BOB: Instant replay and the Cubs sale

Instant replay starts this week

It’s now been 10 months since baseball’s general managers voted overwhelmingly to institute instant replay into baseball and it all begins this week. Beginning Thursday, umpires will be able to check video on home run calls. This would include determining whether a fly ball went over the fence, whether a home run was fair or foul and whether there was fan interference on a given play.

Expect some delays if a play is reviewed. To view a replay, the umpires will have to leave the field and go where technicians at MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) will provide the video. The crew chief will make the final decision. As with football’s instant replay rule, there will have to be clear and convincing evidence for something to be overturned.

Cubs suitor list down to five

Unnamed sources familiar with the Chicago Cubs sale by the Tribune Co. have said that the company has narrowed the list of groups in the running for the Cubs down to five. It’s unclear which of the original nine are in the running, but the most interesting name on the list is Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

Tribune needs to sell the team so it can pay off some of its debt and owner Sam Zell said he hopes a sale goes through by year’s end. It’s expected that the Cubs, when combined with Wrigley Field and a 25 percent interest in a local sports channel, will fetch upwards of $1 billion.

ESPN and MLB team up on digital rights deal

MLB and ESPN signed a deal last week that will allow ESPN to put digital baseball content on a variety of platforms. The deal extends and expands an earlier agreement between the two parties through 2013; terms haven’t been disclosed. It will allow ESPN to provide live game streaming and highlights packages both on the Internet and on a variety of mobile platforms and let ESPN put MLB content on download services like Apple’s iTunes and Microsoft’s Xbox Live.

Athletics looking to switch regional sports networks

You never like sending money to your competitors and that’s one reason that the Oakland Athletics are talking to Comcast about a change for their local television rights. Their current carrier, CSN Bay Area, is partially owned by the San Francisco Giants. If Comcast agrees, the new carrier would be CSN West and the Athletics would get a deal that’s similar to what the Giants got from CSN Bay Area. They’d get an equity stake in exchange for a long term television rights deal. The hope is that CSN West would also televise additional games for the Athletics’ Triple-A affiliate, the Sacramento River Cats.

Orioles bring in 100 millionth fan

Just days after bringing in their 50 millionth fan at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Baltimore Orioles celebrated another milestone. On Aug. 23, the Orioles welcomed their 100 millionth fan in the team’s history. They celebrated the designated fan and provided the middle school math teacher with $100,000, season tickets for five years and a package of VIP amenities.

Minor league roundup

Two major league teams extended player development contracts with their minor league affiliates this week. One was the New York Yankees, who already had extended their contract with their Double-A affiliate, the Trenton Thunder. This week, they signed on with the Charleston RiverDogs for four more years. The San Diego Padres also extended with one of their affiliates. The Eugene Emeralds of the Northwest League will be the Padres’ minor league affiliate for another four years.

The Clearwater Threshers set an attendance record this week. They broke the record on Sunday, eclipsing the prior year’s record of 166,359. The Threshers are in the Florida State League and they’ve been an affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies since 1985.

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