Business of Baseball Report

Robert Castellini and Company to Purchase Cincinnati Reds

Robet Castellini, the chairman of a Cincinnati-based produce company, headed a group that agreed to buy a controlling interest in the Cincinnati Reds. I reported a while back that the team’s 51.5% non-controlling share was up for sale, but it appears that the current owner, Carl Lidner, has agreed to give up control of the team to the new group. The ultimate sales price is $270 million, and the new ownership group will own 70-80% of the team.

Castellini isn’t new to MLB, as he owns a minority share of the St. Louis Cardinals (a share he’ll ultimately have to give up). Reds fans haven’t had much to cheer about the last few years, and bloggers at Reds Cutting Edge and Red Reporter are both a little skeptical. It appears that because manager Jerry Narron and general manager Dan O’Brien both have a year left on their contracts, the current management team will be left in place at least for this one year.

Front Office Musical Chairs

The big news last week was that Theo Epstein, now former general manager of the Boston Red Sox, wasn’t going to sign a contract extension with the team. In his press conference, he never really explained why he was leaving, but many speculate that it revolved around a power struggle between Larry Lucchino and him.

Another big-market franchise, the Los Angeles Dodgers, also has to find a new general manager. The team fired Billy Beane’s former right-hand man, Paul DePodesta, and is now on the look out for a replacement. They’re also looking for a new manager, but it’s been rumored that Orel Herscheiser will be the next skipper for the Dodgers. Kim Ng, the team’s assistant general manager, will be the first to interview for the job, and if she’s given the assignment, she’ll become the first female general manager in the league’s history. John Hart, the former GM of the Texas Rangers and the engineer of the deal that brought Alex Rodriguez to the Rangers for the largest contract in the league’s history (10 years, approximately $250 million), has also talked to Dodger’s owner Frank McCourt about the job. There’s also speculation that Epstein will be contacted.

And speaking of Billy Beane, it was his decision to stay in Oakland three years ago that eventually put both Epstein and DePodesta in their current jobs. This blogger speculates about what might have happened had Beane took the Boston Red Sox GM job.

In the meantime, many teams have made changes in their front offices. Jon Daniels was promoted by the Texas Rangers to replace John Hart as the team’s GM. Daniels beat the record set by Epstein and became the youngest-ever general manager at 28 years and 41 days old. Former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan was promoted by the Orioles to become their new executive vice president of baseball operations. He replaced the recently fired Jim Beattie. Josh Bynes, who worked in the Red Sox front office with Theo Epstein, left to replace Joe Garagiola to become the Arizona Diamondbacks’ senior vice president of baseball operations. Former Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays GM Pat Gillick signed on with the Philadelphia Phillies, and another youngster, Andrew Friedman, was promoted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to become their executive vice president of baseball operations.

With vacancies in both Boston and Los Angeles, both teams are sending delegations to this week’s general managers’ meetings in Indian Wells, Calif.

Demolition of Busch Stadium Begins

At 3 p.m. last Friday, the demolition of Busch Stadium began. The first casualty of the wrecking ball will be one of the trademarks of the stadium, as a ring of the stadium’s arches in the southwest corner was set to be knocked down first. Because the footprint of the new Busch Stadium is within the footprint of the old ballpark, the demolition will be a touchy project. It’s speculated that the complete dismantling of the stadium won’t be finished until June 2006.

Eminent Domain Laws Come Under Fire

The U.S House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would curtail the Supreme Court’s recent decision that allowed eminent domain to be used to obtain land for commercial purposes. The bill would withhold for two years all federal economic development funds from stats and localities that use the furtherance of economic development as a reason for eminent domain. It would also bar the federal government from using eminent domain for the sole purpose of economic development.

After passing by a vote of 376-38, the bill now moves on to the U.S. Senate, where Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has introduced a similar bill. If the bill passes, it could significantly affect Washington, D.C.’s attempt to seize the land they need to begin construction of the Washington Nationals’ prospective ballpark.

D.C. Council Examining Cuts in Stadium Features

Washington D.C. Council Chairwoman Linda Cropp warned in last week’s city council meeting that the Washington Nationals’ prospective stadium might face some cuts due to the rising price of the construction materials. Potential cutbacks could come from features both inside and outside of the stadium and could include things like the size of concourses, suites and other amenities. It could also require more parking above ground and shave the number of retail stores at the site.

The warning came as the city council voted to give preliminary approval to three technical amendments to the stadium’s financing package. The amendments were required by Wall Street bond raters as a condition of giving the project’s debt an investment grade rating.

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