Prospective Grizzlies owner Robert Pera has “reached an agreement with a group of local partners that will practically guarantee the franchise's future in Memphis for another 15 years,” according to Calkins & Veazey of the Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL. Pera has “agreed to three provisions: 1) a $100 million penalty if the team is moved, 2) a right of first refusal under which the local owners will be able to match any offer Pera receives to sell the team and 3) the right for the locals to buy the team from Pera at the current price if he wants to move it.” All provisions are “in effect for the next 15 years.” The local group includes AutoZone Founder J.R. “Pitt” Hyde, Southeastern Asset Management President Staley Cates, Dobbs Management CEO Ed Dobbs, investment firm Duncan-Williams CEO Duncan Williams and Tower Ventures CEO Billy Orgel. Cates and a source both “confirmed the details of the agreement Monday.” Hyde and Cates are “holdovers from the old local ownership group” under current Owner Michael Heisley. Other partners are “expected to emerge.” The local group “will own between 30 and 35 percent of the team” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 8/23). In Memphis, Geoff Calkins writes the Grizzlies “aren't moving.” They may be “good, they may be bad, they may be in the NBA Finals or in the NBA lottery,” but they “will be in Memphis.” Calkins: “Never again will you have to listen to those who would tell you the team will be out of here in five years or ten” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 8/23).
Flames front-office employees will “likely be amongst the first to pay a price” if the NHL owners lockout players amid failed CBA negotiations, according to Eric Francis of the CALGARY SUN. Full-time Flames staffers and contract workers “have recently been put on notice they may be in line for salary cuts -- some coming as early as early as Sept. 16.” Close to “175 full-time employees" of the Flames, which includes those running the WHL Calgary Hitmen and NLL Roughnecks, will "learn more about their financial fate in the next handful of days as the club unveils a plan that will see pay-cuts of various degrees levied.” Flames President & CEO Ken King said, "We have a contingency plan in place -- it would be stupid of us not to." King confirmed that “no one employed” by the CFL Stampeders, which the Flames also own, will be “subjected to CBA-related pay cuts.” As an alternative, employees “have been given the option of taking a sabbatical or prolonged leave of absence -- without pay -- with guarantees their job will be waiting for them upon their return.” The Flames during the NHL’s '04-05 lockout “acted similarly, with many staffers taking a 40% pay-cut to stay with the team.” Several current Flames employees “were of the belief as recently as Wednesday that a blanket policy would see almost all Flames employees taking another 40% hit.” But King said that the action is “nowhere close to being the case this time around, which he will soon communicate to his staff.” King: "No one in our organization will face that kind of a cutback at all." He added, "We have given (the employees) a heads-up and we have refined the plan and will communicate it soon. It will be different for every pay level and job description" (CALGARY SUN, 8/23).
The White Sox' "attendance woes have been well-documented -- they are averaging 24,506 fans, 24th-best figure in baseball -- but even Sox employees have been surprised at the low numbers with the first-place Yankees in town this week," according to Jon Greenberg of ESPN CHICAGO. The White Sox "drew 27,561 for Monday’s game and 24,247 on Tuesday." With a "chance for the first home sweep over the Yankees in 21 years, the Sox drew 26,042 Wednesday for a series average of 26,319." Since '07, during the "previous three weekday series when the Yankees were in town, the series averaged 27,717 fans." White Sox Senior VP/Sales & Marketing Brooks Boyer said, "You have to ask yourself, is price the biggest factor? I don't think price is the biggest factor on a value Monday. ... Maybe we need to do more to get the trust of our fans" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 8/22).
PRICE MATTERS: White Sox P Jake Peavy said, "It's disappointing, I can tell you that. It’s disappointing when you come home in late August, playing another first-place team, a team you could potentially play in the playoffs. If you have 20,000 people here, that’s not something you are excited about." In Chicago, Daryl Van Schouwen notes bleacher seats were "priced at $49, which is $15 more than the regular price." White Sox fans were "quick to react to the attendance reports on Twitter, almost unanimously citing the premier pricing level that applies for the Yankees and eight other dates." When the White Sox hosted the Yankees "in early August last season and premier pricing applied, they drew 24,142 for the first game, a Monday night, and 21,661 on Tuesday." That "points to two facts: Price matters to a working-class fan base, and the 2012 team is a better draw at this time this season, although the Sox are several hundred fans per game behind their 2011 attendance." White Sox Senior VP & GM Ken Williams has said that the team "must sell tickets to back his checkbook for team-improvement purposes." He "steered clear of telling fans how to spend their money this week, however, embracing the company theme of focusing on that day’s game and nothing else." Van Schouwen notes the "last-place Cubs outdrew the first-place Sox 112,954 to 76,833 over three games when both teams were at home last weekend" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 8/23).
