SBD/February 25, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria and President David Samson will meet the press tonight after taking out a full-page ad in the Miami Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post yesterday to defend the team's offseason moves, the "most public step yet in an image-repair strategy," according to Joe Capozzi of the PALM BEACH POST. That strategy is being "organized by the team’s new public relations firm, The JeffreyGroup, hired by the Marlins in January." JeffreyGroup President Mike Valdes-Fauli yesterday "declined to elaborate" on Loria’s letter or his firm’s plans for the Marlins account. Today's session will be Loria's "first meeting with the local media" since the team's multi-player trade with the Blue Jays in November. Fans since the trade have "threatened to boycott the team." Meanwhile, Loria tomorrow is "expected" to attend his first Spring Training game this year (PALM BEACH POST, 2/25).
LORIA IN HIS OWN WORDS: Loria in the ad wrote, "As a result of some bold moves, many grabbed hold of our tough yet necessary decision only to unleash a vicious cycle of negativity." Loria: "As the owner of the ballclub, the buck stops with me and I take my share of the blame where it's due. However, many of the things being said about us are simply not true. ... Losing is unacceptable to me. It's [incumbent] upon us to take swift action and make bold moves when there are glaring problems. The controversial trade we made with the Toronto Blue Jays was approved by Commissioner Bud Selig and has been almost universally celebrated by baseball experts outside of Miami for its value. ... Acquiring high-profile players just didn't work." He continued, "The ballpark issue has been repeatedly reported incorrectly and there are some very negative accusations being thrown around. It ain't true, folks. Those who have attacked us are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. The majority of public funding came from hotel taxes." Loria: "The simple fact is that we don't have unlimited funds, nor does any baseball team or business. Fans didn't turn out last season as much as we'd like, even with the high-profile players the columnists decry us having traded. ... I can and will invest in building a winner, but last season wasn't sustainable and we needed to start from scratch quickly to build this team from the ground up." He added, "We know we can do a better job communicating with our fans. That starts now. From this point forward we can ensure fans and the entire community that we will keep you abreast of our plan, rationale and motivations" (Mult., 2/24).
DISSECTING THE LETTER: In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde wrote of the Marlins' offseason trade with the Blue Jays, "Some people said, if you looked at the trade in a vacuum, it made some baseball sense. But who makes trades in vacuums?" Hyde: "The fact is the Marlins got a publicly-financed stadium, signed marquee players one year, dumped payroll the next, will line their pockets with publicly-funded millions and have a three-year building project." If Loria wants to "win people back, it will be with actions, not words." Hyde: "Not ads. Not talks. Not attacks. A new start? That's going to be tough. Burn fans once, shame on them. Burn them again and again - and now in this manner?" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 2/24). Hyde adds, "No one can be naturally this tone-deaf, can they? No one can deny, deny, deny reality and expect fans to buy in, can they? ... What needs to be done, first and foremost, is for him to get out of the way and be quiet. That's if he won't sell the team at all. The simple truth is Loria has been the Marlins' top problem for a while" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 2/25). The Palm Beach Post's Ethan Skolnick wrote on his Twitter feed, "Jeffrey Loria's pompous full-page ad to fans may be the most worst sports PR move I've ever seen. Read it. Then buy no tickets. ... If Jeffrey Loria insists on declaring war on the media, the media should fight back... by giving his team no coverage." Baseball writer Keith Law wrote, "If you put on sunglasses and read Loria's letter to Marlins fans it just says 'OBEY.'" ESPN's Buster Olney: "He'd get a more friendly response sticking his hand into a badger den." Blogger Amanda Rykoff wrote, "In the case of Jeffrey Loria's letter to Miami fans, you DO want to read the comments." The Seattle Times' Geoff Baker wrote, "Never thought #Marlins owner Loria cud be hated more in any city than Montreal. Congrats on exceeding expectations!" Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal: "Words mean nothing. Let’s see #Marlins put winning team together - and KEEP it together."
NOT MR. POPULARITY: FOXSPORTS.com's Jon Paul Morosi wrote Loria is "about as popular with Marlins fans as Frank McCourt was in L.A. when the Dodgers were in the throes of bankruptcy." It may be "too late to win back the most disaffected segments of the fan base." The narrative to them is "damning and fully formed: Loria convinced taxpayers to fund the new ballpark, masqueraded as a big-market owner for a single season, then jettisoned virtually every large contract on the books." The team ranked 12th in NL attendance last season, and unless the team has a "surprisingly competitive season, crowds are virtually certain to be smaller this year" (FOXSPORTS.com, 2/24).
