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Doug's Business of Baseball Weblog: March 1-21, 2004

continued with Blogger software; click here for current entries and later indexes)



March 21, 2004: Season May Be Filled with Giant Problems. LINK

Buried at the end of Ross Newhan's latest Los Angeles Times column is the news that baseball's drug testing for minor leaguers, touted by Commissioner Selig as a proposed replacement for the current major league system, doesn't work:

"In the last week, I talked to five players at different camps, each of whom had spent the last two or more years at the minor league level. All said they have never been tested during the winter.

"'We're basically knocking on doors, hoping to find people home,' baseball labor lawyer Rob Manfred acknowledged of the winter program in the minors.

"'We're trying to do the best we can with it, but locating the players is one problem, and there are obviously significant legal issues involving players who live out of the country.'

"In other words, baseball officials armed with passports and specimen cups can't simply start tracking down players in Mexico, the Dominican Republic or any other foreign country, ignoring borders and the laws of those countries.

"If there is not off-season testing of all players on a random basis, if even U.S. players can't be found and tested during the off-season, what's the point?"




March 21, 2004: Red-Letter Daze Has Blue Blood Boiling. LINK

Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times notes that while the Dodgers are in disarray and new owners Frank and Jamie McCourt are being verbally pummeled by dissatisfied fans, the Anaheim Angels are taking the opportunity to invade Dodger territory.

The Orange County-based Angels' TV campaign shows Angel loyalists slapping the club's "A" logo on various signs around Los Angeles County. In Plaschke's words:

"An organization that spent four decades existing meekly at the foot of a fence surrounding its famous neighbor is not just attempting to scale that fence, it's trying to destroy it."

18% of current Angels season ticketholders live in Los Angeles County. The Angels have a better radio outlet, will be telecasting more games than the Dodgers, and could outdraw the Dodgers for the first time in 2004. It could be a long few years in Dodgertown, until the McCourts' money officially runs out and they can be shoved out the door.



March 20, 2004: Root of Problem Found in 2000-01 Winter. LINK

Writing in Baseball America (in an article apparently available to nonsubscribers), Jerry Crasnick takes us back three years to the 2000-01 offseason, in which owners competed against one another in the Overspending Derby.

Remember Mike Hampton's eight-year, $121 million contract with the Rockies? Darren Dreifort, Kevin Appier, Jason Kendall and Denny Neagle each signing four- to six-year contracts worth at least $10 million/year?



March 20, 2004: Terms of Dodger Transaction Posted Online (.PDF link). LINK

A Los Angeles radio station has linked to a copy of MLB's January 23, 2004 memo summarizing for all clubs the terms of Frank McCourt's deal to acquire the Dodgers. Here's a summary.

$330 million of the $430 million purchase price is attributed to the Dodgers franchise, with the remaining $100 million going toward the acquisition of Dodger Stadium, the Dodgertown spring training complex in Vero Beach, Florida, and the club's baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. Prior to the sale Fox Entertainment Group owned 95% of the club, with Dodger president Robert Daly owning the other 5%.

McCourt paid $100 million in cash for the real estate interests, $250 million in cash and $80 million in notes for the Dodgers. As part of the deal, Fox agreed to extend the Dodgers' local TV and cable contracts at a higher rights fee; to enter into a four-year sponsorship agreement starting in 2005; to pay $35 million to compensate McCourt for "certain pre-existing commitments"; and to pay another $15 million next year in a form which will count as revenue to be shared.

Fox also made a two-year, $145 million loan to McCourt of the money he paid for the club. The loan is secured by certain property McCourt owns in Boston; he's personally guaranteed only $20 million of this sum. If the full amount is repaid on time, McCourt will be entitled to a $20 million discount. In addition, McCourt borrowed $250 million through Bank of America, with $75 million secured by the club's real property and $150 million by the franchise itself.

Note that McCourt actually borrowed more money than he paid for the club. None of the $350 million cash received by Fox came from McCourt's pocket. McCourt is obligated to provide another $30 million of equity ($10 million in 2004, $10 million in 2005, $10 million thereafter), but he can get the money by selling real property or selling a minority interest in the club.

Because the $145 million borrowed from Fox and the $80 million in notes due Fox are McCourt's personal obligations on which the Dodgers are not liable, this $225 million doesn't count as debt for purposes of MLB's debt rules. I doubt, however, that worried Dodger fans will be reassured to know that this money is owed "only" by the club's owner, not the club itself.



March 19, 2004: Josh Hamilton Suspended for One Year. LINK

Sadly, at least one part of MLB's drug policy has been invoked with a vengeance. On February 17, 2004, MLB announced that Josh Hamilton of the Devil Rays, who was the first pick in the 1999 amateur draft and received a $3.96 million signing bonus, had been fined an undisclosed amount and suspended for 30 days for violating the Joint Drug Treatment and Prevention Program.

Today, the first date on which Hamilton had been eligible for reinstatement, MLB announced that he had been suspended for the entire 2004 season for another violation of the drug policy.

The February suspension is consistent with a second positive test for the use of cocaine, LSD, opiates, Ecstasy, GHB or PCP or a second failure to comply with the terms of his treatment program. Today's suspension is consistent with a third positive test or a fourth failure to comply.



March 19, 2004: Schilling's Steroid Comments Called "Misinformed". LINK

Curt Schilling's comments struck a nerve at MLB. Yesterday COO Bob DuPuy and EVP-Labor Relations Rob Manfred convened a telephonic conference call with reporters during which they pointed out that the confidentiality of 2003's drug tests has been endangered by an outside subpoena, not by MLB:

"We made an agreement with the players' association that this testing was supposed to be not only confidential but anonymous. At every step thus far, we've done everything we can to defend that agreement."

Manfred's correct. As soon as the subpoena was issued, MLB joined the MLBPA in opposing it.

Update: Union stalwarts Tom Glavine and Al Leiter of the Mets side with Manfred against Schilling.



March 19, 2004: Monster Increase Puts Emphasis on Green . LINK

The Red Sox are expanding their new two-tiered pricing system to the 270 seats atop the Green Monster which were installed last season. Last year these seats cost a flat $50, or $20 for standing room. This season they're selling for $90 for front-row seats, $70 for seats in the second and third rows and $25 standing room for 64 home games, rising to $110, $90 and $30 for 17 premium dates (Opening Day and series against the Yankees, Dodgers and Phillies).

Demand for Red Sox tickets, by far the majors' most expensive, is so high that the club capped season ticket sales and now has a 900-name waiting list.



