It is the grass…the smell and the sounds of memories past. The voice of Bob resonates as a connection of life itself. It is spring, summer, fall and winter all wrapped into one. It is more than the ball, the bat, the gloves and uniforms. It is the excitement of arrival of another season ahead. You may not jump on it in a bandwagon approach on the edge of Pigsville nor accidentally become a fan of the Cream City Nine by switching a dial. It’s a blue pinstripe thing with a logo so unique, it can’t be copied. You are born a Brewer, just as you are a Badger and a Packer. It comes with the essence of life, when cheese and beer can sustain you through thick and thin. It has been passed down from Tommy Harper to Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and Rollie Fingers. It is about Prince, Go Go and Braun, Jonathan, Craig and whomever is next. They are the family. Sometimes you love them. And sometimes not so much. But it is a blood thing…a religion of sorts well beyond the norm. It is what Milwaukee is all about. Provincial at the core…the common man. This is the True Blue Brew Crew in a ballpark named after a beer. It has and will continue to be all about a single word…hope. If you don’t believe it, just look at this.
One of the things fans love about baseball is that consistency…consistency in a lineup that you can cheer for…consistency in Milwaukee, where you can play ons-ons knowing how the players perform day-in-and-day-out. It is where the love of the game is imbedded.
For the 2016 edition of the Cream City Nine, consistency doesn’t exist. There are only three players who were in the starting lineup in April of 2015 still on the team. Jonathan Lucroy, the catcher, along with Khris Davis in left and Ryan Braun in right. As of Saturday, there is a new second baseman in Pigsville as Aaron Hill and pitcher, Chase Anderson, who will wear the ball and glove logo traded for the starting shortstop, Jean Segura, to Arizona. That means that it is bye-bye time for Scooter. Gone too is the first baseman, Lind to Seattle; the third baseman went to Pittsburgh; the popular center fielder on Opening Day last year is in Houston. One of the game’s top relievers flew to Detroit. This year’s team will truly be the a ‘can’t tell the players without a program’.
Along with the deal for Segura came starting pitcher, Chase Anderson, who has a penchant for tossing gopher balls. With a hitter friendly stadium like Miller Park, he seems like a strange fit for Cream City.
So what does the starting lineup on Opening day look like at this point?
Lucroy behind the plate.
who’s on first.
Hill at second.
Arcia is a short.
I don’t know at third.
Davis in left.
Somebody’s in center.
Braun is in right.
And starting, who knows.
It’s going to be an interest spring training where hope is all that the Brew Crew has in 2016.
But by the time a team gets to Miller Park in April, one thing is for sure: the brats will be ready with the secret stadium sauce and raw chopped onions and mustard. Along with a cold Miller Light, and a bag of fresh popcorn, there will be a winning lineup in the Cream City this coming season. As for on the field, who cares.
After all, the Milwaukee Brewers have never won a World Series in their history of forty-six seasons. And the current ownership has never won a league pennant.
This year there are players who are named Barnes, Barrios, Blazek, Cravy, Goforth, Guerra, Houser, Z. Jones, Knebel, Pena, C. Carter, Cecchini, Villar, Walsh, Wilkins, K. Broxton, Flores, Liriano, Reed, Santana and Nieuwenhuis. Now, quick…what are their numbers.
‘Can’t tell the players without a program’.
Baseball is one of the best indicator of things to come, particularly when it comes to television. While football may have been made for television, television has made baseball unequally equal. This year there will be more money pumped into the game than ever before. Why? It was decided a few years ago, that ‘LIVE’ television was the key to survival for television networks, whether they are broadcast or cable, to fill the 24/7 programming blocks while the world waits for the next resting place for the millions of eyeballs who are moving through the Millennial stage. Traditionally, television was THE place to reach people. And advertisers, as they always do, flock to wherever the opportunity presents itself to get in front of those who would, could or should buy.
Now, television, especially cable network television, is betting on sports, particularly baseball, to attract the eyeballs of the constantly moving population both via legacy standards at home and most importantly digital/mobile platforms. From April through September, for six solid months, baseball will be front and center. No other sport has the completeness of dominant and ever-changing information as does baseball for this length of time. It is every day news and information. And when you throw in March as Spring Training gets underway, television finds itself gearing up. Take October when the World Series is the ultimate goal, you now have eight months of solid baseball.