WORST OF THE WORST: MLB Network's Brian Kenny said the Marlins' trade with the Blue Jays that involved five key assets, including SS Jose Reyes and Ps Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, was the worst move of the offseason, as it is “hard to believe they couldn’t have gotten more by selling them off piece by piece." Kenny: "Think about it, Reyes would be a hot commodity and teams are spending money this offseason.” Kenny added, “Give them credit for this at least: They traded Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, two players with backloaded contracts, which means they paid a little, the Blue Jays will pay a lot.” Fangraphs.com’s Bill Petti said of the Marlins, “I’m never one who’s going to bury a team that maybe has a smaller market, smaller budget that’s going to try to improve by offloading veteran guys with large contracts and getting back a haul of prospects. I’m the last to bash somebody for that. But we’ve seen this before with the Marlins, and in this case they really didn’t get back that much of a haul” (“Clubhouse Confidential,” MLB Network, 2/23).
The Hornets next season will reduce prices for 81% of tickets for the '13-14 season in a move "aimed at increasing ticket sales and product satisfaction," according to Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. In an effort to have “long-term sustainability in ticket sales,” the team next season will “introduce pricing plans that will vary within sections." Price reductions range from "a high of $2,124," which is a 44% discount from the current price, to "a low of $50." Additionally, 3,748 seats will be reduced by 20% or more and 2,162 seats will be "available in the arena at $10 or less per game.” Ticket prices for suites will be “announced at a later date.” All said, 13,598 of the 16,769 seats at New Orleans Arena "will go down in price.” The Hornets “rank 29th in the 30-team NBA in per-game attendance, averaging 13,656 per game in the arena.” To boost ticket sales, the club is “attempting to contact all former season ticket holders from the time of the Hornets' relocation in 2002 until now to gauge their interest in coming back, if their packages have lapsed.” Hornets President Dennis Lauscha said that because last year's franchise sale “wasn't officially approved until sometime in June, it was impossible to implement changes in price structures since the renewal process had already been under way since late February or early March.” Hornets Senior VP/Marketing & Business Development Ben Hales said that the “hope is past ticket holders who might no longer buy season tickets will have their interest piqued by reverse sticker shock.” Smith noted the team also “hopes to tap into some of the Saints season ticket holders as cross-over customers, as well as Saints sponsors.” Lauscha said that currently there is only a 28% "crossover between the clubs” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 2/24).
Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder "couldn’t change the team’s name without a complicated, and possibly lengthy, process that might include winning approval from both the NFL and some of its many sponsors," according to sources cited by Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. Financial stakes of a name change would be "considerable for the 32 NFL owners." Sources said that the league "exerts great control over the use of trademarked team names, logos and colors." A source added that the NFL "would take the position that team names are set by the league constitution and any name change would require league approval." Sources said that team names, colors and trademarks are "subject to existing contracts with sponsors at both the individual team and league-wide levels." The sources added that the Redskins' sponsors or the NFL also would have "some say in whether the name could be changed or would require notice -- possibly years of advance warning in some cases -- to allow existing contracts and licenses to lapse." Sports Business Group President David Carter said it would "absolutely have to be a collaboration" between the team and the league for the Redskins to change their name. Carter: "There’s no doubt they’ve already been in discussions and figured out contingency plans. The NFL doesn’t want their brand to be damaged by bad PR. There’s no doubt they have been and will continue to work in collaboration on this." The Redskins have "made it clear that they have no intention of changing the team’s name or logo, despite recent criticism" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/25).
MESSY SITUATION: ESPN's Andrew Brandt said Snyder and Redskins Exec VP & GM Bruce Allen “behind closed doors” both realize the “name is offensive.” However, it is also an "iconic brand, it’s associated with the team,” and it is “part of the brand equity of the team.” Brandy: “It would be a major change to change the name from a business point of view and I think the league would feel the same way” (“Outside The Lines,” ESPN, 2/22).
Sacramento City Manager John Shirey tomorrow will ask the City Council “for the OK to enter into arena financing negotiations with a private investment group as early as Wednesday,” a sign that Sacramento's effort to build a new arena for the NBA Kings “is gaining urgency,” according to Bizjak, Lillis & Kasler of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson's Press Secretary Ben Sosenko on Saturday said that Johnson is “confident the private group would have a ‘competitive’ bid finalized to buy the Sacramento Kings by the end of the week.” That offer “would then be submitted” to the NBA. Bizjak, Lillis & Kasler noted city officials “continue to decline to reveal the names of the group they've been talking with during their effort in recent weeks to keep the team from being sold to a Seattle group.” Both Shirey and Johnson have “had recent informal talks with the group." Johnson's reps said that those talks "are going well after an initial hiccup two weeks ago" when the group asked if the city could provide more than the $255M it "was prepared to put into an arena project last year." Assistant City Manager John Dangberg said that Shirey's goal is “to bring a preliminary arena financing term sheet to the council for vote sometime before April 18.” Shirey on Friday “disclosed that the new investors had asked whether the city would go beyond" the $255M (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/24). Meanwhile, a judge on Friday “tossed out a lawsuit that could have seriously disrupted Seattle's plan for a new NBA-ready arena.” But Sacramento officials “weren't putting much stock in the lawsuit and are relying instead on their own proposal to secure the Kings.” Shirey hours after the judge's decision said that he was “encouraged by preliminary talks last week on arena financing with a group of wealthy investors who want to keep the Kings in town” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/23).
