How long before Commissioner Selig's term expires?
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Saturday, April 03, 2004

A $20 Million Misdeed Still Fuels the Feud

Selena Roberts of The New York Times suggests that the MLBPA's reluctance to consent to broader drug testing may have its roots in the players' deep-seated mistrust of the owners as a consequence of the owners' 1985-87 collusion. Roberts quotes former Commissioner Fay Vincent:

"There is no question that collusion was the turning point of the relationship between owners and the players. It colors everything that is going on."

Roberts also takes aim at Bud Selig, noting not only his conflict of interest but his direct, personal involvement in collusion:

"Should players trust this man? Selig is the same shadow owner of the Milwaukee Brewers who continually appears to abuse his power. Who knew how Selig's attempt to eliminate the Twins would have freed the Midwest market for Milwaukee? Who would have thought that Selig's push for revenue sharing would pad a certain small-market team?

"If he won't step aside, Selig might be taken seriously if he would act 'in the best interest of baseball' and admit to his role in the collusion of the 80's.

In fact, arbitrator George Nicolau identified Selig as one of the active conspirators to reduce salaries in 1986-87, the second year of collusion. Selig, Jerry Reinsdorf and AL president Bobby Brown were found to have called Bill Giles of the Phillies to pressure him not to sign free agent Lance Parrish. Parrish wound up signing with the Phillies, but not until spring training had begun, and for less money than the Tigers had offered him.

"Fresh Start" for Portland Baseball

MLB officials evaluating Portland, Oregon's bid for the Montreal Expos should recognize this scenario: Portland's AAA club has been taken over by the Pacific Coast League, which will operate the club until a new buyer can be found.

The Portland Beavers' former owner, Portland Family Entertainment, had fallen $2 million behind on its rent payment to the city PCL president Branch Rickey III referred to PFE's "insurmountable challenges" operating the team, a phrase which surely won't comfort MLB.
Union Nixes Deadline Extension to Set Rosters

Most teams will be scrambling to set their final 25-man rosters after the MLBPA rejected a proposed rule change that would have given clubs an additional 18 hours to make the last roster decisions. The deadline will remain midnight before the major league opener, not 6 PM as proposed by the owners.

The MLBPA approved several other rule changes, including one that will combine the two leagues for purposes of waiver claims and setting the order for the draft. The players also ratified an expansion of AAA rosters from 23 to 24 players and agreed to make the seven-day bereavement leave permanent, with in-laws added to the list of relatives whose death would entitle a player to take the leave.

Several other proposed changes are still under consideration, most notably a rule that would mandate a one-year suspension for players who lie about their name, age or other material facts on their contracts.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Team Marketing Report 2004 Fan Cost Index Now Posted

Details of Team Marketing Report's 2004 Fan Cost Index have now been posted to the TMR Website.

Over the next weeks, I'll be writing a lot about the FCI for Baseball Prospectus. For now, I'll start by noting that TMR's hypothetical family of four, which allegedly spends an average of $155.52 for its day at the ballpark, spends almost as much on parking and concessions as it does for game tickets: $78.98 for tickets, $76.54 on concessions.

TMR assumes that after buying its four average-priced tickets, the family drives to the game, parks in the stadium lot, buys one hot dog and one beverage (beer for the parents, soft drinks for the kids) per person, and buys two programs and two adult-sized adjustable caps. I know how this hypothetical family could save an awful lot of money...
More Steroid Idiocy

Earlier this week, former White Sox pitcher Jack McDowell linked Mark Prior to steroids on Sporting News Radio:

"He has a tendon injury that's not healing. You shouldn't have a problem like that that doesn't heal in a month. That's what happens to guys who use steroids."

McDowell quickly added, "I'm not saying I'm suspicious of Prior." I assume the Stanford-educated McDowell knows the meaning of the word "disingenuous."

Not to be outdone, CNN and USA Today commissioned a Gallup poll to ask the public whether Barry Bonds has used steroids. By a 64-19% margin respondents voted Yes, with only 17% either unwilling to express an opinion or willing to accept that they have no way of knowing what the correct answer might be.

(I recently had an unpleasant experience along these lines. Two weeks ago, as part of the promotion for Baseball Prospectus 2004, I was interviewed by a pair of sports-radio hosts in a medium-market city who had just one thing on their mind: whether Barry Bonds had used steroids. They got very frustrated when I refused to take either side of the argument; "I don't know" and "let's wait for the facts" seemed to be alien concepts. After all, they have a lot of time to fill each day, and if they had to support their conclusions with facts, their three-hour show could be comfortably shortened to air during an NFL halftime with plenty of time for the out-of-town scoreboard.)

