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SBD/April 1, 2013/MLB Season PreviewPrint All
MLB, "by the standard of increased competitive balance, is bigger and better than ever," according to Mark Bauman of MLB.com. With 12 games scheduled today, the "larger renaissance sets in," and by tomorrow, "weather permitting, all 30 clubs will have played baseball." MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said, "It's a beginning. You have a sense of renewed hope." Selig "speaks frequently of baseball owing its fans 'hope and faith.'" Bauman wrote that is "what the push toward parity has been about." When "another April comes around, the more franchises that have a genuine chance to win, the stronger the game is." One "can make an argument that at least 22 teams -- or more than 73 percent -- have a genuine chance to win something of value." Bauman: "Try that out on the other North American professional sports." MLB is "becoming a role model for competitive balance." Selig said, "Opening Day is exciting, not only for baseball, but for the entire country" (MLB.com, 3/31). Selig said, “I can really very very candidly say to you this morning I've never seen our sport where we have more teams that really believe they have a great chance, not necessarily win but get a playoff position.” Selig noted of the competitive balance, “This is what I set out to do 20 some years ago. In the '90s, we really didn’t have competitive balance. We thought we did and said we did but we know that we didn’t. But we know we have it today” ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 4/1).
GLORY DAYS: FOXSPORTS.com's Ken Rosenthal writes these are "baseball’s glory days," as attendance is "booming, revenues are soaring [and] performance-enhancing drugs no longer seem to be as prevalent." All but three teams have reached the postseason since '00, and "nine different teams have won the World Series." But Rosenthal notes Selig "should worry ... the most" about competitive balance, a "problem that baseball has addressed at great length, yet can never solve." Well-run low-revenue teams "reach the postseason often enough, or at least they have lately." But as high-revenue teams "benefit from increasingly lucrative regional TV contracts, the financial gap will only widen." The growing disparity "could influence the choice of the next commissioner if Selig retires as planned" after the '14 season. It also could "jeopardize labor peace when the current agreement expires in ‘16." The way to "better level the playing field is by giving low-revenue teams greater advantages in the draft." The current system "is not a fair fight," not when "local revenue drives baseball economics." The complaint of "some low-revenue executives is this: A poorly run high-revenue team gets rewarded by securing a higher draft position and larger bonus pool, while a well-run, low-revenue team gets penalized by drafting lower and receiving a smaller pool." Some question "whether the spending limits actually will benefit low-revenue clubs." MLB "can’t ask high-revenue teams to share more money." The league "can’t help the low-revenue teams better compete in the free-agent market." The draft, then, is "the most logical vehicle for the sport to address the growing imbalance between the haves and have-nots" (FOXSPORTS.com, 4/1).
WHAT'S OLD IS NEW AGAIN: In a special to SPORTING NEWS, Will Leitch wrote like "most baseball fans who initially were skeptical, I’ve come around to interleague play." It is "a gimmick that has gone on so long we’ve forgotten it’s a gimmick ... and it has changed the way we look at the All-Star Game, if not necessarily for the worse." But "even if it gets a little bit less different every year, it’s still different." Leitch: "Once we accept that there is nothing unusual about interleague play, that it’s just another game on the schedule, it both normalizes it and makes it not matter anymore" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 3/31).
MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE: In San Jose, Mark Purdy writes baseball "is not romantic," but fans are "supposed to think so, this time of year." Opening day is "definitely fresh," but "not romantic." Once the first pitch is thrown, "the grind begins." A baseball season "is many things," but "primarily and happily, a baseball season is an unwritten book, just waiting for players to provide the plot points and write the manuscript" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 4/1).
The Yankees for the 15th consecutive year will have MLB's "top opening-day payroll" at a record $228.8M, according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. The Dodgers were "poised to end the Yankees' salary reign, but the Yankees vaulted them" when they acquired LF Vernon Wells last week from the Angels. Even "factoring in money received from the Angels ... they're still baseball's biggest spenders." Brewers President of Baseball Operations & GM Doug Melvin said, "We're becoming like the NBA. Instead of old-fashioned baseball trades, we're trading contracts. I can see more of these in the future. And that's concerning." Nightengale notes there will be $72.27M spent this season "simply in teams subsidizing contracts of players no longer with their clubs" (USA TODAY, 4/1).
MLB PAYROLLS (USA TODAY FIGURES)TEAMPAYROLLTEAMPAYROLLYankees$228.8MD'Backs$90.1MDodgers$216.6MBraves$89.8MPhillies$158.5MBrewers$83.0MRed Sox$154.6MRoyals$81.5MTigers$148.4MIndians$81.3MGiants$140.3MTwins$75.8MAngels$138.4MMets$73.4MRangers$121.0MMariners$72.6MWhite Sox$119.1MRockies$71.9MCardinals$115.2MPadres$67.1MBlue Jays$113.0MPirates$66.3MNationals$110.9MA's$63.4MCubs$104.3MRays$57.9MReds$104.0MMarlins$42.3MOrioles$91.0MAstros$26.6M
GET LOW: USA TODAY's Nightengale notes the Astros enter the season with a $22M payroll, $92M less than their cross-state rivals the Rangers. Astros Owner Jim Crane yesterday said, "A lot of comments have been made about the payroll, the payroll, the payroll, the payroll. We'll spend the money when we're ready to spend the money. This year wouldn't have been the right time to do it" (USA TODAY, 4/1). MLB Commissioner Bud Selig acknowledged "people are skeptical" about the team's low payroll. Selig: "I don’t blame them. But if I didn’t see really a good flow of young talent, you bet I’d be very concerned and wouldn’t sit idly by” ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 4/1).
