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Volume 24 No. 158

Franchises

The Rays ended their home season Monday with a full-season total attendance of 1,510,300, "the lowest since 2007," according to Danny Knobler of CBSSPORTS.com. The '07 Rays "lost 96 games, the 10th straight season of 90-plus losses." The '13 Rays have 88 wins with five games remaining in the season. If they get to the postseason, the Rays would have "the lowest home attendance by a playoff team in 34 years." The '79 Pirates drew 1,435,454. Knobler: "You know what is novel: A playoff team with the lowest attendance in the majors. As far as I can tell ... it's never happened before." The Rays are "last in average attendance this year, and are basically guaranteed to finish the year last in overall attendance" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/24). In Tampa, Marc Topkin notes Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg "didn't expect [attendance] to be worst among the 30 major-league teams and said it will have an impact on next season's budget." He said, "I'm a little shocked, I'm a little surprised. ... I wanted to be league average after '08, and I felt (this year) we would be 28th, maybe with a shot at 27th." The Rays finished with a "major league-low average" of 18,646. Sternberg: "We budget for certain numbers and we're extraordinarily conservative when it comes to expectations and budgeting, but it was below our expectations. ... We have to change our sights for next year now." Sternberg also "took issue" with MLB's current "unbalanced scheduling format, calling it an 'abomination' to have teams playing vastly different schedules competing for the same wild-card playoff spots." He said that it was "not fair for the Rays, who play 76 games against the other rugged AL East teams, to be battling with the Indians and Rangers, who each benefit from having two of the league's worst teams in their divisions" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 9/25).

THERE'S GOT TO BE A BETTER WAY: In N.Y., Tyler Kepner writes the Yankees have "asked themselves why they must spend so much for players, while other teams can win for much less." This is part of the "driving force behind the Yankees’ goal of getting below" the $189M payroll threshold for next season. But every time a team like the A's, Reds and Pirates "clinches a postseason spot, it reinforces to them that there must be a better way." The Rays, "again, have shown that there is." Every player "has an expiration date, and too many seem to reach it in Yankees pinstripes." The team owes P CC Sabathia $71M "over the next three seasons." The Rays, who opened this season with a payroll just under $62M, would "never box themselves into a contract like that." It "would not be an option" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/25).

Transportation issues "resulted in late-arriving Mariano Rivera bobblehead dolls" at Yankee Stadium last night, which "caused mayhem" as thousands of fans waited in long lines to receive the promotion, according to Peter Botte of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The first 18,000 fans in attendance were "slated to receive the commemorative figurines," but the giveaways had not "arrived at the Stadium when the gates were due to open" at 5:00pm ET. The gates opened "more than 30 minutes later than usual, and the Yankees handed out vouchers instead." An announcement was made during the middle of the third inning that vouchers "could be redeemed from that point until 30 minutes after the game." Yankees Senior VP/Marketing Deborah Tymon said, "Of course, it would be the biggest bobblehead and giveaway of the year. ... It’s not ideal, but we will get through it." Some of the bobbleheads "showed up on eBay with a $250 asking price" before the game was over (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/25). In N.Y., Kerber & Martin write the promotion, which was sponsored by AT&T, "turned into a nightmare" as lines "wound throughout the Stadium all night, some fans getting on line on the lower level, heading to the upper deck and then back downstairs to get their bobbleheads." But the Yankees "defended the way they handled the mess" around the giveaway (N.Y. POST, 9/25). In Newark, Andy McCullough writes there was an "atmosphere of chaos at the ballpark, with fans locked out of the gates beforehand and herded in endless lines afterward, as they attempted to cash in vouchers for the bobbleheads." The Yankees "did not want to open their gates before the figurines arrived, which led to fans massing out on the concourse" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 9/25). ESPN's Keith Olbermann: "On top of everything else, the bobblehead looked more like Andruw Jones" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 9/24).

TWITTER REAX: SI.com's Jimmy Traina wrote, "Riots breaking out at Yankee Stadium over a dumb bobblehead doll is the perfect ending to this embarrassing season." "The Dan Patrick Show" Exec Producer Paul Pabst wrote, "Makes sense that on Mo Rivera bobblehead night, the bobbleheads don't show up until the 9th inning." CBS Sports Radio's Jim Rome wrote, "Nothing like a bunch of adults freaking out over not getting a bobblehead. I'm sure the Yanks will make it right on Rivera foam finger nite."

WHAT, NO JOE SHLABOTNIK? In N.Y., Matt Flegenheimer notes the Yankees tonight will mark their "penultimate regular-season home game with an atypical giveaway for the first 18,000 fans who arrive: a bobblehead doll, honoring not one of its star-crossed players" but "Peanuts" character Charlie Brown. The team announced in August that Charlie Brown "would replace Snoopy on the 'promotional bobblehead roster' after several years of Snoopy-related giveaways" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/25).

