Doug's Business of Baseball Weblog:

August 2003

August 28, 2003: Three Reviews of Economic Literature Posted. LINK

Larry Hadley of The University of Dayton has agreed to review current economic literature on the business of baseball for the SABR Business of Baseball Committee. Until the Committee's Website is up and running, Larry's reviews will be posted here. The first three reviews:

Roger Noll, "The Economics of Baseball Contraction"

John Burger & Stephen Walters, "Market Size, Pay and Performance: A General Model and Application for Major League Baseball"

Martin Schmidt and David Berri, "Competitive Balance and Market Size in Major League Baseball: A Response to Baseball’s Blue Ribbon Panel"

August 26, 2003: Limited Partners Need 90 Days Notice. LINK

The fallout from the Oregon stadium vote has begun.'s Darren Rovell notes that the plaintiffs in the RICO action brought by former limited partners of the Expos are entitled to 90 days' notice before any sale or relocation of the Expos can be completed. This would give them time to seek an injunction to block the transaction.

Inasmuch as no such notice has been sent, the plaintiffs contend the Expos can't be sold or moved until late November. Plaintiffs' attorney Jeffrey Kessler says they probably wouldn't object to a split home schedule, as in 2003, but the MLBPA has already expressed opposition to another split schedule.

Meanwhile, a headline in today's Washington Times tries to scare the locals into thinking they had better act now. Both Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia insist they won't fund a stadium until MLB promises them the Expos.

August 26, 2003: Stadium Bill Clears Oregon Legislature. LINK

As soon as Gov. Ted Kulongoski signs the stadium bill, Oregon will become the first bidder for the Expos with one piece of its public financing in place.

Unfortunately, it's not a very attractive piece from MLB's perspective: $150 million in bonds backed by income taxes on players and team officials, with a yet-to-be-named guarantor to cover any shortfall. It also covers less than half the cost of the proposed stadium.

For the rest, Portland Mayor Vera Katz, a major supporter of baseball, thinks $60 million can be raised from a ticket tax, $25 million more from charter seat licenses, and the balance from some combination of hotel, vehicle and restaurant taxes; tax increment financing; and the yet-to-be-determined owner of the Portland Expos. MLB won't be thrilled about the ticket tax, either, since every dollar it raises would otherwise have gone into the owner's pocket.

Elated Oregon fans and elected officials haven't decided whether to seek the Expos in 2004 or wait for 2005. A major league club would have to play at an expanded-to-25,000-seat PGE Park until the new stadium was built.

More realistically, this article (by John Hunt in The Oregonian) suggests that Portland may want to position itself as the potential destination for another franchise which may want to move, such as Oakland or Minnesota. Portland probably won't get the Expos, but could be an attractive destination for someone else...or at minimum, the leverage another owner would need to extract a new ballpark from its local taxpayers.

August 24, 2003: SABR Business of Baseball Committee Appointments. LINK

As many of you know, I've chaired SABR's Business of Baseball Committee since its founding in 1994. At the risk of perpetuating Richard Griffin's ignorant stereotype of SABR members as pointy-headed intellectuals, I am delighted to announce the following appointments:

Vice Chair: Don Coffin, Associate Professor of Economics at Indiana University Northwest's School of Business and Economics. A former chair of SABR's Statistical Analysis Committee, Don will be coordinating a project intended to turn the Committee's Website into the preeminent one-stop reference source for anyone studying the business of baseball.

Resource Coordinators:

Subject matter bibliographies and special resources: Andy McCue, chair of SABR's Bibliography Committee. Andy, a business writer and editor now working on a biography of Walter O'Malley, co-founded The Baseball Index, which does for baseball bibliographies what Retrosheet does for play-by-play accounts.

Legal resources: Shayna Sigman, Associate Professor of Law, University of Minnesota. Before becoming a law professor, Shayna, who teaches sports law, game theory and less interesting subjects, served as Topics and Comments Editor of The University of Chicago Law Review and clerked for Judge Richard Posner.