BREWING UP ANOTHER BATCH: In Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt notes the Brewers last year "sputtered badly at midseason and were unable to catch up." Attendance "dipped from a Brewers record of 3,071,373 in 2011 to 2,831,385, and the club finished the year in the red, something that never feels good." With that "backdrop, the Brewers scaled back their payroll considerably this year, something that was easy to do with" more than $50M "coming off the books via traded or released players as well as those who departed as free agents." A "primary reason the Brewers were able to trim payroll was the commitment to so many young, inexperienced players." The "rookie minimum salary" in '13 is $490,000, and the Brewers "have four players at that figure and eight more making between $491,000 and $498,000" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 4/1).
While the Marlins this offseason cut payroll to "produce profits, the added debt and operating costs" of the $634M Marlins Park have left Marlins execs "predicting another loss on top of last year’s team record" $47M operating loss, according to Hanks & Jackson of the MIAMI HERALD. The team appears to be "in the baseball equivalent of a foxhole, waiting to fight another day." Payroll is "estimated" at $45M -- with only the Astros paying less at $32M. Marlins President David Samson said that attendance "needs to increase at least a third from last year for the Marlins to afford a mid-range payroll" of $80M in the coming seasons. But Hanks & Jackson note would-be ticket buyers "don’t seem eager to forgive" Owner Jeffrey Loria for cutting costs "so quickly after occupying a stadium set to cost taxpayers" $2B over the next 40 years. Season-ticket sales have "fallen by 60 percent to around 5,000," and the Marlins "recently became the only major league team using" Groupon to sell Opening Day tickets. Records show that since Loria bought the Marlins in '02, boosting the payroll has "failed to bring the spike in ticket revenue needed to turn a profit." The records showed only when Loria "slashed player costs did the team record a cash surplus." Debt is "eating into the Marlins’ income, and that is one of the reasons the team doesn’t expect to turn a profit despite paying players so little this year." However, all teams are "supposed to see a significant boost next year from MLB’s richer television contracts." But the Marlins in the short term offer "no signs of encouragement." Samson said that the Marlins could "afford to pay a team the league average" of about $80M a year -- but only if average attendance "hovered at around 30,000 to 35,000 a game." Last year’s "tally" came in at 22,000 (MIAMI HERALD, 3/31).
DISCONNECT GROWING BETWEEN OWNERSHIP, FANS: In Ft. Lauderdale, Rodriguez & Davis noted while the Marlins are entering their 21st season, they have "yet to make a firm dent into the South Florida fabric as the other professional franchises have achieved." The Marlins have yet to "establish an identity due to constant player turnover rate." Even the "dawn of a brand-new stadium has not created the attraction needed to become a foothold in the community." Weary Marlins fans have "grown tired of the franchise's excuses to constantly discard high-priced veterans" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/31). In West Palm Beach, Joe Capozzi noted attendance at the home opener "might serve as a public referendum on how fans feel" about Loria. ESPN's John Kruk said, "If I was a fan of the Marlins I would be confused, upset and not sure I’d be willing to spend my money anymore to go watch them" (PALM BEACH POST, 3/31). In Miami, Greg Cote writes Loria "cares about winning, supposedly, but sells off his best players (again) and presents a team young and (most importantly) cheap." Samson is "what you’d expect: A loyal lieutenant to his boss and former stepfather." But he also "personifies the disconnect continuing" between the team and fans. Marlins ownership "moves forward as if fans should be so enamored of the new ballpark that the players inside the uniforms hardly matter" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/1).
Red Sox LF Jackie Bradley Jr. will make his MLB debut this afternoon, and he is the "perfect antidote for the infection that’s poisoned the Sox” since September ’11, according to Dan Shaughnessy of the BOSTON GLOBE. Starting Bradley in the majors “means that unless the kid spends 20 days in the minors at some point this season, he’ll be a free agent after the 2018 season.” If the Red Sox had “waited until later this month to promote Bradley, they could have assured his place in the organization until after 2019.” But “given the Sox’ 69-93 record in 2012 (worst since 1965), and the disgruntled fan base, it would have been a public relations disaster to send Bradley to the minors.” In a “potentially dull season, Bradley gives the Sox the sizzle they’ve been seeking since NESN ratings started to plunge” in ’09 (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/1). But Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan said that Bradley "has been oversold ... as a super-duper-star when the talent is just not quite there for that.” He said, "I think he’s going to be a really good everyday player. I just hope he doesn’t fall victim to the media hype that can ensconce a player in Boston and New York when he arrives to great fanfare as the savior. Jackie Bradley is not the savior. Everyone needs to get that through their head: Jackie Bradley is not the savior. He is not going to turn this team from a 75-win team into an 85-win team" ("Dennis & Callahan," WEEI, 4/1). Meanwhile, in Boston, Michael Silverman reports agent Scott Boras, who reps Bradley, “sounds as if he accepted the likelihood the Sox will be creative enough to figure out a way for Bradley to get the 20 days on a minor league stint this year so that free agency occurs after 2019.” Boras: “Clubs put themselves in a position to make decisions based on economic concerns instead of performance. Every boundary becomes the focus of strategic decisions. Every team does it. I don’t think it’s necessarily in the best interests of baseball. ... But I suppose the argument could be made that that decision is in the best interest of a team, long term” (BOSTON HERALD, 3/30).
