by Brian Borawski
May 04, 2011
Dodgers update – tit for tat
Los Angeles Dodgers' owner Frank McCourt still isn't happy and now he's taking his case to the public. I'm not sure how much sympathy he's going to get, but he's basically said that MLB has a predetermined agenda to get the team away from him. Probably the most telling quote by McCourt was, “Nobody handed the Dodgers to me. Nobody is going to take them away.” McCourt talked about all of these things in a 45-minute interview and, while he didn't bring up the word “lawsuit,” there were plenty of implied threats. It's hard to see this not going to court.
Another major issue was that McCourt claimed that MLB rejected a proposed television deal with Fox that might have helped him weather his current financial storm. MLB responded with a press release saying that this wasn't true and that Commissioner Bud Selig had yet to make a decision about the television deal until an investigation into the Dodgers' finances was finished.
There are some interesting implications here that are more far reaching then just the Dodgers. If this goes to trial, you could see some of MLB's powers tested. McCourt signed the same agreement every owner did, one that waives the right to a lawsuit in the event MLB acts in the best interest of baseball. But it looks like that will be challenged. Of course, the hard part for McCourt is the fact that he has the burden of proof to show that MLB abused its power by acting in an arbitrary manner.
Oakland Coliseum renamed
With the Oakland Athletics stadium issue still in limbo, you have to wonder how they like their old ballpark now that it's been renamed. Overstock.com ponied up a little more than $7 million for a six-year naming rights deal, and the stadium will now be called the Overstock.com Coliseum. Computer virus software company McAfee declined to extend its naming rights deal after the 2008 season, and they were finally able to find a sponsor nearly three years later.
Both the Oakland Raiders and the Athletics play in the stadium; both of those teams see their leases expire in 2013. This prompted a clause in the deal that allows Overstock.com to opt out of the deal if either team moves somewhere else. In short, there's not a lot of risk here for Overstock.com. They're paying less than McAfee did, and if one of the teams moves as expected, then they have the option of sticking it out or jumping ship.
Tampa mayor says no to Rays?
Tampa has a new mayor, and his name is Bob Buckhorn. At a local Chamber of Commerce meeting, Buckhorn made some comment that he has no interest in taking the Tampa Bay Rays from their current home, St. Petersburg. He was actually pretty clear (for a politician) that until a specific rift develops between St. Petersburg and the Rays, Tampa would be staying out of it and that he's spent zero time on the issue since he took office.
Of course, part of the reason behind the stance may be because they won't be able to bring the team to Tampa. Buckhorn even said that the odds of getting a publicly-financed stadium were pretty slim. Of course, Buckhorn does wrap things up by saying that if the Rays are set on moving, he might make an effort to keep the team in the Tampa Bay area.
We're supposed to be in an economic recovery (this is an argument left for a different place) but once again, attendance across the league is down. Ken Belson at the New York Times does a nice job of summarizing things, and he indicates that attendance is down 1.3 percent from last year and that 20 of the 30 teams have seen drops compared to this time last year. Weather is given as one reason, and the seventeen rainouts are mentioned. Also a problem are the ownership issues with the New York Mets and the Dodgers, who have each seen drops in their attendance of nearly 15 percent.
And then there are two surprise teams that Belson mentions. The Cleveland Indians have won 13 straight home games and have the best record in baseball, but they're dead last in attendance with 14,275 tickets sold per game. Having back-to-back losing seasons hasn't helped the team though, and while you can list weather as a problem for the Indians, there's also the issue that season tickets sales are at an all-time low at Progressive Field. The Kansas City Royals also have been a surprise, and they're second-to-last in attendance.
Not all of the teams have been losers, though. The Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants have seen nice increases, and the Colorado Rockies have seen a spike in ticket sales, as well. The biggest jump, though, has come for the Cincinnati Reds, who have seen a 21.3 percent increase in sales from last year.
Brian Borawski is a member of SABR's Business of Baseball Committee and writes about the Detroit Tigers at his own website, TigerBlog. He welcomes comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail.
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