Posts Tagged ‘MLB’

This Town Ain’t Big Enough For the Two of Us: Athletics, Giants Battle Over San Jose

The Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants have one of the oldest rivalries in Major League Baseball. The series dates back to the 1905 World Series when the A’s, then located in Philadelphia, and the Giants, then located in New York, faced off in the Fall Classic, which the Giants won 4 games to 1. The A’s would get the better of the Giants in the 1911 and 1913 World Series.

Both clubs eventually found their way to California as the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1957 and the A’s to Oakland in 1968 after a 13 years in Kansas City prior. The teams met in the 1989 World Series, a series the A’s won 4 games to 0 but was marred by the Loma Prieta Earthquake which occurred just prior to Game 3 of the series. Every year since 1997, the clubs have met in Interleague play, with Oakland holding a slight 47-45 edge in those matchups.

The Bay Bridge Series should be renamed “The Battle of San Jose”.

But the battle between these teams may soon switch to the courtrooms rather than the baseball diamond. The A’s currently play in O.co Coliseum, a multi-purpose stadium that is also the home to Oakland Raiders of the NFL. Opened in 1966, the “Coliseum” is the only venue to be the full-time host of an MLB and NFL team. The Athletics’ lease at O.co expires after the 2013 season, and with poor sight lines and the fifth-oldest venue in baseball, the A’s are looking for a new home.

Enter San Jose, the third-largest city in California and one of the fastest growing cities (translation: money piling up) in the country over the past two decades. Downtown San Jose is located 40 miles from downtown Oakland, and 35 miles from O.co Coliseum. As the home of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, the city has proven the ability to host a major sports team and grow the A’s fan base.

And that’s precisely the problem. The Giants claim San Jose and Silicon Valley as part of their MLB territorial rights, which designates what areas of the country belong to which teams (used primarily for determining which teams are shown on local TV in certain areas). According to the Giants, their territorial rights extend from San Francisco as far south as Monterey County. These rights, which were loosely agreed upon by the club’s owners over 20 years ago based upon the Giants possible relocation further south that never occurred, have led to a painful and “excruciating” deliberation process for the A’s.

In 2009, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig appointed a committee to study the implications for both the A’s and Giants if the move to San Jose were completed by the Athletics. Over three years later, the committee has yet to come forward with any resolution.

It is understandable why the Giants would be hesitant to the A’s moving to San Jose. The Giants have undoubtedly built up a fan base in this area, and a new team moving to the area would cause some fans to switch allegiances to the Athletics, and that means fewer ticket sales, merchandise sales and fewer dollars. At the same time, The A’s are struggling in Oakland, with the second-lowest payroll in baseball and a run-down stadium not helping matters. Having a franchise in such poor economic shape is not good for baseball.

The decision for the Athletics to move would have to be approved by Selig, but the real sticking point is the territorial rights. That would have to be determined by a 75 percent vote from MLB owners in order to be overturned. Of course Selig has his hands in this as well, given his close relationship with the league’s 30 ownership groups. ESPN likened the entire situation to a game of chicken, asking who will blink first among Selig, the A’s, Giants and San Jose.

What’s worse is that this seems to be the tip of the iceberg. If the Athletics are eventually given permission to enter San Jose, it would not be a stretch to suggest the Giants would pursue a lawsuit against the A’s, Major League Baseball, San Jose, or any combination. Just what Major League Baseball wants, more days in court.

Baseball’s problem is not a unique one. In the NFL, the Jets and Giants share the New York market. In the NBA, the Knicks and Nets will now share New York, similar to the way the Lakers and Clippers share Los Angeles. The NHL has three teams — the Rangers, Islanders and Devils — within the New York market, while the Ducks and Kings are only 30 miles apart between L.A. and Anaheim. Even within MLB, New York (Yankees and Mets), Chicago (White Sox and Cubs) and Los Angeles (Dodgers and Angels) are shared by two teams. To see a league struggle so mightily over market sharing is incredible.

The Athletics and Giants are sure to battle on the diamond for the next decade. But the real battles appear as though they will happen before a judge.

Photo (cc) by Tim Wilson and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Ticket Turmoil: Baseball Ticket Sales Show Customer Isn’t Always Right

I came cross a fascinating article by Forbes contributor Lee Igel on how dynamic ticket pricing is hurting attendance in Major League Baseball. The article points to how even a successful franchise like the New York Yankees has experienced difficulty in selling tickets. Of course the downturn in the economy and poor play on the field can contribute to a team’s struggles at the box office, but Igel points to another factor: the secondary ticket market.

