The ATP BOD has picked Chris Kermode "as the tour’s next leader," according to sources cited by Daniel Kaplan in next week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Kermode replaces the late Brad Drewett, who died in May after a battle with ALS. Though he is "not well-known outside of British tennis circles," Kermode was selected over ATP Chief Legal Officer and ATP Americas CEO Mark Young and BNP Paribas Open Tournament Dir Steve Simon. Kermode currently runs the Aegon Championships, a tune-up event for Wimbledon, and is the Managing Dir of the season-ending Tour Championships in London. Kermode would "not be the first ATP leader to come from a smaller tournament," as Mark Miles, the first CEO of the modern ATP, "took on his role after running the Indianapolis tennis tournament" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/18 issue). USA TODAY's Douglas Robson reported Kermode, the tour's first leader from Europe, is a "compromise candidate." The ATP BOD is "comprised of three player representatives and three tournament representatives." The two sides "remained divided until the final stages of the decision," with tournament reps "leaning toward" Young, while the player reps favored Kermode (USATODAY.com, 11/14).
Leagues and Governing Bodies
MLB on Thursday took another step towards implementing expanded instant replay with "unanimous approval of funding" at the league's quarterly Owners Meetings, according to Paul Hagen of MLB.com. Some details "remain to be worked out before a vote for final implementation at the next scheduled owners meetings, set for Phoenix in January." Additionally, the plan "must still be approved" by the MLBPA and World Umpires Association. However, all indications are that the new system "will be up and running in time for the opening of the upcoming season." MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said, "Unless there's something I'm missing right now, we're going to have replay in 2014." MLB COO Rob Manfred said that the "'contours' of the new system -- a manager challenge system, all replays reviewed out of MLB Advanced Media's offices in New York, umpires on the field communicating with the review officials via headphones -- are pretty well established." But Hagen reported there still is "much to nail down." There will be "one set of challenges for the entire game, although it's still to be determined whether each manager will get one or two challenges." It also "hasn't been decided how many replay officials would be in New York" (MLB.com, 11/14). USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported owners were told that a "good chunk of the instant replay funding should be provided by commercial sponsorships during breaks" (TWITTER.com, 11/14).
WHAT WOULD EARL WEAVER THINK? In Newark, Andy McCullough writes expanded replay "figures to eliminate two elements of the game’s lore: First, the annual kvetching of fans about the state of umpiring in the game. And second, the age-old pastime of managers arguing calls" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 11/15). Manfred said that if a manager "comes out of the dugout to argue a call, he will lose the ability to contest a play." SPORTSNET.ca's Shi Davidi noted the goal is to "prevent managers from arguing to buy time for someone to check a replay ahead of a review request, but also to keep challenges from delaying the game." So rather than "watching managers engage in a pointless argument, the time would instead be used to ensure the correct decision was made" (SPORTSNET.ca, 11/14). USA TODAY's John Perrotto noted the new system will "likely end most manager/umpire arguments because if a manager disagrees with a reviewable call, his only recourse would be to use a challenge." About the "only situation where a manager could still argue would [be] in situations not open to review, such as defending a player or questioning an improper substitution" (USATODAY.com, 11/14).
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE: In Boston, Nick Cafardo writes whether or not people will like expanded instant replay all depends on "how quickly replays will be decided during games that already are taking much too long to play." It also depends on "how intrusive this will all be." One team owner said, "It's expensive, but worth it." Cafardo notes MLB likely is looking at "a two-year experimentation phase, in which it will accumulate data on what works and what doesn't." The system will "be tweaked along the way" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/15). CBSSN's Allie LaForce said, "If they can do it quickly, I don’t have a problem with it." However, she admitted she is "going to miss managers getting upset and stomping their way out to the mound and causing big scenes.” CBSSN’s Tony Luftman noted some people are worried about this adding to the lenght of games, but he said, "The integrity of the game trumps the length of the game” (“Lead Off,” CBSSN, 11/14).
DIFFERING OPINIONS: MLB.com's Richard Justice wrote MLB on Thursday "changed in a very fundamental way, changed for the better." The league believes that it has "found a balance, one in which the calls will be reviewed without delaying games" (MLB.com, 11/14). Orioles manager Buck Showalter called expanded replay "long overdue" and said, "After a year or two we’ll wonder what in the world we’ve waited so long for” ("Hot Stove," MLB Network, 11/14). Giants President & CEO Larry Baer said, "This will be good for the game" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/15). In St. Louis, Bernie Miklasz wrote, "I love the idea of replay as an umpiring tool. I hate the idea of making it a gimmick. But I see no reason why MLB insists on turning the new system into a Japanese game show in which contestants (managers) are each given a maximum of two replay challenges per game" (STLTODAY.com, 11/14). FoxSports.com's Bill Reiter said, “I love that there was human error on the field. I hate instant replay. ... That’s some of the beauty of the game” (“Rome, CBSSN, 11/14). ESPN.com's Christina Kahrl cautioned against the new plan under the header, "Throwing A Challenge Flag On Replay." Will MLB "demand a universal standard that cannot be altered from park to park?" If not, fans could "wind up with park-tailored and network-aided ranges of possibility, differing from ballpark to ballpark." Kahrl: "Does that sound fair?" (ESPN.com, 11/14).