Economic resources: Larry Hadley, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Dayton. Larry heads the Western Economic Association International's section on sports economics. He has written extensively and edited several anthologies in the field.

Project Coordinators:

General Managers Project: John Matthew is coordinating an effort to identify everyone who has ever served as a major league general manager, or performed the duty of a GM without the title.

Front Office History Project: Liesl McCool is in charge of our attempt to trace the evolution of the major league front office, from one- or two-person operations to today's midsized, multifunction businesses.

Webmasters: Mike Grandel and Paul Matthew will soon begin posting the complete contents of the Committee's 33 newsletters to the Committee Website.

If you're a SABR member and want to join in the fun, drop me a note. If you're not a SABR member and any of this sounds either interesting or useful, please consider joining. (If you're undecided, here's a discussion thread about SABR membership.)

August 24, 2003: Senate OKs Measure in Revote. LINK

Late last night the Oregon Senate reversed itself, adopting by a 16-11 margin a slightly revised version of the stadium financing package it had rejected the day before.

While Oregon thus becomes the first bidder for the Expos to enact any piece of its financing proposal, Oregon's bid still has a long way to go. The state's bonds will pay only $150 million toward the cost of a new stadium -- less than half of the expected total. Portland must now come up with the rest.

Moreover, the bonds will be backed not by the full faith and credit of the State of Oregon, but by revenues from an income tax on players and club executives. If (as expected) the tax revenues fail to cover debt service on the bonds, a guarantor will be obligated to make up the difference. An amendment added yesterday provides that this guarantor cannot be a public body, such as the City of Portland. As a practical matter, that leaves the future owner of the Portland Expos as the only viable candidate for guarantor, a role which would increase operating expenses and reduce the amount a bidder would be willing to pay MLB for the Expos.

Notwithstanding this bill, I think Portland remains the least likely of the three bidders to end up with the Expos.

August 23, 2003: Scouts Take Some SABR-Rattling. LINK

According to Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star, SABR is "a statistical society of baseball researchers" with no use for scouts or traditional methods of enjoying baseball. "Most of them play some form of fantasy ball," and "[i]f a roomful of sabermetricians got together to watch the sappy baseball movie, Field of Dreams, they would emerge debating the relative OPS of Moonlight Graham and Shoeless Joe Jackson."

Griffin further describes SABR as a "cult," disliked by "baseball traditionalists." Its members have "no tolerance" for one "who disagrees with their beliefs," and members "are required to check [their] sense of humour at the door."

This may come as news to SABR's 23 research committees, its 46 active regional groups, or members such as "baseball traditionalists" Buzzie Bavasi, Roland Hemond, Stan Musial and Tal Smith; long-time baseball writers Marty Appel, Bob Broeg and Clifford Kachline; historians Charles C. Alexander, David Kaiser, Jules Tygiel and David Q. Voigt; and an eclectic mix of others ranging from jazz pianist/composer Dave Frishberg and science fiction/erotica writer Cecilia Tan to former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh. Our disdain for scouts will certainly come as a surprise to the roomful of attendees at the 2003 convention banquet who saw Scouts Committee chair/long-time scout Bill Clark present Mariners GM Pat Gillick with an award for advancing the cause of baseball scouting.

Our 2005 annual convention will be held in your very own hometown, Mr. Griffin. Stop by and see us. Maybe you'll learn something.

August 23, 2003: Empty Handed: Former Negro League Players, Families Face Difficult Times Minus MLB Pension. LINK

An article like this appears at least once a year. Major League Baseball has taken some steps to alleviate the problem, but hasn't done enough.

Since 1997, MLB has offered a $10,000/year pension to anyone with at least four years' combined Major League and Negro League service, so long as they began playing in the Negro Leagues by 1947. That's an arbitrary cutoff. Although Commissioner Selig says that "when Jackie Robinson made his historic walk to the batter's box, the days of segregation in Major League Baseball were officially over," racial discrimination persisted for at least another decade.

Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president for labor relations, is even more disingenuous when he claims, "There is no other employer anywhere -- I defy you to find another -- that voluntarily provides pensions or health insurance to people who never worked for them." Other employers with such a well-documented history of racial discrimination and such a clearly defined class of those victimized by that discrimination may not be making "voluntary" payments, but many are satisfying judgments, settlements and consent decrees to the same effect.

MLB should broaden its pension to include all Negro Leaguers who meet the four-year service requirement (the same vesting period provided in MLB's then-current pension plan for major leaguers) even if their careers didn't begin until after 1947. This would cost about $2,750,000 in retroactive benefits, plus $500,000/year -- a figure that can only decline as the number of eligible Negro Leaguers, now in their seventies and eighties, dwindles.

August 22, 2003: Oregon Senate Defeats Stadium Finance Bill. LINK

The vote, which was expected to be close, wound up 18-12 against the stadium bill. I suspect that Senate anger over the House's "gut and stuff" tactic -- inserting the text of the stadium bill into an unrelated measure which had already passed the Senate as a means of evading the Senate Rules Committee -- contributed to the margin.

Stadium supporters say they may move to reconsider. Unless the bill passes, the list of realistic suitors for the Expos is down to two, Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia.

August 22, 2003: Sports Advocates Target Goldwater. LINK

The League of Fans, a "sports industry watchdog" group founded by Ralph Nader, has demanded that the Mayor of Washington, D.C. ask for the resignation of Robert Goldwater, who as president and executive director of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission heads Washington's bid for the Expos.

After the 2000 election, sending Ralph Nader to persuade Democratic officeholders to do something is like sending Kurt Waldheim to convey your concerns about the design of a Holocaust memorial. Not to mention that sending an endless letter like this says far more about the self-righteousness and self-importance of the sender than the merits of the cause.

Readers of this site should also enjoy this letter, in which Nader asks Bud Selig and MLB to renounce any interest in a publicly subsidized home for the Expos and to resell the club for no more than $120 million. When last seen, Nader was listening to the little voice in his head which is again telling him that there is still no difference between Republicans and Democrats, and that only a Nader campaign in 2004 can save America. He doesn't realize that the voice is Karl Rove's...

August 22, 2003: Scalping Trial Puts Cubs in Precarious Position. LINK

Greg Couch of the Sun-Times, who has owned this story, reports that in addition to the civil suit brought by angry season ticketholders, the Cubs face an investigation by the Illinois Attorney General's office into possible criminal violations of the anti-scalping laws.

The penalty for a criminal violation of this statute?

"(a) Whoever violates any of the provisions of Section 1.5 of this Act shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor and may be fined up to $5,000.00 for each offense and whoever violates any other provision of this Act may be enjoined and be required to make restitution to all injured consumers upon application for injunctive relief by the State's Attorney or Attorney General and shall also be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, and any owner, lessee, manager or trustee convicted under this Act shall, in addition to the penalty herein provided, forfeit the license of such theatre, circus, baseball park, place of public entertainment or amusement so granted and the same shall be revoked by the authorities granting the same."

August 21, 2003: Blue Jays Struggling Financially Just Like Expos. LINK sports business writer Darren Rovell profiles the other Canadian team in MLB. The Blue Jays aren't going the way of the Expos, but they'd sure like to see a more favorable exchange rate...

August 21, 2003: Top 10 Expos' Destinations. LINK

No, not a David Letterman routine (like this, this or this). asked former Illinois economic development official David Hallstrom to rank 10 possible destinations for the Expos using eight criteria for potential success. Washington/Northern Virginia comes out ahead; keeping the team in Montreal ranks third (behind northern New Jersey), with Portland fourth.

August 21, 2003: Cubs' Ticket Brokerage Trial Ends. LINK

Post-trial briefs are due September 22; the judge has promised a ruling by November 24. My money's on the plaintiffs.

August 21, 2003: Oregon House OKs Stadium Bill. LINK

No surprise here -- the Oregon Senate has always been expected to be the tougher hurdle.

