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Volume 24 No. 115


Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson tonight at his State of the City address could "reveal the identities of his 'whales' -- the investors he's recruited to bid" for the NBA Kings, with it "widely believed" the investors are Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle and 24-Hour Fitness co-Founder Mark Mastrov, according to Lillis, Kasler & Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Another potential suitor for the team "emerged this week" in Kings limited partner John Kehriotis, who already owns 12% of the team. However, it was not clear if Kehriotis could "pull together all the funding he needs." NBA Commissioner David Stern has said that Sacramento's competing offer "must be submitted to the league" by tomorrow. The city and the Burkle-Mastrov group in the coming weeks "must send the NBA a financing plan for a new arena -- a critical element to convincing the league the Kings should stay." Stern also has said that the NBA BOG will "make a decision in mid-April" on Kings Owner the Maloof family's plan to sell the Kings to a Seattle group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. A source yesterday said the Maloofs would accept "backup offers" if the Seattle deal falls through. The source added that the Maloofs "have an exclusive agreement with Hansen prohibiting them from negotiating with anyone else." Kings co-Owner Joe Maloof yesterday confirmed that the family received a $30M "down payment on the team from the Hansen group" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/28).

PRIVATE PRACTICE: Sacramento-based KTXL-Fox' Dennis Shanahan reported a privately-funded arena plan involving Kehriotis and a group of investors is "perking up ears inside Sacramento City Hall." Sacramento Vice Mayor Angelique Ashby on Tuesday said, "I don’t think there’s anybody in this city that would object to a plan that doesn’t include any public money, and maximizes an existing resource." Kehriotis' plan would "keep the Kings in Sacramento, and it is not site-specific, which means the existing arena location would be considered" (, 2/27). A SACRAMENTO BEE editorial states the public has "some unconfirmed idea who is involved with the negotiations," but unconfirmed is "not good enough." Sacramento residents "need to know all the wealth that is on the other side of the negotiating table, so they can judge the ability of these partners to pay a share of costs." Residents "shouldn't have to wait" until tonight to "find out for certain who has a stake in this deal." A lack of transparency has "soured Sacramento on the current owners of the Kings." Further "murkiness won't help the team's would-be owners" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/28). Meanwhile, in Tacoma, John McGrath wrote Seattle having no NBA team is "preferable to a lousy, hopeless, historically jinxed" team. Changing uniforms and "calling them the SuperSonics is no assurance they won’t be a bust in Seattle." McGrath: "I’d rather the Sonics II evolve from scratch" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 2/27).

Marlins President David Samson defended team Owner Jeffrey Loria's PR initiative this week, but said he feels "sorry" that the fanbase is angry with management after it dismantled last year's roster. Appearing on ESPN's "Outside The Lines," Samson noted Loria emerged this week after failing to explain the offseason moves because "everyone was waiting for the owner to speak." Samson said of Loria, "He wanted to speak directly to the fans, and sometimes you speak to the media and sometimes to the fans. I think that letter, he was trying to speak directly to the fans.” Samson denied some of the fan anger was a "media invention," saying, "I understand it. ... I feel so sorry about it because all the work that everyone did for the ballpark and the construction of the ballpark. We want people there enjoying baseball. ... To the extent that the owner of the team or the president of the team or the manager or any specific player would ever stop someone from going to games, that’s too bad. Memories can be made at baseball games, and we built it not just for today and tomorrow, but the next 30, 40, 50 years. That’s what I’m so sorry about today.” He added, “Maybe we’re continuing to make mistakes, but we're trying to do better and we want to do better.” The team will have a payroll around $40-45M heading into Opening Day after getting rid of several high-priced players in the past year, and Samson said, "We really are sorry that what we did last year really didn't work. We put the payroll higher than it should have been and we put together this team that we thought would win, we thought every game would sell out. Just collectively, for whatever reason, none of it worked and we had to try over. We just couldn't afford as a business to keep the payroll where it was. ... You try things and it didn’t work. It’s hard when it doesn't work. It’s hard on the fans. It was such a bad year to have a bad year both on and off the field” ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 2/27).

