Whether there has been a change in how society sees it, a change in momentum, or that that some athletes have grown weary of having to hide who they are, we are on the cusp of seeing an athlete on an active roster in professional sports admit publicly that they are gay. Fans on either side of the issue can take their stance, but it’s not a matter of if, but when. As machismo goes, professional sports may be at its zenith, and therefore when the time comes that a player on the active roster, it will be seen as a watershed moment.
NBA veteran center Jason Collins broke that barrier when he admitted to being gay in Sports Illustrated. It has been reported that four players in the NFL will come out and say that they are homosexual in orientation. The NHL and its players just launched the highest profile initiative by partnering with You Can Play Project, an advocacy group that is working to stop homophobia in sports.
So, how will baseball fair? As a sport that now sees movies such as “42” and Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball, the parallel of breaking societal views on homosexuality is one being drawn. Baseball may not see the first openly gay player, but the league is preparing for the day that it happens by working with GLADD, an advocacy group for LGBT people.
“MLB and its Clubs have a working relationship with GLAAD to promote proactive messaging regarding tolerance, and have used in-stadium announcements as a key platform,” said league executive spokesperson Patrick Courtney. “MLB and the 30 Clubs will continue to work with GLAAD on a broader campaign.”
In some senses, the media covering sports has been ahead of this curve. Whether it is transgenders ESPN’s Christina Kahrl, or former Baseball Prospectus sabermatrician turned political analyst Nate Silver, who is now with The New York Times and has recently said he is gay, there has been a shift going on for some time in sports. The difference is how an openly gay player is received by his peers within N. America’s Big-4 sports. Times may have changed, but there’s little doubting that there will be ridicule not only by players on opposing teams, but potentially within a player’s own clubhouse. The league will be looking closely at that matter and, as was the case with Robinson and other players that broke barriers prior, trying to get to a point where the focus isn’t off the field, but on.
Contrary to popular belief, not everyone likes to have their predictions come true. That’s certainly the case here. While each year writers look to predict the final outcome of MLB’s regular season, I’ve tried to look at attendance trends to see what may occur during the season.
The Red Sox were one of those cases. After missing the playoffs in the last day of the 2011 season, the whole “chicken and beer” fiasco, the firing of Terry Francona, the gaffe and ensuing train wreck of hiring Bobby Valentine as Francona’s replacement, the sheen of the 2004 and 2007 World Series wins for Boston have worn off. Throw in a rebuilding phase, and it was time for the Fenway Park sellout streak to come to an end.
The question, really, was when? It seemed certain to be this season, but when in the season was what we all wondered.
Today is that day.
After selling out Fenway on Opening Day, the streak ends today. It started May 15, 2003 and continued through April 8, 2013, spanned 794 regular-season games and 820 games at Fenway Park, including the postseason. It is the longest record of its kind in major professional sports for the regular-season, and for the regular season combined with postseason play. The club has averaged 36,605 tickets sold per game during this period. (Fenway Park’s seating capacity was only 34,807 in 2003, when the streak began.)
The previous record in Major League Baseball was 455, set by the Cleveland Indians between 1995 and 2001, when they won six consecutive Division Titles and two American League Championships. Red Sox fans surpassed that total on September 8, 2008. The longest professional streak in all major league sports, including postseason play, was formerly held by the Portland Trailblazers at 814 games.
While the game has not yet started, the club acknowledged that the streak has ended releasing a statement with thanks from the executive ownership.
“The streak is a reflection of a phenomenal period of baseball in Boston and of America's greatest ballpark,” said Red Sox Principal Owner John W. Henry. “But more than that, it is a testament to the baseball passion of New England fans. As we close the book on this incredible era, we look forward to another with a renewed certainty that the next couple of generations of Red Sox fans will also be enjoying baseball at the ever magical Fenway Park.”
“We have all experienced a wonderful combination of compelling baseball, a revitalized ballpark, and an atmosphere of warmth and hospitality,” said Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner. “I’d like to thank publicly our players, coaches, managers, our architects, our designers and construction workers, and our front office and day of game ballpark staff. Their work, together, connected with Red Sox Nation—passionate fans who helped take this team and this park to these heights. It is these fans to whom we are most grateful.”