March 19, 2004: Official: Don't Expect Relocation Decision Anytime Soon . LINK

Surprise! The timetable for moving the Expos has slipped again. In January, Expos president Tony Tavares told the press after an owners' meeting that MLB hoped to find the Expos a new home by the All-Star break. "We were looking at the All-Star break last year, if you remember, and the year before that," he added. "But this time I get a real sense of urgency that the goal will be accomplished."

That urgency is apparently not shared by John McHale Jr., a key member of MLB's committee to relocate the Expos, who told the Washington Post, "I don't know anything right now that would lead me to suggest to you that you should look for an announcement at the All-Star Game." As McHale notes, the big hurdle is selection of an ownership group. MLB can take months to approve a private sale involving new ownership -- there's no reason to expect that the process will be any less protracted when MLB itself is the seller.



March 19, 2004: Twins Stadium Update. LINK

An update on the Twins' stadium battle, with some help from Neil deMause's Field of Schemes site:

Economist Edward Lotterman, writing in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, trashes the principle behind the proposed tax increment financing: that a government subsidy to build the Twins a new ballpark will generate enough new tax revenue to cover the cost of the subsidy. He describes the local supporters as "intelligent and conscientious public officials struggling to find an acceptable public response to blatant extortion":

"The economic reality is that once many states and cities began to play the public subsidy game for sports facilities or large factories — whether using TIF or some other mechanism — the remainder of such units of government were caught in a bind. We fashioned the barrel over which professional sports teams now have us spread-eagled."

Confirming Lotterman's view, billionaire Twins owner Carl Pohlad objected to being asked to pay even a third of the cost of his club's new ballpark, saying that the facility should be financed through "gate receipts and taxes."

Jay Weiner of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, author of Stadium Games: Fifty Years of Big League Greed and Bush League Boondoggles, profiles some of the leading opponents of publicly funded stadia for the Twins and Vikings.



March 18, 2004: Dodger Deal Could Give Murdoch Southie Tract. LINK

Scott Van Voorhis of the Boston Herald reveals a key detail of Frank McCourt's financing for the Dodgers in the context of the Boston real estate market.

Former Dodgers owner News Corp., through its Fox Baseball division, loaned McCourt $145 million of the sale price. The loan was secured by 24 acres of parking lots owned by McCourt in South Boston. McCourt has two years to repay the $145 million, plus interest, or News Corp. can either take his land or convert the loan into a large equity stake in the Dodgers.



March 18, 2004: Rays' Playoff Hopes Hang in the Balance. LINK

St. Petersburg Times sports columnist John Romano argues for a return to the balanced schedule as the only way Tampa Bay can ever hope to be competitive in the AL East. [Insert joke about Vince Naimoli's life expectancy here.] As Romano notes:

"Last season, the Rays played their 76 division games against opponents with payrolls between $61-million and $180-million. The White Sox played theirs against opponents with payrolls between $48-million and $65-million."

This is a simplistic approach, but he has a point. Tampa Bay is half the size of any other market in its division. Instead of complaining about the unbalanced schedule -- does MLB really want to reduce the number of Yankees-Red Sox games? -- the Devil Rays would be better off lobbying to switch divisions with the Cleveland Indians, a medium-market club that's proven it can generate large-market revenues.

This would create, in effect, an AL Northeast of Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, New York and Toronto, and an AL Midwest/South of Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, Minnesota and Tampa Bay. The Devil Rays are a much better fit with the latter group, while the new AL East would have four of the league's five highest-revenue clubs (using 2001 numbers, the most recent released by MLB) plus Toronto, which has shown it can compete with fewer resources.



March 18, 2004: Drug Testing News Update. LINK

    The latest on the drug testing controversy:

  • Murray Chass says that Commissioner Selig's concerns come from his conversations with doctors. Chass also explains why the reasonable-cause testing provision was never invoked last season: "No club wanted to turn in its own player, and no club would accuse another team's player of using steroids because another team might then accuse one of the accusing team's players."

  • Mets player representative Vance Wilson tells Newsday why the players and the press are at such odds over the drug program: "The problem is that these politicians and people and fans want names in the paper and front-page mug shots. That's not what the program is designed to do. The program is to get people help and be a deterrent."

  • Unnamed MLB officials tell the New York Daily News that any attempt to invoke the Commissioner's best-interests power to order drug testing would be "a dead loser as a legal issue" and "would confirm everything [Donald Fehr's] been saying about us: 'They're trying to drive a wedge between us, they're not honoring the agreement,' etc."

  • Confirming this reaction, Curt Schilling says he'd happily consent to drug testing by an independent third party, but "I don't trust the Major League Baseball ownership group to handle drug testing for Major League Baseball," and Johnny Damon believes the owners "want to try to tear the union apart with that."

    Damon goes further: "I actually believe the owners want [steroids] in the game. What boosted attendance in baseball more than home runs, guys taking steroids and hitting home runs? That boosted attendance. It boosted salaries. It boosted money for owners."

  • Meanwhile, the joint MLB-MLBPA health policy advisory committee unanimously agreed to add the newly-discovered steroid THG to the list of banned substances.



March 17, 2004: Fehr May Discuss Steroid Changes. LINK

Ross Newhan of the Los Angeles Times reports that Donald Fehr of the MLBPA will soon tell Bud Selig that the union is willing to have a "constructive dialogue" regarding changes to the CBA's drug program.

Note to MLB: this is the way the process is supposed to work. Note further that while the MLBPA continues to oppose an expansion of random drug testing as an invasion of privacy, it may well be more receptive to proposals to increase the penalties for those found to have taken banned substances.

Although Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune joins the Houston Chronicle in reporting that Selig may invoke his best-interests powers on the issue, Newhan says that "management sources contacted by The Times downplayed that possibility."



March 17, 2004: Baseball May Get Tough on Steroids. LINK

Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle reports that Commissioner Selig may invoke his "best interests of the game" power to, in effect, unilaterally replace the drug-testing provisions of the CBA with those of his own choosing, including more random testing and stronger punishments.

An unnamed "industry source" explained MLB's thinking to Justice:

"It's a health issue. Our doctors have shown us that steroid use is linked to heart disease, sexual dysfunction and other problems. Players are going to start dying if we don't do something."

David Pinto of Baseball Musings worries that Selig's action could prompt the MLBPA to call for a strike. That won't be necessary. Instead, the union would file a grievance and submit the matter to baseball's neutral arbitrator, Shyam Das, to decide -- and the union should easily win any such grievance.

