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Volume 24 No. 112


The Yankees look "more vulnerable than they've been in years" heading into the '13 season, as team Managing General Partner & co-Chair Hal Steinbrenner's "insistence on getting below the $189 million luxury-tax threshold for 2014" has left them "without their traditional route (big spending) for fixing the problems," according to Danny Knobler of Steinbrenner has "insisted to other owners that the $189 million mandate is very real, that he won't budge on it." By getting "under the luxury-tax threshold for that one year, the Yankees would re-set the penalty, which otherwise goes up every year." They also would "gain other benefits." However, the "question that others are asking is whether they really will stick to it, if the winning stops and the attendance drops" (, 12/3). In N.Y., John Harper writes these are "not the best of times to be GM of the Yankees." With Steinbrenner’s payroll edict for '14 "hanging over his head," Yankees GM Brian Cashman "couldn’t even keep [C] Russell Martin from leaving to sign a two-year deal with the Pirates ... a move that leaves him desperately in need of a No. 1 catcher." The team also needs to "find someone to play third base for at least the first half of next season, and maybe longer," after Cashman announced yesterday Alex Rodriguez will have hip surgery next month. Cashman is "accustomed to having the upper hand at this time of year, dealing from a position of power afforded by the Yankee payroll and its star power." But times "are changing, and quickly." For the moment, "at least, his job is no longer the envy of his peers" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/4).

STILL TOP OF THE HEAP? USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes the Yankees have "become a poor man's version of the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates, working the edges of free agency and hoping to fill holes frugally." The club has not "signed a free agent outside of their organization this winter, bent on getting their payroll under $189 million by 2014." They used to "operate with an open bank vault, and now they're searching under couch cushions for loose change" (USA TODAY, 12/4). MLB Network’s Dan Plesac said, "We’re just not accustomed to them not being in on Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton. Whoever the big-ticket items were the last five, seven, 10 years, the Yankees were either in the middle of it or … they were lurking on the fringes. Right now, they’re taking a step backward” (“MLB Tonight,” MLB Network, 12/3).

BUILDING A WEST COAST POWER: In L.A., Bill Shaikin wrote the Dodgers go to the MLB Winter Meetings with their "newfound financial muscle so menacing that rival executives grudgingly suspect ... that the team is in on every available star." As the Yankees "tighten their belts ... the Dodgers can play Goliath." If the Dodgers sign Greinke, they "could have four players earning $20 million next season." And, less than "one year removed from bankruptcy, this is astonishing: They could miss on Greinke and still field the first $200-million payroll in National League history" (L.A. TIMES, 12/3). ESPN's Karl Ravech said Dodgers GM Ned Colletti "has seen his world turn upside down, in a good way." Under Frank McCourt's ownership, there "wasn’t a lot of money to spend, and now it seems like there’s an endless supply." There is a "huge television deal coming" to the team, which "allows them to spend a lot more money." People are now comparing the Dodgers to the Yankees, but the "seemingly apparent outward difference is the Dodgers kind of brag about it, they make no secret that, 'We have money, we’re in on everybody. We’ll spend it.'" That is something the Yankees "didn’t always do” (“Baseball Tonight,” ESPN2, 12/4).

The MLB Cardinals for the first time since moving into Busch Stadium III in '06 "are raising tickets prices in every section for the upcoming season," according to Goold & Hummel of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III said that while some seats "will see an increase of only $1, overall the ticket prices will have an average hike of 4 percent." DeWitt: "It’s a little ahead of inflation but that’s primarily due to higher costs in the all-inclusive areas. The vast majority of the seats will see the smaller increase." In previous years, the Cardinals "have had price freezes in certain areas of the ballpark." Bleacher seats "will climb to $18 a game this season after staying at $17 the past three seasons." DeWitt said that "77 percent of season tickets will increase by a dollar, with the remaining 23 percent seeing increases up to about $10." Seats behind home plate "will jump from $205 per game to $215 for season-tickets holders." The increase in prices is "partially based on the data the Cardinals have collected from allowing season-ticket holders to sell tickets on a secondary market." DeWitt cited a StubHub report which said that "season tickets saw an average increase of $26 on the secondary market, and for premium games (for example: opening day, against the Cubs) they had an average uptick of $90." With the "added cost of all-inclusive tickets, which include food and drinks, the Cardinals wanted to move closer to the prices in the secondary market." The team will "continue to use dynamic pricing" to set the cost of single-game tickets (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 12/4).

