News for 11/16/12

Belated congratulations to Bob Melvin for winning AL Manager of the Year. While there’s no photographic evidence, Melvin’s daughter Alexi admitted to pieing him in the face recently. All in celebration, of course.

On to the news.

  • MLB’s big three national television contracts were approved this week during the owners meetings. Apparently this was so anticlimactic that only a single tweet about the news emerged, from Eric Fisher of Sports Business Journal.
  • As mentioned yesterday, all ballots in Alameda County have been counted. With that, Measure B1 appears to have been narrowly defeated by less than 700 votes. Perhaps the backers had a false sense of security due to the lack of fervent opposition. Back to the drawing board, I guess. [Contra Costa Times/Denis Cuff]
  • Fox is fixin’ to buy a big piece of the YES Network. Not the Yankees’ piece, the part owned by Goldman Sachs and Providence Equity. The network is worth as much as $3 billion, making the two-thirds share up for grabs worth $2 billion. [NY Times/Amy Chosick, Michael Cieply]
  • The Rangers have announced that they will play two exhibition games at San Antonio’s Alamodome in March. The stadium’s only full-time tenants are the UTSA college football team and the AFL’s San Antonio Talons. The seating bowl layout (see pic below) makes it even less baseball friendly than previous square/rectilinear multipurpose domes like the Metrodome and Kingdome because it has a very limited number of corner seats. It’s also a bit narrower along the football sidelines than the Metrodome and not all of the rows retract, making the right field line dimension perhaps as small as 280 feet. Backers of MLB to San Antonio see this as a good sign, but the arrangement is a double-edged sword. Just as the Cowboys staged training camp in the same Alamodome multiple times, the Ryans are doing this to reaffirm the brand throughout the state, not to promote MLB there. After all, the Rangers have some solid TV money to protect.  [San Antonio Express News/Josh Baugh]

Picture of one side of the Alamodome stands retracted for a 2010 Dallas Cowboys training camp session. Picture from Sports Nickel.

  • The ballpark for the Midland Rockhounds (A’s AA affiliate) will soon be losing its naming rights partner. Citibank has been the sponsor since shortly after the ballpark opened. The ballpark sits as part of the nicely designed and manicured Scharbauer Sports Complex, alongside one of the best high school football stadia I’ve ever seen. It is the land of Friday Night Lights. [Midland Reporter-Telegram/Sara Higgins | Bud Swanson]
  • The Mariners are going a different route to make a splash in the offseason, unveiling plans for what will be the largest video/scoreboard in MLB. The display will measure 57 feet tall by 201.5 feet wide, with a resolution of 3840 x 1080. Effectively that’s two Full HD screens side-by-side. At 11,425 square feet, the display will be 70% larger than the display the Astros had installed at Minute Maid Park last year, and 30% larger than baseball’s largest current screen at Kauffman Stadium. Panasonic will be the manufacturer, displacing Daktronics. The display is part of a $15 million capital improvements fund, negotiated by Seattle/King County and the Mariners prior to the opening of Safeco Field. [MLB.com/Greg Johns]
  • Chris Hansen released renderings for his dream arena in the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle. The concept, penned by 360 Architecture, is reminiscent of 360′s Sprint Center project in Kansas City. It’s meant to house both basketball and hockey teams. Unlike Sprint Center, Hansen’s arena won’t be built without commitments from existing NBA and/or NHL franchises. Ironically, the opposite is what occurred in Kansas City, as the city chose to plow forward with an arena with no permanent tenants. That would put KC and Seattle in direct competition for any future franchise moves. [KING 5/Chris Daniels, Travis Pittman | 360 Architecture]
  • Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) played to populist roots earlier this week by decrying the Vikings’ plans to sell PSLs at their $1 billion stadium. Most everyone throughout the Twin Cities expressed confusion at this sentiment, since it was pretty clear from the beginning that PSLs were a crucial piece of the financing plan. [MN Gov. Dayton | Minneapolis Star-Tribune Editorial Board]
  • Perhaps just in time for the start of the Mike D’Antoni era in LA, DirecTV and Time Warner Sportsnet agreed to a carriage deal of the fledgling regional sports network. (Laker fans weren’t missing much the last two weeks anyway.) Terms were undisclosed, but TWCSN has been seeking $3.95 per subscriber per month, making the channel among the most expensive RSNs in the nation. [LA Times/Joe Flint]
  • The City of Reno swore in a new City Council this week, and with that came swift action. They nixed the narrowly approved debt restructuring/refinancing plan completed just before the election. That puts both the team and the city in a bind. The team is threatening to leave without a tax subsidy. The Council clearly wants nothing to do with the debt liability. This snag gives the two sides about a year to figure out some sort of solution before Aces ownership figures out a move. If the Aces leave, Reno would be stuck with the debt anyway. Already the city has stopped making debt payments, pushing its credit rating into junk status. [Reno Gazette Journal/Brian Duggan]
  • Did you know about the Sacramento Sports Commission? If you didn’t , then it matters little as it’s about to be dissolved. The commission’s job was to attract different types of sporting events and maintain relationships with governing bodies like the NCAA, so that Sacramento venues could remain in constant rotation for major events such as NCAA championships. The task will probably end up with Sacramento’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. One of the reasons for the dissolution is that SSC failed to repay a $400,000 loan taken out for the 2011 World Masters Athletics Championships. [Sacramento Bee/Ryan Lillis]

That’s it for now. Feature on media coming over the weekend.

