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The A's yesterday put ALDS tickets on sale for the third deck of O.co Coliseum -- a section usually covered with tarps -- due to high demand for postseason games. Opening the section will increase capacity from the usual 35,067 to more than 47,000. However, the upper deck section above center field, dubbed "Mt. Davis," will remain closed. The A's had planned to open the third deck had they reached the ALCS last year, but were eliminated in the ALDS. A's Exec Dir of Ticket Sales & Operations Steve Fanelli said, "We went on sale (Tuesday morning) for the ALDS and demand was strong right out of the gate." He added the upper deck will remain open through the playoffs "as long as demand stays strong" (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). In S.F., John Shea noted the A's yesterday in two hours "sold out the Coliseum's lower two levels" for the ALDS. The A's last week built their first-place lead to 6 1/2 games, but drew 14,629 for Monday's homestand opener and 18,771 yesterday. A's Owner Lew Wolff said, "I appreciate the fans that have come to root for us as we try for the playoffs, but I am disappointed that with all the team has done that we are not enjoying close to sellouts." A's RF Josh Reddick: "It's our last homestand, and we're in first place. We want to see all the support this city could bring. There are a lot of green seats, so it's not fun, especially at the end of the year" (SFGATE.com, 9/17).
BAD SITUATION: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale notes the A's opening ALDS game "was sold out in 10 minutes," but "where is everyone on many of the 81 nights of the regular season?" Wolff said, "There is something wrong here. You would think that with our lead, people would want to come out, count down the magic numbers, and all that stuff. Even if you're not a loyal fan, you would think this time of year, where the teams are in the standings and where every games means something, people would come out." He continued, "It's depressing. I really expected the crowds to be huge this week. I had a player come up to me and say, 'I feel sorry you, Mr. Wolff.' I told him, 'Just keep pitching. And whatever you do, don't look into the stands.'" Nightengale notes the A's season-ticket base is around 7,000, but they "have never drawn 3 million fans and last drew more than 2.5 million fans" in '91. They will draw their "most fans this season since 2007, partly thanks to the $2 ticket night on Wednesdays, but won't hit 2 million in attendance." Wolff said, "Percentage-wise, we're doing much better." He added that the A's and Rays -- who are last in MLB in attendance -- "realize they have to move ... if they are going to attract fans" (USA TODAY, 9/18).
LEAKY PIPES: CSNBAYAREA.com's Joe Stiglich reports an O.co Coliseum bathroom yesterday "flooded in the home dugout in the middle of the game, just the latest chapter in the sewage saga that has played out at the A's home ballpark this season." A's P Jerry Blevins said, "Another O.co Coliseum flub there." He added there was a "pretty good coating" of sewage on the dugout floor (CSNBAYAREA.com, 9/18).
The Nationals’ doubleheader against the Braves yesterday "couldn’t help but be marked by reminders" of Monday’s Navy Yard shooting, which occurred near Nationals Park, according to Barry Svrluga of the WASHINGTON POST. Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Sandy Winnefeld before the first game "walked through the Nationals’ clubhouse issuing Navy hats, dark blue emblazoned with gold ‘N’s, to players." The team "wore those hats during warmups, and they donned their patriotic jerseys -- dark blue with a script ‘W’ decorated with red-and-white stars." Both teams stood outside their dugouts at 12:55pm ET as PA announcer Jerome Hruska's voice "thundered in acknowledgement of the shootings," and he then "asked for a moment of silence" that lasted one minute. The team on Monday "worked with the Red Cross to provide blankets, chairs, restrooms and food" to families impacted by the shooting, and staff also "helped get food to employees detained inside the Navy Yard" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/18). In DC, Amanda Comak noted the Nationals were "honored" to accept the Navy hats, despite the fact that MLB rules prevented them from being used in the game. Winnefeld came to the ballpark to "offer his thanks to the Nationals for what they did" Monday (WASHINGTONTIMES.com, 9/17).
