The Mariners for '13 have implemented a price restructuring plan in which season-ticket plans "will rise as much as 6.9 percent in some sections, while 40-game weekend packages are up 3.7 to 10.6 percent in the more desirable main-level locations," according to Geoff Baker of the SEATTLE TIMES. The major changes "involve turning eight Safeco Field seating areas into four new ones called Main Level, Terrace Club Level, View Level and Bleachers -- with varying prices for sections and seat rows within those areas." As a result, "just about every section of the ballpark and season-ticket plan -- full-season, half-season, weekend, business and 16-game packages -- had some cost increase, though a small number remain nearly unchanged and some second-deck Club Level seats down the right- and left-field lines will actually decline up to 3 percent." Mariners Senior VP/Communications Randy Adamack said that the team "has had two across-the-board ticket hikes the past 11 seasons and none since 2008." He added that the team's studies show "its lower-level seats are among the top third of baseball for affordability ... while season-ticket holders saved between 27 percent and 44 percent off the cost of single-game tickets in 2012." The Mariners sent out a mass e-mail renewal letter to all of their season-ticket holders, but the "linked information is mainly invoices for 2013, a seating and price map and payment deadlines, with no comparative information about 2012 prices or explanations of the changes." The "biggest price hikes are in more-desired areas of the ballpark, closest to the field or home plate." But bleacher seats also were "hit hard, climbing 3.6 percent for full-time plans, 7 percent for weekend, 15 percent for business and 10 and 11 percent for each of two half-season plans." Adamack said that the changes "are an offshoot of the team's 'dynamic pricing' model introduced last season and used by roughly one-third of major-league teams" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/21).
With Red Sox GM Ben Cherington leading the way, there is “no confusion about who selected” Blue Jays manager John Farrell to replace Bobby Valentine, according to Gordon Edes of ESPN BOSTON. There are “no chain of command issues, no puppet strings being pulled,” as Farrell is "Cherington's man. Period." Edes: "Accepted and endorsed by Boston Red Sox ownership? Of course.” Red Sox Owner John Henry “was the one who got compensation talks started with Toronto CEO Paul Beeston.” But the ownership also “came away highly impressed with the other candidates interviewed for the managerial job, most notably” Padres Special Assistant Brad Ausmus. In Valentine, Cherington had “no answer for a manager who alienated his players and appalled at least some of his coaches with his lack of preparation and disregard for their input.” But with Farrell, Cherington has “a man the GM told ownership he was more comfortable with than any of the other candidates, one he was confident spoke the same language, and would work hand in hand with him in fumigating the clubhouse and making it a place where confidence and trust could be cultivated again” (ESPNBOSTON.com, 10/21). SPORTING NEWS’ Stan McNeal wrote the "perception that Cherington didn’t choose Valentine created an obstacle in their relationship that they never overcame.” That “won’t be the case this time," as Cherington has “hired a guy who already is on his side” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 10/21).
BEANTOWN BOOST: In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy writes of the trade of IF Mike Aviles for Farrell, “This is a good move by the Sox.” Cherington “finally has acted decisively” and Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino’s “ego didn’t get in the way when it came time to part with" Aviles. The "only fair criticism of this move is the dog-and-pony show of bringing Tim Wallach, Brad Ausmus, Tony Pena, and DeMarlo Hale to town when the Sox knew they wanted Farrell all along” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/22). CBSSPORTS.com’s Jon Heyman wrote, “Farrell is clearly the guy Cherington and the front office wanted all along, and he's a smart man with a Boston background the ownership triumvirate of John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino can all agree on.” Hiring a manager for the Red Sox is "almost as hard as managing the Red Sox." The job "requires more of its holder than just about any other in baseball," as the Sox' manager "has to deal with one of the more involved ownership groups, many voices in the hierarchy, one smarter than the next, plus the most rabid fans and most persistent media" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/21).
