19 May 2009

News of the week 5/19

There's a special election today, in case you haven't heard.

Rosie Rios, who Robert Bobb hired to work on the Uptown Ballpark plan, may be the next U.S. Treasurer. Both Rios and Bobb were fired by Jerry Brown. Brown was termed out, Bobb became D.C.'s hired gun to get its ballpark deal done, and Rios went on to manage $11 billion in assets for an investment firm. Rios also did economic development work for Fremont, San Leandro, and Union City prior to her Oakland stint.

Santa Clara's City Council is expected to vote on the 49ers stadium proposal today. A public vote could occur in next spring, not this November. When the full proposal is available, I'll be here to pick it apart.

Comcast and the NFL Network have been able to come to a carriage agreement. At $0.45 per subscriber per month, it's a major drop from the network's requested $0.70.

Twins owner Carl Pohlad the Pohlad family has agreed to up the team's contribution for Target Field from $130 million to $185 million in order to fund design enhancements. How magnanimous.

The Phoenix Coyotes will have its bankruptcy case heard in court today. The team and the NHL will have the support of the other three major sports leagues, as they will put up a unified front in the face of antitrust threats. If you haven't been following the case, start now. It's by far the most fascinating sports business drama this year. It has competing ownership bids, possible accounting fraud, and bad intentions everywhere you look. I mean, how can you not love this?
While we completely respect the punk rock way (Jim) Balsillie's tried to jam his foot in the door, he's doing so with the warped objectives of a self-righteous comic book villain: He views his intentions as noble, so he's willing to destroy worlds to achieve them.
Makes the A's-Oakland-San Jose saga look like a suburban bridge night.

One last thing: Game 4 of the NBA's Western Conference Finals faces a conflict with a WWE event booked 9 months ago. WWE CEO Vince McMahon has taken to playing the heel (as usual), talking trash about Nuggets and Pepsi Center owner Stan Kroenke. My guess? WWE gets compensated and the event is moved outdoors to Invesco Field at Mile High or a smaller indoor venue like the arena at the University of Denver.


hamachi said...

the coyotes article was amusing. I'll have to read up on that for sure

Jeffrey said...

Isn't Polhad dead?

Anonymous said...

If the 49ers buy Great America, how does the team justify asking Santa Clara to help pay for the new stadium?

Marine Layer said...

Egad! I forgot that he was deceased. Maybe it was the creepy Montgomery Burns vibe that he gave off.

Dan said...

Anon 10:59, If I'm not mistaken the NFL actually requires some form of investment from the municipality if money from the league is being utilized in building the stadium, which I believe is the situation in Santa Clara.

Jimmy Piersall said...

Rosie Rios -- isn't she the one who almost won the Boston Marathon until the officials learned that she just slipped in near the end?

Transic said...

The Hamilton/Basielle/Coyotes situation is just another reason why we should do away with the franchising model in North America and go with a pyramid model, with promotion/relegation as an important part of the business.

Under pro/rel, the people in Hamilton would already have their hockey operation running as they fight through the lower divisions until they are good enough to compete in the highest level of professional hockey. A true free market would see the markets that don't support hockey sufficiently be at the level where they should be (presumably at a lower level, at which it could be sustained) or even no hockey team at all, as long as they're comfortable with that.

The same should be said for basketball and baseball. Gridiron I have no clue about, since it's so expensive to have rosters of 72 or so guys (I'm not sure of the exact number), not to mention the necessary equipment and staff, for an NFL team that it may never be possible for cities as small as Green Bay to ever have a team without franchising and a grandfather clause. But I wouldn't rule pro/rel completely out there, either.

Pork chops and applesauce said...

Jimmy, funny.
That was Rosie Ruiz.

Anonymous said...

Love the NFL Network news! I've wanted it, but haven't been willing to shell out the extra bucks for it. Now it will be on the package I already get. Of course, I want the games but there a bunch of other shows I always see in the guide that I'd like to watch.

The Coyotes thing is fascinating as it also involves possibly carving up the Toronto market. I've got my popcorn out!

Ezra said...


I agree with you completely. I find the whole anti-trust exemption, owner approval aspect of professional sports in the US anti-American. I don't know how it got approved in the first place, but I wish it would be repealed.

Dan said...

Ezra, it will never happen. None of the US sports have the infrastructure in place for a promotion/relegation system. And even if they did, promotion/relegation has it's own flaws. Just look at the English Premiership. The same 4 teams dominate that league leaving the other 16 to duke it out, with the usual suspects usually being relegated. It's a stagnant system in it's own right these days.

Bring that system to MLB for instance and you'd see the same thing. The Yankees and Red Sox would increase their strangle hold on the top of the league while teams like Tampa and Oakland would continually bounce up and down from AAA to the majors like a lousy journeyman outfielder.

Anonymous said...


What to make of todays news on the Niner deal, vis-a-vis the Raiders? The Raiders show a remarkable lack of urgency on getting a new stadium, either in Santa Clara or Oakland. Piggybacking on the Santa Clara deal seems like a great opportunity for them - is there some point at which the train will have left the station, and if so, when?

Marine Layer said...