The "health issues" of steroids aren't new. Both parties were fully aware of the dangers of steroid abuse when they negotiated the testing provisions of the current CBA. The CBA also authorizes additional reasonable-cause testing of any player suspected of using steroids, thereby providing ample authority for dealing with specific "problem players." In short, nothing has changed except for the Commissioner's desire to Do Something.

Moreover, Article XIII of the CBA establishes a joint labor-management Safety and Health Advisory Committee charged with "deal[ing] with emergency safety and health problems as they arise, and attempt[ing] to find solutions." This Committee "shall only have advisory authority and it shall not have the power to impose its views or recommendations upon the Parties." When the parties agree that even a special committee created to address emergency health issues can't override the CBA, it's hard to imagine an arbitrator concluding that the Commissioner can do so on his own.

And however divided the players may be on the subject of random testing, it's hard to imagine any issue unifying them faster than Bud Selig's asserting the unilateral authority to replace collectively bargained terms with those more to his liking.



March 16, 2004: Senate Posse Is Passing Steroids Back to Baseball. LINK

Murray Chass of The New York Times suggests that responsibility for the nation's health rests with the federal government, not Major League Baseball. Legislators criticized Mark McGwire's use of androstenedione and demanded that MLB ban ephedra in the wake of Steve Bechler's death last spring, yet took forever to get these products out of the hands of other users who could buy them over the counter.

"McCain and his posse can demonize Fehr as viciously as they want, but they might want to look at their own position in the drug and supplement business and their own failure to act on behalf of the people they want the union to protect."

Chass notes the MLBPA's position that "as long as a substance is legal, as long as a player's neighbor can buy it off the shelf of a health store, it has no business telling the player that he can't buy it, too," and says that only a relative handful of players are calling for the union to alter its position on drug testing.

Chass's former Times colleague Buster Olney, now writing for ESPN The Magazine, finds at least one player who claims (anonymously) that the majority of players support a stronger testing program but have been intimidated into not speaking up.



March 16, 2004: Marginal Payroll/Marginal Wins. LINK

I've written two articles for Baseball Prospectus which apply my Marginal Payroll/ Marginal Wins formula back to the 1977 season, the start of the free agent era and the first year for which reliable team-by-team payroll data is available.

The introduction and 1977-79 results are here; 1980-84 results (on a subscribers-only page) are here.



March 16, 2004: Firm Bids to Bring Expos to State. LINK

The Hartford Courant reports that a group headed by one John Alevizos of The Alevizos Group wants to buy the Montreal Expos and move them to central Connecticut, as the Connecticut Colonials. Alevizos says his group has offered substantially more than $120 million for the Expos, and has private financing in place for a 34,000-seat, $250 million stadium at a yet-to-be-determined site.

Hartford was an original National League city, but lost its team after the 1877 season. Metropolitan Hartford is smaller than metropolitan Nashville or Greensboro/Winston-Salem, NC. Even if the New Haven metropolitan area is added, the combined market is no larger than Norfolk -- and it's been losing population for years. The only way to make a team in Connecticut viable would be to subsidize it as a reward for eroding the revenues of the Yankees and Red Sox.

"My optimism has no bounds," exclaims Alevizos. Alas, mine does.



March 16, 2004: Former Players Lose Bid for Pensions, Benefits. LINK

When this suit was filed five months ago, I called it "an action that makes Richie Phillips' 1999 labor strategy look both principled and meritorious." Yesterday U.S. District Judge Manuel Real threw the plaintiffs, their brazen lies and their rancid theory out of court.

Plaintiffs sued on behalf of more than 1,000 players who retired before 1980. In that year, MLB's pension plan was amended to reduce the vesting period for pension benefits from five years to 43 days, and for medical benefits from five years to one day -- but the amendments were not made retroactive to include them. But they didn't sue the MLBPA, which was presumably negotiating on their behalf. Instead they sued MLB, the folks on the other side of the bargaining table who owed them no special duty.

One reason for not suing the MLBPA may have been that the statute of limitations had long since expired. But that didn't stop them from suing MLB on a host of time-barred theories, too. Plaintiff's counsel may also have been leery of tangling with the MLBPA after receiving this letter (.PDF file) from MLBPA lawyer Michael Weiner, who responded to threats of litigation by ripping plaintiff's counsel a new orifice.

Their efforts to avoid the statute of limitations issue make clear that plaintiffs are either liars or morons. The complaint (.PDF file) alleges that the plaintiffs who received cortisone shots in the 1960s and 1970s did not discover until 2003 that these shots had caused their health problems (Complaint, paragraphs 213 and 218), Plaintiffs also claimed that they could not reasonably have learned until August 2003 that in the 1990s, MLB had voluntarily provided certain Negro Leaguers with pension and medical benefits (Complaint, paragraphs 233 and 242), even though MLB's motion to dismiss (.PDF file) identified dozens of articles in major newspapers which reported these benefits at the time they were adopted.

Building their complaint on a foundation of lies was bad enough, but plaintiffs compounded it with an offensive legal theory: that since MLB had voluntarily credited former Negro Leaguers who had been systematically excluded from MLB because of their race with their Negro League service time for purposes of determining pension and benefit eligibility, MLB was now discriminating against Caucasians by not paying plaintiffs benefits they hadn't earned.

As confirmed by the Web site created by plaintiffs to promote their demands, plaintiffs' real goal was to fill the media with sob stories about impoverished ex-players, creating so much negative publicity that MLB and/or the MLBPA would pay them to go away. Instead they've been thrown out of court.

Yes, it's a shame that some former major leaguers live in poverty. It's a shame that anyone in this country lives in poverty. But I lose any special sympathy the ex-players may have earned when their lawyer spews nonsense like this:

"It is a simple case of discrimination. Baseball has provided payments to Negro League players who had not played long enough in the major leagues to vest for pension benefits. Yet, baseball provides the benefits to them anyway. They are not providing the same benefits to Caucasian players."

It's not discriminatory to to treat Player A, a mediocrity who couldn't hold a roster spot long enough to qualify for his pension, differently from Player B, who would have qualified for his pension if not for the institutional racism which barred him from the roster. Nor is it unfair to demand that plaintiffs bring any claims they may have before the statute of limitations on those claims expires. Plaintiffs, and their lawyers, got exactly what they deserved.



March 15, 2004: Pawlenty Backs Plan for Two Stadiums. LINK

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has finally expressed himself regarding the Twins' and Vikings' demands for new stadia. Although as a legislator, Pawlenty twice voted against stadium packages for the Twins, he's changed his tune:

"Bottom line: I don’t want to lose the Twins or the Vikings on my watch."