ON THE SAME PAGE: SPORTS ON EARTH’s Jorge Arangure writes, “In the days after Bobby Valentine’s hiring, Boston general manager Ben Cherington was put in the role of the patsy: a front man for a team that would be led by a manager he did not want, and ultimately had not selected.” The hiring of Farrell is “an immense victory for the general manager, and it restores the decision-making in Boston to where it belongs: the front office.” Arangure: "We have no idea how good Cherington really is as a general manager. We’re about to find out." Saying Cherington has “won a power struggle may be overstating it, since there are no signs of real discord -- just a difference of opinion in which Cherington was overruled.” But “make no mistake, Cherington has won a fight" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 10/22).
PROBLEMS LINGER: In Boston, Ron Borges wrote, “Simply put, it’s the players, stupid.” As the Red Sox “ponder wasting a top prospect or frontline player in exchange for John Farrell arriving from Toronto, they miss the point.” The Red Sox “are not 76-113 in their last 189 games and absent the playoffs for three years because they hired a nitwit to replace a manager whose voice the players no longer heard.” Farrell "is not going to turn that attitude around nor is he going to get performance simply by his presence." Red Sox players "have to do that themselves or be replaced.” Hiring Farrell "was a mistake.” The Red Sox could have “opted for real change.” They could have “turned the page and tried the only guy on their short list who actually has done something as a major league manager.” Yankees bench coach Tony Pena, the ‘03 AL Manager of the Year “in of all places Kansas City, was there for the taking” (BOSTON HERALD, 10/21).
FEELING BLUE: In Toronto Steve Simmons writes, “This is big business and the Blue Jays come off as small-timers here in this ugly mess of a transaction." Simmons: "This is major league sports and the small market Jays show themselves as little more than farm team for the large market Red Sox” (TORONTO SUN, 10/22).
The Yankees "have priced themselves into a corner" in trying to remain competitive, "running up such a huge tab over the years and writing checks" for a $200M payroll, according to David Lennon of NEWSDAY. While Managing General Partner & co-Chair Hal Steinbrenner "has every intention of maintaining his dad’s championship legacy, he may be coming to the realization that such a thing isn’t possible on a tighter budget, not with the organization’s current state." Steinbrenner "raised eyebrows in March with his mandate of getting the Yankees’ payroll below the new luxury-tax threshold of $189 million, which takes effect for the 2014 season." There is a "tremendous fiscal incentive to cut payroll." But now that a "third consecutive season has ended without a World Series appearance, and with a top-heavy roster in flux, the Yankees are at a crossroads." The team will either "become more budget-conscious this winter -- and stomach the transitional phase -- or acquire the necessary pieces, with less emphasis on what it costs." Late Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner "always chose the latter, and the Yankees apparently are reconsidering Hal’s hard-line stance from spring training." A source on Friday said that budget concerns "will have to take a back seat if the choice is between getting below the tax threshold by 2014 and building a championship-caliber roster every year" (NEWSDAY, 10/20).
NOTHING ELSE MATTERS: In N.Y., Mike Lupica wrote at one time "the bottom line for Steinbrenner the Elder was winning it all, or else." For his "heirs, it seems the bottom line is more about profit and loss, and that sure doesn’t mean the kind of loss the Yankees just suffered" in a four-game ALCS sweep (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/21). An AL GM said, "I just see [Yankees GM] Brian Cashman trying to get this team younger while still competing. That’s what I think will happen." In Boston, Nick Cafardo wrote the Yankees' "strategy of bringing older, established players off the bench worked to a great degree." The problem the Yankees have "is that they don’t have young positional players ready to take over just yet" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/21).
INDESTRUCTIBLE? In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote the Tigers' sweep of the Yankees "put a major dent in the once-impenetrable Yankees brand." Raissman: "Whether Brian Cashman, on the baseball side, or Randy Levine, on the business side, can repair the damage is a story with many possible endings." The Yankees’ TV ratings on the YES Network "are a better indicator of fan dissatisfaction." The team "averaged a 3.92 rating, down 8.3% from 2011 and YES’ lowest Yankees household rating since 2003." The nine-year low "came during a season in which the Yankees battled Baltimore down to the wire to win the AL East, which should have driven the ratings to an all-time high" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/21). Also in N.Y., Joel Sherman writes the stands at Yankee Stadium "were quiet -- and pretty empty -- at the outset of home playoff games and hardly sustained much life even during rallies." The "high pricing has led to an older, more restrained clientele closest to the field: A Dockers-and-loafers crew that isn’t likely to unsettle the opponent." Solving the "Stub Hub matter or lowering prices isn’t going to solve this." Sherman: "As counterintuitive as it sounds, the Yankees probably have to miss the playoffs for a few years to make this experience feel fresh for their fans again" (N.Y. POST, 10/22).