DISCONNECT BETWEEEN OWNERSHIP, FANS: Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote said there is a "big disconnect between what the club is thinking and what fans are thinking." Cote: "The club keeps talking business and fans are hearing betrayal. Fans are very angry and disappointed and upset. Mr. Loria said the other day that we have energized the franchise, which left all of South Florida shaking its head. I think there’s a basic disconnect between the club feeling it’s doing what it needs to do and the populace down here just throwing up its hands and going, ‘Here we go again.'" ESPN's Darren Rovell said, "What’s interesting is that there are many people within baseball, many owners, who actually like Jeffrey Loria. They think that he is well-meaning." He added Loria's worst flaw may be that he "doesn't necessarily have the tact to talk to the common folk, and that probably comes from his art world” ("OTL," ESPN, 2/27). The AP’s Tim Dahlberg wrote Loria’s “decision this week to embark on a public relations campaign to convince fans he was right to trade the team’s top talent … because he wanted to make the Marlins better, reeked of arrogance.” Dahlberg: “It didn’t work mostly because Loria acted the way he always acts -- like he’s the smartest person in the room.” The open letter to fans “went over about as well as former manager Ozzie Guillen praising Fidel Castro" last season. Dahlberg: “One newspaper called Loria the most hated man in baseball, and with Frank McCourt no longer controlling the Dodgers and Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list, it’s hard to argue with that” (AP, 2/27).

NOT AN APPLES FOR APPLES TRADE: Loria this week repeatedly defended trading SS Jose Reyes and Ps Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle, among others, to the Blue Jays, claiming the move was celebrated by baseball experts. But's Keith Law said, "They really didn't get enough in return given the quality of the players they were giving up and given the contracts. ... It was quite clear that the Marlins' No. 1 priority was dumping the contract rather than getting the maximum possible return in young players.” Samson said, "It’s tough to know who’s going to pan out as a prospect and who’s not. But when you’re doing a trade ... you have to look at the contracts that you’re trading and you have to look at what the value of the contracts (are)" ("OTL," ESPN, 2/27).

The Indians are sharply reducing most concession prices at Progressive Field this coming season, with hot dogs starting at $3 and 12-ounce beer costing $4. In addition, other items such as pretzels, popcorn, pizza and bratwurst also will be reduced in price by 25%. Sugardale, the official hot dog of the Indians, will also sponsor 15 Dollar Dog nights this season, up from nine such dates in '12. SportService runs the Indians' concessions, and team Senior Dir of Communications Curtis Danburg said, "They’ve fully supported this initiative." The price reductions arrive after customer research by the club found concessions among the factors keeping fans from attending games (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). Indians President Mark Shapiro said, "This ties back to the organization's commitment that fans are the focus of our every act. We've asked them what they want from their ballpark experience and more affordable concessions is consistently one of the things we hear. We are trying to break down all the barriers to keep fans from coming to Indians games." In Cleveland, Tom Reed notes figures from the '12 Team Market Report fan cost index show that Progressive Field draft beer and hot dogs would be 34% and 27% "below the major-league average," respectively. Meanwhile, the Indians' home opener against the Yankees on April 8 "sold out in six minutes and single-game ticket totals are up" over 40% from last year (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 2/28).

MAKING SOME NOISE: SI's Albert Chen notes there was "an undeniable buzz in Cleveland" when the Indians signed manager Terry Francona to a four-year deal in October. Momentum then "grew with a run of free-agent signings" that began with RF Nick Swisher and ended with CF Michael Bourn. After signing Bourn, the Indians "sold more season tickets that day than they had in any single month in the last year." Indians GM Chris Antonetti said, "We planned for thousands of different scenarios to happen. ... There weren't many scenarios where we thought we would get both (Swisher and Bourn). But we saw an opportunity that we had to take" (SI, 3/4 issue).