Under Pawlenty's plan, which must be voted on by the Minnesota Legislature, he would appoint a seven-member Minnesota Stadium Authority to negotiate with the teams and prospective host cities. The clubs would be required to pay only one-third the cost of their new facilities -- and would be allowed to count money from the sale of naming rights toward that share. Their contribution could also be paid over time from stadium revenues. According to mlb.com, the clubs would also be responsible for cost overruns.

The remaining two-thirds of the stadium cost would be financed through a combination of sales taxes, parking fees, and special taxes and fees on ballpark concessions and souvenirs. Pawlenty would not promise that residents of the "lucky" host city would receive the opportunity to vote on the "honor" being offered them.

In short, under Pawlenty's plan Twins owner Carl Pohlad, the richest man in Minnesota, might never have to open his own checkbook to cover a single dollar of the proposed Twins stadium. The state would, however, receive a to-be-negotiated share of the sale price whenever the Twins or Vikings were next sold.

When asked whether he would offer similar deals to other local businesses which were threatening to relocate, Pawlenty said, "Not necessarily. Professional sports stadiums are fairly unique creatures, and we need to treat them as such."

Okay, Minnesotans, bend over and assume the position...



March 15, 2004: Marlins Set New Deadline for Ballpark. LINK

Last fall, Florida Marlins president David Samson set March 15, 2004 as the deadline for the Marlins and local officials to reach agreement on the location of, and financing for, a new ballpark for the world champion Marlins.

Today is March 15, and there's no deal. What to do? Set a new artificial deadline, of course!

Samson now says the Marlins need a deal by May 1 if the proposed new park is to be ready for the 2007 season. Although he appears to reject the leading proposal to build a new park near the Orange Bowl, Samson won't say what will happen if this deadline isn't met, either. Since he insists his father-in-law Jeffrey Loria won't move or sell the Marlins, expect many more pleading press conferences in the weeks after Opening Day.



March 15, 2004: Fans Doubt Mexico Can Support MLB Team. LINK

From Mexico City, where he was covering the Astros-Marlins exhibition series, Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle reports that the locals don't believe that either Mexico City or Monterrey can support a major league team.

The problem is money. With bleacher seats in the 27,000-seat stadium costing 150 pesos, "[E]ven sitting in the cheapest seats, it cost about a week's salary for the average Mexico City employee to take a family of five to the stadium to see the Marlins and Astros."

Sunday's exhibition game also turned into a replay of the 2002 All-Star Game, with fans throwing things onto the field when the clubs declared a 2-2 tie after nine innings so both clubs could catch charter flights back to their training camps...even though neither had a game scheduled for Monday.



March 15, 2004: Marlins Hope to Play Games in Italy. LINK

While in Mexico City for a two-game exhibition series between the Florida Marlins and Houston Astros, Paul Archey, a vice president of MLB International, told the Palm Beach Post that MLB may play a few regular-season games in Europe during 2005 or 2006.

The games would likely be played right before or right after the All-Star break. Italy, which already has several suitable facilities, is a frontrunner to land any such games, but France, England and the Netherlands remain possibilities.



March 15, 2004: Baseball Backers' Pitch Is About to Take a Big Hit. LINK

The Portland Oregonian reports that all of the leading candidates to succeed Portland Mayor Vera Katz, a strong supporter of Portland's bid for the Expos, oppose the use of public funds to construct the stadium demanded by MLB.

Since Katz still has 10 months left in her term, there's plenty of time to adopt a financing plan if MLB truly intends to follow through on its promise to move the Expos for the 2005 season, but MLB's credibility on this issue is about as solid as the Oregon economy.



March 14, 2004: Selig Says A's Need New Stadium to Keep Top Players. LINK

Sound familiar? Bud said exactly the same thing last year at this time.

2003: "They do need a stadium because in any system you have to increase your revenue. A club that can't generate a lot of local revenue is at a huge disadvantage."

2004: "That stadium cannot produce enough revenue for his team to be competitive and keep the players that they want to keep. That's just a fact of life."

2003 season: Athletics go 96-66, making the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year and finishing with the league's second best record.

Bud, have you read this yet?



March 13, 2004: Ballpark Founders Seats Are Hot Tickets. LINK

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals' planned $40 million offering of personal seat licenses is oversubscribed. Over 12,000 fans have offered to purchase the 10,300 available seats.

The Ballpark Founders Program seats require a one-time payment of $2,000 to $7,500, in addition to the purchase of season tickets for $46-$170 per game. The Cardinals will give purchasers four years to pay for their seat licenses, which can be freely transferred or sold. In addition, purchasers can sell their licenses back to the Cardinals, receiving a full refund if offered back within 12-20 years, a partial refund after that.

The Cardinals' new park is scheduled to open in 2006.



March 12, 2004: Government Intervention Needed to Clean Up Baseball. LINK

We have a winner in the Most Hysterical Overreaction to Steroid Rumors competition! It's Skip ("Privacy? Rights? None for YOU, Rich Boys!") Bayless, who writes:

I hope I live to see the day when, to play a pro sport, an athlete must forfeit his or her right to privacy and agree to be tested for all drugs any random day, 365 days a year. Zero tolerance. First positive test means suspension. Fail three and you're banned.

Radical? Unconstitutional? No, simply the way it must be in the 21st century for the few members of society so athletically gifted that they can make millions entertaining us.


Substitute "write for a mass audience" for "play a pro sport" and get back to me, Skip. Oh, and since we're worried about impairment, we're adding "blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more" to the prohibited list. Let's see how many seats open up in the press boxes of America...



March 12, 2004: It Comes Out of Right Field. LINK

The Boston Red Sox have squeezed a few more seats out of Fenway Park, adding what amounts to a 195-seat restaurant on the right field roof.

Seats, in blocks of four, will be available on a single-game basis only. They will cost $100/seat for 17 premium games (Opening Day and games against the Yankees, Dodgers and Phillies), $75/seat for the remaining 64 home games. Each block will entitle the holders to a table at the restaurant and $100 worth of food from the menu.



March 11, 2004: December 1996 Milwaukee Magazine: Storm Warnings. LINK

A great find by a pseudonymous Baseball Primer poster: an investigation of the Milwaukee Brewers by Bruce Murphy in the December 1996 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

The article shows just how bad the Brewers' finances had become even by that early date, explains how Selig managed to parlay his minority stake in the Brewers into full operating control of the club, and portrays the Brewers' publicly funded stadium as Selig's last opportunity to avoid losing control of the club to its creditors or new investors. In a sidebar, Murphy also backs the Seligs' position on another issue: from a review of Wisconsin state tax records, he concludes that between them, Laurel Prieb and Wendy Selig-Prieb earned only about $200,000/year from the Brewers during the 1990-94 period.

