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Red Sox Owner John Henry in addition to denying reports he will sell the team yesterday during "an uncharacteristically loquacious 25-minute session with the press," also supported his ownership of EPL club Liverpool and "even defended himself against the idea that he doesn't love baseball," according to Tim Britton of the PROVIDENCE JOURNAL. Henry said that Fenway Sports Group's ownership of Liverpool has affected its "perception much more than its or the team's performance." He added, "There’s no doubt in my mind that we had a core philosophy for a lot of years and we moved away from that philosophy and it’s hurt us. Last year, I think was the beginning of trying to put us back on that track. ... The things we did when we first got here and started, which was the basic core philosophy of the Red Sox, was something we needed to get back to." Henry continued, "People can say that we're brand-oriented or revenue-oriented. But the fact is we're wins- and losses-oriented, and we have been since Day 1. All those revenues have gone into the team; they haven't gone into the pockets of partners. Revenue here is about one thing; it's about winning" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 2/12). In Boston, Scott Lauber notes this was Henry's "first public appearance since the end of last season," and he admitted that the Red Sox "have lost their way" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/12). Also in Boston, Peter Abraham notes Henry in previous years has held such news conferences with Red Sox Chair Tom Werner and President & CEO Larry Lucchino "flanking him, Lucchino using his skills as an attorney to deflect questions he judged unworthy." But this time Henry "was alone and occasionally feisty" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/12). Henry spoke on "several matters, but was adamant about keeping the rebuilding Red Sox, despite reports to the contrary" (AP, 2/11).
MORE THAN WORDS: ESPN BOSTON's Gordon Edes noted Henry "shrugged off the perception" that FSG owning the EPL club has "negatively impacted the Red Sox." Henry said, "The last time I was in Liverpool was in May of last year. I don't know where this distraction comes from. You can say every major league owner is distracted if you want to make a case for it because they all have other businesses and other endeavors" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 2/11). In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy writes of Henry's pledge that he will not sell the team, "I believe him." Henry admitted that some of his Red Sox partners "are not happy with Liverpool, but blamed it on the media." He said, "Some of them are not OK because they read the same stuff that you write and probably some of them think we are distracted, but we aren't. Last year's losses on the field weren't a result of Liverpool" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/12).
FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME: Henry said of former Red Sox manager Terry Francona's suggestion that he does not love baseball, "I don't want to be defensive, especially about stuff that really is ridiculous. That's ridiculous" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/11). In Boston, Nick Cafardo writes it is "obvious Henry didn't care for a lot of things Francona had to say," and Francona's comments "definitely" got to him. Henry said of the assertion that he does not love baseball, "I don't think I'll comment on stuff like that because I would leave that in your hands. You've been around us for 12 years" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/12). The BOSTON HERALD's Steve Buckley writes, "I'm still troubled by the perception ... that the owners are cash-crazed buttinskis who do not love baseball" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/12).
PERCEPTION VS. REALITY: The HERALD's Lauber writes, "Fairly or not, Henry’s image has taken a pounding." Henry at best is perceived as "being preoccupied by his other ventures," and he is at worst "mocked as a cartoonishly eccentric and reclusive billionaire who is hopelessly out of touch with the frustrated fan base" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/12). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Brian Costa writes the Red Sox have "recommitted themselves to player development." The "collapse of 2011 is over." The "epic debacle that was the Bobby Valentine era is done." For the "first time since Henry bought the team, the Red Sox are rebuilding." Costa: "Unlike some other big-market owners, Henry doesn't cringe at the sound of the word" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/12). Henry said of the competitive landscape for wealthy teams such as the Red Sox and Yankees, "It's gotten more difficult. There are a lot more restrictions on spending now. There are more restrictions on the draft. So the Red Sox and Yankees have to be smarter. It used to be you could just out-spend everyone, and that's much more difficult to do these days" (N.Y. POST, 2/12).
The Yankees last night announced their plan with Ticketmaster to create Yankees Ticket Exchange, an in-house resale service, after opting out of the five-year contract extension between MLBAM and StubHub. YTE will be offered to both season-ticket holders and single-game purchasers, with sellers in the former group charged just a 5% commission, one-third the 15% sellers fee many sites such as StubHub require. Season-ticket holders also will be able to electronically transfer tickets from their own ticket account webpages to purchasers. Buyers will be charged a 10% commission, in line with other resale sites. Tickets will be available for purchase and electronic delivery on YTE up to three hours before game time. The system also offers an option to have inventory listings be adjusted automatically based on prices for comparable seats. The Yankees have long been an ardent critic of StubHub's rising influence within MLB ticketing. Yankees officials said the creation of YTE represents the team's attempt to retake control of the secondary market, particularly in regard to short sellers who list and sell ticket inventory before possessing it. Yankees COO Lonn Trost said, "The short-selling has been a tremendous issue and problem with us. But with us, you can't sell what you don't have, and we think this will create a much more reliable and authentic market." The Yankees seriously considered implementing price floors for YTE, and may do so again the future, at least in certain seating sections of Yankee Stadium or for certain games. But for now, no price controls will be in place. Ticket-holders also will retain the right to list their tickets elsewhere, though without the electronic transfers and perhaps with a different fee structure. Financial terms of the secondary ticketing pact between the Yankees and Ticketmaster, also the club's primary ticketing provider, were not disclosed. Trost said YTE is not primarily designed to be a revenue driver, particularly with the advent of the 5% seller commissions.
