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May 14, 2012

Bizball

New CBA, Fans Sue MLB, Jerry McMorris Dies, and Other Picture Postcards

by Maury Brown

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It’s not exactly the beginning of the season, but we’re not yet approaching the All-Star break either. It’s that time of year when the league and its clubs are beginning to settle in on the business of matters. There are times when one topic per week simply won’t do, and this is one of those times.  Here are capsules on a number of things going on in baseball outside the lines.

The Latest CBA Will Be Going Public… Really
While the NFL and NBA went into lockouts last year, MLB and the MLB Players Association announced that a new labor agreement had been reached on November 22, three weeks before the 2006-2011 Basic Agreement was set to expire. While general details for the 2012-2016 agreement were released at the time, it’s been nearly five months now and it has yet to be released in its entirety.

So have MLB and the MLBPA decided to hold back on releasing the final version to the public? Not so, says the league. When asked about it at the Sports Lawyers Association Conference last week, MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner said the sides are trying to get the CBA and the Joint Drug Agreement released to the public within the next month. What’s been the delay? According to those that have seen a printed version, it’s a voluminous document, especially when you consider that it has the drug agreement and many other attachments. Also, as one source said, “There’s been a lot going on”—likely a reference to the Braun case and the sale of the Dodgers.

Former Rockies Owner Jerry McMorris Passes Away
If you’re a Rockies fan, you know who Jerry McMorris was. He, along with Charles and Dick Monfort, has been credited with bringing MLB to Denver. But that’s really only half the story. In actuality, McMorris revived the ability of the MLB-to-Denver effort after the original owner, Mickey Monus, was accused of a $350 million fraud and embezzlement scheme at Phar-Mor, where he had been president.

After purchasing the controlling interest in the Rockies and officially bringing the club to Mile High City in 1992, McMorris became the Rockies’ Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. He held the position until October 2001, when Keli McGregor took over the positions. McMorris passed away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 71 last week. Commissioner Selig said in a statement,   “I am very saddened by the loss of my friend Jerry McMorris, whose efforts were integral to bringing Major League Baseball to Colorado in 1993. Under Jerry’s leadership, the Rockies attracted more than three million fans in each of the club’s first nine years and became a first-class franchise in a wonderful ballpark.  Jerry quickly established himself as a leader within our industry, playing a key role on a number of our committees and serving not only the Rockies franchise but all of Major League Baseball very well. On behalf of Jerry’s many friends throughout the game, I extend my deepest condolences to his wife Mary and his entire family.”

Rain On My Parade? Not Compared to Last Season
Last season was one of the worst ever for Major League Baseball in terms of rainouts. In many ways, while the Dodgers and Mets attendance woes took a chunk out of the league’s attendance numbers, the poor weather was probably as much of a factor as any. Still, the league saw paid attendance go up slightly (less than 1 percent) last season.

So how have the weather gods been this year? After getting off to a very dry start, the rain has picked recently and, with it, there have been 10 rainouts across the league. Still, before May 13, 2011, there had been a total of 22 cancellations due to weather. And before you ask, it’s not because the Marlins now have a roof; out of all the pre-May 13 rainouts last season, the Marlins accounted for exactly zero of them.

Compared to Sun Life Stadium, Marlins Attendance Is Booming
Speaking of the Fish, with the Marlins opening up their new retractable-roof ballpark, the club is raking in paid attendance of 30,817 per game. This ranks them 14th in baseball between the Rockies (31,921) and the Mets (28,737). If ranking 14 out of 30 clubs in a brand new ballpark sounds poor (they’ve only sold out their home opener, thus far), think about it this way: over 21 pre-May 13 games last season at Sun Life Stadium, the Marlins drew an average of 17,170. That means that the Marlins are seeing an increase in paid attendance of 79 percent over the same period last year. Not bad at all.

While In First Place, the Indians Have Lower Attendance than Last Season
Attendance for the Cleveland Indians is bad. Not just a little bit; a lot. While the Tribe was sitting in first place, 1.5 games up on the Tigers as of Sunday, their attendance has been anything but “winning.” Currently, the Indians are averaging a league-worst attendance of 14,291 over 18 games at Progressive Field—5,417 less than the second-worst-attended club, Oakland, over the same number of games. To put this in perspective, the Indians are drawing fewer attendees than they were as of May 13 of last season (14,563 over 18 games). Granted, the team is currently 18-16 compared to 24-13 last year, but they are in first place. Maybe there’s a sense that the floor will drop out (again) and they’ll sink in the standings. Maybe it’s Cleveland’s 9.3 percent unemployment rate (the US average is 7.7 percent). Or maybe it runs deeper. After all, from June 12, 1995 to April 4, 2001, the Indians sold out 455 straight games, a league record at the time. How many sellouts have there been for the Indians so far this season? Exactly one (Opening Day).

Fans Suing MLB, Say They Are a Monopoly Over Broadcasts
Anyone that has followed me for a while knows how I have been standing on MLB’s neck for years over their arcane blackout policy, so you’d think I would be in these fans’ corner, right? Think again. According to The Associated Press, a small group of fans is suing the league claiming that “they [colluded] to eliminate competition in the showing of games on the Internet and television.” This suit doesn’t make much sense to me on a host of levels, the least of which is the fact that broadcast rights can be negotiated for a fee. It’s not like MLB has a national broadcast deal like the NFL either. I’ve wondered when or if someone decided that the local and national blackout policy was so bad from a consumer perspective that they’d attempt to sue the league, but this case certainly isn’t that.

Maury Brown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Maury's other articles. You can contact Maury by clicking here

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