NICE GUYS FINISH LAST? In Boston, Christopher Gasper noted the Red Sox rarely have been “this disregarded and disliked" in their home town, and the ‘13 team is “carrying the considerable baggage of their deplorable predecessors.” But while fans were “seething, the Red Sox have actually constructed a likeable, rootable team.” This year’s team is “professional, accommodating, and amicable, capable of not only winning games but winning back hearts and minds.” Red Sox GM Ben Cherington “knew his clubhouse needed an extreme personality makeover.” That as much as “raw numbers drove the decisions to bring in players” like C David Ross, CF Shane Victorino, P Ryan Dempster and LF Jonny Gomes (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/31). ESPN’s Manny Acta said, “They brought in nothing but high-character guys. … The whole bad atmosphere they’ve had the last couple years is going to be out of the way” (“Baseball Tonight,” ESPN, 4/1). In Boston, John Tomase writes the Red Sox have “very quietly begun making the changes" beyond hiring manager John Farrell that “suggest the darkest days are over.” The clubhouse is “already a much better place" thanks to newcomers with "no ties to last year’s horror.” It has “become so easy to rip the Red Sox over the last year and a half that it’s almost counterintuitive to feel anything positive.” The Red Sox have “no one but themselves to blame, thanks to poor play on the field, entitled behavior off of it, and an ownership group that probably crossed the line into tackiness with every brick, Beanie Baby, and Red Sox Nation membership it has sold since 2007.” But here is “a prediction: When this season ends, you won’t hate the Red Sox anymore” (BOSTON HERALD, 4/1). Tomase writes the “hope is that the new faces inject a new life and attitude into a moribund franchise, with the resulting harmony reflected in the standings.” The “early returns this spring were certainly encouraging, with the clubhouse giving off a welcoming vibe for the first time since the days of” Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz and Kevin Millar (BOSTON HERALD, 4/1).However, the GLOBE's Shaughnessy wrote, “I hate to break it to everybody, but chemistry in a baseball clubhouse is way overrated.” Winning “requires talent, pitching, and three-run homers” (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/31).
CULTURE CHANGE NEEDED: In Providence, Bill Reynolds writes there is “a different vibe” about the Red Sox, the feeling that "something got lost, something as important as the affection of what’s arguably the best fan base in sport.” Maybe it is “simply inevitable, the reality of two disappointing seasons in a row.” But there is “little question that for the past two years the Red Sox have been an unlikable team.” It also is the “perception that for the past two years the Red Sox have failed the popularity test.” Those issues are “what we have here now with the Red Sox, a team that has managed to disappoint its huge fan base, a team that has to earn our affection back.” That “will be the real work of this Red Sox season, at least in the beginning.” The team “has to prove to us that it’s worth rooting for, worth watching, worth caring about” (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 4/1). Also in Providence, Tim Britton writes the Red Sox brand “has been damaged.” Red Sox COO Sam Kennedy said, “We have a very good sense of how people are feeling about the club day in and day out. It can change very quickly. … It’s our responsibility to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to earn that good reputation” (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 4/1).
EMBRACING THE PAST: In Boston, Scott Lauber writes the Red Sox “always have been mindful of keeping former players involved in the organization, especially during spring training.” Johnny Pesky was “a mainstay, almost until his death last year,” while Jim Rice, Luis Tiant, Dwight Evans, Tommy Harper, Frank Malzone and Carl Yastrzemski “spend time in Fort Myers each year.” But the “alumni influence only has gotten more pronounced, with Martinez and longtime catcher Jason Varitek recently taking positions” as special assistants to Cherington. Tim Wakefield “dropped by spring training for a few days to work with” P Steven Wright, and Mike Lowell “made a cameo to offer defensive pointers” to 3B Will Middlebrooks. The idea is to “surround the current players with as much experience as possible.” And the “mojo created by the presence of a few World Series champions doesn’t hurt either” (BOSTON HERALD, 4/1).
StubHub on Friday filed a memorandum of law in Bronx County (New York) Supreme Court, outlining its opposition to the Yankees' legal efforts to keep closed a StubHub pickup location near Yankee Stadium. The online ticket marketplace said in its filing the Yankees have "at best ... a fundamental misunderstanding of the limited drop-off and pick-up services that will be available at the Bronx Last Minute Services location." StubHub also said the club does not meet the legal standard to gain a preliminary injunction regarding the company's ticket pickup spot located at 68 E. 161 St., diagonally across the 161st St.-River Ave. intersection from Yankee Stadium. "The Yankees Partnership does not want to complete against StubHub in the secondary market on a level playing field, and has brought this lawsuit to gain a competitive advantage," StubHub's filing continues. "Whether the Bronx LMS is located within 1,500 feet or outside of 1,500 feet is irrelevant to the Yankee Partnership's allegations of harm and its fundamental goal, which is to limit the choices fans have to resell their tickets in order to increase its own profits at the expense of competition and consumers." The Yankees allege the StubHub pickup spot violates New York state law, which prohibits ticket resale within 1,500 feet of a venue with at least 5,000 permanent seats, and have won a temporary restraining order keeping the site closed for now. A hearing on the club's proposed injunction is slated for April 16. The Yankees opted out of MLBAM's contract renewal with StubHub and now operates a competing service, Yankees Ticket Exchange, in partnership with Ticketmaster.
