Broncos QB Peyton Manning and his wife, Ashley, along with former Univ. of Memphis basketball player Penny Hardaway, "have agreed to become limited partners" in Robert Pera's prospective Grizzlies ownership group, according to sources cited by Kyle Veazey of the Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL. The group includes recent additions such as "pop star and actor Justin Timberlake and former congressman Harold Ford Jr." A source said that former UM basketball player Elliot Perry "has also agreed to be a partner." Perry is a limited partner in Michael Heisley’s ownership group. Hardaway said, "This is not just an investment in a sports team, it’s a way for me to give back to the people of Memphis in thanks for their supporting me" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 10/5). The AP's Teresa Walker reported Peyton Manning's name is "not expected to be on any of the paperwork involved." Ashley Manning is a Memphis native, and Peyton in a statement said that he is "proud of his wife as she pursues this opportunity." NFL VP/PR Greg Aiello said that Peyton Manning's involvement "will not be a conflict ... with the NFL" (AP, 10/4). ESPN Radio's Chris Vernon, who broke the story Thursday, asked, "Could you get a bigger celebrity endorsement?" Vernon said of Pera getting this ownership group together, "This is some of the greatest recruiting I've seen in my life" ("The Chris Vernon Show," ESPN Radio 92.9 Memphis, 10/4).
Dodgers President Stan Kasten, when asked if he expects the team to raise ticket prices for the '13 season, replied, “I do not,” according to Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. TIMES. Kasten: “We’re going to be tweaking, just for reasons of seat classifications. But in general prices aren’t going up. Some may, while others go down, but in general they will stay the same.” He added that the team's increase in attendance this season "was actually greater than announced." Kasten: “For reasons I don’t want to get into, it’s a brighter picture than you all realize, because of the way the arithmetic was done this year vs. how arithmetic was done in the past" (LATIMES.com, 10/4). MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby wrote shopping on the free-agent and high-priced trade market was something Kasten "believed was necessary for short-term credibility in a place like Los Angeles while the long-term plan is put in place." Kasten: "We have a plan to become a scouting and player-development organization. That's our goal. In the short term, we needed to do some things. We do need to compete in the next two or three years, until we get everything into place" (MLB.com, 10/4).
EXTREME MAKEOVER, CHAVEZ EDITION: In L.A., J.P. Hoornstra reports the Dugout Club seats at Dodger Stadium, where "high-rollers cozily sit in the background of home plate and both dugouts, were covered with gray tarps Thursday." Usually, this "serves as a fixed image for the solemn scene between baseball seasons." But this year, it "hinted at a big rumbling -- the expected renovations of the undersized clubhouses, and the installation of a new visitor's batting cage, underneath the seats." A formal announcement is "expected within a week or two." Kasten said, "Out in the seating bowl we're going to have more bars, more restaurants, more hanging-out areas, more gathering areas like you see in parks" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 10/5).
Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria is “getting pressure from his top baseball executives to fire” manager Ozzie Guillen because “they believe he has brought an unprofessional culture to the Marlins,” according to sources cited by Joe Capozzi of the PALM BEACH POST. One source was “under the impression that Loria might be the last member of the team hierarchy supporting Guillen.” ESPN’s Buster Olney on Thursday tweeted, “Marlins are aggressively seeking a replacement for Ozzie Guillen.” Capozzi reports Loria also is “considering changes to the coaching staff, possibly as soon as this weekend.” Loria leaves Sunday for Europe, but it is “unclear whether he’ll make a decision about Guillen and the coaches before he departs.” The Marlins’ front office was “supposed to meet with Loria in New York on Thursday to review the season and discuss changes for next year,” but that meeting “was postponed to Oct. 25.” A source said that “several members of the Marlins have complained to top team officials that Guillen is not the right man to manage the club because he does not do it with ‘integrity and professionalism.’” Complaints include “the constant clubhouse presence of Guillen’s three adult sons; Guillen’s frequent references to not being worried about anything because ‘I got my money;’ and his constant cursing” (PALM BEACH POST, 10/5). A source said that the “exasperation level among the club's baseball people is off the chart.” In Ft. Lauderdale, Juan Rodriguez reports Loria is “keeping everyone hanging.” The source said, "As far as they know, no decision has been made either way. Jeffrey is making this call, and for some reason he can't decide." Still, Rodriguez writes, “Dismissing Guillen might not go down well among Marlins players” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 10/5).