Did anything happen at the owners meetings today (11/15)?

Yes.

Selig also had this quote:

“I know people say ‘Gee, it should be easy to do,’” Selig said. “Well, the more they’ve gotten into it, the more complicated it’s gotten. But we’re headed for resolution.”

Ever the charmer and problem-sover, Allan H. “Bud” Selig.

The Fish that killed Miami

Somewhere along the way, Jeffrey Loria lost the script. It was fairly simple, really. An owner of a “poor” franchise kept his house in order and received revenue sharing checks until he built a new ballpark. Then when the new ballpark money started rolling in, the franchise would be healthier, the team could significantly reduce if not completely eliminate its revenue sharing take, and the owner could spend as much as he wanted. That’s how it worked in Minnesota and Washington, that’s how it would work for the other teams that hadn’t gotten new parks yet.

The unwritten rule of all of this is that Loria could also spend as little as he wanted, even with a new ballpark. Last December, Loria kicked off a free-spending phase that last all of seven months. He had Larry Beinfest trade for Jose Reyes and sign Mark Buehrle, Ozzie Guillen, and Heath Bell. The Marlins were in the running for Albert Pujols and lost out when they refused to include a no-trade clause. As the Marlins sputtered towards the All Star Break, Loria gave up on his high-roller mode and set Beinfest out to go into fire sale mode. Hanley Ramirez was first to go, then Gaby Sanchez and Edward Mujica. Loria and stepson David Samson saved the best for last with this week’s blockbuster trade of – well, all of their veterans – to the Blue Jays for clubhouse cancer Yunel Escobar and prospects. While Giancarlo Stanton is expected to stay put because he’s good and cost-controlled, Ricky Nolasco and Logan Morrison may also be on the outs. If they were traded, the Marlins’ 2013 payroll could be under $20 million, unless Commissioner Bud Selig steps in and forces the Marlins to add a bunch of veteran one-year contracts. As for the big trade that made so many in baseball angry, Selig is reviewing it and while he’s angry, so far he sees no reason to rescind the deal.

It’s not so much the trade itself that’s revolting, it’s the circumstances surrounding the trade. Already, many in Miami and within baseball had reason to be suspicious of Loria, who ran the Expos into the ground and ran the Marlins on the cheap when he acquired his current team. Dealings with municipalities became so rancorous that Samson had to become the frontman in stadium discussions and Selig had to send in Bob DuPuy to negotiate the deal. Somehow the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County were swindled as so many municipalities had in the last 30 years

Other sports that have salary caps also have salary floors, making it difficult to pull off fire sales of this magnitude. Thanks to the lack of a salary floor, there will probably be two teams in 2013 – the Marlins and Astros – whose payroll will be lower than any payroll in the other three major sports. Yet MLB will also have 5-7 team payrolls that are higher than anything in the other three major sports. The economic system in MLB not only allows this inequity, it promotes it among its ranks. Selig can talk all he wants about greater competition including low-revenue teams, but in the end the four LCS teams all had payrolls above $110 million. On the other end, the Marlins have no incentive to wean themselves off the revenue sharing teat because they, as a small market team, are entitled to revenue sharing under the current CBA. In revising the agreement, MLB went to pains to define big markets and small markets, ensuring that teams in the top 15 markets all transition off revenue sharing.

From the current MLB CBA, Attachment 26 – a list of teams in order of market size and their yearly revenue sharing status. Miami is 23rd, Oakland is tied for 7th with San Francisco.

Should the trade be approved, Selig could get punitive and take away some amount of revenue sharing money due to the Marlins next month. Since there’s no proper mechanism for redistributing or reallocating the funds, what will probably happen is that Selig will push Loria to end the fire sale at this point and then spend $20-30 million on veteran free agents who could round out a roster. It won’t do anything to heal the relationship with fans or lure premier players whose agents are rightfully suspicious of Loria. It will, however, give off a sheen of “trying” when it’s clear that Loria definitely isn’t. He must have learned to cut bait early when he tried to parlay the 2003 World Series win into multiple playoff appearances. The NL East proved tough sledding with a rebuilt Phillies squad and evergreen Braves team in competition. The Marlins finished 2004 and 2005 with above-.500 records, yet finished well back in the East. One recent suggestion has been to strip the Marlins of the 2015 All Star Game, which would be fair. The Game is a team’s reward for successfully building a stadium. Reassigning the game or postponing it for a few years is a reasonable punishment, though it pales in comparison to more punitive and less feasible actions such as engineering a franchise sale.