“We are proud of this historic achievement,” said Red Sox President/CEO Larry Lucchino. “Over the past ten years, more than 30 million, many among the most sophisticated baseball fans in America, have purchased tickets to see games at Fenway Park. Never in that period was there a crowd less than 32,000. No other club in Major League Baseball can make that statement. That speaks volumes about the constancy and dedication of New England baseball fans.”
Size matters... The new video display at Safeco Field is currently the largest in the league, but will it be a distraction over the game?
There were big doings for the Seattle Mariners this off-season, but it wasn’t so much in free agency and trades as it was for Safeco Field. As Opening Day commences, the biggest change you see (other than the oddness of seeing the Houston Astros as an American League team), is the fact that a new video display consumes the entire right center-field. This display, now the largest in all of baseball, would take up three-quarters of the outfield. The other less noticeable change are the walls have been pulled in.
In terms of the wall moves, the biggest difference is 17 feet in left-center, from 390 to 378 feet. The deepest part of the field now moves from 409 to 405. And for the most part of the wall moves, the latter shift in of 4’ is about the extent of the change.
Another change is the left field in-game scoreboard has been moved up above the wall creating a new small fan viewing area. This builds off what has been exceptionally popular in the centerfield viewing area known simply as “The ‘Pen.”
But, it’s that video board. That massively huge change that has everyone on Opening Day talking before first-pitch. For those that have never been to Safeco Field, the old video board was, well… very 2000. No HD. No massiveness. No hoopla. Tonight, it’s “Mariners in HD.” This isn’t just trimmings for the fans. It instantaneously allows the Mariners additional real estate to display advertisers. And, because it’s video, the real estate is not confined to paper and paint, it offers more flexibility as digital marketing. While the Mariners have had this with the ribbon boards that wrap.
The thing that I had wondered was with this massive presence in the right-center, would it be a distraction? Would it become larger than the game? Would the Mariners become an afterthought in favor of “Mariners HD?” The answer is no. In-between innings the board is eye-popping and hard to ignore. During the game, the graphics are a warm green showing game stats with only the bright white of advertising logos jumping out. For 2013, Safeco Field looks as good as ever. The team looks improved. That aspect of the organization is still a work in progress.
Former Reds owner Marge Schott might be screaming from the afterlife if the DH comes to the National League
Call it what you will. Say it’s the further erosion of the history of the game of baseball, but it’s time for the American League and the National League to come together on the use of the Designated Hitter. This isn’t some far flung discussion about the merits of pitchers hitting or not (although, there’s ample articles and discussions about that), it’s about what realignment has and hasn’t done.
For the first time in MLB history, a National League team in the Astros has moved to the American League. This allowed for a balanced scheduled and put the AL and NL at 15 clubs a piece. The flip side is, because of the odd number, interleague is now spread out across the entire season. And while there’s been talk of addressing the DH for sometime, this balancing to 15 clubs a piece might be a forcing function.
The only way that you get away from daily interleague due to the odd numbers in each league would be the addition of one club in each league (don’t even think about contraction), and in speaking with several executives, that doesn’t seem in the cards in the near future. As one exec said, “Expansion of the league is something that has to be done carefully. There doesn’t seem to be a push for it currently.”
There are concerns about the use of the DH across both leagues, and it’s more concrete than just a matter of holding to traditions. This is about increases in player payroll that come with the position leaping over to the National League.
According to the MLBPA’s annual report on average salaries that comes out each December, for 2012, there were seven DHs in the AL that played in 80 or more games with an mean salary of $8,009,112; a sizeable sum. That group included Billy Butler, Adam Dunn, Edwin Encarnacion, Kendrys Morales, David Ortiz, Luke Scott, and Delmon Young. It’s here that National League execs will certainly focus. While Ortiz and Dunn skew the mean, it highlights the costs associated to the position. By comparison, the average DH salary for 2011 in the MLBPA report was higher still at $9,324,807. Historically, the DH has been the focus of veteran players, which makes some sense as career longevity is increased by not having them in the field on defense. Of the players listed in the MLBPA report, the average major league service time was 6.935, which is above the free agency threshold. Here are the players from the report by service time and salary in 2012:
2012 Salary (millions)
And while NL owners and GMs may fret about the additional salary they would take on at the DH, it is one part of the reason that the MLBPA would back the move of the DH to the National League as opposed to removing it from the American League. The move would increase salaries for players, extend career life (not only for position players, but potentially pitchers in the NL that could get injured on the base paths). Conversely, the union for the players is never going to allow the DH to go away as it lowers average salary across the league, and puts players out of work.