The Coyotes through their first 10 home games "have enjoyed an increase in attendance" at Arena, averaging 13,142 fans per game, according to Sarah McLellan of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Coyotes President & COO Mike Nealy said that compared to the first 10 home games last season, "paid tickets for this season" are up 30%. Nealy: "It’s just been a building process, essentially. Multiple years now of a competitive team is really at the basis of this." McLellan notes the Coyotes define their attendance "as tickets sold and complimentary tickets." Nealy said that complimentary tickets in the past "would range from 3,000 to 5,000 per game," but this season they have "usually been only a couple hundred and definitely less than 1,000." He added that the Coyotes' season-ticket base is the largest since '99 and the renewal rate is 90%, "the highest in franchise history." McLellan notes the "spike in interest also seems to have translated to the TV audience." Fox Sports Arizona reported that 45,065 people "on average watched the first 10 games on the network," a 150% increase over last season. Coyotes GM Don Maloney said, "We know if we continue to play well, people will come and support us" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/28).

WIND BENEATH THEIR WINGS: In Detroit, Michael Martinez noted the Red Wings last week sent season-ticket holders a coupon booklet that contains "six coupons for $3 beer," six more "for $1 pop at 16 ounces and a $25 merchandise coupon valid at Joe Louis Arena and Hockeytown Authentics in Troy." Season-ticket holders also received "free passes to Olympia Entertainment shows and invitations to special events" (DETROIT NEWS, 2/24).

EPL club Manchester United will prep for the '13-14 season by "embarking on a near 24,000-mile round trip comprising games in Bangkok, Sydney, Yokohama, Osaka and Hong Kong over a gruelling three-week period in July," according to James Ducker of the LONDON TIMES. The club will fall "just short of travelling the equivalent of the 24,900-mile circumference of the planet." The trip will "involve their players and staff spending around 50 hours -- in effect, more than two days -- in the air." ManU today confirmed that the club will begin its tour on July 13 "with a friendly against a Singha All-Star XI at the Rajamangala National stadium in Bangkok, Thailand." The tour will be "the longest in terms of distance travelled that the club have undertaken in their modern history and eclipse the 22,000-mile round trip made last summer." The tours have been "a huge cash cow" for ManU, allowing the club to "promote their brand around the world while giving a large number of their estimated 659 million global following a chance to watch the team close-up" (LONDON TIMES, 2/28). In London, Charles Sale noted ManU is "keeping quiet" about the identity of its new US$151.6M training kit sponsor, but speculation has "surrounded Qatar Airways." ManU has signed an eight-year partnership, but is "delaying the unveiling" (London DAILY MAIL, 2/25).

In K.C., Tod Palmer noted MLS Sporting KC's new jersey features the Sporting Club crest "on the left breast with a double line separating a wider Sporting blue field from an indigo field." The line "runs straight down from the crest, but juts 45 degrees from the top of the crest to mimic the Kansas/Missouri state divide." Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said, "There's a lot of thought behind it and that's something I think is really cool about the organization now" (K.C. STAR, 2/28).

BANG GREEN: In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes, "All this time after Woody Johnson bought the Jets, what do Jets fans really know about their owner?" Lupica: "You look at the Jets as presently constructed -- or reconstructed -- and wonder what kind of actual leadership comes from the top of the organization. If any." Johnson has "been at this long enough that he should have known exactly who, and what, he wanted" when replacing former GM Mike Tannenbaum (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/28).

TRIMMING THE IVY: In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer reported the Cubs are "ending one of their most popular traditions" by eliminating the annual two-hour preseason window to buy single-game tickets. The team on Tuesday announced that this year’s event, scheduled for March 8, "will be its last, claiming issues involved with the planned Wrigley renovation project as well as increased use by fans of online purchasing led to the decision" (, 2/27).