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Volume 24 No. 216

Franchises

The Titans yesterday formally introduced Mike Vrabel as their new coach, and it is "clear that Vrabel was always" Titans GM Jon Robinson's top choice, as his plan "appeared to be to hire a CEO head coach and strong leader to help lead the Titans down the Patriots' path," according to Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com. Robinson after firing Mike Mularkey talked about "how important it was for the head coach, general manager and ownership to be aligned in vision, philosophy, everything." Wolfe wrote there is "plenty of reason to trust Robinson's judgment in making this move," but the "pressure is on Robinson now to bring the Titans a championship" (ESPN.com, 1/20). In Nashville, Joe Rexrode writes Vrabel in his introductory press conference was "good, which is no surprise." Vrabel can "command a room, as he clearly did when he interviewed" for the job with Robinson and Titans Controlling Owner Amy Adams Strunk. Robinson "is the personnel guy," but he and Vrabel have "known each other going back a long way, to their days with the Patriots." Vrabel said theirs will be “the most critical relationship in the building.” He said that Robinson "will have the final say on that 53rd guy but 'If you don’t agree on 1 through 52, they’ve probably hired the wrong guy'" (Nashville TENNESEAN, 1/23). NBCSN's Chris Simms said Vrabel has a "head coach personality, the ability to command the room, stand there in front of the podium and you're going to listen" ("PFT," NBCSN, 1/23).

THE PATRIOT WAY: THE MMQB's Peter King noted last season as a first-year defensive coordinator with the Texans, Vrabel "oversaw a defense that finished dead last in points allowed and was 20th in yards allowed." But it was his "commanding presence, and his pedigree as a player, that helped him get hot this month" and eventually land the Titans job. Vrabel's hiring also "continues a trend of hires and moves and interviews with Bill Belichick’s fingerprints all over them." It has been an "amazing January, actually, if you consider what a tribute it’s been to Belichick and the Patriots." Other than Jon Gruden to the Raiders, seven teams that have "shuffled or are shuffling coaching staffs or front offices have Patriot tributaries" (SI.com, 1/22).

The Giants hired Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur as their next coach in what is "perhaps the most important decision" of any that new GM Dave Gettleman has to make, according to Bob Glauber of NEWSDAY. Shurmur will now "begin the process of fixing his new team." It will "not be an easy undertaking, nor is there a timetable for a turnaround, although getting the job done yesterday certainly would be a start." The team's recent front office and coaching hires provide "some clarity" for the organization. Shurmur coached the Browns to a 9-23 record from '11-12, so if "nothing else, he knows what it is to work for a dysfunctional franchise." But he "quickly will understand the difference in working for a much more stable setup with the Giants" (NEWSDAY, 1/23). In N.Y., Gary Myers writes maybe the Giants "need safe and solid after the drama of the last two years" under former coach Ben McAdoo. However, the Giants have "passionate loyal fans and safe just doesn’t cut it" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/23). YAHOO SPORTS' Frank Schwab wrote Shurmur "has his challenges." The good news is he should "get time to establish his program, because the Giants have a long track record of patience" at coach and GM. Shurmur "will get time," and this seems "like the right fit" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/22).

CUT ABOVE THE REST? PFT's Mike Florio said there is a sense in the NFL that the Giants are "a cut above," but it "doesn't feel like the last two hires fit with the idea that there's something special." The Giants "created the impression" that Shurmur was the "third choice, and that was a problem." Teams "need to create the impression the guy you get it the guy who was your top choice." But NBCSN's Chris Simms said Shurmur is a "Giants type of guy." He is "not perfect but he's a good fit personality-wise for what they want in the head coach" ("PFT," NBCSN, 1/23). NFL Network's Ian Rapoport noted Gettleman also believes this is a job that is "not too big" for Shurmur ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 1/22).

