Business of Baseball Report

D.C. Council Votes Down Stadium Lease

I expected to be up half the night waiting for the council to make a decision, but they bailed me out by voting on the stadium lease shortly after 8:30 p.m. EST. They also bailed me out because now I’ll have even more to write about in this column because the council voted down the stadium lease deal by a vote of 8-5. I’ll be very interested to hear what MLB has to say about this, but I have a feeling in next week’s report, you’ll be reading about “arbitration” and “exploring all options.” Apparently Northern Virginia is looking to move in on the Nationals, but they have no interim facility nor do they have a stadium plan. In addition, they probably don’t have eight $450 million offers lined up for the team, although it’ll also be interesting to see how many of those bidders begin to back down after today’s events.

Maury Brown did a great job of keeping me (and everyone else who stopped by) up to speed on the day’s events. You can check out his running commentary at his blog, The Baseball Journals.

Door Opens for Twins’ Relocation

Hennepin County District Judge Charles Porter ruled on Monday that the Minnesota Twins were free of their lease at the Metrodome in 2003. This means that once the 2006 season is completed, the Twins are no longer obligated to play in the Metrodome.

With Twins owner Carl Pohlad’s past, this appears to be more then just posturing. He’s made attempts to move the team before and this now clears the way for him to do just that if he doesn’t get a stadium deal to his liking. Now the pressure will be on the Minnesota legislature and the governor to push through a deal that would entice the Twins to stay. As it stands, it appears that the best option was the same as last year’s: is the $478 million deal with Hennepin County that never made it through the legislature.

Players’ Union Saving for a Rainy Day

The current collective bargaining agreement expires on December 19, 2006, and the players are preparing for the worst. Rather than give each player his share of the standard licensing revenue, the money is going into a contingency fund in the event that there’s a work stoppage. This works out to be nearly $34,000 for each player.

At this stage, a strike appears unlikely, but Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Donald Fehr knows better than to take chances. This is a prudent move, and it’s likely that former union head Marvin Miller would have done the same. In Fehr’s memo to the players, he makes reference to the latest National Hockey League strike; a full season was cancelled and the players ended up agreeing to an unfavorable deal in the end.

Tiger Stadium Hosts Bud Bowl Event

With Superbowl XL here in Detroit this season, there were definitely several events going on in downtown Detroit, and for the first time in a long time, Tiger Stadium hosted an event. The Anheuser-Busch Bud Bowl 2006 basically turned Tiger Stadium into a night club for two nights, but it didn’t stop sports fans from getting nostalgic. Snoop Dogg held a concert during the festivities and there was even a trapeze act.

The last time anything was held at Tiger Stadium was 2001, when the stadium hosted three collegiate and semi-pro games. Also in 2001, the film 61* was shot at the stadium.

What happens next with Tiger Stadium is a mystery. Many contend that it’s an eyesore and that it should be torn down, while others want it to stay standing in some capacity. For now, it doesn’t appear that the city of Detroit is willing to spend the estimated $3.5-4 million in demolition costs, so people like me will still be able to get nostalgic when we drive by the old stadium heading down I-75.

SBC Park No More

After the 2003 season, the name of the stadium where the San Francisco Giants play was changed from Pacific Bell Park to SBC Park. Now, because of the merger between SBC and AT&T, the stadium name is changing again. This time around, it’ll be called AT&T Park. The Giants assured fans that the ballpark experience wouldn’t be altered, but the name change will require the removal of hundreds of signs and logos throughout the facility. The changes are expected to be finished by mid-season.

Brewers Renovating Right Field Into Picnic Area

Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, opened in 2001. Five years after opening, the Brewers are constructing what they hope is one of the biggest fan-friendly projects since the ballpark opened. Their plan is to construct a ground-level picnic area that would sit approximately 75 fans near the right field foul pole.

The area will include bar stools and tables, and only an eight-foot high chain link fence will separate the fans from right field. In addition, there will be a large window that will allow fans to look into the visiting bullpen. The Brewers’ executive vice president of business operations, Rick Schlesinger, says that a name for the area hasn’t been chosen yet and that the team is negotiating with several companies interested in naming rights.

First Arbitration Case Heard

Colorado Rockies pitcher Sunny Kim lost his arbitration case with the team last week. He’ll make $600,000 instead of the $800,000 he was hoping for. It was the first arbitration case heard this season. Last season, an all-time low three cases made it to actual arbitration. The owners won two of those cases and lost one; it was their ninth winning season in a row. After the Kim arbitration case, the owners have won 265 arbitration cases and the players have won 198.

MLB Shuts Out Las Vegas

Neither MLB nor the Florida Marlins would comment, but it’s believed that MLB informed the Marlins that they can’t meet with Las Vegas officials in their relocation search. There’s speculation that MLB still has concerns about putting a team in the gambling capital of the United States. To date, Las Vegas has offered the team the best stadium financing package, and there’s speculation that MLB might back off their stance.

Cardinals Denied Insurance Claim

The St. Louis Cardinals had a $7.5 million insurance claim denied by Greenwich Insurance, Inc. The team filed the claim in January 2004 to cover the costs of some environmental cleanup required during the construction of new Busch Stadium. The insurance company claims that the team never sent notice about plans to tear down the old Busch Stadium when the policy was taken out and that the team was planning on building a new stadium on the site where the cleanup costs were needed. The Cardinals say that they have a valid claim; the case will be heard in federal court.

Bronx to Pick Up Yankee Stadium Demolition

A lot has been made about the fact that George Steinbrenner is going to fully fund the construction of the new Yankee Stadium. What’s slipped through the cracks is that the Bronx will be making a $130 million investment to replace park land that will have to be torn up because it’s located right where the new stadium is expected to be built.

Of the $130 million being provided for new parks, $27 million of that is going to be used to tear down Yankee Stadium. The New York Mets have a similar deal: the cost of tearing down Shea Stadium will be provided for in the $90 million that city taxpayers are forking over for infrastructure costs.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Turn at Bat

The City of Anaheim rested its case last week in the lawsuit against the Los Angeles of Anaheim. The city appeared to score some points when Angels president Dennis Kuhl testified that the language of the lease was vague. Vague means open to interpretation, so that would seem to favor the city’s contention that the Angels are violating the spirit of the lease.

That victory might have been short-lived. The city rested its case with Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle’s testimony, and he may have slipped up. The final question by Angels attorney George Stephen asked the mayor whether Anaheim is at the center of the Los Angeles market, and he replied that it is at the center of the Los Angeles media market. This would appear to lend some validity to the two-pronged name that the Angels adopted.

On Friday, the Angels called a former Disney business strategist to the stand. He claimed that Disney never intended that “Anaheim” would have to remain in the team’s name. Testimony continued on Monday, and the Angels called two expert witnesses that claimed the city of Anaheim lost virtually nothing from the Angels’ new team name. This is the polar opposite of an expert witness for the city that claimed that Anaheim will lose as much as $373 million worth of media exposure.

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