FIGHTING WORDS: YTE will create a fervent market battle between the club and StubHub. The S.F.-based company, as expected, said it plans to set up a pickup location across the street from Yankee Stadium. StubHub Head of Communications Glenn Lehrman said, "Yankee fans will still be able to buy and sell their tickets through StubHub in a marketplace where true market value will determine the ticket price." The Angels, the other MLB team to opt out of the MLBAM-StubHub contract renewal, also are setting up a resale option with Ticketmaster with a formal announcement due as soon as this week (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).
BATTLE FOR THE BRONX: On Long Island, Neil Best reports there is “nothing the Yankees legally can do to stop fans from continuing to resell on StubHub -- or any other site -- but now the process will require obtaining a physical ticket." Trost said when the Ticketmaster exchange launches, likely in mid-March, "Everyone is going to be aware of what we're doing.'' He added, "We're not stopping anyone from selling on any secondary market they want.” The Yankees “consider the exchange merely a step toward addressing the matter.” Trost: “I can't tell you it's going to help me 100 percent. I can tell you I don't want to continue the problem ... I'd like them to come to the Yankees for their tickets” (NEWSDAY, 2/12).
The Braves' new batting practice caps “will not include the Indian head logo that stirred debate when a potential version of the hat was leaked in late December,” according to Mark Bowman of MLB.com. While the "screaming Indian" logo was one of five proposed designs, the Braves said that a decision “had not been made before the potential hats were leaked.” The team instead will wear caps "that are solid navy blue with a red script ‘A’ on the front" (MLB.com, 2/11). In Atlanta, David O’Brien wrote some critics will "say it was a decision made to appease those who voiced disapproval after a picture of the so-called ‘screaming Indian’ logo cap was leaked on the Uni-Watch.com website in late December” (AJC.com, 2/11). ESPN.com’s Paul Lukas wrote the Braves' claim that they "were never committed" to the Indian head cap "doesn't ring true." The Indian head cap “has been shown for months in the official MLB Style Guide and is still shown” there as of yesterday. It also appears “in the new New Era catalog.” Lukas: “All signs indicate that the Braves fully intended to go with the Indian design until the recent controversy caused them to have second thoughts.” It will be “interesting to see if a similar chain of events follows in Cleveland, where the Indians have come out with a T-shirt that's sure to raise some eyebrows.” Majestic has “just unveiled a new line of retro-styled T-shirts and sweatshirts.” The one for the Indians features “the old-school Chief Wahoo caricature that even hard-core Tribe fans will find hard to defend” (ESPN.com, 2/11).
MOUNTAIN MEN: In Denver, Patrick Saunders noted the Rockies new batting-practice caps feature “a purple mountain’s majesty, with a baseball sailing through the sky.” The Rockies' new caps are “kind of cool and a distinct departure from the typical 'R' that adorns most Rockies caps." There were “whispers" that Rockies mascot Dinger "might be featured on the Rockies BP caps." But Saunders wrote, “Thankfully, no” (DENVERPOST.com, 2/11).
The Warriors next week will become the first team "in the modern NBA era to play in something other than a tank top,” as the team yesterday unveiled its “innovative new uniform with sleeves,” according to Marcus Thompson II of the OAKLAND TRIBUNE. The team will debut the yellow tops for its Feb. 22 home game against the Spurs, which is “being aired on ESPN,” and then wear them again on March 8 against the Rockets and March 15 against the Bulls. The new jersey is “much less a T-shirt than the next phase in the evolution of basketball apparel.” The uniforms are 26% “lighter than their traditional counterparts.” The shorts -- which have “pinstripes inspired by the Bay Bridge -- have been modernized, too.” The stretch woven fabric, “pricked with thousands of holes, make the bottoms as lightweight and airy as ever.” The Warriors and adidas worked together "for more than a year to bring this concept to life.” Several players “tested them during their offseason and the Warriors have gone through full practices in them.” Reps from the Warriors and adidas said that they have “gotten nothing but positive feedback from the performance end.” The only “remaining question is the reception of fans and the basketball community.” Warriors President & COO Rick Welts said, “I'm not foolish enough to think some won't think we're messing with tradition. But I think it's going to be really well received. Over time, I wouldn't be surprised if every team has one." Thompson noted the jersey was "designed with the fan in mind," with the idea behind it being "having a full shirt as the team's jersey allows people to represent their team in more settings." Welts noted that the team is "already in the top 10 in merchandise sales," and if fans "take to the new alternate jersey, the franchise could see a boon." Welts: "We didn't do this for the sales. This is all about the image of the franchsie and being forward” (OAKLANDTRIBUNE.com, 2/11).
