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Volume 24 No. 133


The Astros on Saturday advanced to the second World Series in franchise history, a "return to prominence" after the club's "drastic teardown and long term rebuild," according to Jake Kaplan of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The Astros' 4-0 win over the Yankees in ALCS Game 7 "served as validation" for the club's "dark years" from '11-14. It also "lifted up" a city in Houston that will "long be recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/22). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Brian Costa wrote winning the AL pennant "validated" the Astros' plan. Team Owner Jim Crane said, "It’s been a long ride. I’ve sat in this ballpark when there were 6,000 people here. It was rocking tonight." Costa noted the turnaround under GM Jeff Luhnow has been "gradual." Luhnow: "It’s a validation for all the work that we put in and the strategy that we decided to employ. We stayed the course, and here we are" (, 10/22). In Houston, Brian Smith noted Crane and Luhnow six seasons ago started "taking a wrecking ball" to the club, "purposefully deconstructing and rebuilding everything in sight." The Astros in '13 lost a franchise-record 111 games and were "officially the worst club in team history." Then the "pipeline began pumping out prime talent and the young names started arriving." Manager A.J. Hinch took control in '14, while the arrivals of CF George Springer and SS Carlos Correa "marked the start of a shining new era" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/22). FS1's Alex Rodriguez said Crane has done a "phenomenal job" taking a team that won 55 games in '12 to 101 wins this season and a berth in the World Series. FS1's David Ortiz said, "The job that this owner and the front office have put together the past six, seven years -- for the ball club to be where it is at right now -- is unreal" ("MLB on FS1 Postgame," FS1, 10/21).

JUSTIN TIME: In Houston, Jenny Dial Creech wrote the Astros "did exactly what they were built to do." They "toughed through the 100-loss seasons" and "developed talent" like Correa, Springer and 2B Jose Altuve. When they had "something good going, they added the right pieces." Luhnow "acquired veteran leadership to put in the clubhouse." In August, the Astros "made the trade of the season" by acquiring P Justin Verlander from the Tigers (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/22). USA TODAY's Jorge Ortiz wrote the Astros "likely wouldn’t be in" the position they are in if Luhnow had not "relented on his penchant for retaining prized prospects, controllable assets who play for low salaries in their early years, and exchanged three of them" for Verlander (USA TODAY, 10/23).

A Chargers contingent not including Chair Dean Spanos at last week's NFL owners' meetings "stood up and addressed the entire ownership" about their move to L.A., saying that "a lot is being made of our situation," according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSN. La Canfora said, "Obviously, the optics aren't great, but in terms of the business of football situation, because of the high price point of what they’re charging at StubHub, and because they've sold out a pretty high proportion -- even (if) people aren’t showing or they’re reselling for pennies on the dollar in the secondhand market -- those seats still went into the Chargers’ coffers." The team is saying that "their projections at Qualcomm versus what they have now is also a wash" (“That Other Pregame Show,” CBSSN, 10/22). Sources said that while the StubHub model "can keep the team afloat for a few years," real problems will "set in without a larger base of fans to fill the new stadium, and especially if it is seen as the less-attractive option to the Rams." La Canfora noted when that stadium is complete, Spanos "will have to compete for sponsorships and suites with the Rams, and he will also have to begin making annual payments of $65M a year to the other owners as part of relocation fee." That is when the economics "could begin to seriously work against him without big gains -- on field and off -- in the next few years" (, 10/22).

VISITOR'S PARADISE: In L.A., Sam Farmer notes at yesterday's Broncos-Chargers game at StubHub Center, "large swaths" of the crowd were "attired in powder … orange." StubHub Center was "basically a sea-level version of Mile High, where it would be generous to the home team to say the crowd was 50/50 Broncos and Chargers fans." The Chargers "had to score a couple of touchdowns to quiet the home crowd." Farmer: "That’s not going away." Yesterday was also the "first time the Chargers won at StubHub" (L.A. TIMES, 10/23). In California, Jim Alexander notes attendance for the game was 25,388. The crowd was "at least 60-40 Broncos fans," as the Chargers "played what almost certainly felt like their seventh of 16 road games" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 10/23). In San Diego, Kevin Acee notes the Chargers have "won three straight games" and are "finally actually fighting for L.A." Chargers LB Melvin Ingram said, "We're trying to put a statement out. We're here to play. We're here to stay." LB Chris McCain said of playing at StubHub Center, "You look up and see a lot of fans of the other team. You love it, because you make them quiet" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 10/23).