The Twins have signed a three-year deal with Great Clips for naming rights to a new group seating section at Target Field. The 200-seat Great Clips Great Seats, situated in sections 139-141 in the right-field corner, replaces old bleacher seats with seven rows of drink rails with stools. In addition, there is a canopy and radiant heating. Ticket prices are $28-42 a game and include $10 in stored value to use for concessions. A limited number of those seats will be made available for single-game sales, said Twins Exec VP/Business Development Laura Day. Great Clips, with 3,000 stores in North America, has been a Twins partner for the past three years, and has hosted a promotion where kids help the grounds crew rake the infield and change the bases. The Twins plan to unveil the upgrade today as part of Opening Day ceremonies at the four-year-old ballpark (Don Muret, Staff Writer).
STILL BEHIND THE TEAM: Twins President Dave St. Peter said that the marketplace "continues to show support for the team" despite two straight losing seasons. St. Peter noted that the Twins have "surpassed their total 2012 corporate partnership revenue," and that growth has been "spurred by new or expanded partnerships with companies such as T-Mobile, Buffalo Wild Wings, Papa John’s Pizza, Great Clips and Window Concepts of Minnesota." Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, Sid Hartman noted the Twins have sold 1.95 million "total tickets this season," and their 19,000 full-season equivalent ticket sales are "expected to rank in the top 10 season ticket bases in the major leagues." However, there remains a "significant number of single-game tickets still available, especially for April and May home games" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/31). St. Peter said, "If we can get off to a reasonable start and play competitive baseball, there's no reason we can't achieve an attendance total in that 2.7 million to 2.8 million range" (MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL BUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/29 issue).
In K.C., Mike Hendricks noted the Royals have "adopted a new system that already has ticket prices fluctuating like the Dow Jones industrial average, and the home opener is still a week away." The Royals "tested the concept last year on 16 premium games," and this year, the prices for all 81 home games will "fluctuate day to day and across all sections based on supply and demand." Royals Senior Dir of Ticket Sales & Customer Service Steve Shiffman said that for "many midweek Royals games this year, those who buy early can get the discounted season ticket holder price, which they never could before." Shiffman: "The whole focus is buy early, save money." He added of the Qcue system the team is using, "It doesn't raise the prices. It tells you what it thinks you should do." Shiffman said that he heard a "few complaints when the team tried out dynamic pricing last year" (K.C. STAR, 3/31).
BALTIMORE'S BEST: In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck wrote it is "easy for the Orioles to lay low" because Exec VP/Baseball Operations Dan Duquette did "not go on a post-playoff shopping spree to bulk up the roster." There was "no November surprise and certainly no blockbuster trade like the one that turned the Blue Jays into the talk of the offseason." The fact that there was "no glitzy free-agent acquisition over the winter left some Orioles fans wondering whether the club was really committed to building a perennial contender." Orioles fans can "only hope that both of the big spenders mud-wrestle all year at the bottom of the standings" (Baltimore SUN, 3/31).
BRONX BOMB: In Orlando, George Diaz writes the "once proud-and-loud" Yankees have been "reduced to a Seinfeld punch line." Perhaps the Yankees should start the '13 season today by "wearing 'Hello my name is' tags on their uniform, reflecting a team in disarray and decline." This is "cosmic payback for fans of all those other teams who have suffered through the years and years of pinstripe dynasties." Diaz: "Sit back and enjoy the view this season, Yankee haters. The Yankees are in the elevator and plunging toward the basement" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 4/1).
In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer notes the Cubs in just over three years under the Ricketts family's ownership have "gone from the top of the economic food chain in the National League Central to a team that operates and even looks like the small-market Pirates." In terms of their "timeline to be competitive, the Cubs could have a problem because their mid-market behavior appears to be caused as much by the debt left from the Ricketts’ highly leveraged purchase of the team as any premeditated rebuilding process." For all the talk from Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts "about the family’s 'mission' to win, dozens of conversations with banking experts, attorneys, sports economists and baseball officials inside and outside the organization suggest that ownership’s focus since the purchase has been to climb out from under the heaviest debt load in the majors" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/1).
ROCKY MOUNTAIN LOW? In Denver, Terry Frei writes there has never been "less excitement and sense of anticipation about an upcoming season" than there is around the Rockies this year. They made a "solid managerial hire, bringing Walt Weiss back into the organization." But "so little else has changed." The "charge will be reprised" that Rockies co-Owners Dick and Charlie Monfort are "'cheap,' but that missed the bigger points." One being that "throwing money around indiscriminately doesn't work" (DENVER POST, 4/1).
SITTING BY THE DOCK: In Boston, Nick Cafardo wrote the fact that Giants GM Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy recently signed extensions through the '16 season "should come as no surprise." They "deserve it after winning two World Series championships in three years." Sabean is "never completely satisfied with the team he starts the season with." He always fears there is "not enough depth to withstand those injuries, yet he always seems to adjust as the season goes on." He is an “old school” GM who "relies on scouting more than statistical data, though he has a department in baseball operations for such things." It is "worth saying that the Giants are the epitome of chemistry, from the front office down" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/31).
