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Chat: Maury Brown

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday March 22, 2012 2:00 PM ET chat session with Maury Brown.

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If you'd like to know more about the business of baseball, Maury's your man.

Maury Brown: Hey all! It's been 6 years since my last chat at BP. For those that don't know me, I cover the business side of the game under the "Bizball" header each Monday. Looking forward to getting into the chat for about an hour. Let's get bizy

Richie (Washington): Seeing as how you're the stadium guy, maybe you happen to know at what elevation the Marlins' new stadium is, and how that compares with their old one. Very useful for prognosing how it will play hitter/pitcher-wise.

Maury Brown: Hey Richie,
This is a great questionÖ. The elevations are almost identical (Sun Life Stadium is at 10í above while the new ballpark is at just over 6í above sea level). So, thatís not going to play into how the ball carries. Humity, which has some impacts, is likely to be the same, as well. The key difference will be wind. If the Marlins hold to the same convention that the Mariners have with their retractable roof, it would be open about 70-75% of the time. Thatís the Pacific NW, not South Florida where thunderstorms have wreaked havoc on attendance for the Marlins in the past. Even with the roof open, the ballpark has no openings on the side, such as Safeco does. Iím going to rate it like this: ballpark effect ostensibly the same in terms of weather.

Mike (Lansing, MI): I enjoy your twitter feed for the most part. Anyway you can cut down on the number of tweets each day? For example, last night you tweeted about this chat twice in 15 minutes.

Maury Brown: Hi Mike,
Think I mentioned it three times in 24 hours. Twitter is indespensible for media purposes. At over 10,000 followers, Iíd be remiss in not touting my first chat back with BP in over 6 years. Yes, Iím giddy to be back in the fold here. Sue me. For the rest of you, follow me on Twitter @BizballMaury

ScottyB (Nyack, NY): The Madoff settlement was clearly great for the Wilpons, but isn't it the worst of all outcomes for Mets fans (if there are any left?)- Wilpons don't lose it all and thus can keep the team, but lose enough that it will constrain payroll for the foreseeable future?

Maury Brown: Hey Scotty,
The worst of all outcomes would have been for Sterling (read: read Mets ownership) to have gone to trial, lose the case, and still be struggling. But, where we are now is probably a close second. Yes, the Mets now have revenue to keep them afloat through the season due to the sale of minority shares, but itís a bandaid. Clearly, the Mets need to get it turned around in the standings to get fans to the ballpark. Hereís something to chew onÖ while anything could happen, I would not be surprised to see the Mets try and work a deal to sign Wright to an extension. Whether itís done for baseball purposes, PR purposes, or both, inking Wright to an extension might be one method for Wilpon to put words into action (and possibly) save some face with fans.

Jeff (Baltimore): Is it better for a team to own its own TV network (a la YESN or MASN) or to have a ridiculous deal with an existing provider (a la Texas)?

Maury Brown: Hey there, Jeff,
The answer is, yes. In that I mean, depending on the market, available franchises you can package with, and the market for media rights deals, owning an RSN is the way to go. But, as you mention with the Rangers and the large Dallas/Ft Worth market, and ditto for the Angels in LA/Anaheim, thereís big $ to be had through exisiting networks such as FOX or Time Warner. Thatís why the Dodgers sale is really something to keep an eye on. Either way, itís possible to see a deal that could be between $5B-$7B over 20-years. Itís impacting how clubs go about free agency and long-term deals in a massive way. Itís redefining the have and have-nots in the league.

lasportsguy (Los Angeles): It certainly seems that MLB and Selig really wanted McCourt out with the way they structured his exit. That said, is there hope that the new owners will have any money available to spend on the team in 2012? Thanks.

Maury Brown: Yo, lasportsguy!

Thereís going to be moneyÖ more money to spend on free agents than the Dodgers have seen in some time. If Cohen wins the day, thereís so much disposable cash on hand in the sale that all the TV money pouring in can go straight to addressing the free agenct market. The 2012-13 FA class isnít very deep, but Iíd fully expect the Dodgers to be players in the FA space, regardless of who winds up owning the club come April

jumbos07 (Boston): Any good websites/writers who cover philanthropy in MLB?

Maury Brown: Hmmmm.... no one writer that I know of specifically covers the beat. Lots of great business of baseball writers/reporters out there. If you want recommendations for that, let me know and Iíll answer.

dianagram (VORGville): Hi Maury: Any chance of MLB getting rid of those obnoxious blackout rules for the MLB.TV and Extra Innings packages. We're paying good money for that added coverage ...

Maury Brown: Hey Diana, always great to hear from you....

The answer is (sadly), no. Weíre certainly going to start the season with the same arcane blackout policy that MLB has had going since MLB Extra Innings and the exclusivity agreements were reached with FOX and ESPN as part of national broadcasts. Hereís my fear: it could get worse when the national broadcast deals with FOX, ESPN, and TBS come up at the end of 2013.

randolph3030 (Jersey): Hi Maury, it's great to have you back at BP. Throughout the season we heard report after report stating how dire the Dodgers financial situation was, yet here they are about to be sold for +1.5B, right? Surely, this must put an end to any belief that MLB Owners are in any danger of losing money during their tenure. Has any franchise been sold at a loss in recent or even distant history? The price of everything goes up, yet there seems to be no need - other than greed. On a separate note, do you ever get so discouraged by the thought that this is all such a scam that it taints your love of the game? The recent Sacramento Kings arena deal just blows my mind, but it's really no dif than any number of tax-payer heists that MLB has been accomplice to.

