SAFETY ISSUES: In Oakland, Kaplan & Maher note the outbreak of violence "heightened concerns about security at stadiums that first arose about five months ago" when MLB Giants fan Bryan Stow was "severely beaten by two men in Los Angeles Dodgers gear outside Dodger Stadium." The 49ers would not comment on security yesterday, but issued a statement saying they will work with police "in any way possible to understand how and why this happened" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 8/22). In S.F., Scott Ostler writes under the header, "NFL Must Act Quickly To Tamp Down Fan Violence." Ostler: "Whatever the security at the game, it wasn't enough. You can't have owners making billions of dollars, players making millions of dollars, and fans bleeding and dying because the league and individual teams aren't devoting enough resources to security" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/22). In San Jose, Tim Kawakami writes, "We can definitely agree that it's worth reviewing whether the mix of 49ers and Raiders fans at this annual exhibition game -- at night, with many long-term ticket-holders of both teams staying at home -- is too combustible to continue. At the very least, the teams can agree to play the game next year during the day, damn the TV ratings, if they play it at all" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/22).
The defending Super Bowl champion Packers may "rule the roost" in Wisconsin, but the Brewers are "making some big noise of their own as the hottest team" in MLB, according to Don Walker of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. Brewers COO Rick Schlesinger said that the team "will hit 3 million" in attendance by the regular season's end. It would be the "third time since 2008 that the team reached 3 million and marks a significant achievement for any franchise in what has become a challenging economic year." Schlesinger: "The team is playing well and we don't have the ticket inventory. We would like the ability to increase seating capacity on some days." The Brewers have had "24 sellouts so far this season, and are averaging 36,920 fans a game, good for ninth in baseball." They have "emerged as a regional team that draws from all over the state as well as northern Illinois." In addition, the Brewers have become "national players at retail." Walker noted that is "thanks in part to Tony Plush, the alter ego of outfielder Nyjer Morgan: The No. 1-selling item in the the stadium is the Plush T-shirt." Schlesinger and MLB note that, "for the first time in franchise history, the Brewers rank in the top third of all franchises for national retail sales." The Brewers also are "in the top third among all clubs for retail sales within their own ballpark." MLB reported that sales "overall of Brewers gear are up 12% over last year," while New Era reported that sales of Brewers caps "are up 130% from July of last year through" July '11. The Brewers have "approximately 130 different sponsors and are already talking with sponsors about possible postseason plans." Schlesinger: "We will set a record in terms of gross revenue for sponsorships." The Brewers will not "disclose financials" for the franchise, but a league source said that even with "a long playoff run, the Brewers will not report a profit this year." The reasons "include a player payroll well north of $90 million, increases in stadium expenditures, such as a new scoreboard and suite makeovers, and increased expenses" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 8/21).
JOINING THE TRIBE: In Cleveland, Terry Pluto reported Indians tickets sales are up 45%, and "single-game tickets sold for the year are up 67 percent from last season." Average game attendance is 22,196, which "ranks No. 25" in MLB. Meanwhile, TV ratings on SportsTime Ohio "are up nearly 100 percent compared with last season." The Indians' Aug. 11 game against the Tigers "had a 9.4 rating, second highest of the season." Pluto noted of the "top five TV broadcasts for the week of Aug. 1, Indians games were four of the five," and they had "seven of the top 15 broadcasts that week" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/21).
Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts on Friday said that he "plans to go outside the organization to find" a new GM after parting ways with Jim Hendry after nine years, according to Paul Sullivan of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Cubs Assistant GM Randy Bush "took over as interim GM, but has no shot at retaining the job." Ricketts noted that the franchise has a "need for a GM with a 'stronger analytical background,' as opposed to the old-school, trust-your-scouts philosophy Hendry espoused." He added, "Someone who has been in a winning culture, and can bring some of the lessons of that over and has a track record of success. But I think we need to keep that in perspective. The sabermetrics stuff is important, but it's just a piece. We're not running a baseball organization by a computer model." Sullivan noted Hendry "was informed of Ricketts' decision July 22, but remained on the job through the July 31 trading deadline and draft pick signing deadline" last week. During Friday's press conference to announce the move, Ricketts "absolved President Crane Kenney of any blame for the team's failures, saying Kenney was only responsible for the business side of the organization" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/20). Ricketts on Friday said, "The search for a new general manager effectively begins today. I will be reaching out over the next few days to industry veterans and people who have been through this situation before to get their thoughts and opinions on what I should be doing and what I should be looking for." He added, "I don't have a timeline for that. There's no date set. We'll just play the cards we're dealt in terms of timing and get someone in as fast as we can." Ricketts noted that the new GM "will report directly to him, meaning the team will likely not bring in someone else at the level of team president" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 8/19).
