Business of Baseball Report

Mets Purge Scouting Staff

The Mets’ front office hasn’t felt like it could go to their farm system to promote major-league ready players over the last few years so they’ve been quietly firing or demoting several members of their scouting department. In all, ten members of the department took a hit, including Vice President Gary LaRocque. LaRocque oversaw the minor leagues and draft since joining the Mets in 1997. Two crosscheckers, who are responsible for quality control of the recommendations made by the scouts in the field, were let go as were four scouts. Three other crosscheckers were given different jobs.

It appears that these changes have been in the works for about a year. Last year, the Mets were set to fire LaRocque but Mets general manager Omar Minaya scrapped the plan and said he wanted to assess the situation for another year. Mets special assistant Al Goldis appears to be spearheading the changes, something he’s been lobbying for since he began working for the team two years ago.

Critics of the changes point to the fact that the Mets haven’t done enough to sway their draft picks with competitive financial packages. Also, the Mets haven’t had a full complement of draft picks over the last five years because of some high profile free agent signings. The one time the Mets actually received an extra pick because Mike Hampton signed with the Rockies in 2001, they used the pick to draft David Wright, who’s been one of the biggest offensive contributors to the team this year.

MLB Botches Latino Legend Promotion

As with just about anything, a great idea can turn into a bad idea if the idea isn’t executed correctly. This is exactly what happened to Major League Baseball (MLB) when they decided to honor the greatest Hispanic baseball players by having fans vote for the all time Latino Legends team.

The first problem is that voting is restricted to MLB.com and Chevrolet dealerships. Chevy is the sponsor of the event, but many feel the voting should be extended to the ballparks. Another point of contention was, when you go to MLB.com to peruse the players eligible, you can only access video highlights. MLB.com has recently fixed this by adding a feature allowing voters to access the players’ statistics.

The final flaw, and definitely the most important one, is that it doesn’t appear outside experts on Latino baseball were consulted when they chose the players who appeared on the ballot. Of the 60 players who initially nominated, some of the choices were pretty odd.

The good news is that MLB is trying to fix their mistakes. They planned on adding 10-15 players to the online ballot. However, when I went to MLB.com, this wasn’t apparent. They did give fans the option to view the prospective player’s statistics, so they at least fixed that problem. Even after this, some criticize the ballot because it focuses mostly on Latino players who played in the last 20 years instead of focusing on Latino players who paved the way for the current group.

Wrigley Field Hosts First Concert

Over the Labor Day Weekend, Wrigley Field hosted two Jimmy Buffett concerts. With the Chicago Cubs pretty much out of the playoff race, the concert was the hottest ticket in town. It appears the fans that went to the concert will be able to say they truly had a unique experience because it’s the first stand alone concert ever in Wrigley Field’s 91-year history.

It also looks like it will be the last time as well. Cubs President Andy MacPhail has already closed the door for a return visit next year, and it took Jimmy Buffett ten years to persuade the Cubs to host the concert in the first place. The largest point of contention is whether Wrigley’s turf can handle the concert traffic and whether they can get the field back in shape in time for its intended use, baseball.

Nationals Stadium Lease Delayed

Mark Tuohey, the chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, said this weekend that MLB and Washington D.C. are still negotiating the lease agreement for the Washington Nationals. The final agreement is an instrumental piece of MLB’s sale of the Nationals because only when the annual lease payments are agreed upon can an accurate sales price be determined. Tuohey said the negotiations will probably be completed within a couple of weeks.

In other Nationals news, MLB requested additional financial information from the eight prospective bidders for the team on Friday. This information includes how much the group is willing to pay, who the lead member of that particular group is, and which banks are providing financing for that group.

Congress Introduces Sixth Steroid Bill

Things usually don’t happen very quickly when it comes to Congress. A flat tax has been talked about for two decades, and when it comes to the budget, there’s more finger pointing then actual results. When it comes to steroids, Congress is all action. House Representative James Sensenbrenner, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has co-authored a bill with Representative John Conyers that would put the Judiciary Department in charge of coming up with the minimum standards for both testing and penalties. The interesting part of the bill is that participation in the program is voluntary, but Sensenbrenner hinted at the fact that there would be incentives for each of the sports leagues to get on board.

It’s been speculated that the “incentives” are actually more of a threat. For baseball, it could be the sport’s antitrust exemption that’s the carrot to get the league on board.

Four of the five other bills introduced to Congress assess a two year ban for first time offenders and a lifetime ban for a second offense. The sixth and final bill, backed by Representative Cliff Stearns, requires a half-season suspension for the first offense.

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