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Volume 24 No. 157


Astros fans will be able to "bring their own food and water to games this season, reversing a long-standing ban that had given Minute Maid Park a notorious distinction among major league ballparks," according to Zachary Levine of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. New Astros Owner Jim Crane and CEO George Postolos said that food "was the most discussed issue in their meetings with season-ticket holders." Crane yesterday unveiled "a package of fan-friendly measures," announcing that some ticket prices "will fall, and $5 domestic beer will be sold throughout the ballpark." Season-ticket holders, "both full-season and 27-game packages, will receive a 5 percent rebate in the form of a gift card to be used at the ballpark if they renew by Jan. 31." Other possible transformations "include new uniforms and logos, changes to the playing field and 'Tal’s Hill' in center field, and even a re-evaluation of the name 'Astros.'" Crane said of the potential name change, "We’re taking a look at everything. We’re going to do a study on it. We’re going to study the information, both from our fans and from all sorts of marketing people. I’m not saying we’re going to change. We haven’t made a decision. If the change is going to come, it’s going to come next year.” Crane said that any "changes in uniform -- or in team name -- must be submitted by the start of the 2012 season on April 6" to be processed for '13. Crane and the marketing department hope that the immediate changes will "stem the loss of a fan base that was turning out 37,289 per game in 2007 and 25,519 in 2011 amid the worst season in franchise history" (, 1/23).

READY FOR LIFTOFF? The Astros name "is a nod to Houston's role in the space program as the site of NASA's mission Control." Aerospace "is a major industry in the metropolitan area, but now that the space shuttle program has ended, the city may be less likely to base its identity on the space program" (AP, 1/23). In Houston, Jerome Solomon wrote while Crane "hit a ground-rule double with the ticket-price reduction -- some 5,000 seats will be cheaper this year -- he struck out looking by admitting the team is willing to consider changing its name." Solomon: "Please allow me to save you the money all sorts of marketing people will charge you to 'do a study on it.' I can assure you those who have supported the Astros over their 50 years in Houston (47 with the name Astros) are not ready to kiss their Astros goodbye. ... Changing the Astros name to anything would tick off true Astros fans to the highest of tickstivity" (, 1/23).

The Dodgers received "more than 10" opening bids for the team by yesterday's deadline, according to a source cited by Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. Sources said that Rams Owner Stan Kroenke "has explored whether to bid" for the team, but it is "uncertain" whether he has submitted an offer. Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban "submitted a bid," as did SAC Capital Advisors Founder Steven Cohen and former Dodgers Owner Peter O'Malley. Several groups "also turned in bids, including those involving" Basketball HOFer Magic Johnson and former Nationals and Braves President Stan Kasten; L.A. developer Rick Caruso and former MLB Exec VP/Baseball Operations Joe Torre; Shamrock Holdings President & CEO Stanley Gold and the Disney family; and White Sox Special Assistant to the Chair Dennis Gilbert, Imperial Capital Chair & CEO Jason Reese and President Randy Wooster. The opening bids "are not binding." SportsCorp President Marc Ganis said that as a result, a prospective owner "might offer more money now than he might realistically be willing to spend" (L.A. TIMES, 1/24). ESPN L.A.'s Tony Jackson reported as yesterday's "deadline passed, there were only two confirmed bids." Gilbert confirmed that his group "placed a bid," and ArmItal Sports CEO Joshua Macciello issued a press release stating he made "a more than fair and considerable offer." Former Dodgers Exec VP & GM Fred Claire "declined to say whether his group had submitted a bid, citing confidentiality agreements all prospective bidders signed when they received bid books." Jackson noted although the "passing of the deadline represents a significant step in the sale process, it isn't necessarily a major one." Sources said that additional bids "are still welcome even with the deadline having passed." In addition, even the groups that placed initial bids "aren't set in stone, as there could be merging of groups, individual movement between groups and individual additions or subtractions within a specific group." What the passing of the deadline does mean is that the weeding-out process can now officially begin" (, 1/23).

The NFL Giants from Sunday night to Monday morning "sent out email blasts informing their season-ticket holders of the results of their Super Bowl ticket draw, a random computer selection process that determined who would have the opportunity to buy tickets" for the Feb. 5 game against the Patriots in Indianapolis, according to Joshua Robinson of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. But the way the Giants "structured the draw meant that not every season-ticket holder was entered with the same chances." Each entry was "weighted by seniority and further helped if the season tickets were for the higher-priced seats in the Mezzanine Club and Coaches Club, leaving many fans frustrated at the Giants' lack of transparency." The criteria were "detailed in separate emails to club seat holders and non-club seat holders after the selection occurred." The message did "not inform non-club seat holders the club seat holders would carry any extra weight" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/24).