But note the juxtaposition with this story, though. The stadium bill was an afterthought, passed only after the Oregon House resolved a session-long budget stalemate by adopting, by the narrowest possible margin, $800 million of new taxes for fiscal 2003-05 to close a deficit which had forced many school districts around the state to close early last spring.

A stadium opponent commented, "We're not raising a dime of new money, but we're committing millions to build a private enterprise when we struggle to keep our schools open. It's nuts." A proponent responded that while the stadium "may not bring in any revenue directly, ... it sure does bring in revenue indirectly." Indirect revenues of a magnitude larger than would be gained by simply throwing the money out of an airplane passing over downtown Portland should arrive at about the same time that George W. Bush's tax and spending policies produce a balanced federal budget.

August 20, 2003: Q & A - Stephanie Myles. LINK

Here's the transcript of an online Q & A with possibly the world's leading authority on the plight of the Montreal Expos, long-suffering Expos beat writer Stephanie Myles of the Montreal Gazette.

Myles also translated Claude Brochu's autobiography, My Turn at Bat: The Sad Saga of the Expos.

August 20, 2003: Baseball Moves Closer, But Is Portland Ready?. LINK

The Portland Tribune raises another question about the local bid for the Expos: if Portland got the club, how would it operate until a new permanent stadium was ready?

Portland's PGE Park would have to host the club for three seasons. The recently-renovated facility --which was constructed in 1926 and seats fewer than 24,000 fans -- is located in a district "designed to handle basically 19th century traffic," according to a local neighborhood leader. It is also subject to a legally enforceable "Good Neighbor Agreement" regarding parking, noise and hours of operation.

This is a far cry from Washington's RFK Stadium, which would serve as temporary home for the D.c. or Northern Virginia Expos.

August 19, 2003: Boston Mayor: Fenway Should Stay. LINK

What a difference new ownership makes. Under John Harrington, the Red Sox disparaged Fenway as an obsolete antique that had to be replaced as soon as possible, rejecting proposals from Save Fenway Park! and others to renovate it. Harrington adhered to this view even though his own stadium plan may have been more than the club could afford.

By contrast, John Henry and Tom Werner have embraced Fenway, adding more seats where possible (including the acclaimed "Green Monster" seats) and improving concessions and amenities behind the outfield stands. Some of these moves have gone too far, notably limiting access to the public area around Fenway to reduce competition from outside vendors (including the unofficial Red Sox magazine/scorecard I write for), but to the extent the Sox are offering more and better options without trampling the rights of others, that's a win for both the club and its fans.

[Update: A reader from Boston challenges my criticism of the Sox' limiting access to the public area: "It's an ENORMOUS improvement. It allows people to walk out of the stadium to shop or get concessions or just get some air during the game, reducing the congestion in Fenway's crowded corridors and of course decreasing wait times at concession stands while increasing choice."]

Either way, new ownership seems to recognize that while a new park can boost attendance in the short run before the novelty wears off, a classic park to which fans have become attached and which out-of-towners want to visit will remain a draw for decades.

August 17, 2003: Bud Blows His Own Horn. LINK

My August 2003 column for Boston Baseball.

August 17, 2003: Lincoln Highway 90th Anniversary Motor Tour Leaves Times Square. LINK

This has nothing to do with baseball, but it's how I spent my morning, and since I'm also New York director of the Lincoln Highway Association, I can't pass up the opportunity for some cheap publicity.

Click through if you're interested in old cars or old roads.

August 17, 2003: Cubs Just Giving Fans the Business. LINK

Greg Couch's latest on the Chicago Cubs ticket scalping scam. Executive summary:
  • The Cubs and their lawyers are clueless paranoids who still don't understand why fans are so angry.
  • Wrigley Field Premium Ticket Services opened with $1,000 of capital. It then bought $1 million of Cubs tickets on credit extended by the club. The president of WFPTS doesn't know how much money his company has in the bank or who approves transfers of money in and out of the business...but WFPTS is totally separate from the Cubs. Really and truly.
  • When they started WFPTS in mid-2002, the Cubs thought it would be able to turn a $2 million profit that year alone. They then hoped to expand the business by letting other local clubs participate in the scheme.

