Brewers officials had "been in the dark" about the status of LF Ryan Braun until yesterday afternoon, when Braun came to Miller Park to inform team President of Baseball Operations & GM Doug Melvin, manager Ron Roenicke and teammates "that he had been suspended for the remainder of 2013," according to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. Melvin said, "We can move forward starting tonight. ... I'm somewhat happy that this is over with so we can move forward." He added, "Obviously, I'm disappointed. He's a very important player to our organization and to the ballclub and to our performance on the field." Melvin "declined to detail the tone of his conversation with Braun." He indicated that it was Braun's decision as to whether he "owed fans a more detailed explanation than the statement he issued" yesterday. Braun "pulled several longtime teammates aside for private discussions before addressing the full team for 5-10 minutes at about" 3:00pm CT (MLB.com, 7/23).
FOOL ME TWICE: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes the people "really getting punished" by the Braun suspension are Brewers Owner Mark Attanasio and the "rest of the organization who believed" in Braun. The team signed Braun to a five-year, $105M extension in '11 "when he still had four years left on his previous deal." Braun was "going to be the face of the franchise for the next decade, a wondrous talent with a charming personality." But now the "face of the franchise will be disgraced every day Braun puts on the uniform through the year 2020" (USA TODAY, 7/23). In N.Y., Tyler Kepner writes Braun "fooled Brewers staff members who believed he was clean." He also fooled Attanasio, who "made Braun the centerpiece of the franchise." This "stings for the Brewers, much more than" a suspension of Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez "would hurt the Yankees, who have other established stars." The Brewers "have lost players like" Yankees P CC Sabathia, Dodgers P Zack Greinke and Tigers 1B Prince Fielder in recent years. Their identity is "tied strongly to Braun" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/23).
TIME TO COME CLEAN: ESPN's Buster Olney wrote Braun "owes an apology to the Milwaukee Brewers’ organization." The team gave Braun "a big contract, and then signed him to a massive extension." The Brewers are a "small-market franchise and they signed him to be their Cal Ripken." Now Braun is "no longer that, and can no longer be that, because his professional reputation and marketability are destroyed." He is "not only a cheater, he is a cheater who lied about it, then attacked to protect the lie." This is "a crushing blow for the Brewers’ franchise" (ESPN.com, 7/22). ESPN WISCONSIN's Drew Olson wrote as the "face of the franchise," Braun "needs to come clean with specific info about his PED regimen" (ESPNWISCONSIN.com, 7/22).
The Mavericks have "agreed in principle" with Rockets Exec VP/Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas to become the franchise's GM, according to sources cited by Adrian Wojnarowski of YAHOO SPORTS. The hiring of Rosas is a "coup for an organization that has been committed to finding a way to strengthen its basketball operations." Rosas will be given "significant latitude to shape the direction of the franchise's pro and college personnel departments, free agency and scouting." He is "considered one of the NBA's best young executives" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/22). Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban said, "I went to [President of Basketball Operations & GM Donnie Nelson] and said, 'We need to get smarter as an organization and we need to really expand what we're doing.' We try to take pride in being one of the most technologically advanced teams in all of sports." ESPN DALLAS' Tim MacMahon noted Nelson had been the Mavericks' "de facto general manager, a position the Mavs have not officially had since his father, Don, left the franchise" in '05. Cuban cited the "need for strong management skills as the reason for adding Rosas" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 7/22). Cuban said that the Mavericks were in "discussions with Rosas for the last month, and that he will report to Nelson." In Dallas, Corbett Smith noted as a native of Bogota, Colombia, Rosas is the NBA’s "highest-ranked Hispanic front office executive of basketball operations" (DALLASNEWS.com, 7/23).
OVERHAUL IN HOUSTON: In Houston, Jonathan Feigen noted Rosas’ departure will be the "third major change in the Rockets’ front office since last season." Former Exec VP/Basketball Operations Sam Hinkie left to become 76ers GM, while player personnel exec Arturas Karnisovas was named Nuggets Assistant GM. Rosas also had been the GM of the Rockets' NBA D-League affiliate Rio Grande Valley Vipers (CHRON.com, 7/22). CBSPORTS.com's Ken Berger noted the Mavericks "become the ninth NBA team with a new GM or president this offseason" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/22).
MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke said that he "meant no disrespect towards former players in talking about taking down photos of past Maple Leafs" at Air Canada Centre, according to Neil Davidson of the CP. But he also is "not backing down on the concept of focusing on the present rather than the past." Leiweke yesterday said, "I'm not here to stomp on the alumni. One of the reasons anyone wants to come and be a part of this organization is the history and tradition of the Maple Leafs. ... So this is not a debate nor is it meant in any way to criticize or minimize our history. It was never meant to do that. And for that I’m extremely apologetic, because I don’t want the alumni thinking there was any debate there. It was just a simple concept, which is at some point or another this team in its current form and fashion has to create its own legacy. And we need not to hide behind other things. That’s all." Leiweke added, "We dig our own ditches. So I’ve dug my own ditch here" (CP, 7/22). In Toronto, Steve Simmons wrote under the header, "Leiweke Is A Fool For Wanting To Erase History." The "inadvertent insult" by Leiweke "cannot go unnoticed." Leiweke "wants to make it about now and about him" and "displays a disrespect and disregard for all of us who value history" (TORONTO SUN, 7/21).