So, the purest be damned, the DH is most likely coming to the National League. Expansion doesn’t seem to be in the cards anytime soon, the clunky matter of playing interleague everyday due to the 15-15 balance of teams after realignment is moving you closer to it, and let’s be honest, it’s not like this hasn’t happened in other sports. Yes, it’s baseball with its sense of quirky history which is endearing and makes it unique. But, if the NFC-AFC merger in the NFL can happen, well, it’s a precedent that somewhere, someone is bringing up to make a case for the DH in the National League.
When you hear the saying, “We’re golden,” it’s not often that you think of a team uniform in Major League Baseball. There have been highlights of it (the Nationals come to mind), but not to the extent about to unfold.
When the San Francisco Giants receive their second World Series rings on Sunday, April 7 they will be wearing these specially-designed jerseys from Majestic and caps from New Era embossed in gold to commemorate their 2012 World Series Championship.
And, since it’s well known that fans (and clubs) love to see uniform options light-up cash registers, these official New Era caps and Majestic jerseys will be available this weekend at Giants Dugout Stores and online through MLB.com. One could say you not only get to support the Giants, but in doing so, wear some bling.
Autism. It used to be that thing you weren’t quite sure of. It was that thing that you learned out of watching TV’s version of Parenthood, or the movies Rain Man or What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? It’s still not something that impacts every family, but by now, if you think about it, you know someone with a family member that has autism, or have heard about it.
Whether parents are getting the diagnosis earlier, the growing awareness of it in the medical community, the expansion of the mental disorder’s classification, or the fact that it’s becoming more and more common regardless of these factors, autism now touches everyone. Below illustrates the alarming expansion of those on the autism scale:
Today marks the beginning of International Autism Awareness month. As the father of a “classic” autistic child, I have worked with those in sports and entertainment to bring about a heightened awareness of the mental disorder. To date, there is no direct understanding of why autism occurs (although science is getting much closer). To date, no matter what some may say, there is no cure. There is, however, a great deal of hope in therapy—therapy that needs to start at the earliest point a diagnosis can be made, and it is here that you can make a world of difference. Somewhere, there are parents wondering if their child is autistic. Or, there are parents out there that see different behaviors than they would expect from their child, and aren’t aware of the signs. That is what this autism awareness campaign is about.
The Business of Sports Network Autism Awareness Challenge requires no donations (although we encourage those that do wish to donate to click the link provided to Autism Speaks).
We challenge you to this:
Spread the details below to others. Pass the link via Twitter or Facebook. Encourage someone you know that may think their child could have autism to read. In doing so, you help increase awareness.
Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a "spectrum disorder" that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and funding can help families today.
In March 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their ADDM autism prevalence report. The report concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 88 births in the United States and almost 1 in 54 boys. The spotlight shown on autism as a result of the prevalence increase opens opportunities for the nation to consider how to serve these families facing a lifetime of supports for their children.
Currently, the Autism Society estimates that the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism ranges from $3.5 million to $5 million, and that the United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs for autism (this figure includes research, insurance costs and non-covered expenses, Medicaid waivers for autism, educational spending, housing, transportation, employment, in addition to related therapeutic services and caregiver costs).
Know the Signs: Early Identification Can Change Lives
Autism is treatable. Children do not "outgrow" autism, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes.
Here are some signs to look for in the children in your life:
Lack of or delay in spoken language
Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
Little or no eye contact
Lack of interest in peer relationships
Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
Persistent fixation on parts of objects
If you are someone who has been directly impacted by a recent diagnosis of a child on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) scale, I highly encourage you to read the First 100 Days Kit (PDF) put out by Autism Speaks. This guide has invaluable information to help not only the parents dealing with this news, but also family and friends.
