A look at the league's evolving approach to PED testing.
Baseball has had its fair share of bad luck. On or off the field, it seems whenever it’s in the midst of dodging controversy, something steps in. And while 2012 won’t go down as “bad,” it did not go unscathed either, especially when it comes to the league’s drug policy. Over the past year, the use of testosterone has grabbed more headlines than the league likely wanted.
As part of the labor agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association, report on drug testing is released annually by an independent administrator of the program. This year showed that, of the 5,136 tests for performance-enhancing drugs and stimulants, there were a total of 18 players who tested positive and were disciplined. While one could argue that a single drug suspension is too much, those 18 positive results accounted for less than 1 percent (0.35%) of the total tests. Not all of these players served suspensions as first time offenses; use of stimulants only results in follow-up testing. Of the 18 tests that resulted in discipline, 11 were for stimulants. Only after a second violation, however, does an announced suspension occur. Two players (Baltimore Orioles shortstop Ryan Adams, who at the time was on the roster of the Triple-A Norfolk Tides, and Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz this past Tuesday) were given 25-game suspensions for stimulants late this year after their automatic appeals process. That means that nine players tested positive for stimulants for the first time.
Former MLBPA Executive Director Marvin Miller passed away today at the age of 95. A larger man in the history of baseball we may not have seen, and yet, he's yet to grace the Hall of Fame.
It’s hard to know where to begin with the news today that former MLBPA Executive Director Marvin Miller passed away at the age of 95. In the history of sports, there may have never been a more galvanizing and important figure. As with most people of greatness, the actions of Miller were not seen by all as being good for sports. Still, love him or hate him, his impact on not only Major League Baseball, but all professional sports leagues, cannot be overstated. Collective bargaining, arbitration, free agency, and the fight for players’ rights all began with Miller. In that, you might disagree with Miller, but you had to respect him.
A look at the monetary incentive players have to perform well in the postseason.
Incentive. At the workplace, it comes in many forms. For some, it’s merely being able to keep your job. In other cases, one can receive a pay bonus. So whether for Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation or players in Major League Baseball, bonuses can be used as a carrot for performance.
For players in Major League Baseball, bonuses come in a host of different shapes and sizes. From signing to performance to awards, a player’s contract can have bonuses as a key element. One that often gets overlooked, however, centers on the postseason in the form of “shares.”
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A look at Jeffrey Loria and Miami's current financial situation.
“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right; greed works.” —Gordon Gekko, Wall Street
I don’t know if Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria owns a copy of Oliver Stone’s Wall Street. The movie, which came out at the height of the 1980s’ “excess is best” period would seem to play well with him. That now infamous speech by Gekko summed up everything that was wrong with not only Wall Street but also where America was headed. Loria, it seems, is still living in the 80s.
A look at the ten most likely places for a new MLB club
It seems that nearly every week, articles surrounding the potential relocation of the A’s and Rays surface. A panel looking into a potential San Jose relocation for the A’s has been gridlocked since 2009 (and remember, the A’s have been looking to move to San Jose for a heck of a lot longer than that). The Rays haven’t been far behind in their efforts to get out of Tropicana Field. Whether it’s the commute for fans to get to the domed stadium, the aesthetics, or the need to be closer to an urban core, it seems that Tampa Bay has been seeking a new ballpark for just as long. Relocation for these two clubs is crucial.
Another thing that comes up less frequently but has extra meaning going into 2013 is expansion. With the Astros moving into the AL West, the American League and National League will now be balanced at 15 clubs a piece. The problem is that 15 is an odd number, and as a result, interleague will become a daily affair. It’s unlikely that’s something that the league wanted, so getting to 32 clubs would take care of that matter. That would mean revenues spread thinner with two extra mouths to feed. Additionally, it’s no given that one or both wouldn’t be revenue-sharing takers, and trying to get ballparks built is no easy feat in this economy. So, 30 is a number that seems to suit the “Big Four” sports leagues in North America. The NBA has it. Ditto for the NHL. Currently, only the NFL—which has the advantage of being highly centralized (revenues are shared more evenly across the franchises) and exceptionally popular—is the exception at 32 clubs.
Will Josh Hamilton find the contract he's looking for this winter? And should be?
When the Rangers were knocked out of the playoffs by the Orioles in the AL Wild Card play-in game, Josh Hamilton sounded the part of a politician. The Ranger faithful had booed him during the game in part for his numbers during that play-in game—he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, both on three pitches—but really for his lackluster performance in the second half of the regular season (16 homers and an .833 OPS compared to 27 homers with a 1.016 OPS in the first half).
"I always would love to stay here," Hamilton said at the time of the loss to the Orioles. "They understand that. They know that. When we talked earlier in the year, we didn't get things worked out, so we said we'd wait until the year was over. They obviously get first shot. I told them they'd get first shot at the end of the year. We'll see what happens."
The 2012 World Series is the lowest-rated ever, but what does that actually mean?
As the 2012 World Series goes, unless you’re a Giants fan, you might say it could have been better. A competitive series is always better than one that isn’t, and this one surely wasn’t. It was the first sweep since the 2007 World Series, in which the Red Sox topped the Rockies. A four-game sweep that saw the Giants (the Tigers had a team batting average of .159) trounce the Tigers had some negative effects that baseball would have probably liked to avoid. Here are the details.