AN ATTEMPT AT NORMALCY: The AP's Joseph White wrote of yesterday's doubleheader, "It was another attempt from the world of sports to restore normalcy when things really aren't normal." Fans "arrived via the Navy Yard subway station, although they were sparse in number because Monday's game was rescheduled on short notice." Much of the "chaos that engulfed the ballpark 24 hours earlier was gone," and fans "saw no overt signs of extra security at the ballpark" (AP, 9/17). Nationals CF Denard Span said, "There’s a lot of hurt families out there. We just want to try to do our part, hopefully, trying to help it. There’s nothing we can do to replace the lives that were lost yesterday" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/17).
SHOULD MLB HAVE BENDED ON RULE? ESPN's Keith Olbermann cited a source as saying some Nationals players "did not want to take the Navy caps off" once the games began. However, Olbermann said by adhering to the policy of not wearing those caps during play, the Nats and MLB were "symbolically declaring ... that the grief was over and the mourning was over and the regular caps were back on and available online and at souvenir stands and from stadium vendors." Olbermann: "Navy hats: fine while there's no live television available throughout the world of the game. Once the cameras go on, the tribute caps come off." That the "hero caps are of value to the community, to the city, to those slightly removed from the tragedy -- that probably cannot be debated." It "acknowledges and it empathizes and it humanizes and to humanize is to begin to heal." The Nats wore Virginia Tech caps after the mass shooting on the school's campus in '07, which "might have been the last time the Commissioner's office said OK to something like this." Olbermann: "Since then, whenever the right thing has involved wearing something as stupid and different as a baseball cap, Major League Baseball has made sure it tried as hard as it could to not do that right thing." Olbermann: "Baseball chooses all the time what its teams can or will memorialize, whether it's a patch on a uniform or a jersey hanging in a dugout. ... Baseball again refused to let the New York Mets wear those hero caps just last week on 9-11-13 and now one may infer the message has gotten through to the teams that baseball will not allow respect or simple human decency when profit is at stake." MLB "can't make money off U.S. Navy baseball caps because those belong to the Navy, so the players can't wear them on television" ("Olbermann," ESPN, 9/17).
A buyer for the NHL Panthers "has been found and a deal should be announced within the next few weeks," according to sources cited by Josh Kosman of the N.Y. POST. One source said, "It’s imminent." The Panthers have made the playoffs "just once in the last 13 seasons" and average attendance has been "good for 26th in the 30-team league" (N.Y. POST, 9/18). Ft. Lauderdale-based WFTL-AM's Andy Slater reported the buyer is "former Nets minority owner Vincent Viola" (TWITTER.com, 9/18). YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski notes Viola was with the Nets "at the same time Brett Yormark was the CEO." Yormark's brother Michael is Panthers President (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/18). ESPN's Pierre LeBrun cites a source as saying that the Panthers' ownership situation "is not an agenda item" for next week's NHL BOG meeting in N.Y. However, that "doesn't mean the team can't be sold over the next month." Team sales "can be conducted via fax vote" (ESPN.com, 9/18). CBSSPORTS.com's Brian Stubits notes the Panthers have had more than their "share of struggles on the ice and ... at the box office as well." Stubits: "The assumption is that as a whole the Panthers are a money-losing venture. While that is true on the hockey side of things, most believe it's a profitable venture by virtue of the Panthers being part of a larger company that also has rights to concerts and other events at the BB&T Center." While rumors have had teams relocating to either Quebec City or Seattle in the near future, Stubits does not "expect that to be the case" with the Panthers (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/18).
NHL PANTHERS CONTROLLING PARTNERSYEARS
CONTROLLING PARTNER'93-'01 Wayne Huizenga'01-09 Alan Cohen'09-10 Cliff Viner/Stu Siegel'10-present Cliff Viner
AFTERNOON SKATE: The GLOBE & MAIL's Robert Macleod noted the Panthers played the Predators Monday afternoon in a preseason game at BB&T Center that "did not exactly have fans streaming through the turnstiles." The Panthers did not release an official attendance figure for the game, but an image that has circulated on the Internet makes it appear that the "players outnumber the fans as they line up" for the playing of the U.S. national anthem. Panthers President Michael Yormark in a statement to Yahoo Sports indicated that the turnout "in no way reflects the franchise’s expectation for the upcoming season." Macleod noted the game the first of a doubleheader between the teams, and the second game, which started at 7:07pm ET, drew 6,541 fans (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/17).
