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SBD/March 4, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
The MLB Rangers on Friday promoted GM Jon Daniels to President of Baseball Operations & GM and COO Rick George to President of Business Operations. Daniels and George will continue to oversee the day-to-day baseball and business operations of the team under CEO Nolan Ryan (Rangers). In Ft. Worth, Randy Galloway reports the "shift of power" could result in Ryan leaving the ballclub by the end of Spring Training. The Rangers' owners are "now on the edge of a local PR disaster with a large segment of the fandom." But Rangers co-Chair Bob Simpson yesterday denied the promotions were a result of a "possible exit of Ryan from the team, an exit that sources say is coming, if it happens, sooner rather than later." Simpson said, "Nolan Ryan leaving the Rangers would be a tragedy, and something we don’t want to happen. ... We absolutely do not want Nolan to leave. The moves we announced (on Friday) were to preserve Nolan, not to remove him, or remove his power." Ryan has "not confirmed he is planning on leaving the ballclub." Galloway reports while the announcement was made Friday, the promotions "were actually made in late November." Ryan’s title with the team remains as CEO, but sources said that Daniels "now has final say over all baseball decisions and George the final say over business decisions." Simpson: "My definition of CEO is it’s the person in charge. Nolan Ryan will still make the anything-of-significance decisions and bring those to the owners for approval. I say significant decisions because we wanted to remove some of the day-to-day stuff from Nolan." However, despite Simpson’s comments, sources said that Daniels "is now in total charge of all baseball decisions, and has been since late November." The sources added that Ryan "absolutely would not retire from the Rangers, and if he leaves it will be because the owners no longer wanted him in the role he originally had" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/4).
ALL QUIET ON THE HOME FRONT: Galloway noted Ryan had "a very quiet winter," and players’ agents negotiating with the Rangers were "privately asking why Ryan wasn’t more involved." But this "latest move can certainly be perceived as ownership pushing it with Ryan." If that is the case, ownership "would also be pushing it with a vast majority of the club’s massive fan base, a fan base that regards Ryan as a Texas icon who helped transform a rather docile franchise into a viable force." It would be "hard to believe" Simpson and Rangers co-Chair Ray Davis, with "their roots in DFW, would not understand the impact with fans of Ryan leaving, particularly if a power play is involved in any way." It would be a "huge ownership blunder to have the departure, if it happens, to come down to a power play" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/2). In Dallas, Kevin Sherrington notes the "majority of the heavy lifting has been done by Daniels." Ryan’s contribution "hasn’t been as great as most fans like to believe, but it’s not insignificant, either." Just as he "did as a player, Ryan gave the Rangers credibility as team president, a title he no longer owns." Ryan is a "counterbalance to the geek element that permeates Daniels’ side of the power structure." Coming on the heels of an offseason in which the Rangers "suffered what seemed to be one disaster after another, the last thing the Rangers need is the mother of all PR blunders" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/4).
RYAN EXPRESS READY TO PULL OUT? In Ft. Worth, Gil Lebreton writes Ryan's "job powers were quietly amended" with the Rangers' moves. The announcement Friday was "as respectful as it was frank." If he decides to "retire from the Rangers in two months, four months or whatever, however, Ryan’s departure will produce a seismic tremor throughout baseball and, particularly, throughout Texas." But there "remains more" with the Rangers, and Ryan "can remain a part of that." The owners Friday said that they "want him to." The "educated hunch here, however, is that he won’t" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/4).
IN OTHER NEWS: The Rangers announced that individual tickets went on sale Saturday, and as of 4:00pm CT, the club had sold 104,530 tickets, compared to 101,672 on the first day of sales in '12 (Rangers).
The Padres' "failure to make a major acquisition during their first off-season under new ownership has stirred questions with fans and critics about the club’s financial stability," according to Bill Center of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. A recent report "went as far as to claim the Padres 'are broke' based on the fact" that the $200M up-front money from the 20-year, $1.2B TV contract with Fox Sports "was divided between former owners John Moores and Jeff Moorad and his minority partners." Padres owners "insist the team is not in financial distress." The owners said that "all offseason roster decisions were made for baseball, not monetary reasons." Padres investor Peter Seidler said, “That $200 million was never part of our deal. We never saw that money. The $200 million was never discussed when we were negotiating with John Moores and had nothing to do with what we did.” Padres President & CEO Tom Garfinkel said, "Ownership has been nothing but supportive. They've indicated that they'll deficit spend beyond the revenues if the right deal is there.” Garfinkel added, "We have to be very disciplined about how and when we make those (free agent) decisions. We're not going to do it just to prove something or make a splash." Center noted the Padres' ownership has "spent more money on and off the field since taking over last winter than Moores or Moorad did during the past five seasons." A capital improvement program at Petco Park "began this winter." The team's payroll total for '13 "is around" $68M. That number is "significantly higher" than the $58M figure of '12 and $30M above the "low-water level" of '10. Still, it will be "among the lowest in the major leagues" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/2).
