MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's office has provided the A’s with “tentative guidelines for a potential move to San Jose,” according to sources cited by Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. The existence of the guidelines “does not necessarily mean the A's will move to San Jose soon, or at all." However, if the A's can "satisfy the concerns" of the league office, Selig "could let club owners decide whether to approve the move." Sources said that Selig's office has “expressed concerns about the viability of the proposed San Jose ballpark site and the financial projections offered by the A's in support of a move.” The MLB Giants “hold territorial rights to San Jose and oppose the proposed move there by the A's.” Compensation to the Giants for the loss of their territorial rights "is not believed to be among the current list of matters for the A's to resolve.” The Giants "could stop the move by lining up seven clubs to vote with them.” It is "unlikely" the A's could move to San Jose before '18 (L.A. TIMES, 2/21). In Oakland, Matthew Artz reports A’s Owner Lew Wolff was “furious to learn that City Administrator Deanna Santana mistakenly accused him of releasing a letter stating his desire for a short-term lease extension at the Coliseum complex to ‘the newspaper’ but not to the city, county or coliseum authority officials.” Wolff reportedly wrote in an all-caps e-mail, "(It) is very sad when someone is devoted to harm someone else's reputation." Santana in a letter to Wolff released late yesterday “apologized for the mistake, calling it ‘a human error.’" Artz writes Wolff is “reviled among Oakland sports fans" for seeking to move the team. The A's are “expected to pay $800,000 in rent this season, the last of their lease, and negotiations are expected to be grueling” (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 2/21).
Pirates Chair Bob Nutting yesterday said that he wanted the franchise to attempt to win a championship "through a superior player-development system and cautioned against high-profile additions at the trade deadline that force the Pirates to part with the jewels of that system," according to Bill Brink of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. Nutting said, "We could have patched pieces together for a short-term blip to pop us over .500. I'm glad we didn't do it because I think what we did was the responsible and correct things for the long term of the franchise." He added, "What I hope we don't do is mortgage the future to make it a very short term." Nutting: "We are absolutely maximizing where we can in the major league payroll because, fundamentally, we need to win in Pittsburgh" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 2/21). Nutting said, "The mindset is, we must take a step forward. We expect to win. ... I'm incredibly optimistic we're in a position to take another step forward." Nutting, noting the team has not had a winning season since '92, added, "At some point we're going to need to pass through 82 wins. When we do, I will celebrate." In Pittsburgh, Rob Biertempfel notes the Pirates will go into this season "with a payroll of about $74 million -- the largest in franchise history, although it still will be among the smallest in the majors." Nutting said, "We are not in a position where we've held back and kept a big reserve (of cash). That would be irresponsible" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 2/21).
NEW-LOOK HOME: Biertempfel noted 90-year-old McKechnie Field has undergone a $10M renovation as the Pirates "begin their 45th year" at the Spring Training facility. The "new-look field" was unveiled yesterday. By installing outfield seats "for the first time, capacity was boosted from 6,500 to 8,500." It is the "fourth-largest ballpark in the Grapefruit League." The centerpiece of the renovation is "a 19,000-square-foot boardwalk spanning the outfield." A new "agility drills area, a half-field and indoor batting cages were built behind the outfield." The team paid $3M "toward the stadium upgrade; the public contribution came via a tourist development tax." As part of the deal with the city of Bradenton, Fla., and Manatee County, the Pirates will "spend up to $400,000 annually to promote Bradenton via advertising in Pittsburgh" (TRIBLIVE.com, 2/20).
The Thunder's season-ticket prices "will be going up" for the '13-14 season, according to John Rohde of the OKLAHOMAN. Next season, the franchise's sixth in Oklahoma City, will see the team's "first price increase for half of all season-ticket members" and for 97.5% of upper-deck patrons at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Thunder VP/Communications & Community Relations Dan Mahoney said that the price adjustments "will be a $2-$3 increase per ticket" in the upper deck, known as Loud City. He added that courtside and Champions Club tickets will see "a $10 increase per ticket," and all others will see "a $2-$5 increase per ticket." Rohde noted these increases will be for '13-14 season tickets, "not for single-game tickets." Mahoney said that there "will be no change in playoff pricing" for the '12-13 postseason. Rohde noted the Thunder's season-ticket prices next season will "remain somewhere near or below the league average" (NEWSOK.com, 2/20).
PICK UP THE PACE: ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd recently said on-air of the Pacers' attendance woes, "You’re holding an organization to a standard that happens because of race. There’s no other explanation why people don’t go to Pacers games." In Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz disputes that notion and writes there are "a couple of reasons" for the team's low attendance this season. Kravitz: "Here’s the big one: The NBA season-ticket-buying culture in Indianapolis is dead, at least for now." That has "nothing to do with race," but has "everything to do with six years of really bad basketball." The bottom line is "you don’t rebuild a season ticket buying culture after just one year of reaching the second round of the playoffs." Especially not in a "small, relatively soft market, a market hit hard by the bad economy, a market that has seen the Pacers lose corporate sales from the likes of Dick’s Sporting Goods, Marsh and others." Fans "don’t react overnight." For now, they "realize they don’t have to purchase a season ticket." Instead, they "can get a deeply discounted ticket to any game they select, and do so at the last second" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/21).
