MLS Commissioner Don Garber on Tuesday revealed that David Beckham's agreement to purchase an expansion team at a discounted rate of $25M "expires on Dec. 31," according to Brian Straus of SI.com. But Beckham "needs more capital to secure the soccer specific stadium he hopes to build," and the MLS BOG "will not approve Beckham as a club owner and partner until he finalizes a stadium plan." Garber said that he "could imagine Miami being aboard" in '17 or '18. Straus wrote that timeline "would appear" to give Beckham "ample time." There is "almost no chance" MLS will "cut ties if he's unable to secure a stadium deal over the next six weeks." MLS "could either extend the initial agreement or renegotiate for a slightly higher expansion fee" (SI.com, 11/20).
THE KING AND I: Heat F LeBron James yesterday said of possibly teaming up with Beckham to purchase an MLS franchise in Miami, "I wish it was easy. We're working on it. We'll see what happens" (AP, 11/20). In Orlando, Brian Schmitz writes Miami residents who are "nervous" about James leaving the Heat once his contract is up are "hoping the arrival of the MLS will help keep King James in town." A "working theory is that if LeBron delivers Miami an MLS team, James will have established deeper South Florida roots, making it harder for him to leave if, or when, he explores free agency, possibly this summer." None of this "likely means much at decision time to LeBron," as owners of pro sports teams "don't necessarily need to live in the same town as their teams, or even hang around them much" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 11/21).
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are the "new flagship franchise" of the CFL after they "figured in each of the top 14 attendance figures" for games this season, according to Terry Jones of the EDMONTON SUN. The Roughriders, who will play the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Grey Cup Sunday, also "led the league in season tickets with 28,000" this year. TSN's telecast of the Roughriders-Stampeders West Division Final on Sunday "produced an average audience of 1.9 million with a peak audience of 2.7 million." Roughriders President & CEO Jim Hopson said, "We're not only told that we've been in all those games with the top crowds in the league, but it's very similar with the top television numbers, too. Certainly, the top four or five." Jones noted the Roughriders for the past few years "have been able to say they sell as much merchandise as the rest of the league combined." Hopson: "We are now told that our sales actually exceed the rest of the league combined. ... We annually average [C]$7 million out of our four stores, one in Saskatoon, two in Regina and our team store at the stadium. We also have online sales. In 2010, our centennial year, we exceeded [C]$10 million. This year, with the Grey Cup, it'll at least be in that range again" (EDMONTON SUN, 11/20).
Major League Lacrosse today announced that it will place a team in South Florida for the ’14 season, and that the Hamilton Nationals will not participate in the upcoming season, keeping the league at eight teams for ‘14. The new team will be named the Florida Launch and play in Palm Beach County, though the specific venue has not been announced yet. MLL Commissioner Dave Gross said, “We’re very close to a lease agreement and we hope to have that resolved the week after Thanksgiving. But we’re confident. We’ve already secured all the dates at the venue.” The Launch’s front-office staff also will be announced in the upcoming weeks, but the team has named Stan Ross its head coach. Ross is a Florida resident and former Denver Outlaws assistant. “We’ve been looking at Florida now for a few years -- playing the All-Star game there two years ago and this past summer playing another regular-season game -- and we were just looking for the right opportunity to finally plant the flag full-time and it presented itself,” Gross said. “We’ve been discussing this really since the end of August about making the move for this coming season.” The MLL season begins in late April. Gross said the league wanted to stay at an even number of teams for scheduling purposes, and that was “the tipping point” in choosing to relocate a team rather than add an expansion club. The entire 23-man roster of the Nationals, the league's only team in Canada, will make up the foundation of the Launch. The league held focus groups to determine the new team’s nickname, and Gross said Launch was “the one that really scored the highest along with the neon yellow and cobalt color scheme.” He added, “We really want to make it a state of Florida team, not just whatever city it’s going to be in.”
In Detroit, Bob Wojnowski writes yesterday's trade by the Tigers to send 1B Prince Fielder to the Rangers for 2B Ian Kinsler was "a classically shrewd move" by Tigers President & GM Dave Dombrowski. The Tigers "paid a hefty price for Fielder and weren't getting enough on their investment, and they have significant, expensive needs elsewhere" (DETROIT NEWS, 11/21). Also in Detroit, Lynn Henning writes Fielder's departure "unclogs the entire Tigers lineup and reduces what could have become a paralyzing payroll albatross in the years ahead." The Tigers "can consider it a bargain, not only because of the payroll obligations it sheds, but more integrally, because of the lineup efficiencies it stands to create" (DETROIT NEWS, 11/21).
THE RANGERS' SIDE OF THINGS: In Dallas, Tim Cowlishaw notes the addition of Fielder represents just under $20M per year for the next seven seasons for the Rangers' payroll, including "money coming from the Tigers." Cowlishaw writes, "Worry about whether this is too much money in 2018 when we get to 2018, OK?" The Rangers today are "a step closer to a return to the World Series than they were 48 hours ago." Fans "can thank" Rangers President of Baseball Operations & GM Jon Daniels and "the fact he didn’t need the approval of any icons or figureheads in the front office to make it happen" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 11/21).
STIFF COMPETITION: Giants President & CEO Larry Baer appeared on CSN Bay Area's "Yahoo Sports Talk Live" last night, and when asked whether the team felt like it had to keep up with what the Dodgers were spending on players, he said, "It's dangerous business to say, 'Okay, we've made this move, what's the Dodgers' countermove?'" Baer noted the Giants' recent signings have put $150M "into payroll." Baer added the Giants need to "not be too focused on what the Dodgers do or don’t do because we can't control it" ("Yahoo Sports Talk Live," CSN Bay Area, 11/20).
BETTER THE DEVIL YOU KNOW? In N.Y., Tyler Kepner writes free agent 2B Robinson Cano is Roc Nation Sports Owner Jay Z' first baseball client, and "nobody knows what the whiff of true celebrity will do to Cano’s priorities." Teams "might find" agent Scott Boras, who formerly represented Cano, "exasperating as a negotiator, but they appreciate his doggedness at keeping clients focused on the field" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/21).