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Nationals President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo following yesterday's shootings at the Washington Navy Yard "worked with federal and local law enforcement," along with MLB, prior to postponing last night's home game against the Braves and scheduling today's "split doubleheader with separate admission," according to Amanda Comak of the WASHINGTON TIMES. Players from both teams "spent much of the day communicating about whether or not a game would be played," and they "hoped it would not." Nationals P Dan Haren said, "Kind of the general consensus was that we really didn't want to play, just out of respect for the families and everyone involved." Many Braves players "loaded onto the team buses from their hotel in Pentagon City" around 1:30pm ET for the 7:05pm start, "even though they did not know at that time whether or not they’d be playing a game." Braves P Scott Downs: "We were all still wondering ‘Why are we getting on the bus?’ Baseball, I think, was the last thing on everybody’s mind. ... The last thing anybody wanted to do was come to the ballfield." Comak notes the Nationals "did not postpone the game until just after" 3:00pm, after most players and personnel from both teams "had already arrived at the stadium." Rizzo said the "immense coordination that it takes to make these decisions with federal and local authorities" delayed the decision process. But Comak notes the feeling of Nationals ownership "was always that playing any game would be inappropriate" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/17). In DC, James Wagner cited a source as saying that MLB security officials "had been in contact with the Nationals’ security office all day." MLB "encouraged the Nationals to lean on the guidance of local authorities before making a decision about the game." The decision "was ultimately made by the Nationals and the league office, and supported by Commissioner Bud Selig" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/16).
RIVALS WORK TOGETHER: Braves 3B Chris Johnson said that Nationals P Drew Storen and Braves P Brandon Beachy, the teams' player reps, agreed to call the MLBPA to "express the players’ desire to postpone the game." Johnson: “There was a lot of guys that didn’t want to play, thought it was kind of disrespectful to play. It’s right across the street. To be able to hear cheering, and supposedly they’re using a parking lot for families -- I don’t know. It should just be quiet for today." DC Mayor Vincent Gray said that he "wasn’t involved with every detail of the postponement, but that he wished the decision had been made earlier" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/16). MLB Network's Richard Justice noted players told him that "this was a day to grieve out of respect to the dead, respect to the people who worked at the Navy Yard, people who were neighbors to this ballclub." Justice: "Part of the mission of this ballclub is to be a good citizens of this community, and they felt it just wouldn't have been right to play" ("MLB Tonight," MLBN, 9/16). MLB Net's Charlie Slowes said players on the two teams "started talking to each other via Twitter, via text, earlier in the day that it would be inappropriate to play this game." The Nationals "honor the military here every night in the fourth inning of each game, and you're right next to the Navy Yard where this tragedy took place" ("The Rundown," MLBN, 9/16). In DC, Kilgore & Wagner note the ballpark "sits roughly five blocks" from the Navy Yard. The American flag "will still be at half-mast, and uncertainty will still dominate the area beyond the outfield walls" during today's games (WASHINGTON POST, 9/17).
SAFETY FIRST: CSNWASHINGTON.com's Mark Zuckerman wrote the decision to postpone yesterday's game ultimately "came down to fan safety." With an ongoing investigation and search for additional gunmen, and "with a large swath directly to the east of Nationals Park still in lockdown, the notion of inviting 20,000-30,000 baseball fans to the area was untenable." There were other "logistical issues as well, most notably the use of one of the ballpark’s garages as a staging area for family members trying to reconnect [with] loved ones who work at the Navy Yard" (CSNWASHINGTON.com, 9/16). Justice wrote to play the game when DC had "just been battered by an act of incomprehensible evil would have made no sense" (MLB.com, 9/16). Police activity was visible around Nationals Park, and sirens "could be heard throughout the afternoon" (ESPN.com, 9/16).
Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria is "staying ominously silent while reports circulate, for the second straight September," that President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest "could be gone," according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSPORTS.com. The "lingering tension within the Marlins’ front office, meanwhile, is damaging to the organization." Sources said that Beinfest, "frustrated that his job security is again a matter of public discussion, confronted Loria last week and asked him to decide upon his status one way or the other." The sources added that Beinfest is "miserable." Rosenthal: "You would be miserable, too, if your owner over the past four years had gone from merely meddlesome to completely hands-on, even vetoing minor league call-ups for reasons unrelated to performance." Sources said that the Marlins’ power structure essentially consists of Loria and VP/Player Personnel & Assistant GM Dan Jennings "on one side" and Beinfest and VP & GM Mike Hill "on the other." Sources said that Marlins President David Samson has been "all but invisible this season and also is on the outs with Loria." The "logical move" would be for Jennings to replace Beinfest. Rival execs "are predicting such a shake-up." Loria has "no problem punishing journeymen, no problem dumping salaries, no problem reneging on free agents he promised not to trade." But he "will not address the divisions in his front office, divisions that he mostly created" (FOXSPORTS.com, 9/16). In Ft. Lauderdale, Juan Rodriguez cites a source as saying the details in Rosenthal's report were "all dead on and understated if anything" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/17). In Miami, Clark Spencer cites sources as saying that Loria is "now making most -- if not all -- of the baseball decisions, which is fueling speculation" that Beinfest and Samson "could be ousted after the season." A source said of Loria, "He has marginalized the front office. The front office isn't making decisions. Loria makes them all" (MIAMI HERALD, 9/17).
