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Volume 25 No. 28

Franchises

49ers front office members over the past week have absorbed criticism for not releasing Foster
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The 49ers said that LB Reuben Foster "would not participate in team activities" after being charged with felony domestic violence last week, meaning he will not be present when the team begins its offseason program this week, according to Eric Branch of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The team in a statement said Foster "will not participate in any football-related activities while the legal process unfolds, but the 49ers could set up external resources or support if he remains in the Bay Area, which he is expected to do." In the aftermath of Friday’s charges, the 49ers have "absorbed criticism for not releasing Foster," though the decision to ban him from team activities "does not suggest they have changed their stance on how they view his case" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/16). In DC, Des Bieler writes the longer GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan "keep a roster spot for Foster, who has a hearing on April 30, the more likely they are to face pointed questions about what behavior they do and don’t find unacceptable." However, by issuing the 24-year-old "what amounts to an unofficial suspension, they are avoiding some public-relations headaches that would be caused by the sight of Foster at 49ers workouts" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/16). THE MMQB's Peter King writes the 49ers "can justify the Foster [draft] pick as swinging and missing for a potential franchise linebacker." But the "lesson for Lynch now, with the recent spate of rap-sheet Niners, is he's got to pick Eagle Scouts." King: "This franchise has erred with risky players once too often, and for a while, they're going to have to pick totally clean players" (SI.com, 4/16).

MLSE said that less than 3% of Leafs season-ticket holders were affected by the surcharge
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

MLSE is “imposing a higher price" on hundreds of both Maple Leafs and Raptors regular-season ticket holders that they “believe are scalpers,” according to a front-page piece by Oved & Cribb of the TORONTO STAR. The price hikes “will apply to thousands of seats in the Air Canada Centre starting next regular season.” MLSE “issued invoices to season ticket holders it has deemed ‘commercial’ resellers," demanding between 32-37% in markups -- "ranging from $2,000 to $8,000 [all figures C] for a pair of seats.” The company said that it is "simply cancelling the discount that season ticket holders normally get.” But some season-tickets holders said that they have been “caught in MLSE’s scalper net unfairly, after selling tickets only to games they couldn’t attend.” It is “not clear how MLSE determined which of its season ticket holders were ‘commercial resellers.’” When asked how many tickets someone must sell before MLSE labels them a scalper and “dings them for thousands of dollars in penalties, the company wouldn’t say.” MLSE Senior Dir of Communications Dave Haggith said that less than 3% of Leafs season-ticket holders and about 13.5% of Raptors season-ticket holders “were affected” (TORONTO STAR, 4/16).

Marlins Park last week saw a franchise-low 6,150 fans show up for a game against the Mets
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said that he is "disappointed with the Marlins’ record-low crowd turnouts" so far this season, but he has "no intention of padding the figures, as was done in the past," according to Clark Spencer of the MIAMI HERALD. Jeter has "vowed to continue counting only tickets sold when reporting attendance numbers." He said, "One of the qualities of running a first-class organization is honesty. We’re transparent and we’re going to be honest about it. And reporting paid attendance as the number of tickets sold is the way we’re going to report it.” Spencer noted average home attendance at Marlins Park through the team’s first nine games "was 18,853, which ranked 26th" among all MLB clubs. But they have "already drawn the three smallest crowds in Marlins Park history, with a franchise-low 6,150 showing up for Wednesday’s game against the Mets." Jeter said that reporting actual paid attendance, "no matter how low the figures, will be reflected in future crowd increases." He added that one of the major complaints he hears often from fans is the "difficulty caused by traffic in getting into and out of the ballpark before and after games." Jeter: "Ingress and egress is an issue that we’re addressing. We’ve met with the police department of Miami, the police force of the county, and they’ve been very cooperative" (MIAMIHERALD.com, 4/13).

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE: In N.Y., Ken Davidoff writes by accounts "inside and outside the organization, [Jeter] is letting the baseball people conduct their business." That "represents a significant contrast from his predecessors at Marlins Park." Davidoff: "The couple of times I saw the Marlins in spring training, they seemed calm -- and relieved that this plan would be in place for a while." While no one "doubted the passion" of former owner Jeffrey Loria, his "impatience and impetuousness, seconded by team president David Samson, created a culture of chaos." Jeter "asked for patience from the remaining fans as he gutted the team, and now he’ll be patient as the team sets a new course" (N.Y. POST, 4/16).

LOCAL ROOTS: In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis wrote Jeter in his first season has "shown a determination for building fan and business support of his new team by spending as much time in the community as possible." Last week he visited a local school to "distribute tickets to kids" for an Autism Awareness Day game. Jeter: “Any complimentary tickets that we give out, we’re going to do it in an impactful way, and we’re going to help grow the game of baseball here in South Florida" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 4/13). 