WILL THEY IMPACT PERFORMANCE? YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Devine wrote from a "player's perspective, how the new jerseys and shorts feel on the court would seem to be of paramount importance." Warriors F Harrison Barnes, who modeled the new jersey, said he is "able to shoot and move" in it. He said that players will "like the new unis once they 'take ... a little bit of time to get used to' them." Devine wrote a lot of "guys will probably need more than just Barnes' testimonial to convince them that the sleeves won't restrict their range of motion on stuff like jumpers and raising up for rebounds" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/11). Barnes acknowledged he initially was concerned about the jerseys because he thought they "were going to be like a short-sleeved T-shirt." Barnes: "I had my reservations, but just to be wearing the uniform and just being able to play in it, you really don’t notice anything different" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 2/11). But NBA TV’s Dennis Scott said, "I’m waiting to see what Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have to say about it. As a shooter, I don’t want anything on my shoulders” ("NBA GameTime," NBA TV, 2/11). SI.com's Ben Golliver wrote the Warriors get credit for "swinging big, but you can bet the resistance to the new designs will be fierce in a league that’s long preferred jerseys that throw back to the good old days." Golliver: "We know exactly what’s getting blamed the next time someone suffers through a 4-for-18 shooting night" (SI.com, 2/11). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said, “I like the look … but if their shooting percentages go off by this (tiny amount), they will burn these things, even though the fabric is lighter and they look really good.” ESPN's Michael Wilbon: “You know what’s lighter than this? That jersey without the sleeves. ... I think it’s going to last for half a game” (“PTI,” ESPN, 2/11).
TRYING TO BREAK THROUGH THE CLUTTER: Oakland Tribune columnist Monte Poole said the Warriors with the jerseys are “trying to attract attention," something the team has "been trying to do since they got here.” Poole said the Warriors “realize that this team has almost been invisible for 20 years," so they are going to do "whatever they can do” to draw notice. Poole said Warriors co-Owner Peter Guber “is a huge Hollywood guy." Poole: "He understands the show, what a marquee means, what neon is good for, so he’s going to do everything he can to try and attract attention to this franchise.” But CSNBayArea.com's Ray Ratto said, “I’m unclear on everything but one thing: Why they actually did this? They want to sell product, that’s all this is" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 2/11).
SIGN OF THINGS TO COME? ESPN.com's Paul Lukas wrote if the NBA "revives its now-postponed plan to add advertising patches to the league's uniforms, the sleeves will offer some handy real estate for patch placement." Could that be the "real reason behind this new jersey format?" (ESPN.com, 2/11). Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Matt Mullin wrote, "I'm not convinced this is the future of NBA uniforms, but people may have felt the same way when ... Michael Jordan decided he needed bigger, longer shorts so he had something to grab onto when bending over to catch his breath" (PHILLY.com, 2/11).
Former Ice Edge Holdings CEO Anthony LeBlanc and PEAK6 Investments co-Founder & CEO Matthew Hulsizer “have joined efforts to explore whether to make another attempt to purchase the orphaned franchise,” according to Paul Giblin of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. LeBlanc yesterday said he and Hulsizer, who came up short in efforts to buy the Coyotes, are “exploring options” regarding terms and conditions to acquire the team. LeBlanc said that he “would serve as the front man for the investment group, which eventually could include five or six investors.” Their intent would be “to keep the team in Glendale.” LeBlanc confirmed that his investment group is “one of the potential buyers, but he stressed that his group’s efforts are still in the preliminary stages.” He added that he has been in “regular contact” with Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers and NHL execs. LeBlanc said that it is “possible to reach a new agreement, but any deal would have to have some provisions of an arena-management arrangement.” He added that his group is “willing to discuss forgoing some revenue streams, such as ticket surcharges on non-hockey events” at Jobing.com Arena. LeBlanc's Ice Edge Holdings group in '11 withdrew from a bid to buy the team from the NHL, but said that this time the purchase price “won’t be an issue if a deal with the city can be structured appropriately.” Former Sharks CEO Greg Jamison last month “pledged to continue his efforts to buy the team” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/12).
CRYING WOLF? An ARIZONA REPUBLIC editorial states “we believed Glendale’s hockey drama finally was resolved” following the City Council’s November vote to approve the arena-management deal with Jamison. It is “hard to admit when you’re wrong, but we have to fess up: We were wrong.” Jamison last week issued a statement saying his “journey to purchase the Coyotes will continue.” The editorial: “Can we trust him? Can Glendale trust him?” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/12).