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: In Phoenix, Greg Moore writes the Cardinals' move to hire Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks as coach proves that President Michael Bidwill and GM Steve Keim "aren't afraid to zig while everybody else is zagging." And while it "might seem like the Cardinals had to scramble after other teams took all the good candidates, that’s not likely the case." Bidwill said, "I’m glad we didn’t get caught up, like it’s a race or something. I think we made the right decision by being patient, following our process" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/23). ESPN's Adam Schefter said the Cardinals like Wilks' "leadership and presence" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/22). SI.com's Conor Orr wrote the hiring of Wilks is "encouraging for multiple reasons, but most notably it ends this hiring cycle on a high note for the embattled Fritz Pollard Alliance." The Alliance watched as the Raiders "comically tried to circumnavigate the Rooney Rule by forcing through a pair of head coaching interviews while negotiating with Jon Gruden on the side." The NFL currently has eight total minority head coaches, which is "tied for the highest number" in NFL history. Still, the NFL is "loaded with talented minority candidates who get little to no buzz during hiring season" (SI.com, 1/22).

The Indians in '14 were in "the bottom third of the bottom third" among the 30 MLB teams in revenue, but after consecutive playoff appearances, they are "well above the norm" in the league, according to Kevin Kleps of the CRAIN'S CLEVELAND BUSINESS. President of Business Operations Brian Barren in '14 developed a plan to get the team to 15th in the organization's "key business metrics within five years." Barren said making significant improvements in three crucial revenue segments -- tickets, premium suites and corporate partnerships -- creates "as much flexibility as possible for our baseball operations team and our ownership to field a competitive baseball team." The team's success in '16, with a World Series appearance, was the ideal version of Barren's business plan -- a "quality on-field product that generated increased sales, which led to significant payroll increases and an improved roster that helped to produce yet another revenue bump." The Indians are 19th in "overall ticket revenue, a seven-spot improvement" from '16, and 17th in the league in season-ticket revenue. The Indians are "eighth in partial season-ticket revenue and seventh in money generated by sales of mini-ticket packages (the popular six packs)." They finished the '17 season with 12,300 "full-season equivalents." As of the second week of January, the Indians had already "topped 13,100 FSEs" for '18. That "marked a 51% gain" from '16 and was 7,100 ahead of the franchise's '12 total of 6,000 (CRAIN'S CLEVELAND BUSINESS, 1/22 issue).

As of the second week of January, the Indians had already topped 13,100 FSEs for 2018. That marked a 51% gain from 2016 (8,700, which ranked 23rd in MLB) and was 7,100 ahead of the franchise's 2012 total of 6,000.

The most significant growth, which is reflected in the revenue rankings, is in the 20-game, or quarter-season, plans.

Indians vice president of sales and service Tim Salcer said 6,000 of the franchise's 8,800 season-ticket accounts are the result of 20-game plans. The Indians had 3,500 total season-ticket accounts as recently as 2016.

"The growth has been strong," Salcer said.

The Tribe VP said more than 80% of the club's new season-ticket purchases are 20-game plans.

That group gives the Indians a much-needed cushion during less-attended games in the spring months, and it fueled a 29% overall attendance gain that was the largest in MLB last season.

It's the spring months that Barren attributed to the lone category in which the Indians weren't in the top 20 in ticket revenue — group sales. The Tribe is 27th in group revenue and 28th in group sales.

From his perspective, those are numbers that illustrate the significant work that still needs to be done for a franchise that believes it's batting above its weight class in a field tilted toward economic heavyweights in New York (the Yankees), Los Angeles (the Dodgers), Boston (the Red Sox) and Chicago (the Cubs).

"Getting to the middle of the pack (in MLB revenue) is absolutely stretching, and it is achievable," Barren said. "We're pleased that we're able to crack into the teens on the metrics that matter on a few fronts, but we have plenty of room to grow and continue to develop and execute plans to get us in that neighborhood of 15th by 2019."

Getting to the middle doesn't guarantee anything, of course.

The 2017 World Series was won by the Houston Astros, who opened the season with the 18th-largest payroll — one spot behind the Indians.

But Barren and the business team, because of their faith in a baseball operation led by president Chris Antonetti, general manager Mike Chernoff and manager Terry Francona, like their odds, as long as those who contribute to the office charts can hold up their end of the bargain.

"What we're really after is putting ourselves in a position to be competitive over the long haul as best we can from a business perspective," Barren said.

