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Archives: Aug. 11-17, 2008

Archives: Aug. 11-17, 2008

No league shift for new Bowling Green team in 2009
Posted Aug. 15, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
A 2009 schedule released today by Savannah has the Sand Gnats playing a new Bowling Green team, suggesting the South Atlantic League won’t see any franchise shifts for the 2009 season. As we’ve reported previously, proposed schedules came out calling for Bowling Green (the relocated Columbus Catfish) and Lake County switching to the Midwest League, as well as a revamped style calling for longer homestands and roadtrips, but the schedule from the Sand Gnats is pretty standard; there are a few five-game series, but nothing to the extent of what was proposed at one point.

MLB owners table talk of changing blackout rules
Posted Aug. 14, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
It is an issue that doesn’t seem to get a whole lot of attention from baseball owners, and it’s receiving even less: Today MLB owners, at their regular quarterly meetings, tabled discussion of changes to MLB’s blackout rules, which are becoming a rather arcane relic of the days before the Internet, satellite television, and cable networks. Baseball’s territorial rules, put down 40 years ago, doesn’t allow local broadcasts to be shown in a nearby market without the permission of the MLB team. But territories can be awfully large, and the effects dramatic: for instance, Las Vegas is within a four-hour drive of at least four team markets — the Bay Area, San Diego, Arizona and Los Angeles — but there are no local contracts for any of the MLB teams for Vegas broadcasts, and as a result those games are blacked out on the Extra Innings cable/satellite packages and Internet broadcasts. That just seems wrong: it not as though an A’s fan in Las Vegas is going to skip attending an Oakland game because they can watch it on the dish. Solving this issue, it would seem, would be simple: Bob DuPuy says if a team isn’t working to reach the Vegas market, they shouldn’t be able to enact blackouts. Alas, the issue was tabled today until November.


Curve, landlord continue negotiations over ballpark
Posted Aug. 14, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The management of the Altoona Curve (Class AA; Eastern League) and Lakemont Partnership, which actually controls the lease to Blair County Ballpark, will continue their negotiations over the condition of the facility without the participation of Blair County Commissioners, who explicitly passed on any involvement. There are two more years to run on the Blair County Ballpark lease, and the two sides are talking about the terms of a new one. But there are some huge issues facing both sides, and we’re not entirely sure the Curve doesn’t have a valid complaint regarding the condition of the ballpark: for instance, there are well-documented drainage issues in the outfield, but for some reason Lakemont Partnership doesn’t believe it should pay to fix them — an odd position for a landlord to take. More from WTRA.

Malliet: Rascals not for sale
Posted Aug. 14, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Despite his involvement as an investor with a new Normal (Ill.) ballpark and Frontier League team, River City Rascals (independent; Frontier League) owner and team president Steve Malliet says the Rascals aren’t for sale. We’re not quite sure where the speculation started — in the Frontier League, owning more than one team is allowed — and Malliet certain is acting like someone looking to work on more than one project, bringing in Jamie Toole to manage the Rascals on a day-to-day basis.

Augusta, Giants extend PDC through 2010
Posted Aug. 14, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Augusta GreenJackets (Low Class A; Sally League) and the San Francisco Giants have extended their PDC through the 2010 season.
    "We are extremely happy to extend our deal with the Giants another two years," said GreenJackets General Manager Nick Brown said. "The Giants have consistently provided us with some of the top young talent in the system and year after year the team is one of the top teams in the Minors."
    Over the first three years as a Giants affiliate, the GreenJackets compiled a 258-157 (.622) record while making the post season twice and winning one South Atlantic League Southern Division Title.

Pelicans, UWF rename field in honor of Spooner
Posted Aug. 14, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The ballpark hosting the University of West Florida baseball team and the Pensacola Pelicans (independent; American Association) will be remamed Jim Spooner Field at Pelican Park, in honor of longtime UWF baseball coach Jim Spooner. The ceremony marking the game will be held Aug. 23, prior to the Pelicans’ last home game of the year. Spooner was coach at the D-II school for 23 seasons, compiling a 688-521-1 record, winning three Southern States Conference titles and two Gulf South Conference East Division championships. He’s now retired and living in the Tampa area.