The A's distributed 200,000 free tickets for tomorrow's game against the White Sox in celebration of their 50th anniversary, and the team expects around 70,000 fans "to show up based on RSVPs," according to a front-page piece by Susan Slusser of the S.F CHRONICLE. The projected overflow crowd will not "count in terms of official attendance, however, which is based on tickets sold." With "meager fan turnout" so far this season, the A's totals are "certain to be near the bottom of the league again" after averaging the second-lowest attendance in MLB for two seasons in a row. The A's first homestand of the season had "alarming attendance figures," with the team twice drawing fewer than 8,000 fans to a venue that "holds more than 40,000." On April 2, a game against the Rangers "attracted a paltry 7,416 fans, the team's smallest crowd" since '03. Tomorrow's game will likely see the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum "packed to the brim" because of the free tickets for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the team's first game in Oakland. A's President Dave Kaval said that one reason attendance is down is that the team has "reduced the number of brokers selling A's tickets in an effort to improve customer service and maintain resale value for season-ticket holders." A "more profound effect" might be that the A's "raised general parking prices at the Coliseum from $20 to $30." The ballpark itself, even with new amenities such as this season's Treehouse party-deck area and the Farm picnic area, is "outdated and missing many amenities of newer buildings" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/16). 

The Nationals are allowing bars and restaurants from Maryland to North Carolina to join a team-sponsored program "if they have at least one television and pledge to show every Nationals game," according to Jacob Bogage of the WASHINGTON POST. The "Curly W Restaurant and Bar Alliance" will provide "perks for patrons" of participating establishments. That includes a "'bar kit' of decorations and fan handouts, such as koozies, hats, Nats bottle openers and ticket discount vouchers." The Nationals also will "periodically distribute promotional items and prizes -- including free tickets -- in exchange for participating." The team claims that 37 venues "have already joined the Alliance." This is seen as a "step forward for the distribution of Nationals broadcasts, which are controlled by MASN" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 4/13).

In Nashville, Nate Rau reported locally based Acadia Healthcare CEO & Chair Joey Jacobs and two of his sons "have invested" in the Predators and are now members of the team's ownership group. Jacobs and his sons Brent and Scott "joined the ownership group in the last several weeks." The family's investment "represents a minority stake in the Predators" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 4/14)

LONE STAR: In Dallas, Tim Cowlishaw wrote coach Ken Hitchcock retiring does not "change what appears to be a rough summer ahead for the Stars." And it does not "answer the questions about where this team is headed" as led by Owner Tom Gaglardi and GM Jim Nill. Gaglardi "hired Nill fiver years ago, but the GM has brought in two coaches and will now bring in a third, and the Stars have won all of one playoff series in his time." Cowlishaw: "When does the clock tick for Nill? How is he somehow immune to all of this?" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/14). 

MAKING SENSE OF THINGS:In Ottawa, Rick Gibbons writes maybe relocating the Senators to LeBreton Flats "isn't such a good idea after all." The franchise "did just fine for many years in Kanata with good teams and decent attendance." The team is now "paying a steep price for being distracted by the lure of seemingly greener pastures downtown." It was not until four years ago that LeBreton even "became a possibility" and Owner Eugene Melnyk "started thinking about it as a potential 'game changer.'" Since then, the team has "gone from a respectable 13th to 24th in league attendance." Some of that "is the consequence of alienating a Kanata-area fan base with all this relocation talk" (OTTAWA SUN, 4/16). 

In Boston, Sean McAdam reported the Red Sox failed to sell out the "first two games of their series with the Yankees" last week, a situation that would have been "unthinkable" 10 years ago. Red Sox President & CEO Sam Kennedy acknowledged the team is off by about 6% in ticket sales from a year ago, but is "confident that, with the team's strong start, that can soon be made up" (BOSTONSPORTSJOURNAL.com, 4/15). 

HEATING UP: In Miami, Greg Cote wrote the Dolphins and Heat are the two teams competing for the "mythical title of which of our pro sports teams Owns This Town." It is "Tradition vs. Today, the Fins' 53 years of history and lore vs. the Heat's more current appeal to a fandom more diverse, more millennial." There is "no question who the better team is right now." The Dolphins are "asking you to have faith," but the Heat "deserve it" (MIAMIHERALD.com, 4/13). 

UNION STRIKE? In Philadelphia, John Smallwood wrote Union fans can "still be an intimidating presence on those increasingly fewer occasions" when the Union give them a "reason to believe." But the atmosphere at Talen Energy Stadium is not as "intense as it once was." The venue is now typically "filled to around" 80% capacity. Even "The River's End," where hard-core fans like the "'Sons of Ben' convene, is now littered with empty seats" (PHILLY.com, 4/14).