Vikings co-Owner & President Mark Wilf today said that he and his family "will appeal" New Jersey Superior Court judge Deanne Wilson's order to pay $84.5M in damages to former partners they "defrauded in a decades-old real estate venture, reiterating the fine would not affect the team owners' ability to finance construction of a new stadium," according to Brian Murphy of the ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS. Wilf said, "Certainly we disagree with the judge's ruling and it's something we plan to appeal." He added, "The important thing for everyone here is it doesn't affect, one iota, our commitment and our ability to conclude negotiations and moving on to getting the stadium done and opened in the fall of 2016." Wilson "did not reveal any details of the Wilfs' personal financial situation in court Monday, nor did she rule on whether they'll owe attorneys fees" (TWINCITIES.com, 9/25). In St. Paul, Ruben Rosario wrote of the Vikings' new stadium deal, "This was a bad deal for the public from the get-go and a great deal for millionaires and billionaires." Rosario: "Wake up, Minnesota. There has been no contract finalized on this. Grow a pair and persuade your legislators and your governor to hold a special session and lobby for a much better deal" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 9/23).

VIKING QUEST: The Vikings are preparing for Sunday's game against the Steelers in London's Wembley Stadium, and team VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley said that there was “'misinformation' that the London game would be a financial windfall for the Vikings." The Vikings said that they would be "compensated by the NFL 'for an average 2013 home game' at the Metrodome" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 9/25). Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph said of the game, "Everyone in our organization has done a great job. ... This is nice for us, especially at this time in our season, to get away and be in a hotel together and have a bonding experience." In Minneapolis, Jim Souhan writes the NFL has contemplated expanding to London, but those are "notions justified only by greed." Souhan: "If and when a team is based in London, it will face a dramatic competitive disadvantage." It is "not like London is begging for the NFL." Kids playing at Wembley Stadium yesterday "didn't seem to know or care much about the game." They were "more impressed by the players' size than their fame" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 9/25). Meanwhile, Vikings LB Chad Greenway said, "We don't love the fact that we're missing a home game. But this is the schedule we've been given and we're going to make the best out of it that we can" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 9/25).

Marlins President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest yesterday said he expects "to have a job" with the team next season and added there is a "bright future here, and I'm going to be a part of it." Beinfest, appearing on Miami-based WAXY-FM's "Hochman & Zaslow" show, said, "If that’s not the case, then that’s out of my hands.” His future with the club recently has been in doubt, and he said, "If I read the papers and listen to everybody it sounds like I’m a goner, but that’s what it sounded like a year ago." Beinfest said of whether Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria's involvement in day-to-day operations of the team has increased over the years, "I don’t know that that’s necessarily the case. I’ll just say that Jeffrey has always been involved. He made that very clear when he hired me 14 years ago when I was the assistant GM in Montreal, that he wanted to know what was going on and that he was going to be involved in the baseball operation. He has the keys to the car and if he wants to help drive it, then that’s the way it goes. For me, he’s always been involved." He said of the negative press directed toward the team, "A lot of things are out there. ... Let’s face it: This hasn’t been pleasant, I don’t think, for Jeffrey or for the organization the last couple weeks, reading all these things. We have an attendance challenge building and a one-hundred-loss team, and there are a lot of things to worry about here and I’m not sure that I’m necessarily at the top of the list." Beinfest added of the Marlins having one of MLB's worst records, "In a perfect world, would I have wanted this to happen two years in a row? Absolutely not. Has it been fun for me? Nope, but you just deal with it" ("Hochman & Zaslow," WAXY-FM, 9/24).

The Astros are "playing baseball's current system to perfection" by consistently gaining top draft picks after losing seasons, and while some may question the tactic, the "problem is the system, which can reward calculated failure, and this should be a serious concern" for MLB, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.com. The payoff for the Astros "will start to show in two or three years, as all of those top draft picks begin reaching the big leagues, and some team officials note that already, some clubs appear to be angling to follow" the team's example. Losing is the "best way to exploit the current system." The Astros next summer "will become the first team in the history of baseball to have the No. 1 overall pick for three consecutive seasons, and officials with other teams expect they could contend for that spot again next year." Some of the team's "best talent has remained in the minor leagues through their brutal regular season," which has seen them go 51-107 as of today. The Astros have "been non-competitive, and haven’t spent the necessary dollars to field a representative product." Olney: "Look, there’s something wrong with that. Because fans are paying major league prices to watch major league competition." What should "scare" MLB is the Astros are "admired for this dogged, disciplined strategy" (ESPN.com, 9/24).

HISTORICALLY BAD: CBSSPORTS.com's Danny Knobler noted the Astros' streak of losing 106 games or more in three consecutive season is "historically bad." The Mets are the only other team who "lost 106 games in back-to-back-to-back years." Astros GM Jeff Luhnow's "long-range plan could well work," but "short-term, his hands may well be tied, and owner Jim Crane may deserve more of the blame for how bad this year's team is." A rival exec said that the problem is "once you chase your fans away, there's no guarantee they'll ever come back" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/23).

POOR WORDING BY ASTROS? The Astros on their Twitter feed Monday wrote, "9/27 is Ladies Night by @StateFarm! Ladies can learn about baseball, enjoy music, food, drinks & more!" TEXASMONTHLY.com's Dan Solomon wrote, "No one can fault the Astros for trying to cater to female fans (or, frankly, for trying to give anyone a reason to buy a ticket to an Astros game), but the implication that ladies need to learn about baseball ... reasonably annoyed some people who face the assumption that sports are only for men every time they try to watch a game." Austin-based writer Jessica Luther said, "It's not their intent to alienate women, but it's a symptom of the fact that there are a lot of men who work in sports. I don't think they considered what that would look like to women who already care about baseball" (TEXASMONTHLY.com, 9/24).