IMO the Raiders have done the best job so far by doing nothing - other than keeping a line of communication with Oakland/Alameda County. They could choose to join the Santa Clara effort late, which would only boost the bid's chances. They could stay in Oakland once the A's situation pans out. They have a lease that's done in 2010, giving them immense flexibility. They can wait everyone out and they don't have to commit to anything. They haven't negotiated in the media. For that they deserve credit.

Ezra said...


You are correct, there are definitely some large obstacles to implementing the promotion/relegation system, even if all the team owners were to agree on it.

But I have to disagree about it being a stagnant system. In my opinion (and this most certainly will not be everyone's), what is great about the system is that when you have these teams on the bottom of the league table they still have a reason to play their best -- if they don't, they will be relegated. Whereas in current US sports there are always those teams trading away big contracts come the trade deadline because they are so far back they have no chance and don't need to bother being competitive for the rest of the season.

Yes, it's true that teams will dominate with that system, but even now it's usually the same teams dominating (In the past 10 years, the Yankees have won the AL East 8 times, the Angels have won the AL West 4 times in the past 5 years, the Braves won the NL East 11 years in a row, etc.). This is actually a counter-point to one of the arguments against the system. Some owners say that their team will be relegated and they will loose money. But the dominance of teams in the EPL and the persistence of some teams staying in the EPL shows that this should not be a concern.

Rather, as there are some teams that are borderline MLB/Triple-A cities (Portland, Vegas, and Charlotte come to mind), this would offer them the opportunity to play at both levels, and if successful they stay at a higher level. This would also resolve issues such as a MLB team being stuck in Oakland. If the Oakland team isn't able to compete it would get relegated until it was at a level that the team could be supported enough to be stable, and for cities like San Jose, if they supported their team it could be promoted up to the MLB and stay there. (I would think Oakland residents would rather see their A's stay in Oakland as a triple-A team, rather than losing the team completely, but since I'm not a resident I could be wrong).

I know it's not a perfect system, but I do think it would add more excitement for the teams that are perennial losers and force their owners to make their teams competitive. And it wouldn't prevent cities like NY and Los Angeles from having 3 or 4 MLB teams (as they are the two cities with a large enough population and corporate base to handle that many). It may not be the best answer, but for now it is my prefered option.

Transic said...

Ezra, it will never happen. None of the US sports have the infrastructure in place for a promotion/relegation system. And even if they did, promotion/relegation has it's own flaws. Just look at the English Premiership. The same 4 teams dominate that league leaving the other 16 to duke it out, with the usual suspects usually being relegated. It's a stagnant system in it's own right these days.
If it may never happen it would only be due to the cultural resistance to adopting promotion/relegation as a cornerstone of competition. The other factors can be argued against with relative ease:

- The four teams you mentioned at the English Premiership weren't always that good. All four of them were even at one time relegated to what was the second division back then, as recently as 1989 (Chelsea). Then you have teams like Nottingham Forest and even Leeds United who have won not only championships but also European club trophies who now languish in the lower divisions. There's no guarantee that those four teams that are highest now would stay high years on out. Things have a way of leveling off. Of course, some clubs will always compete better than others. That's the nature of the game. However, at least in the English game you don't have a situation where only 20 clubs are allowed to compete at the professional level because of artificial restraints by fiat.

- The clubs mentioned cannot expect the public sector to finance the construction and operation of facilities. They have to be paid for by the club members and investors. That is because it is understood that any investor can start up a new team and be able to compete professionally, as long as they fulfill the requirements made by their football association, and must start at a very low division and work their way up, so as to keep fair to the clubs who are already established. Public funding would also result in an unfair advantage to the recipient of said funding, it is understood. That is very different from here, where fiat entities called league can hold cities hostage because of artificial scarcity of teams. Open the floodgates, I say!

- As to infrastructure, that's the most ludicrous argument I've ever heard! Do you think that in a country of 300 million plus people that there aren't theoretically enough cities to start new teams?! What there aren't enough of are cities willing to spend enormous amounts of $$$ called expansion fees to get a team. Why should a city go through all that when an investor could spend much less, rent a small arena or ballpark and start a new team from scratch? Of course, you're not going to have Lebron James playing on your new team playing at the community gym but you can root for your own team closest to where you live. This is what many people are willing to do. Now if they can start off at, say, the sixth division of the basketball league then it would be a great achievement for that community. Cheap tickets, players playing as hard as they can for the money, good entertainment. And with pro/rel they'd have an extra incentive to play hard to avoid going to a lower division, increasing the level of interest from people. At least if you're not going to win a championship then avoiding relegation is the next best thing.

This is one area where Europe is head and shoulders over North America! There are soccer teams in the fourth division, for chrissakes, where people not only show up for matches but cheer loudly and even light up flares to support them, through and through! Try lighting up flares here and see how far you can go!

Anonymous said...

MLB and it's minor-league/farm system would completely interfere with such relegation plan. It's absurd.

Can I see MLB teams divesting from their farm systems and player development? no way!

Ezra said...

@ Anonymous 3:13

Actually, getting rid of their minor league systems would save teams lots of money. What they would do instead is loan out their players to lower level leagues (as is done in European football) to get them experience and to make money off of the player. So not only do you not have the overhead of maintaining the system, but you have someone else footing the bill for your player to develop.