After management changes on Friday at the MLB Rangers, "confusion appears to be reigning on several levels" following reports that club CEO Nolan Ryan could be leaving soon, according to Jeff Wilson of the FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM. Rangers President of Baseball Operations & GM Jon Daniels said that he has had "daily conversations with Ryan about the ballclub and one conversation Saturday morning to clear the air after word of Ryan’s discontent and possible departure were first reported." Daniels said, "He has not expressed that to me. Nolan and I are talking regularly about baseball.” Daniels said that he and Ryan have "maintained a working relationship that has strengthened over the years." But sources said that Ryan is "sensing uncertainty now ... and is strongly considering leaving the club" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/5). In Dallas, Evan Grant notes Ryan "has not addressed his role with the Rangers going forward, and he declined to comment" last night. Sources indicated that Ryan was "still contemplating if there was a long-term future for him with the club and whether it might make sense to exit sooner rather than later." Grant: "Can this arrangement be saved? Absolutely." But "everybody has gone silent." All that has "become clear the last four days is that the situation regarding Ryan’s role has only gotten more volatile and uncertain." Team ownership "must lay out guidelines for where Ryan can exercise power ... and where he can't" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/5). Also in Dallas, Tim Cowlishaw writes it "won't surprise anyone" if Ryan decides '13 is his "final act." This was "not a Ryan power play as much as his seeking clarification whether the big baseball decisions belonged to him or Daniels." And Daniels was "declared the winner." If the Rangers "have to choose between the two, Daniels is the only choice to make." In this case, Daniels "already has brought more to the Rangers than Ryan" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/5).
ALL ABOARD: Sources said that Ryan "intends to let the situation play out into the season before making any final decisions." The MORNING NEWS' Grant noted this seems to "pass the legitimacy test," as Ryan has done "nothing impetuously." To leave now would be the "only way to potentially exit the Rangers in anything but a graceful manner." Ownership has "essentially said nothing is changing, so why change any titles?" At best, the "timing of this was awkward. At worst, it was completely unnecessary." Grant: "I don’t believe the intent of management was never to strip him of power." First, Ryan has "wielded power very, very judiciously, so it’s not like he was running amok." Second, it is "hard to use power on a part-time basis." Grant wrote, "I think ownership is trying to settle a line of succession so that Ryan can be free to set the tone for the organization and let the capable people beneath him do the hiring and firing within their own departments." This is "all about the line of succession" (DALLASNEWS.com, 3/4).
YOUTH MOVEMENT: ESPN DALLAS' Jean-Jacques Taylor wrote, "You can't write this franchise's story without several chapters about Ryan's contributions." That said, there is "nothing wrong with ownership putting additional trust and responsibility in Jon Daniels and the men he deems most valuable to the franchise's long-term success." No matter "how we spin it, this is" Daniels' organization, and "that's how it should be." The "reality is his age makes Ryan's role a year-to-year proposition." Taylor: "You have to bet on youth every time" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 3/4). In Dallas, Kevin Sherrington noted there has been "somewhat of a resentment from the Daniels side, not necessarily from Jon, that Nolan gets so much credit" (DALLASNEWS.com, 3/4).
The Browns will “not require personal seat licenses for any new season ticket buyers at FirstEnergy Stadium” in an effort to “increase attendance and benefit new season ticket holders," according to Andy Baskin of WEWS-ABC in Cleveland. The Browns said that current PSL owners who “have season tickets will still hold on to all PSL benefits.” The Browns season-ticket prices will “remain flat for the 2013 home schedule.” This marks the “fifth straight year in which the price of Browns season tickets has not increased, representing the second-longest current streak in the NFL.” In addition, with the current pricing structure, the average cost of a Browns ticket “is the second least expensive in the NFL.” Since the opening of FirstEnergy Stadium in ‘99, there have been “select sections which did not require a PSL for season ticket purchases.” This “will be expanded to all locations in which season tickets are still available” (NEWSNET5.com, 3/4). In Akron, Nate Ulrich reported only existing PSL holders “will have a chance to purchase additional season tickets without a PSL fee but with full PSL benefits for any additional seat they buy” (OHIO.com, 3/4). Browns President Alec Scheiner said, “This year we are going to work on improving all aspects of our game day experience, including cell phone service, which will undergo a significant upgrade starting in 2013.” He added, “We are fully committed to having a team that will be successful on a consistent basis, and providing our fans with a compelling game day experience" (CLEVELAND.com, 3/4).
BY THE NUMBERS:In Cleveland, Tom Reed noted the Browns under CEO Joe Banner “will crunch numbers in the scouting department.” The franchise is “joining a growing number of NFL teams utilizing analytics to evaluate everything from game-day situations to draft- and free-agent prospects to coaching candidates.” Banner said that Scheiner will “develop a similar model” to the one he used as Cowboys Senior VP & General Counsel along with “newly-hired Ken Kovash as his senior stats man.” Banner said, “Look, it’s an element. Some of the statisticians think it should dictate what you do and that would be a terrible mistake, but if you integrate it as another piece of information it can be very valuable.” Reed wrote Kovash “fits the outsiders’ profile.” He holds degrees in “economics, financing and marketing, and was working for the software giant, Mozilla, before the Cowboys offered him a position" in '10 (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 3/4).