So yes, Loria will get a wristslap at worst. He’ll lose revenue at the ballpark for certain, especially if attendance dips below 20,000 per game as it was prior to Marlins Ballpark. Lost revenue could total $30 million. No one’s going to cry for him. Assuming he gets $40 million in annual revenue sharing, he’ll pull $85 million from MLB without selling a single ticket. In 2014 that will go up to $100+ million because of new national TV deals. Rent is incredibly cheap at $2.4 million. Loria can bide his time and let a rebuilding team move its way into contention, at which point he and Samson can try to convince the public and players that things will be different this time around. Once bitten, twice shy.

Reaction from the Marlins trade should have long resonating impact on efforts to build ballparks in the two Bay Areas, but I wouldn’t count on it. The differences between the Tampa and Oakland situations and what happened in Miami are vast. The Rays have fielded competitive teams for a long time but are locked into a lease at Tropicana Field, as well as the City of St. Petersburg because the mayor won’t allow the team to expand its search to Tampa. The A’s were competitive this year and have a bright future, but ownership also wants to look outside Oakland and is being prevented from doing so by the cross-bay Giants. Lew Wolff wants to self-finance the ballpark to avoid dicey public funding measures. By ratifying the new revenue sharing market definitions, Selig and the other owners are pushing for the A’s to get off the dole. Given the size of Tampa Bay market, it would seem that the local economy couldn’t capably support a privately-funded stadium. This memory will remain fresh if the respective owners or the commissioner play ransom when the CBA ends in 2016. Still, you can’t discount the collective ability of pols to buy into a bad deal. It happened in Miami, it happened in Oakland not too long ago, it’s happening in El Paso now.

It’s too bad this stadium business is so expensive. Teams that build their own stadia have the most incentive to remain competitive, to spend on payroll, to win. They don’t have gigantic subsidies to fall back on. If more teams went that route, we might have fewer instances like this Miami mess. And competition would be real, not a farce.

Alameda County Measure B1 now up to 66.53% Yes (Update 11/15)

Update 11/15 7:45 PM – Another 459 ballots were counted, and that may be the end. Table updated below as has spreadsheet. Awaiting certification by Registrar. Yes remains at 66.53%.

Update 11/15 6:30 PM – 7,222 more ballots were counted today. Yes on Measure B1 is now up to 66.34%. How close is this? If 726 No votes had switched to Yes votes, it would be passing right now. That’s a margin of 0.13%. As it stands, if there are any ballots remaining to be counted, another 2,177 Yes votes with zero No votes would have to come in for passage. As close as this is getting, a recount may be in order. I have to wonder where this 80/20 ratio is coming from. It certainly doesn’t follow any established trend.

Measure B1 results as of 11/15

=====

The Contra Costa Times’ Denis Cuff checked in with the Registrar earlier this afternoon, and they reported that they had about 16,000 provisional ballots outstanding. That was before the latest tally from the Alameda County Registrar, posted before 5 PM today. Yet another incremental improvement was made, with the Yes votes now at 66.34%. 7,222 ballots were counted, which should leave another 9,000 left. I’ve put the results in a Google spreadsheet if you want to see how the vote progressed since last week.

Votes as of 11/14.

I have to admit I’ve been remiss in not reporting more on this prior to the election. I had only heard about the measure’s connection to Coliseum City the weekend prior to the election, and frankly, I live in Santa Clara County, so it had very little visibility for me. The projects earmarked within the Measure B1 plan are so widespread throughout Alameda County that the impact of passage could be felt for just about any potential ballpark site within the county (except perhaps Pacific Commons). Here’s a short list of items that could be delayed or not completed if Measure B1 fails:

  • $40 million for Coliseum City TOD (transit oriented development)
  • $75 million for improvements to the 880/Broadway/Jackson interchange (important for Howard Terminal)
  • $100-200 million for the Oakland Army Base redevelopment project
  • $10 million for Oakland’s Broadway Corridor
  • $110 million for Railroad Corridor Right of Way preservation and track improvements (important for Howard Terminal)
  • $400 million for BART to Livermore
  • $120 million for the Irvington (Fremont) infill station
  • $120 million for the Dumbarton Rail project, which was sidelined when money was federal money was redirected to BART-to-Silicon Valley
  • $40 million for Capitol Corridor service expansion between Jack London Square and San Jose (which really would’ve helped me)

There’s no telling how these projects get funded other than asking voters next year or in 2014 to approve a similar sales tax hike. Day 1 of the owners meetings had a committee presentation on the neverending ballpark study. If there’s one new item to take into that preso, this is it.