MONEY FOR NOTHING: In DC, Thomas Boswell wrote, "In 2012 money bought you next to nothing. Is it a one-year fluke? Whatever it is, it’s shocking." In '12, the "15 highest payroll teams ($124 million average) won 81.4 games on average." The 15 "lowest budget teams ($72 million average) won 80.6 games" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/19).
START SPREADING THE NEWS: SportsNet N.Y.'s Brian Custer noted the Knicks "have released a new TV and radio ad campaign and they're taking swipes at the Nets." In the spots, Knicks Fs Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire "both talk about how the Garden is the real home for New York basketball and how the Knicks are the only team with New York history." SportsNet N.Y.'s Marc Malusis said the Knicks "should be worried about the Nets" because it is "not like the Knicks have lit this city on fire, winning NBA title after NBA title." The Nets are "coming to town, they have a good team and they're battling for the basketball fan of this city. They should feel threatened." SportsNet N.Y.'s Eamon McAnaney said, "If you're selling tickets and you're looking at the bottom line, yes you should be concerned. But the Knicks are still the Knicks. This isn't going to happen overnight where the Nets are going to take over the town because I still think that the Knicks are a better team. Yes, it'll hurt TV ratings and merchandise sales but I still think that the Knicks are the team in this town, this area" ("The Wheelhouse," SportsNet N.Y., 10/17).
In Detroit, Bob Wojnowski wrote a World Series title has become Tigers Owner Mike Ilitch's “last grail, and after nearly achieving it in 2006, when the Tigers lost to the Cardinals, the quest has grown more urgent.” Wojnowski: “Nobody has invested more in the Tigers, in every way.” Ilitch went “all in to land [1B] Prince Fielder with a $214 million contract,” and he signed P Justin Verlander and 3B Miguel Cabrera “for huge sums and long terms.” Half the Tigers “tremendous starting rotation” is still on the team because Ilitch “wasn't interested in waiting for prospects.” Tigers President, CEO & GM Dave Dombrowski said, "He's told me all along, if there's one thing he'd really love to have, it would be that World Series ring" (DETROIT NEWS, 10/21).
PARADE OF THE PALACE: Palace Sports & Entertainment President & CEO Dennis Mannion and Exec VP and Chief Marketing & Communications Officer Charlie Metzger said that Pistons Owner Tom Gores is “investing more than $25 million over three years on capital improvements, ranging from a clean blue-and-silver color scheme to renovation of 40 corporate suites” at the Palace of Auburn Hills. In Detroit, Tom Walsh noted advertising around the building “will be cleaner, less busy.” Mannion said that the “head count of 255 full-time employees at the Palace is unchanged since his arrival 13 months ago.” The revenue-producing sales and marketing and staffs “have been beefed up, while administration and operations were shrunk.” Advance ticket sales are “running ahead of last year.” But Metzger said that it is an “apples-to-oranges comparison because of the delayed start of the 2011-12 NBA season because of a labor lockout” (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 10/21).
WELCOME ABOARD: Baseball writer Murray Chass noted the Dodgers named Gerry Hunsicker Senior Adviser/Baseball Operations and the team is “unlikely to make a more significant off-season move.” Hunsicker at this point “could probably have any general manager’s job that was available,” but he "chose not to jump back into the pressure-cooker world of general managers.” Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten said, “He’s here to give us his expertise. I thought with his experience he will be very helpful to us.” The Dodgers “especially want Hunsicker to enhance the discovery and development of players in Latin countries, an assignment in which he flourished with the Astros and the Rays” (MURRAYCHASS.com, 10/21).