ONE MAN'S OPINION: In Sacramento, Tony Bizjak noted Sacramento City Council member Kevin McCarty “voted against the mayor's arena deal last year, and voted no again last week on Johnson's latest arena resolution.” He also sent an open letter to Shirey and the news media "asking whether public money should be used for an arena, whether the city would get a return on its investment and who would be responsible if revenues don't meet expenses.” But McCarty on Friday said that he "isn't opposed to the city helping finance a downtown arena.” McCarty: “I'd like to see a downtown arena. It's that I have a different vision of what an arena (financing) plan would look like, different than what has been put forward so far” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/24).
STERN SITTING THIS ONE OUT? In Boston, Gary Washburn noted the decision on the Kings “could come down to sentiment.” NBA Commissioner David Stern “regrets yanking” the Sonics from Seattle in ’08, as he was “uncomfortable with moving a team from a city that had been loyal to the NBA for 41 years.” But he also “doesn’t want to penalize Sacramento for having financially struggling owners who have wanted to move the team for years.” Stern’s approach is to “mostly remain neutral and shift the decision-making responsibility to the Board of Governors” (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/24).
THE HERE AND NOW: The Kings on Thursday traded F Thomas Robinson, their top pick in last year's NBA Draft, to the Rockets for three players and cash, and ESPN's Bill Simmons called the trade an "embarrassment.” He said it “brought us back to 1978” when the “league was a mess.” Simmons: “They basically traded the fifth pick in the draft to make $2.2 million. You shouldn’t have to make trades for money in the NBA in 2013. It’s an embarrassment” ("NBA Countdown," ESPN, 2/22).
The Warriors on Friday made "a fashion statement" in the game against the Spurs by "wearing the NBA's first-ever short-sleeve jersey," according to Mark Jones of ESPN. The Warriors were "nattily attired," with their shorts featuring "pinstripes." Jones: "The only thing missing right now are the pleats on the shorts." Chris Mullin said, "They're okay. If the guys shoot well and play well they're going to have no complaints. If someone has a bad night, it's going to be the shirt." Mullin said it is "not a big adjustment" wearing the new jerseys. Warriors coach Mark Jackson during a timeout spoke to the players about going after a loose ball, "Somebody in these beautiful yellow jerseys got to get that basketball." Mullin: "He makes it sound like he actually likes (the jerseys)." Bill Simmons said of the Warriors' low-scoring first half, "We know why it's happening. Those uniforms. Those teams don't know if they're playing in the NBA game right now, they don't know what they're doing." Magic Johnson said of the jerseys, "Yuck." Michael Wilbon said of the team's poor shooting during the game: "If they continue to shoot this percentage in Oakland, the Warriors are not going to want to wear these" ("Spurs-Warriors," ESPN, 2/22). ESPN.com's Paul Lukas said of the Warriors' jerseys, "I thought all along they looked good. I kind of dig the sleeves, personally. I think it opens up more possibilities for basketball design because the real problem with basketball uniform design is there is so little real estate to work with." In N.Y., Benjamin Hoffman wrote the jerseys offer "a product to sell to fans who would otherwise be unlikely to buy a basketball jersey" (NYTIMES.com, 2/23).
TWITTER REAX: Comcast SportsNet Bay Area's Ric Bucher wrote based on initial reactions to the jerseys, "their fate appears similar to the new-age ball the NBA tried to introduce for the 2006-07 season." Bucher: "I'm all for innovation and change and advances in technology, but as any baller will tell you, the $%^& has to look right, more so in hoops than any other sport since the cameras and fans are so close and the uniforms have less to them than any other sport." ESPN's J.A. Adande: "I like the Warriors sleeved jerseys. Not so much for the players, but because it will be the 1st authentic jersey that looks good on fans." Yahoo Sports' Marc Spears tweeted, "Thought the Warriors uniforms were too tight and worst before waking to NFL OL prospects running in embarrassing tightness. Please stop it."