Warriors town hall conference call 11/12/12

The Warriors held one of their arena outreach meetings via conference call tonight. I saw a tweet for the event as it was beginning, so I was able to dial in just in time. Unfortunately, I was walking around so I wasn’t able to take any notes. I was able to remember a few key questions and paraphrased answers, which you’ll see below.

I’ve never heard of one of these events ever being held via conference call. Usually sessions like this are held in person in a small community setting, which at least one caller pointed out. Since this is just one of many, many meetings to be held in the next 12-18 months, there’s nothing wrong with this particular venue. I’d like to see it expanded out to a Google Hangout, among other technological options.

One of the first questions concerned which sports besides the Warriors would take place in the new arena. To me that sounded like code for hockey, although hockey was explicitly mentioned. W’s President Rick Welts’ brought out talking points such as the arena being the first true (large) multipurpose arena in the City, ever. He also talked about hosting other kinds of events such as concerts and family shows (ice shows). He didn’t talk hockey, which was expected since the 17,500 basketball capacity makes hosting hockey less than likely. The only sports events I’d expect the arena to host are annual or occasional ones such as college hoops tournaments, and extreme sports. Unless the W’s are desperate for events, it would make the most sense to keep most of the non-W’s dates free to attract prime dates for concerts and traveling shows.

Welts was asked about the development timeline. He said that prep work on the site, including the rehabilitation of Piers 30-32, should start in the summer of 2014 and continue through 2015. At some point in 2015, actual construction on the arena would start, with the team shooting for completion prior to the start of the 2017-18 NBA season. That’s plenty of lead time, even with the lengthy approval and permitting process.

There’s still no real answer as to how to deal with increased traffic associated with the arena, other than to point out the availability of public transit within a 15-minute walk (Muni Metro, BART, Caltrain). I didn’t hear any overtly negative calls, although some callers were concerned about the usual jobs and environmental issues. One caller noted that the development of the Seawall 330 lot, where a hotel will probably go up, is nearly as critical from a public approval process as the arena. That might be stretching things a bit, but there’s truth to it.

One caller mentioned the role of the BCDC, the state body dedicated to enacting and imposing the Bay Plan. He claimed that anything approved by the BCDC is expected to have a “maritime” theme. By this, I think he meant that there needs to be an effort to preserve maritime uses. The Warriors’ preliminary site plan has boat slips and mooring spots for various types of small craft, in addition to pedestrian access on all three waterfront sides of the site. Whether that’s enough or up for modifications is a question to be answered in the near future.

No questions were raised about the terms of the land/pier rehab deal, some of which were revealed in a Chronicle report last Friday. Again, that’s a matter for discussion once all of the details (hopefully) are released via a MOU or some other term sheet.

Coliseum City announcement postponed (Update 11/12: Measure B1 at 65.83%)

From commenter CFL:

Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana and Assistant City Administrator in charge of Coliseum City Fred Blackwell had to postpone their 11/13/12 meeting with Save Oakland Sports. Save Oakland Sports will also postpone it’s announcement. We will reschedule this meeting to sometime before the beginning of 2013.

No reason was given, but I have to think this has to do with the fate of Measure B1, which has fallen short of passage so far. Without the $40 million in TOD funds earmarked for Coliseum City, the City of Oakland and Alameda County will have to scramble to figure out how to pick up a funding source to jumpstart the project. As of now, Coliseum City has to be considered stalled.

Update 5:00 PM – Support for Measure B1 has slipped further, now down to 64.85% voting yes. To pass, B1 would need to get an improbable 75% of the remaining 80,000 absentee ballots. In this light, it’s probably a good idea to cancel the appearance at the SOS meeting, since there’d be nothing to promote. However, an explanation of some kind would be welcome.

Update 11/10 5:30 PM – Alameda County’s Registrar didn’t take a break on Saturday, so we have new numbers. An additional 20,000 ballots were counted, and Measure B1 has made a solid comeback to finish the day with 65.31% voting Yes. The measure still needs 75% of the remaining 60,000 votes to pass.

Update 11/11 5:00 PM - Today the Registrar went into overtime, processing 37,000 ballots. That means they’ve counted 118,000 ballots since Wednesday. Yes on Measure B1 inched up further to 65.79%, which is encouraging. However, it appears that there are only 20-25,000 ballots left to count. Measure B1 would have to get 84% Yes votes among the remaining ballots to be counted in order to pass.

Update 11/12 6:00 PM - 12,000 more ballots were counted on Veterans Day. Measure B1 inched up a little to 65.83% approval. The bad news is that (if my math’s correct) all remaining votes would have to be Yes votes for B1 to pass.