Salcer, who joined the Tribe in October 2014 (nine months after Barren), also has a background in consumer goods. He said his boss' "office scoreboard" is inescapable. It's the biz team's version of the stock ticker that was so prevalent during Barren's days at P&G.

"It's ingrained in our heads what we want to do," Salcer said. "Fifteen and 5 is the battle cry for our business team. Like anything, when you have a really difficult challenge early on, it's amazing how people have come to believe that's possible."


As of the second week of January, the Indians had already topped 13,100 FSEs for 2018. That marked a 51% gain from 2016 (8,700, which ranked 23rd in MLB) and was 7,100 ahead of the franchise's 2012 total of 6,000.

The most significant growth, which is reflected in the revenue rankings, is in the 20-game, or quarter-season, plans.

Indians vice president of sales and service Tim Salcer said 6,000 of the franchise's 8,800 season-ticket accounts are the result of 20-game plans. The Indians had 3,500 total season-ticket accounts as recently as 2016.

"The growth has been strong," Salcer said.

The Tribe VP said more than 80% of the club's new season-ticket purchases are 20-game plans.

That group gives the Indians a much-needed cushion during less-attended games in the spring months, and it fueled a 29% overall attendance gain that was the largest in MLB last season.

It's the spring months that Barren attributed to the lone category in which the Indians weren't in the top 20 in ticket revenue — group sales. The Tribe is 27th in group revenue and 28th in group sales.

From his perspective, those are numbers that illustrate the significant work that still needs to be done for a franchise that believes it's batting above its weight class in a field tilted toward economic heavyweights in New York (the Yankees), Los Angeles (the Dodgers), Boston (the Red Sox) and Chicago (the Cubs).

"Getting to the middle of the pack (in MLB revenue) is absolutely stretching, and it is achievable," Barren said. "We're pleased that we're able to crack into the teens on the metrics that matter on a few fronts, but we have plenty of room to grow and continue to develop and execute plans to get us in that neighborhood of 15th by 2019."

Getting to the middle doesn't guarantee anything, of course.

The 2017 World Series was won by the Houston Astros, who opened the season with the 18th-largest payroll — one spot behind the Indians.

But Barren and the business team, because of their faith in a baseball operation led by president Chris Antonetti, general manager Mike Chernoff and manager Terry Francona, like their odds, as long as those who contribute to the office charts can hold up their end of the bargain.

"What we're really after is putting ourselves in a position to be competitive over the long haul as best we can from a business perspective," Barren said.

Salcer, who joined the Tribe in October 2014 (nine months after Barren), also has a background in consumer goods. He said his boss' "office scoreboard" is inescapable. It's the biz team's version of the stock ticker that was so prevalent during Barren's days at P&G.

"It's ingrained in our heads what we want to do," Salcer said. "Fifteen and 5 is the battle cry for our business team. Like anything, when you have a really difficult challenge early on, it's amazing how people have come to believe that's possible."


As of the second week of January, the Indians had already topped 13,100 FSEs for 2018. That marked a 51% gain from 2016 (8,700, which ranked 23rd in MLB) and was 7,100 ahead of the franchise's 2012 total of 6,000.

The most significant growth, which is reflected in the revenue rankings, is in the 20-game, or quarter-season, plans.

Indians vice president of sales and service Tim Salcer said 6,000 of the franchise's 8,800 season-ticket accounts are the result of 20-game plans. The Indians had 3,500 total season-ticket accounts as recently as 2016.

"The growth has been strong," Salcer said.

The Tribe VP said more than 80% of the club's new season-ticket purchases are 20-game plans.

That group gives the Indians a much-needed cushion during less-attended games in the spring months, and it fueled a 29% overall attendance gain that was the largest in MLB last season.

It's the spring months that Barren attributed to the lone category in which the Indians weren't in the top 20 in ticket revenue — group sales. The Tribe is 27th in group revenue and 28th in group sales.

From his perspective, those are numbers that illustrate the significant work that still needs to be done for a franchise that believes it's batting above its weight class in a field tilted toward economic heavyweights in New York (the Yankees), Los Angeles (the Dodgers), Boston (the Red Sox) and Chicago (the Cubs).

