Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

S.I. Yanks Flop Leads To Yanks Tix

Despite their success on the field, the Staten Island Yankees, facing declining ticket sales, hired Mandalay Entertainment earlier this month to run their behind-the-scenes operations and will unveil a unique season ticket package to lure fans.

The S.I. Yankees, a minor league affiliate of the New York Yankees and winners of four New York-Penn League championships in their seven years of existence, have seen annual attendance dwindle each year from a franchise-high 188,127 in 2001, their first year at Richmond County Bank Ballpark, and then plummet from 155,531 in 2005 to 115,395 this past season.

A ballpark that was trumpeted by city officials and was expected to be a major attraction to a rejuvenated St. George neighborhood, has thus far been a huge disappointment. According to Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., the organization is over half a million dollars in debt.

In an audit issued in April, Thompson asserted that the Staten Island Yankees had failed to pay $570,202 in electricity, water and sewer costs dating back to 2003. The organization’s rebuttal was that it was not required to pay if total attendance dipped below 125,001 persons, as it has.

With an average attendance figure of 3,118 last summer, the 7,500-seat waterfront stadium had just 41 percent capacity each night. Of the 176 minor league teams throughout the country, the franchise ranked 85th in fan turnout.

A July 20 noon game which featured Yankees reliever Octavio Dotel, pitching for the Single-A club to rehab his injured shoulder, drew only 4,560 fans, many of whom were children from summer camps who were given free tickets.

A July 27 game against the Batavia Muckdogs drew only 3,737 people, although it was attended by Yankees star Chien-Ming Wang, who made his first appearance there since he was promoted, and featured a giveaway of a bobble head doll in his likeness.

Unlike Major League teams, who get the bulk of their income from lucrative television and merchandise deals, minor league franchises rely more heavily on fan attendance. On average, close to 80 percent of a club’s revenue is generated from ticket sales and the items sold at concessions stands.

Because the athletes are sometimes unknown to the casual fan, the ballpark sideshows are often the main attraction. The Baby Bombers’ sushi toss, kids vs. mascots race around the bases, between-innings water balloon fights and seventh inning quesadilla giveaways haven’t been alluring enough, though.

Compared to the attendance figures of their New York nemesis, the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Yankees’ numbers seem paltry. The Cyclones, the Mets Single-A affiliate, drew an average of 7,819 people to Keyspan Ballpark. Ironically, Staten Island ’s most attended home game (6,552 people) was against the Cyclones in the season-opening series.

Both stadiums, built with city funding, cost a total of $81 million to construct and opened in 2001.

Keyspan’s capacity was initially 6,500, but ticket demands were so great that the organization added 1,000 seats in a right field bleacher pavilion three weeks after its opening and now sells discounted tickets for standing room. While the majority of the money was allocated to RCB’s construction, Keyspan is larger (two seating decks and five stories compared to one seating level and three floors).

Their stadium had the best attendance of any NY-Penn League team and was 15th overall in the nation, while their in-game promotion ploys aren’t unlike those used in Staten Island. Neither are their ticket or concession prices. Both venues sell field level tickets for between $8 and $11.

The locations of the parks do differ, however. Keyspan was built near Coney Island amusement park, near the beach, and is surrounded by restaurants and stores. RCB, though it’s closer to Manhattan and is just a 5-minute walk from the Staten Island Ferry, is located in a mostly residential area, surrounded by apartment buildings.

“The location of Keyspan plays a large part in attracting a crowd, definitely,” said Margo Berman, a marketing consultant with Sales Training Incorporated. “Obviously when you have other attractions around, it’s going to bring people to the area and that increases your chances.”

The Yankees ballpark has fallen far short of the lofty expectations that had been placed on it at the outset.

“This is an exciting day in the history of this great borough,” then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said on June 8, 2000, during the construction period. “The [ballpark] will be an important component in an overall economic redevelopment plan that will bring enhanced transportation services, shopping, entertainment and waterfront dining opportunities to Staten Island residents and the 60,000 daily commuters and one million tourists who ride the Staten Island Ferry each year.”

The area, however, has not seen the boom that the mayor and other city officials had predicted. The neighborhood surrounding the park is mostly residential and the shopping center adjacent to the stadium – the only one in the area – is a cluster of small food joints and a launderette bunched together.

