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Chat: Maury Brown

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday June 21, 2006 2:00 PM ET chat session with Maury Brown.

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Maury Brown is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Maury Brown: Hi all. Welcome to my first chat. Iíve got espresso in my system and a playlist loaded, so Iím ready to go. For those that donít know much about me, Iím the co-chair of SABRís Business of Baseball committee, and Iím the editor of SABRís business of baseball committee website, BusinessOfBaseball.com, as well as The Baseball Journals.

Portland Reds (PDX): Do you see any big surprises coming in the next CBA?

Maury Brown: It will be interesting to see what percentage of increase management pushes for revenue sharing. One has to wonder how far above the current 34% of net local revenue will be suggested, and where weíll finally land. But, thatís not really a big surprise

The biggest possible shakeup could be in a couple of areas. I can see the Players Association look to gain access to some of the revenues that are being collected by the MLBAM. The other could be over the steroid issue. Between what happened with Mike Morseís positive test last year, and the Mitchell investigation, Iíd look for the PA to push for more protections for the players.

KB (Washington, DC): What self-respecting baseball fan doesn't love a list! So...Who are your Top 5 Most Influential People in Baseball of the Post-Strike Years?

Maury Brown: Hmmm... This is a good one...

5) Scott Boras
4) Peter Angelos (not nessecarily for good reasons)
3) Jerry Reinsdorf
2) Don Fehr
1) And yes... Bud Delig

KB (Washington, DC): What self-respecting baseball fan doesn't love a list! So...Who are your Top 5 Most Influential People in Baseball of the Post-Strike Years?

Maury Brown: Hmmm... This is a good one...

5) Scott Boras
4) Peter Angelos (not nessecarily for good reasons)
3) Jerry Reinsdorf
2) Don Fehr
1) And yes... Bud Delig

Mark Prior's Bad Outting (Land of VORP): Al DiMeola, Jeff Beck, Steve Morse, or Micheal Schenker?

Maury Brown: This has to be someone that knows me, although for the life of me, I don't know who...

Let's do it this way...

Land of the Midnight Sun, Wired, Dregs of the Earth, Lights Out.

maxexpos (Montreal): In all my years of witnessing CBA negotiations, I hae wondered why the commisionner is the representative of the owners and always sides with the owners. Shouldn't the commisionner be neutral? I personnally believe that if we had a non-partisan commisionner that did not favour the owners and instead tried to bridge the gap between players and owners and act in the best interest of baseball. What do you think?

Maury Brown: Well, you'd think, but here's the rub...

The Commissioner is more of a CEO than a true Commissioner. He's hired and fired by the owners. He represents their interests, no matter what you're going to hear.

I don't think we're ever going to see a fully neutral Commissioner. It's the "CEO model" from here on out.

jgalt73 (Portland, Oregon): Do the owners of a team like the Cubs who play on a superstation and sell out the stadium regardless of the product on the field have anything major to gain by winning?

Maury Brown: The Cubs, Red Sox, and some might say, Yankees have this distinct advantage of drawing fans regardless of how poorly they perform. In some senses itís due to facility size (Iím referring to the Red Sox and Cubs). If the Tribune Co. can run with a lower payroll, tank in the standings, and still draw?... After that point it has to come down to ownership ego. I think most owners want to win, and show up their fellow owners. Call it pride Ė what have you. On the other hand, some clubs have been putting in the minimal amount and collecting revenue sharing monies for years and fielding marginal talent. At some stage you ask yourself if itís ownership by bean counting, as opposed to winning.

steeplechase3k (Portland, OR): What got you so interested in the business side of baseball?

Maury Brown: I grew up in the Bay Area, first taking in the Giants, but to be honest all I can remember as a kid was freezing my tail off at Candlestick. When Finely arrived in Oakland, we took in games there, and I was immediately attracted to, of all things, Harvey the rabbit. Harvey was the mechanical rabbit that would pop up out the ground by homeplate to deliver baseballs to the umpires. Between that and the orange baseballs that Finley gave away (part of his attempt to get MLB to use orange balls at night so that they could be seen better by fans and on television), it was something that stuck with me.

When I arrived in Portland, I became part of the MLB to Portland effort during the Expos derby, and my interest has grown ever since.

Mike (Michigan): Welcome to Baseball Prospectus, Maury. Looking forward to more articles. I dug your artcile on MLB.TV. How important is the MLBAM to MLB's overall picture?

Maury Brown: Thanks Mike...

When you think about MLB.com being started in June of 2000 with a $5 million investment from the 30 owners, to what is projected to be $300 million in revenues for this year, MLBAM is a very big factor in MLBís overall picture. Itís been a revenue making juggernaut.

Broken Glass (KC): Hey Maury, Good to see you at BP. What's your take on the Royals and the revoking of media credentials for two members of the media?