GETTING PEOPLE IN THE SEATS: Leiweke was asked about his plans to address the late-arriving crowds for Leafs games and said, "We have to find a way to make sure that people want to be in their seats in the beginning of each and every period, to be a part of what this team’s trying to create.” But he added that the "problem is not restricted to Toronto," as fans in L.A. are "sometimes late taking their seats." Leiweke: "I think it’s upon us as an organization to build an atmosphere where people want to be out there and they don’t want to miss a minute of the game. And we’re going to try to do that" (CP, 7/22).
KICKSTART FC? In Toronto, Steve Buffery wrote MLSE "continues to choke the life out of a sure-thing" in MLS Toronto FC. The franchise is "still kicking," but is "a shadow of what it once was." The "problem is, this franchise has never really improved." Rarely has an owner "let a fan base down as much as MLSE has let down TFC supporters." MLSE has "to get this franchise back on track," for the "sake of their incredibly loyal fans" (TORONTO SUN, 7/21)
The NFL's four-game suspension of LB Von Miller yesterday "caps a promising-turned-ugly offseason for the Broncos," according to Mike Klis of the DENVER POST. The team lost DE Elvis Dumervil "in an embarrassing transaction snafu" and "suspended two of their top front-office executives" in Player Personnel Dir Matt Russell and Pro Personnel Dir Tom Heckert "after their arrests on drunken driving charges." Miller was informed he is facing suspension "for violating the NFL's drug policy," dealing the team's defense "a serious blow." Miller has "appealed the suspension." NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir of External Affairs George Atallah wrote on his Twitter account that Miller's case "does not involve the Steroids and Related Substances Policy." Miller yesterday on his Twitter account "stated his innocence." Miller wrote, "Seeing reports about a 4 game suspension. I know I did nothing wrong. I'm sure this will be resolved fairly. Disappointed Broncos have to open camp like this" (DENVER POST, 7/23). In Denver, Troy Renck writes the Broncos' "road to glory has been filled with flashing sirens, breathalyzers and, now, a potential ban for their best defensive player." The news of Miller's suspension "came a few hours before" Brewers LF Ryan Braun "agreed to a 65-game suspension." Renck: "So excuse the cynic in all of us." When it "comes to sports in this region, it's the Broncos, and then everyone else." When execs "end up in mug shots, apologies are empty." Players "should enjoy their free time," but "when personal decisions affect the team, it's different" (DENVER POST, 7/23).
The Stars this season will "incorporate a new pricing plan that will feature both 'variable pricing' and 'dynamic pricing,'" according to Mike Heika of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Variable pricing means games will be "slated as either 'value' games, 'standard' games or 'premium' games, and will be priced as such on expected ticket demand." Stars President & CEO Jim Lites said that the new format is "being introduced to help drive fans to buy full- or partial-season ticket packages, as well as to offer the greatest value and pricing to fans who commit to a package of games." Lites said that the management team has "discussed pricing options since owner Tom Gaglardi took over" in November of '11. Lites added that the team "couldn’t change the pricing in 2011-12, and that officials were hesitant to make any changes last summer with the threat of a lockout looming." However, with the team "spending more money this off-season, the pricing change makes sense." Lites said that the team will "offer four different nine-game packages that each include five premium games." The Stars "used to have a season ticket base of 15,000 in their heyday, and that base shriveled to less than 5,000 in recent years." Lites said that one of his "missions is to get the season-ticket base back up" (DALLASNEWS.com, 7/19).
MLB is "becoming cool again in Toronto, no matter that the Blue Jays are performing below expectations," and "more specifically attending a baseball game is becoming the thing to do," according to Tom Maloney of the GLOBE & MAIL. An Ipsos-Reid in-stadium survey shows that the 18-to-34 age group "comprised 50 per cent of Blue Jays attendance" in '12, compared with 37% in '10. The percentage of "women within the Gen-Y group at Rogers Centre jumped to an astounding 50 per cent from 30 per cent over a two-year span." While '13 data "aren’t yet available," Blue Jays execs "believe anecdotal evidence shows a continuing trend toward more youthful/female attendance this season, remarkable for a sport reputed ruefully in many markets as 'dad’s game.'" The younger demo that is "spilling from the surrounding condominiums" brings "boisterous energy" to the stadium. Blue Jays Senior VP/Business Operations Stephen Brooks said that "social-media campaigns, in-stadium promotions such as Tweeting Tuesdays, this summer’s rollout of Friday night fanfests, and an edgier feel to advertising have complemented fans’ optimistic attitude about the team’s prospects in the American League East division." The team's "go-forward challenge is to convert fans attending the game for the fun of it into regular baseball fans." Brooks: "I think the Blue Jays have become relevant again" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/20).
'SPOS WE TALK IT OVER: In Montreal, Jack Todd noted those watching the Rays-Blue Jays game on Saturday "probably saw the ExposNation crew in left field, a thousand Expos fans" making MLB "sit up and take notice." ExposNation Committee Chair Matthew Ross said, "Today was a clear demonstration that Expos fans are still passionate about their team and want baseball back in Montreal." Todd wrote a "cynic might say the Expos had a stronger presence in Toronto this weekend than they had at the Big O during the last years of their existence -- but this isn’t a time to be cynical." There is "plenty of goodwill toward an Expos revival waiting to be tapped." It is a "very long way from there to a reborn franchise -- but a deep-pockets investor with a bunch of zeros after his name could close that gap in a hurry" (Montreal GAZETTE, 7/21).