MLS Crew Owner Clark Hunt once again said that Hunt Sports Group "remains on the lookout for local investors but is committed to both Columbus and the Crew," according to Adam Jardy of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. Hunt reiterated what he said in the fall by saying that the team's search for more local ownership "does not mean that his family plans to sell a majority stake in the Crew or move the team." He said, "Our desire is to continue to control the club." The Crew in '98 "had 22 minority owners; together, they owned a 45 percent stake in the club." The Crew since has "kept ownership figures private." But Hunt said that his family now "owns 'very close to 100 percent' of the team." The "chief local investor" is Pizzuti Sports Limited Head Ron Pizzuti. The Crew's front office has "publicized two goals yet to be achieved to help the Crew become financially solvent: finding a naming-rights partner for Crew Stadium and reaching 10,000 season-ticket holders." The organization is "mum on how many season tickets have been sold." But Hunt said, “I will say that the Crew had one of the largest percentage increases in our fan base last year across Major League Soccer, which I think shows the growth, but we still have a ways to go." Hunt said that the Crew for now will "continue to invest in Crew Stadium while seeking a new training facility." He added that the team is "in discussions with potential developers for a new practice complex with at least a dozen attached youth fields" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 3/3).
CREW CUT? Hunt regarding whether or not HSG would sell the club said, "No. Our goal is to [be] successful with the Goal 10K campaign and also to find additional local investors, and really the two go together." As far as the club's goals of finding a stadium naming-rights sponsor and reaching 10,000 season-ticket holders, Hunt said that naming rights "might be of bigger importance." Should the Crew achieve those two goals plus the third goal of finding local investors, Hunt said, "I think it would mean for the first time in the history of the organization we would be a financially stable enterprise that's at least in a break-even situation in the league." He added that he is "pleased with the job" team President & GM Mark McCullers is doing (DISPATCH.com, 3/3).
T'Wolves Owner Glen Taylor last night “confirmed” that he has had conversations with former coach Flip Saunders about purchasing the team, according to Jon Krawczynski of the AP. Saunders “approached Taylor at the behest of a group of prospective buyers.” The identities of the investors “were not immediately known.” If the group is “successful in purchasing the team, Saunders would be expected to take over as the leader of basketball operations.” Taylor fired Saunders as coach in ‘05, but the two “long ago repaired any damage done to their relationship by that move and Taylor occasionally chats with Saunders about basketball matters.” Minneapolis-based KFXN-AM “first reported the talks, but a deal is far from imminent.” There is “still no timetable” for Taylor to make a deal, and he “may want to see what plays out with the Kings first before making a move.” Taylor said that he “would evaluate” the job status of T'Wolves President of Basketball Operations David Kahn “once the season is over.” Taylor: “This has been a terrible season (because of injuries). I don’t know if I can blame it on David” (AP, 3/4). In Minneapolis, Sid Hartman wrote there is a “strong possibility that Saunders will replace Kahn before next season.” Hartman: “I wouldn't be surprised to see a real shakeup in the Wolves organization if they don't have a very strong finish.” That could “include Saunders coaching as well as being general manager if [coach Rick] Adelman leaves.” Saunders would “hire a top personnel executive to help him if he decided to coach” (Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 3/3).
The owners of the MLL N.Y. Lizards are "hoping that playing games at Icahn Stadium on Randalls Island will attract new fans,” according to Steve Reddicliffe of the N.Y. TIMES. The Lizards “will play two of their 14 regular-season games at Icahn Stadium this season.” Their other five home games will be played at Hofstra Univ., “where they drew an average of 2,449 fans in the 2012 regular season, ahead of only" the Hamilton Nationals. Lizards Owner, Chair & President Andrew Murstein said the club wanted to play on Randalls Island because "we were losing potential fans from New York City like myself who live in the city and whose kids play lacrosse.” He added that he also “wanted to attract fans from New Jersey and Westchester County.” The Randalls Island games will be played June 6 and 13. Murstein: “It’s similar, perhaps, with a much smaller TV audience, to like a Thursday night kickoff NFL game where it’s going to be under the lights and the games will be on ESPN2 and CBS Sports Network. We’re starting with two games there and then the hope is we play more probably the following year depending upon how well we do.” Murstein said that his goal is to "lead the league in attendance.” Murstein: “Our goal is probably to get about 10,000 people per game in 2014.” The team has “not spent much on marketing in previous seasons.” But Murstein said, “I think we’re going to start advertising and kind of get the word out more.” Pro Football HOFer and Lacrosse HOFer Jim Brown “has a stake” in the team. Brown said that he “planned to attend both games at Randalls Island” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/5).