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SBD/February 22, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
San Jose city officials are "promising to sue if the San Francisco Giants attempt to block" a potential relocation of the A's from Oakland, according to Lauren Hepler of the SILICON VALLEY BUSINESS JOURNAL. The Giants have long indicated they could block a move to the area, but San Jose council member Sam Liccardo on Thursday said, "The Giants should be really concerned about whether or not San Jose would be inclined to sue for antitrust violations. I've been talking to plenty of lawyers that are chomping at the bit to take this case on pro-bono." He said that damages in any claim by San Jose might "reach up to $100 million." Hepler noted a group called Stand for San Jose, which has been tied to the Giants and the Warriors, in '11 "sued the city over environmental concerns on the proposed stadium" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 2/21). San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed on Thursday said that a decision by MLB on whether the A's will be allowed to move to San Jose should "be an easy one, given the economic differences between the two cities." Reed said, "The question is when. Because the economics are so powerful. ... San Jose has one of the highest household incomes in the country, second only to Washington, D.C. We have the Silicon Valley companies. It's a great location." Reed added that he "chats frequently" with A's Owner Lew Wolff and last spoke with him "about two weeks ago." Reed: "He's still optimistic, and as long as Lew is optimistic, I'm optimistic" (NBCBAYAREA.com, 2/21).
SKEPTICISM ABOUNDS: ESPN's Buster Olney noted that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig “behind the scenes ... has quietly been building a consensus on behalf” of the A’s because MLB knows "how much the Giants want to fight this." Olney: "If Bud Selig can build up a strong consensus, say 23-24 owners, then at that point he can go to the Giants and say, ‘Look, this is going to happen, so just make your best deal,’ and I think we’re moving closer and closer to that happening." He added, "Of course, it’s Bud Selig, so he’s going to move slow, he’s going to move deliberately. But it seems like we’re starting to get in range of when the Athletics can actually make that move to San Jose” (“Baseball Tonight,” ESPN.com, 2/21). However, in San Jose, John Woolfolk writes there is "plenty of reason for skepticism" regarding the potential relocation. Former A's Exec VP Andy Dolich said it is "at least the 10th time" in the past four years someone has said the proposed A's move to San Jose is ready to start happening. He added, "The blue-ribbon committee has had tons of meetings that I know of. But this is not quantum astronomy in trying to figure out what the options are. The core of what they've been asked to do could have been done in a lot less time than four-plus years" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 2/22). In S.F., Eric Young wrote under the header, "New Report About A's-To-San Jose Clouds Already Murky Situation" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 2/21).
WHAT'S FAIR AND WHAT'S FOUL? In California, Lowell Cohn writes one way of "looking at fairness" in this situation is that the A's are "victims of the Giants' greed, and that's not fair." No team should "control an entire California county if their ballpark is in another county." The Giants already are "doing quite well in the attendance department," and they should "be good sports and allow the A's to build a baseball palace in San Jose." However, the Giants are "in the business of doing business." That means they want to "maximize profits, and it is not their business to aid and abet a competitor that wants to cut into their fan base." One key condition when the Giants' current ownership group bought the team was "control of Santa Clara County where lots of Giants fans live." If MLB "abrogates that precondition of sale, it would be unfair." Cohn: "Serious lawsuits might result" (Santa Rosa PRESS DEMOCRAT, 2/22).