Yankees Managing General Partner & co-Chair Hal Steinbrenner's “recent words and deeds,” including a possible contract extension offer for 2B Robinson Cano, “indicate if not a sea change in his thinking, at least a shift in his perception of how the Yankees should be run,” according to Wallace Matthews of ESPN N.Y. There is “no doubt that a year ago, he was serious about trimming the payroll" to $189M to keep the Yankees "under the new revenue-sharing threshold that kicks in" for the '14 season. But Steinbrenner now “seems to realize that the only bottom line that truly matters with the Yankees is the win-loss record.” The fact that he has “decided to set aside a long-standing team policy” of not offering an extension of an existing contract is a "strong indication that he has decided to go back to doing business" the way his late father George Steinbrenner would have. By "letting Cano know how much he wants him back, Steinbrenner is also letting the rest of baseball know that the sleeping bear is rousing from its nap.” Yankees fans "should be encouraged by the fact that he is at least willing to play the game.” It has recently “become obvious that the expected windfall from the payroll cut ... is likely to be a whole lot less, since three of the teams that had been expected to qualify for revenue sharing (Atlanta, Washington and Toronto) are now expected to be successful at the box office, and thus are no longer eligible for baseball's version of corporate welfare.” Steinbrenner also seems to have "learned what his father instinctively knew: That everyone loves a winner, but nobody likes a finance geek” (ESPNNY.com, 2/20).
The White Sox are "projecting 1,946,000 in paid attendance" for the '13 season, an increase of "more than 100,000 from last year's paid attendance of 1,836,916," according to Jared Hopkins of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. That figure is less than the '12 total attendance of 1,965,866, "the first time since 2004 that the total dipped below 2 million." The projections were released Tuesday morning during a meeting of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, which "owns U.S. Cellular Field and manages its daily operations." The White Sox were not required to pay the ISFA "additional ticket fees beyond a base rent" of $1,537,000 because paid attendance last season was less than 1,925,000. Despite "extended success in the regular season before coming up short of a playoff berth" last season, the White Sox "had difficulty drawing fans." That is in "stark contrast" of the crosstown rival Cubs. The White Sox already have announced plans to increase attendance, including "reducing prices on 87 percent of their full-season tickets and reducing parking" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 2/19).
PROVE IT ALL NIGHT: White Sox Exec VP Ken Williams yesterday appeared on CNBC and said the team does not draw fans "as much as I'd like us to draw," but he said the White Sox' fanbase is one to which the team needs "to prove that you're going to be an exciting team, you’re going to be in contention and you have a World Series chance." Williams: "Otherwise, they're not going to spend their discretionary dollar." He noted the Cubs are "a little bit different," but the White Sox have a fanbase in which the team has "got to earn it." Williams: "We are aggressively trying to do much for the fan experience. I think that's the key in sports these days. In any kind of entertainment these days it's how are you going (to) enhance the fan experience, and once you start to do that, then people will take notice and hopefully attend more games.” Williams also was asked about the state of the economy through baseball metrics. He said, “In different markets, you’re going to get a different answer depending where you are. It's hard for me to cry. We have a little bit over $100 million payroll and of course, you have to have the revenues to support that. In Oakland and San Diego and Kansas City, you're looking at revenues half as much. ... I'm not going to complain too much" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 2/20).
Rockies Senior VP/Baseball Operations Bill Geivett appeared on MLB Network’s “Clubhouse Confidential” Tuesday and said of having an office in the Rockies' clubhouse, “It seems really glamorous that I have an office in the clubhouse. There’s a desk in the side of the conference room that I sit in.” He added, “Being able to work with our staff and (manager Walt Weiss) everyday like here in Spring Training, it’s been great.” MLB Network’s Brian Kenny asked whether “that’s the way of the modern front office,” having an office on-site and interacting closely with the team. Geivett said, “It’s got to be a consideration at some point for a lot of clubs. … Not only with media concerns and dealing with agents and all the things that go into the job of general manager … but to be able to spend time with your Major League club is very, very difficult for a general manager to keep the pulse of what’s going on and to make the right move” (“Clubhouse Confidential,” MLB Network, 2/19). Kenny said, “A manager now should be an extension of a front office. I think it should be helpful to have that communication there. Not there as someone who’s an adversary of the players but someone who is there to explain what they're trying to do, the strategy, the grand strategy that’s coming from upstairs.” But MLB Network’s Mitch Williams added, “There’s a front office for a reason. There’s a clubhouse for a reason.” Williams noted this is going to create a “lack of communication because the players are going to keep their mouth shut.” Williams: “They are not going to go to their manager with what they feel might be an issue because then that manager is going to be considered a pipeline to the front office” (“MLB Tonight,” MLB Network, 2/19).
YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika noted former Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, who was fired yesterday after a 16-year tenure, "outlasted popes and presidents." Ruff was the longest-tenured coach in the NHL. But now that he is "gone, it’s time to reevaluate everyone else, starting with" GM Darcy Regier. The problem "wasn’t patience, but the people." Ruff and Regier "are good people, but Ruff clearly wasn’t the right coach anymore and Regier might not be the right GM anymore, either, based on the roster and the record." Making the playoffs "shouldn’t matter as much as making sure the Sabres have the leadership to execute their philosophy," so Owner Terry Pegula can "remain patient and watch it pay off next time." The Sabres currently "lack a strong organizational identity" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/20).
STARS HONORING STARS: In Dallas, Mike Heika reported the Stars announced that the organization's 20th Anniversary Team, presented by Dr Pepper, will be "unveiled during the club's remaining home games this season." Fans over the last few months "had an opportunity to vote on DallasStars.com for who they would want to play on their all-time Dallas Stars team." Members of the team will be "honored at home games with special appearances, promotions and interactive content on DallasStars.com" (DALLASNEWS.com, 2/20).
JETS OWNERS EYEING WHL TEAM? In Winnipeg, Gary Lawless reported "word leaked out" last weekend that Jets Owner True North Sports & Entertainment had been having talks with a Western Hockey League owner about "purchasing a franchise but they have now broken off." Jets Senior Dir of Corporate Communications Scott Brown said that the organization would "not be addressing the report." The WHL BOG met in Las Vegas just over a week ago and there was "no report on a sale of a franchise to be relocated to Winnipeg" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 2/18).