The Buccaneers yesterday announced that they "won't take the field this season in their popular throwback orange jerseys" despite being scheduled to do so for the Sept. 29 game against the Cardinals, "citing an NFL safety requirement mandating the same helmets be used in all games," according to Greg Auman of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Bucs COO Brian Ford said, "While we regret that our players won't be able to don the 'Bucco Bruce' helmet and traditional orange, red and white uniforms, there simply was no acceptable way to meet the requirements of the new policy while staying true to the spirit of our throwback theme." The Bucs have had "throwback games in each of the past four seasons, and the tradition has been popular with fans, bringing the team's early years together with its pewter-and-red present." The first three throwback games "coincided with the team's 'Ring of Honor' ceremony, but that was a separate game last season and will be again this year" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 9/18). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote, "The policy surely will affect other teams with throwback uniforms based on a helmet of a different color." The Patriots "shift from silver to white for the old uniforms with Pat Patriot preparing to snap the ball." The Falcons "go from black to red." The Redskins in '12 "swapped out burgundy for a brown helmet with a simulated leather finish." The Bears and Bills this past Sunday "wore throwback uniforms, but with the same helmets." For the Bears, the "'C' logos were removed," while for the Bills the current team logo was "replaced with the stationary buffalo" from the '60s (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/17). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Michael David Smith wrote some teams reportedly "aren’t yet sure whether to go ahead with plans to wear throwback uniforms." The Cowboys "planned to wear their throwbacks with white helmets on Thanksgiving, and it’s not yet known whether they will blend throwback jerseys with regular helmets, or just scrap the throwback uniforms entirely" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/17).
Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis said it was the Washington Post's lack of coverage that was the impetus behind why he and the NHL club "overhauled the local sports media landscape" in DC, according to Dan Steinberg of the WASHINGTON POST. Leonsis, speaking at a Newseum panel on the future of media, made his comments after he was asked "about how he’s no longer just a sports franchise owner, but also a media mogul." He responded to that notion, "I have said on a number of occasions, The Post forced me into that position. I bought a hockey team, and attendance was really bad, and we’d make news, and there’d be one reporter who’d come from the Washington Post. And The Post basically decided what was important, what got coverage. And they did their best. And I had to take into my own hands coverage. So the first thing I did was say, ‘Well, let’s activate a blogosphere.' ... And now when we have a press event, there’s literally more than 200 people that cover us -- national, local, global. The blogosphere boomed. And now The Washington Post is a voice." He added, "I was forced to do my own blog so that I could control the algorithm. And you’ll see, we push traffic back and forth from my blog to Monumental Sports to the Washington Caps and the like, so that we control the algorithm, so we control the traffic and the page views. And that also generates page views where we can sell advertising." Leonsis said of his relationship with the Post, “I would say cover my team. And I’d hear back, ‘Well, we can only afford one reporter, and we believe we will set the agenda that this is where hockey -- just using one example -- fits on the landscape.’ And I didn’t want to hear that as an answer" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/17).
Red Sox Exec VP & GM Ben Cherington "batted close to 1.000 this past winter with a series of so-called 'mid-range' player purchases in what was viewed as one of big-market Boston's least glamorous buying sprees," according to Jon Heyman of CBSSPORTS.com. It was "such a success that rival execs are openly discussing copying the so-called 'blueprint.'" A Mets exec "recently declared that 'there's a lot of merit' to that strategy." Cherington said he admitted "always having a preference to keep the deals shorter." But Heyman wrote, "Even that seems to undersell the plan this winter, when they made several offers with seemingly high annual salaries and shorter terms, all to players with past successes and strong reputations for being positive clubhouse influences but imperfections on their resumes." The Red Sox' total outlay for seven free agents was $100.2M guaranteed, and with the $8M in earned incentives for 1B Mike Napoli included, it is "still only" $108.2M. That figure is about $17M less than what the Angels paid LF Josh Hamilton, who was "never a serious consideration for Boston." Cherington explains the Red Sox' thinking "in simple terms that make sense." Cherington: "We wanted good players. You can't win without good players. But we also wanted guys who wanted to be in Boston and all the challenges that come along with it" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/17).
