News Briefs: Fall 2002
Attendance: Down 6.1% overall. The Brewers, Pirates and
Tigers all saw drops of more than 20% as the shine of their new
ballparks rubbed off to reveal the dreadful teams within, while
Jeffrey Loria worked his special magic on the Marlins, reducing
their attendance (from an already low base) by more than 35%.
Minor league attendance remained essentially steady, falling 0.4%
to a total of 38,639,142 fans.
TV ratings: Regular season: Saturday Game of the
Week up 12%, ESPN up 10%, ESPN2 up 17%, Fox Sports Net's
25-team regional average up 3%. Divisional series ratings rose
19%, while LCS ratings fell 7% and with an all-West Coast World
Series depressing ratings in the East and Midwest, the Series
finished with an 11.9 rating/20 share, both all-time lows. This
was down 24% from 2001, and 4% below the all-New York 2000
Clubs supposed to reinvest revenue sharing payments. The
memorandum of understanding between the players and owners
provides that "each club shall use its revenue-sharing
payments to improve its performance on the field." The
document doesn't define this standard and says only that the
Commissioner "has the authority to enforce this
Draft reforms on indefinite hold. Although early reports
had the new CBA establishing a world-wide amateur draft and
eliminating compensation picks for free agent signings, when the
dust cleared after the last day's frenzied negotiations, MLB
and the MLBPA couldn't agree on what they had agreed to. They
decided to postpone all changes in the draft pending the report
of a joint committee which will study all aspects of the draft
and report its recommendations early next season.
New CBA, new penalties for drug offenses. Players
convicted of possessing hard drugs can be now be suspended for
15-30 days for a first offense, 30-90 days for a second, with an
automatic one-year suspension for a third conviction ,a two-year
suspension for a fourth. Players convicted of selling or
distributing hard drugs will be suspended 60-90 days and fined
$100,000 for a first offense, suspended two years for a second
offense. Marijuana use and possession is punishable by fines, but
no suspensions. These penalties don't apply to players who
come forward and seek treatment, who receive their full salary
for the first 30 days of treatment, half salary for the next 30
days. A first positive test for steroids subjects a player to a
treatment program; the second through fifth positive tests bring
suspensions of 15 days, 25 days, 50 fays and one year, all
without pay. However, drug testing officials from other sports
have criticized MLB's testing plan as essentially worthless:
it doesn't test players during the offseason, and only once
during the season or spring training.
Yankees waayyyy over luxury tax threshold. If the 2003
luxury tax (17.5% on the amount of payrolls in excess of $117
million) had been operative in 2002, the Yankees would have paid
over $10.2 million on a payroll which, when computed for purposes
of the luxury tax, exceeded $175 million. Only two other clubs
would have paid any tax: the Texas Rangers (almost $2.4 million)
and Los Angeles Dodgers (just over $500,000).
More clubs adopt variable ticket pricing. Six clubs
– the Cubs, Indians, Rockies, Mets, Cardinals and Giants
– now charge different prices for the same seats, depending
on the date, the day of the week, the opponent or the promotion.
For example, the Cardinals charge $1/seat more from May
31-September 7; the Giants charge more on Fridays through
Sundays; and the Cubs and Rockies have three-tiered plans. The
Mets' four-tiered pricing scheme may be the most
Gold Plan: 17 games, including Opening Day, weekend
series against the Yankees, Mariners, Braves and Cardinals, and a
midweek series against the Giants: tickets scaled from $16 to
Silver Plan: 21 games, including weekend series against
the Diamondbacks, Phillies, Reds, and Rockies and two midweek
series against the Braves: tickets scaled from $14 to $48.
Bronze Plan: 27 games, including weekend series against
the Expos and Padres and midweek series against the Cubs,
Dodgers, Marlins, Expos and Brewers: tickets priced at 2002
level, $12 to $43.
Value Plan: 16 games, including midweek series against
the Astros, Phillies, Brewers, Marlins and Pirates: tickets
scaled from $8 to $38.
Commissioner to appoint MLB marketing task force.
Although the members of the task force haven't been named
yet, no panel chosen by Bud Selig will have the nerve to
recommend the one action that would do the most to improve
MLB's marketing and public image. Nor will they opt for the
best alternative: a non-waivable six-figure fine for any MLB
executive uttering any variant of "Fans of Team X are
kidding themselves if they think their team will ever be able to
Expos' RICO action stayed pending arbitration.
Commissioner Selig and MLB President DuPuy won a significant
victory when Miami federal judge Ursula M. Ungaro-Benages stayed
the RICO action filed against them by the Expos' former
limited partners pending arbitration of the partners' claims
against companies controlled by Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.
However, the stay allows the plaintiffs to come back to court to
apply for injunctive relief should MLB try to move the Expos
before the arbitration is resolved.
Around the Majors:
Wrigley Field nears landmark status. The Cubs and the
City of Chicago are close to a deal which would allow the Cubs to
add close to 2,000 bleacher seats in return for landmark status
covering key architectural features such as the scoreboard,
marquee and ivy-covered walls.
Pohlad doesn't regret offering the Twins for
contraction. During the Minnesota Twins' victory
celebration after defeating Oakland in the AL divisional
playoffs, owner Carl Pohlad was asked if he felt guilty about
proposing the Twins for contraction. "I don't feel
guilty in the least," he responded. "Why should I? It
was a business decision."
Bernie Brewer gets club-financed A/C. When the Milwaukee
stadium authority balked at spending $35,000 to air-condition the
mascot's in-game home, the Brewers picked up the tab.
"Bernie Brewer is an essential part of the entertainment
experience at Miller Park, and we care about his health and
well-being," assured new Brewers CEO Ulice Payne. Payne, the
former managing partner of Milwaukee's Foley & Lardner,
replaced Wendy Selig-Prieb late in the season.
Expos to play 22 home games in Puerto Rico. Pending final
approval from the MLBPA, three Expos homestands would be
relocated to San Juan, where Hiram Bithorn Stadium will be
enlarged from 15,000 to 20,000 seats. MLB is reportedly planning
to sell the club during the 2003 season, with interests from
Washington, Charlotte and Portland, Oregon among the likely
bidders. A wild-card in the process remains the likelihood that
the former Expos limited partners who are plaintiffs in the
pending RICO action will seek to enjoin any relocation of the
team from Montreal.
Cardinals announce new stadium plans. The St. Louis
Cardinals have announced plans for a $402 million "Ballpark
Village" in downtown St. Louis, including $325 million for a
new stadium they hope to construct by 2006. The Cardinals have
agreed to pay $50 million upfront; to spend another $60 million
developing two adjacent blocks; and to lease the park from a
related corporation for at least 29 years at $14 million/year.
Additional private money will come from 60 private suites and
premium seat licenses for about 10,000 of the park's 45,000
seats. The Cardinals will also be responsible for operating,
maintenance and capital expenses.
In late November the Missouri Department of Economic Development
approved up to $29.5 million in tax grants, which the club
expects to resell for $25 million. At the end of the club's
29-year lease in the new park, the Cardinals must either repay
the money with interest or give the state an ownership share in
the stadium. Given the likely value of a 30-year-old stadium
whose sole tenant will almost certainly be demanding a new
facility, I hope those legislators aren't expecting a
Copyright © 2002 Doug Pappas. All rights
Originally published in the Fall 2002 issue of Outside the
Lines, the SABR Business of
Baseball Committee newsletter.
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