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SBD/February 14, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
Mets Owner Fred Wilpon arrived at Spring Training yesterday "with a hopeful message: The team’s finances are improving, and the payroll will expand if necessary," according to Andy Martino of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Wilpon also provided a "new explanation for the Mets’ austerity over the past several years, saying that the payroll contracted as ownership paid down debt." Wilpon said, "We were still getting revenues, lots of revenues, but those revenues were going to pay off debt. That’s done." The payroll took a "historic dip" in '11-12, from about $140M to about $90M. Wilpon "anticipates a reversal of that trend, if there are players worth spending on." Although a potentially $1B Bernie Madoff-related "clawback suit hung over the team until the settlement was reached, several other economic factors impacted the Wilpons, whose primary business is real estate." Wilpon: "We had to stay very tight on everything that was happening. So who would know? Real estate has gone zimbo, OK? We have many, many many apartment buildings around the country. There is no building, so they are all rented. SNY has done spectacularly. The stock market is up. So we benefited from all those things." Wilpon added that it will be "difficult for the baseball team, which has lost money in recent years, to turn a profit until Citi Field attendance improves" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 2/13). In N.Y., Andrew Keh noted Wilpon was "not specific" as to just when GM Sandy Alderson "might open the spigots, although he did say there was a '50-50' chance that Alderson would do something significant in the middle of the 2013 season to improve the team if its performance on the field justified such a move." The franchise remains "heavily leveraged." For instance, Wilpon did "not discuss the several hundred million dollars of debt still attached to the club or the refinancing of the SNY network -- which is said to" total $700M -- or the "remaining hundreds of millions of dollars in debt on Citi Field" (NYTIMES.com, 2/13).
MONEY FOR NOTHING? In N.Y., Ken Davidoff writes, "We will believe the Mets are once again a big-market team only when we see it." And if "we don’t see it, then we will be free to question once more whether Wilpon should be running one of baseball’s jewel franchises." The Mets "owe it to themselves and to their fans to seriously engage" in the free-agent market after the '13 season. Davidoff: "For real. No conditional discussions. Bona fide, big-time, market-appropriate offers" (N.Y. POST, 2/14). SportsNet N.Y.'s Jonas Schwartz said, “Nobody is saying you have to spend money stupidly. But if you’re going to say you have the money now, don’t you have to have a payroll that somewhat reflects the market that you’re in?” The N.Y. Daily News’ Bruce Murray said, “You got to invest first expecting (fans) to show up later.” The N.Y. Daily News’ Bob Raissman: “I don’t see the payroll right now in the short-term being the issue (but) going forward, I do” (“Daily News Live,” SportsNet N.Y., 2/13).
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE: The Mets, who have not had a winning season since '08, had a relatively quiet offseason outside of signing 3B David Wright to an eight-year, $138M extension. N.Y. Daily News’ Pat Leonard said Wilpon and Alderson “seem to be on the same page with the fact that this is a long-term thing” ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 2/13). But SportsNet N.Y.’s Sal Licata asked, “What is the plan exactly? Because to me, it sounds like hope and waiting and I’m tired of waiting” (“The Wheelhouse,” SportsNet N.Y., 2/13). Mets Special Assistant to the GM J.P. Ricciardi said, "The club has not been good for a couple of years, and I think you're trying to tell people to be patient. No one has patience in any city in the world today” (“Clubhouse Confidential,” MLB Network, 2/13).
The Blue Jackets' hiring of Jarmo Kekalainen as GM shows why "ownership made the right decision” in putting President of Hockey Operations John Davidson in charge, according to Kevin Allen of USA TODAY. Davidson is a “confident executive, not fearful of making a bold move" of hiring a European GM. Davidson thinks he “knows how a team should be built, and he thinks Kekalainen shares his vision” (USA TODAY, 2/14). In Columbus, Bob Hunter writes the move to replace former GM Scott Howson with Kekalainen shows that the organization is “truly changing.” This “wasn’t a public relations move.” What makes Davidson "believable is that he presided over a similar change in St. Louis." What makes Kekalainen’s hiring “positive is that he was director of amateur scouting for the Blues under Davidson and helped make that change with strong drafts.” They were “talking about things they have done before, which at least gives some shape to this fantasy" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 2/14). YAHOO SPORTS’ Cam Charron wrote struggling franchises like to “return to ‘grassroots’ type of coaching and management rather than think differently or broaden a search.” So “good on Columbus for introducing some new blood into the system, in more ways than one." Any “new way of thinking about the game should be welcome to hockey, and the fact that it took up until 30 per cent of the players in the league were European for one to be hired as a GM means it's an overdue move” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/13).
AMERICAN DREAM: Kekalainen said, “America is all about immigrants. People coming into the country, looking for the great opportunities the country has to offer.” The GLOBE & MAIL’s Eric Duhatschek wrote, “If you believe ‘opportunity’ can be roughly translated into ‘massive, daunting, thankless challenge,’ then Kekalainen is correct.” He has “inherited one of the greatest opportunities in the south-of-the-49th parallel NHL: trying to turn the moribund, dysfunctional Columbus Blue Jackets into something resembling a playoff contender” (GLOBEANDMAIL.com, 2/13).
In Orlando, Josh Robbins reports the NBA yesterday suspended F Hedo Turkoglu for 20 games for "testing positive for methenolone, an anabolic steroid.” The move is “yet another blow to the Orlando Magic during a largely dismal season for the franchise.” He became the “second Magic player since 2009 to be suspended by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/14). Also in Orlando, Mike Bianchi writes Turkoglu's positive test is “yet another blow to a floundering franchise doing everything in its power to move past the Dwightmare on Church Street that haunted the franchise for two years.” The Magic and its leadership have been “trying diligently to put a positive spin on a season that is circling the drain.” Bianchi: “And now, suddenly, the Magic are the Lance Armstrong of the NBA” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/14).
THE PRICE IS RIGHT: In Detroit, Terry Foster notes some Tigers fans are “not happy with the recent increase in ticket prices at Comerica Park.” The $5 seats are “a thing of the past and that is sad to see,” but that price “doesn't make sense anymore for a team that has high-payroll players.” Tickets in Detroit are “middle-of-the-road, but the Tigers have a top-five payroll.” In addition, there is no team-owned RSN “to fuel the engine.” The Tigers are “no longer acting like a small-market team,” as the increased price for tickets “will be anywhere from $12 to $23.” Foster: “Those tickets are still lower than anything I found online in Chicago or Boston. I did see $8 seats in Kansas City, but do you want to change places with the Royals?” (DETROIT NEWS, 2/14).
NO NEED TO FEAR: In Cleveland, Bud Shaw writes the fact Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam III is returning to his role as Pilot Flying J CEO “now that he's hired people to run things … doesn't mean he's the next Randy Lerner either.” There are “a bunch of NFL owners who fall somewhere near the middle” of Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones and former Browns Owner Lerner on a scale “devised to measure commitment and involvement in their teams.” Haslam is “just another one of them.” Shaw: “Haslam wasn't all-in the way you might have thought, and now he isn't all-out as you might fear. He wasn't dictating decisions in the past five months” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 2/14).