WORK IT OUT: In San Diego, Matthew Hall reported San Diego City Council Member Sherri Lightner, whose district includes much of Time Warner Cable's coverage area, announced that she "would hold a public hearing soon to pressure the company to televise Padres games this season as the impasse between it and Fox Sports San Diego drags into a second year." TWC Media Relations Dir Dennis Johnson said, "We always welcome an open conversation, but this is a dispute between two private parties" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/1).
EPL club Arsenal Owner Stan Kroenke and investor Alisher Usmanov yesterday were “united in their resistance” to a record $2.26B (all figures U.S.) purchase of the team “by a Middle East-based consortium that has vowed to ‘transform’ the club’s dwindling fortunes,” according to Ben Rumsby of the London TELEGRAPH. Kroenke and Usmanov “made it clear they had no intention of selling their respective 66.83 per cent and 29.96 per cent stakes.” The purchase price “would be a world record for a football club, dwarfing” what the Glazer family paid for Manchester United in ’05. The group involved does “not want their identities made public yet but have requested a meeting” with Kroenke "to discuss the proposed offer, which would net the American billionaire a profit” of around $602M. Arsenal Communications Dir Mark Gonnella yesterday said that Kroenke has “never sold any of his sports investments.” A Usmanov spokesperson insisted that Usmanov, “who has made no secret of his desire to take control of Arsenal himself, also had no interest in selling his stake.” Rumsby notes Arsenal is “facing the prospect of finishing outside the Premier League top four for the first time” during the tenure of manager Arsene Wenger. He said yesterday that he “did not know anything about the proposed bid and rejected the idea that missing out on the top four would make his side vulnerable to a takeover” (London TELEGRAPH, 3/4).
MLS Timbers Owner Merritt Paulson said that there is "going to be less talk" from him this season, as the "time has come to step into the background," according to Geoffrey Arnold of the Portland OREGONIAN. Paulson said, "I don't want to be the face of this team. This is a very different team with a new coach, players -- a new style." Arnold noted withdrawal "will not be easy" for the "sometimes mercurial" Paulson. His business success is "partly a result of a fierce work ethic and an in-your-face, but genuine style." If Paulson's success at age 40 "could be traced to one source, it would be his father," former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Merritt Paulson said, "There was an ethic of work and we always had jobs and pretty good discipline. A hard work ethic." Arnold noted Merritt "followed in his father's footsteps by graduating with a master's degree from the Harvard Business School in 2000, but that's where the professional trail ended." He said, "I just didn't want to be in my dad's shadow. I was always interested in entertainment, sports and media. More creative and marketing things. I definitely liked doing my own thing." Paulson "pursued his professional interests by working at HBO and then the NBA, where he helped launch and develop NBA League Pass and market NBA TV." NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver said, "I always understood when he was working for the league that he wanted to run his own show at some point. It happened even faster than I would have thought at the time." The Timbers during their first two MLS seasons "have had struggles typical of an expansion team," winning "just three of 34 road games." But it is now "Timbers 2.0." Paulson hired coach Caleb Porter, who has "brought in new players and implemented a new style of play." And Paulson "knows he must step into the background and allow the coach and team to take the spotlight." Paulson: "When we were trying to make MLS a reality, I needed to be the guy out charging and being the face of this thing. Now, this is Caleb Porter's team. Hopefully, the players become more the face of the team" (Portland OREGONIAN, 3/3).
San Jose City Council member Sam Liccardo, whose district "includes most of the proposed downtown ballpark property" sought by the A's in a potential move to San Jose, "wants the city to sue the Giants" if they do not relinquish their territorial rights to the city, according to Mark Purdy of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. Liccardo's strategy, "if affirmed by his council colleagues, could be a game-changer." It would be a "cunning reverse twist on the Giants' own veiled (and nonveiled) threats to pursue legal action against San Jose and other entities if the A's are allowed to move south." Liccardo said, "The San Francisco Giants should become concerned about the threat of a lawsuit by the city of San Jose." He has said that the Giants "are not just standing in the way of San Jose's downtown reaching its full potential, they are costing the city real money." Liccardo: "We have an independent economic analysis." Purdy noted if the Giants lost a potential lawsuit from Liccardo, the team "could be liable" for $90M or more. Liccardo said of the legal costs to San Jose, "There are extremely qualified litigators, well-known attorneys, who are willing to take it on without a dime of cost to San Jose taxpayers." MLB four years ago "appointed the 'Blue Ribbon Panel' to examine the A's case for a shift southward," but the issue "remains stuck in neutral" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 3/3). CBSSPORTS.com's Dayn Perry asked, "Legitimate threat or hollow brinksmanship? It may not matter, since all that's needed is for the Giants to blink" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/3).