Baseball has just finished one of its best hauls in its history. Consider this:
Los Angeles Dodgers $150 million annual rights fees (thru 2038)
Philadelphia Phillies $129 million annual rights fees ($2.5-$3.0B 20-25yrs) +25% SSN Philadelphia
Houston Astros $ 60 million annual rights fees
Texas Rangers $ 80 million annual rights fees +10% FOX Sports Southwest (thru 2034)
Arizona Diamondbacks $ 75 million annual rights fees (2016 to 2036) + %of FOX Sports Arizona
Chicago White Sox $ 72.9 million annual (@$450,000/gm. + 40% of Comcast SportsNet Chicago
Chicago Cubs $ 72.9 million annual (@$450,000/gm +20% of Comcast SportsNet Chicago (thru 2019)
LA Angeles Anaheim $147 million annual rights fees + 25% FOX Sports West (thru 2028)
San Diego Padres $ 60 million annual rights fees +20% FOX Sports San Diego (thru 2031)
New York Yankees $100 million annual rights fees ($367 million in 2042 for 49% of YES)
New York Mets $ 83 million annual rights fees +65% of SNY -25 year contract) (thru 3032)
Boston Red Sox $ 60 million annual rights fees +80% NESN
San Francisco Giants $ 30 million annual rights fees (+ percentage of SCNBA. + 30-33% ownership Comcast SportsNet Bay Area)
Seattle Mariners $115 million annual rights fees (purchased ROOT NW worth $100 million/yrx20 yrs) (thru 2030)
Cleveland Indians $ 40 million annual from sale of SportsTime Ohio ($400 million over 10 years)
Detroit Tigers $ 40 million annual rights fees (thru 2017) FS Detroit
Toronto Blue Jays $ 36 million (adjusted annually) Owned by Rogers SportsNet. No expiration.
St. Louis Cardinals $ 14 million (2016) + $35 million (2017) $55 million (2018-2033)
Baltimore Orioles* $ 29 million annual rights fees +87% of MASN
Washington Nationals $ 29 million annual rights fees +13% of MASN fee reset every 5 years
Minnesota Twins $ 29 million annual
Colorado Rockies $ 20 million (expires in 2020)
Tampa Bay Rays $ 20 million (thru 2016)
Cincinnati Reds $ 20 million (Thru 2016)
Kansas City Royals $ 19 million (thru 2019)
Miami Marlins $ 18 million (thru 2020)
Pittsburgh Pirates $ 18 million (thru 2019)
Milwaukee Brewers $ 21 million (thru 2019)
Oakland A’s $ 43 million (opt out after 2023)
Atlanta Braves $ 20-30 million annual rights fees (through 2031) FS Sports South
In 2013, each team also received $25.53 million as part of the National TV Revenue.
In 2014, each team also received $51.67 million as part of the National TV Revenue.
*[MASN] was created as part of the deal that moved the Expos from Montreal to Washington, D.C. to become the Nationals. Orioles owner Peter Angelos opposed the move as an encroachment on the Orioles’ exclusive broadcast and commercial region. [This is different from the dispute between the Giants and the A’s over the territorial rights to San Jose and Santa Clara County.] As part of the negotiated settlement between MLB (which then owned the Expos) and Angelos, MASN was created with the Orioles to own 90 percent and the Nationals to own ten percent. The deal also called for the Nationals to be paid $20 million/year in broadcast rights, although that figure would increase by $1 million every season. In 2011, MASN reportedly paid the Nationals $29 million in broadcast fees and $7 million for its now 13 percent share of the network. No matter. Attorneys for the two teams and MASN have continued to launch attacks and counter-attacks. The Orioles think the MLB-sponsored panel was predisposed to rule for the Nationals because the league stands to gain financially the more the Nationals receive as a rights fee. For their part, the Nationals have threatened to terminate MASN’s license to broadcast their games if the panel’s ruling isn’t confirmed.
The MASN mess may shed some light on Selig’s unwillingness to make a final decision on the Oakland Athletics’ proposal to move to San Jose. He might have feared that any resolution of the territory dispute between the A’s and the San Francisco Giants that involves the A’s compensating the Giants could lead to in-fighting for years down the road.
The MASN agreement also includes a re-set provision by which the Nationals can re-negotiate the broadcast fee structure every five years. Early in 2012, the Nationals proposed that MASN pay between $100 million and $120 million per year in broadcast fees. The Orioles countered at $34 million per year. The two sides have been in protracted negotiations ever since. Former Commissioner Selig asked representatives from the Pirates, Rays, and Mets to mediate the dispute. A resolution was expected over the summer but never materialized and the parties reportedly remain far apart.
