MLB is "expected to reject" two Dodgers bid groups -- one led by Shamrock Holdings President & CEO Stanley Gold and the Disney family, the other led by F1 Grand Prix of America Exec Chair Leo Hindery and Colony Capital Founder, Chair & CEO Tom Barrack -- before "submitting the four remaining bidders to a vote of all 30 owners next week," according to sources cited by Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. Former Nationals and Braves President Stan Kasten, a partner in one of the remaining groups, yesterday "toured the Dodgers' spring home at Camelback Ranch." Kasten's group includes Guggenheim Partners CEO Mark Walter and Basketball HOFer Magic Johnson. The other remaining bidders are: SAC Capital Advisors Founder and Mets investor Steven Cohen, whose group includes agent Arn Tellem; Rams and Arsenal Owner Stan Kroenke; and a partnership between Grizzlies Owner Michael Heisley and L.A.-based Ares Capital co-Founder & Managing Partner Tony Ressler. Forbes yesterday reported that the Kasten-Johnson bid "is the highest for now, at $1.6 billion, with the other bids each worth at least $1.3 billion." Cohen "offered $1.4 billion, including $900 million in cash" (L.A. TIMES, 3/14). Baseball writer Ross Newhan wondered whether outgoing Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt will "feel compelled -- out of real and/or perceived -- community pressure to select the group fronted by the popular Magic Johnson?" A member of another bid group said, "That is THE question. We are aware that McCourt has spoken to a lot of people in the community to try and get a gauge on what the reaction will be if he doesn't pick Magic -- you know, 'will (people) hate me that much more?'" Newhan noted it is "difficult to believe that the generally despised McCourt would receive anything but a standing ovation no matter who he chooses to replace him in the owner's office," but Johnson's name is "undoubtedly the most famous and familiar among the bidders" (NEWHANONBASEBALL.BLOGSPOT.com, 3/13).
TOMMY BOY: YAHOO SPORTS' Steve Henson notes one of McCourt's first moves upon purchasing the team was to make Special Assistant Tommy Lasorda "a face of the franchise." A new owner "will be approved by MLB in the next few months," and Lasorda "would love to keep doing what he does." He is "too shrewd to align himself with any one group trying to buy the team." Lasorda said, "I had three or four of the prospective owners call me to ask if I’d be part of their group. I’ve told them all that when one person wins the bid, if he wants me to continue, I’d do it. If he doesn’t, I’ll say adios" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/14).
The sale of the Blues to a group led by club minority Owner Tom Stillman "recently has made substantial progress, and the expectations are that a deal might be closed in a matter of weeks," according to Jeremy Rutherford of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly in late January indicated that the league wanted to complete the sale this month. Though the process "might not be wrapped up by the end of the month, he remains confident that the sides are nearing an agreement." Daly said in an e-mail, "We remain singularly focused on Tom Stillman completing his proposed transaction to purchase the St. Louis Blues' franchise." Meanwhile, sources said that Stillman's group has plans "to bring in Blues' Hall of Famer Brett Hull in a managerial position." It is also believed that Blues President of Hockey Operations John Davidson and Exec VP & GM Doug Armstrong "would remain on board." Tomorrow is the "scheduled deadline to a 75-day exclusive negotiating window granted by the NHL to Stillman." But the league "rescinded those rights several weeks ago and continued to negotiate with the group, rendering the deadline somewhat meaningless." Stillman, who signed a purchase agreement on Jan. 20, "has been working the past two months to secure equity and bank financing to complete the deal" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/14).
LONE WOLVES: ESPN THE MAGAZINE's Seth Wickersham writes nobody "wants to touch the Coyotes" nearly three years since the NHL took over ownership of the team. Top players "leave for better money," and attendance is "down 20 percent from three years ago." Sponsors "invest elsewhere," and Glendale, home of Jobing.com Arena, "is a sandy slab of foreclosures." The team "loses $30 million a year; the threat of relocation hovers like smog." Still, the Coyotes, with the NHL's eighth-lowest payroll, "are a band of lovable underdogs, forcing smiles through the indignities of being perpetually unloved." The team currently is "down to only two buyers who want to keep the team" in Glendale -- former Sharks President & CEO Greg Jamison and Bulls and White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf. However, each time an owner "has been close, the deal blows up from the same old story: Who pays more: a rich man or the public?" If the team "isn't sold by the end of the season, the Coyotes probably will relocate this summer, perhaps to Seattle, perhaps to somewhere in Canada" (ESPN THE MAGAZINE, 3/19 issue).
The Mariners "have reported an operating loss for just the second time since Safeco Field opened in 1999," according to Larry Stone of the SEATTLE TIMES. A financial report from the Washington State Public Facilities District, which owns and oversees the ballpark, indicated that the Mariners' "net loss from business operations for fiscal year 2011 was $7,344,000." The team last year suffered from a last-place 67-95 record and record-low attendance of 1,896,936 at Safeco Field. Mariners Dir of Public Information Rebecca Hale said that the club "anticipated the loss because of flagging attendance, among other factors." The team "won't release season-ticket sales for 2012 until April or May, but Hale said attendance estimates 'probably will be adjusted downward from last year.'" Player payroll "is likely to decline as well." Hale said that the team also made a "'fairly substantial' capital investment in ballpark improvements." Stone notes $9M was spent for "new LED scoreboards and renovations to the Bullpen Market area." The Mariners' only other operating loss "occurred in 2008, a $4.5 million deficit." However, the Mariners and the WSPFD "have an agreed-upon 'special calculation' to determine the annual amount to be paid toward lowering the team's net loss of $200 million from the time the current ownership group purchased the team in 1995 until Safeco Field opened in the middle of the 1999 season." In '08, according to the "special calculation" formula, the Mariners' $4.5M deficit "was actually a $1.9 million profit" (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/14).