August 16, 2003: Expos May Stay in Montreal After All. LINK

Montreal Expos president Tony Tavares says it's "50-50" the Expos will play all of their 2004 home games in Montreal.

MLBPA opposition makes it unlikely that the Expos will be splitting their home schedule again. San Juan and Monterrey, Mexico, the other cities bidding for some or all of the Expos' 2004 home games, aren't on the short list of cities being considered for the Expos' permanent home, and any attempt to move the Expos out of Montreal will immediately revitalize the RICO action against MLB. Unless MLB is willing to award the Expos to Washington, DC, northern Virginia or Portland, Oregon within the next two weeks, Montreal may be the best available option.

Barry Bloom of states that the other owners are paying about $1 million each, over and above the Expos' revenue sharing money, to operate the club in 2003. If this is accurate, the owners should abandon any attempt to keep the Expos in limbo long enough to contract them.

Since contraction is off the table through 2006, at this rate keeping the Expos alive for three more seasons will cost the other clubs an additional $90 million from 2004 through 2006, in addition to the revenue sharing subsidy. Selling the Expos to Virginia or Washington, DC interests before the 2004 season, even if the club had to play in RFK Stadium through 2006, would end the operating subsidy, reduce the revenue sharing subsidy and bring an immediate nine-figure check into the central fund -- all told, a gain for the other clubs of roughly $300 million.

If the owners were still determined to contract after 2006, they would still have to buy and fold one other club. They'd save a fortune if they bought and folded two other clubs after first selling the Expos.

August 16, 2003: ESPN, ESPN2 Get Division Series. LINK

Cable rights to the first-round divisional playoff series have been transferred from Fox to ESPN. Most first-round games are aired on cable. In recent years these games have aired on stations which carried no regular season baseball -- the ABC Family (formerly Fox Family) and fX cable channels -- confusing fans. The regular season and postseason packages are now in sync: broadcast TV rights belong to Fox, cable rights to ESPN.

August 15, 2003: Stadium Bill Stirs a Furor. LINK

A prominent Oregon legislator is incensed at the parliamentary move used to bypass the Senate Rules Committee and bring the stadium bill directly to the floor of the Senate.

Using this "gut-and-stuff" tactic to replace the text of a bill which has already passed the other house of the legislature is (a) a sure sign that the sponsors believe the bill would otherwise never get out of committee, and (b) an evasion of legislative procedure that infuriates opponents who thought they would have been able to kill the proposal if it had followed normal procedure. The stakes are now much higher than simple approval or rejection of a stadium bill.

August 14, 2003: DuPuy Sees Home Soon for Expos. LINK

MLB President Bob DuPuy says the Expos' permanent home could still be determined before Sept. 1. Of course, he used to say that a deal could be made by July 15.

Meanwhile, Virginia baseball officials insist that Arlington County officials don't understand just how wonderful a stadium would be for their local economy. They promise another study, an updated version of this masterwork [note: link is a .PDF file], which concluded that a Virginia ballpark would add $266.9 million to the local economy each year and create nearly 4,000 new jobs. The update is expected to conclude that if Pentagon officials could be distracted by a new major league stadium within walking distance, American troops might be withdrawn from Iraq six months sooner.

And if you believe in karma, here are successive paragraphs from this Washington Times account:

"DuPuy did attempt yesterday to inject a bit of levity into the glacially slow Expos process, telling assembled reporters they should check with Baseball for answers on the beleaguered franchise. The Web site earlier this week angered MLB executives by reporting that a deal to reinstate Pete Rose to baseball already was signed and return of the all-time leader in hits to baseball was imminent. DuPuy called the Rose report 'wholly inaccurate' and 'journalistically irresponsible.'