But all of this is minuscule to the real power of baseball today.
The power is BAM…short for Major League Baseball Advanced Media. In 2000, Bud Selig, then baseball’s commissioner, created BAM as an in-house IT department for baseball which would be in charge of creating websites for each of the teams and consolidated MLB’s digital rights. His feeling was that by pooling resources, he would prevent the bigger teams from outpacing their smaller market rivals. To keep the division honest and efficient, BAM would operate its own company. All of the MLB teams agreed to contribute a combined $120 million, $1 million each over the first four years, with each taking an equal ownership stake. And this is the hidden gem of baseball…and baseball ownership.
Forget the amount of money a team makes from its attendance, concessions, broadcast TV and radio rights, Regional Sports Network rights or any other form of income,. Today, whether it is ‘Magic’ Johnson as one of the owners of the Dodgers or Mark Attanasio, owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, they both are equal owners of BAM. What is that worth? Fifteen years after it was founded, BAM will have a profit this year in excess of $900 million. Any idea how much that is worth today as an asset on the balance sheet? When you figure it out, just divide it by 30 and you will have figured out how much the owner of a small city franchise in Milwaukee is worth today.
One could say it is all due to Ichiro. When he came over to play from Japan for the Seattle mariners, he was an icon in his country. If you can remember, in those days a corps of press came along each and every day to cover Ichiro. BAM decided to experiment with streaming live audio of his games, giving his followers a way to keep up to speed with all-Ichiro all the time. This led to the league consolidating all of their digital rights within BAM. To secure more funding, BAM made a deal with TicketMaster to provide all of their ticketing functions for a $10 million advance so they could push not only audio but video.
A small company called eCommercial had created and implemented compressed video packages used as attachments for email. This small start-up was at the forefront of video delivery as CBS bought one of the first packages from Lance Hanish (LBC Advertising, now CNA|SOPHIS) who presented the technology to Kelly Kahl (CBS) to promote its first reality program, ‘Survivor’. With Les Moonves approval, on May 24, 2000, the first eCom packages were sent out to a list of email users consisting of editors, reporters, publishers and potential viewers. ‘Survivor’ debuted on 30 May 2000 and finished as the #2 program that season. That opened the eyes for video delivery and changed the world of mass communications.
Before YouTube, on August 26, 2002 BAM produced a broadcast of a Texas Rangers/New York Yankees game. It was streamed to 30,000 fans at only 280 kilobytes per second. To those who do not know, this is like dial-up speed. Broadband was not yet happening. But it allowed, later that Fall, to offer a post-season package for $19.95 which was successful and led to MLBtv in 2003. This provided a most unique opportunity. Because FOX held the rights, the first post season video delivery was only to Europe. This allowed for advancements in geofencing and multi-application delivery at scale. BAM obviously had already leaned of high-compression from the eCommercial technology.
Today BAM has as customers, ESPN (it handled the 2014 World Cup), HBO (it developed HBONow), WWE (Yup. It does the streaming of wrestling), SONY (PlayStation) and the NHL (National Hockey League). It not only handles their streaming but distributes the content.
BAM in 2014 contributed $5 million to each team or $150 million in additional revenue.
Now perhaps major acquisition of talent by several of the ball clubs is understandable. The Arizona Diamondbacks threw open their coffers as their windfall from BAM and their new television contract provided them with the flexibility of bringing in Zach Greinke ($34,416,667/year). San Francisco Giants added Jeff Samardzija ($18 million/yr) and Johnny Cueto ($21,666,667/yr) with the same revenue income. Kansas City Royals resigned Alex Gordon ($18 million/yr) and Joacim Soria (8,333,333/yr). Washington Nationals signed Stephen Drew ($3 million/yr) and Daniel Murphy ($12,500,000/yr). Cleveland Indians signed Mike Napoli. Boston Red Sox signed David Price ($31 million/yr). Chicago Cubs signed Jason Hayward ($23 million/year), Ben Zobrist ($14 million /yr) and John Lackey ($16 million/yr). Detroit signed Jordan Zimmerman ($22 million/yr). St. Louis signed Mike Leake ($16 million/yr). Los Angeles Dodgers signed Scott Kazmir ($16 million/yr) and Japanese pitcher, Kenta Maeda (3.125 million/yr-8yrs). Toronto Blue Jays signed J.A. Happ ($12 million/yr) and resigned Marco Estrada ($13 million/yr). Baltimore signed Darren O’Day ($7,750,000/yr). Seattle signed Hisashi Iwakuma ($12 million/yr).
