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Volume 24 No. 181

Franchises

Prospective Marlins owner Bruce Sherman met yesterday with MLB's Ownership Committee in Chicago, beginning an approval process aimed at closing the $1.2B deal in early October. Sherman did not comment regarding the initial meeting and business partner Derek Jeter did not attend the session, due in part to the late-stage pregnancy of his wife, Hannah. But league sources said the initial reaction to the financier Sherman was positive, and current Marlins President David Samson said he remains confident the transaction is on track. "I feel very confident," he said. "This was the first step of several more to come. This is a process you take seriously, and Bruce Sherman is taking it seriously and doing everything the commissioner wants to put forward a deal that’s approvable." Samson also denied ongoing industry rumors and various new reports the Sherman-Jeter bid is still trying to secure additional financing. "There is a completed package that was submitted to Major League Baseball by (Owner) Jeffrey (Loria) for the purchase of the Marlins, and that completed package includes the full financing," Samson said. He also said there has been no discussions with the Sherman-Jeter group or internally about trading RF Giancarlo Stanton, who is still owed $295M between '18-28. "He’s such an important part of the Marlins franchise," Samson said. "You’re talking about the first Marlins Hall of Famer in my mind."

TALK OF THE TOWN: Even without Jeter present, he was the early talk of the owners' meetings. And the prospect of Jeter joining MLB's ownership ranks drew widespread raves from various team owners and executives. "Obviously they need approval and all that stuff, but yeah, I’m excited for him," said MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre, Jeter's manager with the Yankees from '96-07. "He’s not the kind of guy who’s just going to add his name and say, ‘yeah, I’m the owner of the team.’ He’s going to roll up his sleeves. ... I know he didn’t want to just be a token owner. He’s going to undertake something he’s never done before, obviously, but I wish him luck, and I know he’ll do well." Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner said, "Nobody knows baseball better than Derek. He’s a class act, he’s very intelligent. I think he’d be great at (baseball operations)." And Samson described a deep level of activity by Jeter during the oft-turning sales process for the club. "He was very involved with different provisions and complexities of a transaction like this, understanding what he wants to accomplish on both the business and baseball side," Samson said. "Derek Jeter is iconic. And I think there’s a lot of people around the country who view him as a hero, but they view him as a hero at shortstop. His goal has always been to be viewed as a hero as an executive in addition and to transition that way. I wouldn’t doubt Derek Jeter. The focus he has, the desire he has, the skill he has, you put those together, I don’t see him failing ... I’ve met a lot of athletes in my time, and he’s a remarkable guy. He’s incredibly focused and equipped to do this" (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).

STAR POWER: In N.Y., Richard Johnson noted most of the 16 men -- no women -- putting up the $1.2B in the deal are "Wall Street types." This list includes Energy Capital Partners' Doug Kimmelman and Peter Labbat, Viking Global co-Founder David Ott, Beekman Group Managing Partner & co-Founder John Troiano, Roystone Capital Management Founder Rich Barrera, investment firm KKR CFO Bill Janetschek and Blackstone Group Senior Managing Dir Lou Salvatore. CompareCards President & Founder Chris Mettler and Bunk1 Founder & CEO Ari Ackerman are also part of the group (NYPOST.com, 8/16).

NO DOUBTING THE CAPTAIN: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale notes once Jeter and Sherman "become approved as the new owners," MLB's ownership circle "will have star power." Samson said, "He's the type of guy who only wants something that he knows he has the tools to do. He exhibited that through the negotiations of the deal." Royals Owner David Glass said, "This is so great for baseball. To have a player like this, who's so respected in the game, wanting to join our ownership circle." Nightengale notes the Marlins certainly "need him more than ever." The team has "not produced a winning season" since '10. But yesterday there was "not a soul" at the owners' meeting, or an executive in the MLB offices, who have a "doubt that Jeter will bring success to this downtrodden franchise." Torre said, "It’s more than somebody investing money. It's somebody who's in it for the long haul." Steinbrenner said, "It's going to be a surreal experience in not a totally positive way to see him in different colors." He added, "That organization has some challenges, but he's been through a lot. As far as baseball operations, I think he'll get the job done." Astros Owner Jim Crane said, "It will take him awhile to adapt, but he's so approachable and likeable, I think he'll pick it up quickly" (USA TODAY, 8/17).

Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov, looking to protect a $165M investment in Nassau Coliseum, is "pressuring" the Islanders to "play a significant number of games at the Long Island arena" in the '18-19 season, according to Josh Kosman of the N.Y. POST. Prokhorov, who owns Barclays Center, also "bought the company that under Bruce Ratner promised Nassau County that a professional hockey team would play at the recently renovated suburban arena -- a promise that helped the Nassau Events Center" in '13 win a contract to manage the facility. The source said that Barclays Center’s pressure on the Islanders to "play some games on Long Island comes as the team -- which drew an average crowd of 13,101 last season -- and the arena negotiate a new lease at Barclays." Either side can "exit the lease" in January '18. A source said that the NHL has "approved a Sept. 17 Islanders preseason game at Nassau Coliseum -- but has not addressed the question of whether it would approve regular season games there as well." Both Barclays and the Islanders have "reasons to want to rework their long-term lease." Barclays would like to "lower the back-breaking" $55M-a-year in guaranteed payments to the team. Meanwhile, the Islanders would like "increased flexibility on exiting the lease" (N.Y. POST, 8/16).

WAITING GAME: On Long Island, Arthur Staple notes Islanders C John Tavares was "eligible to sign a new deal on July 1, but it was clear before then that he was going to wait and see how any number of unclear situations played out with the team." Tavares said that he is "waiting to see" what comes of the RFP issued July 30 by New York state "regarding the Belmont Park development." The Islanders, along with the owners of the Mets and Oak View Group, are "expected to pitch building an arena on the 43-acre lot." It is "not clear whether the state will select a winner before Tavares would hit unrestricted free agency next July" (NEWSDAY, 8/17).

Cowboys officials believe their chances of landing the '18 NFL Draft have "improved now that Texas legislators have failed to implement" their controversial bathroom bill, according to David Moore of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Team officials are "hopeful the legislature's inaction clears the way for the draft to come to Arlington and Frisco in April." Philadelphia did an "outstanding job of hosting the event last year and wants it back." Still, the Cowboys are "considered the frontrunner in many circles." The Cowboys' ability to host the Draft was part of a $1M ad buy that "began to play on North Texas radio stations shortly after the team reported to training camp in Southern California last month." The one-minute ad "ended asking fans to contact their legislators to tell them to reject the bill and bring the NFL draft to Texas." The Cowboys, unlike the Stars, "never made a public proclamation about their opposition to the bathroom bill." But sources said that the Cowboys were "active behind the scenes, one describing the club's lobbying efforts as 'quiet and aggressive'" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/17).

GOING BACK, BACK TO CALI: Cowboys Exec VP, COO & Dir of Player Personnel Stephen Jones said that the team will return to Oxnard, Calif., for at least a couple of weeks for training camp in '18 but also plan to have "more practices" at The Star in Frisco. In Ft. Worth, Clarence Hill Jr. notes the Cowboys are "under contract with Oxnard for one more year but also have an option for a two-year extension." Jones said about continuing to train in California, "As long as we keep having a good experience and the people of Oxnard have been great, I don’t see that changing." He added, "A lot of fans who don’t get see us play at AT&T Stadium will get the opportunity to come to The Star and be a part of what our team is all one about" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 8/17).

FOOTBALL LIFER: In Ft. Worth, David Humphrey notes Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones will be "profiled this season" on the NFL Network series, "A Football Life." The broadcast date has "not been released" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 8/17).

The Galaxy and the Angels "do the best job" out of L.A.'s professional sports teams in "satisfying their fans," according a J.D. Power survey cited by Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. The Lakers "ranked third, followed in order by the Ducks, Kings, Clippers, Dodgers and Rams." The survey asked more than 9,000 fans to "rate their satisfaction in seven categories: seating area and game experience; security and ushers; leaving the game; arriving at the game; food and beverage; ticket purchase; and souvenirs and merchandise." The Angels "ranked highest in satisfaction with ticketing, and the Angels and Ducks tied for the high rank in satisfaction with souvenirs and merchandise." The Galaxy "led in all other categories." The Rams’ standing as the team that "least satisfied fans reflected 'the horror stories about finding food and water and a jam-packed concourse at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum' in the team’s homecoming season last year." Traffic jams are "common entering and exiting" Dodger Stadium, which opened in '62 and is "scarcely served by public transit." The surveys for the Galaxy and the baseball teams were "conducted in June, and for the other sports in February" (LATIMES.com, 8/16).