"Yesterday's meetings came to a painful conclusion for DuPuy, who stumbled on the stairs at the Ritz Carlton Hotel and wrenched his right knee. He was taken by ambulance to St. Elizabeth's Hospital."

August 14, 2003: Baseball Bill Gets on Base. LINK

Oregon's stadium bill has taken a major step forward: using an arcane procedural move, the state House of Representatives has effectively bypassed the anti-stadium Senate Rules Committee to bring the bill before the full state Senate, where passage is considered likely.

The Oregon House adopted the text of the stadium bill as an amendment to a bill which had already passed the state Senate. The revised measure now goes back to the full Senate for consideration, rather than to the committee which threatened to block it.

Tim Nesbitt, head of the Oregon AFL-CIO, endorsed the bill, asserting: "If this project proceeds, it will mean 1,500 family-wage building trades jobs during the three years of its construction, and another 1,500 permanent part-time jobs thereafter." The claim of 1500 construction jobs for three years is hard enough to swallow, but you couldn't generate 1500 "permanent part-time jobs" from a ballpark without bringing in a new shift of ushers and vendors every three innings.

August 13, 2003: By All Accounts, Premium a Net Loss. LINK

The trial of the class-action suit against the Cubs for scalping their own tickets began yesterday. The Cubs apparently managed to lose money in the scalping business, despite having the option, not available to any other scalper, of returning unsold seats to the box office for full credit.

Even more interesting, they reported their net revenues -- the loss -- to MLB for revenue sharing purposes, rather than the gross revenues they are required to report. As an unnamed executive quoted by Sun-Times reporter Greg Couch notes, that's the difference between revenue sharing and profit sharing. Moreover, some of these costs include $12,000/year paid to the Cubs for handling the ticket business's books, and rent for their office space which went to another Tribune Company subsidiary controlled by the same executive who ran the ticket business. Other clubs, and MLB, aren't happy about this.

August 13, 2003: Pirates Make Front Office Cuts. LINK

This article puts the cost of incompetent baseball management in perspective.

The Pittsburgh Pirates laid off eleven employees, including their director of community and player relations and director of season ticket services, to save an estimated $500,000. The savings are just thirteen percent of the money they're paying Pat Meares not to play for them this season.

August 12, 2003: The Return of Pete Rose. LINK

If this Baseball Prospectus exclusive is accurate, Pete Rose and MLB have already signed an agreement providing for Rose's reinstatement in 2004, and his potential return to an active role in the day-to-day operations of a team in 2005. The deal would be a total capitulation by MLB to Rose's years of whining, with no admission of wrongdoing on Rose's part.

[Update: MLB has officially denied this report, with President and CEO Bob DuPuy declaring: "The Commissioner has not made a decision and no agreement with Mr. Rose has been reached or signed." sources say that Rose could be reinstated before Thanksgiving, but would have to admit to having bet on baseball. Baseball Prospectus says it stands by the original report.]

(For those who have been living in a cave since 1989, Pete Rose -- Charlie Hustle, Mr. Competitive -- voluntarily accepted the maximum punishment baseball could mete out rather than face a disciplinary hearing at which the evidence against him would be made public and the weaknesses of his defenses exposed. He then spent 14 years whining about how unfair it is that he has been barred from the game he loved when he never did anything wrong. Ask any defense attorney how many truly innocent people, acting with the advice of competent attorneys, plead guilty and accept the maximum sentence.)

If this report is true, Bud Selig should be taken out and shot. The one truly principled action of his entire Commissionership, refusing to yield to public pressure on an issue central to the integrity of the game, is thrown out the window for no reason at all except Bud's desire to be popular, without even a requirement that Rose admit what he did. In the words of Mojo Nixon, "Bud, I wouldn't piss in your mouth if your stomach were on fire."

But so long as MLB's new governing philosophy is "give the fans what they want," let's take this one step further, Bud. How about a referendum at every major league stadium on whether you should be allowed to remain as Commissioner? How about a referendum in Milwaukee on whether you should be forced to sell control of the Brewers your family has run into the ground?