RAISE THE JOLLY ROGER: In Pittsburgh, J. Brady McCollough wrote Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen is the "face" of the franchise, with his "long locks having become a symbol of hope for a fan base that has had to take loyalty to new levels over two decades." McCutchen is "trying to embrace the role, and some days are better than others." McCutchen is in the "process of going from a good player few recognize to a household name for baseball fans across the country, and he has hired a publicist to manage his image and public appearances" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 3/31).
Twitter has become a major platform for journalists to break stories, share work and chat with fans, with the most popular national MLB writers claiming several hundred thousand followers. The most-followed MLB writer in THE DAILY’s survey of Twitter accounts is ESPN’s Buster Olney, with nearly 675,000 followers. The list below shows Twitter followers for many of the top national and local MLB writers, as well as other MLB-related feeds. In addition, THE DAILY conducted an e-mail roundtable with three leading national MLB writers -- Olney, FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal and CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman -- on their Twitter use and how its emergence has changed sports media, covering everything from its weakening of reporting to the “stick to baseball” imperative to Nick Swisher’s surprising charisma.
NOTE: The number of Twitter followers listed for each feed was current as of this morning.TWITTER FOLLOWERS AMONG SELECT
MLB WRITERS, MLB-THEMED FEEDS
WRITER/FEED SITE/PUBLICATIONFOLLOWERS Buster Olney ESPN674,347 Ken Rosenthal FoxSports.com337,395 Peter Gammons MLB Network295,411 MLB Trade Rumors MLBtraderumors.com259,079 Jayson Stark ESPN.com250,294 Jon Heyman CBSSports.com216,479 Enrique Rojas ESPNDeportes.com99,721 Jerry Crasnick ESPN96,885 Jon Paul Morosi FoxSports.com92,548 Baseball America Baseballamerica.com89,906 Jeff Passan Yahoo Sports58,279 Joel Sherman NY Post55,187 Pedro Gomez ESPN54,634 Tim Brown Yahoo Sports51,745 Danny Knobler CBSSports.com47,245 Rob Neyer SB Nation45,304 Jonah Keri Grantland.com45,182 Tyler Kepner N.Y. Times44,103 RotoWorld Baseball Rotoworld.com43,978 FanGraphs Fangraphs.com37,862 Baseball Prospectus Baseballprospectus.com33,573 Bob Klapisch Bergen Record30,593 Ken Davidoff NY Post28,448 Barry Bloom MLB.com22,643 Paul Hoynes Cleveland Plain Dealer21,220
Heyman: I got on Twitter in April of ‘09. Anything that has to do with electronics, a computer or something from after ‘68 I try to avoid for as long as possible. My wife made me do it. She was following Shaq and thought (at that time) he was hilarious. So I started looking at it, and I think I saw a tweet from a TV anchor, and he tweeted something like “I had a bagel for breakfast.’’ I thought to myself, “I have bagels. I could do that.” So I gave it a shot. Later, I saw it’s a great way to get news and thoughts out to your readers instantly. So my wife was right, as usual.
Olney: The first time I saw it, I thought it could be a great way to convey information to sports fans. When I grew up in central Vermont, we had no television and no daily paper, and had one daily source of information for sports -- WDEV radio had a 60-second sports report at 7:15 each morning. I would’ve loved something like Twitter.
Rosenthal: I’ve been on Twitter since November ‘09. Some people at MLBTradeRumors.com, which is widely read by baseball fans and industry types, basically told me that to get credit for breaking news, it would have to come through Twitter.
Heyman focuses on breaking stories through
Twitter, but seasons his feed with humor
Heyman: Well, if it’s a reasonably decent story but something short of the biggest story ever, I often tweet the info about the same time I send it to the office. I am still waiting for the biggest story ever, but if that happens, I am supposed to make sure the office knows about it first. But with your normal story, by tweeting it quickly CBS still gets the credit since my Twitter handle is @JonHeymanCBS. There’s a competition to be first and Twitter's obviously a 24-hour thing, but you still need to check your sources and be right. There have been a few folks who open fake accounts, pretending to be journalists, and make stuff up. Those few people apparently have a lot of time on their hands. Anyway, there doesn’t seem to be as much of that lately as the joke has worn thin. … I used to try to debate with some who are over-the-top nasty, but then realized that if someone’s going to call you an “idiot’’ over a difference of opinion about which double-play combo is better, it probably isn’t worth the time.
Olney: We still work through our news desk before sending out breaking news on Twitter, so it really hasn’t changed much, other than to make everyone develop a story more quickly. The upside is that sports fans get more information, around the clock. The downside is that the reporting process has been weakened, unquestionably.
Rosenthal: Absolutely it has changed the way I report stories. I try to be as thorough as I’ve always been, getting multiple sources on every story. But sometimes, that is just not possible if I want to be first. Obviously, this increases the risk, and I have had a couple of misses on Twitter -- misses that probably would not have occurred if I was still working solely for a newspaper. The upside is the immediacy. The downside is sloppiness -- not that the people following me and others seem to care. For most, it’s, “OK, what’s next?”
Q: How do you primarily use Twitter (i.e. as a promotional tool, way to connect with followers, chance to be more informal and have some fun, way to break stories)? How much do you interact with your followers?