Stubhub brings power to the fan, but is that a good thing?

Secondary ticket sites such as Stubhub have opened new windows for sports fans looking to attend games that have already been sold out or fans who have tickets but cannot attend certain games. But because the tickets are sold based on popularity and demand, they do not have to be sold based on face value. This means tickets can be sold for much higher or lower prices than they are listed by the team.

For example, if you want a ticket to see the San Diego Padres play against the Houston Astros on June 26, you can go to the Astros’ box office and pay $13 for a seat in Section 427. A quick search on Stubhub shows you can get that same ticket for as little as $5. Why such a change in pricing? Well the Padres and Astros are currently a combined 31 games under .500, and the game is on a Tuesday night. There isn’t much demand for the ticket, so the price has been lowered on the secondary market to sell.

That same night, the Oklahoma City Thunder could (if they can stave off elimination) be hosting the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Tickets in Section 328 are face valued at $200, but on Stubhub they are up to $936. Clearly these tickets are in demand.

This brings us back to the Yankees, who say they may drop their partnership with Stubhub at the end of the season because of difficulty in selling tickets and a drag in attendance. Such a claim has been ridiculed, but Igel points out that sites like Stubhub create two problems: 1) too many choices, and 2) shifting burdens.

Igel’s argument makes sense. If you were given a list of three TV channels to watch, you’d likely make your mind up pretty fast. If you were given 300, you would be more likely to sift through your options before making a selection. In other words, adding choices makes you more hesitant to purchase for fear of passing up a better deal.

His argument of shifting burden is spot on as well. If the team sets the price on a ticket, you know what it is and decide whether or not to pay it. But now that it is other fans setting the price — some much higher than face value — the fan now has difficulty determining what a fair price is.

Perhaps Stubhub and other sites are getting too much criticism for poor attendance. But a decade after the website launched, teams are finding out that giving fans more power isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Photo (cc) by teamstickergiant and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent?: Roger Goodell and the Saints’ Bounty Scandal

Monday was expected to be the appeal day for suspended NFL players Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith. The four were in New York to appeal their respective suspensions, handed down in early May for the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.

Fujita, Hargrove and Smith chose not to attend the appeal session and instead released a joint statement criticizing Goodell for his handling of the situation, and especially his withholding of evidence against the players. Vilma meanwhile showed up to the appeal with is attorney, but left after only an hour at the league offices, telling the media outside that the process was “a sham.”

CBS Sports managed to obtain a copy of the league’s evidence against the players, which includes a $5,000 knockout pool for injuring a quarterback, but nothing else. If there is more evidence against the players, the NFL isn’t releasing it.

The most striking quote from today’s events comes from Vilma, who questioned the players’ ability to get a fair trial through due process.

“I don’t know how you get a fair process when you get [Roger Goodell as] judge, jury and executioner,” Vilma said.

That begs the question: Is Roger Goodell too powerful? Certainly Goodell is not the only commissioner in major professional sports who has the power to suspend players. Bud Selig hands out punishment in Major League Baseball, and David Stern does the same in the NBA. But these sports, by their nature, don’t have the amount of incidents that would warrant suspension.

Hockey and football do, and in the NHL there is a separate executive in charge of suspensions. Brendan Shanahan, who played 21 years in the league and won three Stanley Cups, is the league’s Senior Vice President of Player Safety and hands out suspensions, each with a video explanation  he posts on his Twitter page. Shanahan’s decisions are not without outcry from players and teams, but at least it is handled by a former player who understands the game and not commissioner Gary Bettman.

In just over five years as commissioner, Goodell has already handed out more suspensions than any other boss in NFL history. He isn’t called “the most powerful man in sports” for nothing. But for all his power, it’s clear Goodell has made some enemies during his tenure, and that’s not good for the future of the league.

The players are understandably upset, but they agreed last summer to have Goodell continue overseeing discipline when they signed the new collective bargaining agreement. As CBS Sports’ Clark Judge pointed out, Vilma and others signed off on Goodell’s power, so they should direct their anger elsewhere.

This may be true, but it’s not what’s best for the league going forward.

The $3 Billion Question: The Potential Sale of the New York Yankees

For the extremely cheap price of $3 billion you can now own the New York Yankees.

Or maybe not, depending on who you believe. A report from the New York Daily News surfaced Wednesday evening that the Yankees, who have been owned by the late George Steinbrenner and his family since 1973, could be up for sale.

