MLB OPENER: LEAGUE SLOWLY MAKING INROADS OR LOSING GROUND?
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).