Heyman: All of those things. I try to break stories and to promote our stories, first and foremost. But to avoid being dry I occasionally will make a quip or tweet things that aren’t too serious. That also helps followers get to know you (assuming that’s a good thing). I probably used to interact more, which is how I got to 38,000 tweets. I’ve admittedly cut back on interactions, but I try to answer a few tweets a day. Spring training is especially hard to answer too many people because, believe it or not, it’s about the busiest time of the year, especially if you’re in Florida, where much of the time is spent driving. Oftentimes the tweeps are helpful, as they’ve caught mistakes, spelling errors, etc., and that is always appreciated. Once in a while, I’ll give my location and offer an entrée to whoever meets me. This works because it gives people the impression I’m generous. I've had only a handful of folks take me up on it, the most memorable being a kid at Arizona State who was the bat boy of the Arizona Fall League team that had both Angels LF Mike Trout and Nationals CF Bryce Harper on it. Very nice kid. I learned a lot.
Olney: All of the above. I’ll interact with followers pretty much every day, usually early in the morning. I’ll send out news and information.
Rosenthal: I use it mostly to break news, promote links to my stories and columns and get out little items that don’t really merit full stories. I only rarely tweet personal stuff -- I don’t think that’s what the people following me want. I do interact from time to time, mostly to thank people for compliments -- or challenge them when they’re being nasty.
Q: How much does appearing on TV impact your Twitter follows/traffic? Do you promote your appearances through your feed, and do you make an effort to promote your Twitter handle on TV? How much do you tweet in-game?
Heyman: I try to promote my MLB Network appearances via Twitter. MLB Net puts tweets on its crawl in-season. I try to have my Twitter handle mentioned when I do radio appearances, and I think that helps, especially when I'm on WFAN, where I have a regular gig. Sometimes I will tweet in-game, but I think play-by-play should be limited to team beat writers, and even then it probably should be pretty limited. Maybe a funny observation from the game is good, but tweeting that someone flied out is a killer.
Olney: Yes, I use Twitter to promote the game broadcasts, or to interact with listeners/viewers. During “Sunday Night Baseball,” I’ll tweet a ton.
Rosenthal: I don’t really know how much appearing on TV impacts my traffic. I don’t know that it is all that meaningful. I don’t promote my appearances, per se. But I do promote the bow ties that I wear for different charities on each broadcast. Sort of the same thing, I guess. I tweet some during games, but probably not as often as I would like. As a field reporter, I have to be ready to go on camera at any time. That responsibility comes first.
Rosenthal mostly confines his tweets to MLB
matters, by personal and fan preference
Heyman: For information, Fox' Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick and Enrique Rojas, Yahoo’s Tim Brown and Jeff Passan and the N.Y. Post’s Joel Sherman are among the non-CBS national guys I rely on. I like to get the links of the N.Y. Times’ Tyler Kepner and Bergen Record’s Bob Klapisch. I follow most of the beat writers, and the ones I follow are very informative. A few of my favorites are from the Bay Area -- the S.F. Chronicle’s Henry Schulman and CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly -- plus the Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan, Seattle Times’ Larry Stone and St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Joe Strauss and Derrick Goold, as they bring some snark to the party. I am amazed by the volume of work done by some beat writers. The Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin and ESPN N.Y.’s Adam Rubin leap to mind. Of course I love to see what my friends in the business are up to, and they all do a terrific job -- Newsday’s Dave Lennon, the N.Y. Post’s David Waldstein and Ken Davidoff and of course CBS’ Danny Knobler and Scott Miller.
Olney: Reds 2B Brandon Phillips is always interesting, as is D’Backs P Brandon McCarthy; Rays P David Price has fun with it, and the newly retired Chipper Jones is funny. I find it a good way to keep up with what players are doing in their time away from the park, given that so many are spooked by being too far out on a limb with Twitter.
Rosenthal: I follow all of my competitors and quite a number of players. And I absolutely love the feed @OldHossRadbourn. Whoever that is, he or she really brightens my day.
Q: What players are the most savvy about social media? Any difference between the way MLB players use social media and players in other sports that you have seen?
Heyman: I guess Indians RF Nick Swisher must be pretty savvy. He has 1.7 million followers, and all he says is “Great game, good job by CC,’’ or “We’ll get ‘em tomorrow.’’ That’s amazing to me. Then again, I don’t hit 20-plus home runs every year. No way he should have five times the following of Trout, who is --- no offense -- five times the player, or Tigers RF Torii Hunter, who is about 1,000 times more interesting. Marlins LF Logan Morrison is very funny. Brewers P John Axford is really smart. The all-time best in the player category I think is former MLBer C.J. Nitkowski, who can have an interesting take on just about anything.
Olney: Most of them are savvy in that they refrain from going too far with it. A lot of players have told me they are on twitter to follow the information, but they don’t do a lot specifically to the games they play because they are worried about putting themselves on a tee for abuse from tweeps, or in a situation in which they’re responding out of anger.
Rosenthal: Phillips and Morrison are really good with it. I literally have no idea what is going on in other sports!
Q: Do you find clubs’ Twitter feeds useful for news purposes? Are there particular clubs that do a better job connecting with media or fans through their feeds?
Heyman: I don’t look at it constantly so I don’t think I could give an accurate gauge over which teams are doing the best jobs of getting word out quickly. I think the Brewers’ Mike Vassallo, D’Backs Josh Rawitch and Twins’ Dustin Morse are among the better PR tweeters. The Mets’ Jay Horwitz is hilarious.