Asheville, Rockies extend PDC through 2012
Posted Aug. 14, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Asheville Tourists (Low Class A; Sally League) and the Colorado Rockies announced the pair had signed a new four-year Player Development Contract The new working agreement will begin at the start of the 2009 season and will continue through the 2012 campaign.
    The formal signing of the working agreement will take place in the Tourists clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon, followed by an on-field announcement to the fans at McCormick Field during the game with the Kannapolis Intimidators. Among those present will be Rockies vice chairmen Charles Montfort and Rockies president Keli McGregor, Colorado’s director of player development Marc Gustafson, and Alan Ostfield, chief operating officer for Palace Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Tourists.
    "The relationship has been great for 15 seasons already. The Rockies are a terrific, first-class organization and we are proud to be their partners," said Ostfield. "Extending this partnership for four more years is a great thing for the Rockies, the Tourists and the City of Asheville."

Opposition to new ballpark rises in Waukesha
Posted Aug. 14, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
A plan to build a privately financed ballpark in Waukesha’s Frame Park for a summer-collegiate Northwoods League team has attracted some organized opposition, as the Friends of Frame Park say they’ll protest at the city-owned facility tonight. The plan, as presented by Chad Bauer, calls for him to spend $1.2 million on a new ballpark; the city would provide the land and finance construction of the lighting system. Opponents don’t want to see the open space converted to a ballpark, and some say city zoning prevents the parkland from being used for a private endeavor. There appears to be some disagreement over that interpretation of the zoning: the zoning definition says the P-1 designation can be applied for a "private" endeavor, and Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson is pretty blunt about the opposition: "There is not a zoning issue. You have amateurs trying to interpret legal issues." More from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Viability of Yonkers baseball plan called into question
Posted Aug. 13, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
A proposed ballpark as part of a larger Yonkers redevelopment plan is not a financially feasible component of the $1.6 billion plan and will never generate enough revenue to pay for construction, according to a report from G. Lamont Blackstone, a financial consultant to the Yonkers City Council. It sounds like the developer, Struever Fidelco Cappelli (yes, the same Struever that shows up in many other ballpark projects), is trying to cram a whole lot of stuff into a relatively small area: for instance, the 6,500-seat ballpark, as envisioned as for an independent Atlantic League team, would be built on top of an 11-story shopping and entertainment parking complex. Some Yonkers city officials have already dismissed that economic analysis, saying a ballpark would add ambiance and flash to the project outweighing any financial shortfalls. That’s all well and good, but with the future of the entire project somewhat in doubt — the sheer scale of the redevelopment and the tightening credit market are working against it — you can expect others in city government to call for the elimination of the ballpark as a way to save money. More from the Journal News.

Marana to join Pima County sports-authority proposal
Posted Aug. 13, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The small community of Marana has voted to join with a proposed Pima County Sports Authority, but it may be too little, too late to save spring training in the Tucson area. The city says it has multiple proposals from developers for a spring-training complex in Marana, but they all require some sort of public subsidy — and with the Arizona Legislature failing to pass legislation authorizing the creation of a Pima County Sports Authority last session, the future of any public funding looks bleak. (If the state were to allow the creation of a Pima County Sports Authority, there would be no taxing authority unless voters signed off on it — and given the anti-tax sentiment in Tucson, we wouldn’t be too optimistic.) All of this is an extremely long shot. More from the Explorer.

Obama sweeps bobblections at ballparks
Posted Aug. 12, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
We’re not sure if this is a true harbinger for the fall elections, but the results do seem convincing: Barack Obama swept the Goldklang Group’s bobblections over John McCain, taking all six contests in convincing fashion.
    The race started with a tightly contested vote in Hudson Valley, but Renegades fans spoke and Obama squeaked out a 750-713 victory. The attention turned to Brockton on August 7 in another close call for Obama, but Rox fans declared him a 500-456 winner. The final four contests weren’t nearly as close with Obama receiving no fewer than 54.4 percent of the vote in Charleston (S.C.), St. Paul, Sioux Falls and Fort Myers (Fla.). Obama had the second highest win percentage in St. Paul as Saints fans overwhelmingly selected Obama 1250-906.
    Does this set the stage for an Obama run to the White House in November? In 2004 the Goldklang Group’s bobblection had George W. Bush defeating John Kerry 4-3 in a seven-state run-off.