Finally, realize that autism is not something that has gone unaware. It is not something that is thought of as a stigma. Realize that in growing awareness of the disorder, you may not be able to change the child or adult with the disorder, but you change how society sees them. That is as important as anything else you can do. Please join these athletes, entertainers, and media members that support the Business of Sports Network Autism Awareness Challenge:
Stan Kasten - President and CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers
Allan Walsh - NHL player agent, Octagon
Martin Havlat - Right Wing, San Jose Sharks
Matt Kemp - Outfielder, Los Angeles Dodgers
Peter Gammons - MLB Network, MLB.com, NESN
John Thorn - Author, Official Historian Major League Baseball
Chuck Armstrong - President, Seattle Mariners
Larry Cancro - Senior Vice President of Fenway Affairs for the Boston Red Sox. Also Chairman of Autism Speaks, New England. Board member Melmark, New England a school that specializes in autism and similar cognitive disabilities
Jim Trotter - Senior NFL writer, Sports Illustrated
Sean Foreman - President, Sports Reference, LLC
Ken Davidoff - National baseball writer, Newsday
Kathy Conners - Principal & Founder KMC Consulting
Doug Farrar - Writer for Football Outsiders, Yahoo! Sports, Sportspress Northwest and The Washington Post
Chuck Greenberg - Founder, Greenberg Sports Group, Owner, Myrtle Beach Pelicans and State College Spikes
Jim Duquette - Sirius/XM Radio MLB Network Radio, former GM Baltimore Orioles, New York Mets
David Kahn - President, Basketball Operations, Minnesota Timberwolves
Wendy Thurm - Author, Baseball Nation
Scott Jackson - Host of Last Call on Sporting News Radio, Co-Host of The Brian Mitchell Show on 1067 The Fan DC and SBNation DC Columnist
Lou Imbriano - CEO at TrinityOne Sports & Professor of Sports Marketing at Boston College. Former CMO of the New England Patriots & 2011 McGraw-Hill Author
Gordon Edes - ESPNBoston.com
Peter Abraham - Boston Globe
Devon Teeple - Business of Sports Network
Jordan Kobritz - Business of Sports Network
Joe Tetreault - Business of Sports Network
Alyssa Milano - Television, screen and stage actor
Ryan and Dawn Neufeld - Ryan is 7-year NFL veteran playing tight-end; Dawn has been featured on VH1's "NFL Wives", honorary chairs of Dallas Rocks Against Autism
Jonathan Schaech - Actor and social activist. As seen in the movie "That Thing You Do" and more.
Larry Stone - National baseball writer, The Seattle Times
Victor Rojas - Television play-by-play voice of the LA Angels, formerly with MLB Network
Will Carroll - Bleacher Report
Jesse Sanchez - MLB.com
Troy Renck - MLB beat reporter, Denver Post
Kevin "'Duk" Kaduk - Editor of Y! Sports' Big League Stew
Dave Goren - Executive Director of National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association & Hall of Fame
George Atallah - Assistant Executive Director of External Affairs for the NFL Players Association
Mike Donnelly - Media Coordinator for the NFLPA
Ken Rosenthal - FOXSports.com, MLB Network
Dave Sims - Television play-by-play commentator for the Seattle Mariners, radio play-by-play for Sunday Night Football on Westwood One, television play-by-play host for UFL on VERSUS
Joe Hamrahi - Baseball Prospectus
Richard Justice - Sports columnist, MLB.com
Todd Radom - Graphic artist, sports logo creator
Joe Briggs, Esq
Curt and Shonda Schilling
Mike Ferrin - Host & Anchor, MLB Network Radio
Brent Gambill - Executive Producer, Sirius/XM Radio
Dave Barr - Producer, Sports Talk With Bo Mattingly. KREB 1190 Fayetteville, KTTG ESPN 96.3 FM Ft. Smith, KABZ 103.7 FM Little Rock
Russ Levine, VP of Digital Production for NHL.com
Jamie Newberg - NewbergReport.com
Pat Courtney - MLB VP Public Relations
Mike Dilorenzo - NHL spokesperson
Jason Rosenberg - It’s About the Money, Stupid blog
Jason Collette - DRaysBay.com /BaseballProspectus/Rotowire
Autism knows no race. It knows no social-economic class. It is something that touches all walks of society. Take a moment and watch this Autism Speaks PSA with pro golfer Ernie Els, himself, an active autism awareness advocate (see Els For Autism)
Thank you for your help. In doing what seems like something small, you could change lives.
