As much as 33% of the Grizzlies "could be owned by local partners as part of prospective owner Robert Pera's bid to buy the team,” according to sources cited in a front-page piece by Kyle Veazey of the Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL. The sources said that in addition to local partners, the group “also could include out-of-town partners.” Pera's reps have been in Memphis “in recent weeks, meeting with dozens of business and community leaders in what has been termed a ‘listening tour.’" As part of the visits, Pera's team “has had conversations with prospective minority partners.” Sources said that in those conversations, prospective owners “have voiced two main concerns: 1) the degree of Pera's commitment to Memphis, 2) the fear of dilution of their ownership share over time.” Veazey reports it is unclear “who is being courted as potential local partners.” Currently, local Grizzlies investors include AutoZone Founder J.R. Hyde -- "with whom Pera had dinner last month" -- along with Barbara Hyde, Staley Cates, Andy Cates, Fred Jones and Elliot Perry. Sources late last month said that Pera “flew to Colorado to meet with Hyde, and that he'd been in Memphis for a visit that included a get-acquainted session with FedEx CEO Fred Smith and other FedEx leaders.” The 33% share “would be significantly more than what the current local partners hold -- some 2 percent -- and more in line with their original holding.” The "original idea" under current Grizzlies Owner Michael Heisley's majority ownership “was for locals to own 49 percent of the team.” But the locals “saw their share diluted over the years” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 8/15).
Red Sox players "blasted manager Bobby Valentine to owners John Henry and Larry Lucchino during a heated meeting called after a text message was sent by a group of frustrated players to the team and ownership in late July," according to sources cited by Jeff Passan of YAHOO SPORTS. Team owners "called the meeting for Boston's off-day in New York on July 26 after first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, texting on behalf of himself and some teammates, aired their dissatisfaction with Valentine for embarrassing starting pitcher Jon Lester by leaving him in to allow 11 runs during a July 22 start." Sources said that Gonzalez and 2B Dustin Pedroia "were among the most vocal in the meeting, in which some players stated flatly they no longer wanted to play for Valentine." Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said, "The intent of the meeting was to provide a forum for people to express whatever frustration needed to be expressed at a time during the season when things were not going exactly the way we wanted." Passan reported Red Sox ownership "remains in Valentine's corner" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/14). In Boston, Nick Cafardo notes Pedroia "took exception" to the Yahoo report and "how his involvement was portrayed." Pedroia: "The one thing I said when I stood up and said to everyone in the room, I said, “You (owners), the players, the manager, the coaches, are having a terrible season and we have to step it up and turn it around. That’s blasting the manager? Are you kidding?" He added, “We have no idea where this stuff comes from. I just hope it’s not one of our teammates spreading stuff like that." Cafardo notes Valentine "was stunned by the report" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/15). Valentine, when asked about the Yahoo report, said, "Wow. Is that what was said really? That’s what Dustin and Adrian said? It did say that? I didn’t hear that. I’m glad that July is over because they’re still playing for me" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 8/15).
TIME TO GO? In Boston, Christopher Gasper writes the Red Sox "have to remove Bobby Valentine as manager, for his own dignity, as well as the team's." Gasper: "It's over. End the charade now. ... Mutiny on the Bobby is the last straw." The bottom-line evaluation of a manager is "whether he is capable of getting the most out of his players." Valentine "will never do that here, not as long as those players are empowered to go behind his back and complain about him to ownership, publicly challenge him in the media and have the general manger side with them, and otherwise belittle him with impunity." This "debacle is on ownership, upper management, and baseball operations." Previous votes of confidence in Valentine from Henry and Cherington "are meaningless now." Gasper: "How can you back Valentine publicly when you privately invited players to bad-mouth him?" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/15). Also in Boston, John Tomase writes one of the "biggest gripes players have with Valentine is not just legitimate, but something that’s no one’s fault but his own. His mouth." Valentine "has consistently undermined his own clubhouse standing by making pointless public proclamations that have served only to alienate the players he was hired to lead" (BOSTON HERALD, 8/15). In N.Y., Roger Rubin writes, "Valentine's courtship and tenure with the Red Sox has been stormy" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/15). SPORTING NEWS' Anthony Witrado wrote, "This was never, ever going to work." The "only people who believed hiring Bobby Valentine to head the Boston Red Sox was a good idea was ownership" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 8/14). In N.Y., Don Burke writes, "Call it an attempted mutiny by social media" (N.Y. POST, 8/15).
