Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 26 No. 113

Franchises

Trump sat in Nationals Park's Washington Suite with his wife and several other Republican politicians
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Trump sat in Nationals Park's Washington Suite with his wife and several other Republican politicians
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Trump sat in Nationals Park's Washington Suite with his wife and several other Republican politicians
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Lerner family had "no desire to be put in a position of turning down a request from the White House for President Trump to sit with" members of the team's ownership group last night during Game 5 of the World Series, according to a source cited by Mike Wise of DC-based WUSA-CBS. The source "made it clear that at no time was a direct request made that the President not be seated next to the Lerner family, but it was made clear that the family did not want to be put in the awkward position of having to respond to a request." Trump and his wife, Melania, sat in the Washington Suite alongside several other Republican politicians. There had been speculation Trump could throw last night's ceremonial first pitch, but that honor was "decided long in advance" of Trump informing MLB of his "intentions to attend Game 5 in the past two weeks." Last night's first pitch was thrown out by celebrity chef Jose Andres, who has been "openly critical" of Trump's administration (WUSA9.com, 10/27). In N.Y., David Matthews writes the details of how the Lerners "avoided being seated near Trump," were not clear (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/28). Meanwhile, YAHOO SPORTS' Mark Townsend noted Trump’s arrival "was not shown or mentioned on the Fox broadcast," while his presence was "acknowledged by broadcaster Joe Buck just before the third inning" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/27).

NOT A WARM RECEPTION: In DC, Judkis & Dawsey report when Trump last night was "announced on the public address system after the third inning as part of a tribute to veterans, the crowd roared into sustained booing" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/28). The GLOBE & MAIL's Cathal Kelly notes Trump's handlers "had the sense to surround him with wounded veterans and arrange for him to be shown during a salute to the military," as it is "hard to boo guys who've taken a bullet for the country" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/28). However, NBC's Kristen Welker noted Trump did not receive the "warmest welcome" from the crowd ("Today," NBC, 10/28). CBS' Tony Dokoupil notes Trump received "what you would call less than a warm welcome." CBS' Gayle King said it was "so interesting to me that on a day when it's clearly a big victory for the administration" with the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Trump "gets booed in Washington at the World Series game" ("CBS This Morning," 10/28).

WALKING THE TIGHTROPE: In N.Y., Peter Baker writes Trump's decision to attend Game 5 "presented a challenge" for the Nationals. The team had already asked Andres to throw out the first pitch "long before" Trump informed MLB officials that he would come. Even if "unintended, it was a bit of trolling," given that Andres has been a "vocal critic of the president" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/28). The GLOBE & MAIL's Kelly wrote it is "hard not to view" the Nationals inviting Andres as an "attempt to please both sides of the divide" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/26).

TEAM SPIRIT: In DC, Scott Allen noted the roughly 250 full-time Nationals employees who work out of the team's offices at Nationals Park "received a company email offering them the chance to attend Game 1" in Houston. They could "bring a guest, and the team would cover the costs of a charter flight, tickets and a hotel." About 200 people "from various departments" made the trip. Red rally towels "draped the seats" of last Tuesday's charter flight back to Houston, which "included a specially prepared meal" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/26).

Crane on Saturday sent SI reporter Stephanie Apstein a three-sentence apology on Astros letterhead
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Crane on Saturday sent SI reporter Stephanie Apstein a three-sentence apology on Astros letterhead
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Crane on Saturday sent SI reporter Stephanie Apstein a three-sentence apology on Astros letterhead
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Astros "issued an official retraction of their six-day-old statement that falsely accused Sports Illustrated of attempting to fabricate a story" that detailed inappropriate behavior by recently fired Assistant GM Brandon Taubman, according to Chandler Rome of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Astros Owner Jim Crane sent SI reporter Stephanie Apstein a "three-sentence apology Saturday on Astros letterhead." Crane wrote in the letter, "We were wrong and I am sorry that we initially questioned your professionalism." Astros Senior VP/Marketing & Communications Anita Sehgal said, "This team needs to wear this statement. We screwed up. And we're going to own it as a team" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/28). In DC, Ben Strauss notes Apstein and Astros President of Baseball Operations & GM Jeff Luhnow met Friday evening ahead of World Series Game 3 at Nationals Park, where Apstein "requested a formal retraction of the Astros' original statement but was given no assurances one would be forthcoming" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/28). Before Luhnow's meeting with Apstein, Crane told reporters, "We made our statement. We got it wrong from the start. Jeff had reached out to the reporters and apologized. We made our statement. Other than that, we're not going [to] revisit at this point. We'll play baseball" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/26).