Murphy sums up:

The only thing that can be said with assurance is that for the last six years, Bud Selig has made a series of decisions, as both commissioner and Brewers leader, that had a disastrous impact on the team. That track record doesn't bode well for the future of Miller Park.

In the real world of business, an owner who carelessly ran up such a debt would lose the company. That may still happen to Selig. But if history is any guide, Selig will react to the likely problems of the future by asking for more handouts: more tax money, perhaps more "season ticket guarantees" from business leaders, maybe even more foundation grants. Whatever Selig's mistakes, it's not likely he will pay for them. The bill will be handed to us.




March 11, 2004: Doomed to Repeat. LINK

Here's a direct link to the experience (referenced below) of a man who worked for new Dodgers owner Frank McCourt in the late 1980s, on a Baltimore entertainment project which failed because the undercapitalized McCourt operated the business on a best-case scenario. Author Bob Bryant found McCourt and his wife Jamie to be "earnest, but totally incompetent people." He concludes:

It's chilling to read that Dodger execs resigned because the McCourt/Dodger plan, as they see it, requires everything to follow a best case scenario, because of the massive debt load of McCourt's purchase.

It reminds me of the day 16 years ago an ashen-faced friend came to me to tell me how our own project was going to go under because of the financing of one Frank McCourt.




March 11, 2004: Senator Threatens MLB with Steroid Legislation. LINK

Today the Senate Commerce Committee held hearings on "Steroid Use in Professional and Amateur Sports." Here's a link to the main hearings page, and here are links to the prepared statements submitted by Bud Selig and Donald Fehr.

During the hearing, Selig said he wants to implement the same steroids testing program used in the minors: year-round random testing, with a 15-day unpaid suspension for a first offense and escalating sanctions thereafter. According to Selig, the MLBPA's "long-standing, deep-rooted philosophical objection to drug testing of any type" posed problems during the 2002 labor negotiations: "drug testing was probably the most contentious issue throughout the process, and the new drug agreement was one of the last issues resolved in the hours of continuous bargaining before the MLBPA strike deadline in August of 2002."

Fehr countered that the MLBPA shares "the goal of a game free of the unlawful use of drugs, but we believe this goal not only can be, but must be, attained with proper respect, not just for the game, but for the players as well." "We thought then -- and believe now -- that the testing of an individual, not because of something he is suspected to have done, but simply because he is a member of a particular class, is at odds with fundamental principles of which we in this country have long and rightly been proud. It is not up to the individual to prove he is innocent, especially of a charge of which he is not reasonably suspected." Fehr noted that the CBA already authorizes additional testing of players specifically suspected of using steroids, and emphasized that MLB's testing program had been collectively bargained between the parties.

Committee chairman John McCain thundered at Fehr: "Your failure to commit to addressing this issue straight on and immediately will motivate this committee to search for legislative remedies. I don't know what they are. But I can tell you, and the players you represent, the status quo is not acceptable. And we will have to act in some way unless the major league players union acts in the affirmative and rapid fashion."

Er...how? By passing a federal law to invalidate a collectively bargained provision in a private-sector labor agreement? By putting the MLBPA on double-secret probation? By screaming really, really loudly outside its offices? (If "by banning the issuance of tax-exempt bonds to finance sports stadiums" is on the list, though, count me in.)

Meanwhile, the Senators held up the NFL's drug testing policy as a model for other sports. Everyone who believes that steroids have been eradicated from the NFL, raise your hand...hmm, about as many as want me to sing the Celine Dion Songbook a capella at the next SABR convention...



March 11, 2004: Union Returns Favor with Offer to Fehr. LINK

Michael O'Keeffe and T.J. Quinn of the New York Daily News report that the MLBPA has offered Executive Director Don Fehr a three-year contract for about $2.5 million per year. Fehr hasn't had a multi-year contract since 1992, though he has rejected several multi-year offers. The new deal, which would roughly double Fehr's salary, would still leave him earning less than the NFLPA's Gene Upshaw, who often seems to be paid by the owners.

The MLBPA's annual financial reports for 2000-02 can be viewed here. For the period ending December 31, 2002, the MLBPA, which has 1350 dues-paying members, reported net assets in excess of $117 million and revenues in excess of $45 million, mostly from licensing fees. (Players are charged $30/day dues.)

The reports include the salaries of every MLBPA employee. In 2002 Fehr earned $1 million, with Gene Orza, Fehr's #2 man, earning over $500,000 and #3 Michael Weiner receiving $500,000. They collectively earn less than half of what Bud Selig makes. Wouldn't you like to see similar disclosures of MLB's executive payroll?



March 11, 2004: Q & A with the Commish. LINK

Here's a link to half of Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci's interview with Commissioner Selig. (The first, subscriber-only, half is all about steroids.) Bud finally said something testable about competitive balance:

"Last Sept. 1 17 or 18 teams were still in playoff contention. I think this year we'll have at least as many. That couldn't have happened seven or eight or nine or 10 years ago."

Thanks to baseball-reference.com, it's easy to check the September 1 standings for years past. On September 1, 2003, ten NL clubs and seven AL clubs were within four games of their division lead or the wildcard, so we'll use "four games out of a postseason berth on September 1" as the standard for playoff contention. But since two of the present 30 clubs weren't around 7-10 years earlier, a comparable number of contenders would be 15 or 16, not 17.

Seven years earlier ( 1996): Six NL clubs, seven AL clubs, a total of 13.

Eight years earlier ( 1995): Nine NL clubs, nine AL clubs, a total of 18.

Nine years earlier ( 1994) the players were on strike on September 1, but when the season ended so abruptly, six NL clubs and eight AL clubs, a total of 14, were within four games of a playoff berth.

Ten years earlier ( 1993) there was no wild-card, but if the current three-division-plus-wildcard setup had been in effect, five NL and six AL clubs, a total of 11, would have been in contention.

The verdict? The 2003 season was more balanced than the four-year average for the seasons used by the Commissioner. But Bud's statement is literally false: competitive balance, as measured by "number of clubs in contention on September 1," was objectively better in 1995 than in 2003.