PAYING TRIBUTE: In Providence, Tim Britton notes the Red Sox for the rest of the season "will honor Johnny Pesky with a black armband on their gray road uniforms and a white '6' in a black circle on the sleeve of their other three jerseys" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 8/15).
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow yesterday sent an e-mail to the team's season-ticket holders, seeking to reassure them following a historic on-field swoon that has seen the club lose 36 of their last 43 games. Luhnow wrote, "We have underperformed everyone's expectations, including our own. We ran into a combination of bad luck, injuries and a lack of depth that led to our deteriorating record through the mid-summer months." The Astros' 39-79 record is by far the worst in MLB, and the club is the first in the NL to lose 34 times in a 38-game stretch since 1899. Luhnow extensively outlined the club's ongoing efforts to rebuild its talent base through the draft, trades, and international player development, including a recent slate of trades that yielded back 15 players, most of them prospects and in effect representing a second draft pool to join the group selected in June. Luhnow wrote, "It is our hope that you will share the excitement about our future and continue to participate as a season-ticket holder and that your loyalty as an Astros fan will be rewarded in 2013 and beyond” (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). MLB.com’s Richard Justice writes the e-mail was Luhnow’s “opportunity to speak directly to the people who care most about the Astros and to not have the message filtered by a newspaper's editors or a columnist's attitude.” Luhnow “sat down and restated the organization's long-term goals: to hire smart people, to build methodically, to not let one bad season distort the larger picture” (MLB.com, 8/15).
GAME PLAN: In Houston, Randy Harvey writes when Luhnow begins "thinking about playing in the American League, is there any more cause for optimism than there would be if the Astros were staying in the National League, where they’re already at the bottom?” Harvey: “In interleague play this season, the Astros had a 6-9 record. If they won at that rate for an entire season, they’d finish with a mere 97 losses. That’s better than the 106 they lost last season and the 108 they’re on pace to lose this season.” The Astros “can’t count on teams getting worse,” they “have to get better.” Luhnow said that “will be easier, at least in terms of competing with the Angels and Rangers for free agents, if they sell more tickets, which means more money” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 8/15).
The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Brian Costa notes as the Mets “slog through another summer of disappointment, their precise financial state remains something of a mystery.” It is “unclear to what extent the team will be able to increase its payroll next winter, if at all, after a $50 million slash from 2011 to 2012.” The Mets “opened the season with a payroll of around $93 million, down from $143 million at the start of 2011.” GM Sandy Alderson said that he "isn't sure how much money he’ll have to invest in talent this winter.” He said, “I haven’t had any conversations with ownership about it” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/15).
PALATIAL ESTATE: In Detroit, Vince Ellis noted in addition to the $13-15M remodeling job underway at the Palace of Auburn Hills, “orders for new season-ticket packages recently surpassed last season’s numbers.” Palace Sports & Entertainment President & CEO Dennis Mannion said that things are “on the upswing despite the Pistons’ run of four straight losing seasons” (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 8/12).
NAME THAT TEAM: BASEBALL AMERICA’s Josh Leventhal noted the Triple-A Int’l League Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, who are “set to debut a new ballpark next season after spending all of 2012 on the road, announced late last week that a new team identity will be coming to town as well.” The team will remain Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but “sought fan input on potential new nicknames and received over 2,700 submissions before narrowing that list down to six” (BASEBALLAMERICA.com, 8/14).