TAKING THE TRIBUTE TOO FAR? ESPN's Keith Olbermann Monday discusses the recent tribute by the Red Sox to Yankees P Mariano Rivera, who is retiring at the end of the season. Olbermann said, "These farewell tours are inherently tedious ... Still, it's the thought that counts and the primary thought has got to be, 'The gift should probably be about him and not about you!' A painting of him tipping his hat as Fenway's spectators mock-cheered him on the home opener in 2005 because he blew two saves as the Yankees became the first team ever to cough up a 3-0 playoff lead. So a painting of the moment your fans were classless enough to try to rub it in as if your team had not just escaped the 86 years of acute, endless, blistering, soul-stomping, last-minute, blown-save failure" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 9/16). But the Boston Globe's Bob Ryan said, "It was the ultimate tribute because it was testimony to the fact that beating him is an honor that no one can surpass." Ryan: "The Red Sox knew he would take it in the right vein." Columnist Kevin Blackistone said, "That was absolutely hilarious. I can’t believe anybody with the Yankees would not have a sense of humor and get a little chuckle out of that” (“Around the Horn,” ESPN, 9/17). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said, "It seemed like it was well intentioned to me. It's also self absorbed, as all things Red Sox ... seem to be." ESPN's Tony Kornheiser: "What they did ... was charming, and then they gave him a bunch of gifts. My response to Yankees people is shut up about this. This is not a terrible thing that they did" ("PTI," ESPN, 9/17).
In Seattle, Larry Stone wrote the Mariners' "once-promising blueprint has gone off track," leaving the team with "far too many question marks and unresolved problems for the fifth year of a rebuilding plan." As another season "unravels, it seems increasingly inevitable" that GM Jack Zduriencik will "pay with his job." But the "root problems with this organization reach much higher." It recently was reported that Zduriencik "was not in the last year of his contract," but "don't read that as job security for Zduriencik, particularly in light of the fact that the Mariners never publicly acknowledged the extension" (SEATTLE TIMES, 9/17).
TAKING CONTROL: With reports out that Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria is making most of the baseball decisions for the team, CBSSN's Doug Gottlieb called him the "Al Davis ... of baseball owners." Gottlieb: "He doesn’t know a ton about baseball but he’s been around it enough to where he’s convinced himself he knows about baseball, and he becomes miserable to work for. That's why they’re so bad” ("Lead Off," CBSSN, 9/17). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "This sort of meddling by an owner ... can go to the commissioner’s office. And this has happened before, a commissioner can say in the best interest of baseball, you can’t continue to act like this. So this could end up with Bud Selig." ESPN's Michael Wilbon: "If art dealers were so good at running a baseball team, how come everybody doesn’t have an art dealer on speed dial? ("PTI," ESPN, 9/17).
TWIN BILL: The AP reported the Twins have "purchased 500 tickets" for the WNBA Lynx playoff opener on Friday night against the Storm. Upper level tickets "will be available for free to those who call the Lynx ticket office." Twins P and Minnesota native Glen Perkins "cut some radio ads to congratulate the Lynx as they go for their third straight WNBA finals appearance" (AP, 9/17).
ROYAL TREATMENT? In N.Y., Tyler Kepner notes the crowd for Monday's Indians-Royals game "was enthusiastic," but just 15,413 fans "showed up under threatening skies." The crowd "was bigger" yesterday, but the Royals are "averaging only 21,340 per game, down a bit from last season, when they hosted the All-Star Game." They "have not averaged 25,000" since '91 (N. Y. TIMES, 9/18).