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Volume 26 No. 5

Franchises

Cora has no regrets about his decision to skip the team's visit to the White House on Thursday
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Red Sox manager Alex Cora does not believe the team's upcoming trip to the White House is an "issue within the clubhouse" despite the majority of team personnel planning to attend being white and those "declining to go minorities," according to Michael Silverman of the BOSTON HERALD. Players "could still change their mind" either way and 2B Eduardo Núñez reportedly has "not yet decided." Cora has "zero regrets" about his choice to skip the visit. He said that he "expected there to be plenty of reaction to his decision." Cora: "If I were to go, they would have talked about it anyways. Not going is the same thing. I’m comfortable with the decision" (BOSTON HERALD, 5/7). In Boston, Adrian Walker writes it is an "awkward" situation for the Red Sox and ownership, which has "made a point of distancing itself from the team’s racist history." Red Sox President & CEO Sam Kennedy said that the team "did not want to make a political statement by declining an invitation from the White House." He said, "The most important thing was to be consistent. This is all about giving the players this opportunity they deserved." Kennedy added: "We don’t see this as an endorsement of a particular politician or a set of policies or procedures" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/7).

WHY GO AT ALL? ESPN's Bomani Jones wondered if the White House trip is "going to divide your team in this way, I would think it would be better for the team to decline" the invitation altogether. Jones: “If that much of your team is not going, then your team is not going. This is not any sort of sign of unity or anything else if you make that call” (“High Noon,” ESPN, 5/6). USA TODAY's Gabe Lacques writes President Trump's "rhetoric is impossible to ignore." It is "one thing to disagree with a president." It is "quite another to feel that your well-being and that of your family are threatened by him." The "elephant in the room, of course, is the fact that the front office and a slight majority of Red Sox players will attend." Unless Red Sox P Eduardo Rodriguez or LF Andrew Benintendi "opt to attend/not attend, respectively (their intent is not yet publicly known), it’s impossible not to notice the decisions breaking along racial lines" (USATODAY.com, 5/6).

TIME FOR CHANGE? In Massachusetts, Matt Vautour writes there is "nothing wrong with athletes being politically active or taking a stand," but the tradition of visiting the White House after a championship "encourages grandstanding now." The Red Sox are "just the latest to try to navigate their way across it and the waters have been choppy." Trump and all Presidents who follow him "should skip a step and stop inviting teams at all because right now nobody is coming out unscathed" (MASSLIVE.com, 5/7).

Under the current CBA, MLB teams can be chosen for international play at least once every three years
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

After the Astros completed a two-game series against the Angels in Monterrey this weekend, the team said that they "would be amenable to another regular-season trip to Mexico that could be allowed" under the current CBA before it expires after the '21 season, according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The CBA currently allows for every MLB team to be chosen for international play at a minimum of once every three years, but Astros President of Baseball Operations Reid Ryan said the team "would be open to looking at going back to Mexico before the three years are up." An MLB spokesperson said, "We are always pleased to hear when teams and players have a great international experience and want to return. A club may go twice internationally during the term of the agreement, and the International Committee would consider discussing the idea." Ryan, who is a member of MLB's Int'l Committee, said that committee members "will meet in June to discuss the results of games played in Japan, London and in Monterrey, which hosted three series" in total. Ryan said, "You will see baseball making a focus on Mexico. It has a large population that enjoys baseball and has competitive summer and winter leagues. You will see MLB play games there, but I don't know if the schedule will be as aggressive as this year" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/7).

Marlins VP/Player Development & Scouting Gary Denbo remains a "polarizing figure in his second full season" with the team, "eliciting strong loyalty from those who support him and strong enmity from those who do not," according to Ken Rosenthal of THE ATHLETIC. Some within the organization said that Denbo is "giving the Marlins precisely the jolt they need after years of lacking direction." However, more than 75 employees in baseball operations "have left the Marlins" since the team was sold to Bruce Sherman in '17. While more than half of those "were fired or not renewed, nearly 35 left of their own accord," many citing Denbo’s "personality and decision-making as primary factors." Those former employees said that Denbo "engaged in verbal abuse, fat shaming and blatant favoritism toward certain Marlins personnel." Some said that the "atmosphere around the Marlins is improving," but others, including some with "no ties to the franchise or personal stake in the matter, question whether Denbo is the right person to play a lead role in rebuilding the club." Sources said that Denbo has emerged as Marlins CEO Derek Jeter’s "most significant adviser," even though he has "no previous experience as a lead decision-maker." Rosenthal noted while a number of holdovers from the Marlins’ previous regime "still feel like outcasts, Denbo is showing a kinder, gentler side in his second full season with the club." Employees said that he "seems more focused and comfortable now that many of his own people are in place" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/6).

TWITTER REAX: Baseball America Owner Gary Green: "Derek Jeter and Gary Denbo’s people skills are directly from the George Steinbrenner handbook. Treat people like garbage and hopefully some respond." Baseball author Danny Knobler: "Denbo stories have been circulating in baseball for a while (and they’re not flattering). Great job by @Ken_Rosenthal running them down and explaining why they could matter to Marlins." South Florida-based WPLG-ABC Sports Dir Will Manso: "A very fascinating but extremely unflattering story." Miami-based WAXY-AM's Jonathan Zaslow: "Absolutely brutal picture painted of Gary Denbo." Yankees Magazine Associate Editor Gary Phillips: "Interesting and unflattering read."