In the context of the possible relocation of the Expos to Washington/northern Virginia, Selig said that allowing the Kansas City Athletics to move to Oakland was "poor planning" which produced "a two-team market in which both teams have struggled for decades." In the 36 seasons since the Bay Area became a two-team market, the two clubs have made the playoffs a combined 21 times, as often as the two New York clubs (giving the Yankees credit for strike-shortened 1994). This compares to eight playoff appearances for the two Chicago teams and 14 for the two Los Angeles clubs over the same period.



March 10, 2004: RealNetworks Cries Foul Over Baseball Blackout. LINK

Today RealNetworks sued Major League Baseball Advanced Media in federal court in Seattle, alleging that MLBAM has breached a contract, signed just last month, pursuant to which MLBAM agreed to make live audio and video feeds of games available in RealNetworks' proprietary RealAudio format as well as Microsoft's competing .WMA format, which plays through Microsoft's proprietary Windows Media Player.

MLBAM spokesman Jim Gallagher told internetnews.com: "We are disappointed that RealNetworks has brought a lawsuit," and that MLBAM "will continue to honor our February 2004 contract and expect to prevail in any litigation." RealNetworks has separately sued Microsoft, alleging anticompetitive conduct in the market for digital media players.

RealNetworks is expected to move for preliminary injunctive relief to compel MLBAM to continue streaming games in its formats.



March 10, 2004: A Whole New Ballgame for Hicks. LINK

Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks plans to retire from the active management of his investment company, Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst Inc., to spend more time managing the Rangers and his hockey team, the Dallas Stars. Hicks intends to work on the business side, increasing sponsorships and group sales and developing the vacant land around The Ballpark at Arlington. He vows to keep away from club operations, an area in which he is best known for signing Alex Rodriguez to a $252 million contract that wound up costing the Rangers $140 million for three years in a Ranger uniform.



March 10, 2004: Bringing Some Heavy Jitters to Dodger Stadium. LINK

Ross Newhan of the Los Angeles Times reports on the management changes since Frank McCourt took over the Dodgers. GM Dan Evans was fired, while president Bob Graziano and EVP-Business Kris Rone resigned "over philosophical differences."

According to Newhan, those "philosophical differences" included McCourt's determination to operate under a best-case business plan:

"[S]ources familiar with the situation said that both questioned the viability of a business plan based on a best-case scenario. If that best case doesn't totally evolve — and seldom do all of the pieces fall in place in baseball — Graziano and Rone were concerned, the sources said, about McCourt's long-term operating potential given the level of the debt servicing in his highly leveraged purchase of the club."

Under Graziano and Rome, the Dodgers' net revenues rose 51% in five years, while sponsorship revenues jumped 271%. McCourt has yet to replace them. Arte Moreno's acquisition of the Angels is looking better every day...

For a tale of working with Frank McCourt that should send chills up the spine of every Dodger fan, check out the fifth comment in this thread on BaseballPrimer.com.



March 10, 2004: Collins Says MLB Is Down to Last Strike. LINK

William Collins, who has led Virginia's efforts to obtain a major league franchise since 1993, says he's giving up if the Expos aren't moved for 2005:

"It's not worth it. Baseball has stated their commitment that the process, the sale and relocation of the club will take place, and we're holding them to that word."

Holding MLB to its word? Not a promising approach... The Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority's authority to finance a stadium extends at the end of the year, and neither Collins nor anyone else appears interested in extending it.



March 9, 2004: Online Chat at BaseballProspectus.com. LINK

I'll be hosting an online chat at BaseballProspectus.com tonight at 8:00 Eastern. The chat is generally tied to my Marginal Payroll/Marginal Wins research. The results for 1995-2003 are published in Baseball Prospectus 2004; the results for 1977-94 will be published on the Baseball Prospectus Website, starting today.

Update: Here's a transcript of the chat.



March 8, 2004: Let the Games Begin: Six Baseball Business Questions. LINK

At the link above, Rick Horrow asks and answers six questions. Below, I answer them in 25 words or less:

1. Is revenue sharing good for baseball, or only for the Yankees?

Bad question. Revenue sharing hurts the Yankees, who have nonetheless gained by growing their local revenues faster than the CBA can spread them around.

2. Will we ever see another quarter of a billion dollar contract like A-Rod's?

Yes, but not for another 15-20 years, by which time MLB's revenues will have grown high enough to support $25 million/year contracts.

3. Will the average fan be priced out of attending MLB games?

Never. With over 3,000,000 tickets to sell each season, major league clubs depend on the patronage of these average fans.

4. Will some struggling teams make it?

Yes, though some may have to move and others may require new ownership. Badly run businesses should lose money until someone competent takes over.

5. Do new stadiums solve the economic problems in the long-term?

The novelty factor wears off, reducing attendance unless the team does well -- but even then, luxury boxes and premium seats keep revenues higher than before.

6. Can the next television deal continue to bail out baseball?

A non-issue. Even if the next national TV deal was worth 50% less, salaries would decline to reflect the reduction in available revenue.



March 8, 2004: MLB and Getty Images Partner to Market Baseball Images. LINK

This press release from MLB announces that Getty Images has partnered with Major League Baseball Properties and Major League Baseball Advanced Media to create a million-image MLB photo archive.

The contents of this archive, which will be administered by Getty Images, will be available in two ways. Commercial users will be able to search and obtain immediate access to images, just as they can currently use the Getty Images site (click here for Getty's selection of images from Game 6 of the 2003 World Series), while a separate site will offer images directly to the general public.

The new sites will be linked to MLB.com. MLBP and MLBAM will decide which images they will offer, but will have no say over what Getty offers through its own site.



March 8, 2004: King Kaufman's Sports Daily. LINK

King Kaufman of Salon takes a new look at MLB's competitive balance relative to the NBA and NHL. MLB has only half as many playoff berths as the other two sports -- how many teams would be perennially left out if 16 MLB teams qualified for the playoffs, or if the NBA and NHL took only the top 8 clubs?

As this table shows, if the three sports had equivalent playoff structures, MLB would be at least as balanced as the other two.



March 7, 2004: Schott Heard Around Park. LINK

Oakland owner Steve Schott fires back at Peter Magowan's claim to the San Jose territory:

"I believe that when Charlie Finley moved the A's out here, and the Giants were already here, there was no questions and no discussions about territorial rights. The only way the Giants ended up with territorial rights was because they were going to build a stadium down in San Jose.

"There was no question about whose territory it was. They had to get permission from the A's. They didn't pay for those territorial rights, by the way. Now, in the meantime, they built a stadium closer to Oakland than they were before. And now, if we talk about another stadium down in that area, they go berserk. It's like my 4-year-old granddaughter says sometimes, 'crybaby, crybaby.' They like to cry a lot about it. They get nervous about it, you know."