Nationals Owner Mark Lerner on Thursday "held court on a number of topics" surrounding the team as the club heads into the '13 MLB season, according to Adam Kilgore of the WASHINGTON POST. The Nationals' payroll will exceed $100M this year, and Lerner said, "We try to be smart about it. We always have. ... There’s a lot of factors in this year, obviously. People with new and larger contracts kick in, Dan Haren and (Rafael) Soriano, I think it’s something that will always be fluid." But he added the team is "never going to be stupid about how we do it." Lerner noted ticket sales "have been great" following the team's first postseason appearance. He said, "We put a cap of 20,000 season tickets earlier in the fall and we're very close to it. So it's pretty exciting that we'll have a chance to get there." Lerner was unsure how much of the planned development around Nationals Park will be "ready for Opening Day, but it’s starting to happen again." He noted the "economy is getting there." When asked if delays in development may have hindered efforts to land the MLB All-Star Game, Lerner said, "It’s a possibility." Lerner: "It's not a pretty sight when you walk out the door and see holes in the ground and the thing they have next door. ... Baseball wants to see it at least start, some things starting to happen, a few of the buildings get done. But we’re going to get (an All-Star Game) at some point" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/21). Lerner doubts the Nats will move to a new Spring Training facility by '14. He said, "With the timing, it would just be too tight. I would think next year we'll still be in Viera. You just never know what's going to happen, though. ... We can't continue to drive 100-plus miles to our closest game -- and we will get it fixed. It's just dedication to get the right kind of situation for us. It'll happen" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 2/22).
WHO'S GONNA RUN THIS TOWN? Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, appearing on ESPN Radio 980 in DC, said he thinks the market "could become primarily a baseball town, with the Redskins always being right there in the picture." He added, "I do believe -- because I’m a baseball person and a baseball fan first and foremost -- that when you put a good product on the field, a baseball team that’s an exciting team to watch with good personalities, (players) that you control over a number of years and it’s not just a one (year thing) where you’re always flipping over the roster via free agency and trades, and (fans) can really sink their teeth into these different personalities and personas." In DC, Dan Steinberg wrote, "The 'primarily a baseball town' bit is probably not accurate, for a variety of reasons. But I do think the Nats could nail down the No. 2 spot, if they haven't already" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/21).
THE FUTURE IS NOW: Nationals CF Bryce Harper is on the cover of this week's SI, and HBO’s Max Kellerman said, “Mike Trout might be the best baseball player I’ve ever seen already ... (but) what Bryce Harper just did at age 19 to the National League is pretty scary.” Kellerman said SI “doesn’t have to give him the cover based on what he’s already done,” but he “might wreck National League pitching this year” (“Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable,” ESPN2, 2/20). MLB Network’s Chris Rose said Harper “is not only the face of the Nationals," but he and Trout in two years “are undoubtedly the face of this game.” MLB Network’s Kevin Millar noted, “You’re not going out on a limb there, Chris” (“Intentional Talk,” MLB Network, 2/21).
The "catfishing" hoax involving Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o has "altered the way teams are scouring draft prospects' involvement on social media," according to Jim Corbett of USA TODAY. Social media provides an "unusual -- and not always positive -- view of a player's personality and daily life." Vikings GM Rick Spielman on Thursday said, "We've done a lot of digging on social media and have a pretty in-depth picture of players who are involved and not involved in social media -- how many times they tweet. But it's interesting to see the patterns of these social media players." Seahawks GM John Schneider said that his security staff is "assigned with monitoring the Facebook and Twitter feeds of prospects the team is scouting." Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland said that the team for the last two years has "focused on prospects' social-media involvement, but it's becoming more important" (USA TODAY, 2/22). Schneider said outsiders would be "shocked" by how closely teams pay attention to social media outlets. NFL.com's Kareem Copeland noted a recent incident with the Redskins, in which several players were contacted online by a woman using false profiles, is "another cautionary tale of the dangers of social media" (NFL.com, 2/21).
MEDIA PLAY: NATIONAL FOOTBALL POST's Brad Biggs notes the NFL is "anxious to see" how Te'o "handles media when he becomes the spotlight at the Scouting Combine." He has had "ample time to rehearse what he will say to inquiring teams as well as inquisitive reporters" following the news about his online hoax. Spielman said that he wants to "see how Te'o handles both groups." He said, "We'll watch that. I think that's a very valuable part of the process in handling media when they have to talk in front of you guys. It's not a be-all, end-all decision-maker, but we can tell if this guy needs some polish or technique if we do draft this guy on how to handle the media. Or this [guy] is pretty polished" (NATIONALFOOTBALLPOST.com, 2/21).