PROMOTING SUPER PEOPLE: Patriots Owner Robert Kraft yesterday announced the opening of a "Super Bowl for Super People" online sweepstakes to recognize individuals in the public service sector as an extension of the Patriots Charitable Foundation's season-long "Celebrate Volunteerism" campaign. Ten winners will be randomly selected from a pool of police officers, firefighters, teachers, military personnel and nurses in New England who have been identified as "Super People" by their superiors. Two winners from each category will receive the "Super Bowl for Super People" package, which includes an all-expenses paid, one-day trip to Super Bowl XLVI for the individual and a guest. It includes game tickets, round-trip airfare, transportation to and from the game and tickets to the Patriots' postgame party (THE DAILY).

EXAMPLE OF CONSISTENCY:'s Albert Breer noted Giants co-Owners the Mara family, like Steelers Owners the Rooney family, have "built a monument to consistency." In a league where 11 new coaches "were hired in 2009 and just two of them remain employed today, the Giants never really reinvent themselves." Giants GM Jerry Reese said the Maras "don't knee-jerk about things, they've been in football a long time." Breer noted you rarely hear much about team President & CEO John Mara, and "that's the way he wants it." In that way, John Mara is "just like his dad." But everything the team "needs from a resources standpoint is there." And Mara "cares deeply about winning, as anyone who's been around him on a game day can attest" (, 1/23).

TROPHY CASE:'s Mike Reiss noted in the Patriots locker room following their AFC Championship win Sunday, Kraft was "asked his thoughts on the trophy itself, which has a new look from previous years." He said, "I'll tell you the truth, I'm a traditionalist. I sort of like the old trophy better." Kraft added, "I'm probably going to get fined, but I really don't care. If (Tom) Brady said he sucked, I'm going to tell you the truth, I like old ones better than this" (, 1/23).

Pirates President Frank Coonelly in December stated that the Pirates' payroll "'likely' would be larger in 2012 than it was at the end of 2011, when it was around $52 million." In Pittsburgh, Bob Smizik notes it is "around $46 million today." It is "too early to suggest the Pirates won’t be at $52 million or higher but it’s sure looking that way." So "even when attendance increases, and it did by 20 percent last year, there’s no guarantee the Pirates will raise payroll -- despite what Coonelly says." Smizik: "We’ve seen the Pirates philosophy: If you come we will build it (payroll) -- maybe. ... Only the Pirates, playing in a tax-funded stadium and heavily subsidized by MLB, would expect the fans to ante up before a good product is on the field" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 1/24).

ALL ABOUT PERSPECTIVE:'s Anthony DiComo noted the Mets will "open next season with a payroll of somewhere between $90 million and $91 million." That "represents a roughly 37 percent drop from the club's payroll last year." But it "still sits in the middle of baseball's financial pack." Last year, it would have "ranked 13th." DiComo wrote had the Mets "not hovered so high on baseball's economic scale for the better part of a decade, their 2012 payroll might not seem so meager" (, 1/20).

BLAME GAME: In Tampa Bay, John Romano wrote the Ray's attendance problem "does not get solved by blaming fans or portraying ownership as the villain." The only way MLB in the area "survives is by creating an atmosphere where a franchise is not selling its tickets one seat at a time." The city "seems to be banking on the idea that increased marketing will goose attendance this season, and maybe that will work to some extent." Romano: "I just don't know that it's a game-changer for the future. ... For this thing to move forward, the Rays are going to have to take the lead because neither the business community nor local politicians seem inclined. And that means [team Owner Stuart] Sternberg is going to have to become more visible and more vocal and patiently explain what he is trying to accomplish" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/21).

MAKING CONCESSIONS: The Braves are offering a 33% concession discount to their 20-plus game season-ticket holders beginning this season. The discount will be offered on food and beverages at all fixed stands and in-seat service, but will exclude alcohol and will not be valid at the 755 Club, Chop House, Georgia’s Own Credit Union Club or roaming vendors. Each season-ticket holder will have a bar code on their ticket or seat locater that will be scanned at the concession stand or by the in-seat server and will automatically recognize the ticket as eligible for the discount (Braves).

NEW CLOTHES FOR THE ROAD: Giants Senior VP/Corporate Marketing Mario Alioto said that the team will introduce “an alternate road jersey for Sunday games that are inspired by the club’s ‘Will Clark era.’” In San Jose, Andrew Baggarly noted the gray jerseys will “feature the ‘SF’ logo on the left chest with black piping down the center and the Giants logo on the sleeve.” The jerseys “will be worn with the orange-brimmed caps.” Alioto also said that the team “will continue to wear orange jerseys for Friday home games” in ’12 (, 1/23).