The operating expenses – stadium maintenance, employees and players salary, etc. – costs the New York Yankees over $16 million annually and the city has yet to recoup on its investment. The government was expected to collect over $2.5 million in yearly taxes and fees from them, but because the ballpark has flopped financially, the organization has been unable to pay.

The Yankees, in need of a financial remedy, sought out Mandalay, a Hollywood-based company more known for its film production, and hired them to run their marketing and promotion department.

Mandalay first entered the sports realm in 1996 when it formed Mandalay Sports Entertainment and took control of three minor league franchises – the Dayton Dragons, Las Vegas 51s and the Frisco RoughRiders.

Mandalay’s plan, which is already in the works, is to piggyback the parent club’s popularity. They will present a ticket package that will allow Staten Island season ticket holders to get early access to purchase priority seating for New York Yankees regular season and playoff games up to the American League Championship Series.

“It’s without question the best package ever offered in professional sports,” said Kevin Mortesen, Mandalay Baseball’s spokesman.

Mortesen also pointed to the success Mandalay has had with the Dayton Dragons. The Ohio Single-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, he said, has sold out all of its home games since Mandalay took over its operations in 2001.

“The Yankees are the epitome of sports success,” he added. “They’re the biggest brand in the industry and we’re arguably the best operator. The [stadium] setting is spectacular and it has all the bells and whistles. You combine that with the package we’re going to offer and [we] have every reason to be confident that it will be a good season.”

Fuck Joe Torre

With his spurning of the Yankees’ contract offer, Joe Torre has tarnished his previously pristine imagine.

Only in American sports would a potential two-year, $16 million deal be deemed unfair and scoffed at. In fact, only in the Yankee realm would a manager be offered an incentive-laden contract that would allow him to pocket $5 million even if the team fell on its face. The proposed contract stipulated that if the Yankees made the playoffs, Torre would get an extra million, and an additional million for each round the team advanced.

Lou Piniella, the league’s second-highest paid manager, made $3.5 million last season, and 22 managers make less than $2 million per year. Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who has had comparable success to Torre, will make $4.2 million this season. His job requires longer work hours and more strategy than Torre’s, and he coaches in a league with a restrictive salary cap that would kibosh any hope of a $200 million team payroll.

Torre was paid $7.5 million to squeeze into a uniform, make out a lineup card, watch baseball for three hours while sipping Bigelow green tea, make pitching changes when it was obvious the pitcher needed to be changed, and play nice with the media afterwards. The hardest part of his job was avoiding boredom during the 162-game season.

But the Yankees front office, the ol’ Evil Empire, was rancorous in its dealings with Gentleman Joe. How cruel of them to have offered him a one-year deal that would have made him the highest paid skipper in the majors. After falling short of the organization’s goal – a championship – for seven years, including three consecutive first round exits, it would be unrealistic and unfair to expect the Yankees to maintain status quo.

Whether or not the Yankees’ offer was perfunctory or done as a PR move, it was an offer that Torre should have accepted, and would have, if he didn’t consider a $5 million deal insulting. He felt that he was above being on the managerial hot seat; above a possible pay cut. He took it as a big enough insult that he walked away from his dream job.

Torre also played the “Upper Hand” game on his way out. In the 10 days between Steinbrenner’s edict and the Tampa meetings, Torre could’ve opted to retire or leave – his contract was up, after all. He didn’t, because he wanted the Yankees to (a) kick him to the curb, which would elicit the sympathy of the fans, most of whom consider him a deity, and have them unleash their anger on the front office, or (b) come to him humbled and make an offer that he could refuse. In either scenario, he would walk away with upper hand and the support of the fans.

It has and will continue to be said amongst fans: “Well, of course he walked away. He values dignity over money. And after George came out and disrespected him like that, no amount of money was going to bring him back.”

The Yankees may have played the PR game, but Torre played it even better. But he smeared his once-spotless veneer in the process.

On Saturday, Hank Steinbrenner defended the front office and its decision:

“Where was Joe’s career in ’95 when my dad hired him?”
“Let’s not forget what my dad did in giving him that opportunity — and the great team he was handed.”

“You can’t take credit for success when you’re going good, and then not take at least some of the blame when things change.”

Word up. Torre got credit for skippering a team that had the highest payroll in the sport for every season that he was at the helm. He got credit for the four World Series titles. So why doesn’t he get some of the blame for the seven consecutive failed seasons, four of which ended in embarassing first round ass-kickings?

