have one whale of a decision to make." Voisin: "Abandon Sacramento after all these years? Drop-kick a onetime model franchise to its knees? ... I don't think so. I don't think the NBA can do that." This situation "is unprecedented," as there "is no script or case law to follow." Meanwhile, Johnson before Saturday's game said, "We're going to come with a fair and competitive offer before the March 1 deadline, but we want to take our time and get it right" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/10).
COUNTY LAW: In Sacramento, Tony Bizjak reported a lawsuit that could "derail" the Hansen-Ballmer group's plans to buy the Kings "has been set for a Feb. 22 hearing in King County Superior Court." The suit, brought by a Seattle longshoreman's union, "contends the arena financing agreement between local government officials and a potential team ownership group violates state environmental law." A win in court for the Hansen-Ballmer group would "clear at least one legal cloud for a Seattle arena and pave the way for a final environmental review" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/9).
The Marlins' preseason fan festival known as Winter Warm Up held on Saturday at Marlins Park "appeared to be much more sparsely attended" than last year's event, according to Tom D'Angelo of the PALM BEACH POST. Marlins President David Samson said he had "nothing but pleasant reaction" from the fans he encountered at the event. But D'Angelo wrote Samson "apparently didn't see the handful of protesters." The Marlins on Saturday began selling '13 single-game tickets, but "just a handful of people were in line about 20 minutes before the ticket windows opened" (PALM BEACH POST, 2/10). In Miami, Clark Spencer wrote many of the fans in attendance on Saturday were “bitter,” and Marlins execs are “acutely aware of the anger." Marlins President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest said, “I understand where the fans are coming from and the upheaval. But it is time to turn the page. Organizationally, we have. I think it’s kind of done. I think it’s been hashed out enough.” Samson said, “Our tickets sold last year was a drastic drop-off from what we thought it would be. And we suspect there will be a drop from that as well. We projected that, which is why the payroll is at where it is. I sort of hope us messing up last year doesn’t ruin the enjoyment that we could give people in this park." Meanwhile, Samson addressed last week's reports that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was interested in purchasing the Marlins, and said the team is “definitely not for sale" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/10). Samson added of the Marlins' attendance woes, “We have to address how to get people here. We have a ton of ticket deals. ... We have discounts opening night and every game. It’s affordable. There are no parking problems. It’s easy in, easy out" (MIAMIHERALD.com, 2/9).
HELP WANTED: SB Nation’s Rob Neyer said the Marlins are a "disaster." Neyer: "Their fan base, which was already sort of iffy, is going to crater now and attendance is going to be way down this year and probably the succeeding years. I really think for that franchise to get on its feet again their going to have to have new ownership, and there’s no hint of when that might happen” (“Clubhouse Confidential,” MLB Network, 2/9).
Red Sox Owner John Henry today "in his most uncertain terms yet" said that he has "no plans to sell the team," according to Scott Lauber of the BOSTON HERALD. Henry, who was "making his first public appearance since the end of last season," met the press at the team's Spring Training facility in Ft. Myers and said, "As long as we can do it, the three of us are committed to being here. These thoughts that we're somehow selling, those are just not true." Lauber notes the Dodgers last year sold for $2.15B, but Henry said he and Red Sox Chair Tom Werner "have made a lot of money over the years, so that doesn’t drive us." Henry “rejected the notion" put forth by former GM Theo Epstein and former manager Terry Francona that the team’s “shift in philosophy was related to ownership's preoccupation with marketing the Red Sox' brand and hiking TV ratings on NESN.” Henry: "I have to laugh because that is just laughable. It’s ludicrous to say that we signed any player since we've been here for PR purposes. I don't think anybody would assert that, and if it's asserted, it's just ludicrous." Although the Red Sox have “appeared allergic to contracts in excess of three years” since the end of last season, Henry said that the team “will remain active in the free agent market” (BOSTONHERALD.com, 2/11).
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL: In Boston, Nick Cafardo noted while the Red Sox' season-ticket renewals are 10% "behind last year," the team is "enjoying a boost" of 8% in ticket sales for Spring Training games at JetBlue Park in Ft. Myers. Red Sox VP & COO Sam Kennedy "feels all the games at JetBlue Park will be sold out" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/10). In Boston, Joan Vennochi wrote under the header, "Selling The Red Sox." Vennochi: "The battle to win back the hearts, minds, and wallets of Red Sox Nation is underway." The Red Sox brand is "hurting, and the owners know it." Fixing it means "fielding a likeable, competitive team and selling it to fans." But there is a "new urgency to exciting longtime fans." The Red Sox are "victims of their own success," as the team's ownership "came to expect adulation." But over the past 18 months, they "learned just how tough a town Boston can be for losers." Winning is the "best revenge and ultimate marketing tool." Also, while community outreach "has always been part of the Sox strategy," it now is "taking on new twists." Baseball HOFer Jackie Robinson's son, David, "joined the Sox in visiting Boston middle schools to celebrate his father's legacy during Black History Month" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/10).