HEADED TO THE IVY LEAGUE? In Chicago, Toni Ginnetti noted the Cubs' organizational meetings are "held in October, a likely target for filling the job, but free-agent movement happens a week after the conclusion of the World Series." Ricketts stressed that his family "wants the organization to develop a single-minded approach from the minor leagues up to the big-league team and will look for someone with experience." But he "didn’t rule out considering a young assistant GM" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 8/20). Also in Chicago, Dave van Dyck cited sources as saying that Ricketts "privately was feeling out the postseason availability of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman sometime around the All-Star break." A source indicated that an MLB official "talked Rickets out of jettisoning Hendry completely at that time." Van Dyck noted Ricketts "believes one of baseball's most highly coveted franchises deserves one of baseball's most successful general managers" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/21). Cashman on Friday "shot down any connection between himself and the Cubs' GM job." He said, "I have a job and I've been proud to be associated with this franchise. I'm not looking to remove myself from this franchise." In N.Y., Feinsand & Madden reported Padres Senior VP/Baseball Operations Josh Byrnes is "believed to be" a candidate for the Cubs job, and there "has also been speculation" that White Sox Assistant GM Rick Hahn is a possibility (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/20). ESPN CHICAGO's Jon Greenberg lists MLB's Kim Ng, Rays Exec VP Andrew Friedman and Hahn as possible candidates (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 8/19). In Boston, Nick Cafardo wrote Red Sox Assistant GM Ben Cherington "would seem to be a top choice for the Cubs job." Ricketts is "looking for an analytical, young executive who has a résumé with a successful organization," and that "seems to describe Cherington perfectly" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/21).
TIME WAS RIGHT FOR CHANGE: Hendry at Friday's press conference was "emotional in his last official capacity, choking back tears at times as he spoke of his love for the organization." He said, "I don’t leave here with any problems. Tom Ricketts is a good man. We just didn’t win enough ball games. That’s the bottom line. This is professional baseball. He did what he had to and treated me great the last two years" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 8/20). Hendry on Saturday acknowledged that the turnover in Cubs ownership in '09 "was disruptive to carrying out his plans, but refused to use it as an excuse for his failure to win a championship." Hendry: "It was a little difficult, but at the end of the day you've still got to find a way to win more games than we did the last year. And certainly that's not Tom Ricketts' fault. I wish Tom would have owned the club two or three years earlier. I think we'd be in a lot more successful state now and I think moving forward it's going to be in good hands" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 8/20). On Long Island, Ken Davidoff wrote Ricketts "made the right move" in parting ways with Hendry (NEWSDAY, 8/21). ESPN.com's David Schoenfield wrote under the header, "It Was Time For Jim Hendry To Go" (ESPN.com, 8/19). But in Illinois, Mike Imrem wrote under the header, "Cubs Owner May Be In Over His Head" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 8/21).
The judge presiding over the $1B lawsuit filed against Mets Owners the Wilpon family and Saul Katz by Bernie Madoff trustee Irving Picard said Friday that he "will decide if the case should go forward by the end of September," according to Michael O'Keeffe of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff during Friday's hearing "gave no indication on how he might rule on Picard's lawsuit." But O'Keeffe noted Rakoff "seemed skeptical of several points raised by Picard's attorney, David Sheehan, and he gave the Mets' owners a little bit of a victory when he said the entire case would remain in district court rather than sending part of it to bankruptcy court." Rakoff last month ordered the case removed to district court, where the Mets and their lawyers "believe they have a better chance at a fair hearing." Also during Friday's hearing, the judge "scheduled a two-week trial to begin on March 5, 2012, but he emphasized that he was merely putting the trial on his calendar to save time in case he allows the proceeding to move forward." The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit last week ruled that "investors in Madoff's massive Ponzi scheme who walked away with more money than they invested cannot recover funds based on their final account statements," and Rakoff Friday asked lawyers for both sides to explain how that ruling "affects their arguments, if at all" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/20).
DOWN THE LINE: In N.Y., Sandomir & Belson reported Rakoff last Friday "raised the prospect that all or part" of Picard's suit "could wind up decided in a public trial before a jury." But the judge "could still grant the team's owners their greatest wish, a dismissal of the case." Rakoff ordered that both sides "must begin to provide each other with additional material concerning the team owners' decades of investing with Madoff." Sandomir & Belson noted in holding out the possibility of a trial, the judge may be "trying to encourage a settlement between" Picard and the Mets owners. The possibility that the Mets owners "could have more of their financial dealings made public, and could have to testify in open court about their long relationship with Madoff, might well be an unappealing outcome" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/20). On Long Island, Anthony DeStefano noted Picard and the Mets owners "have been in mediation" led by former N.Y. Gov. Mario Cuomo, "who attended the hearing Friday and said the hearing might help both sides decide whether to settle or go to trial." Cuomo said outside the courtroom, "This was a very helpful exercise." But a legal source said that the two sides "are far from a settlement" (NEWSDAY, 8/20).