FICKLE FANS IN FLORIDA: A TAMPA BAY TIMES' editorial states: "9,913. 10,877. 11,892. The numbers don't lie." Those are the "attendance figures for the Tampa Bay Rays' home games this week, and they are indefensible for a playoff contender." They are the "reason it is imperative that public talks begin on a new stadium that will attract more fans and ensure the long-term future of the franchise in Tampa Bay." It is "not [Rays Principal Owner Stuart] Sternberg whose actions are threatening the future of Major League Baseball here." It is St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster "who refuses to recognize that the Rays will not be playing in the outdated [Tropicana Field] until the lease expires in 2027" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 8/23).
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington “once believed merely to be a fixer-upper has taken on the look of a broken-down jalopy,” according to Scott Lauber of the BOSTON HERALD. Now, with a “disturbing series of off-field dramas keeping the out-of-contention Red Sox from receding into irrelevance during the season’s final six weeks, Cherington is facing the reality that bigger, bolder roster changes are required this time around.” Although public sentiment “undoubtedly would favor the Red Sox going nuclear, blowing up a $180 million roster isn’t a likely scenario.” They are “burdened by too many unwieldy contracts for Cherington to engineer a complete overhaul.” Problem is, the Red Sox “already have $48.125 million committed next season” to Ps Josh Beckett ($15.75 million), John Lackey ($15.25 million), Jon Lester ($11.625 million) and Clay Buchholz ($5.5 million). The free agent market “won’t be flush with aces, and even if it were, the Sox have neither the track record nor the financial flexibility to justify making a big splash.” Lauber: “One thing is clear: The Red Sox haven’t run smoothly for long enough that Cherington won’t be fooled again into thinking an oil change and a tune-up are all that’s needed” (BOSTON HERALD, 8/21).
FAREWELL TO PESKY: In Boston, Fee & Reposa note Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino, Fenway Sports Group Co-Chair and Red Sox Owner John Henry and his wife Linda, Exec VP & COO Sam Kennedy, Cherington and “many more team execs and staff were on hand” at late MLBer Johnny Pesky's funeral yesterday. Current Red Sox DH David Ortiz, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ps Buchholz and Vicente Padilla also attended (BOSTON HERALD, 8/23). In Boston, Joe Fitzgerald writes under the header, “Shame On Red Sox Players,” and criticizes players for not attending the funeral of the late Johnny Pesky. Fitzgerald: “The Red Sox, as a team, could have hit one out of the park just by showing up at Johnny Pesky’s funeral. That’s all they had to do, even if they didn’t feel a personal urge to show up, which might have been the case for many of them. … This is about the players; individually, they might have had splendid reasons to be among the missing at St. John the Evangelist Church in Swampscott, but collectively, they’re not looking so good this morning. How ironic they’d blow this one” (BOSTON HERALD, 8/23).
In Cleveland, Branson Wright writes this year the Browns have the “highest average Berea camp attendance (2,653) in team history." The previous high of “2,235 fans per session was set in 2008.” In addition, “19,412 fans attended Family Night at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Aug. 8, up from 12,354 at the same event in 2011.” On Sunday, July 29, the “second day of camp open to the public, 4,200 fans came to see practice, which was the largest single-session total” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/23).
HIGH CLASS: In Jacksonville, Vito Stellino writes not only did Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan spend “$3 million upgrading the locker room with more renovations to come, but he has the team traveling in style on wide-body planes.” Coach Mike Mularkey said, “All those things have made a difference. Players recognize it. Even flying on a bigger plane. It goes a long way with the players. It’s just showing what we’re doing to be a first-class organization for us first and other people who will recognize what is going on here. He’s doing everything first class.” He added that the players “didn’t know about the change until they arrived at the airport for the trip to New Orleans” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 8/23).
COLOR CHANGING: CBSSPORTS.com’s Royce Young cited photos posted on SportsLogos.net as indicating that the Knicks “might be tweaking their uniforms a tad." The Knicks appear “to be removing the black from their jerseys and adding silver in place of it.” The team also has “a new alternate logo at the top of the uniform as well” (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/22).