SBD/February 21, 2014/Franchises

All The President's Men: Top-Ranking MLB Execs Discuss Upcoming Season

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MLBAM this week conducted interviews with top-ranking execs from all MLB teams and posted them on MLB.com. Many of them touched on the business of baseball: fan experience, facilities and revenue issues and excerpts are featured below (MLB.com, 2/17).

Ryan feels Astros are on verge of doing
something great
Astros President of Baseball Operations Reid Ryan
, on rebuilding the team's brand, "There's so many people that care about the Astros that have felt excluded from the last couple of years or that, because of the performance on the field with the team, maybe didn't want to raise their hand and say, 'Hey, I'm an Astro fan.' We're seeing a reawakening of a lot of folks. ... I've had so many players reach out to me and say, 'Hey, I want to do something, I want to help, I want to be a part of this.' We've recently had a lot of partners and long-time people in the community say, 'Hey, we want to help the Astros get back on top." Not just here, but with our extensive caravan and all around the state and Louisiana. I think we're on the verge of something great."

Brewers COO Rick Schlesinger, on the team's competitive balance, "My concern at the Brewers, obviously, is not to have a situation where (between) the haves and have nots, there's such a dichotomy that there is a lack of competitive balance. We've been fortunate in baseball that we've done some things to improve competitive balance. If you look at teams in the last seven or eight years, the Oaklands, the Tampa Bays, they have small payrolls and they made the postseason. The Brewers have made the postseason twice, and we are certainly aren't a top revenue team. My concern is, let's not lose the momentum created by those young, inexpensively produced teams making the postseason, (and create an environment) where you only have five or six or eight teams that realistically have a chance."

Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III, on the team's Ballpark Village: "We're gearing toward March 27 as the formal opening of the project so we can have a good week-plus before Opening Day (in St. Louis). Now, on March 27, every last piece might not be done, but I think we'll be good to go in terms of the big Live! marketplace in the middle. Then the restaurants surrounding it will be in various levels of completion."

Hall's positive outlook stems from the D-Backs
being free of previous debt
D-Backs President & CEO Derrick Hall
: "We are as financially stable and healthy as we've ever been. We no longer have any debt; you know being debt-free is tremendous. Our revenues are at an all-time high for a number of reasons. National revenues have gone up and all boats rise there, not just ours. Our advertising and corporate sponsorships are at an all-time high, ticket sales are on the rise -- not our largest ever, but on the rise -- and that's our biggest opportunity. Our local broadcasting rights -- our radio deal is a long-term deal so we don't have to address that for a number of years -- but our television deal that we're in the midst of negotiating right now is going to perhaps bring us our biggest upside in regards to revenue."

Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten, on Dodger Stadium and the team's new RSN: "We've spent $150 million on Dodger Stadium in the first two offseasons making improvements on every level. ... We believe SportsNet LA will be on the same top-quality level that the Dodgers should have. It is the first and only 24/7, one-team only, dedicated network. Fans will have access to content 24/7, and they never have before. There will be games, replays, analysis, behind-the-scenes footage, documentaries. I saw the studio the other day, and it is absolutely a network quality studio, as will be the talent for the games and the other programming. It will be something we'll be very proud of. And it's ours. This is what we want it to be."

Giants President & CEO Larry Baer: "Season ticket sales and overall ticket sales are right where they were last year. So we think we have the potential of having another sold-out season or close to it."

Indians President Mark Shapiro: "Our ability to run the business effectively is really dependent upon us growing our season-ticket base. That went down significantly from 2012 to 2013. It hasn't gone down further. It's actually gone up a little bit, but that still remains our greatest challenge. ... I think the fact that we had over a 90-percent renewal on season-tickets is a strong positive."

Mariners President & COO Kevin Mather, on a media report that the team's front office was "dysfunctional," "The word dysfunctional does not come anywhere close to my mind. Our organization runs like most businesses. You've got a chairman and a board, a president and various executives. That's how most businesses are run. We're in the public eye and we're not winning, so there are a lot of stones being thrown. But the word dysfunctional never comes to my mind or anybody else's in the front office."