FINDING FAULT: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay wrote, "We live in a world where 'fake news!' has become a cheap throwaway comment, but this was a direct denunciation of someone's professional reputation before the Astros had figured out what really happened" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/26). ESPN's Bomani Jones said "whoever green lit" the original statement "has to go, too." Jones added the Astros "made the call to do whatever it took to not fire" Taubman until they had "no other option." Jones: "Who are the people that made that call? Because they seem to have to answer for it also" ("High Noon," ESPN, 10/25). In Toronto, Doug Smith wrote, "It shouldn't end with just this Taubman guy getting fired" (TORONTO STAR, 10/26).

SEEING A PATTERN: THE ATHLETIC's Evan Drellich wrote for years, Astros observers have "cast doubt" on how well management "handles people, and on the team's priorities." The Taubman incident reveals "just how capable Astros management is of bulldozing people and decency." One ex-Astros employee "spoke of emotional devastation immediately following the trade" for P Roberto Osuna, due to the message "sent to the team's own employees -- and specifically women -- about domestic violence." The former staffer "saw no significant resources allocated to dealing with internal concerns." The "fallout from Taubman's behavior has some of the same themes" (THEATHLETIC.com, 10/25). YAHOO SPORTS' Hannah Keyser wrote much of what Luhnow said during a press conference on Thursday "attempts to perpetuate the convenient delusion that what happened at the ALCS was a standalone incident and not a sobering tip of the iceberg" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/25).

CREATING A CULTURE: In Boston, Peter Abraham wrote, "Culture is a buzzword that gets thrown around and its definition is nebulous. But it fits with the Astros in this case." Their front-office culture under Luhnow and with the approval of Crane is to "treat people poorly, do anything to get an edge, and lie when you're caught." Taubman was a "product of that environment and in talking to people around the game, none were surprised about what happened." Abraham: "At some point how you win matters. But that doesn't seem to matter with Houston" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/27). Also in Boston, Tara Sullivan wrote Luhnow's "belated apologies, and an insistence Taubman's outburst was 'not representative of who the Astros are and our culture and what we stand for,' have been continually disproved by actions" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/27).

The Red Sox named Rays Senior VP/Baseball Operations Chaim Bloom President of Baseball Operations, and he will "inherit a team in transition" after the Red Sox "missed the postseason for the first time" since '15, according to Peter Abraham of the BOSTON GLOBE. Red Sox Owner John Henry and Chair Tom Werner have said that they "want to slash payroll" approximately 15% to "get under MLB's luxury-tax threshold" of $208M. Reaching that goal "could require trading one or more high-salaried players." Bloom is "accustomed to succeeding with much tighter budgets," as the Rays had a payroll of approximately $68M this season. The Rays' analytics staff is "one of the largest in the game and Bloom is sure to make that a focal point of his regime." The Red Sox "believe Bloom can do for them" what former Rays exec Andrew Friedman has accomplished with the Dodgers as President of Baseball Operations. The Dodgers hired Friedman before the '15 season and they have "since led the majors in victories." Friedman also has "cut the team's payroll" by roughly 20% (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/26). Abraham in a separate piece wrote Bloom's job is to "add some ingenuity to the mix, to take the payroll from obscene to merely extravagant, and make the Red Sox a sustainable operation, not one with the dramatic peaks and valleys that have marked this decade" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/27).

TOUGH DECISIONS LOOMING: ESPN.com wrote it is a "crucial offseason for the Red Sox, who need to decide what to do" about RF Mookie Betts, who will be a free agent after next season. They also need to decide on DH J.D. Martinez, who can opt out of his deal five days after the World Series, and "other players on expiring contracts" (ESPN.com, 10/25). In Massachusetts, Christopher Smith notes Bloom "likely must decide between keeping" Martinez or Betts (Springfield REPUBLICAN, 10/28). The GLOBE's Abraham wrote Bloom's experience with "putting emotion aside and trading foundational players because the time had come should serve him well" with the Red Sox (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/27). In Boston, Jason Mastrodonato wrote Bloom is "no stranger to dealing with tight conditions, having been a part of an organization that's traded stars" such as 3B Evan Longoria and P Chris Archer to "shed money while acquiring some talented players in return and keeping the Rays competitive throughout" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/26).

HARD TO SWALLOW: In Tampa, John Romano wrote the Rays' front office is the "envy of the league, and it was only a matter of time before Bloom was snatched up." But it "would have been a lot nicer if he had gotten a job with the Giants or Mets last year." Romano: "Just somewhere far, far away from the Rays and the American League East." Bloom "doesn't just know" the Rays' "secret sauce, he's added some of the ingredients over the years." Now he will "bring some of those cutting edge concepts to a team with a revolving door on its vault." Bloom is "not as polished or charismatic" as former Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, but he is "utterly secure in his own skin" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 10/26).

