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SBD/February 26, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria yesterday in his first public comments in more than three months reaffirmed that the team "is not for sale" and said that breaking up a team that finished last in the NL East "was necessary for the franchise to move forward," according to Manny Navarro of the MIAMI HERALD. Loria said the reason he has kept quiet since trading several high-priced players, including SS Jose Reyes and Ps Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, is because he wanted to “decompress” and get out of the way of “a runaway train” of negativity. Loria: "I have a sense of (the public anger). I’m sorry we built this amazing ballpark and fans are feeling the way they do. But we did this for a reason." The Marlins' payroll entering the '12 season was between $95M-100M, and Loria said the club lost “tens of millions,” causing the team to “push the restart button.” President David Samson said the Marlins expected “worst case” to draw more than 2 million fans last season, but drew just 1.4 million. Samson said that after selling 12,000 season tickets last year, the club is "hovering below 5,000 with five weeks to go before the home opener. Loria said that all spending "moving forward will be based on a function of revenue." Asked if the Marlins might spend $100M on payroll again, Loria said. “No. We’ll never get to $100 million. We don’t have the TV contract yet to do that. We will one day" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/26). Loria: "We built this ballpark because we thought there would be a lot of fans coming here down the road. I understand they're disappointed. That's a natural reaction. We didn't do this for fun. We did this because we think we had something special." He added, "I understand the feeling, but I have no interest in endless losing and we had two years of that" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 2/26).
TROUBLE AT THE GATE: Samson yesterday said that the Marlins’ new ballpark was "slow to draw fan interest even before a disastrous season led to a collapse in attendance so steep that the front office never contemplated it." And while Samson said that the "biggest miscalculation was in just how poorly the Marlins would play, he said lukewarm support was noticeable well before the Marlins’ infamous mid-season dive." In Miami, Douglas Hanks notes season-ticket buyers "did not respond" to the team signing Reyes and other star players months before the ballpark’s debut. Samson's marketing team had "hoped to announce a string of sell-outs" before the April 4 Opening Day, but even the June games against the Red Sox "didn’t bring enough demand to sell all 37,500 seats." He said that the Red Sox series was an "early sign of trouble." Samson: "We were very, very worried when the Red Sox games didn’t sell out." Last season's announced attendance of 2.1 million was "still far better than what the team drew when playing in Sun Life." But Samson said that the "internal numbers of actual paid attendance were much worse." He put the "so-called 'turnstile' attendance for the season at 1.4 million." That is "roughly 17,000 people per game -- or not even half of the stadium" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/26).
BLIND TO PUBLIC PERCEPTION: In Miami, Greg Cote notes Loria hiring a new PR firm, The JeffreyGroup, is a sign of "awareness that his image has fallen to squalid disrepair and dragged the team’s brand with him." Cote: "I pity the PR firm’s Herculean challenge. I can only hope the planned reimaging of Loria did not mean to commence with that 'Letter To Our Fans' ... a letter that begged a tone of conciliation but was combative." It was a "spectacularly misguided shirking of responsibility that left Marlins fans shaking heads at this man who evidently doesn’t get it or just doesn’t give a (bleep)." Cote: "I’m not sure Loria has any idea (or concern) how unpopular he is. In my latest blog poll, I asked readers if they wished Loria would sell the Marlins. 'Yes' was running about 98 percent" as of last night. Loria does "not seem to understand the disbelieving reaction he would get from most customers, for example, if he told them what he tried to feed the media" last night (MIAMI HERALD, 2/26). WPLG-ABC's Will Manso wrote the letter to fans "highlights why Loria continues to be so out of touch with reality." The "reality is no one in South Florida really likes him." Loria has "no one to blame for this mess but himself." In the end, he can "take this condescending joke of a letter and go back to hiding." Manso: "I’ve got a great place he can do that in this season, somewhere no one else will be: his $600 million ballpark" (LOCAL10.com, 2/25).
BLACK MARK FOR THE GAME: In St. Louis, Jeff Gordon writes under the header, "Marlins Stain The MLB Landscape." Gordon: "The franchise may struggle to draw 1 million fans into its sparkling new ballpark, which was largely financed by the public. There is no bigger fiasco in all of professional sports" (STLTODAY.com, 2/26). ESPN’s Buster Olney said, "Miami’s attendance promises to be a black mark for baseball.” ESPN’s Karl Ravech added, “A green mark at the very least, since that’s the color of those seats there. They’ll be nobody in them” (“Baseball Tonight,” ESPN2, 2/25).