Bud Selig, however, has no intention of reopening the issue. Schott has also conceived a new way to raise revenue: direct corporate sponsorship or particular players:

"[I]f there's a way to get a link between a corporate sponsor and a player, that might be one way to help subsidize the salaries that are demanded or commanded. I haven't formalized that dream yet."



March 7, 2004: Text of Commissioner Selig's Steroids Gag Order. LINK

M E M O R A N D U M


TO: All Major League Owners, Club Presidents, Chief Executive Officers, General Managers and Field Managers

FROM: Commissioner Allan H. Selig

DATE: February 26, 2004

RE: Performance-Enhancing Substances and BALCO

In recent weeks, the public commentary on the issue of performance-enhancing substances has reached a very high level. In view of this fact, I believe it is important to reiterate Major League Baseball's policy on this topic. Simply put, our goal is to make Baseball a drug-free sport. I personally intend to see that zero-tolerance goal achieved.

Having said that, the seemingly endless stories about BALCO and related topics have reached the point that they are distracting from the play of the game on the field and are serving no useful purpose in terms of addressing the substantive problem of performance-enhancing drugs. Moreover, public comment by anyone associated with the game is legally imprudent given the active grand jury investigation.

Because of these facts, I am directing all Club Officials and employees to refrain from further comment on the BALCO proceedings specifically and performance- enhancing drugs generally. In addition, with the full support of the Major League Baseball Players Association, I am directing each Club to meet with its players and urge them to refrain from any and all public comment on this topic at this time.

If you have press inquiries that you feel should be answered, you should direct those inquiries to Bob DuPuy, Rob Manfred or Rich Levin.



March 6, 2004: Scope of BALCO Subpoena of Steroid Tests Is Greatly Reduced. LINK

Negotiations between the MLBPA and the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco have resulted in the narrowing of a grand jury's subpoena of MLB's 2003 drug testing records. By "narrowing," I mean "eliminating 99% of the material requested."

The grand jury had originally asked for the test results of all 1,438 players tested last year. Its subpoena now covers 15 or fewer players. According to Murray Chass of the New York Times, these players include Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Benito Santiago, Armando Rios, Marvin Benard, Bobby Estalella and Randy Velarde.

The MLBPA may still object to the subpoena on privacy grounds. MLB shares this concern, recognizing that both parties intended for the test results to remain private and that any breach of this confidentiality will strengthen the players' opposition to any form of random testing.



March 5, 2004: Orza Prepared to Flex Muscle. LINK

There is no real chance that MLB's drug testing policy will be amended before the current CBA expires after the 2006 season. As Gene Orza of the MLBPA told Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe:

"We have an agreement with the clubs. There is a basic agreement provision in place. It will be the provision we operate under. There will be no other provision. This is the provision through December 2006. Nothing is going to happen. We're not going to change it."

Elsewhere in the Globe, Nomar Garciaparra raises another issue:

"People don't realize that testing isn't infallible. What are you going to do when you get a false positive? What are they going to do when a guy is getting accused and then realize, `Oh, well, oops, we messed up'? Are they going to go back and try to restore the guy's name and reputation or are they just going to accept the fact that the guy's reputation and name are ruined?"

Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun reports:

"a major league source said baseball lawyers are attempting to determine whether Selig has the power to act unilaterally to protect the best interests of the industry if he cannot reach an accord with the union."

Short answer: No. The drug testing program was collectively bargained. It already authorizes more frequent testing of any player who there's reasonable cause to believe has used steroids. Any attempt to invoke the Commissioner's best-interests power to overrule the CBA on the issue of random drug testing will be shot down by arbitrator Shyam Das.



March 4, 2004: Orza: MLBPA Unlikely to Alter Current Drug Policy. LINK

Gene Orza, recently promoted to chief operating officer of the MLBPA, won't be making many friends among the nation's sports columnists. Speaking at the World Congress of Sports, Orza said about the current steroid controversy:

"Whether it's good or bad for you, it's a far cry to say that because it's bad for you, you should participate in a structure which allows your employer to punish you for doing something that you shouldn't be doing. That's not my understanding of what unions do for their employees."

Agent Scott Boras, who was appearing on the panel with Orza, added that there was little evidence suggesting that steroids actually improved baseball players' performance. At the other end of the spectrum, Andy Van Slyke needed no evidence at all before accusing Barry Bonds of taking steroids:

"Unequivocally he's taken them, without equivocation he's taken them. I can say that with utmost certainty."

For good measure, Van Slyke accused Julio Franco of the Braves, too:

"Julio Franco is 46 years old -- I've got to believe he's on it."

Hey, Andy, if apparently "inappropriate" performance is now the standard for accusations of drug abuse, how about explaining your 1994 season, when you fell from an All-Star to a fifth outfielder overnight? Was it liquor? Narcotics?

Ron Rapoport of the Chicago Sun-Times makes another good point:

"[F]or all of Selig's public protestations to the contrary, I am betting that immediate public testing is the last thing he wants. Suppose Bonds, Sheffield, Giambi and the rest are found to be using steroids. What does baseball do then? Fine them? Suspend them for a certain period? Kick them out of the game?"



March 4, 2004: The CBA on Steroids (BaseballProspectus.com - subscribers only). LINK

I wrote a FAQ about MLB's drug-testing rules for BaseballProspectus.com. If you're a BaseballProspectus.com subscriber, click here for the article. If you're not, please consider subscribing. Charter subscribers paid about six cents/article for some of the best baseball writing anywhere, and this year the writing has been supplemented with tools custom-designed for fantasy baseball players.



March 4, 2004: Kelly Plan to Finance Ballpark Rejected. LINK

By a 4-2 margin, the St. Paul, Minnesota city council has adopted a resolution opposing Mayor Randy Kelly's proposal to impose a 3% restaurant and bar tax to finance a new stadium for the Twins. The Minneapolis Star Tribune chortled: "The measure essentially pulls the rug out from under the mayor at a time when St. Paul is slugging it out with Minneapolis at the Legislature to land the stadium bid."

With Mayor Kelly out of town, it was left to Deputy Mayor Dennis Flaherty to throw the requisite tantrum:

"The average citizen would be outraged by the arrogance of this council. It was not helpful. It sends a bad signal from our City Council to people at our state Legislature, and it was just not necessary."