Intrerestingly, although the CNN/USA Today found that fans supported random steroid testing of major league players by a 91-9% margin, even among those who favored testing, a 47-44% plurality said they wouldn't be upset if the players aren't tested.

I wish I could dismiss these two articles as April Fool's Day jokes...
Ballpark's Total Cost Just Under Half-Billion

As the San Diego Padres prepare to open Petco Park, Jonathan Heller of the San Diego Union-Tribune breaks down the cost. The project, originally budgeted at $411 million in 1998, has now cost $474 million. It's also two years behind schedule.

The Padres have contributed $173.2 million, 50% more than they had promised. The City of San Diego has paid $205.9 million, though financing and other soft costs will bring that total close to $300 million. Its affiliated Centre City Development Corp. added $73.9 million, and the San Diego Unified Port District tossed in the final $21 million.
Bid for Baseball Takes a Turn to the South

Washington Post Metro columnist Marc Fisher isn't impressed by Norfolk's bid for the Montreal Expos. He also has harsh words for Peter Angelos, and for MLB's relocation process:

"It should be clear by now that Selig has little interest in moving the Expos to a city where they can be loved and can make a bundle for the owners. After all, that would only give baseball a piece of the action in the most affluent and educated market in the nation, a place that already has teams in every other major professional sport."

Think the Washington/northern Virginia area is a little sensitive about this?
Back to normal...

As a charitable gesture, I turned the Weblog over yesterday to one of the world's smallest membership organizations, the Bud Selig Fan Club. The BSFC reports that although site traffic tripled, not a single person asked how they could join. Better luck next year, folks!

I also wrote a Baseball Prospectus article explaining that since the Yankees' payroll was likely to reach $350 million by 2008, they, too, will soon need a new stadium in order to remain competitive.


Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Jets' Returns Leaves Jersey Dreaming of MLB Pitch

Now that New York officials have offered the NFL Jets a $600 million roof and platform so the club can build a stadium atop the rail yards on the west side of Manhattan, the president of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority has responded with a stupid idea of his own.

George Zoffinger told the New York Post, "I could come up with a very aggressive plan for a baseball stadium and shop that to the Yankees and the Mets." The Yankees wasted no time saying "no thanks." The Mets didn't respond, but they aren't going to New Jersey either. Owner Fred Wilpon is a native New Yorker (a high school baseball teammate of Sandy Koufax), and the Mets' traditional fan base is Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, the opposite side of the metropolitan area.
Buy Me Some Peanuts and Cracker Jack

Slate "Moneybox" columnist Daniel Gross examines the San Diego Padres' new Petco Park, which he says may be the first such facility "living up to its promise of revitalizing a run-down urban area."

Gross notes that as in return for the city's contributing $300 million toward the park's $454 million cost, owner John Moores was required to create at least $300 million of residential and commercial projects in the surrounding East Village area. Moores' efforts attracted other private developers, who are planning to build several thousand housing units in a formerly underutilized part of downtown San Diego. Gross concludes:

"Now if only urban economic development officials can figure out how to get people to build and live downtown without going through the hassle of building a $454 million ballpark."

Boss Mixes Dollars and Sense

Kevin Baxter of the Miami Herald defends George Steinbrenner's acquisition of Alex Rodriguez for the Yankees. In addition to walking through the numbers and collecting quotes that show how A-Rod is worth what the Yankees have paid, he gets to the point of team-vs.-team competition:

"Imagine your business were so successful, you could spend six times more than some competitors and still make a bigger profit. Would you pay less for inferior materials just to let the other guys catch up?"


Tuesday, March 30, 2004

No Money for Marlins This Year, Florida Senate President Says.

The day before Marlins officials are due in Tallahassee to celebrate their 2003 world title, state Senate President Jim King pronounced their stadium plan dead for 2004. Undaunted, Marlins president David Samson vowed to fight on "until the gavel goes down on the last day of the session" (April 30), and reiterated his demand that financing be in place by May 1:

"If you open a stadium in '08, it costs more money. You have an additional year of inflation for construction costs, your gap is bigger and it costs an extra year of losses for the franchise in bridging the gap to the new facility. When you add those two factors, it becomes untenable."

Huizenga Stands Firm on Stadium Lease.

Sarah Talalay of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that Wayne "The Leech" Huizenga refuses to modify the Marlins' lease at Pro Player Stadium. According to Huizenga, it was negotiated to reflect the terms of the "average" major league lease at the time it was executed.