MIXED EMOTIONS: In Miami, Clark Spencer writes the Marlins “have plenty of work to do in order to improve in 2013.” The element that “went wrong” this season was “upper-level management -- meaning everyone from Loria to the front office -- grossly overestimated the team’s returning talent from the 2011 season.” Spencer: “Did the Marlins overpay for free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell during their December spending spree? Very likely, yes." High-dollar free agents "are rarely bargains for any team.” Meanwhile, an aspect that “went right” in ’12 was the opening of Marlins Park, which is “eye-catching, to say the least.” Though it was “Death Valley for home run hitters, fans seemed to like the joint.” The ballpark was “worthy of high praise.” The product on the field, “not so much” (MIAMI HERALD, 10/5).
After the Red Sox on Thursday parted ways with manager Bobby Valentine, "the same search committee -- principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, president Larry Lucchino and general manager Ben Cherington -- is in place," according to Michael Silverman of the BOSTON HERALD. Cherington on Thursday said, "I'll spearhead the process and it will be collaborative, as it was last year ... building consensus around a person is important and that’s what we’ll look to do." Silverman asks, "What's going to be different this time? How are they going to succeed when they so clearly did not a year ago?" There is "nothing in that answer that screams change, but there was an emphasis on the phrase of 'building consensus' that was hard to miss." The consensus "of many, if not most, observers around the hiring of Valentine was that it was Lucchino’s pick more than Cherington’s," and that perception "never changed." If the procedure "will not be all that different this time around, then it's the people who are making decisions who are going to have to be smarter about that choice and be more secure" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/5).
FLAWED SYSTEM? In Boston, Christopher Gasper writes, "The symptoms of the decay -- clubhouse unrest, underachievement, melodrama, miscommunication, and misevaluation -- will return if they don’t treat the disease, which is a flawed decision-making process and organizational impudence." Ownership and upper management "have every right to have a voice in the decision-making process, but baseball people should be hired and trusted to make baseball decisions." The Red Sox' baseball operations staff, led by Cherington, "vetted Valentine and determined he was not the right fit." But it was Lucchino, Werner and Henry who "overrode that decision, doubled-backed, and hired Valentine with disastrous results." The next managerial search "has to be different." Ownership "can have a voice, but not the only say." The Red Sox "haven’t rid themselves of their affliction, only their distraction" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/5). Also in Boston, Peter Abraham writes, "Regardless of who the next manager is, it will be the franchise’s third in as many years, and Lucchino conceded that that disturbed him." Lucchino said, "Yeah, it's a little troubling. We, like most organizations, prefer some stability and continuity in key positions. We had a lot of stability and continuity in other key positions. But we'd like to have the manager's role filled by someone for several years" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/5).
NEW BLOOD: CBSSPORTS.com's Scott Miller asked, "If Valentine's hiring was all Cherington, then why don't the Sox fire him right now, too?" Miller: "If I hire a rookie GM and he makes these kinds of decisions in Year One, and the entire franchise goes boom! to this degree, I fire him yesterday for gross incompetence." The Red Sox' new manager should "hire his own coaches." Miller: "In fact, encourage him to bring in some of his own guys." The Red Sox "clearly need new blood and new voices" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/4).
Prospective Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam III on Thursday indicated that he will “wait until after the season to consider staff changes,” according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Browns VP/Media Relations Neal Gulkis said personnel changes are "not something we'll discuss until after the year." Haslam said, "We're coming into this in the middle of the season. It's an awkward time. We're going to study and evaluate." Cabot notes Haslam on Oct. 16 will travel to Chicago for the NFL owners' annual fall meeting, "where he's expected to be approved as the owner of the Browns by his new colleagues.” His approval “requires a two-thirds vote of the owners, but it's likely to be unanimous” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 10/5). Haslam appeared on Fox Business Thursday and said, "We don't officially own the team yet, and we’ve said all along that we're not going to make any comments on personnel until after we own the team. ... Any personnel decision we make will be made toward the end of the year.” Meanwhile, he was asked whether he would put a dome on Cleveland Browns Stadium. Haslam said, “We've said that we're going to bring stadium architects in. This stadium is now 15 years old, it needs some work. We’re going to look at any and all options to make the stadium more friendly to the fans.” When Fox Business' Liz Claman said 15 years is not “that old," Haslam replied, “If you think where this stadium sits and the weather it’s exposed to -- it’s an outdoor stadium, the wear and tear these stadiums take -- you’ve got to stay up to speed and you’ve got to stay modern. There's been a lot of stadiums built since then. We need to spend some money on this stadium, and we’ll do so in the next two or three years” (“Markets Now,” Fox Business, 10/4).