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Volume 24 No. 117


Mariners 2B Robinson Cano's deal with the team "became official on Thursday afternoon" when he signed a 10-year, $240M free-agent contract, and during his introductory press conference, he "got the star treatment ... because that’s what the Mariners believe he is -- and what they need," according to Ryan Divish of the SEATTLE TIMES. Mariners Exec VP & GM of Baseball Operations Jack Zduriencik said of Cano's signing, "It’s a step, but it’s a huge step. It’s also a major commitment. I think the contract is justified" (SEATTLE TIMES, 12/13). In Tacoma, Todd Dybas notes Cano's contract is "the largest in the organization's 36 years" (Tacoma NEWS-TRIBUNE, 12/13).

WHY HE CHOSE THE MARINERS: In Seattle, Larry Stone notes Cano at the press conference "spoke repeatedly about how he came to view the Mariners as a family welcoming a new member." The Mariners "committed internally to putting forth a full-court press on the All-Star second baseman." Zduriencik said the organization's consensus at the outset of free agency was, "'Let's not get sold short on this one, and let’s get it.' And we did. We were very aggressive. … They (ownership) believed it was time for us to strike with a star." He added, "You could have stopped at a seven-year deal and probably wouldn’t have gotten it done. You probably could have gone to an eight-year deal and that wouldn’t have gotten it done. The fact the ownership group went to 10 was a big, big factor" (SEATTLE TIMES, 12/13). Cano said of the Yankees, "I didn’t feel respect. I didn’t get respect from them. I was hoping they would come up with a better offer. My goal was to stay there." He added, "The contract is not about the money. It was about the years. I wanted a contract to end my career." CAA Baseball co-Head Brodie Van Wagenen, who represented Cano alongside Jay Z, said, "To sign for seven or eight years didn’t make sense because he’d have to go through this again. ... The Mariners viewed him as a game-changing talent on and off field and we didn’t necessarily get that from the Yankees" (N.Y. POST, 12/13).

LINCOLN'S CHANGING PHILOSOPHY:'s Art Thiel wrote the signing of Cano is "against everything" Mariners Chair & CEO Howard Lincoln "has stood for in his 14-year tenure" with the team. The move also is "against everything that baseball’s conventional wisdom says about long-term contracts to mid-career stars," and "against everything a disgruntled fan base has come to expect from a franchise now branded nationally as dysfunctional." Thiel: "In a word: Astounding." It is, "after all, the American way to buy one's way out of trouble" (, 12/12).

YANKS LACKING STAR POWER? In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes with Cano gone, the Yankees "have only one ratings attraction -- Derek Jeter." The "other big one, an even bigger question mark, is Alex Rodriguez." If Rodriguez "is on the shelf, the Yankees better keep a close eye on Jeter," as "carrying this kind of ratings load ain’t good for the back" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/13).

The Flames on Thursday fired GM Jay Feaster, but President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke was "adamant" that he "doesn’t want the job," according to Wes Gilbertson of the CALGARY SUN. Burke said, “I’m going to serve as acting general manager until a new GM is hired, but that search has already begun. I did not come here to be the general manager." Burke on Thursday reiterated that "only the personnel has changed," and the plan for the Flames "hasn't been altered." Burke: "I’m not going to welsh on that deal now and say all of a sudden, ‘Aha! Now, I want to be the GM.’ It would certainly cast some suspicion on my motives in making this change, too, if I announced today I’m the new GM -- ‘Well, then did you really give Jay a fair chance?’ Because I think I did.” Not long after Thursday’s announcement, which also included the dismissal of Assistant GM John Weisbrod, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported Burke has been "granted permission" by the Stars to speak with former GM Joe Nieuwendyk, who is "still technically under contract to the team." Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the GM and former Flames player Craig Conroy "will continue in his role with the Flames but is not being considered for Feaster's old post" (CALGARY SUN, 12/13). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Rory Boylen noted Nieuwendyk was Stars GM from '09 until the end of the '12-13 season. Nieuwendyk seems like the "type of pick up the Flames would do well with." It would be a hiring Flames fans "could immediately get on board with and be similar" to what the Sabres did in hiring HOFer Pat LaFontaine as President of Hockey Operations (, 12/12).

TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE: In Calgary, Eric Francis notes Burke had "recently finished his extensive evaluation of the organization, determined the leadership and direction of the organization needed to change and made the recommendation to ownership." Burke saw "no wisdom in prolonging the inevitable." Burke: "As soon as this decision was reached and sold to ownership, I wanted it done." He added, "I'd rather do it now than in 10 days. And second, there’s another team doing a search. Time could be of vital essence here." Francis notes the Sabres also are "deep into a search for their next GM so there’s competition out there for those potentially on Burke’s wish list" (CALGARY SUN, 12/13). Also in Calgary, George Johnson writes, "Was Thursday’s announcement surprising? Yes, the timing. But no. Not really. As soon as Burke was hired here, most onlookers instantly moved the beleaguered Feaster from the general prison population onto Death Row. ... You can chalk Weisbrod, a Feaster ally, up as collateral damage" (CALGARY HERALD, 12/13).

BRIAN'S SONG: In Vancouver, Ed Willies writes the "minute Burke was given sweeping powers to remake the Flames' organization, the only question was when, not if, Feaster was gone." Feaster "inherited an unholy mess in Calgary," and his "one sin was starting the organizational overhaul a year too late." But "no one could have cleaned up the oil spill Feaster stepped into in Calgary" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 12/13). The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek writes there was a "strong sense if Burke was really going to run the show in Calgary, he would ultimately want it to feature his hand-picked supporting cast" (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/13). In Vancouver, Cam Cole writes, "Who among us didn't check the calendar and nod knowingly when the Flames called a news conference to make an organizational announcement Thursday?" Cole: "Who really thought, when Burke was hired by the team in September, that he was going to get all the way to Christmas before the top of his head blew off in exasperation at the slow pace of change?" (VANCOUVER SUN, 12/13).