Maury Brown President Business of Sports Network Bizball LLC
While Brian Cashman and the Yankees are being slammed for the Vernon Wells trade, they're smarter than you think
This isn’t to disparage Mr. Vernon Wells, but at this point in his career—both in terms of performance and his contract—he’s not exactly seen as a good bargain. In fact, talk to most and they would argue that his contract is one of the worst in recent memory. So when word of the pending trade that would see Wells move coasts from the Angels to the Yankees, many bemoaned that Brian Cashman and the Yankees brain-trust had lost their minds. It may be crazy, but in reality if contract structures are setup correctly it has the potential to be crazy like a fox.
While the “player” is certainly not going to bring any long-term benefits, the contract structure against the backdrop of injuries, does. While the Yankees would never publically admit it, this year is not a hard push to be competitive, but rather priming the pump for the future. The trade has not yet been approved, although it’s possible it could be done as early as today (Wells has already flown to Tampa to be with the club).
Wells is owed approximately $42 million ($21 million in each of the next two seasons), but the Angels are reportedly picking up $29 million of it, leaving the Yankees to cover $13 million over the life of the contract. It’s here that things get tricky and play into the Yankees overall plans to address getting under the Luxury Tax threshold.
According to initial reports, the Angels are picking up $9 million for 2013, and the remaining $20 million would come in 2014. On paper, it appears that the Wells deal works as a “credit” as the clubs are charged the Average Annual Value (AAV) of multi-year contracts (base salary, plus any deferred comp, and signing bonus money) for Luxury Tax purposes. Since the Wells deal is for $126 million the AAV is $18 million. Throw the money in that the Angels are sending, plus the section in the CBA dealing with cash considerations that reads that the “assigned Player shall include such cash consideration in its Actual Club Payroll in the Contract Year in which the cash consideration is paid,” and you suddenly could think, “the Yankees are actually getting a $3.5 million “credit” by the Angels sending cash in the manner that they are.
But, in speaking with a source close to the deal that could not go on record, this “credit” aspect will not occur. It will in fact be a “net zero” and there will be no credit aspect. As the source said, if that were allowed to be approved, you’d get clubs taking on player contracts that appear to have actual dollars that increase them over the Luxury Tax threshold, but on paper would work to put them under.
Still, with the changes in the latest CBA that now add extra penalties for exceeding the Luxury Tax threshold, the Wells deal with cash considerations from the Angels plays against the Yankees efforts to get below the $189 million threshold in 2014. As Hal Steinbrenner said recently to The New York Times, “My firmly held belief is that you don’t have to have a $200 million payroll to be world champion,” he said. “And the historical data that led me to that conclusion is rock solid.” As to that “historical data”, one need only look at the last two World Series to see what he means. In 2012, the Giants had a player payroll of $131,980,298 while the Tigers’ player payroll was just slightly higher at $132,994,000. In 2011, the Cardinals player payroll was $109,798,000 while the Rangers saw a player payroll of $96,713,370.
Don’t expect Wells (or for that matter, recent add Kevin Youkilis) in a Yankees uniform in 2014. In fact, when you couple in that Mariano Rivera is retiring and that Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Hiroki Kuroda, Boone Logan, Phil Hughes, and Andy Pettitte are all free agents after this season, it plays into the grand plan of getting under that $189 million threshold in 2014. But, here’s something worth watching out for. Here’s something to consider. Sure, Hal Steinbrenner said you don’t need a $200 million payroll to compete for a World Series. Sure, the player payrolls of recent World Series teams have been almost half or more of what the Yankees have been known to saddle. That doesn’t mean that you won’t see the Yankees break the Luxury Tax threshold again. In fact, getting under the threshold in 2014 ostensibly does a “reset” on the steep tax rate the Yankees have hit year in and year out. It wouldn’t be $200 million, but he didn’t say they wouldn’t break the Luxury Tax threshold in the future, either. The most interesting time for the Yankees isn’t now… it could be in 2015.
One could argue that prospects would be better served in pinstripes than Vernon Wells. Maybe. But, this year is not quite like any other in recent memory for the Yankees. In fact, one could argue that this year shouldn’t be a barometer on which way the club is going. You get the sense that this season is nothing more than a tact to get stronger winds in the future that pushes the Bronx Bombers upstream.
When it comes to sports, what every owner looks for is repeat business. And, if you want repeat business, “loyalty” is king. Through good times and bad, the stronger your fan loyalty, the better off you are.