Let's not forget the role played by Reds owner Carl Lindner, who chimed in on Pete's behalf because he desperately wants Rose back with the club. (After all, it's cheaper than actually spending money on players.) Lindner's predecessor, the racist drunk with the abnormal affection for her pet dog, is looking better every day.

As for Rose himself, the day after his reinstatement he should be thrown in a woodchipper, from which 4,256 strictly limited Ultimate Pete Rose DNA-Bearing Souvenirs can be salvaged and sold to the highest bidder. He's whored himself in every other way; surely his legions of delusional acolytes would clamor for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get this close to Their Hero.

August 8, 2003: YankeeNets Is On the Verge of Splitting Apart. LINK

Believe it or not, the owners of the NBA Nets and NHL Devils aren't getting along with George Steinbrenner:

"People involved with the two teams say that Steinbrenner and his partners consider the New Jersey owners to be rubes when it comes to the complexity of the sports business. The same people say that Katz, Chambers and another owner, Alan Landis, have had enough of Steinbrenner and Randy Levine, the Yankees' president.

"'It's really a divisive situation,' said one executive. 'Chambers and Katz detest Steinbrenner, and Steinbrenner feels the same way about them.'"

As former Devils owner and former Yankees limited partner John McMullen once said, "Nothing is more limited than being a limited partner of George's."

Even after the group unwinds the ownership of YankeeNets' sports franchises, they are expected to keep the YES Network intact.

August 8, 2003: MLB goal: Forget tickets, just use cell phone to get in. LINK

Rob Bowman of MLB Advanced Media wants to let fans with Web-enabled cellphones buy tickets online and flash bar codes at the gate to enter the park. Fine with me, so long as the people who would drool at the opportunity to use this technology, as well as everyone else who yaps on cellphones throughout a game, are seated in a special unscreened area of the box seats after signing ironclad waivers of liability.

More importantly, the article notes that MLB expects to sell 7,000,000 tickets online this season -- 20% of all single-game sales, a 350% increase in two years. Most club Websites allow fans to see the view from the seats they're considering; many also allow the fans to print out their own tickets once purchased. These are genuinely fan-friendly gestures, especially appreciated by those of us who often visit ballparks in other cities.

August 8, 2003: Baseball Supporters Pick Up "Yes" Vote. LINK

In a positive development for Oregon's stadium proposal, the election to replace the recently-resigned Sen. Bev. Clarno chose another stadium supporter. This will help the stadium bill if it gets out of the Rules Committee, but that remains uncertain.

August 6, 2003: Stadium's Support Takes Hit in Committee. LINK

Oregon's stadium-financing bill remains tied up in the state Senate's Rules Committee. Sen. Bev Clarno, a strong supporter of the proposal, recently resigned from the Senate and was replaced by on the Rules Committee by an opponent.

The Oregonian who called this article to my attention, who wishes to remain anonymous, writes:

"Clarno was a legit supporter, and as the Republican leader in the Senate, has a bit of gravitas that will be missed on this issue. The fact that she was replaced with a 'no' vote is extremely damning. The 5-6 top-level lobbyists in the building that are working this issue say they're at 13-14 yes votes. They need 16. Getting it out of the Rules Committee is going to be extremely hard now that Clarno's gone. They've got an all-star team of lobbyists working this issue and still can't get the votes at this point in this session. My guess is this thing is done like dinner unless the governor decides that he's going to go all out to make it happen."

August 6, 2003: Players, Umps Help Baseball Pick Up Pace. LINK

Through July 31, the average nine-inning game has clocked in at 2:46, down six minutes from 2002 and 12 minutes since 2000. Here is more than you probably wanted to know about variations in game times over the past 60 years.

(Note the misleading precision in the chart accompanying this article. Although reported game times are rounded to the nearest minute, the USA Today chart purports to give each club's average game time to the second. The digits in the seconds column should be ignored.)

August 6, 2003: Monterrey Courts Home Dates. LINK

Another article about Monterrey, Mexico's interest in hosting the Expos for the 2004 season.