Maury Brown: Well, they conveniently chose two members of the electronic media to pull this with. If it had been members of the BBWAA, it would have never happened.

As to how the Royals handled the matter...

If the Royals applied the same level of effort that they have on this matter to the front office, theyíd probably be doing a heck of a lot better than have been the past few years. My message: Look inward

Azteca (Omaha): About Cleveland: I returned this week to BP '06 and read the chapter on the Indians. The primary point made was that, Shapiro has based his team-building strategy on his predecessor's, John Hart's; the problem with this, however, is that Hart had nearly unlimited resources (supplied by a new stadium & very high attendance), while Shapiro is working in a different era. Cleveland's once again among the poorer team's, and can no longer compete for Grade A free agents. With Jason Johnson DFA'd, and Boone, Belliard, and a bunch of others reportedly on the block, has this caveat manifested? In essence, did Cleveland's limited 05-06 free agent options lead to its current 2006 losing record?

Maury Brown: I think that there is some merit to this. Whether you can lay it all at the feet the current revenue stream situation, only time will tell

Blair Cash (Newberg, OR): How will the Jason Grimsley exposures and possible resultant events affect major league baseball as we know it? I can foresee a "worst-case" scenario of many players being banned from the game, fans staying away in droves, salaries slashed, some teams folding. This has the potential to ruin baseball for years to come (and no team coming to Portland!). What are your thoughts and insights, oh mighty guru of the game?

Maury Brown: I wish I were a guru of the game! Thatís for others on the staffÖ

As to the questionÖ

I think that we over estimate how the steroid issue plays out in the overall. Attendance hasnít been impacted by the controversy, and I doubt that Grimleyís list on the affidavit will do much, if any, damage to the game.

What has fans incensed, is seeing their sports icons being molested. We see Williams, Mays, Ruth, and Aaron as earning their records through old-fashion hard work and talent. The talent aspect of Barry Bonds has gotten completely glossed over by the claims that he used steroids to gain his records. Would this have occurred in í98 with McGwire and Sosa if we were in todayís steroid environment? Probably, but to what extent, weíll never know.

bowie (austin, tx): Isn't the MLBAM money going to filter down to players eventually if that money is distributed to teams/owners, who could apply it toward player salaries? Why would players have to negotiate for a slice?

Maury Brown: Well, that's the Reaganomics perspective.

The fact is, MLB's EBITDA figures (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) have increased because player compensation has remained, for the most part, flat over the course of the current CBA. The MLBAM revenues are going to ownership, not the players. I think the PA would prefer a direct cut, as opposed to seeing if it trickles down through player salaries.

Sam Miles (Columbia, MO): According to Forbes, David Glass made millions of dollars last year by keeping his revenue sharing checks...giving him a profit of 20 or 30 million. Whats the point of revenue sharing if you can't make the owners use it? Will there ever be a requirement?

Maury Brown: Technically, there is a requirement. This is from the current CBA:

(5) Other Undertakings

(a) A principal objective of the revenue sharing plan is to promote the growth of the Game and the industry on an individual Club and on an aggregate basis. Accordingly, each Club shall use its revenue sharing receipts (from the Base Plan, the Central Fund Component and the Commissionerís Discretionary Fund) in an effort to improve its performance on the field. The Commissioner shall enforce this obligation by requiring, among other things, each Payee Club, no later than April 1, to report on the performance-related uses to which it put its revenue sharing receipts in the preceding revenue sharing year. Consistent with his authority under the Major League Constitution, the Commissioner may impose penalties on any Club that violates this obligation.

It's how the funds are being used that is at question. Did the monies go to player development? If that's the requisite, then owners can claim that they are indeed using the monies correctly.

This is a serious issue in the upcoming negotiations. Certainly Don Fehr and owners such as John Henry and George Stienbrenner have noticed.

Azteca (Omaha): Have read a lot of your work recently--here, at THT, and on your site--and have really enjoyed it. The question of the hour, I suppose, regards the Grimsley case, so here goes: What means does Grimsley have to get his paycheck from the DBacks? How does Kendrick's reaction to, first, Grimsley, and then questions about Luis Gonzalez's peak season reflect the owners position in this year's Accord? And why has Don Fehr not yet said a word about the DBack owners tirade?

Maury Brown: First off, Kendrick should consider decaf. The comments about Gonzalez did nothing more than divide the players against ownership, and if the standing are any indicator, it's impacted the play on the field.

For one thing, those investigating have said that no DBack players are on the list.

As for MLBPA not saying anything,Craig Counsell, who is a member of the MLBPAís executive committee said, ďA code of conduct will not happen,Ē Counsell said. ďOur rules in this game are through the collective bargaining agreement.