Also according to Huizenga, "We didn't hear [former owner] John Henry bitching about the lease the whole time." Henry may have spent almost every waking minute of his tenure in south Florida trying to get the Marlins a new ballpark, but if he never uttered the magic words "our lease stinks," it doesn't count, right?

Not that the Marlins should feel welcome at Pro Player. Huizenga blamed two of the Dolphins' missed field goals on turf problems resulting from the Marlins' extended occupancy last fall, and said, "We wouldn't kick them out, but we'd like them to go."
Stadium Plan May cost $343 Million, Fraim Says.

Having earlier claimed that a major league park could be constructed for $300 million, Norfolk Mayor Paul D. Fraim now tells the Virginian-Pilot that the 38,000-seat facility, with 3,000 club seats and 60 luxury boxes, would cost about $343 million.

He also insists that $225 million of this sum could be raised through tax increment financing: taxes on "new" revenues generated by the team, including sales taxes and taxes on admissions, player salaries and corporate income. The remainder would come from the major league team occupying the facility, which would be asked to pay rent of $10 million/year for 32 years.
Rogers' Accounting Sidesteps Blue Jays' Losses.

Derek DeCloet of The Globe and Mail reveals that (a) the Toronto Blue Jays reported an operating loss of $19.1 million (CDN) in 2003, but (b) through the magic of clever accounting, while Rogers Communications owns the club and is responsible for all losses, its CEO Ted Rogers personally controls the Jays through a private company.

The Jays' operating results have improved considerably in recent years, thanks almost entirely to cost controls. Between 2001 and 2003, revenues rose from $125 million to $133 million (Canadian), while expenses were slashed from $202 million to $152.6 million. Opening Day player salaries fell by about $25 million (US) over this period, which means the club was also able to reduce its nonplayer operating expenses by about $10 million (US).
MLB Ticket Prices Up 3.9 Percent from 2003.

According to Team Marketing Report, this season's average price of a major league ticket is $19.82, up from $19.08 in 2003. Once again, baseball tickets are less than half as expensive as NHL, NBA or NFL tickets, but that won't stop sportswriters from whining about how MLB is "pricing the average fan out of the market."

The majors' four most expensive parks include the three oldest and one of the two newest. Fenway Park is far and away the priciest, averaging $40.77/seat, followed by Wrigley Field at $28.45. Philadelphia's new Citizens Bank Park ranks third at $26.08 -- a jump of more than 50% from Veterans Stadium -- with Yankee Stadium fourth.

Nine clubs increased prices by 10% or more. Nine clubs reduced prices, with Pittsburgh's 12.6% the steepest reduction. Montreal's tickets remain the cheapest at $10.82, followed closely by Milwaukee at $10.88.

Team Marketing Report's archive of Fan Cost Indexes for the four major sports is accessible here, but as of tonight the 2004 MLB Index has yet to be posted.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Two New Baseball Economics Blogs.

Philip Pilmar E-mailed to alert me to his new blog, Beyond the Score. He promises regular commentary on the four major U.S. professional sports, as well as college sports.

Through David Pinto's Baseball Musings, I also learned of J.C. Bradbury's Sabernomics, which he defines as "the study of economics in and of the game of baseball." Mr. Bradbury is an assistant professor of economics at the University of the South, Sewanee, TN.

I've added them both to the blogroll at left.
Baseball's Bridge, Japan to America.

With the Yankees and Devil Rays about to open the season in Tokyo, we're in for several days of "baseball in Japan" articles. This one, from Washington Post foreign correspondent Peter S. Goodman, focuses on Hideki Matsui's popularity in his native land. It also provides some numbers relevant to the purpose of this blog.

MLB's international revenues are now about $100 million/year, 60% of which comes from Japan. Japan's NHK Broadcasting plans to air 300 major league games this year, and the Japanese Dentsu advertising agency is paying $275 million for five years of broadcasting rights. Last year the American All-Star Game got higher ratings in Japan than in the U.S., while the World Series attracted an average of 12.5 million Japanese viewers even though the games started in the morning.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

World Cup to Require Tough Testing.

MLB may have found one way to get stronger drug testing for many of the game's best players, without reopening the CBA or otherwise challenging the union. Barry Bloom of reports that Commissioner Selig strongly endorsed the concept of a baseball World Cup, which the MLBPA has supported for years -- provided that participants in the World Cup subject themselves to the year-round random drug testing required for international competitions such as the Olympics.