ONE DIRECTION:'s Scott Burnside wrote the Sabres are a "terrible team and have become untethered, drifting further and further away from a long-suffering fan base." LaFontaine is "tasked with remooring the Sabres and, to that end, has been interviewing clients for the GM opening created when longtime GM Darcy Regier was fired." It is a "crucial hire, and from all reports, LaFontaine is being methodical in his search." Burnside: "Ditto for Burke." It "doesn’t necessarily mean that Burke and LaFontaine are going after the same people but rather they are looking for people who will produce the same result: restoring direction to franchises that have been without one" (, 12/12).

The Blues entering Thursday night's game against the Maple Leafs had an average attendance of 16,514, which is "significantly lower than last season's average" after the lockout, according to Joe Strauss of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. That average ranks the team 19th in the NHL. Blues President of Business Operations Bruce Affleck said if the Blues' season-ending average attendance remains where it currently sits it will be "a red flag." He said, "There is a concern. We need better support to make this sustainable." Strauss notes this "isn’t the first time the Blues have banged the drums about their perilous financial situation," but it "is the first time that they’ve addressed attendance." Blues Owner Tom Stillman has "repeatedly lamented the need for broader corporate support." Affleck said of this season’s projected revenues, "We’re a large dollar amount off. That’s what I’ll say for now."  He added, "If it goes this way the whole year it becomes a red flag. There are some ways to make some money up. Typically during the second half of the season gates grow. If that’s the case we’re closer to our goal." Strauss writes the Blues "walk a thin line here." Taking their "situation public may strike some as whining." Perhaps part of the attendance hurdle "stems from a show-me stance that fosters skepticism based on the last two postseason wipeouts" against the Kings (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 12/13).

Sharks Sports & Entertainment COO John Tortora is aiming to "redefine the company's priorities" six months after a "major management shakeup" at the company, according to Lauren Hepler of the SILICON VALLEY BUSINESS JOURNAL. The Sharks' ownership group in '12 said that the team lost $15M during the '11-12 season. That figure was "substantially higher last year, when a lockout claimed the first half of the NHL season." Tortora "declined to specify exactly how much he aims to increase team revenue or decrease financial liabilities, but he said team owners will not accept backsliding." He plans to "prioritize marketing during the company's budgeting process for next year, including funds for 'fan caravans' that would travel to tech campuses or events to help raise the team's profile." New sponsorship opportunities, "such as additional pre-season games, are one option." The Sharks also are "vying for a chance to host an outdoor NHL game in the Bay Area" during '15. Tortora said, "We’ve talked to the 49ers and we’ve talked to the Giants and we’ve talked to Stanford. Any one of those facilities could host the game, and all three are interested." He said that the team "plans to work with the city of San Jose to upgrade" SAP Center, hopefully "keeping the facility competitive for prestigious concerts or other sports events as new, rival venues like Levi’s Stadium enter the market." He added that it is "too early to say whether the team will pursue private sector cooperation for a possible arena modernization project, though SAP Center is among the city's biggest tourism drivers." Tortora said that the team in the meantime also is "working with SAP to implement scouting software that helps measure financial returns on high-priced players" (, 12/12).

The MLS Dynamo on Thursday announced the launch of the NWSL Houston Dash. The team will be owned by Dynamo ownership and operated by the MLS club. Beginning play in April '14 at BBVA Compass Stadium, the Dash will be the NSWL's ninth club and first expansion franchise (Dynamo). In Houston, Josh Mitelman noted the team's logo will feature "light blue, orange and black." The Dynamo said that while BBVA Compass Stadium seats 22,000, it will be "'scaled down' for Dash games, with seating in the lower bowl only, for a total capacity of 7,000" (, 12/12).

NO REST FOR THE WEARY: The AP's John Wawrow noted the Bills' schedule this season "has them facing a league-high six teams coming off either bye weeks or nine-day layoffs," and Bills President & CEO Russ Brandon "has expressed his concerns to the NFL." Brandon in November on Buffalo-based WGR-AM said, "We certainly have talked to the league about this because it's a little disappointing." But NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy in an e-mail wrote that it is "difficult to create a schedule that's fair to every team" (AP, 12/12).

SECOND-YEAR STRUGGLES: In Nashville, Jim Wyatt wrote with the Titans struggling for the second year in a row, President & CEO Tommy Smith "finds himself agonizing over a difficult football decision," and coach Mike Munchak's "future with the franchise hinges on his conclusion." Smith said, "You have to win games. Fans are paying hard-earned money on these tickets and they expect to be entertained and they expect to have a winning organization. I understand that very well, and I feel the same way they do." He added, "We just need to finish out the season the best we can, and then we'll evaluate and see where things stand" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 12/11).

PUBLICITY STUNT? In Chicago, Paul Sullivan writes the best "publicity stunt" of MLB's Winter Meetings this week in Orlando was the Rangers drafting Seahawks QB Russell Wilson in the Rule 5 minor league draft. It "only cost the Rangers $12,000 to take Wilson from the Rockies' system," and just having him "play in some spring training games would create a media circus worth every penny." But whether the Seahawks "ever would let Wilson play baseball and risk injury is another story" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/13).