Rosenthal: I follow ‘em, but don’t find them to be terribly useful.
Q: Are there times when you shut down Twitter or are you always on it?
Heyman: I try to catch up every hour or couple hours. I wish I could always be on it, but sometimes I have to sleep, drive or eat.
Olney: There are gaps in the day when I’m not on it, because of other work priorities or because of fatherhood.
Rosenthal: If I’m awake, I’m generally on it.
Olney appreciates Twitter, having grown up
with only 60 seconds of daily sports news
Heyman: I tweet when something comes into my mind, so it might be football, basketball, travel or my dry cleaner, which drives me crazy. I also will tweet about Arby’s and In-n-Out burger from time to time, but my doctor told me to stay away from them for now.
Olney: I’ll range out to other sports, and to news, if I think the information might interest followers -- knowing that each of those will generate at least a handful of "stick to baseball" responses, no matter how benign the tweet is.
Rosenthal: No. I pretty much confine it to MLB. When I follow people, it’s for their insight or expertise, not because I care about their opinions on other subjects. I know that might sound a little rigid, but that’s just the way I think most people who follow me prefer it.
ESPN earned a 1.5 overnight Nielsen rating for the Rangers-Astros MLB season opener last night. That figure is down from a 1.8 overnight for the season opener last year, which featured the Marlins opening their new ballpark against the Cardinals on a Wednesday night. However, the 1.5 overnight for Rangers-Astros is up from a 1.4 rating for the net's first "Sunday Night Baseball" telecast last year, which featured White Sox-Rangers. Last night's game earned a 5.6 local rating in Dallas-Ft. Worth and a 4.2 rating in Houston (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). Last night was the regular-season debut of ESPN's three-man booth of Dan Shulman, John Kruk and Orel Hershiser on "SNB." In N.Y., Phil Mushnick wrote, "Who knows how that will work out, but couldn't ESPN have given Shulman and Hershiser a shot at a two-man booth for a while?" (N.Y. POST, 3/31). But N.Y. Daily News media columnist Bob Raissman tweeted, "Kruk/Orel don't feel compelled to talk every second. This officially disqualifies them from working CBS/Turner NCAA hoops telecasts."
BOOTH MATES: SI.com's Richard Deitsch notes ESPN will "rotate its Wednesday Night Baseball broadcast booth, with Sean McDonough getting many of the lead announcer assignments." The net said commentators will be assigned "based on relevant connection to the game." Meanwhile, ESPN's new "Monday Night Baseball" crew of Dave O'Brien, Rick Sutcliffe, Aaron Boone and Tim Kurkjian debuts today with Red Sox-Yankees (SI.com, 4/1).
FUZZY MATH? Shulman said that he "sees the value of 'the new age analytics,'" but he is not going to "hand over his call to them in part because he does not think" viewers are into those numbers. Shulman said his personal preference, in terms of using the newer metrics, is to "dip my toe in the water but not delve into those during a telecast." Hershiser contended that "it's easier to bring the stat to the broadcast if it's a formula that everybody understands" (JSONLINE.com, 3/28).
Some of MLB’s biggest sponsors are "rolling out new activation as the league opens its season this week," according to Terry Lefton in this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Anheuser-Busch, which is the "presenting sponsor of opening week, will support its league rights and its 23 club deals with team-branded cans of Budweiser in those markets and cans bearing MLB’s silhouetted batter elsewhere." A-B will "tag TV ads, have in-stadium announcements and provide wholesalers with point-of-sale materials using the 'opening week' tag." In addition, "pop-up 'build-a-bars' for Opening Day festivities are being placed outside parks." Elsewhere, P&G’s Head & Shoulders brand is "activating around a new MLB spokesman," as Angels P C.J. Wilson replaces Twins C Joe Mauer in ads from Saatchi & Saatchi, N.Y., for a "new brand extension: Head & Shoulders with Old Spice." Ad buys in some MLB markets "include integration for Whiff of the Game and the Season of the Whiff." The "big news for MLB sponsor Scotts is a baseball program with Wal-Mart." Twenty MLB-themed “retail-tainment” events will be "part of the program, including batting cages in front of stores." A refurbishment of baseball fields "in six markets is also planned, an element tied to Wal-Mart’s sponsorship" of the film "42" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/1 issue). Other MLB sponsors also will be rolling out activation around Opening Day and the month of April. Chevrolet/GM will be running ads launching its new Impala across MLB broadcasts throughout the month. On April 24, Firestone will activate its sponsorship involving in-stadium All-Star balloting. Meanwhile, Gatorade this month will debut product displays with MLB branding in over 500 Dick's Sporting Goods stores nationwide (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
GOING, GOING, GONE: While there is no sponsor for the '13 Home Run Derby, Lefton cites sources as saying that MLB VP/National Sales Chris Marciani has been "shopping a derby deal, along with rights for the entire insurance category, to companies including USAA and Geico" at a price of about $8M annually. That does not include the "additional media and MLB Advanced Media digital assets it would take to support the package, which could escalate the cost" to more than $10M. State Farm previously sponsored the event, and whether one insurance brand "would want to follow another as a Home Run Derby sponsor is an intriguing question." Sources said that the league was "close to awarding the derby to new wireless sponsor T-Mobile" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/1 issue).
