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SBD/March 25, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
The Ravens will open up their '13 regular season on the road after "failing to find compromise in a scheduling conflict with the Orioles" and MLB, according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore SUN. After several days of "talks and the Orioles' willingness to move their game" from 7:05pm ET to 4:05pm, both sides "decided there was too much to work through to pull off a doubleheader." As a result, the Ravens will become the "first reigning Super Bowl champions to open on the road" since '03. The news garnered "mixed reactions from the city's sports fans." Both the Ravens and Orioles "maintained Friday that the situation spurred no hard feeling between the two." Ravens Senior VP/Public & Community Relations Kevin Byrne said, "The Orioles did make an effort. They were willing to adjust their time. They went above and beyond. We appreciate that" (Baltimore SUN, 3/23). SI.com's Peter King writes, "Don't blame the Orioles." The NFL would have been "amenable to the Ravens opening Sunday night or Monday night at home, but many of the same problems would have existed," as the Orioles "are home Sunday afternoon." The Ravens are "upset, to put it mildly, about losing the chance to open on that Thursday at home." But it was "apparent in reading the statements of both the Orioles and Ravens Friday that neither side wanted to start a firefight with the other" (SI.com, 3/25).
MLB STANDS ITS GROUND: ESPN’s John Saunders said of the Ravens opening on the road, "The National Football League is the most powerful sports organization in the world, but it can’t mess with a pitching rotation. Commissioners Roger Goodell and Bud Selig went head-to-head on this one, but football struck out this time” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 3/24). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Darin Gantt wrote MLB "didn't blink" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 3/22). The N.Y. Times' Judy Battista wrote on her Twitter feed, "Ravens opening on the road is the rare case of the NFL not getting what it wants. This should be interesting."
Red Sox Owner John Henry, in an e-mail Q&A with Steve Buckley of the BOSTON HERALD, “touched on a variety of subjects, from renovations to Fenway Park to ongoing rumors about the sale of the team.” Below are excerpts from their discussion:
Q: Over the past couple of seasons, [President & CEO] Larry Lucchino has taken the lion’s share of criticism from fans and media. Why is that? Has Lucchino been literally taking one for the team?
Henry: If you want to take a stab at being fair about it, all you have to do is look at his record here over the last 11 years. And look at his record before that. He revolutionized the game with Camden Yards. ... There is this perception that Larry is focused on revenue -- that the three of us are. It’s one perception that is true. And there is good reason for it. Any major league club that doesn’t do everything it can to intelligently generate revenue, isn’t doing everything possible to generate a payroll that can be successful over the long term. ... When he retires someday, his body of work will require an election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Q: Have the Red Sox reached a ceiling in terms of major renovations at Fenway Park? If not, in what areas could renovations be made?
Henry: We have completed our major renovations for the foreseeable future. ... We have of late completed more modest fan and player improvements such as the Royal Rooters Club, the new Champions Club for large group outings, clubhouse plunge pools for rehab, concession expansions, sound system improvements, more distributed televisions, more information on LED boards etc.
Q: How many more years do you believe the park has left?
Henry: The architects and engineers tell us Fenway Park will be viable and usable in its present form for at least 30 to 40 more years, with regular maintenance and care, of course.
Q: You have repeatedly stated that the Red Sox are not for sale. But let’s turn the question around: Not counting casual conversations that you, [Chair] Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino have had with would-be owners, has a group approached you with a serious offer to buy the team? That is, one that raised eyebrows?
Henry: I’ve not had one partner in 11 years suggest thinking about selling the Red Sox, even though they haven’t received dividends.
Q: You keep saying that owning a British soccer team has in no way diverted your attention from the Red Sox. Upon reflection, are there steps you could have taken to remove that perception from the dialogue?
Henry: Yes, probably. The short answer is that if Larry was working on [EPL club] Liverpool, it would divert his attention because he runs the Red Sox day-to-day full time (BOSTON HERALD, 3/24).
APATHY NATION? In Boston, Michael Silverman wrote the Red Sox “evoke indifference more than anything else right now.” The fan base “remains skeptical.” There is “nothing the Red Sox can do, really, aside from winning games to draw them back” (BOSTON HERALD, 3/24). Also in Boston, Dan Shaughnessy wrote, "The theme of the spring of 2013 has been, ‘We may still stink, but we have a bunch of really swell guys.’” These are “the Redemption Sox.” They are “all about forgiveness.” Management “finally recognizes that fans don’t like being insulted.” The Sox are “back in the ‘yes business,’” and they “want your love again” (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/24).
BEANTOWN BLING: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL’s Don Muret reports the Red Sox “have signed a multiyear deal” with Rhode Island-based jeweler Alex and Ani as sponsor for The Champions Club. The club, formerly known as the Players Club, is “situated behind the right-field seats in an area known as the Big Concourse.” It is “one floor below the Royal Rooters Club, a members-only lounge that opened last year” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/25 issue).