"Getting to the middle of the pack (in MLB revenue) is absolutely stretching, and it is achievable," Barren said. "We're pleased that we're able to crack into the teens on the metrics that matter on a few fronts, but we have plenty of room to grow and continue to develop and execute plans to get us in that neighborhood of 15th by 2019."

Getting to the middle doesn't guarantee anything, of course.

The 2017 World Series was won by the Houston Astros, who opened the season with the 18th-largest payroll — one spot behind the Indians.

But Barren and the business team, because of their faith in a baseball operation led by president Chris Antonetti, general manager Mike Chernoff and manager Terry Francona, like their odds, as long as those who contribute to the office charts can hold up their end of the bargain.

"What we're really after is putting ourselves in a position to be competitive over the long haul as best we can from a business perspective," Barren said.

Salcer, who joined the Tribe in October 2014 (nine months after Barren), also has a background in consumer goods. He said his boss' "office scoreboard" is inescapable. It's the biz team's version of the stock ticker that was so prevalent during Barren's days at P&G.

"It's ingrained in our heads what we want to do," Salcer said. "Fifteen and 5 is the battle cry for our business team. Like anything, when you have a really difficult challenge early on, it's amazing how people have come to believe that's possible."


Pirates President Frank Coonelly yesterday "defended the decision" to trade CF Andrew McCutchen, the "face of the franchise and one of the club's 'iconic players,'" to the Giants last week, according to Kevin Gorman of TRIBLIVE.com. Coonelly, appearing on Pittsburgh-based KDKA-AM, said, “The decision was made for all the right reasons and it was made in order to build a winner. ... One of the ways to get better is to trade iconic players for multiple players." Coonelly: “That's the reality of baseball.” Coonelly also "admonished fans for taking out their 'frustration or anger' with 'personal attacks on [Pirates Owner] Bob Nutting,' calling it 'wrong.'" He added Nutting was “the last one to get on board” with the trade (TRIBLIVE.com, 1/22). TRIBLIVE.com's Gorman wrote now the "face of this franchise is not a fresh-faced prospect with the promise of becoming the Pirates' next All-Star but rather a bespectacled 55-year-old newspaper heir and resort owner from Wheeling, W.Va., who is more interested in making money than spending it." Fans "can't force Nutting to sell" the team, but they should "demand he put his money where his mouth is." If the Pirates "want to field a championship-caliber team, Bottom-Line Bob must start spending" (TRIBLIVE.com, 1/20). Gorman noted an online petition to force Nutting to sell the Pirates on Saturday had "more than 53,000 signatures." Pirates season-ticket holder Jason Kauffman "plans to take his protest a step further" as he and a group of Pirates fans "plan to boycott the home opener" (TRIBLIVE.com, 1/20).

Rangers President of Baseball Operations & GM Jon Daniels said that he would "not expect the team to be a big player, i.e. spend a huge amount on a player or two, in the market." Either Rangers co-Chairs Ray Davis and Bob Simpson "finally grew fatigued" of big deals gone bad, or the GM is "done with them, too." One free agent "doesn’t fix this club, or make them any more of a contender than they already aren’t" (Ft. Worth STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/23).

ANOTHER MISSTEP BY THE CAPTAIN? In West Palm Beach, Dave George wrote the Marlins' plan to possibly remove their home run sculpture in left field is "just another misread" by CEO Derek Jeter. George wrote sarcastically, "Get rid of the bells and whistles, that’s the idea. Lure fresh customers in with the basic fundamentals of baseball instead." This is another "perfect symbol of this franchise’s ability to thwart momentum no matter who is in charge" (PALM BEACH POST, 1/20).

CAUGHT IN A PICKLE: The Dodgers have had around a 45% price increase "over two years" for season tickets in the outer reaches of Dodger Stadium. The total cost of two season tickets is "now $2,649, or $820 more than two season ago, $505 more than last year." A Dodgers spokesperson said, "We understand the fan's plight, but the Dodger ticket is still a good entertainment value." A pair of Dodgers season-ticket holders said that they "have their doubts" about Dodgers ownership. That should "concern the Guggenheim folks if their baseball team ever stops winning" (L.A. TIMES, 1/21).