BUILDING A BASE: In L.A., Vincent Bonsignore writes there were "real, live -- and in this case really loud -- Los Angeles Chargers fans standing and cheering as the final seconds ticked off the clock in an impressive win" yesterday. That might be a "shock considering the narrative that’s being pushed out there" about how "no one is going to Chargers games and that, of the fans that do show up, the overwhelming majority come to see the opposing team." There are an "incredible amount of visiting-team fans making their way out to StubHub Center this year," and the Chargers "have a fight on their hand" to build an L.A. fan base. But it is "overstating it to say a good number of Chargers fans aren’t represented, too." It "might be 50-50 or 40-60, but there is support for the new local team" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 10/23).'s Eric Williams noted StubHub Center "for the most part is full at game time." But a "good number of tickets sold on the secondary market are being purchased by opposing fans." That is "the problem in terms of perception nationally." Opposing fans "showing up for Chargers games is nothing new." However, "when 15,000 opposing fans showed up at San Diego's 70,000-seat stadium, their presence wasn't felt as much as when 15,000 fill the seats in the 27,000-seat StubHub Center" (, 10/21).

Pacers Owner Herb Simon this weekend revealed the team someday will be owned by his 53-year-old son, Steve, and he said that "father and son are on the same page: The Pacers are staying in Indianapolis," according to Gregg Doyel of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. Steve Simon has been "working closely" with Pacers President & COO Rick Fuson for five years, and also met last week with "several" Pacers department heads. Herb Simon: "If anything happens to me, he’d be taking over." The Pacers' lease with Bankers Life Fieldhouse runs through the '23-24 season, and Simon said, “We’re sitting down to try to extend the lease for the next 25 years, or 20 years, so I’ll know we’ll be here.” Simon added that the arena can be "made viable for another quarter-century -- viable financially, and for the fan experience -- with a 'major redo' that would be considerably cheaper than building a new arena." He added that the franchise has spent more than $1M on renovation concepts, and soon will "sit down with the city and other people to work it out." Fuson said that renovations "could be done over the course of several summers, meaning the Pacers wouldn’t have to find a temporary home to accommodate the work." Meanwhile, the 83-year old Simon said that he is in "great health, working out twice a day." Simon: "My purpose and all the plans I’ve made for the succession is to extend the lease and be here." He added, "My planning, all of the financial planning, is to figure out a way. It’s always a big tax problem when someone (dies), for the next generation, but ... we won’t have a problem with that" (, 10/20).

The Nationals, who on Friday announced that Dusty Baker will not return as manager, have "eliminated the margin for error in their managerial selection process," according to Chelsea Janes of the WASHINGTON POST. Fits for the position "will be difficult." And any potential hire will have to "decide whether he wants to take a chance on what is the winningest hub of baseball volatility over the last half-decade." The Nationals have "fostered no sense of managerial stability," having won "four division titles in six seasons with three different managers." Team ownership has "shown no willingness to extend their managers’ contracts despite strong performance." Among industry insiders, the Nationals have a "reputation for placing little value on the managerial position." In addition, GM & President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo’s contract is up after the '18 season, and his "future with the team will likely depend on his willingness to continue existing in the unpredictable framework given him by the Nationals’ owners." Also, RF Bryce Harper seems "likely to depart" for free agency after '18 (WASHINGTON POST, 10/22). In DC, Barry Svrluga wrote Nationals ownership "doesn’t value" the manager position. The Lerners "can’t be called 'cheap' ... because their payroll is competitive and they have allowed Rizzo and his front-office staff to pursue the pieces necessary at the trade deadline." But "listen to people who work for them, now and in the past, and it’s clear: On the fringes, they will pay for only the bare minimum." And in their view, the manager "lies on the fringes." Rizzo will be hiring his "fifth manager, entering his 10th season" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/21).

LASTING IMPACT: The WASHINGTON POST's Janes noted Baker’s "outspokenness about his contract and money rubbed some in the front office the wrong way." Earlier this season, Baker said that he "felt he was underpaid compared to other winning, veteran managers." Rizzo said that money "was not the problem." Sources confirmed that Baker "did not negotiate this week at all." No Nationals manager has "lasted three full seasons," but with several other teams still looking for managers, the Nationals "likely will have to bid -- in length of deal and terms -- for the big names" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/21). In DC, Thom Loverro writes, "You can’t overestimate the damage done to the Nationals’ standing within the baseball industry by the Lerners’ handling of Baker." It will "damage the organization moving forward trying to find their seventh manager since they took over ownership of the team" in '06. Rizzo is all that "stands between credibility and chaos for this organization." If the Lerners have a "hope of salvaging any part of their reputation, they need to give Rizzo a lengthy contract extension now -- a serious three-to-five year deal, and not the short-time commitments they have made to him" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/23).