A last-minute dispute “placed the new posting system for Japanese players in jeopardy” as small-market teams in MLB “tried to put into effect a rule that would inhibit big-market teams, particularly the Yankees, from spending large sums on prospective Japanese stars," according to David Waldstein of the N.Y. TIMES. A new deal is “still expected to emerge in time for teams to make posting offers" on players, including P Masahiro Tanaka, this offseason. If it does not, Japanese teams “could allow their players to negotiate with specific teams they choose and then receive some kind of compensation from the major league team, perhaps in the form of a joint cooperation agreement.” Sources said that Pirates President Frank Coonelly this week at the GM meetings in Orlando “proposed that the posting fee, which can exceed $50 million for a top player, should count against the bidding team’s luxury-tax figure.” Waldstein noted the proposal “seemed to be aimed directly at the Yankees, who are planning to bid for Tanaka but are also concerned about staying under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold.” Yankees President Randy Levine “objected to Coonelly’s proposal and asked rhetorically if other rules for international player procurement -- like the way Cuban stars have been signed -- should be changed midstream as well” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/15).
CRASH COURSE: ESPN.com’s Buster Olney cited a source as saying when GM raised the topic of whether the rules associated with catcher collisions needed to be changed, the sentiment "was 100 percent.” Sources said that nobody “bothered arguing for the status quo.” Olney wrote MLB now will “race against the clock in order to make the changes for 2014, and there is much work to be done,” as the new rules “must be determined.” MLB Exec VP/Baseball Operations Joe Torre told GMs that he will “reach out to Giants manager Bruce Bochy and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny -- both former big league catchers -- who have both been vocal in their call for a rule change, to help redefine what can or should not happen on plays at the plate.” A source said that it “might not come together quickly enough for a change in 2014.” Another source said that because MLB has “acknowledged the need for change, and the unwanted risk to players on plays at the plate, the potential liability for the sport has risen if the current rules remained in place for next season” (ESPN.com, 11/14).
A MATTER OF TIME: SPORTSNET.ca’s Shi Davidi noted MLB Commissioner Bud Selig “gathered owners, general managers and others the past couple of days and asked them to start finding ways to pick up the pace of games.” Selig said, “I told them we need to be creative in addressing these issues. The length of games all year but particularly in the playoffs and the World Series I didn’t like and was unhappy. I know we’ve moved into a new generation, but there are things we can do and there are things we will do” (SPORTSNET.ca, 11/14).
FOREIGN AFFAIRS: FOXSPORTS.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported seven active MLBers will represent the league "abroad this offseason as ambassadors and instructors." Free agents Curtis Granderson, Chris Dickerson and Roger Bernadina will "visit the Netherlands and France beginning this weekend," while Royals P Jeremy Guthrie is "traveling to three cities in China next month." Pirates P Mark Melancon is "scheduled to serve as a special guest instructor at the South African Elite Camp in December," while free agent LaTroy Hawkins and Indians C Yan Gomes will go to Brazil. Gomes is the "first Brazilian-born player to reach the majors," and he will appear at "events and clinics in his native Sao Paulo." Hawkins: "Just looking at the rosters of the teams today, you can tell MLB is doing a great job outside the U.S. A lot of guys from all over the world are playing the game, and now we’re trying to get even more" (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/14).
The announcement Thursday that four-time Izod IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti is retiring sent "shock waves through the motor sports world" and left the IndyCar community to ponder a "future without the best racer of the sport's current era and one of the greatest in its history," according to Jeff Olson of USA TODAY, who writes under the header, "Franchitti's Forced Retirement A Blow To IndyCar." Franchitti was "told to retire from racing by doctors concerned about the possibility of future injuries after those he suffered Oct. 6 in a last-lap crash" in the Grand Prix of Houston. Franchitti suffered a "broken back, broken right ankle and concussion." IndyCar team Owner Michael Andretti "balked at the idea that Franchitti's retirement was a blow that IndyCar racing, which is struggling with faltering attendance and low TV ratings, cannot endure." Andretti said, "You can't look at it that way. I wouldn't go there. The sport has many great drivers who have been here and are coming here." Olson writes time "will tell how the sport adjusts ... without its greatest ambassador on the track" (USA TODAY, 11/15). RACER.com's Marshall Pruett wrote Franchitti "leaves a massive void in the world of open-wheel racing, and as one of IndyCar's two biggest stars, the sport finds itself unprepared to deal with his absence." This is not the first time a "big name has retired from Indy car racing, but Franchitti's departure has highlighted how much work awaits the IndyCar Series to build and promote the next wave of icons" (RACER.com, 11/14). In a special to AUTOWEEK, Curt Cavin wrote Franchitti's retirement "creates voids all over the place." In a "macro sense, losing Franchitti is a big blow to IndyCar, which still hasn't recovered from Dan Wheldon's death or Danica Patrick's departure to NASCAR." The need for drivers Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal to "take the next step has never been greater" (AUTOWEEK.com, 11/14).
