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August 13, 2012

Bizball

The Kitchen Sink (A Roundup of Baseball Biz)

by Maury Brown

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The conversation often starts innocently. I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked, but to date, I haven’t been able to answer completely or in under a half-hour. The question is: What does sports business involve?

On the face of it, it looks pretty easy. I always grab the path of least resistance on the query and reply, “It’s sports outside the lines.” If you’re pressed to provide added detail, the conversation explodes into everything from labor to PEDs to stadium construction to sportswear to… to… well, you get the picture. When I write for Baseball Prospectus, it makes sense to pick a topic each week and dig into it. But, for every topic covered, there’s a cornucopia of them that don’t get covered.

So, today, it’s not about one thing. Today, we’ll hit the stops along the way. Today is more fun than serious, so sip your coffee and enjoy the kitchen sink.

The Sale of the Padres Is (Finally) Going to Happen
Baseball’s owners meet in Milwaukee this week, and number one on the agenda is the sale of the San Diego Padres. Current owner John Moores has been trying for years to unload the club after he and his wife divorced (sound familiar, Dodger fans?). Since February of 2008, Moores has tried to unload the club to no avail. Former Arizona Diamondbacks owner and player agent Jeff Moorad was trying to close the deal. In 2009, Moorad’s group didn’t have funding lined up 100 percent, so the deal (in-principle) allowed Moorad five years to get it all completed. The group would need to provide $100 million in 2009 (for a 35 percent interest stake) and additional funds to push it to 49 percent in 2010. In the midst of it all, the Dodgers sale happened, and when that occurred, the market for MLB clubs skyrocketed.

Now, a sale to Ron Fowler, chief executive of Liquid Investments; members of the Peter O’Malley family; PGA golfer Phil Mickelson; and others is about to be approved this week. The sale will be for $800 million with $200 million of that being upfront money as part of the Fox Sports San Diego media rights deal that’s going through. That deal is $1.2 billion over 30 years.

Like the sale of the Dodgers, the new owners will be spending quite a bit of energy building the public’s trust back up, but never—and I mean NEVER—confuse John Moores with Frank McCourt.

The A’s and Giants Issue Simmers Some More
There’s not a lot to say here. It’s been far too long, but like a glacier cutting granite, Commissioner Selig appears to simply wait, sit back, and let pressure rectify the problem over time. In other words, there is nothing on the agenda for this week’s owners meetings that could be construed as movement on the A’s-to-San Jose front. That, I’m sure, is something that suits the Giants just fine.

ESPN and FOX Flex
This is about the geekiest thing I’ve done in a while, but I wanted to see just how the league and their broadcast partners reach agreements on what games to air. I was mostly interested in the weekend games by ESPN and FOX.

Starting with the Media Information Guide that the league releases to the press each year, I looked at the projected lineups by FOX (Saturday) and ESPN (Sunday night) against the league schedule of games for a given season. Remember, this is released in January or February, before the season starts, which makes sense; clubs need to begin selling tickets well in advance of the season starting.

FOX picks anywhere from two-to-six games on a given Saturday to broadcast. From there, they’ll cover the country with the best regional broadcast as the date nears. ESPN singles out a match-up for each Sunday from the beginning of the season to June. From June through July, the network selects three games to target and bases their selection on the compelling nature of each game, weather cancellations, etc. During June and July, ESPN gives 23 days notice as to what game they plan on airing to give fans proper notification, since the start time will be moved to 8 PM ET. From August through September, the notification is 16 days in advance. While FOX doesn’t list how much advance warning they give, according to league sources, memos are sent to each of the 30 clubs approximately 14-20 days in advance of any changes. The league often sees compelling match-ups (yes, Yankee and Red Sox tilts are often targeted) and “TBD” is listed on the regular season calendar when released before the season starts.

So, how often do the networks opt for flex scheduling? How often do they move match-ups into the broadcast schedule that weren’t targeted at the beginning of the season? Not very often, actually. In fact, flex scheduling really only begins to surface beginning in late summer when key playoff races begin to come into focus. In 2011, a total of 12 games were flexed. One of these was done so due to a rainout (Braves at Mets on Saturday, August 27 was bumped from the FOX schedule). Of the 12, four were ESPN games; eight games on FOX flexed over five weekends beginning in mid-August.

In other words, MLB and the networks have figured out well in advance what should be good match-ups before the season starts. There are always surprises, of course. The Nationals and Pirates in games against the Cardinals the last two weekends pushed games between the Giants and Padres and Giants and Cubs off the schedule.

The Men in Blue: An Homage to Doug Pappas
I wish I could say I did this research. It’s the one thing that the late, great Doug Pappas did that I wish I had picked up with and continued. But, fear not, Bill Arnold of SFWire picks up some great stuff on, yes… ejections.

According to Arnold, “umpires had ejected 115 participants from games in 2012, through Thursday August 9th: 47 players, 57 managers and 11 coaches.” The men in blue that are doling out the most ejections are Gary Darling, Sam Holbrook, Brian Knight and D.J. Reyburn. These four umps are tied for most ejections this season with five apiece as of Thursday. The team with the most ejections as of Thursday? The Tigers (manager Jim Leyland has four, coach Tom Brookens has two, and coaches Gene Lamont and Lloyd McClendon and catcher Gerald Laird have one each, according to Arnold).

Here’s how the numbers breakdown, courtesy of Arnold’s newsletter. In memory of Pappas:

Ejections by Umpire (as of August 9)

  • Gary Darling - 5
  • Sam Holbrook - 5
  • Brian Knight - 5
  • D.J. Reyburn - 5
  • Dan Bellino - 4
  • Marty Foster - 4         
  • Dan Iassogna- 4         
  • Tim Tschida - 4         
  • Angel Campos - 3        
  • Bob Davidson - 3
  • Greg Gibson - 3
  • Alan Porter - 3
  • Dale Scott - 3

Ejections by team by manager (as of August 9)

Source: Bill Arnold

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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