LEADING THE CHARGE: In L.A., Bill Plaschke wrote the Chargers "desperately want" L.A. to "like them." They are "branding themselves" not around their Orange County HQ, but "around the entire city." They are also the ones who "started the 'Fight for L.A.' in hopes of winning affection from the Rams." Plaschke: "The Chargers are trying. They’re really, really, really trying." The Chargers' preseason opener on Sunday against the Seahawks drew an announced crowd of 21,054 to StubHub Center, about 6,000 "short of the 27,000 capacity." The optics on this are "awful." The Chargers "needed to the fill the joint" (L.A. TIMES, 8/16). THE RINGER's John Gonzalez wrote, "As the Rams learned last season, it’s tough to get Angelenos to care about stuff." If there was "any buzz a year ago about the first team to return" to L.A., it "died out before anyone around here seemed to notice." Being the second team to "colonize the market can’t be easy -- as evidenced by the meager turnout for the Chargers’ first preseason game at StubHub Center." The "lack of local enthusiasm had to be expected," as L.A. "went from no NFL teams to two teams in a blink." The overall reaction from Angelenos to the Chargers has been "somewhere between muted and indifferent" (THERINGER.com, 8/16).

J.D. Power yesterday released the results from a fan experience study of 11 sports markets. In DC, Josh Luckenbaugh notes the Capitals have the "best fan experience" in that market, while the Redskins have the "worst." On the 1,000-point scale, the Capitals received a "score of 797." Close behind were the Wizards at 787, the Nationals "coming in third with a 764" and with a "748, the Redskins finished last, even topped by DC United at 752" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 8/17). Meanwhile, in Chicago, Katie Smith notes the survey found the White Sox "ranked No. 1 in fan satisfaction among Chicago-area" pro teams, knocking the Fire "down a spot from last year's rankings." After the White Sox and Fire came the Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and Bears, respectively. The White Sox "scored highest in game arrival, ticket purchase, food and beverage, and fans' experience leaving the game." The Bears "fell to the bottom of the rankings, with the lowest scores across the board" (Chicago DAILY HERALD, 8/17). In New Jersey, Margaret Schmidt notes the Red Bulls scored 819, the "highest among 67 teams surveyed." That was a "notch above the fan experience" at Devils games at Prudential Center and "miles higher than the Giants and Jets at MetLife Stadium, where traffic for the happy or sad trip home was a big factor in ranking them at the bottom for the region" (JERSEY JOURNAL, 8/17).

STAYING PATRIOTIC: In Boston, Olivia Vanni noted the Patriots "came out on top" of a Channel Media & Market Research survey of New England-area sports fans' favorite team, winning over 51% of the vote. Trailing behind them were the Red Sox (24%), the Bruins (13%), the Celtics (10%) and the Revolution (2%). Talking ownership, Patriots Owner Robert Kraft earned 75% of fans’ approval, a 42% increase since '13. Red Sox Owners John Henry and Tom Werner followed "far behind" with 12% approval (BOSTON HERALD, 8/17).

In Boston, Jason Mastrodonato reports as the city "prepares for a free speech rally on Saturday just a week after a similar gathering in Charlottesville," the Red Sox are "hopeful that Fenway Park will remain a safe space less than a dozen blocks away from the rally location." Red Sox President Sam Kennedy said that the team has been "in touch" with the office of Mayor Marty Walsh and the Boston police department about the rally. Kennedy: "We do not anticipate any direct impacts to the Fenway Park area, but as always we will remain vigilant." The Red Sox host the Yankees on Saturday at 7:00pm ET, while the rally is "scheduled to take place" from 12:00-2:00pm (BOSTON HERALD, 8/17).

REEL IT IN: On Long Island, Marc Carig notes Mets GM Sandy Alderson hinted that the club "spent more money on players this offseason" than it had originally budgeted for, which was part of his explanation for why the club has shed about $9.3M in salary while "making a flurry of trades before and after the July 31 deadline." While "insisting that he was not ordered to slash payroll, Alderson did not say that the savings would be directly used to bolster salaries for next season." But he "provided one reason for paring down, hinting at an agreement in which he was given additional resources this winter, with the understanding that salary could be cut if the team slipped from contention." The Mets began the season with payroll at around $155.1M. Trades took $11.6M off the books, though the acquisition of P A.J. Ramos in one of those deals "brought aboard" his $2.3M salary (NEWSDAY, 8/17).

SOMETHING'S BREWIN'
: In Arizona, Ryan Finley reported Pima County officials "sent a 17-page package" to the Brewers last week "touting Kino Sports Complex and Kino Stadium" as possible Spring Training sites. The letter "concluded with an invitation" for Brewers Exec VP/Finance & Administration Bob Quinn to "visit for a tour." The Brewers "train at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix, but the team’s contract is year-to-year." The team has recently "pushed for a move to Gilbert" (ARIZONA DAILY STAR, 8/16).