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Volume 24 No. 116
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          MLB opens its '98 season with 11 games on the schedule
     today, including the debut of expansion teams in Florida and
     Arizona.  ESPN will televise three national games live,
     including the D'Backs opener at the BOB.  With the start of
     a new season, many in the media are commenting on the health
     of the industry.  A sampling follows (THE DAILY): 
          SIGNS OF HOPE: In Chicago, Dave Van Dyck writes "there
     is no doubt baseball is improving its image" (SUN-TIMES,
     3/31).  In Cincinnati, Todd Archer wrote MLB is "thriving"
     in markets like Baltimore, Cleveland, Denver, N.Y., Boston,
     Atlanta, St. Pete and Arizona (CINCINNATI POST, 3/30).
          WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR? In Minneapolis, Rosalind Bentley:
     "With snowboarding, figure skating, soccer, basketball and
     football vying for kids' attention, baseball is losing some
     of the luster it once had."   Bentley adds that "most of
     today's children would rather gather around a TV to watch
     sports action -- and baseball just doesn't have enough of
     it, they say" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/31).  In Dallas,
     a MORNING NEWS editorial says MLB "has grown up, but not
     necessarily matured.  Its flaws seem more monumental than
     its accomplishments. ... [A]mid rising salaries, free agency
     and labor problems, a growing cadre of once loyal fans are
     finding it harder to return to the sport" (DALLAS MORNING
     NEWS, 3/31).  A S.F. CHRONICLE editorial says MLB attendance
     "is creeping back to pre-strike levels.  But fans are turned
     off by gargantuan salaries and the ever-changing cast of
     mercenaries on the home team" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/31).  In
     Miami, a HERALD editorial wonders if today's opener will be
     the "last first pitch" for the Marlins: "Baseball, for all
     the appeal of the game itself, is a troubled business. 
     Nobody's in charge.  Labor relations are dicey.  Payroll
     growth is out of sync with revenue growth. ... Whether a
     team will play here next year may depend in part on how well
     the Marlins ... fare at the gate" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/31).    
          BUILDING BLOCKS: Red Sox P Pedro Martinez is profiled
     by Mark Starr in NEWSWEEK, who writes, "[O]nly in baseball,
     with its clueless marketing and dearth of national
     broadcasts, could the highest-paid player in history be
     virtually unknown to average sports fans."  More Starr:
     "Martinez covets what so many ballplayers eschew -- the
     chance to be a role model" (NEWSWEEK, 3/30 issue).  Yankees
     SS Derek Jeter was profiled by Jack O'Connell in the
     HARTFORD COURANT.  Jeter: "I want to represent baseball and
     the Yankees properly.  ... That's why my attitude has always
     been that I need to come to the park as prepared as I can be
     every day.  You can't do that if you're out partying every
     night."  Jeter currently has six-figure endorsement deals
     with PepsiCo, Fila and Discover Card: "A lot of stuff came
     in, but I took my time and decided I could handle three of
     them" (Jack O'Connell, HARTFORD COURANT, 3/29).  
          INSURANCE CAPITAL: In Hartford, Matthew Lubanko
     examines the process of MLB teams taking out insurance on
     their player contracts in a front-page piece: "As salaries
     rise, so do the premiums.  Industry sources say that some
     teams pay as much as $1 million a year to insure long-term
     contracts that pay $8 million a year" (HART. COURANT, 3/31).