March 4, 2004: MLB Proclaims April 15 "Jackie Robinson Day". LINK

Commissioner Selig has announced that every April 15, all 30 major league teams will honor Jackie Robinson's memory with a special program. Seven years ago, I was at Shea Stadium when the Commissioner, Rachel Robinson and President Bill Clinton participated in midgame ceremonies at which Robinson's #42 was permanently retired.

MLB waited until Marge Schott had died to announce this tribute. Coincidence?



March 3, 2004: MLB Wants to Test Suspected Steroid Users. LINK

Steve Fainaru of the Washington Post reports that in the wake of specific allegations that six players -- Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Marvin Benard, Benito Santiago and Randy Velarde -- had received steroids from the now-infamous BALCO lab, MLB may for the first time invoke the provision in baseball's drug testing that authorizes the immediate testing of any player reasonably suspected of having used steroids within the past year.

In other steroid-related news, Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-NY) held a press conference at Major League Baseball's offices to announce the proposed Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004. The bill would classify additional substances, including androstenedione, as Schedule III steroids subject to MLB's ban, and would double the criminal penalties for distributing anabolic steroids within 1000 feet of a sports facility.



March 3, 2004: Cash Relief for D-Backs. LINK

Jerry Colangelo of the Arizona Diamondbacks has told the Arizona Republic that the Diamondbacks plan to raise an additional $99 million over the next decade through equity offerings, plus another $4-$5 million/year through the sale of personal seat licenses.

Seat licenses would be available for the 5,000 or so premium seats. Licensees would receive additional perks -- food, valet parking -- as well as a property right in their seats, which could be sold to interested purchasers.

Colangelo says that the additional $14 million/year will allow Arizona to re-sign any player on its roster.



March 2, 2004: Marge Schott Dead at 75. LINK

Cincinnati has always had a soft spot for its homegrown personalities. The city still venerates Pete Rose, who if given the chance would have defrauded half its residents and impregnated the other half. Marge Schott praised Hitler, insulted blacks, Jews and Asians, treated her dog better than her players, and couldn't understand why the Reds' 1996 home opener should be postponed just because umpire John McSherry had died on the field during the first inning, yet the Cincinnati Enquirer gave her a special section with headlines that described her as "a true original" and "a woman of the people."

Former Commissioner Fay Vincent nicely summed up Schott's character:

"I guess I always thought of her as a tragic figure. I think she tried very hard to do the right things for baseball, but she had some enormous limitations and she had some difficulty overcoming them."



March 2, 2004: Magowan: Keep A's Off His Territory. LINK

Giants owner Peter Magowan has reiterated to the San Jose Mercury News that his club will invoke its territorial rights to prevent the Oakland Athletics from moving south to Santa Clara County.

"[Oakland owner Steve Schott] wants to get out of the Coliseum, and I don't blame him. He wants to get a new stadium. I think that's a noble objective. But there are plenty of places to put it in the Bay Area that are not in the Giants' territory. Good places. That's where I'd like to see him concentrate, but I don't run the A's."

Unlike the two-team markets of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, the Bay Area is divided between the Giants and Athletics. The Major League Constitution gives the Giants exclusive rights to San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Monterey and Marin Counties, as well as the right to exclude another major league club from Santa Clara County. Oakland's territory is limited to Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. The Major League Rules prevent Oakland from playing in San Francisco's territory without the Giants' consent; beyond that, the Major League Constitution requires that all franchise relocations be approved by three-fourths of all clubs.



March 2, 2004: In the Cable On-Deck Circle: The Arbitrators. LINK

Louis Bechtle, Stanley Sporkin and Richard Aurelio may be able to do what no one else has been able to do: pull the plug on the New York Yankees' cash machine.

They comprise the three-man arbitration panel that will write the terms of the contract between the Yankees' YES Network and Cablevision's 2.9 million subscribers in the New York metropolitan area. The big issue is whether YES will air on the expanded basic cable tier, which will force all Cablevision subscribers to pay for it, or as a premium channel which most Cablevision subscribers won't buy. The arbitrators will also determine the price Cablevision must pay for YES, and the length of the contract between YES and Cablevision.

Moreover, if Cablevision wins and is able to move YES to a premium tier, clauses in YES's contracts with other New York-area cable systems will allow these operators to do the same. YES currently collects an average of $2.12 per month for every cable subscriber with expanded basic. If YES is relegated to a premium tier, then even at a higher price per customer, its revenues would be likely to fall by 50% or more.



March 2, 2004: Selig Vows Get-Tough Policy. LINK

From the middle of Commissioner Selig's interview with the Chicago Tribune:

"There are so many economic myths. But the one that I am always amused by is that, `We have got to have a deep-pocket owner.' There is no such thing. There has never been such a thing. Owners can only spend what their franchise can generate. There is no one who is willingly going to say he is going to lose $30 million or $40 million or $50 million a year."

So if no one gets into MLB expecting to lose millions, what conclusions can we draw when owners who claim eight-figure annual losses not only never go broke, but actually manage to sell their clubs for more than they paid for them?

"In fact, Wayne Huizenga did it once [in 1997 with the World Series champion Marlins] and he got out. And he was a very deep-pocketed owner."

Wayne "The Leech" Huizenga didn't lose a dime with the 1997 Marlins. Not only that, but he "got out" on terms which ensured that his control of the Marlins' stadium, parking, concessions and luxury boxes would bleed resources from the club for years to come.



March 2, 2004: Norfolk Asks Top Baseball Officials: Are We In or Out?. LINK

Paul D. Fraim, Mayor of Norfolk, VA, hasn't been dealing with Major League Baseball for long. Fraim asked MLB to select either Norfolk/Hampton Roads or the Arlington/ northern Virginia area as the state's entry in the Expos sweepstakes, saying that the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority's divided loyalty is hurting both groups' chances.

MLB President Bob DuPuy declined, saying "we have no intention of eliminating anyone at this point." No kidding. MLB has been milking such conflicts for all they're worth, playing one market against another, and one city against another within the same market, to extract the largest possible public subsidy for the relocated Expos.

If Norfolk officials think Norfolk is being strung along, they should talk to their counterparts in Washington, DC. Welcome to the major leagues, folks...



March 1, 2004: DeWitt: New Stadium Isn't Hurting Payroll. LINK

Bill DeWitt Jr., general partner of the St. Louis Cardinals, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the club expects to maintain an $84 million payroll this season and next, even as the Cardinals build a new ballpark.

According to the Post-Dispatch, St. Louis is the nation's 20th largest media market -- smaller than Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, or San Diego -- yet the Cardinals' 2003 Opening Day payroll of $83 million was 8th highest in the majors.



Earlier Entries:

February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
February-March 2003


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