Larry Dierker “will end” his association with the Astros “after almost a half-century as a pitcher, sales representative, broadcaster, manager and goodwill ambassador,” according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Dierker said that the move “stems in large part from his disappointment and frustration that he was not allowed a chance to return to the broadcast booth this season.” He added that he met with team marketing officials last Wednesday and “refused to sign a contract that would have called on him to do up to 180 appearances on the team’s behalf each year.” Dierker: “I’m not a guy who just wants to go around signing autographs and taking pictures with people. They never have been able to understand that, I guess, or believe it. So that’s the end.” Barron noted Dierker’s “dissatisfaction with the administration” of Astros Owner Jim Crane and President & CEO George Postolos has been “well known in the wake of the decision” not to include him on the broadcast. Dierker said that he was offered a salary that was “next to nothing.” Postolos on Friday said, “We raised Larry’s salary in 2012, and we offered to raise him again in 2013 and expand his role to include pre- and postgame analysis on CSN. ... Larry was complimentary of the direction of the franchise until he didn’t get the job he wanted. His remarks today are sour grapes. We regret his bitterness but still wish him well” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/23). Barron wrote Dierker “was, and is, one of the most popular figures associated with the Astros.” Dierker “acknowledges he was angry and upset that he did not get the CSN game analyst’s job vacated by Jim Deshaies" (CHRON.com, 3/22).
PUBLIC ENEMY? In Houston, Randy Harvey penned a column to Astros fans and wrote the team “as recently as a year ago was yours.” But Crane in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal said of the fans, "It's not their money. ... If they want to write a check for 10 million bucks, they can give me a call." Harvey wrote Crane "doesn’t want you to think he’s as cavalier toward you as he sounded.” Crane said that he “knows the team belongs to the public.” Crane: “It’s the fans’ team; it’s the city’s team. I am the custodian. I'm backing it with my money and my partners' money. I've got to be a good custodian of their money. But I'm also the custodian for the city and the fans." Crane “insisted that his plan is to win and win as soon as possible.” But Harvey wrote patience "will be required," as Crane is "attempting to build from the ground up, without shortcuts.” Crane said that he has “no other choice because the Astros aren't drowning in cash flow,” adding that the Astros “have lost money for five consecutive seasons.” Crane: “I will spend the money when I have the money. I'm not going to spend money I don't have.” Crane added, “I'm going to fix it. I'm going to make it fun for the town." Harvey wrote the process “may or may not be cold and humorless,” but it “definitely is calculated” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/24).
The Bengals this offseason have been "steadfast in their approach" in free agency, and all of the "major investments are going to be on their own players," according to Joe Reedy of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. Owner Mike Brown said, "Maybe there isn’t as much pizazz in what we’re doing as some wish. But I do think it’s the best course for our football team both in the short run and the long run." He added, “We are planning to spend our cap money, and we’re hoping and we’re intending to spend it on our own people. There is no single silver bullet. We’re shooting a lot of small shots. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to cost the same amount of money. And it doesn’t mean we aren’t going to have the best team possible.” Meanwhile, after lowering prices in the upper deck for a second straight season, the Bengals said that it is "too early to get a gauge on sales because they are in the midst of renewing season tickets" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 3/24). Reedy noted there are some "improvements planned for Paul Brown Stadium and having a training camp practice either in the Dayton area or back at Georgetown College is under consideration." The other "important note is that an indoor practice facility is nowhere on the horizon and that the franchise is hoping to continue or possibly extend its relationship" with the Univ. of Cincinnati (CINCINNATI.com, 3/22).
LET'S GO TO THE VIDEOTAPE! Bengals VP Troy Blackburn said, "We're looking at enhancing some of the club lounge spaces and some of the audio/video. I don't think it's going to be something earth shattering, but we have tried consistently over the years to continue to refresh aspects of the building." Brown said of making the stadium experience more enjoyable, "One thing we have done ever since we've been in the new stadium is we run our replay on a broader basis than others. And now the league as a whole is shifting over to this, which is good. We try to get as many replays as possible. We have more replays at the stadium than you'll get at home watching it on TV. We replay almost every play" (BENGALS.com, 3/22).
The Nationals in signing RF Jayson Werth in ’10 to a seven-year, $126M contract “trumpeted his ability to change a franchise not only with his play, but with his off-field contributions,” and “two years later, the vision has come to bear,” according to Adam Kilgore of the WASHINGTON POST. Werth’s influence has “spread through every phase” of the team’s operation, from “the training room to the front office, from rookies in their first spring training to ownership.” Exec VP/Baseball Operations & GM Mike Rizzo said, “He’s really a forward-thinking person. He’s brought a lot of ideas to the ballclub.” Kilgore noted Werth’s ideas “that stuck became tangible symbols” of his impact. In the clubhouse kitchen, “no longer does a cook make whatever players ask for.” A chef “trained in nutrition informs players how much sodium, fat or Vitamin A they should be eating.” Werth said, “We’ve gone from probably the worst food in the league to the best food. It’s more about nutrition.” Werth also “advocated for better equipment in the weight room,” and Rizzo “took the requests to ownership.” The Lerner family “bought both a single and double isokinetic activation device for $4,500.” The Nationals also “added a long press, the barbell system Olympic weightlifters use, for $600 at Werth’s urging.” Werth also “persuaded them to purchase a 100-pound kettle bell for $500.” The Nationals’ front office last year “spearheaded a four-month, in-depth analysis of their medical needs, comparing their processes to other teams and identifying areas of weakness.” Werth “played an instrumental role, suggesting alternative therapies -- the Nationals obtained the services [of] an acupuncturist at his urging -- and recommending nontraditional specialists” (WASHINGTON POST, 3/24).