Saturday's Phillies-Nationals game attracted a Nationals Park-record 44,685 fans thanks to Philadelphia fans' "latest invasion" of the DC stadium, according to Adam Kilgore of the WASHINGTON POST. The sellout crowd, the Nationals' first of the season, "surpassed the old mark, set June 25, 2009, against the Boston Red Sox and their rabid followers, by 2,700." Phillies fans "chanted players' names, roared with each Philadelphia run and booed" Nationals RF Jayson Werth, who played for the Phillies last season. When the Phillies wrapped up their 5-0 victory Saturday night, the seats at Nationals Park "remained about 85 percent full, nearly all of them occupied by Phillies fans." Nationals 1B Michael Morse said, "They're cheering for the other team. You wish they were cheering for you." Nationals P John Lannan: "We had a record crowd tonight. Hopefully, someday the crowd's that big and they're all cheering for us" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/21). In Philadelphia, Matt Gelb noted buses of Phillies fans "poured the out-of-towners into the stadium area hours before first pitch." When Phillies RF Hunter Pence "blasted a solo home run to left, the reaction was louder than some actual Phillies home games." Just before the game's final out, "nearly 90 percent of a still-full stadium stood and clapped." The visiting fans held signs that read "Welcome to Citizens Bank Park South" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/21). In DC, Thomas Boswell notes "only a few small groups stood and cheered openly" yesterday during the Nationals' comeback win. Out of roughly 25,000 fans left in Nationals Park in the ninth inning, following a 71-minute rain delay, it "seemed maybe a hundred were Nats fans." DC's Federick Douglass Bridge "had a 30-minute delay due to the unloading of Phils-fan tour buses." Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman said, "You have to earn the kind of fans the Phillies have. That takes time" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/22).
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER: MASN's Ben Goessling wrote when the Phillies visit Nationals Park, "there is a different feel to those games than there are to the other 72 the Nationals play at home each year," and that effect "was in play as much on Saturday night as it's ever been." The ballpark "seemed to sag when the Nationals turned a close play, and roared with every base hit for the visiting team." Goessling: "Perhaps more than any other game between these two teams at Nationals Park, this one felt like it was at Citizen Bank Park" (MASNSPORTS.com, 8/20). In DC, Amanda Comak noted Nationals Park's "record attendance numbers have all come in games where the opponent" is either the Phillies, Red Sox or Yankees (WASHINGTON TIMES, 8/21).
IT'S CERTAINLY SUNNY RIGHT NOW: N.Y. Daily News columnist Mike Lupica said this is a "tremendous era" to be a fan of Philadelphia's sports teams, and there is "nothing more fun ... than rooting for the Phillies in this particular timeframe." Lupica: "They’re the biggest attraction right now. They draw the biggest crowds ... and there are as many eyeballs watching Phillies games ... as are watching any of the other big superpowers in baseball.” Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan said the opening of Citizens Bank Park in '04 "regenerated" the franchise. Ryan: "They were acting like a small-market team in those days. Now they are acting like the big-market team they are” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 8/21).
Glendale confirmed Friday that former Sharks President & CEO Greg Jamison is "one of two bidders talking" to the city and the NHL about purchasing the Coyotes, according to Halverstadt & Sanders of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. City officials “would not share details” on the second bidder, but said that "neither bid would have Glendale sell bonds, a lightning-rod that the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute said amounted to an illegal subsidy." It is still “unclear when a deal could be inked” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/20). ESPN.com's Scott Burnside cited sources as saying that “no formal offer has been made to buy the team.” Ice Edge Holdings CEO Anthony LeBlanc, whose group was "involved in negotiations to buy the Coyotes for the better part of two years," said that he “believes Jamison’s interest is good news for the team.” LeBlanc: “What I’m hearing through reliable sources is that he’s the real deal.” Burnside noted Jamison left the Sharks over a year ago, but is “still listed on the team’s website as part of the ownership group.” He would have to “sever ties” with his former team if he were to become owner of the Coyotes (ESPN.com, 8/19). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Ebner wrote Jamison “may be the most promising suitor to date.” Under Jamison’s leadership, the Sharks have “flourished, on the ice and off, and are considered one of the premier franchises in hockey, especially in non-traditional markets that don’t see snow” (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/20).