:'s Howard Bryant wrote the Nationals are a "bad organization with bad owners." The team has been in DC for 13 seasons. It has had six managers, seven if you count the "hiring and rescinding of the offer" to Bud Black. This is how the Nationals "view the managerial position." Bryant: "It isn't important, not worth paying for, and it's certainly not deserving of the credit or respect for the 192 games the team won under Baker" (, 10/20).'s Jon Tayler wrote the Nationals’ "dismissal of Baker feels like an unfair move and an unforced error" for a team that seems to "reject organizational stability like a bad organ transplant." If any other organization had "pulled the plug, this move might be questioned, but it wouldn’t seem out of line." But the Nationals "haven’t earned that benefit of the doubt" (, 10/20). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale wrote under the header, "In Firing Dusty Baker, Nationals' Gutless Arrogance On Display." Nationals manager is the "worst job in baseball." They "hire you, only to fire you." Baker stayed in DC for "nine days after the final playoff game" and finally went home to California only to be "awakened with a phone call Friday morning in Sacramento." The Nationals "didn't have the guts to fire him to his face, so they waited for him to leave town" (, 10/20).

: Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweeted, "Rizzo told me in August there was no reason that Baker should not be back in 2018." DC-based WJFK-FM's Grant Paulsen: "Baker did a good job with #Nationals. He's a good guy & a good manager. But is he the guy to get them to a WS? #Nats did right thing." Former ESPN personality Britt McHenry: "Not sure how much managerial difference it makes when bats aren't swinging in the playoffs." TV One's Roland Martin: "Baker leads the @Nationals to the postseason in both of his seasons and they don't sign him to a new contract? Y'all deserve to lose."

Around 2,000 Crew fans yesterday congregated in front of Columbus City Hall to "voice their support" for the team and their "disapproval of the Precourt Sport Venture’s proposed move to Austin, Texas, if a new Downtown stadium isn’t built," according to Josh Horton of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. Speakers addressed the crowd for about an hour, with "shouts of 'Save the Crew' and other popular chants" at Crew home games "sprinkled in between speeches." There were "several themes that rung throughout the rally, most notably that Crew supporters need to continue to be outspoken and not let the Save the Crew movement die and that the group is 'far from done'" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 10/23). ESPN’s Adrian Healey said the reaction within MLS to the proposed move has been "extreme and emotional." ESPN’s Taylor Twellman said, “This is a bigger shock to me than St. Louis losing two NFL franchises. However, my brain says, ‘I’m not surprised.’ The reason why is when you go to Columbus over the last four or five years and you see the numbers in the stands, in the stadium, in the city." All the business metrics show the Crew are "struggling,” but moving to the Austin market is a "massive shot in the dark.” Twellman asked, “If Columbus is a college town, what’s Austin? Austin is a college town. When you have 9-10 expansion cities vying for a spot and then all of a sudden you say, ‘We need to go to Austin.’ That is where my skepticism is.” ESPN’s Alejandro Moreno noted that when Crew Chair Anthony Precourt purchased the team in '13, the original agreement was to "stay in Columbus for at least 10 years but there was an 'out clause' which said if Precourt decides to move they’re relocating to Austin." Moreno said, “It’s impossible from the outside looking in to not put two and two together and think that was in the plans all along.” Moreno: “If that’s the case, that’s incredibly frustrating and it’s incredibly deceiving” (“ESPN FC,” ESPN2, 10/22).

THE MMQB's Peter King writes the 49ers put on a "touching, lovely ceremony" for former player Dwight Clark, who has ALS and appeared with 37 of his former teammates at halftime of the team's home game against the Cowboys yesterday. With his strength in "decline and struggling with his speech, Clark thanked his mates and his fans in an emotional speech" that brought former 49ers Owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. "to tears" (, 10/23). In San Jose, Dieter Kurtenbach notes Pro Football HOFer Joe Montana and Clark "spoke to a third-full stadium." The 49ers "did a great thing" and "deserve credit for flying so many of Clark’s teammates in for the game and for dedicating the day to the man whose catch sparked a dynasty" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 10/23).

GREAT FIRST TOUCH: In Atlanta, Steve Hummer noted Atlanta Untied drew a record crowd of 71,874 to Mercedes-Benz Stadium yesterday for the final regular-season game of the club's "record-breaking" inaugural campaign. MLS in Atlanta "made its dizzying climb from concept to the league’s record-setting attendance champion," as United's season average of 48,200 broke the previous record of 44,247 set by the Sounders. Hummer: "Who knew Atlanta could embrace soccer like this? This is stuff that would baffle even the most devout soccer cultist" (, 10/22).

A SIGN OF THINGS TO COME? MGM Resorts last week purchased the WNBA Stars and will move the team to Las Vegas, where Adam Hill wrote it is "possible the long-term financial success" of the franchise is secondary to the company "building a relationship with the NBA as it works toward acquiring an NBA team." MGM Resorts CMO & Chief Experience Officer Lilian Tomovich "didn’t dismiss that theory." She said, "We certainly value and cherish our longstanding relationship with the NBA." But for now, the focus will be on "building the WNBA brand on the Strip." That could include "hosting the draft, All-Star Game and other major events on the league’s calendar" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 10/22).