The Bengals-Jaguars game this Sunday “will be televised locally -- but it took a little creativity to avoid the blackout this time,” according to Tania Ganguli of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. The Jaguars “partnered with Bud Light to buy the tickets remaining, which Bud Light, the team’s official beer, will distribute through charitable organizations and radio partners locally.” Jaguars Senior VP/Sales & Marketing Macky Weaver said, “I want to stress it is a one-time deal, the one and only. They’ve done this in a couple of other markets, and they are a league sponsor. It was a difficult decision, but it felt right for this game. Going forward, we’re not going to have a golden parachute.” Weaver said that as of Thursday afternoon the Jaguars “still had 3,354 tickets remaining” for the game at Everbank Field (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 10/7). In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette wrote while it is “convenient to have deep-pocketed Anheuser-Busch fork over the money to buy enough tickets to avoid a television blackout of Sunday’s game against [the] Cincinnati Bengals, it ultimately sends the wrong message.” Frenette: “If this was the 9/11 season opener against the Tennessee Titans, then pulling out all stops to get that game on local TV would be understandable. But at some point, the ticket giveaways and not abiding by the true spirit of NFL blackout rules have to stop because that devalues the product.” Frenette wondered, “What happens the next time the Jaguars have a big number of unsold tickets for a home game? There’ll be no sense of urgency among fans to buy tickets” (JACKSONVILLE.com, 10/6).
Former manager Terry Francona "maintains that his departure from the Red Sox was a mutual decision," but he acknowledged Thursday that he was "never asked to stay on as manager during his meeting" with Owner John Henry last Friday, according to Peter Abraham of the BOSTON GLOBE. Francona said last week that he "perceived a lack of support" from Henry, Red Sox Chair Tom Werner and President & CEO Larry Lucchino. He initially "backed off that statement" Thursday, and said the owners were "second to none" in baseball. But Francona later said, "Eight years together is a lot, and I have a lot of respect for them and what they do. There were some things that were voiced in meetings I viewed maybe as not being supportive. Maybe they didn't. Everybody has their own opinion." A team source said that Francona's "two-year contract option was not picked up during the season because the sides agreed at the time of the original contract to table that decision until after the season" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/7). Meanwhile, in Boston, John Tomase reports a decision on Red Sox GM Theo Epstein's status with the team "should be coming shortly." The Cubs "already requested permission to speak to Epstein about their general manager opening, and there were signs out of Fenway Park yesterday that all sides were working cooperatively and without rancor toward a solution." Tomase notes whether that means "granting Epstein permission to talk to the Cubs or promoting him/signing him to an extension to stay in Boston remains to be seen" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/7).
VIEW FROM THE TOP: Henry and Lucchino appeared in-studio on WEEI-AM’s “The Dennis & Callahan Morning Show” Friday. Henry, when asked about Epstein, said if the team had its choice he would stay on as GM, but he added there is “a certain shelf life in these jobs.” When asked whether the team has granted the Cubs permission to talk to Epstein, Lucchino said, “Those things are supposed to be kept private and we have a policy of not discussing whether permission has been asked." Henry went on to say there is a “certain protocol in this game and it is if someone asks permission for a job that’s not lateral, you give them permission.” Lucchino: “We don’t mean to sound evasive on this, but this is the one subject that we don’t think there needs to be full disclosure.” Henry said over the last 10 years management has “consistently done things collectively” and so “we’re intimately involved in the manager’s search, it’s not just Theo.” He continued, “Every year, including this year, we felt we were headed for a World Series and … the biggest thing to us every year is playing in October. That’s what we do. That’s what we spend all of our time doing is trying to create an atmosphere. People talk about, ‘Well, we’re business-oriented.’ We’re business-oriented for one reason ... and that is to be able to give the right people the amount of money that it takes to be successful. You can criticize the things that (Epstein) has done, but we’ve averaged (90+ wins)” (“The Dennis & Callahan Morning Show,” WEEI-AM, 10/7).
MLB Rangers President & CEO Nolan Ryan said that he was "pleased with this summer's attendance, as the Rangers broke the 14-year old record by drawing 2,946,949 fans for their 81 home games," and he thinks that the team "will draw more." Ryan said, "I think 3-plus million is doable, and whether it is 3.1 (million) or 3.5, there's a lot of things that need to go right." Ryan added, "I think that the record heat wave probably cost us somewhere around 150,000 in attendance, and that's a substantial number." National Weather Service reports indicate that Texas "notched the hottest three-month span ever from June through August" (MLB.com, 10/7).
MAN OF HIS WORD: In Toronto, Richard Griffin notes when Blue Jays President & CEO Paul Beeston is asked "about the February statement to season ticket holders that the club was ready to spend $120 million in payroll, he does not back off even in the wake of a .500 season." Beeston said, "That's all in salaries, I'm talking the 40-man roster. I don't know when we're going to do it. It could be this year. It could be next year. It's going to be when it's the right deal that's going to put us over the top." Meanwhile, Beeston also "denied persistent rumours that his own contract had been extended three years" through the '15 season. Beeston said, "I have not re-upped to anything. I'm happy working with these guys because they're a good group of guys. We'll look at that at some point in time." Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has "also denied his own extension" (TORONTO STAR, 10/7).
UP & DOWN: In St. Petersburg, Marc Topkin reports Rays Exec VP Andrew Friedman plans to go into the offseason "with no set payroll figure and the possibility of increasing -- or decreasing -- this year's $41 million, based on opportunities." Friedman said, "I'd expect that it would have some flexibility up and down, depending on how things shake out and what presents itself from a player-procurement standpoint in terms of what we can get." He added, "We've proven time and time again it's not necessarily about the payroll numbers, it's about the talent we have" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 10/7).
In Raleigh, Chip Alexander notes the Hurricanes unveiled a new ticket package this week called the "Jeff Skinner Five-Game Plan." The package “includes tickets to five home games, plus a personalized and autographed photo” of Skinner. The deal also includes a “chance to have dinner at the RBC Center” with the Hurricanes player. Hurricanes President & GM Jim Rutherford said, "He's a very marketable guy. There's always that fine line when you're dealing with a young player of how far you take that, but we don't really have to do a lot of the marketing. He's such a success story” (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 10/7).
GETTING STOKED: Stoke City is the only EPL club “to have improved their average crowds this season,” with attendance “up from 26,858 last season to 27,532 this year.” The team's three home games “so far have been 'glamour' ties against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United, but Stoke are optimistic about the current trend.” Stoke Chair Tony Scholes said that team execs “work hard to keep the cost down, having frozen season ticket prices for four years running.” Meanwhile, Aston Villa's league average “has slumped by more than 5,000 to 32,022,” while Wolverhampton’s home gates “are down 3,000 to 24,670” (THISISSTAFFORDSHIRE.co.uk, 10/6).
WEATHER THE STORM: With Arsenal off to its worst start to an EPL season in 58 years, CEO Ivan Gazidis said that the club “would be able to weather a year without Champions League qualification if it ever happened.” Gazidis said, "We would rather qualify for it but we have got a really stable model that could not just cope but do well and compete." He also “dismissed concerns expressed by some Arsenal fans that the club need a short term injection of funds in order to maintain their place among the European elite before UEFA's new financial fair play rules take effect” (GUARDIAN, 10/7).
HOT ON THE MARKET: Lions President Tom Lewand said that it “took about four minutes for the Lions to sell out the 2,000 standing-room tickets they put on sale” on Thursday for the team’s “MNF” game against the Bears. Tickets went on sale at 1:00pm ET “for $50 each, with a limit of four per transaction and customer” (FREEP.com, 10/6).