So, with Opening Day this Sunday, Brand Keys has released their 21st annual report, the Brand Keys 2013 Sports Fan Loyalty Index. Even with a roster that’s old as dirt and a trade for Vernon Wells in the offing (believe it or not, this makes more sense than you think), the New York Yankees return to the #1 spot, knocking the Phillies off the top perch after seeing two consecutive disappointing seasons. The 2012 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants move from the #4 to the #3 position while Cardinals and Braves move up the list. If you’re in Boston, a concern is the Red Sox who held the top position from 2008-10 and haven’t been out of the top five for a considerable period of time. After two consecutive years of controversy, the Red Sox drop completely out of the top 5.
At the bottom of the list, the Astros, who have taken on extreme cost cutting, and move from the NL to the AL this year, drop to the “least loyal fans” spot at #30 after never being in the bottom five since The Biz of Baseball began tracking yearly data back to 2008. The Royals, who continue to languish move from 28 to 29 while the Pirates “improve” from the worst in 2012 to 28th. In news that is bound to make Baltimore happy, after years of being on the wrong side of winning, the Orioles drop out of the bottom five after holding the #30 position in 2008 and the #29 position last year. Winning does cure ills. Rounding out the bottom five, the Mets, who are just now beginning to crawl out from under the Bernie Madoff scandal, and Mariners, who have languished at the bottom of the AL West standings for years now, hold their spots at 27 and 26 from last year.
The Brand Keys Sports Fan Loyalty Index was designed to help professional sports team management identify precise fan loyalty rankings in their home and national markets. “These insights enable league and team management to identify areas, particularly emotional ones, that need strategic brand coaching,” said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys’ founder and president.
Current 2013 MLB top-5 and bottom-5 brand standings are listed (Note: #’s in parentheses are team rankings for 2012):
Top-5 Teams – 2013 (2012 rankings)
1. New York Yankees (#2) 2. Philadelphia Phillies (#1) 3. San Francisco Giants (#4) 4. St. Louis Cardinals (#5) 5. Atlanta Braves (#6)
Cellar Dwellers 2013 (2012 ranking)
30. Houston Astros (#23) 29. Kansas City Royals (#28) 28. Pittsburgh Pirates (#30) 27. Seattle Mariners (#27) 26. New York Mets (#26)
The Sports Fan Loyalty Index, which measures all the teams in the four Major Leagues, provides an apples-to-apples comparison of the intensity with which fans within a team’s SMSA support the home team versus corresponding values for fans of other teams in that market.
“That’s important because fan loyalty correlates very highly with broadcast viewership, merchandise purchase, and ticket revenues. And happier fans as well,” noted Passikoff. “Everybody loves a winner, but it’s important to note that win/loss ratios do not entirely govern fan loyalty. There are three other emotionally based factors that must be taken into account.”
SELECT READ MORE TO SEE HISTORICAL BRAND LOYALITY DATA AND HOW THE METHODOLOGY FOR THE RANKINGS
It has long been sought by the league, has had fits and starts, and will have large impacts if it does, or doesn’t happen. The topic is an International Draft in Major League Baseball, and according to a report in today’s SportsBusiness Journal, talks are intensifying on the subject. The reason for the focus on it is a June 1 deadline within the labor agreement reached between the MLBPA and MLB last year. Within the CBA, details of the worldwide draft spell out what occurs with, or without an international draft by the June 1 deadline.
As the CBA outlines, here’s what would happen if no joint agreement on an international draft were to happen by June 1
If a draft (or drafts) covering international amateur players does not commence in the 2013 season, and irrespective of whether the conditions set forth in I.E have been satisfied, the Office of the Commissioner may provide notice to the MLBPA that it intends to commence operation of a draft (or drafts) covering international amateur players for the 2014 season and subsequent seasons. Written notice of such intent must be provided to the MLBPA by no later than June 1, 2013, and such notice must include a detailed explanation of the rules and procedures that the Office of the Commissioner intends to use for the draft. The MLBPA may veto the commencement of a draft (or drafts) covering international amateur players for the 2014 season and subsequent seasons by providing written notice of its objection to the Office of the Commissioner by June 15, 2013.
But in speaking with MLBPA Executive Director, Michael Weiner in 2012, well in advance of the latest CBA being reached, he voiced that the union was for making it happen, but that there were difficulties in its implementation. Those difficulties are sizeable. As defined in the CBA, the following has to be addressed before an international draft can occur:
The Committee will be charged with advising the MLBPA and the Office of the Commissioner on the following matters:
1. If there is an international draft, whether international players should be part of a single worldwide draft (including players currently covered by the Rule 4 Draft) or a separate draft (or drafts).