The Grizzlies have rolled out a new billboard campaign in the Memphis area with the tagline, "Greater Memphis," featuring "larger-than-life photographs of the now well-known players," according to Kyle Veazey of the Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL. The billboards show a "sleek font" and "film burns that nod to the team’s 'grit-and-grind' mantra." Grizzlies VP/Marketing, Communications & Broadcast John Pugliese said, "With new ownership, and how aggressive they've been, it is time for us to grow from what we were, 'Made In Memphis,' to promote us to the region and the nation as a great community and a great basketball team and a great fan base." Veazey noted the Grizzlies are "beginning their eighth season" partnering with Memphis-based Red Deluxe. The agency developed "three fully fleshed-out campaigns in preparation for a late August meeting with the Grizzlies." They displayed "all three campaigns, the goal being to leave the room having settled on one of them." Pugliese said of the "Greater Memphis" campaign, "I walked into the room, and it was the first thing that my eyes went to. It just piqued my creativity right away, gave me kind of a shot in the arm." Veazey noted the first part of the campaign are the billboards, set to "pop up in high-traffic areas." Soon the campaign will "take a more focused form in terms of print, television and radio ads." Pugliese said those will consist of "more sales-oriented messaging." NBA regulations "prohibit direct marketing, such as billboards, outside of a 75-mile radius of the team’s primary market." The Grizzlies plan billboards "almost to the limit in Arkansas, down in Tunica, and up I-40 toward Jackson, Tenn." (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 9/16).
Saturday's Devils-Islanders preseason game at Barclays Center will mark the NHL's first visit to Brooklyn, and "most eyes around the NHL will be focused on the audience, and the first test of how the league might go over in downtown Trendyville," according to Neil Best of NEWSDAY. Nets and Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark said that "all signs so far point to pretty darn good." He added that ticket sales have "been 'terrific,' with about 11,000 of the 15,813 seats sold and more expected during the week." Best notes the game "will not be televised, but it will be streamed on NewYorkIslanders.com and BarclaysCenter.com." There are "11 different ticket prices" for the game, ranging from $19.85 to $307.30. So far, 25% of ticket buyers "have been from Brooklyn," with 18.9% from Nassau County and 13% from Suffolk. Yormark said, "I'm very excited about the number from Brooklyn. It means hockey has a bit of a foundation here in the borough and they're excited about the ultimate arrival of the Islanders." He said that he and his team have been "using the lessons they learned from the Nets' multiyear transition from New Jersey to Brooklyn in planning the Islanders' move." Best notes the next two seasons will involve "building the brand in Brooklyn with, among other things, more community outreach and some cross-promotion with the Nets, including perhaps partial plans that include both teams' games" (NEWSDAY, 9/17).
In San Jose, Dan Nakaso reports the Warriors have "sold more than 14,000 season tickets, a franchise record, and will set another franchise record with 17 appearances in nationally televised games." Warriors G Stephen Curry is "one young player in particular" helping to sell tickets. Curry and coach Mark Jackson on Friday were in L.A. to film the team's "first appearance in ESPN's offbeat series of RV commercials." Meanwhile, Curry's No. 30 will be "one of the few to appear on T-shirts across the country in all Champs Sports stores through a partnership with the NBA" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 9/17).
COAT FACTORY: In Buffalo, Tim Graham notes the Bills on Sunday "began a Wall of Fame tradition by issuing navy-blue sport coats to its honorees during a halftime ceremony." Eighteen Wall of Famers "attended or were represented by their families." Deceased members "received framed jacket displays." Pro Football HOFers Jim Kelly and Marv Levy were both in attendance, but Bills Owner Ralph Wilson did not attend. In a statement, the 94-year-old Wilson explained “travel continues to be a challenge for me.” Wilson has "been to one Bills game" since the start of the '11 season (BUFFALO NEWS, 9/16).
RIDE THE LIGHTNING: Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik on Saturday said VP & GM Steve Yzerman is doing "a great job" and "has my support 100 percent." In Tampa, Damian Cristodero noted Vinik was "clear that he and Yzerman, in the fourth year of a five-year deal, believe in patience when building a franchise." Vinik: "I couldn't be more pleased with the job Steve is doing." Yzerman's contract runs through the '14-15 season and Vinik said that discussions about an extension "have not started but made it sound as if they would" (TAMPABAY.com, 9/14).
O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU? In Philadelphia, John George writes the 76ers "face a big challenge when it comes to selling tickets, especially in the era of places like StubHub where Sixers’ seats could be had for pocket change during last year’s disappointing season." However, the Sixers are "finding success with a new ticket option" that promotes the team's opponent. Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil said, "Fans understand there is a plan for the team, and recognize there is an opportunity to get seats that may be tougher to get in two years" (PHILADELPHIA BUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/13 issue).