Sabres fans "should have been more suspicious" when Terry Pegula purchased the team and spoke of winning the Stanley Cup, as he has "embraced status quo and, with that, accepted mediocrity," according to Bucky Gleason of the BUFFALO NEWS. People from Pegula's inner circle "said he would restore credibility" and they "were wrong." High-ranking execs from "across the league are laughing at the Sabres, just as they did last year after the season turned ugly." The general opinion is that Pegula's "success in the real world means almost nothing in the sports world." The Sabres needed "a cold, distant evaluation that would have revealed changes were in order." Members of Pegula's inner circle "told him to clean house," but he instead "became smitten" with GM Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff. Most are "stunned" Regier and Ruff have "survived when common sense called for their dismissal long ago." Looking back, it was "easy to embrace Pegula as a hockey-loving fanatic rather than a shrewd businessman." In truth, his "affection for the Sabres, while admirable, has worked against him." This is "not how Stanley Cups are won," and it is "not how credibility is built" (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/12).
The Avalanche during the NHL lockout received “extra time” to locate a new charter airline for the team, but “that can't be said for three other NHL squads that began a shortened season last month or two NBA teams that stuck with troubled Swift Air,” according to David Migoya of the DENVER POST. The Avs and Nuggets were under contract with Swift Air through ‘16, but the Phoenix-based airline “filed for bankruptcy reorganization last year, pressing a number of sports franchises to decide whether to stay or find a new carrier.” The airline, which began in '97 with former Coyotes Owner Jerry Moyes, “contracted to provide transportation for a number of NHL and NBA teams, a list that bankruptcy forced it to pare last summer.” Swift Air initially “had contracts to shuttle" three NBA teams and five NHL clubs. Court records show that season-long contracts “ranged from” $2M for the Predators to $2.6M for the Blackhawks. Records also show that the per-flight cost to take the Avs to each away game in the '11-12 season "ranged from $60,600 for a red-eye to Denver from Newark, N.J., to $13,000 for a red-eye home from Columbus, Ohio.” The Avs' deal for the ‘12-13 regular season was for $2.2M, “had there been a full season,” while the Nuggets' deal was for $2.36M. Both teams in September were “released" from their deals with Swift. Court records show that the teams that stayed with Swift Air “had problems, mostly because the Bucks and Celtics were the company’s only cash flow as long as an NHL lockout remained in place.” Once the NHL “started to play,” Swift was “back in business.” It is “still flying as the bankruptcy proceeds” (DENVER POST, 2/10).
In Pittsburgh, Bob Cohn reported Pirates fans will "have a say in choosing a new logo" for the '14 season. Four focus groups -- season ticket holders, corporate partners, suite holders and random fans -- are "meeting at PNC Park this week to help pick a new buccaneer symbol." The present model, which features a "snarling pirate in a black and red bandana," has been in use since '97. Pirates Exec VP & CMO Lou DePaoli emphasized that contrary to some reports, the "traditional and popular gold 'P,' which is worn on the hat and featured prominently in advertising and marketing, will not be touched" (TRIBLIVE.com, 2/11).
A TRIBE'S QUEST: FOXSPORTS.com's Ken Rosenthal writes the Indians "suddenly are relevant again" after adding manager Terry Francona, RF Nick Swisher and CF Michael Bourn. Rosenthal: "Did anyone foresee the Indians spending a combined $104 million on Swisher and Bourn, even after their owner, Paul Dolan, sold the team’s regional sports network, SportsTime Ohio, to Fox Sports?" The Indians in each case "exploited their unique position in the market, landing accomplished free agents for less money than most in the industry expected those players to receive." For once, the system "actually worked to their advantage" (FOXSPORTS.com, 2/12).
BOTTOM FISHING: In Miami, Clark Spencer writes, "Weird describes a lot of things for the Marlins this spring." When pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training yesterday there was "nary a hint of last year's media circus that converged here like locusts ... to detail and document the unveiling of the rebranded Marlins." The New Yorker and N.Y. Times Sunday Magazine "did not send representatives this time, and the production crew for 'The Franchise' series was no longer about with cameras rolling." Instead, only a "handful of sportswriters and one South Florida TV station showed up" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/12).
ROYAL TREATMENT: In K.C., Pete Grathoff writes a new Royals billboard campaign featuring P James Shields and C Salvador Perez is "clever stuff." A billboard on eastbound I-35 in K.C. shows Shields "having just delivered a pitch," while another on the westbound side shows Perez "preparing to catch the ball." A rip in the billboard "goes straight to the ball." Royals VP/Community Affairs & Publicity Toby Cook: "It's supposed to look like the ball ripped through the billboard and is going into Salvador Perez's glove" (KCSTAR.com, 2/11).