MLB rolls into the '13 regular season with 15 official corporate sponsors. Not returning from last year are State Farm (insurance) and Holiday Inn (hotel/resort). The one addition this season was T-Mobile in the wirless service, hardware and tablets category. Below is a comprehensive list of the official corporate partners for the season (THE DAILY).
CATEGORY RIGHTSSPONSOR SINCE Procter & Gamble Gillette (razors/blades/pre- & post-shaving);
Head & Shoulders (shampoo/conditioner)'39
Anheuser-Busch Alcoholic/Non-Alcoholic Malt Beverages'80 Gatorade Isotonic Beverage'90 MasterCard Credit Card/Payment System'97 PepsiCo Beverage (non-alcoholic/non-milk based)'97 Nike Athletic Footwear/Athletic Eyewear'98 Bank of America Banking Services/Affinity Card'04 ('97 for MBNA) Taco Bell QSR/Casual Dining'04 SiriusXM Satellite Radio Network'05 GM/Chevrolet Foreign/Domestic Vehicle'05 Frito-Lay Salty Snack'06 Bayer Healthcare/
Pain Relief/Multivitamin'08 Firestone Tire'10 Scotts Lawn Care/Grass Seed'10 T-Mobile Wireless service/hardware/tablets'13
Despite the Yankees beginning the '13 season with MLB's highest payroll, they also spend the least in regard to payroll dollars per social media fan. With the largest social media presence among all 30 teams, the Yankees spend just $32.08 of payroll per fan. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Nationals had the highest amount at $358.82. But they are likely to see that number decrease if the franchise can build on its playoff appearance from last year on social media platforms.MLB TEAM TWITTER FOLLOWERS + FACEBOOK LIKES AS OF MARCH 29
PAYROLL DOLLARS SPENT
PER SOCIAL MEDIA FAN
Yankees7,137,770$32.08 Red Sox4,164,719$38.17 Astros520,739$46.72 Cubs1,963,454$53.04 Braves1,559,195$57.27 Giants2,069,460$68.70 Cardinals1,632,403$71.49 Rangers1,705,579$74.58 Phillies2,040,112$78.22 Twins929,796$81.27 Marlins380,371$104.17 Rays547,157$104.23 Tigers1,404,398$106.13 Mets783,082$113.50 White Sox1,090,714$113.75 Brewers744,876$123.23 Indians668,462$123.44 Pirates502,079$132.03 Rockies570,413$132.27 Mariners632,779$133.22 Reds820,892$134.69 Dodgers1,568,927$137.87 A's467,219$146.78 Padres466,716$153.60 Blue Jays741,541$159.46 Orioles573,995$159.92 Royals410,009$196.32 Angels640,891$221.82 D'Backs356,236$253.09 Nationals317,769$353.82
In Cincinnati, Josh Pichler profiled Reds Owner & CEO BOB CASTELLINI, who this offseason “arguably made the biggest news" by securing the '15 All Star Game. It is the “latest check mark on Castellini’s high-impact to-do list, which has included making good on promises on everything from delivering a playoff team … to helping jump-start the Banks development.” MLB execs say that Castellini’s “leadership starts with getting the little things right.” This is why Castellini “attends almost every home game, why he makes a point to mix with the fans, and why he’s out front publicly despite a personal preference to avoid the spotlight” (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 3/31).
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM OUR FRIENDS: In N.Y., David Waldstein notes Yankees GM BRIAN CASHMAN's broken right ankle will "remain in a cast and be so immobilized" that he will have Yankees Assistant GM BILLY EPPLER "move into his house for a month to help him get back and forth to the stadium.” Cashman suffered the injury during a charity sky dive with the U.S. Army Golden Knights on March 4. He said that one of the Army colonels from his jump had previously “moved into his place in Tampa, Fla., to help” (N.Y. TIMES, 4/1).
DEFENDING CHARITABLE EFFORTS: In a special to the BOSTON GLOBE, Red Sox P CRAIG BRESLOW noted the paper in Feb. published an article titled “In Nonprofit Game, Athletes Post Losing Records.” Breslow wrote, “As the brother of a cancer survivor and a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox who founded the Strike 3 Foundation, it is unclear to me how a real loss could be defined within the context of raising money to cure a disease.” He asked, "What percentage of a dollar disbursed makes that dollar too little to bother raising? What research oncologist turns away $37,000 because it isn’t $100,000?” Breslow: “I may not be equipped to answer this question, but I would be happy to connect the author of the article to the oncologists, nurses, patients, and families at Yale who could probably share some insight” (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/29).
AROUND THE HORN: NBC’s Al Roker broadcast from the White House lawn this morning in advance of the 135th Easter Egg Roll. Roker was joined by the Nationals' Racing Presidents. Roker at one point turned to the Presidents positioned behind him and said, “Don’t you have Opening Day coming up? Get going, you got to get to Nationals Stadium.” NBC’s Willie Geist said, “I couldn’t tell because of the puppet hands, but I think ABE LINCOLN just flipped you off" (“Today,” NBC, 4/1)....Boston native and singer BRIAN EVANS created an original song and video titled "At Fenway," which was "posted on YouTube" last week. The video features WILLIAM SHATNER as an umpire at Fenway Park and “was shot there after a Red Sox game last September” (ESPN.com, 3/29)….The D’Backs' Evening on the Diamond on Thursday at Chase Field raised a record $1.8M to benefit the team’s foundation (D’Backs).