MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that he "remains committed to Oakland as a major-league market despite the A's continued failed attempts to secure a ballpark site," according to John Shea of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The A's were "rejected in December in their latest bid to find a new home, this one near Laney College." The team said that it will announce its next target, either the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum site or Howard Terminal, "by the end of this year." Manfred said the Laney College venture was "an unfortunate misstep, but there is no human endeavor where you get it right every single time." Manfred added that A's Managing Partner John Fisher, who has not commented on any ballpark pursuits, would "agree." Manfred said that "both remaining sites are viable" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 7/18). Manfred said, "I believe that there is not another market in the United States that has the upside potential that Oakland has, and I think we would regret leaving Oakland if we did that." Manfred also said that he was encouraging the A's to get to a new ballpark site decision "sooner rather than later ... so that you can get to the next step, which is determining whether you have the economic viability in terms of financing and the like" (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).
ANOTHER BAY AREA: In Tampa, Marc Topkin notes Manfred yesterday "expressed extreme confidence" in Rays Owner Stu Sternberg to "make a deal" to get the proposed $892M Ybor City ballpark built. Manfred: "He's going to get this done." Manfred said that he "liked the overall plans the Rays unveiled last week for the fixed-roof, glass-walled facility." Manfred said, "I thought the design was innovative and well suited to the Tampa Bay market. ... I also thought the design was imbued with a sense of realism in terms of what it would cost to actually get the stadium built. It's not some crazy -- I think it was economically efficient, let me use that term." Manfred "reiterated his support for the area, despite the ongoing attendance issues at Tropicana Field." More Manfred: "Tampa-St. Pete is a major-league market. And I think Stu believes that, and that's equally important. And that's why we've spent so much time and effort there" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 7/18). Manfred said that the next step for the Rays is a financing plan. He said, "Stadiums are municipal assets. They are indicative of a ... region's status kind of as a major league city, and participation either in terms of businesses or governmental entities in the financing of the stadium I continue to believe is completely appropriate." Manfred: "If you are going to have private financing, the other piece that has to be present is support for the club in terms of attendance, sponsorship and all those great things that put the owner in a position to repay the debt that they inevitably would have to incur to get the stadium constructed" (AP, 7/17).
SIN CITY? In Las Vegas, Bill Bradley notes the city has been "mentioned in the past few years as a possibility" for MLB. Manfred said, "Vegas is a viable expansion alternative. I think it's big enough." Manfred said that before MLB "expands from its current 30 franchises, stadium issues need to be settled in Oakland and Tampa Bay." Manfred: "I would like to get to 32 (teams)." Manfred said that getting to 32 teams would "help MLB move to either four division of eight teams or eight divisions of four teams." MLB currently has "six divisions of five teams, 15 in each league" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 7/18).
FC Cincinnati has hired N.Y.-based branding consulting firm Interbrand to "head up the development of its brand strategy and identity" ahead of its inaugural MLS season in '19, according to Steve Watkins of the CINCINNATI BUSINESS COURIER. Interbrand will "update FC Cincinnati's logo and visual brand identity as well as developing verbal branding" to share the club's story. Interbrand will "use fan-based research" in its process of developing the new branding. FC Cincinnati's Fan Council has already "provided significant input." FC Cincinnati "began working on branding strategy with MLS and Interbrand shortly after the MLS announcement." The club will "present its final MLS branding" and Adidas as its official apparel supplier for league approval at the MLS All-Star Game in Atlanta on Aug. 1. FC Cincinnati "plans to unveil its MLS logo and branding later this fall" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 7/17).
The Dodgers reportedly are close to finalizing a trade for Orioles SS Manny Machado, and in L.A., Bill Plaschke writes making deals like this is "what smart Los Angeles teams do." The move comes after LeBron James, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ndamukong Suh in recent months joined the Lakers, Galaxy and Rams, respectively, and Plaschke writes L.A. clubs "have to not only win, but entertain," and do it with "not only stuntmen, but stars." Plaschke: "When an A-lister is available, you do the deal, because if you don't, your competitors will, and you'll wind up with a fate far worse around here than losing. You'll wind up being irrelevant" (L.A. TIMES, 7/18).
WILLING TO PAY THE PRICE: Red Sox President & CEO Sam Kennedy indicated that the team has a "willingness to cross baseball's highest luxury tax threshold and take on a payroll" above $237M this year. Kennedy said, "There's a willingness from our bosses" (NBCSPORTSBOSTON.com, 7/17). The Red Sox have the best record in MLB at 68-30, but in Providence, Bill Reynolds wrote this "has not been the greatest of seasons for baseball." Reynolds: "It doesn't seem like it once did when the Sox owned the summer. ... Blame it on the perception that the Patriots are the most popular team in New England." He added another reason could be because the Red Sox are "no longer the lovable losers" (PROVIDENCEJOURNAL.com, 7/14).
WAVING THE WHITE FLAG? In Toronto, Richard Griffin wrote there is "no doubt that it has been a disappointing season" for Blue Jays fans. The team sits fourth in the AL East with a 43-52 record and is "headed in the wrong direction ... with little light at the end of the 2018 tunnel." Griffin: "Over the past 20 years, this season may rank as one of the five most disappointing for Jays fans at this point in the schedule" (TORONTO STAR, 7/16).
In Phoenix, Bob McManaman notes with NFL Cardinals GM Steve Keim's 5-week suspension for a DUI, it is the team that figures to be "hurt the most at the moment." While Keim's actions "surely will sully his reputation moving forward," the team's '18 season "might now be placed in jeopardy and that affects an entire team, its coaching staff, support staff, family and fan base." The Cardinals have a "shrewd, up-and-coming executive" in VP/Player Personnel Terry McDonough. But but can he and other team execs "be good enough in the meantime" to make signings and bring in impact talent before Keim is eligible to return before the team's regular-season opener Sept. 9? That is where Keim's suspension "could cost the Cardinals the most" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 7/18).
DIVERSIFYING INVESTMENTS: ESPN.com's Jordi Blanco cited sources as saying that Patriots Owner Robert Kraft is "interested in acquiring a stake" in La Liga club Sevilla. Sources said that Kraft is pursuing an investment through an organization called "Sevillistas Unidos 2020," which is looking to take a 40% share in the club (ESPN.com, 7/17).
NEW DIRECTION: In Buffalo, Amy Moritz noted "everything changed" for the NWHL Buffalo Beauts once they "came under" the Pegula Sports & Entertainment umbrella. Beauts D Jacquie Greco said, "We definitely have more of an organizational structure. ... The extra support the Pegulas have offered this team made us an all-around better team. There's more tools and assets to help us be a world-class team, a professional team." Greco: "We feel we're treated like professionals now more than ever. We don't make millions of dollars, but we're treated as professional athletes" (BUFFALO NEWS, 7/15).