Naturals, Wizards extend PDCs
Posted Aug. 12, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Two player-development deals to report this morning. First, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Class AA; Texas League) announced a four-year extension of the club’s player development contract with the Kansas City Royals, a pact that will keep the Naturals as Kansas City’s Double-A affiliate through the 2012 season.
    "We are delighted to have renewed our player development contract with the Kansas City Royals," said Jon Dandes, President of Rich Baseball Operations. "The Royals are committed to a world class player development system and we are excited about continuing our successful partnership with them."
    Second, the Fort Wayne Wizards (Low Class A; Midwest League) and the San Diego Padres announced they have reached an agreement on a new two-year Player Development Contract extending their partnership through the 2010 season.  The agreement comes nearly two weeks after members of the San Diego Padres front office, including Vice President and Scouting/Player Development Director Grady Fuson, visited Fort Wayne and toured the new Harrison Square Ballpark project in downtown Fort Wayne.
    "We are extremely pleased to be working with the Padres organization for two more seasons," Wizards General Manager Mike Nutter said. "This is a commitment between the Wizards and the Padres that has grown to be very successful since the first agreement during the 1999 season. With the opening of the new ballpark and the success of both teams in recent years, this will be a great partnership for everyone involved, including the fans of baseball in Fort Wayne."



Attendance notes: Kinston breaks record, Sky Sox closes in on record, O-Royals bounce back
Posted Aug. 12, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
As the minor leagues prepare for the end of the season, many are announcing attendance records and landmarks. Here are some of the more notable ones.
    – With 1,336 fans coming through the Historic Grainger Stadium gates for the Monday night game against Lynchburg, the Kinston Indians (High Class A; Carolina League) have now drawn 115,326 fans in 2008, already passing last year’s attendance total of 115,195. With eight more home games on the schedule, the K-Tribe is on pace to draw over 130,000 fans this season. It will be their fifth straight season of increased attendance and the most since 2001. "Eastern North Carolina is showing how much they love the K-Tribe this season,” said K-Tribe GM Shari Massengill. "Our fans know this is the place for affordable family fun. From gas to groceries, this year prices have gone up everywhere, except Grainger Stadium."
     – On the eve of the opening game of the second-to-last homestand for the Omaha Royals (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) in 2008, the club is enjoying its best season at the turnstiles, in terms of average attendance, since the 2000 season. The Royals have drawn 278,032 fans in 52 home dates so far this season, an average of 5,347 fans per date. That’s an increase of almost eleven percent from a year ago, when a total of 248,360 fans came through the Rosenblatt Stadium gates in the first 52 home dates, for an average crowd of 4,776.
    This season’s average attendance of 5,347 is the largest that the team has posted since 2000, when the Royals drew 413,713 fans to 68 home dates for an average crowd of 6,084. The Royals have ranked as high as 9th in average attendance in the Pacific Coast League this season, currently standing at 10th in the 16-team circuit.
    – The Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) welcomed 4,849 fans through the gates during their August 10 double header against Portland and in the process eclipsed the 250,000 mark on the season. The season attendance figure now stands at 252,323, putting the team within 22,068 fans from breaking their all-time attendance record of 274,408 set in 2007. With 14 home games remaining, the Sky Sox need to average 1,578 fans to eclipse the record. The club has drawn an average of 4,506 fans per game, ahead of last year’s record average of 4,157. In the 21-year history of the Colorado Springs baseball club, 4,719,643 fans have entered the gates.

Sarasota still working on spring package for BoSox
Posted Aug. 12, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
It’s been quiet lately, but there is work being done behind the scenes in Sarasota on a plan to bring the spring-training home of the Boston Red Sox to that community. The specifics of the package are up for some debate, but one thing is clear: it will cost the city and the county more to bring in the Red Sox than it would have taken to keep the Cincinnati Reds, who after months of negotiations and failed referendums pulled up stakes and signed a deal to train in Arizona beginning in 2010. Now, MLB teams can sometimes be rather ham-handed in their negotiating tactics — witness every time Bud Selig steps to the mike in a city where owners are working toward a new ballpark — but in the case of Sarasota both the Reds and Red Sox were pretty respectful in terms of working with the local community on an economic plan that makes sense for both sides. It would, of course, be totally ironic if Sarasota ending up luring the Red Sox — surely one of the top two draws in spring training in terms of economic impact — after botching a deal for the Reds, but life is full of such rich ironies. More on the current political scene from the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

