MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has asked that Houston businessman Jim Crane "agree to move the Houston Astros to the Americal League if he is approved as owner of the team," according to league sources cited by Mark Berman of KRIV-Fox. The sources said that the fact that Crane "has yet to agree to the request has kept him from being approved as owner." But the sources added that it is "believed Crane can still get MLB's approval to buy the Astros franchise without consenting to move to the American League." Sources noted the issue of shifting the franchise to the AL "would be addressed again at a later date" (MYFOXHOUSTON.com, 9/7). MLB Network's Matt Vasgersian said, "The assumption is the Astros would join the American League West if the divisions stay as they are now. ... You’re keeping the Astros and the Rangers; you’re keeping a Texas rivalry intact” ("MLB Tonight Live," MLB Network, 9/7). But in Houston, Richard Justice wrote Crane "may never own the Astros, but it won't be because he refuses to move" the team to the AL. Justice: "Could it end up being a factor amid reports he's being asked to consider it? Sure, it could. But it won't be a deal breaker. Baseball's issues with Crane run much deeper and are much more complicated. Even after four months of background checks, baseball is still troubled about Crane's past. ... It's not one thing that bothers baseball about Jim Crane. It's a thousand paper cuts" (CHRON.com, 9/7).
WALKING THE BALANCE BEAM: The Astros moving to the AL would create two 15-team leagues, and MLB Network's John Smoltz said, "I’d love to see a balanced schedule and, of course, shorten the season a little bit so that you can expand the playoffs and do the things that will help play the game to the next level." MLB Network's Bill Ripken said, "The way that you could propose this, if you got rid of the unbalanced schedule, is the league is going to share in that." Ripken: "The Yankees go into Boston nine times -- what’s to say it’s not better for the league if the Yankees went to St. Louis three times every other year, San Diego three times every other year. This would be good for the game, I think, attendance-wise because those stadiums are going to fill up. They would get to reap the benefits, maybe, from a more balanced schedule.” Vasgersian said, "Maybe the suggestion is, blow the whole thing up, start over. If Major League Baseball wants to add another playoff round, which it seems intent on doing, the best way to do that is to decrease the regular season by a handful of games” ("MLB Tonight Live," MLB Network, 9/7).
Massachusetts is “one of five states with laws strictly limiting what resellers can charge” for tickets to sporting events, but with “hundreds, maybe thousands, of outlets reselling tickets online and offline, the law is difficult to enforce,” according to Shira Springer of the BOSTON GLOBE. By this time next year, state legislation under consideration “could, if passed, make the secondary market in Massachusetts a much different place for fans and licensed resellers.” Some “overhaul of ticket reselling regulations appears to have legislative support, but it is unclear what form it might take, or whether it would pass.” State rep Michael Moran has “proposed legislation to make the secondary market fully legal -- and perhaps more fan-friendly.” The proposed law would “remove most restrictions on reselling tickets, effectively uncapping the secondary market.” Moran calls the bill “pro-consumer,” and emphasized the bill is “not about getting cheaper Red Sox tickets.” The Department of Public Safety this year has received “one formal complaint about ticket resellers,” and five such complaints “were submitted in 2010, most alleging overcharging.” A second bill comes for state Senator Jack Hart, who in January re-filed a bill that would “prohibit resellers from charging more than 50 percent above face value, despite attributable service charges.” Hart “would be open to restrictions that fall somewhere between 50 and 100 percent about face value.” Fan Cost Index reported that Red Sox fans “pay the highest average face-value ticket price in the major leagues ($53.38).” Springer noted the “successes of the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins generate the high demand that leads to high prices on the secondary market.” The Red Sox “enjoy a separate sponsorship and advertising partnership with Ace Ticket.” Still, the relationship between the team and broker “confuses some fans and troubles some observers” (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/6).
In Atlanta, Michael Cunningham reported the Hawks are “offering incentives for season-ticket buyers in the form of credits or refunds -- both with interest -- for any exhibition or regular-season games that are canceled" because of the lockout. The first deadline for the program was yesterday, and Hawks Senior VP/Sales & Marketing & Chief Sales Officer Tracy White said that team officials "heard from 86 percent of their 2010 season-ticket holders and 85 percent of those ticket-holders chose one of the two rewards options." Those who chose the account credit option by yesterday will receive 20% interest “on the principal amount at an annualized rate” starting with the first missed home game. Credits can be used “for the purchase of additional seats” for the ’11-12 season or toward ‘12-13 season tickets. Customers that chose the “cash option will receive payments in the amount of 10 percent annualized interest on the principal amount for each game canceled" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/6).
WHEN IT RAINS ... In DC, Gene Wang notes what "started as a seemingly innocuous announcement" about the status of the Dodgers-Nationals game scheduled for yesterday "turned into hours of confusion and frustration." The Dodgers at 1:40pm ET tweeted that the game scheduled for 7:05pm at Nationals Park "had been called" because of bad weather. The Nationals, however, "did not confirm that was the case" until 5:52pm. The "reason for the delay in making an official announcement apparently had to do with a new rule" that requires MLB to approve postponements. Nationals manager Davey Johnson said, "There was all kinds of things going on, and plus most of the roads around here were closed, so it was kind of a no-brainer" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/8). Meanwhile, on Long Island, Ken Davidoff writes MLB’s “heart is in the right place" with the decision to start Tuesday's Orioles-Yankees game after 11:00pm instead of postponing it. But officials "pushed too hard" to play the game, which "should've been postponed at about 4 o’clock Tuesday afternoon" (NEWSDAY, 9/8).
CHANGING UNIFORMS: The UFL yesterday announced Park Avenue Equity Founder William Mayer as the new owner of the Virginia Destroyers. Mayer had owned the Hartford Colonials since the UFL's inception in '09 -- the team played its first season as the N.Y. Sentinels -- but the league suspended the franchise's operations for the '11 season (UFL). Mayer yesterday said that “he spared the fledging life of the Virginia Beach team -- and suspended operations in Hartford -- solely on the ease and cost of doing business" for his new club. Mayer noted that the UFL "hopes a new emphasis on local control rather than a centralized operations from the league office in Jacksonville, Fla., will cut by half last year’s loss of an estimated $50 million” (Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT, 9/8). Mayer, who was an investor in MLS DC United for five years, believes that the UFL "provides a viable football option" for non-NFL cities. He said, "There’s no reason we shouldn’t be successful” (Hampton Roads DAILY PRESS, 9/8).