News Briefs: Summer 1999

Umpires' union self-destructs. See accompanying article.

Retired players sue game manufacturers for royalties. Darrel Chaney heads a group of retired players who have sued 10 game manufacturers, demanding the same royalties current players receive for the use of their names and statistics in computer games. Such royalties run from 8.5 to 9% of a game's net sales.

Interleague attendance up slightly. Boosted by a new format providing for more games between local rivals, attendance at interleague games averaged 33,482 fans - up 6.5% from 1998, and 21.7% more than the average for intraleague games.

2000 season likely to open in Japan. The Cubs and Mets have tentatively agreed to open the 2000 season with a two-game series in Japan. The games would be played at the Tokyo Dome on March 29 and 30, following four exhibitions against Japanese teams on the 27th and 28th. To help the clubs recover from jet lag upon their return to the United States, their next games would not be until April 4.

Rumors of possible contraction. Several owners have floated the possibility of reducing MLB to 28 teams by buying out weaker, small-market teams and dispersing their players among the other clubs. Potential candidates for dissolution include the Royals, Twins, Expos and Athletics. As such a move would require a 3/4 vote of the owners and would infuriate the MLBPA, don't hold your breath.

Around the Majors

Disney may sell the Angels. The Walt Disney Corporation may soon seek to sell both of its sports properties, the Angels and the NHL's Mighty Ducks. The combined asking price is rumored to be $500 million.

Red Sox scrambling to finance proposed new park. The cost of the proposed "New Fenway" project has been estimated at $545 million, including $350 million for the park and $195 million for land acquisition, infrastructure and parking garages. The Red Sox have offered to build the stadium if the government picks up the rest of the tab, but the club, which is still owned by a charitable trust formed by the late Jean Yawkey, has no capital to contribute. Meanwhile, a group called Save Fenway Park! has developed a plan to renovate the existing Fenway for $120 million less.

Indians top early-season TV, cable ratings. As of May 16, the Cleveland Indians' local telecasts were averaging a 15.7 Nielsen rating, highest in the majors. Runners-up: the Cardinals (13.4), Braves (10.8), Orioles (10.3) and Mariners (9.7). Through the end of May, Indians' cablecasts averaged a 10.2 rating, followed by Seattle (8.2), Atlanta (5.3), Arizona and St. Louis (5.1 each). [I got this information from an Indians' press release. If anyone has more up-to-date information, or seasonal averages from past years, I'd love to run it. When I attended law school in Ann Arbor, the Tigers were so popular that their local outlet regularly pre-empted the entire NBC Thursday night lineup to show ballgames. Yes, I've been out a while...]

Marlins considering sites for new park. Owner John Henry announced that the Marlins are looking at six potential sites for a new park, including two in downtown Miami and four in nearby Broward County. Henry said that he'll finance the entire $400 million, retractable-roofed park himself if necessary, but warned that if he does, the Marlins will remain a low-payroll team for years. "I don't think that's what this community wants," Henry said. "It's up to the community to decide how much their share should be, rather than me." He would, however, like the community to contribute at least $300 million toward the park.

Royals' sale on hold. MLB has reportedly told Miles Prentice that his group's bid to buy the Kansas City Royals won't be approved in its current form. Concerns center around the group's unwieldy size (more than 40 investors) and possible undercapitalization. A vote on the proposed sale has been postponed until at least September, and more likely January 2000.

Construction accident may delay opening of Brewers' new park. On July 14, a 567' crane which was lifting a 400-ton section of Miller Field's retractable roof collapsed in a 30 MPH wind, killing three people. Construction on the park, which was scheduled to open next April, has been temporarily halted. Damage estimates range from $50-$75 million, all of which will likely be covered by insurance; the Brewers have $20 million insurance for revenue lost if the park doesn't open on time.

Twins may move to St. Paul. St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman has proposed a new downtown stadium for the Twins. The club and the city would each contribute $8.5 million/year for 30 years towards a $325 million outdoor stadium on the banks of the Mississippi; the park, with an estimated 38,000-40,000 seats, would open in 2003. The state would also be asked to fund about a third of the cost through a tax on player salaries, with the Twins responsible for cost overruns and any part of the state's share not covered by the tax. As part of the deal, Twins owner Carl Pohlad has agreed in principle to sell the club to St. Paul interests. St. Paul voters will be asked to approve a half-cent sales tax to fund the city's contribution - but a July poll showed 80% of Minnesotans opposed to subsidizing a new park.

Local interests may keep Expos in Montreal. Team chairman Jacques Menard says that the Expos are close to raising $50 million locally, which together with $50 million from New York art dealer Jeffrey Loria (who would control 39% of the club) could secure the Expos' future in Montreal. Detested team president Claude Brochu would be bought out as part of the deal. The Quebec government is apparently willing to contribute $8 million/year toward the cost of a $100 million loan toward the cost of a new stadium.

Cablevision reportedly near deal to buy the Mets. Rebuffed in its efforts to buy the Yankees, Cablevision is reportedly negotiating to acquire control of the Mets for an estimated $400 to $500 million. Current owners Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon would retain minority stakes. Cablevision already owns the Mets' TV rights, and also controls the New York Knicks, New York Rangers and Madison Square Garden.

Mariners demand more public money for Safeco Field. When Washington voters approved new taxes to produce $372 million toward the estimated $417 million cost of the Mariners' new stadium, the club agreed to finance the remaining $45 million, plus any cost overruns. But when these overruns totaled an additional $100 million, the Mariners asked the government to kick in an additional $60 million generated by the taxes. King County officials refused. The Mariners then suggested that if the government held them to their end of the bargain, the club might not be able to afford to re-sign Ken Griffey, Jr. and/or Alex Rodriguez when they're eligible for free agency after the 2000 season.

Copyright © 1999 Doug Pappas. All rights reserved.
Originally published in the Summer 1999 issue of Outside the Lines, the SABR Business of Baseball Committee newsletter.

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