While it is "all the rage to beat up" Red Sox Owner John Henry, Chair Tom Werner and President & CEO Larry Lucchino, what is "confusing is this emerging perception that they are 'bad' owners," according to Steve Buckley of the BOSTON HERALD. They may be "slumping owners, but they are not bad owners." They have produced two World Series titles and "made major renovations at Fenway Park." Additionally, the Red Sox Foundation is a "solid player in the community." Henry, Werner and Lucchino "are .330 career hitters who hit .219 last season and .254 the year before that." This is their season to "show that they’ve merely been slumping" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/24). In Boston, Nick Cafardo wrote, "I'm often asked how the Red Sox baseball operations department escapes blame from the media for the downturn in the team the past few years. Short answer: Don't think they do." Their decisions have been "scrutinized by the more objective media." The decision-makers on player personnel have "been kept and sometimes promoted." The owners "don't seem to think baseball ops is the problem, at least not for now." Cafardo: "I will say this, the people in that department work incredibly hard trying to make the right decisions" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/24). Also in Boston, Dan Shaughnessy wrote, "Here's the reality, people: The 2013 Red Sox might be really bad. Worse, they might be really boring. Anybody talking about baseball in your neighborhood these days?" Shaughnessy: "'Scrappy' doesn't sell in Boston in 2013. Not after everything that's happened." For $170M, a "little more prime-time talent would have been nice" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/24).
In N.Y., Josh Kosman reports the Mets are "expecting to lose more than $10 million this year, after bleeding red the past two seasons, while attendance is projected to fall for a fifth straight year." Mets ownership "can expect to take about $65 million from separately owned SportsNet New York." However, Citi Field "saps $43 million in debt payments, leaving a net gain of $22 million from those two assets." That means "there won’t be much left to sink into the ballclub" (N.Y. POST, 2/25). Meanwhile, the N.Y. Daily News’ John Harper said the Mets ownership and front office “don’t like hearing” MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner commenting about the lack of spending by the Mets, but “that’s Weiner’s job.” Harper: “You take a New York market out of the whole free agent market … and it makes a big difference. That’s his right to say that." The team has indicated that it "intends to spend money next year” when the contracts of P Johan Santana and former LF Jason Bay “come off the books." Harper: "We’ll see if they follow through with it” (“Daily News Live,” SportsNet N.Y., 2/22).
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM: TSN's Scott Ferguson wrote the Blue Jays' "target date" to host the MLB All-Star Game should be '16 because it is the "next year that hasn't already been spoken for." It also will be 25 years since "the first and only Mid-Season Classic was held in Toronto: in 1991 in what was then called the Sky Dome." Ferguson: "If everything holds true to form, it will be the American League's turn to host in 2016." Since '91, "only two other American League cities haven't hosted" the All-Star Game -- Oakland and Tampa Bay. The biggest challenge for the Blue Jays "should they bid might be the Dodgers." Ferguson: "Amazingly they haven't hosted the game since 1980, and their new ownership has deep pockets and a desire to take the Dodgers back to their glory years" (TSN.ca, 2/22).
CHARTING NEW WATERS: In Pittsburgh, Ron Cook wrote it was "easy to believe" Pirates Owner Bob Nutting last week when he said the team should "take a step forward" this season. That would be "at least 82 wins." Not even Nutting, who "often seems willing to tolerate mediocrity as long as he's making money, can stand by and do nothing if the team has a 21st consecutive losing season." Cook wrote no one would have criticized Nutting "if he had swept out all three of his top baseball men," but Pirates President Frank Coonelly, GM Neil Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle all returned this season. Cook: "The guess here is Nutting will follow through on his tough words if the Pirates fail to have a winning season again this year." Coonelly, Huntington and Hurdle "will be out," they "have to be out" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 2/24).
GONE CAMPING: In DC, Steve Hendrix writes interest in the Nationals' Spring Training "has surged." Sales of travel packages have "jumped more than 200 percent over last year." Sports Marketing USA VP/Sales & Marketing Lisa Goularte, whose firm arranges Spring Training packages for the Nats, said, "We actually had to bring in a second hotel to accommodate everybody." Nats packages "jumped more than any team’s and sold out by mid-January" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/25).
HOLLYWOOD SIGNS: In L.A., Dylan Hernandez wrote Dodgers Chair Mark Walter is "encouraged by how the Dodgers have sold more than the equivalent of 27,000 season tickets, setting a franchise record." When the team was owned by the O'Malley family, season-ticket sales "were capped at 27,000" (L.A. TIMES, 2/24).