The news here is the reaction of Jeffrey Kessler, the lawyer representing 14 former Expos limited partners in the RICO action against former Expos owner Jeffrey Loria, his stepson David Samson, Bud Selig and Robert DuPuy. Last November the action was stayed while plaintiffs arbitrate their claims against Loria, as required by their partnership agreement. However, the court required MLB to give 90 days' notice of intention to sell or move the Expos, during which time plaintiffs could seek to enjoin the proposed action.

Kessler made clear that the plaintiffs will also seek to enjoin a temporary relocation of the Expos, such as to Puerto Rico: "We want the team in Montreal. To move it some place else for a year is the same as relocating it." The MLBPA won't accept another split schedule, the RICO plaintiffs won't accept a temporary relocation, and MLB doesn't seem inclined to play 81 home games in Montreal...all of which suggests that we could be hearing quite a bit more about this case come fall.

August 3, 2003: MLB Announces Five-Year, $500 Million Apparel and Headwear Deals. LINK

The link above is to the press release. The accompanying article by Barry Bloom reports that the base value of the new contracts, covering the 2005-09 seasons, is 70% higher than the deals which expire after the 2004 season. Since licensing revenues are shared equally, this is good news on the "competitive balance" front.

  • The winning licensees:
  • Majestic Athletic: new supplier of MLB Authentic Collection game uniforms and outerwear for the domestic and international markets
  • New Era Cap Company: remains supplier of MLB Authentic Collection caps for the domestic and international markets, plus commemorative LCS and World Series caps
  • Nike: new supplier of performance apparel and casual wear for the domestic and international markets
  • Twins Enterprises: new supplier of non-authentic headwear for the U.S. market, plus commemorative Wild Card and Divisional Series caps
  • VF Imagewear: new supplier of non-authentic T-shirts and fleeces for the Western Hemisphere, plus commemorative postseason T-shirts and fleeces
  • Dynasty Apparel: new supplier of non-authentic jerseys for domestic and Latin American markets
  • Drew Pearson International: remains supplier of non-authentic headwear in Europe.

August 2, 2003: Mexican Businessman Makes Bid for Expos. LINK

Carlos Bremer, CEO of Value Grupo Financiero, wants the Expos to play all of their 2004 home games in Monterrey, Mexico, a city of close to 3.5 million people which has hosted the 1999 season opener and a 1996 Padres-Mets series.

This is getting ridiculous, folks. MLB should sell the Expos to someone and put an end to this farce.

August 2, 2003: Commissioner Recalls Finley's Fire Sales in the '70s. LINK

The recent Yankees-Reds trade was originally structured as "Aaron Boone and Gabe White from Cincinnati to New York for Brandon Clausen and $3 million." Commissioner Selig blocked the trade in this form because it exceeded the $1 million limit for cash payments made as part of a trade. The deal was then split in two: Boone for Clausen, Charlie Manning and $1 million, White for a player to be named later plus $400,000.

(The $1 million cash limit applies only to payments made to acquire players. A club trading away a high-salaried veteran can agree to pay more than $1 million of his future salary as an inducement for someone else to take him off its hands.)

As Peter Gammons' column notes, the cash limit was imposed in the wake of Charles O. Finley's 1976 attempt to sell off his best players before they could leave as free agents. He sold Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers to the Red Sox for $2 million cash, Vida Blue to the Yankees for $1.5 million, only to have the sales voided by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn under his "best interests of baseball" power. Kuhn's decision was upheld by the courts.

An economist could argue that a club should be free to dispose oferspective of MLB and its fans, though, there's a fundamental difference between trading a star for prospects and selling him for cash -- the owner can't pocket prospects. While the Reds could use this week's trades to retool for the future, Reds fans and players believe that owner Carl Lindner has no intention of reinvesting the cash he received in his club. As a result, Lindner should soon be able to save even more money: the Reds won't need as many ushers, ticket-takers and concessionaires at their new Great American Ballpark.

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