STRIKING GOLD: In St. Louis, Derrick Goold writes a "genuine gold rush is afoot in baseball as teams, mostly from the largest markets, strike it mega-rich with rights fees that are radically changing the game’s economics and rosters." Cardinals Chair Bill DeWitt Jr. said, "A lot of big TV deals are getting done, and it shows you the value of the rights to live sports programming. We’re in new territory with some of these deals. Payrolls follow revenue." Goold notes market size will "be the driving force behind these rising fees, leaving midmarket teams like the Cardinals and clubs in smaller markets behind in the rights race, victims of geography and cable boxes." The Cardinals are "in the middle of a long-term deal with Fox Sports Midwest that is competitive for their market size." Sources said that the contract "goes through 2017 and the Cardinals have an option for 2018." Sources added that the Cardinals "currently receive a rights fee of between $25 million and $28 million." The contract "has escalators built in that will move the Cardinals toward $30 million." Both sides "declined to confirm or discuss the details of the deal citing confidentiality." DeWitt Jr. said, "For us to stay a top-tier team we need to be in line to have really strong attendance, which we have been able to do. That hasn’t changed. We’re never going to be a top TV-revenue team, that’s for sure" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 12/4).

Bills in Toronto Series Exec Dir Greg Albrecht said that the Bills’ fifth regular-season game in Toronto “is ‘80-90%’ sold, and there will be no papering this year to fill up the Rogers Centre,” according to John Kryk of the QMI AGENCY. Albrecht, of the Dec. 16 Seahawks-Bills game, said, "There are still great seats to be had at the Rogers Centre. But at the same time, there are going to be a lot of people in that stadium as of today, and that energy is going to be very high." When configured for an NFL game, the dome “seats approximately 45,300.” Rogers Media in July “slashed ticket prices for this year's game by an average of 35%.” Albrecht, who is in his fifth month of overseeing the series, said that the lower prices “have helped to spur sales.” Albrecht: "This year the entire place is selling well, on an even keel. It just speaks to the fact that the scaling is more correct this year. We're a little bit more expensive on average than across the league, but we're also just one game a year here, as opposed to 10" (QMI AGENCY, 12/3). The Bills estimate that 15% of their season-ticket base “is from southern Ontario.” Albrecht said that negotiations to renew the series “are nearly complete.” Albrecht: "I think we still have to dot a few I's and cross a few T's. I think it's more administrative at this point." The AP’s John Wawrow noted a “formal announcement of a series extension is not expected until early next year.” An extension is “expected to be similar to the previous deal, with Buffalo playing one annual regular-season game in Toronto, though it's unclear how many -- if any preseason games -- will be included this time” (AP, 12/3).

The Chiefs in the wake of LB Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide should be given “credit for so far handling a dreadful situation as well as possible,” according to Sam Mellinger of the K.C. STAR. The team has been “sensitive” to the situation and handled it “with class.” The franchise is remembering “victims of domestic abuse, never losing sight that this tragedy has wounded two families forever.” Mellinger: “This is the balancing act that defines the Chiefs’ eerie and sad new world. Nobody is sure exactly how to navigate this. There are no good answers, no solutions.” Belcher’s bio has been “wiped from the team’s website, and owner Clark Hunt has made it clear there will be no helmet stickers or armbands or other public displays honoring a man who killed an innocent woman.” The message “against domestic abuse and that Belcher’s final acts affected two families comes straight from the top.” Belcher’s stadium locker was “maintained after the game, his jersey displayed in a way that came closer to honoring the man than anything else the team has done.” Internally, there is “concern about how clearing the locker will be taken by some players but also how it looks to a public sickened by a string of horrendous acts.” That is “just one of a thousand questions without satisfying answers now facing the Chiefs” (K.C. STAR, 12/4). ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Chiefs players are "in the process of setting up a trust fund" for the three-month-old daughter of Belcher and his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins. The NFLPA also spent part of yesterday "making sure that it is setting up its own trust fund so that these men can somehow look out for the little baby girl that’s been left behind” (“Monday Night Countdown,” ESPN, 12/3).

The topic of whether Sunday's Panthers-Chiefs game should have been rescheduled was discussed on ESPN's "Around The Horn" yesterday. Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “should have stepped in and said, ‘No, we’re not playing this game for a variety of reasons.’” SB Nation’s Bomani Jones said the “complexity of this situation indicates that they should not have played the game. The fact that they did a moment of silence and couldn’t even figure out how to name anyone that had died tells you how difficult this was for everybody" (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 12/3).