“You don’t make an offer bluffing. What if he says yes?” Steinbrenner added.

That was a good response to the people saying the offer was just a perfunctory “save face” move. Even if it was, that’s a great fire-back. And if it was, it’d have been like calling someone you don’t want to talk to. You hope to get the voicemail, but you know they could pick up and you’re stuck in a shitty conversation. And in this case, they’d have been stuck with a manager they didn’t want. Not a smart business move. Why risk bringing back a guy they don’t want, making him the highest-paid manager in the league (still) and, if the incentives were met, have him for another two years at $16 million? Just to look like nice guys? If you dislike a mother fucker that much, you don’t want that scenario being a possibility.

If I were Hank, I’d have gotten at Joe even more. I’d have pointed out specific instances where his mistakes cost the team — and there were a lot — and aired his arrogant ass out. These people worry about perception and the reaction from the public (most of whom make judgment based on who they like) too much.

Stray-Rod Could Do Better

By now I’m sure you’ve heard/read/watched/been told about Alex Rodriguez’s ostensible infidelity and his affinity for “jiggle joints.” He was spotted in Toronto last week after a game with a blonde woman not named Cynthia, and the New York Post aired him out…again. You know all that. And you probably already know that the supposed jumpoff, Joslyn Morse, is a 30-year-old stripper who appeared in Playboy’s Casting Calls in 2001. But you probably haven’t seen her nude pictures. And that’s what makes this post worth reading.

Pictures: 1, 2, 3 and 4 (provided by a poster, CMNYY, at The Yankee Zone)

* Be warned, they’re not safe for work. Teenage boys, be sure your mother isn’t in or near the room before clicking the links.

I’m sure you’ll agree that a man who makes $26 million/year and accurately described himself as “good-looking” (bright and bi-racial, too) could do better than that. Her boobs are fake and she’s kinda tough in the face. Not ugly, but I’ll call her handsome. And my guess is that she probably can’t make her booty clap while doing a handstand like Pacman’s strippers.

Morse might’ve been the skeezer that broke the camel’s back, too. After the picture was plastered on the front page of the fifth most popular newspaper in America, his wife packed a suitcase and booked a flight to Boston to be with her man. Who knows, she might start following the team and bringing the baby to games, Joumana Kidd style. So A-Rod’s groupie trysting has been 86’d, or at least put on hold. And she probably wasn’t worth it.

Roger Clemens Back In Pinstripes

You’ve probably watched it on SportsCenter already. Roger Clemens has un-retired again and signed with the Yankees for a prorated one-year, $28 million deal. Wow, he’s overpaid. Anyway… He received his first standing ovation from the Bronx crowd since 2003, when he first “retired” and collected a Hummer as his going-away gift, and naturally, Yankees fans are excited. Because the rotation has sucked. 

This move will probably change a lot of people’s outlook on the American League East. Personally, I thought the Yanks would win the division anyway. The Red Sox have a 6-game lead, but we’ve watched this movie before. Boston usually jumps out to a 5- to 8-game lead early on, then by late July or August, the teams are neck-n-neck going into a couple of (over)hyped series in which every game is dramatic (and if not, the media tells us it is) and the players’ tempers are canicular. And the Yankees usually come out of it with more wins and more bruises; on top, but looking less manly. And by mid-September, New York has a comfortable 3- to 5-game lead. So if you’re like me, the Clemens signing doesn’t change your opinion much.

But it does make them a more formidable playoff team, at least on paper (and if Clemens doesn’t blow his groin). If everyone stays healthy – at least the key players – and the offense performs up to potential, they could win 100 games. And the starting rotation down the stretch would be: Clemens, Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina and Phil Hughes. Kei “Beaver” Igawa can be relegated to the bullpen – or stuffed in the attic will the other ugly, obselete toys. Suddenly, fans are giving a fuck less than the fuck less they initially gave about Carl Pavano missing the remainder of the season with Tommy John surgery (and pretty much the remainder of his 4-year contract). And suddenly, Boston’s big three doesn’t look so scary. Especially with Daisuke “Sake Gut” Matsuzaka sucking now. And things could fall apart for them when Josh Beckett, who has never been able to sustain success, gets his annual mid-season injury (or blister) or starts to struggle.

The empire strikes again. But fear not Yankee haters, they’re still losing in the ALCS.