Check between your sofa for loose change because Yankee Stadium and the team that plays in it could be all yours for only $3 billion.

According to the report, the impetus for putting the team on the market stems from the recent sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite not having won a World Series title in 24 years, an aging stadium and a tumultuous period of ownership from Frank McCourt that led to a bankruptcy filing, the team still sold for more than $2 billion.

Steinbrenner’s two sons, Hank and Hal, don’t seem to be as emotionally invested in the team as their father, who paid $10 million to buy the club four decades ago. The thinking is if the downtrodden Dodgers can fetch more than $2 billion in a sale, the Yanks could easily surpass that and then some.

To quell the commotion, the family immediately denied the rumors from the Daily News story and said there is “absolutely, positively nothing to” the speculation. After all, it has been 932 days since the Bronx Bombers last won the World Series, and in Yankeeland that is unacceptable.

All kidding aside, the prospect of a sale is a tricky one. The late Steinbrenner no doubt always wanted the team to stay in the family, and seeing his children sell the club two years after his passing seems unjust. There’s also the tricky subject of the Empire State’s estate tax. In 2009, the 45 percent tax expired and the new rate of 55 percent did not begin until 2011. Because Mr. Steinbrenner passed in 2010 — between tax years — his family escaped having to pay nearly $500 million in taxes. If the family sells the team now, those taxes would apply. Why would the family surrender to such a hefty price they just evaded?

Others see it differently. Based on numbers from the Dodgers sale, financial experts estimate the Pinstripes could be sold for as much as $3 billion.  If someone asked to buy your business for $3 billion, you’d be selling too. Also consider the team’s aging roster of superstars like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez and others. These players have contributed to the team winning five championships since 1996, and though a new crop of stars could still reap titles, it will be hard to replace these names. Finally the new Yankee Stadium, built in 2009, is the third-youngest in Major League Baseball and should be around for at least 40 years or more. To summarize: The value of the franchise may be at its peak.

So what do you think: Should the Steinbrenners sell the Yankees or not?

Photo (cc) by John Dalton and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

A House Divided: NFL, Players Association Feud Could Spell the End for Football’s Fortune

On the outside the NFL is the cash cow of the four major professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL). A recent study by Plunkett Research, Ltd. shows the NFL exceeds the other leagues in every monetary category. Football ranks first in overall revenue ($9 billion), operating income ($1,069 million) and average team value ($1 billion). The league has captured the attention of sports nuts as well, accounting for 23 of the 25 most-watched telecasts from Sept. to Dec.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been criticized heavily by the NFLPA, even in what was billed as a decade of labor peace.

The good times might not last much longer, however, if the league and players association can’t get along. Just like John Lennon and Paul McCartney or Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, this power duo is showing signs of a breakup:

First, there was the lockout. For 136 days from March to mid-July, the NFL and NFLPA sat on opposite sides of a debate on league revenue, the longest in league history. After a heated summer of negotiations, the pair finally agreed to a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement.

Next, benefits for retired players. Football is a violent game, and many players have experienced health issues after retiring from the sport. Ex-players say the NFL doesn’t care about the health of retired players and doesn’t do enough for them. The recent suicides of Dave Duerson and Junior Seau show the effects the game can have. As much as this is an issue for the players union to handle, the NFL will continue to look bad if it doesn’t do its part.

This leads to player safety issues. This has actually been a testy topic for the past three years. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been committed to making the game safer, as evidenced by his harsh punishment for the Saints bounty scandal. Goodell has already levied more fines against players than any other commissioner in league history, leading to criticism from players such as James Harrison and a defamation lawsuit from Jonathan Vilma.

Finally, two separate issues emerged on Wednesday that further strained the relationship between the NFL and NFLPA. The players union is unhappy about the league’s decision to make thigh and knee pads mandatory for the 2013 season, claiming such a rule should be negotiated. Also on Wednesday, the NFLPA filed a collusion lawsuit against the NFL for allegedly setting a $123 million salary cap in 2010, which was supposed to be an uncapped year. By secretly setting a cap, the NFLPA claims the league and its owners confided to keep player salaries low.

It’s unsettling for football fans to think that all this is happening in the first year of what is supposed to be a 10-year window of labor peace. Matters only seem to be getting worse, arguably more so than during the lockout last year. It’s not a stretch to imagine another lockout occurring in the next three to five years if matters don’t improve.

