Business of Baseball Report

Orioles Look to Close Up Shop in Washington D.C.

As Baltimore Orioles fan website Earl Weaver Rules illustrates, the Orioles are having a tough of time of late. The team has struggled for the past 10 seasons and attendance is now hitting 20-year lows. While part of the attendance has to do with the on-field product, I’m sure Orioles owner Peter Angelos will have you believe that it has more to do with the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C. than anything else.

Now it appears the Orioles are shutting down their Washington, D.C. presence in the offseason. The Orioles maintained an outlet store in Washington, D.C. for 20 years, and now with the Nationals in town, the Orioles plan on closing the store when the lease runs out. The store had become something of a joke because many felt that it was the Orioles that kept baseball out of Washington, D.C. for so long.

New Twins Stadium Still Set to Open in 2010

In an interview with executive director of the Minnesota Ballpark Authority Dan Kenney, it was reiterated that the Minnesota Twins new stadium should still be on track to open for the 2010 season. Kenney has the difficult job of overseeing the construction of the $522 million stadium that’s set to open in Hennepin County.

In the short interview, everything from how Kirby Puckett would be remembered to how his role as aide to Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat was discussed. Mike Opat was one of the primary proponents on the government’s side for pushing the stadium legislation forward.

Washington, D.C. Trying to Back Track on Garage Plan

Part of the stadium agreement between the city and the Washington Nationals requires 1,225 parking spots at the ballpark site that is the prospective home of the Nationals. Washington, D.C. had delusions of grandeur and hoped to combine a bulk of the parking with two towers being built by local developer Herbert S. Miller. The problems is that the team has right of refusal over the plan, and the Nationals are worried that the towers won’t be ready for the stadium’s 2008 opening.

In an attempt to backtrack, they’ve now sent a contract with a $990,000 buyout fee to Miller. The developer isn’t happy, because he said he’s poured several million dollars on things like planning and legal fees. He thinks he can finish on time so he doesn’t see what the problem is with going forward with his plans. As an alternative plan, the ballpark commission would pave over the surface area of the potential development and provide for parking that way. In that event, they’d have the option to bring someone like Miller back into the fold so the land can be developed at a later date.

Nationals Conditioning Fans to Payroll Cut

Washington Nationals fans shouldn’t get their hopes up too much, even with new ownership. With only five players locked up for the 2007 season, the team appears likely to cut payroll next year. The front office has said it’ll invest more money into things like scouting and player development, so it appears the team is employing a long-term strategy. The big decision the team has to make is whether or not to retain star outfielder Alfonso Soriano. In his first season with the Nationals, Soriano became one of the few players to ever hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season, so it’s expected that he’ll be looking for a multiyear deal that garners around $15 million per season. While the Nationals have the means to pay him that much money, we’ll just have to wait and see whether they have to will to do it.

Devil Rays Look to Expand Latin American Presence

Last spring, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays agreed to share the Dodgers’ Dominican Republic baseball academy to get a foothold on one of the baseball hot beds in Latin America. Now the Devil Rays are going a step further and they’re building a baseball academy in Guaraco, Venezuela. Devil Rays’ senior vice president Gary Hunsicker is spearheading the team’s effort in Latin America. The Rays certainly picked two of the best places to be in Latin America.

Yankees Looking for a New Triple-A Affiliate

The Columbus Clippers have been the New York Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate for the past 28 years. That relationship appears to be ending this year because the Yankees have informed the International League that they might be pulling out of Columbus. That will give the Clippers until September 30 to find a new major league team; the likely choices are the New York Mets, Washington Nationals or the Baltimore Orioles. All three teams have yet to sign on with an affiliate for next year. Columbus is building a new baseball stadium which is expected to open in July 2008, so that might help entice a team to sign on.

Oakland Out of the Coliseum by 2010

I’ve documented the Oakland Athletics’ pursuit of a new stadium in this column over the past several months, and while it seems like a foregone conclusion that the A’s will be moving, the team always wants to protect itself. The A’s were trying to do just that by signing a lease extension that would at least give them the option of playing at the Oakland Coliseum through the 2013 season. Unfortunately, it looks like that’s not going to happen and the A’s have now broken off talks on extending the lease.

This puts them into a situation where they now have a drop dead date. They know they have to get a stadium plan in place soon because a stadium normally takes at least two years to build, sometimes more. That leaves them until probably 2008 at the latest to resolve their stadium issues and pick a place for relocation.

Introducing Bizofbaseball.com

Maury Brown is a former THT columnist who now writes The Ledger Domain at Baseball Prospectus. Maury’s latest project has been Bizofbaseball.com, a one stop source for anything and everything related to the business of baseball. You get everything from news updates to stadium renderings and interviews. Be sure to register (it’s free) because you’ll also get access to things like a player salary database that only shows up once you sign in.

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