The Rays will likely enter the '13 season without much movement on a new ballpark, but MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner said that "elimination of the franchise through contraction is not a likely outcome, nor has relocation outside of the Tampa Bay area been discussed,” according to Marc Topkin of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Weiner said, “Contraction hasn’t come up since we had a fairly serious fight about it in 2000-01. I don’t think that's the solution.” Topkin noted contraction would be a “major issue with the union due to the loss of jobs.” MLB would “have to negotiate with the union to move a team." Weiner said that the topic "has not come up.” He added that he and the union, like MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, are “disappointed in the Rays low attendance, which was worst in the majors last season.” Weiner: “We’d love to see greater attendance. … It’s disappointing that their attendance hasn’t really responded. So just like the commissioner’s office, we’d like to see every team succeed. But when you have a team that frankly has succeeded on the field but less so in the box office, it is disappointing” (TAMPABAY.com, 3/2).
AGAINST THE GRAIN: USA TODAY’s Paul White notes the “low-revenue, small-market team has averaged 92 victories the last five seasons in the American League East with three playoff appearances.” Rays Exec VP/Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and the “outside-the-box think tank that is the Rays front office carefully guard their secrets," but the daily "reality is a recipe rooted in the anti-establishment rebelliousness of their manager's youth, with a strong dose of people skills and one surprise ingredient.” The Rays “do it with what manager Joe Maddon says is roughly 50% baseball expertise and 50% common-sense approach to life.” But the team's formula is “approaching what's normally the expiration date for teams in similar situations” (USA TODAY, 3/4).
ESPN's John Saunders noted the Yankees and Red Sox for years "tried to bankrupt each other by going after the biggest names money could buy," but the "real action is centered around Hollywood, where the Dodgers and Angels appear determined to break the bank.” ESPN’s Israel Gutierrez said it has “been proven that you can’t just go to the top of the payroll list and all of a sudden you’re a favorite to win a World Series.” N.Y. Daily News columnist Mike Lupica said, “It’s a complete myth that you can buy a World Series.” ESPN’s Jemele Hill said, "Most fans want their ownership to prove that you’re invested in the team, that you want to spend money.” Hill: “You have to spend your way into the conversation” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 3/3).
TRIBAL BEATS: In N.Y., Filip Bondy wrote it would be "important for just one major leaguer ... to announce he will not play for the Cleveland Indians until they eliminate Chief Wahoo from their racist logo and cap." If enough players refused to join the Indians, or "simply expressed their reluctance, even prideful Cleveland fans would likely embrace the necessary change." Native American activists "continue to protest against Chief Wahoo, an unfortunate blind spot" for MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. Bondy: "In the past, whenever I’ve asked players their opinions on Chief Wahoo, they’ve mostly shrugged" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/3).
CROWN ROYALS: In K.C., Bob Dutton noted the Royals will "likely open the season with a club-record payroll" of roughly $79M. The team's "previous record for an opening day payroll" was $70.5M in '09. The Royals opened last season at $60.9M and finished the year at $68.6M "for their 40-man payroll" (K.C. STAR, 3/3).
CITI SHOPPING: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick wrote of the Mets' sponsorship deal with Amway, "If businessmen and owners of a big league team ever were eager to restore their reputations for integrity and prove they’re not so cash-desperate that they would add to the suspicion they are, the first company they would avoid is Amway." If the Mets’ owners "wished to, at last, shake free of their well-earned reputation for doing big business with big bad guys, it wouldn’t sell Amway a quarter-page ad in the Mets’ 2013 Yearbook" (N.Y. POST, 3/3).
WHERE THE WIND BLOWS: The Cubs will only have celebrities with ties to Chicago or who are Cubs fans perform during the 7th inning stretch this season, and ESPN's Hill called it a "bad policy." Hill: "They’re going to get (ESPN’s Michael) Wilbon and Vince Vaughn to do it every weekend? Part of the luster of doing this is the fact that you see people who don’t quite identify with the tradition, singing this song” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 3/1).