Maury Brown: Well, the Dodger deal (as well as the Rangers and Astros) all have corresponding media rights deals associated to them. Thatís key in driving these massive increases (as an FYI, the Dodgers will wind up being the highest amount ever paid for a N. American sports franchise, surpassing the $1.1 billion that Stephen Ross paid for the Miami Dolphins).
As to the second question, what is the most discouraging is the lack of research (or the willfull ignoring of) on stadiums as economic drivers. Unless itís expansion into a new market, new stadiumus do nothing more than move disposable income from one location to another. And, this insanity where (in most cases) relocation outside of a clubís broadcast territory is nothing more than a veiled threat that will never come about (yes, thatís you Rays and Athletics). It doesnít impact my love of the game. I just seem to have a higher gag reflex than most.

cmd600 (Cleveland): The Phillies desperately need an infielder. The Indians have a couple to spare, but have no LFer. Is Mayberry for Donald+ feasible?

Maury Brown: It's feasible, but as to doing it, it's another matter.

Jeff (Warehouse Worthy) (Baltimore): Well because you asked so nicely - I've always wondered about the Baltimore stadium complex. You have OPACY, M&T Bank, Sports Legends Museum all right next to each other. You think it behooves cities to create these "sport districts" ?

Maury Brown: Depends on available resources. Biggest thing for MLB is that they like to see ballparks as close to the urban core as possible. The days of seeing the likes of Kauffman Stadium built on the edge of town are about done. In that, it becomes difficult to do stadium districts. If itís part of urban renewal, then yes, you could see it happen. Has to be a case of alignment, which is exceptionally difficult. FundsÖ. propertyÖ. needÖ. political climate. Clubs should be happy to get one piece, let alone entire districts (hello, St. Louis)

randolph3030 (Jersey): If I may ask another, what's the most egregious stadium deal in recent history? And what's the family tree of these types of tax-payer funding...I seem to remember the Jake being built on a liquor tax providing a lovely "the Indians drove me to drink and now they are taxing my drink to build a new stadium" kind of irony.

Maury Brown: New Marlins stadium with Nationals Park a very close second. You could call them 1a, 1b. Very bad. The "family-tree" in these deals come from different branches. Iíll simply add thisÖ the days of getting stadium funding through voter referendum are about done. Marlins deal was so sneaky in its backdoornessÖ Iíll leave it at that

dtwhite (Toronto): Any thoughts on how the Jays' owners have used their corporate media control for the benefit of the baseball team (as compared to Rogers' other assets)?

Maury Brown: The Blue Jays have a situation which is wholly different than every other club in the league: they have a monopoly of sorts in terms of being the only MLB club left standing in Canada. That provides opportunity for Rogers. Plus, itís broadcast content. Live sporting events are still an advertisers dream. I think that the Blue Jays are truly one of the clubs that will benefit the most from the additional Wild Cards being added. Rogers can benefit from that if it pans out as such.

Randy (Houston): Do you think that the massive revenue increase in MLB during the Selig era may level off in the near future, or could it continue unabated? Between the in-park advertising/naming rights, new parks with luxury suites, and media rights deals, I'm not creative enough to envision where the next big pot o' gold will come from.

Maury Brown: Itís going to continue to grow. Until we hit the glass-ceiling on these media rights deals, revenues are going to grow. In fact, Iím predicting an especially lucrative year for the league. The additional Wild Cards are up for broadcast rights, which dovetails into renewing the national broadcast deals. Throw in the Angels, Rangers, Astros, and Dodgers seeing local deals that are massive upgrades in terms of dollars flowing in, and the recipe is in place for (another) banner year for MLB.

Roger (NY): When did clubs begin adopting the front-office structure that's currently in place?

Maury Brown: This is a good questionÖ. Well, we certainly saw a massive shift beginning in 1974 with the advent of free agency. Before, you had guys like Finley who were, for all intents and purposes, GMs. But, the role of GMs have continued to surpass the dugout manager over the last 20-25 years, and I donít see that changing. What is interesting to me is the role of president in a lot of clubs. Many of them play the role of public facing for ownership. Kasten with the Nationals (and if his group with Magic winds up owning the Dodgers might be the same) is a good example. Armstrong with the Mariners is another. Some owners like to keep a lower profile than others.

randolph3030 (Jersey): Now to be positive for a moment, has any team impressed you lately with a particularly clever business move? Or a front office that you are especially impressed by? Please apologize to dianagram for my unfortunate habit of ending sentences with prepositions.

Maury Brown: Iím very impressed with the Brewers ownership and front office. They have done a fantastic job of marketing in one of Ė if not the Ė smallest market in baseball. The Rays are another from a talent procurement perspective, as well as trying to make lemonade out of lemons in terms of the Trop and bad attendance. From a marketing perspective, the flavor of the day seems to be breaking Guiness Records. I donít know if the Astros doing an attempt at one massive harmonica blast was a great idea, but itís got to be the most memoriable for me in the last 10 years.

Maury Brown: Thanks very much for all the great questions. I'm looking forward to doing many more of them with regularity. Next time we chat, it's likely the Dodgers will have a new owner. Now *that* will be something to chat about. Have a great one, Maury


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