AFTER THESE MESSAGES: MLB.com's Greg Johns noted the Mariners released five new TV spots for the '12 season featuring players and members of the coaching staff that will begin airing during the team's Spring Training game against the Royals on Root Sports Northwest. The commercials have "become a huge part of the team's marketing popularity over the years, and players love taking part in the 30-second spots, which were filmed this spring in Peoria during the first days of training camp." This year's campaign was again created jointly by the Mariners and Seattle-based Copacino+Fujikado, with the commercials shot and directed by Washington-based Blue Goose Productions (MLB.com, 3/13). Mariners 2B Dustin Ackley said, "I'd seen the commercials the previous two years when I was here in spring training. I never thought I'd be in one, but now I am, it's a pretty cool thing" (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/14).
The NFL this week reduced the Redskins’ salary cap by $36M over the next two seasons and Redskins officials were said to be “furious with the NFL’s decision and were contemplating how they should respond,” according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. The league was punishing the Redskins and Cowboys for front-loading contracts during the uncapped ‘10 season but the Redskins have “denied any wrongdoing, and people within the league acknowledge the team technically did not violate salary cap rules.” What the team did do was “ignore what most other clubs considered to be an understanding on limiting expenditures on players in 2010.” Sources said that the league was “upset with the extent to which their teams refused to heed the warnings about player spending during the uncapped year.” Sources said that the league “did not find that the Redskins or Cowboys violated salary cap rules.” Instead, it found that they “sought to gain an unfair competitive advantage once the salary cap returned” (WASHINGTON POST, 3/14).
BATTLE IS BREWING: ESPN’s Adam Schefter said, “I think this is a battle that is just beginning. It’s going to be a protracted, long battle between the Redskins, Cowboys and the league” (“NFL 32,” ESPN2, 3/13). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said, “If I was Dan Snyder, particularly with that much cap room taken away, I would turn into Al Davis and I would sue the NFL. You can’t tell me, ‘Yes, this is legal, you can do this even though we don’t want you to,’ and then turn around and take the cap room. I would sue the league.” ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said, “Both these teams found a legal loophole and they went through it. That is the way it works. You can’t retroactively punish them” ("PTI," ESPN, 3/13). In DC, Deron Snyder wrote, “It’s beyond me how teams can be sanctioned for breaking an unwritten rule or gentlemen’s agreement.” The NFL is “guilty of gross arrogance in this case, not the Redskins and Cowboys” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 3/13). Columnist Kevin Blackistone said, "Who comes up with these rules? ... This is unprecedented. It seems like they are just making up rules on the fly.” Dallas Morning news columnist Tim Cowlishaw said, “It’s really hard to look at these teams and say they got a competitive advantage out of doing it.” However, L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, “The only two teams doing it were the Redskins and the Cowboys. They got caught and now they have to pay the price” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 3/13). THE BIG PAYBACK? In DC, Sally Jenkins writes “underneath the numbers, there is the sense of something personal in what the NFL did to Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.” Snyder reportedly is “beside himself, but he has only his uncontrollable self-interest to blame.” There is a “disturbing background and context to this penalty,” and it “feels like the culmination of years of operating in a certain way.” Snyder obviously “has not built up a reservoir of goodwill among his fellow owners, despite the profitability of his team.” He can “argue that he did nothing technically wrong all he wants,” but he “didn’t do anything smart either.” Jenkins: “Call it a lifetime achievement award for how he does business” (WASHINGTON POST, 3/14).
The Suns yesterday announced that there will be no increase in prices for season-ticket plans for the '12-13 season, marking the fourth consecutive year of no such increases. Season-ticket prices will be reduced for more than 35% of seats at US Airways Center, including upper bowl, lower bowl and club seats. The team also is expanding its $10 seating option so that 33% of upper concourse seating is priced at an average of $10 per game. Ticket holders will receive premiere benefits, including free parking, if they renew by April 7 (THE DAILY).
THUNDERING HERD: In Oklahoma City, John Rohde noted every Thunder home game at Chesapeake Energy Arena this season “has been a sellout,” making last night’s game against the Rockets “the 35th consecutive sellout dating back to the final 14 games last season.” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said, “It's a broken record with our crowd. You know that every game they're going to be there, every night, no matter who we play.” Rohde wrote it is “almost a certainty this entire season will be sold out.” A limited number of tickets “can be found for some of the 13 remaining home games, and the Thunder holds back 200 tickets every game as part of its Rewards Zone offer, with registration beginning three hours before tipoff” (NEWSOK.com, 3/12).
GRINDING TO A HALT: NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner noted T’Wolves G Ricky Rubio’s season-ending knee injury might also end the team’s “postseason ambitions and what had been a true NBA revival in Minnesota this winter.” Target Center was “alive again, for the first time in any sustained sense since Kevin Garnett got traded in 2007 and in some way since the last playoff appearance in 2004.” Ticket sales are up 14%, and the team’s sold out game against the Lakers last Friday was the T’Wolves “seventh, most since Garnett's final year.” Aschburner: “Now it's all on hold -- the highlights, maybe the excitement, possibly the winning” (NBA.com, 3/10).