No clear winner in new Trenton lease? Not so fast
Posted Aug. 12, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Trenton Times looks at negotiations between the Trenton Thunder (Class AA; Eastern League) and Mercer County and bemoans the fact that there apparently were no clear winners in the final deal. But one could argue both sides are winners — which, after all, should be the point of any successful negotiations. Here’s the deal. Thunder owner Joe Finley worked for several years to renegotiate his team’s lease at Waterfront Park, saying the $600,000 in yearly payments was among the highest in the Eastern League. (He’s right.) He also, quite correctly, argued that the county never came through with the number of parking spots promised in the original lease, a big deal for any business but especially big for a baseball team. If the lease was not renegotiated, Finley wrote, the team would look at moving after the lease ended in 2013. After months of back-and-forth negotiations, the two sides reach an agreement on a new lease calling for yearly payments of $150,000, $200,000 and $250,000 in the next three seasons, down from the current $600,000 annual rent. The team will pick up naming rights to the facility as well as responsibility for ballpark maintenance — which will save the county $300,000 annually. (Yes, do the math. The loss to Mercer County isn’t nearly as dramatic as the newspaper claims.) In return, the Thunder signed a lease extension for 10 more years (to 2023), ensuring a tenant in the ballpark when bonds for the facility are scheduled to be retired in 2019. Also, the team agreed to drop any complaints about the county not providing adequate parking per the original lease.
    Now, the terms of the new lease don’t seem quite as bad as the Trenton Times and some local Republican candidates are arguing. The Thunder will pay less for the lease overall, but will take on additional costs; the county will receive less but will have tied up the team to a lease that ends after construction bonds are scheduled to be paid off. It’s not as though the county was doing a lot with naming rights anyway (and, in any case, the Thunder would have been entitled to a big chunk of proceeds from a naming-rights sale), so their loss can’t yet be counted as a true negative.
    So where’s the smoking gun?
    There is none. The newspaper is making a big deal about Finley saying he would look at moving the team after the team’s lease expires. We’re not taking about any financial promises broken, no leases ignored. We’re talking about the sorts of business negotiations that take place every day in the real world. Reporters, alas, are rarely exposed to what goes on every day in the corporate world. (As we build our business, we seem to be exposed to it more and more daily.) There’s give and take in any set of business negotiations — and at the end of the day, the new lease seems to be a deal that both sides can live with.

Will high transport prices finally lead to MiLB realignment?
Posted Aug. 11, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Even though the price of gas has come down somewhat in recent weeks, minor-league teams must plan on transportation prices remaining high for coming years — and that reality could force a realignment of the minor leagues many have been waiting for. Proposed 2009 schedules are making the rounds that address this at the Class A level, but the bigger issue will be realignment on the Triple-A level. Now, MiLB team owners are under a gag order not to discuss franchise shifts for 2009 (though, luckily for us, the ban does not and cannot extend to MLB farm directors), and in any case there’s been little real progress made on the potential shifts of two teams on both the High A and Low A levels in recent days. But the potential of some realignment on the Triple-A level is a topic of discussion among farm directors and many owners. The notion of a Pacific Coast League ranging from Tacoma to Nashville barely made sense when air travel was affordable, and makes even less sense now. While we’re not sure there’s a lot of passion for the addition of a third Triple-A circuit, it seems a given that a heavily unbalanced schedule is on the agenda for 2010 — so unbalanced that teams from the east and west may never play one another, leading to a de facto split of the PCL. Farm directors we’ve been in contact with are generally in favor of a totally unbalanced schedule, but the actual makeup of the league is of less concern to them. It’s not as though Rainiers fans are looking forward to facing the likes of Memphis and Nashville (and vice versa), so the need for such a sprawling league is being questioned by many in baseball — especially farm directors, who want to see their prospects travel as little as possible.
    Speaking of the Carolina League/California League shift: money may doom the proposal. The original proposal had the Carolina League buying Bakersfield and High Desert $4 million for their franchises, but that doesn’t appear to be enough money: a sale of the Lancaster JetHawks to an existing Pioneer League owner was scrapped in the last two weeks, but that deal had the franchise valued at $5.8 million — and we can’t believe Bakersfield and High Desert are worth than much less than Lancaster. (Also, it looks like the asking price of a Pioneer League franchise is now close to $3 million, according to one potential buyer, which also argues for a higher valuation for a Cal League franchise.) On the Sally League/Midwest League front, we heard about some serious opposition to the proposal from Midwest League owners, and it’s not hard to see why: three Iowa teams would need to sign travel waivers if Lake County and Bowling Green entered the league. Still, we don’t know of any organized opposition to the proposal in the Midwest League, and it may be up to the Sally League owners to put the kibbosh on the deal.
    Before the gag order from St. Pete went into effect, we heard one consistent thing from many owners: before leagues were realigned, St. Pete should wait to see what happens with other potential franchise moves. (For example, the thought is that Omaha could end up home to Midwest League baseball if the Omaha Royals follow through with their threat to leave the market.) Shifting franchises may not be the way to solve the Richmond issue (though more than one owner suggested a simple solution to any potential territory spats: declare the southern boundary of the Eastern League to be Bowie, which makes Richmond Carolina League territory).

Work continues on new Columbus ballpark; final days for Cooper Stadium
Posted Aug. 11, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)