2. The appropriate age at which international amateur players should be signed to professional contracts.
3. If there are to be multiple drafts, whether players from Puerto Rico should remain in the Rule 4 Draft or instead be part of an international draft.
4. The development of appropriate country-by-country plans for playing and development opportunities for players prior to draft eligibility, including expansion of the El Torneo Supremo.
5. The development of appropriate plans to provide undrafted or unsigned players (including players age 18 to 21) from Latin America with an opportunity to continue their development, including the creation of a new league or leagues, or the addition of centrally-operated Clubs in the Dominican Summer League (“DSL”).
6. Whether and how regulations should be put in place regarding representation of international amateur players (e.g., “independent trainers” and agents).
7. Improving the education and acculturation programs of Clubs at their international academies.
8. What safeguards should be established in relation to any signing bonus payments made to international amateur players.
9. The laws of the countries from which international players are signed and how those laws should affect the actions of the parties.
10. What actions are necessary in order to achieve the negotiation of a revised agreement between MLB and the Mexican League that allows players greater choice of where to play and promotes a fair and open system of player movement.
11. What actions are necessary in order to achieve the negotiation of revisions to the protocol agreements with the Korean Professional Baseball League, the Japanese Professional Baseball League, and the Taiwan R.O.C. League to accommodate a draft.
12. How Cuban players should be treated under an amateur talent system in light of the legal and political factors that affect their signability.
Those items are becoming more important as the season and the June 1 deadline near.
“There are plans to sit down and get serious about the negotiations this spring,” said David Prouty, MLBPA general counsel to Liz Mullen of the SBJ. “We are up against a deadline. If we don’t come up to an agreement, there will be more serious restrictions.”
As to those restrictions, as further reported by the SportsBusiness Jounal:
Without a draft deal, teams next year overspending their international signing caps by 15 percent or more will be subject to a 100 percent tax and a two-year restriction from signing any foreign amateur player to a bonus of more than $300,000. Even a 5 percent overspending by a club would limit an individual signing bonus to $500,000. Current international signing regulations assess only a 75 percent tax for less than a 5 percent overspend, building to a one-year prohibition on bonuses above $250,000 for overspending the pool by at least 15 percent.
Every few years, the debate arises over the popularity of the World Baseball Classic. “It’s a marketing tool to grow the game globally”… “Fans outside of the U.S.A. are more passionate and that’s because in the U.S., we simply want Major League Baseball’s regular season to start so we can catch all the stars of the game”…
And while MLB Network has a large subscriber base, a large swatch of the US still doesn’t have access to it to watch. So it’s somewhat surprising that the league-owned network got a decent ratings win this past weekend.
Team USA’s win over Canada on Sunday in the Pool D elimination game of the 2013 World Baseball Classic was the most-watched non-Postseason game ever on MLB Network, averaging 760,000 viewers, up 26% from the previous high, a New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox game on October 2, 2012. The USA vs. Canada game peaked with 1.25 million viewers during the final innings, from 7:00 – 7:30 p.m. ET, which included the USA’s four-run rally in the ninth inning.
The strength of 15 World Baseball Classic game telecasts helped MLB Network to its most-watched weekend ever, drawing an average of 252,000 viewers* from Friday, March 8 through Sunday, March 10.
MLB Network’s two other 2013 World Baseball Classic game telecasts featuring Team USA are among the top five most-watched non-Postseason game telecasts in the network’s history. Friday’s Mexico vs. USA matchup averaged 673,000 viewers, the network’s second-most viewed non-Postseason game telecast, while Saturday’s USA vs. Italy game drew an average of 576,000 viewers. The Dominican Republic’s defeat of Puerto Rico on Sunday averaged 513,000 viewers, the most-viewed non-USA game telecast of the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
So, it will be interesting to see what the ratings do if Team USA makes it to the finals. After all, they’ve done no better than fourth (that was 2006). America loves a winner. If they do pull it off, it could be a game changer for not only the WBC, but MLB Network.
* All figures per Nielsen; weekend viewership includes Friday-Saturday from 6a-6a and Sunday from 6a-3a