Business of Baseball Report

MLB Rumored to Change Draft Date, Minor League Team Structure

While nothing has been publicly announced, Baseball America writer Will Lingo wrote an excellent column on several possible changes to both the minor league system and the amateur entry draft that are being contemplated by the league. These changes include moving the draft from the first Tuesday in June to the last Tuesday in June. This would coincide with a possible universal signing deadline for draft picks that could be either August 1 or August 15.

The other major change would be the elimination of at least two of the short season leagues and the possibility that each major league team could lose at least one affiliate. Both the Arizona and Gulf Coast leagues are owned by their respective major league teams, so they would have the best chance of being eliminated. Whether other short season leagues like the Pioneer and Appalachian Leagues change their structure is uncertain.

If each major league team loses a minor league affiliate, it could be a potential windfall for independent leagues. Career minor leaguers will probably find that they’ll get the short end of the stick and be forced to play for the independent leagues. Teams will be more hard pressed to keep their most current draft picks with any potential than they would those players who have been hanging around AAA into their 30s.

Clark Construction Recommended to Build D.C. Ballpark

Clark Construction Group, LLC has been recommended by the chief executive of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission to build the Washington Nationals’ next stadium. The 10-member commission, while set to meet yesterday, delayed its final determination until Friday, so nothing is official until then. The city will begin the process of securing the land from the current owners by the end of the year and construction should begin in March of 2006. That gives the contractor two years to finish the stadium so the Nationals can begin play for the 2008 season.

Clark Construction has some experience with these tight deadlines. They built FedEx Stadium, the home of the Washington Redskins, in 17 months. The contract is worth $9.4 million to the builder.

Marlins’ Fans Must Pay Up For Playoff Tickets

The Florida Marlins are requiring season ticket holders who want their regular seats for the playoffs to renew their 2006 season tickets by September 1. The team also plans to raise ticket prices for next year, effectively making the price of those playoff tickets even higher. This requirement is uncommon in baseball and is a new policy for the Marlins.

Team President David Samson wrote off most of the arguments against the policy. He said that many season ticket holders have already renewed, and that they’ve gotten only seven complaints. Fans who have a 10-game ticket package will also be able to secure playoff tickets if they buy a 2006 season ticket package.

Cardinals Set to Cash in on New Stadium

St. Louis Cardinals general partner Bill DeWitt, Jr. was extremely optimistic about the team’s finances in a recent interview. While the Cardinals are in the sixth smallest television market, DeWitt says that the franchise is overachieving financially and that attendance should easily exceed the 3.1 million fans that were expected for Busch Stadium’s final season. The team is also cashing in this year because of the new stadium that’s set to open for the 2006 season.

If you throw in the fact that stadium construction and bond financing will be amortized over 10 years and used to reduce their revenue sharing outlays, the team is sitting pretty. Only the Chicago Cubs have the financial backing to be able to match the Cardinals’ increased revenue stream in the National League Central. Fans should expect more in the future from a team that’s made the playoffs five times in the last six years.

Luxury Suites a Tough Sell

When Baltimore’s Camden Yards opened in 1992, there were 100 luxury suites in the Baltimore-Washington area. Thirteen years later, there are 800 suites in the area, and this is common in just about every city that contains multiple sports teams. Owners have been forced to freeze prices and even split up the suites into quarter- and half-season packages to lease their suites. Gimmicks are also common. The Indians have provided wine tastings, massages and shoe shines to suite owners as extra incentives for leasing.

The problems occur mostly in smaller markets. Teams like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs say they have no problem leasing out their suites because of the number of large corporations located in those cities.

MLB to Pick Nationals’ Owner in 30 Days

Major League Baseball hasn’t been very good with its deadlines. The Montreal Expos’ move went a year and a half past its deadline; the sale of the team, however, appears to be Bud Selig’s top priority, so there’s a chance this could just happen by the end of the season.

MLB president Bob DuPuy said last week that they were hoping to pick an owner in a month and then close the sale by the end of the World Series. Step one in the process is to nail down a sales price, which is expected to fall out at $450 million.

Comcast Looking to Nab Baseball from ESPN

It seems like Bud Selig and MLB can’t lose these days. ESPN allegedly attempted to play hardball with MLB over its Sunday/Wednesday baseball coverage and Comcast has now put its hand into the cookie jar and the competition for the television rights will only help the league. Comcast, through its Outdoor Life Network, will provide a television outlet for the National Hockey League this season, and the company is hoping to use that to spring itself into being a solid competitor to ESPN. Baseball looks to be the next target.

The Wednesday/Sunday night cable package expires at the end of this season, and ESPN’s exclusive negotiating window expired in June. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, especially considering Comcast could help accommodate MLB’s plan to have its own Baseball Channel.

Bronx Residents Lobbying Against Steinbrenner’s Stadium Plans

Environmental advocates and local residents have begun to speak out against the plans for a new Yankees Stadium. The ballpark is expected to be located next to the current Yankees Stadium, and opponents say the new stadium will burden a community that’s already hit hard by heavy traffic and high unemployment. Government watchdog groups also fear that the proposed city funding, which will be used to create new parking and to improve the infrastructure, will be a waste of city funds.

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