FILLING THE VOID: MOTORSPORT.com's Covy Moore wrote with an "already busy silly season slowly coming to a close, this job opening, if you will, puts a wrench into the 2014 picture." Team Owner Chip Ganassi can "fold the 83 team into the 10, and work" driver Charlie Kimball "into the picture." That move could be the "most logical for the owner, as being able to focus the effort and energy back into the 2 Target cars with a defending champion, and one of the most improved drivers of the past two seasons could almost guarantee race winning contention throughout next season." Then there is the "possibility of simply filling the vacated seat." Last month’s season finale saw Alex Tagliani drive Franchitti's car in the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway. Tagliani brings a "little bit of sponsorship money to the table, great driving talent and an amazing amount of experience in open wheel racing." In addition, Target, the "primary sponsor of the two iconic Ganassi cars has recently moved into Canada, just another point in favor of Tagliani’s cause" (MOTORSPORT.com, 11/14).
After 10 years as NASCAR's Chair & CEO, there are signs that Brian France's "approach is gaining respect after he battled perceptions of being disengaged and unworthy," according to a sports section cover story by Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. From TV deals that have "lined NASCAR's coffers" with more than $12B to a "diversity thrust finally bearing some fruit ... to an increased focus on green technologies, France is reshaping the sport in the interest of 21st-century relevance." Team Owner Rick Hendrick said that France was a "guiding force" through the manipulation scandal at Richmond Int'l Raceway and has "fulfilled the promise predicted for him" by late NASCAR Chair Bill France Jr. Hendrick said, "Brian's done a super job being the CEO of the company for a lot of reasons. I'm not sure his dad, Billy, would have trusted anybody else to make those kind of moves but Brian." But Ryan notes "questions remain -- even within corners of NASCAR, France concedes -- about the depth of the CEO's commitment and understanding of a business that 'is much broader than most people realize.'" The most "visible way in which France has overhauled the sport -- the Chase for the Sprint Cup -- will wrap up its 10th edition Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and it's a good example of how his fingerprints can be both positive and polarizing." France "readily admits one of his major mistakes was the heavy-handed rollout of the much maligned Car of Tomorrow." But in the past year he "might have completed his greatest masterstroke, brokering deals with Fox and NBC through 2024" that are worth $8.2B and represent a 42% increase over the previous deal. Team Owner Roger Penske said, "What Brian has tried to do is step away from the good-old-boy network in running NASCAR to what are the current requirements for the sport" (USA TODAY, 11/15).
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR DANICA? FS1's Jimmy Spencer noted NASCAR driver Danica Patrick is "not being received really well right now for as long as she's been in the sport," but her Stewart-Haas Racing team is "not that good." Spencer said Patrick "could hang around for a while" if SHR co-Owner Tony Stewart "can get the damn team straightened out." FS1's Dave Despain said, "She'll hang around as long as she wants. ... Her career has never been about performance. It's about celebrity. As long as she remains a celebrity, she'll have a sponsor and as long as she has a sponsor, she can stay in NASCAR." Spencer said even though "you need sponsors to survive in the sport, the fans can turn on these sponsors." Spencer: "That's the only reason why the sponsors stay in this sport. To me, Danica is going to have to perform whether she has a sponsor or not" ("NASCAR Race Hub," FS1, 11/14).
BLOOMBERG NEWS' Allen Wan reports the NFL is "experiencing 'strong growth' in China and may stage an exhibition game in the Asian nation as the fan base grows." NFL China Managing Dir Richard Young said that the number of fans "has doubled in the past three years to more than 9 million, including 3 million who have a team they watch regularly." Young said an exhibition game in China "would be the first step, and it’s very possible if we’re growing the way we’re growing. Our fan base growth is on track." Pro Football HOFer Joe Montana on Thursday visited Shanghai with Young (BLOOMBERG.com, 11/15).
(DON'T) GIVE ME A BREAK: In Portland, Jamie Goldberg wrote under the header, "MLS's 2-Week Hiatus Between Playoff Games Is ... A Little ... Awkward." The "bizarre two-week hiatus" between the first and second legs of the conference finals "comes just as MLS was starting to build anticipation and enthusiasm around the playoffs, and it's unclear how the awkward pause will affect fan support and TV ratings." NBCSN has "seen a 47 percent increase in viewership in this year’s playoffs versus the 2012 playoffs," while viewership on ESPN/ESPN2 is "up 17 percent compared to the 2013 regular season" (OREGONLIVE.com, 11/14).
ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH: In Denver, Adrian Dater wrote the city "would be one of the best locations for an outdoor game." Dater: "Are you telling me a 'Rocky Mountain Classic' wouldn't sell on national television too?" He added he would "make the following bet with anyone. Ready? An Avs-Red Wings Rocky Mountain Classic would draw the highest national ratings of any NHL outdoor game of them all." Not only would the alumni game "be a blockbuster, but the real game between the new, on-the-rise Avs ... against Detroit would be appointment viewing for hockey fans worldwide" (DENVERPOST.com, 11/14).