Dodgers fans seemed to overwhelm the crowd of 44,473 at Petco Park for Dodgers-Padres on Sunday
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Dodgers fans outnumbered Padres fans this past weekend at Petco Park, but the sellout crowds set a "ballpark attendance record for a three-game series," according to Tom Krasovic of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. The Padres’ business model is "built on attracting not only Padres fans but tourists." Krasovic: "No matter how good the Padres get on the field, you should expect to see thousands of fans of almost any visiting team at Petco Park" (SANDIEGOUNIONTRIBUNE.com, 5/6). In San Diego, Kevin Acee wrote Dodgers fans on Sunday "seemed overwhelming" in the crowd of 44,473 at Petco Park. The three-day attendance total of 133,456 broke the three-game mark of 133,311 set when the Red Sox visited in '07. With the Padres' addition of 3B Manny Machado, there has been a "surge in interest in the team, which attendance has borne out." The Padres are averaging 31,904 fans through 18 home games, 5,132 ahead of last year’s final per-game average. Sunday was their fifth sellout this season. However, there was "no getting around the abundance of Dodger blue." Padres 1B Eric Hosmer said, "These guys have been to the World Series back-to-back years. You know why their fan base is so big, why it’s so strong" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 5/6).

The NFL Panthers are expanding their Hall of Honor with the addition of former players Steve Smith, Jake Delhomme, Jordan Gross and Wesley Walls, and the move is something Owner David Tepper "put on his priority list after buying the team from Jerry Richardson last year," according to Joseph Person of THE ATHLETIC. The Panthers "have spent a quarter-century in the NFL and had honored exactly one player" -- the late Sam Mills in '98. With adding only four players in this class, the Panthers "got the ball rolling while also creating a debate over players left on the list" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/6). Panthers Historical & Alumni Affairs Manager David Monroe, who led the committee that made the final decision, said that Smith, Delhomme, Gross and Walls "will be officially honored" at the Panthers' Oct. 6 or Nov. 3 home games this season. In Charlotte, Scott Fowler notes busts of the players "will be displayed on the 100-level concourse inside Bank of America Stadium in the Hall of Honor's new home, which will be accessible to all fans during Panthers home games or at other stadium events." Tepper has been "willing to listen to a number of recommendations from people who have been around the Panthers a lot longer than he has." Then Tepper has "acted, and generally made the right calls" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/7).

USA TODAY's Kevin Allen wrote Golden Knights President of Hockey Operations George McPhee "concluded that the only acceptable way to prevent" GM Kelly McCrimmon from leaving the team was to "give up his own job" to McCrimmon, even after McPhee won NHL GM of the year in '18. If McPhee "shifted to president of hockey operations and promoted McCrimmon from assistant to general manager, he believed he could keep the hottest candidate in the managerial marketplace." McPhee said, “It didn’t feel like a big change. ... It wasn’t a difficult decision for me. It felt right. I’m happy to do it. It’s what is best for the Vegas Golden Knights.” If McPhee "hadn’t made this gesture, McCrimmon was going to end up" as GM of the Oilers or the Seattle expansion team (USA TODAY, 5/3).

END OF AN ERA? The Penguins' sellout streak stands at 574, but in Pittsburgh, Mark Madden wondered if that will "continue when the Penguins miss the playoffs." Or, will "average attendance dip closer" to the 11,877 the team averaged in the '03-04 season? What would "tangible fan backlash be to trading a popular player" like C Evgeni Malkin, D Kris Letang or RW Phil Kessel? Madden: "Probably not much." G Marc-Andre Fleury was "more popular than any of those three," but "things add up" (TRIBLIVE.com, 5/3).

TAKING IT TO THE STREETS: The Lightning and Pasco County, Fla., officials are "discussing a partnership to develop rinks on each side of the county." It is "part of the team’s Build the Thunder 2.0 effort to locate 10 street hockey rinks in the region" by the summer of '20. County officials "revealed the NHL team’s interest, but few details," during an April 30 workshop (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 5/6).

THE ATHLETIC's Frank Isola wrote the Lakers' "expected hiring" of Tyronn Lue as coach is a "smart move." It is in the "best interests of the Lakers to listen" to LeBron James, and it is in "LeBron's best interests to make sure his voice is heard" in the organization. That "may not be the Lakers way of doing things in the past, but this is what you sign up for when LeBron decides to wear the purple and gold." James' first season in L.A. was an "unmitigated disaster." Isola: "But if you're a Lakers fan you have to be pleased that LeBron is trying to make moves that will benefit the team as a whole" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/6).

A STRONG DRAW IN CINCY: FC Cincinnati is averaging 27,639 fans per game at Nippert Stadium through four home games in its first MLS season, which "ranks third out of 24 MLS teams." Only Atlanta United and the Sounders, "both of which play in huge NFL stadiums, are drawing more fans." FC Cincinnati VP/Ticket Sales & Service Jeff Smith "initially targeted 20,000 season tickets this year and average attendance" in the 27,000-28,000 range. Smith said that the club has sold 20,788 season tickets, and while the "average attendance is in the middle of that range, he expects it to climb" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 5/6).

NOT-SO-SUNNY SAN DIEGO: In Toronto, Todd Saelhof writes it "doesn't look" as if the NLL has "caught fire" in San Diego, where the Seals were one of two expansion teams added this season. For a recent Calgary Roughnecks-Seals playoff game, the crowd size "wasn't near the number that was announced -- 8,357 fans -- for their regular-season finale a week earlier." There were only about 5,005 "supporters on hand for the playoff tilt" (TORONTOSUN.com, 5/7).