The Bobcats "want Wednesdays to be the new day to party," with the hope that "young people will turn a mid-week basketball game into a full night out," according to Andrew Dunn of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The team is "spending $18,000 advertising on the city’s light-rail trains and forming partnerships" with several restaurants and nightclubs located at Charlotte's EpiCentre retail complex near Time Warner Cable Arena. The Bobcats "hope it will boost attendance on a day when it is generally much more difficult to fill seats." Team President & CEO Fred Whitfield said that he "charged the marketing department with coming up with a plan to boost attendance on Wednesdays soon after the team received its schedule," which includes a franchise-high 13 Wednesday home games. Bobcats Senior VP/Marketing Seth Bennett said that a weeknight "will skew more to young professionals or college students," and that the new Wednesday night promotion "reflects that." Dunn notes the promotion allows fans to "buy a ticket online, starting at $10." Fans can then "use that as your ticket to get on the light rail to uptown for free, hopping off at the stop between Time Warner Cable Arena and the EpiCentre." Many restaurants in the area "are offering free appetizers with your meal if you have a ticket." Once inside the game, fans participating in the promotion "can buy bottomless popcorn, $4 beers and a $10 T-shirt." Also included is a return trip on the city's light rail train, as the ticket is "good all day." Meanwhile, Whitfield said that the Bobcats have "added 2,000 new season ticket holders, and had a nearly 80 percent season ticket renewal rate" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 12/4).

In Boston, Scott Lauber wrote it took a “quarter-billion dollar salary dump, the likes of which” Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino had “not seen in more than three decades as a major league executive, to give the Red Sox a chance at the do-over they so badly needed.” The team in the future would “rather not go through that again.” If the Red Sox were “so inclined, general manager Ben Cherington admits they already could have made a headline-grabbing move or two" in advance of Saturday’s “Christmas at Fenway” ticket launch. Cherington said, “You can always do stupid things that could be a ‘wow’ thing. But we’re trying to avoid those.” Lauber wrote the “hard-learned lesson: When it comes to free agent contracts, the shorter, the better.” Lucchino: “We’re empiricists. We can be taught” (BOSTON HERALD, 12/2).

READY FOR LAUNCH: In Houston, Chip Bailey wrote Astros Owner Jim Crane, President George Postolos and GM Jeff Luhnow are “all in.” They "aren’t tip-toeing through the proverbial tulips hoping for the best outcome." They "aren’t waiting for the ship to come in, they’re headed out to meet it." Their "footprints, fingerprints and sabermetric formulas are all over this organization they took over about one year ago.” TV analyst Jim Deshaies leaving the Astros for the Cubs is “the latest casualty,” and there are “few things” that will return in ‘13 for the Astros. Bailey: “Uniforms, gone. National League, gone. Big salaries, gone. Familiar voices, gone. Familiar faces, yep, gone." Someone "needed to rip off the band aid," as a "simple retooling or minor renovation wouldn't have worked." But few, "if any, predicted the widespread, far-reaching ramifications” (, 12/3).

NINJA FROM THE NORTH: In Toronto, Brendan Kennedy wrote Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos is attending “his fourth winter meetings with the attention of every executive in the game.” Fans have “come to expect the unexpected from the cagey 35-year-old.” Agent Matt Sosnick said, “He’s probably the most compulsive of any GM.” Known within the industry for “being meticulous and hands-on, Anthopoulos is lauded by fans at home as the ‘ninja’ for his sly manoeuvres” (TORONTO STAR, 11/30).

SECRETS OF THE TRIBE: In Cleveland, Paul Hoynes wrote, "It is clear the Indians aren't swimming in cash, so they're not going to win many free-agent bidding wars.” But Indians GM Chris Antonetti said that he “has the ability and cash to sign a player to a multiyear deal.” The Indians, who “reportedly lost between $10 million and $11 million last season, are expected to open next season with a payroll close to last season's $65 million” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 12/2).

STEP RIGHT UP, AND MEET...: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Brian Costa writes if Mets Owner the Wilpon family “indeed has the resources to build a contender" around 3B David Wright in the years ahead, then consider Wright's eight-year, $138M contract "a vital first step in restoring the credibility of the franchise.” If the Mets “emerge from this dark era in the coming years, then consider Friday the day they began to break free of the specter of Bernie Madoff” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/1).