Through it all the sport remains as popular and successful as ever. Perhaps the two sides should take a lesson from The Beatles and let it be.

Photo (cc) by Staff Sgt. Bradley Lail, USAF and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

West Coast Bias: Los Angeles Becomes Center of Sports World for One Weekend

The Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles has seen its fair share of activity since opening in 1999. The arena has hosted events such as the Grammy Awards, Democratic National Convention and concerts from the likes of Mariah Carey, John Mayer, Beyonce Knowles and Michael Jackson.

The Staples Center could have used an Easy Button during a busy sports weekend.

But nothing could have prepared the Staples Center for what it experienced this weekend: Six NHL and NBA playoff games over four days. The NHL’s Kings made a surprise run to the Western Conference Finals and hosted Games 3 and 4 at the arena on Thursday night and Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile the NBA’s Clippers and Lakers — who both play at Staples but use different courts and arena setups — played their respective Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals between Friday and Sunday night.

In order, the arena transformed from Kings to Lakers to Clippers to Lakers to Kings to Clippers, and each time roughly 20,000 fans filed in and out for each game. The changeover is grueling for the 45 arena workers in charge of making the switch between games. The change from basketball to hockey is considered the most difficult, taking roughly two hours and 15 minutes to complete.

The NBA and NHL weren’t the only attractions in town, however. The MLB’s Dodgers hosted a three-game series with the defending World Series champion Cardinals from Friday to Sunday at Dodger Stadium, just over four miles away from Staples Center. Major League Soccer’s L.A. Galaxy hosted rival Chivas USA on Saturday at the Home Depot Center, only 20 minutes south of L.A. in Carson, Calif. Throw in the Amgen Tour of California Bicycle Race, which ran through the downtown area, and you have a sports fans’ dream weekend all in one location.

Revenue numbers are still being tallied up, with the Staples Center events expected to net between $15 and $20 million for the six games. The biggest gain, however, could be seen on the gridiron. Los Angeles has been without an NFL franchise since the Raiders and Rams departed in 1994. Los Angeles city councilwoman Jan Perry called the busy weekend a “test case” to see how the city could handle major congestion and if a football stadium could co-exist downtown. Farmers Field, a roughly $1.25 billion football stadium and entertainment complex, has been proposed for construction downtown to be completed by 2016, but is awaiting city government and taxpayer approval. Michael Roth of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the Staples Center, said the weekend’s activity was a “success on all levels.”

For one weekend at least, Randy Newman had sports fans singing along.

Photo (cc) by johanohrling and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Power Struggle: Rupert Murdoch, News Corp. Set to Challenge ESPN

Since its inception in 1979, ESPN has been the undisputed leader in sports coverage. It isn’t called “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” for nothing, with viewership in over 100 million American homes and presence in print, radio, online and multimedia.

If there's one man crazy enough to challenge ESPN, it's Rupert Murdoch

ESPN has dominated the sports market, but media tycoon Rupert Murdoch is hoping to change that. Word spread on Wednesday that Murdoch and his News Corp. are interested in starting a new cable sports network to rival that of ESPN’s. With many sports fans growing tired of ESPN’s programming decisions (read: Tim Tebow), some say the time could be right for a major ESPN competitor.

As other networks have already learned, taking down ESPN is no easy task. NBC Sports, a joint venture between NBC and Comcast, launched on Jan. 2, but has failed to provide much of a challenge. NBC has exclusive rights to broadcast the NHL, Indycar racing, the Tour de France, Notre Dame football and recently also acquired MLS broadcasts. While these are nice pieces in the portfolio, they simply do not drawn the attention of the NFL, NBA and MLB, three sports which ESPN has a strong hold on.

Thus far the only acquisitions by News Corp. include college football games and the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, but it will take more than that to topple ESPN. As some have pointed out, the new sports network would need the right personalities. ESPN grew to enormous popularity with hosts such as Chris Berman, Keith Olbermann, Dan Patrick, Stuart Scott and more. Right now the biggest name NBC has is Bob Costas, and he simply doesn’t measure up (and not just because he’s 5-foot-7).

I, like many sports fans I presume, am hoping a serious ESPN contender joins the fray. As much as I like ESPN, I feel it need to re-evaluate its coverage and spend less time on tabloid-style storylines (do we really need to see aerial coverage of Peyton Manning leaving Indianapolis?) and more on stories that actually matter.

Hey News Corp. How about giving Ron Burgundy an audition? After all, he won’t be allowed back at ESPN.

Photo (cc) by David Shankbone and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.