The changes going on with the Cubs are not “just on the field,” but also in the way the team operates off the field, according to ESPN's Pedro Gomez. The team has upgraded its charter flights and the types of hotels they stay in on the road." Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein "wants it to be first-class all the way off the field so that the product on the field is first-class." Epstein: “You want to make sure that the players understand that the only priority here is winning, and if you cut corners on some of the little things it makes it seem like the bottom line is more important than winning and that can be corrosive.” Gomez noted the Cubs next year "will have a brand-new clubhouse" at Wrigley Field. Gomez: "When you go through the 30 big-league ballparks, the Cubs' home clubhouse is probably the worst in the major leagues. That’s all part of the culture change that they’re looking into” (“Baseball Tonight,” ESPN2, 2/20).
EXAMINING ALL ANGLES: With Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts trying to get approval to make some alterations to Wrigely Field, the Illinois DAILY HERALD's Barry Rozner asked, “Does anyone pouring over the details of the landmark status really think the new Cubs owners are going to dramatically change the face of Wrigley Field?" Rozner: "Of course not. It's just another way to hold up the process until everyone involved can get what they want out of the deal.” The Cubs “aren't going to destroy the look of Wrigley Field.” At the same time, Ricketts “has every right to maximize revenue in a facility that is already severely limited.” If that means he “wants more night games, festivals, billboards, concerts -- or August ice rinks and a February circus, for that matter -- the city should allow it” (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 2/20).
SPICING IT UP: In Chicago, Steve Rosenbloom noted the Cubs are looking to update the gameday experience at Wrigley Field, including some tweaks to the seventh inning stretch, and wrote, “I like rooting for someone to botch the song and then give a great interview." Rosenbloom: "That’s also the problem. … The interview, also frequently known as verbal waterboarding.” Len Kasper and Bob Brenly, who conducted the interviews last year, “had nowhere to go with some of these agonizingly uninteresting people.” Rosenbloom: “God forbid there should be a Cubs rally with Jeff Gordon sitting in the ‘Wrigley Stadium’ booth. ... Here’s the rule: If you don’t think your seventh-inning singer should be invited to do the interview, then don’t invite that person to sing in the first place" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/21).
In N.Y., Andy Martino reports MLBPA Exex Dir Michael Weiner visited the Mets' Spring Training complex Thursday during his annual tour, and he "challenged the team to increase payroll." Weiner said, "A New York franchise in the National League is one of the flagship franchises in baseball. ... I trust that the Wilpons and Sandy Alderson, John Ricco, all those people will end up putting together a competitive team shortly." Martino notes the team's '13 payroll will be about $95M, and Mets officials "insist they are prepared to raise it in the near future" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/22). The N.Y. Daily News' T.J. Smith said of Weiner, "He’s trying to embarrass them into spending more money, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to go out and break the bank to get players.” The N.Y. Daily News’ Bob Raissman: “Who’s he to tell them how to spend their money? All he’s trying to do is get his players more money” ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 2/21).
MODEL FRANCHISE: MLB Network’s Peter Gammons said during the offseason, “at least a half-dozen times ... I had general managers or managers say they’re modeling themselves on the Rays." Gammons said to Rays Exec VP/Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon, "It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it, what you two started in 2006 that you can be looking a few years later and won 90 games four out of five years.” Friedman said, “It’s going to be really neat one day to step back, but right now we’re so focused, have our foot on the pedal to try to continue it.” MLB Network's Greg Amsinger said there have to be “owners out there that watch” the Rays and the “dollars-per-win, if you go that way, it’s incredible." Amsinger: "They’re the best run organization right now based on wins” (“MLB Tonight,” MLB Network, 2/21).