ďIf itís through the collective bargaining agreement, if itís something thatís bargained, fine. But for me, doing things individually, team by team, is a dangerous precedent, and I donít think itís something we should get into.Ē

I think Counsell just about summed it up.

carlosrubi (Mexico): What solution can we expect to the nation-wide MLB blackout problem?

Maury Brown: This is becoming more and more of an issue with the advent of showing games on the web. It may take an act of Congress to get it sorted out.

Tim (Laurel, MD): What do you see as the next cities to join the major leagues? What cities do theyy use as the new DC, the threat? Is a third NY team possible? Does baseball go to the biggest market in North America without a major-league team? What about Portland?

Maury Brown: Well, this is a topic I've been involved with directly as I live here in Portland and worked on the MLB to Portland effort, so take that under consideration...

There are currently no real threats... at least not unless a small to mid-market rolls out stadium funding with little to no up front ownership equity. Vegas? forget it. DMA too small. Portland? Market size is the largest stateside without MLB, but if there's no stadium funding, and leadership willing to help facilitate that, then that's a dead-end, as well.

Northern NJ is a threat. It would have to come through MLB willing to get around television territory issues. As one high ranking MLB executive said about that... "If Bud could get the owners to agree to fund MLBAM as a centralized fund, then they could get N. NJ to fly. If Bud wants it, Bud can get it."

shamah (DC): How much do you think MLB can learn from other leagues when it comes to labor relations? Is there any aspect of the NFL they should be emulating, or any aspect of the NHL they should be particularly avoiding (besides penalty shots)?

Maury Brown: Before answering this... seems we had a bit of a server issue... I'll see if I can get to as many of these questions as I can before signing off...

There may be a faction of owners that want to get hawkish and say that a lockout and a cap can be done. After all, the NHL has survived. I'd say that MLB should look at what they've been able to do by not having a work stoppage. Sponsors... advertisement... television deals... all of them can be brokered more easily if there is labor peace. And, they should be able to keep revenues flowing without a stoppage.

maxexpos (Montreal): Hey Maury, Looking forward to the next installment of your report. What do you see as the major issues that will divide the players and owners in the upcoming CBA negotiations? What do you think will happen in the end? And are things leaning in the direction of a labour stoppage?

Maury Brown: I'll go out on the limb (a fairly sturdy one at this time, I might add) and say that there will be labor peace.

carlosrubi (Mexico): Even if we're strongly biased towards baseball, which major sport in the US is the best one to invest in, of course business-wise?

Maury Brown: This one is easy.... the NFL. Although...

If you wanted to get in low and make a profit for the future, I'd say that the NHL is where the business upside is.

mike w (chicago): Whaddya hear about the Tribune possibly selling the Cubs due to their cahsflow issues?

Maury Brown: I think it would be a mistake. Hey, the Cubs are the one holding that actually is consistant and makes money. Unless they figure out a way to kill the golden goose.

carlosrubi (Mexico): What does David Segui's confession tell us about the medical use of HGH?

Maury Brown: That there are gray areas in the CBA that need to be clarified. This area will be a key component of the next round of collective bargaining.

Handol (Fort Lee): when it comes to CBA negotiations, do you feel like the rest of the owners gang up on George Steinbrenner? Are the interets of the yankees in direct conflict with the interests of all other teams?

Maury Brown: Not nessecarily. At a certain point, clubs like the Angels and Mariners come into the picture, as well.

The Yankees, Red Sox and Angels all broke through the Luxury Tax threshold during this agreement. Were the Yankees the biggest offenders? Certainly.

Watch... The Yankees appear to be getting a new facility built. That will allow them to get out of a portion of their revenue sharing obligation. When the money flowing to the have-nots lowers, look for adjustments in the revenue sharing system

Tim (Laurel): "Consistent with his authority under the Major League Constitution, the Commissioner may impose penalties on any Club that violates this obligation." Shouldn't they rewirte that to read "the Commissioner SHALL impose..."? We all know that Bug Selig will never do it.

Maury Brown: Couple more and then I have to duck out...

Well, this is why high revenue making clubs and the PA want to see something more defined.

TBP (somewhere near DC): Why shouldn't MLB have a salary floor? The diea that teams are just taking their revenue sharing money and pocketing it is obscene. And this would help with the disparity.

Maury Brown: Last question...

The PA will say that there is a floor... it's called the minimum salary.

I want to thank everyone for submitting questions today. Sorry I couldn't get to all of them due to the technical glitches.

As an aside... Dan Fox and I are presenting at the upcoming SABR convention is Seattle on the upcoming CBA. I hope that if you are going you'll swing by and say, "Hi."

Remember... Race with the Devil on a Spanish Highway.

Maury Brown: By the way... Hope to see you all here next time. And, look for an interview with Brewers principle owner Mark Attanasio soon. As always I can be reached by email... mbrown@baseballprospectus.com


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