Marlins President David Samson: "We feel Miami is an up-and-coming market. This is our 13th season here. I don't think we've yet seen what this market can be like, both from an attendance standpoint and a television standpoint. ... What we've seen in the last couple of years is escalating salaries due in large part to increased television revenues. Since we don't have that right now, what we have to do is to make smarter decisions that will enable us to compete on the field until such time that we catch up with the other clubs."

Padres President & CEO Mike Dee: "For 2014, fans can look forward to a new sound system, a new larger high-definition video board at the Park at the Park, expanded concessions and food choices with a broad array of local San Diego favorites, new flooring throughout the main concourse area, and a new digital ticketing and rewards program that will enable fans to access content and consummate cashless transactions while in the ballpark. These initial enhancements require a significant seven-figure investment from our ownership group."

Rangers Exec VP/Ballpark Operations Rob Matwick, on Globe Life Park, "As we complete our round of renovations this year, we're looking at the restaurant space at the top of the Upper Home Run Porch as a possible target for work next offseason. ... The building in general is in very good shape. We've greatly improved our food and beverage, and retail operations with the upgrades. However, I also think we've done some very practical things for fans. The Batter's Eye Club, Captain Morgan Club and Kids Zone gave us three new spaces, which are all conditioned for year-round use. The decked areas on either side of the Batter's Eye Club provide shade or protection from the rain."

Rays President Matt Silverman: "It's no secret we're at the bottom of baseball in attendance. It's not tenable for us to remain there on a continuing basis. The troubling part is that this is happening when we have had six years of continuous success on the field. Growing attendance has been a focus of ours and we will continue to do all that we can to draw more fans to the ballpark."

Lucchino says Red Sox ticket sales are up
double-digit from this time last year
Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino
, on ticket sales: "We're way ahead of where we were last year. I think we're almost 11 and a half percent ahead of last year, in terms of tickets sold. ... Will we ever repeat the streak of 10 years of consecutive sellouts? I doubt it. I think the ticket market has changed, the presence of secondary ticket opportunities mitigates the need to buy early, to some degree. So that record may stand for a long, long time. We just want to sell enough tickets to have the financial wherewithal to be able to field the team we want and have the franchise we want."

Reds COO Phil Castellini: "We did a lot in the offseason last year with the team shop, the Machine Room and renovating half of the suites. This year, we've done the other half of the suites. Every fan will see a huge 80-foot-long bar on the third base concourse, first level. It will be dedicated to craft beer and the history of craft beer in the city of Cincinnati. We're doing a new social media area right near the FS Ohio pre-and-post game booth. ... Those are the two primary things fans will see. ... One of the frustrations I had in executing the gameday presentation here at the ballpark was our inability to show close replays on the videoboard. One of the biggest benefits in the league dipping their toe in this replay arena more than for just home runs is that they have lifted the ban of showing replays (of controversial calls) on the big videoboards. .... I think it's going to be a huge benefit to ballpark-attending fans."

Royals Chair Dan Glass, on whether the Royals and other small- and middle-market teams can compete with those from larger markets, "I used to think so. I think it's a lot harder now with the broadcasting deals and the broadcasting revenues locally becoming what they are. But it still doesn't mean that we can't do it. It all gets back to the scouts and the player development people -- they're sort of the unsung heroes in all this ... Just because you have the most money to spend, it doesn't mean that you're always going to win. We just have to be more careful in our selections, I guess."

Twins President Dave St. Peter, on hosting the '14 All-Star Game, "Any time you have an All-Star Game, it helps. But unfortunately, we're not seeing a growth in our base. We had about 19,000 full-season equivalents last year and this year we're projecting to be just north of 17,000 full-season equivalents heading into this season. But without the All-Star Game, we probably would've fallen more than that. ... If we get off to a reasonable start, I don't think there's any reason why we can't surpass last year's total of just shy of 2.5 million."

White Sox GM Rick Hahn, on if Chair Jerry Reinsdorf has gotten enough recognition for the team's success, "I don't know if he has. But again, I'm extremely biased. I try to be objective and look at him as someone who has brought seven championships to the city of Chicago. ... It's tough to appreciate Jerry from outside, given that the public doesn't have access to see his generosity and kindness and intellect on a daily basis."
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