MLB 2007 Standings Prediction

American League

    East

1. Yankees

2. Red Sox (Wild Card)

3. Blue Jays

4. Devil Rays

5. Orioles

    Central

1. Tigers

2. White Sox

3. Indians

4. Twins

5. Royals

    West

1. Angels

2. Athletics

3. Rangers

4. Mariners

National League

    East

1. Mets

2. Phillies

3. Marlins

4. Braves

5. Nationals

    Central

1. Astros

2. Cubs (Wild Card)

3. Cardinals

4. Reds

5. Brewers

6. Pirates

    West

1. Diamondbacks

2. Dodgers

3. Padres

4. Rockies

5. Giants

Steve Swindal Out of the Family?

According to the NY Times, Steve Swindal, George Steinbrenner’s son-in-law who’d been tabbed in 2005 as the Yankee czar’s successor, is no longer the heir. His wife, Jennifer Steinbrenner, is filing for divorce citing “irreconcilabe differences,” thus severing their 23-year marriage and booting him from la famiglia.

Swindal pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges last month after he was picked up by St. Petersburg police after 2 a.m. on Feb. 15 and failed a  sobriety test.

“He supports me,” Swindal said of The Boss, following his arrest. “I don’t feel anything but a guy who is looking out after me and supports me.”

Well, not anymore. And it’s probably a good thing. You don’t want to leave a billion dollar mega-franchise to a man whose name sounds like that of a mafia numbers runner. Stevie Swindles just got whacked financially.

This might be the most costly divorce ever, even if he doesn’t get a dime from Jennifer. Swindal, by doing whatever he did to displease his lady, cost himself the pinstriped throne and all the money and prestige that comes with it. Damn, and George had left a nice ass-grove on the thing for him, too.

Every time he watches YES or sees someone wearing Yankees merchandise, nausea will follow. Requisite Seinfeld reference: Like George Costanza finding out what he could’ve had if he’d stayed with Susan.

There’ll probably be a movie made on the Steinbrenner family in the not-too-distant future, and I can see Steve being portrayed like Carlo Rizzi (Connie’s abusive hushand in “The Godfather”). Which also gets me thinking. George has two sons, so why isn’t one of them the successor?

Ugy Urbina Sentenced To 14 Years In Prison

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Ugueth Urbina was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the attempted murder of five workers on his family’s ranch, the Attorney General’s Office announced Wednesday.

Urbina, a former pitcher with the Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies, was also found guilty of illegal deprivation of liberty and violating a prohibition against taking justice into his own hands during a dispute over a gun on Oct. 16, 2005, according to a statement from the Attorney General’s Office.

The 33-year-old free agent was accused of joining a group of men in attacking and injuring workers with machetes and pouring gasoline on them at his family’s ranch, located about 25 miles south of Caracas.

Urbina repeatedly has denied involvement in the violent attack, saying he was sleeping at the time. – ESPN.com

See, this is why athletes should only commit crimes on American soil. The Venezuelan legal system isn’t for play. Over here, they’d have factored in his 237 career saves and been a little lenient. Maybe a couple years of probation and a few hours of community service (remember how Sean Taylor was facing up to 43 years? Pfft!) Well, not so in Venezuela, where I’m sure the prisons aren’t too nice.

He missed out, too. Teams were giving out $50 million contracts like lollipops this off-season.

Something Positive From All Star Weekend

With all the All Star weekend crud that’s been highlighted – thanks to Pacman’s pack packin‘ – who better to provide expurgation (dropped a Clyde Frazier word on you) than Dwight “Holy Man” Howard and Shaq? Nothing like wholesome, hoe-free fun.

What ever happened to that, by the way? Remember when the thugs would have dance competitions instead of fighting or shooting? And they’d put on musical numbers and snap their fingers and sing. Gangs were funky fresh back then!

You know, Jordan and Dr. J would’ve given the “Rim Kisser” dunk a 7 – had Howard not been screwed by Jordan and Dr. J and advanced to the next round, anyway. Just thought of this: Gerlad Green should’ve taken off from the free throw line and seen what they’d have given him. If he’d pulled that off and those two denied him 10s, they’d hereafter be known as the Bitter Bitch Brothers. Well, not by the basketball world. Those faces would remain entrenched between their ass cheeks. But on this blog they would! – as if that means anything.

Spare Tire Showdown!

Came across another picture of Dice-K…

Yep…This explains Dice-K’s Beer Belly

And he’ll go 10-13 with a 4.83 ERA.