MLS increasing its expansion fee to $200M before awarding Sacramento a franchise meant that Mayor Darrell Steinberg "had a problem to solve" in order to land a team, according to Bizjak & Breton of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Sacramento Republic FC Owner Ron Burkle and investor Matt Alvarez in April were "upset" when they learned MLS' asking price, which had been $150M for the previous two expansion teams. Burkle and Alvarez "agreed to pay the fee." However, sources said that talks with MLS "stalled over how much of a down payment was needed and what the installment schedule would be." The ownership group had to "go over their pro forma," adding $50M "more in entry fees than they anticipated." At the same time, stadium construction costs were "starting to leak up" from an initial estimation of $250M, eventually approaching $300M. Steinberg at that point "saw Sacramento's momentum slipping away." The Sacramento City Council earlier in the year had "agreed to reimburse" Burkle $27M in infrastructure costs "near his planned stadium site." Steinberg at that point said that he would "ask the City Council instead to advance" that $27M as an "upfront loan to help Burkle finance" the costs. Burkle would "pay the loan back to the city with interest." Steinberg now says that that "showed Burkle that the city was willing to take on the role of partner in the complex deal." Steinberg then called MLS Commissioner Don Garber, "encouraging him to meet with Burkle," who then flew to N.Y. on Aug. 8 and "worked out a payment plan, overcoming the last significant hurdle" with MLS.

IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED: Steinberg and Kevin Nagle, the original lead investor of the Sacramento MLS group, in December '17 presented an expansion bid, and "behind closed doors, the league decisively turned them down." Garber said that original bid "ultimately died." He added, "Their expansion plan was not complete. So they were out." Steinberg said, "Garber made it clear to me that I was going to have to lead here." Garber said that he saw a mayor "already taking the lead, more than any other MLS city mayor had before." Garber "ended up relying on the mayor as a vital facilitator." Additionally, Sacramento Republic FC President & COO Ben Gumpert "spent months on the phone talking to potential investors" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/25).

The Blackhawks' average attendance of 21,000-plus tracks to lead the NHL for the 12th consecutive season
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The Blackhawks' average attendance of 21,000-plus tracks to lead the NHL for the 12th consecutive season
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The Blackhawks' average attendance of 21,000-plus tracks to lead the NHL for the 12th consecutive season
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The United Center "remains one of the NHL's top draws, even going on four years post-Stanley Cup dynasty" for the Blackhawks, who "sold out their 504th consecutive home game Thursday, so far surviving an October that has already killed comparable sellout streaks" for the Wild and Jets, according to Ben Pope of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. The Blackhawks' average attendance of 21,000-plus "stands on track to lead the league for the 12th consecutive season." StubHub GM of NFL, NBA and NHL Akshay Khanna said that he is "confident the Hawks are nowhere near attendance doomsday." Khanna: "The fact that there is such a big, rabid fanbase that has now experienced success hopefully translates into a few years where fans are willing to look past a season or two where the team doesn't make the playoffs." Pope noted the prices of Blackhawks tickets on the secondary market have "declined in recent seasons." Still, the team remains "one of the pricier draws in the league" and their merchandise is "more popular on eBay than every other NHL team." Season-ticket holders are "provided exclusive off-ice events, develop personal relationships with sales representatives and asked to give input to improve the arena experience." Those developments are "largely because young people and families have begun to infiltrate what was once a uniform mass of 21,000 upper-class businessmen" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 10/26).

In Denver, Mike Chambers wrote the Golden Knights are the "NHL's golden children" and have paved the way for the Raiders to "feel extraordinarily confident about their upcoming move" to Las Vegas. Chambers, who has been to every NHL market, wrote Vegas "can't be beaten for all its excitement and entertainment offerings." As for the quality of the on-ice product, it has been "good from Day One" (DENVER POST, 10/27).

BLAST FROM THE PAST: In Salt Lake City, Andy Larsen noted the Jazz "welcomed back" the '90s on Saturday night, bringing back the "purple mountain uniform look that defined them during the team's NBA Finals era." The Jazz also "debuted their new court with the old look: a purple ring, teal colors in the key and the snowflake basketball logo in the middle of the words 'Utah' and 'Jazz' on the baseline." Music from the '90s was "played throughout the night," and the team's TV broadcast, video board graphics and social media "all showed off the new package" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 10/27).

SETTING THE BAR: Hawks Owner Tony Ressler said that there is a "timeline to when the team should be contending," but for '19-20, improving on last season's 29-53 finish "would characterize a successful season in his eyes." Ressler: "If we don't win more games this year than we did last year, if people don't appreciate that we have more talent than they thought we had, if we don't see progress in some of our younger players, I think we'd all be disappointed, [Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce] top of the list" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 10/27).