2012 World Series: Lowest-Rated. Ever.
As a baseball fan, you’re liable to say, “I don’t care.” However, there are pundits out there that will (yet again) say baseball is a dying sport. Now that the series is over, the ratings numbers are in, and the 2012 World Series will go down in history as the lowest rated, ever. According to Nielsen Media Research, FOX averaged a 7.6 rating and 12 shares over the series. Prior to the 2012 World Series, the lowest-rated was the 2008 series between the Phillies and Rays, which had an 8.4 rating average over five games. Through four games last year, Fox was averaging a 9.3 overnight.
How important is money when it comes to making a deep run into the playoffs?
I don’t care how many times you’ve heard it, but money matters in sports. Somewhere along the line, maybe starting with a book by some guy named Lewis about the A’s, someone confused “money doesn’t win championships” for somehow meaning that money doesn’t matter if you want to be competitive. That’s never been true.
We can haggle over this a bit. There’s empirical evidence—a good bit of which comes from this current season—that a team can get into the playoffs without having a massive player payroll. After all, there was “Moneyball” then, and someone will say we saw a new form of “Moneyball” in Oakland this season. But as Nate Silver and Dayn Perry said so eloquently in Baseball Between the Numbers, Billy Beane’s shit hasn’t worked in the postseason. In truth, having money helps if you wish to go deep into the playoffs.
A look at how agencies may share in the responsibility of PED use.
It probably goes without saying, but when a player tests positive for performance-enhancing drugs, it impacts his career. Not only does the player get suspended 50 games without pay for a first-time offense, it ripples forward into how that player’s performance is perceived in the future. If the player is marketable, it can go further by impacting things such as sponsorships. This is, of course, by design. The idea is that if the penalties are high enough, it acts as a deterrent. It's essentially a case of "if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime."
What hasn’t been discussed is the impact on the player representatives and how they fit into the mix. For most fans, the assumption has been that a violation of the league and union’s Joint Drug Agreement (JDA) is predominantly a reflection of the player himself with little thought as to how others come into play.
Maury looks at 2012's attendance winners and losers as well as some early postseason ratings.
With the 2012 regular season in the books, it’s time to look at how clubs did at selling tickets. Yes, they call it “attendance,” but it’s really “paid attendance,” a showing of tickets sold and rarely reflective of actual butts in the seats. The league’s 30 clubs drew 74,859,268 over 2,423 games this year: an increase of 2 percent. While this wasn’t as good as I projected before the season started, it was the league’s largest year-to-year growth since the 2007 season total rose 4.6 percent over 2006. Nine clubs drew more than three million in paid attendance this season, while 13 clubs eclipsed the 2.5 million mark. In addition, this is the second consecutive season that total attendance increased over the previous year and marks the highest attendance since 2008. When things are all said and done, 2012 will rank as the fifth-best single-season in MLB history in terms of attendance.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that attendance between 2010 and 2011, while technically up, was basically the same. The league sold 397,715 more tickets last year than 2010, or an increase of less than one percent. Let’s call that what it is: flat. In fact, over the last four years, the league has seen attendance pretty much remain flat. When you factor in new ballparks for the Mets, Yankees, Twins, and Marlins over the period, this tells us that either the sour economy still holds its grip on America’s discretionary income or MLB’s true “golden era”, as Selig likes to call it, was really 2004-2008 when attendance soared. Still, the league has to be happy; last year, the Dodgers’ attendance cratered during Frank McCourt’s tenure, and there were a considerable number of rainouts. This season, rainouts weren’t as high, and with the two additional Wild Card teams added in, the races for a postseason berth were more compelling.
A look at whether the Dodgers' new regional sports network will help them avoid revenue-sharing duties.
It went under the mainstream radar, but an article by Bloomberg News this past week raised the debate about economic parity within the league. The story centers on the lucrative television rights deal that the Dodgers are nearing as part of a potential regional sports network (RSN) and a “secret agreement” that would allow them to “cap income subject to revenue-sharing.” The article’s thrust is that somehow the Dodgers one-upped MLB and have figured out a way to get an advantage over all the other clubs as part of the sale that brought them out of bankruptcy.
A look at Houston's decision to use television money to pay down debts instead of putting it toward player payroll.
Back in August, I asked, How Low Can Jim Crane Go?—a reference to Houston’s player payroll. In the article, I tracked how the club has been dramatically cutting player payroll in recent months. Since then, there has been more cutting, a continued emphasis on player development (congrats to our BP colleagues Mike Fast on going to Houston and Kevin Goldstein joining him as Pro Scouting Coordinator), and increased revenues that will be available via Comcast SportsNet Houston. The team (along with the Houston Rockets) will own just over 77 percent of the network and will receive an annual $26.28 million raise, beginning in 2014, on the $23.72 million they currently receive as part of the league’s national television contract.
The Astros are approaching the end of their second consecutive 100-loss season, and a move into the AL West next season (where the bar for spending has been set high by the Rangers and Angels) means continued losing is likely for the foreseeable future. Since that article of mine in late August, a number of sources close to the club have said that there are have been grumblings within the organization regarding how the increased television revenues will be used.