Gene Orza of the MLBPA, the union's loudest voice against broader drug testing for major leaguers, sounds willing to consider the plan. As Orza says, "It's voluntary to participate in the World Cup, or for that matter, the Olympics if you play in [the] Major Leagues. Nobody is forced to play in the World Cup. Nobody is forced to play in the Olympics."

Now with comments!

In response to a couple of requests, I've added Haloscan comments to the site. (I also sprung for the premium membership, so you'll be able to vent for 3,000 rather than 1,000 characters at a time, and the comments will remain on the site longer.)

Have fun...but behave yourselves! I reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments, including but not limited to abusive or defamatory postings or anything that looks like an ad.
Marlins Focus: Fans and Funding.

A sobering article from Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald about the Marlins' expectations for the 2004 season. Season ticket sales are up 50%, but only to 7,000, and the Marlins say they'll be pleased to average 20,000 fans/game in 2004. That would still be double their 2002 average, but far below what they averaged before former owner/current leech Wayne Huizenga cut the heart out of South Florida's baseball fans.

After the Marlins shocked the baseball world by winning the 1997 World Series before hordes of rapturous fans, Huizenga traded Moises Alou, Bobby Bonilla, Kevin Brown, Jeff Conine, Dennis Cook, Jim Eisenreich, Charles Johnson, Al Leiter, Robb Nen, Gary Sheffield, and Devon White -- seven of the eight regular position players, two of the top three starters, the closer and a setup man -- before May 15, 1998. Huizenga then sold the club to current Red Sox owner John Henry, who swapped it to Expos' owner Jeffrey Loria as part of the Selig-orchestrated scheme to make the Expos contractable.

By way of comparison, even an average of 20,000 fans/game would have been fourth lowest in the majors last year, ahead of only the Tigers, Devil Rays and Expos. When the defending world champion's goal is to match the Brewers and Pirates at the gate, something's seriously wrong.
S.J. A's an Issue Worthy of Study.

Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News makes a strong point in support of allowing the Oakland Athletics to move south to San Jose: such a move would leave both teams better off.

"There are roughly five million people living in the sprawling Bay Area. To maximize access for all those potential customers, doesn't it seem more logical to have two baseball teams in ballparks almost 50 miles apart instead of just 15 miles apart?".

Under MLB's territorial allocations, the Athletics have the east side of the Bay (Alameda and Contra Costa Counties), while the Giants have San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Monterey and Marin Counties, plus the ability to exclude another major league team from Santa Clara County, where San Jose is located. Let's compare the populations of these territories from the 1970 census, shortly after the A's moved from Kansas City, and the 2000 census:

Oakland territory:
Alameda County: 1,071,466 people in 1970, 1,443,741 in 2000.
Contra Costa County: 556,116 in 1970, 948,816 in 2000.
Total: 1,627,582 in 1970, 2,392,557 in 2000.

San Francisco territory:
San Francisco County: 715,674 in 1970, 776,733 in 2000
San Mateo County: 557,361 in 1970, 707,161 in 2000
Santa Cruz County: 123,790 in 1970, 255,602 in 2000
Monterey County: 247,450 in 1970, 401,762 in 2000
Marin County: 206,758 in 1970, 247,289 in 2000
Santa Clara County: 1,065,313 in 1970, 1,682,585 in 2000.
Total: 2,916,346 in 1970, 4,071,132 in 2000.

Viewed another way, Giants territory included 64% of the Bay Area population in 1970, 63% in 2000. That's a wash. But as the region has filled in, it's become virtually impossible for many of these fans to attend games of either team -- especially after the Giants moved from Candlestick/3Com Park, which was accessible from the south without hitting downtown traffic, to Pac Bell/SBC, downtown on the Bay. As a practical matter, people living in Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties can't possibly attend night games after work, and a drive from Santa Clara County is no picnic, either.

If the Athletics were allowed to move south, the clubs could swap territories: Alameda and Contra Costa Counties (2,392,557 people) from the A's to the Giants in return for Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties (2,339,949 people) from the Giants to the A's.

Under this scenario the Athletics should also pay a one-time indemnity to the Giants. The Giants' new territory would include a lot of A's fans who grew up despising them, as well as a lot of land closer to San Jose than San Francisco. Depending on the stadium deal the A's were able to obtain in Santa Clara County, a $50 million indemnity (almost 1/3 of the money paid by the Giants to build Pac Bell/SBC Park) would be in the best interest of both clubs, as well as a majority of Bay Area residents.

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