Yankees Managing General Partner & co-Chair Hal Steinbrenner on Friday held a "rarity" of an interview session with reporters, discussing the "various issues facing his franchise," according to Andy McCullough of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. Steinbrenner said of recent reports linking 3B Alex Rodribguez to PEDs, "It’s a concern. But it’s out of our hands. We’ll cooperate with MLB anyway we can, and anyway we’re asked to." McCullough noted the Yankees previously had "declined all comment" regarding Rodriguez' alleged PED use (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 2/9). On Long Island, Erik Boland wrote, "By and large, from fans in particular and also many members of the media, the Yankees' winter has been more excoriated than extolled." Words "such as 'cheap' and 'cost-conscious' have liberally made the rounds." Steinbrenner: "There was nothing cheap about Kuroda's contract or Pettitte's contract. I mean, I don't know. Sometimes I have to scratch my head'' (NEWSDAY, 2/10). Steinbrenner said, "We have a similar payroll to last season. That shows we want to win. So that (criticism, about being cheap) was a little disappointing. But as far as the acquisitions themselves, whatever criticism there was doesn’t bother me because I know they were the right moves.” In N.Y., Mike Lupica wrote what Steinbrenner is saying is that "if the Yankees can’t win again despite spending the kind of money they have been spending for years," then maybe all MLB teams "need to take a look at the way his money is being spent" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/10). On Long Island, David Lennon wrote there is "more available cash than ever" for MLB teams. Mets GM Sandy Alderson said, "I think the landscape is definitely changing. The question is how long these changes will afford competitive advantages to these teams ... If teams are making money, they're more likely to spend it" (NEWSDAY, 2/10).
The D’Backs “spent time at Saturday’s FanFest at Chase Field asking fans to have a little faith,” according to Nick Piecoro of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. D’Backs GM Kevin Towers told a group of season-ticket holders during a Q&A session, “I think you’re going to like these players. All I ask is to give them a chance.” Managing Partner Ken Kendrick said that the team “will be going into the season with a payroll north of" $90M for the first time since '02. Piecoro noted the D'Backs appear to have a payroll of "approximately" $92M (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/10). Kendrick said, "We’re going to continue to invest as the revenues grow. Our M.O. is we want to invest every dollar that comes in back into the team and not in the owners’ pockets.” Kendrick, when asked if he anticipates the team ranking in the top half of MLB in payroll, said, “You can’t avoid knowing the Dodgers have spent a lot of money. But I don’t really know the rankings and whose payroll will be what.” He added, “As we go forward, we’re all sensitive to the fact that we have a new national TV contract and the monies from it are substantial for each club. That begins in 2014. We don’t have that money now, but our view for some of our key players is that we can invest in multiple-year deals now in advance of the wave of money where all clubs will begin to perhaps spend more, be it on free agents or signing their own players” (AZCENTRAL.com, 2/9).
NATIONAL REVIEW: In DC, James Wagner reported for the “first time" in the Nationals' history, the team's payroll will be "higher than" $100M and among the top 10 in MLB. Nationals Owner Mark Lerner said, “It was a combination of factors this year. We have young people obviously that were extended and those payroll numbers have gone up. We have a team that we think is on the brink of something special and we wanted to add a few more parts. I think it’s just a moment in time.” Meanwhile, Lerner said that the team's dispute with the Orioles over MASN TV rights fees is “in baseball’s hands.” He added, “We’re hoping that the Commissioner and baseball make a decision soon. It’s really out of our hands now. And hopefully he’ll make the right decisions.” Lerner said of reports connecting Nationals P Gio Gonzalez to a South Florida clinic that provided PEDs to players, “I think anytime you hear something like that out of the blue you’re blindsided" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/8).
Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard said Friday's seminar that he held for fans interested in learning about working in an NBA front office was “fantastic” and he was “amazed at how engaged they really were.” Pritchard: “It immediately went into what you’d think it would go into, and that is: why don’t you do these trades? Why aren’t these trades available? And so we talked a lot about making trades and how we do our process for trades.” Pritchard said he tried not to withhold information when fielding questions from any of the event's eight participants. “I tried to give everybody an opportunity to see what it was like and then ultimately, how they would make their decisions.” The seminar lasted for about an hour and 20 minutes, and the attendees were given homework to e-mail back. Pritchard said he is certain he will host the seminar again, adding, “I don’t know if it’s going to be in a month, or next year or when, but we will do it again." There were 1,900 fans to sign up in the state of Indiana alone, and Pritchard said of the demand, "I’d like to be able to do it to where I get more people in there, but I’d still be able to keep it intimate enough that you can be very specific and try to help as much as you can.” He added, "We’ve talked about writing a book on how to be a GM. Make it more like a text book format instead of something you buy at Barnes & Noble. That seems to be coming up more and more so we’re going to explore that.” He said that effort could include talking to many GMs across different sports.