KEEP US OUT OF IT: In West Palm Beach, Joe Capozzi notes Loria during his address last night "described as 'a smear campaign' the Miami Dolphins’ efforts to distance themselves from the Marlins in their effort to get public money to renovate Sun Life Stadium." Loria said, "I'm sure it's their effort to get their deal done. I hope the Dolphins get their deal. I want every team to thrive in South Florida. It has nothing to do with us. We should not have been included" (PALM BEACH POST, 2/26).
The Reds are the 20th MLB team to adopt dynamic pricing, which has "grown in popularity as teams try to find ways to boost revenue and attendance," according to Dan Horn of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. Reds COO Phil Castellini said, "The fans shouldn’t expect to see significant changes day-to-day. You’re going to see small, incremental movements." Horn notes the team "studied the system for almost two years before deciding to launch." Castellini said that he "expects to see prices drop at least as often as they go up, and the changes would occur one week to one day before a game." He added that single-game ticket prices "will never be lower than prices offered to season ticket holders." Castellini: "I’m trying to move lower-demand games as much as I’m trying to take advantage of higher-demand games. It’s a two-sided proposition" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 2/26). MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reported the Reds will employ Texas-based QCue to "assist with price adjustments that are based on factors like the day of the week, team performance, weather forecasts and ticket inventory." Castellini said that the Reds have been "doing their own mini-version of dynamic pricing for a few seasons." Sheldon noted the club "already charges more for Opening Day tickets, and have bundled tickets to the opener with other games in less demand." Castellini said, "We've been very cautious in evaluating it. You'll see us be cautious in how we execute it this year. You'll see us making very nominal changes with this dynamic, little moves here and there and nothing significant that jumps off of the page. ... What we don't want the consumer to do is be conditioned to wait" (MLB.com, 2/25).
Redskins officials "are considering going to court to seek an injunction" related to the NFL’s March '12 salary cap sanctions that would "hold up the start of free agency or threatening that move in a bid to bolster their negotiating leverage with the league," according to sources cited by Maske & Jones of the WASHINGTON POST. Sources said that the Redskins have "put contract negotiations with some of their players on hold, telling agents and players they remain hopeful they can recoup some of the salary cap space that was cut by the NFL last year." Redskins officials have told those agents and players that they "cannot negotiate in earnest until the salary cap matter is resolved." The team said that it "hopes to reach a resolution by late this week," as free agency begins March 12. The Redskins this season are "scheduled to absorb" the remaining $18M of a $36M reduction over two years. A federal judge has "twice rejected a collusion complaint by the players’ union that accuses the NFL and teams of operating with a secret salary cap in the uncapped year." Players and agents are "skeptical of the Redskins’ ability to win back cap space." Sources said that it is "highly unlikely that the team can succeed in having salary cap space restored" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/25). ESPN.com's Dan Graziano wrote, "It seems pretty unlikely that the Redskins can get any satisfaction here." Giants President & CEO and NFL Competition Committee Chair John Mara last year said that the Redskins and Cowboys "were lucky they only lost cap space and not draft picks over this." Graziano: "It's big-money corporate scheming at its worst, and the Redskins are right to be angry about the way they were treated. Common sense would dictate that they could get some of the cap money back" (ESPN.com, 2/25).
EPL club Arsenal yesterday announced half-year profits of $27M (all figures U.S.) and cash reserves of $186.8M "on top of the new stadium naming rights and kit deal that come in later this year," according to Sam Wallace of the London INDEPENDENT. Arsenal's financial results for the six-month period ending in November revealed that the club "made book profits" of $64.4M on the transfers of F Robin van Persie and MF Alex Song. That was "balanced" by $62M worth of expenditure on Fs Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, although it "did not include" the $12.1M fee to La Liga club Malaga for D Nacho Monreal in January. Arsenal did not reveal its wage bill for the period, instead "wrapping it up in operating expenses" of $207.8M. Arsenal's stadium naming-rights deal with Emirates is worth $227.3M, and they are "in a position to negotiate a new, more lucrative kit deal when their current contract with Nike expires at the end of the season." But commercial and ticket revenues "are not rising which could be a result of the team's lack of success on the pitch" (London INDEPENDENT, 2/26). The GUARDIAN's Owen Gibson notes most of Arsenal's revenue growth over the past five years "has been driven by the centrally negotiated TV contract, which is due for another major rise next season." But Arsenal Chair Peter Hill-Wood argued that new commercial deals with Emirates and other new contracts "will boost that figure as the original long-term deals that helped bankroll the Emirates are being renewed" (GUARDIAN, 2/26). In London, James Olley noted Arsenal's turnover fell by $11.2M to $160.9M due to "four fewer home fixtures than the same period last year and the importance of turning a profit on transfers is underlined by the club's operating profit falling" to $7.6M (London EVENING STANDARD, 2/25).