So, what have the Milwaukee Brewers done? They have signed Eric Young Jr. ($1 million/yr), Will Middlebrows ($1.2 million/yr) and Chris Carter ($2.5 million/yr).
That’s called banking it. With a projected revenue in excess of the 2014 figure of $91.68 million in TV & estimated 2015 BAM revenue coming in the door BEFORE attendance gate receipts, concessions et all, their payroll at present is estimated at $98,089,079. With gate receipts of approximately $65 million (per Mar 2015 Forbes numbers), The Cream City Nine has an opportunity to bring in more than the 2015 estimated operating income of $11.3 million. With an attendance in excess of 2.5 million in 2015 (ranking 13th in MLB) or 31,389, with another hapless season, the average dropped from 34,536 in 2014. With few stars in 2016, the drop of another 10%-20% could be expected. Regardless, the value of the team will be approximately $850 million, should someone want to purchased the club and stop #watchingattanasio.
Today, as it has been since the days of Ban Johnson, John Taylor, Charles Somers, George Vanderbeck, Connie Mack and Charles Comiskey, baseball is not about the players or the fans. It’s all about money.
Did The Swede Tell the Truth? Did The Tigers Throw 1917 Pennant? In Pettibone, North Dakota, it was the topic of conversation on a blissful, summer Sunday in 1929 as all was well with nearly everyone in the land. Prices of wheat were at record levels. People had money. And America’s pastime was baseball…everywhere, including Pettibone, it was baseball.
‘See that guy playing shortstop over there?’, Frank asked his young 10-year-old son, Stanley, while attending a Deluge Cuban game in Lignite, North Dakota. ‘Who is he?’, Stan asked. ‘He’s Swede Risberg.’ Stan asked, ‘Who’s Swede Riseberg?’ It was a beautiful, hot summer’s day and for once in his life, Frank was not working the farm. It was Sunday. And today it was all about baseball. Besides, he was there to see his oldest daughter’s (Irene) boy friend play, a big fellow called Harry Fleming. It was said he was the Babe Ruth of these parts. Big hands. Big arms. And he was very fast. Could hit the ball a mile.
While Harry was on deck, Frank told Stan that ‘Swede’ ‘was one of the infamous Chicago Black Sox, banned from major league baseball for life because he took a bribe and threw the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. I watched him play with the Mesaba Range Black Sox along with two other member of the old powerful Chicago American League team, Happy Felsch and Lefty Williams when I visited Stein (his wife’s brother).’ ‘Was he any good with the White Sox?’, Stan asked. ‘He was OK, but in 1919, he was better but went 2 for 25 in the Series plus he made 8 errors. You just knew something was up.’
‘What did he do?’, Stan asked again. Frank said that Chicago was a heavy favorite in the 1919 World Series but he and a group of White Sox players decided to intentionally lose the series in exchange for parents from a group of gamblers. Swede was the ringleader. He convinced some of this teammates like Shoeless Joe Jackson’ to accept the payments. Rosberg got $15,000 for the fix. He made $3,250 a season, so that was quite a take.’
The Chicago White Sox were split into two factions in 1919. One was the more educated group of players, led by second baseman and team captain Eddie Collins and the other, more rough-and-tumble group led by former boxer and current first baseman, Arnold ‘Chick’ Gandil. Swede belonged to the rough and tumblers. He was the youngest White Sox.This was the group that agreed to throw the 1919 World Series in exchange for payoffs from gamblers.
‘He’s a real snitch’, Frank told Stan. He threatened to kill Shoeless Joe if Jackson blabbed about the fix. Jackson was reputed to have said ’Swede is a hard guy’.
Everyone considered Risberg a bad guy. ’The idiot even sent a telegram before the Series to his friend, St. Louis Browns infielder Joe Gideon, informing Gideon that the Series was fixed and advised him to bet on Cincinnati.’ ‘Really!’, Stan exclaimed. ‘Yep.’ replied Frank. ‘Did he bet on the Reds?’, Stan asked. ‘Don’t know,’ Frank replied, ‘but a year later Gideon informed on Risberg to the White Sox, in hopes to collect a $20,000 reward offered by that tightwad Charles Comiskey for information on the fix.’ Stank asked, ‘Did he get it?’ ’No,’ Frank replied. ‘Gideon didn’t get the reward, but he was later banned from baseball for his prior knowledge. Ya gotta love that Comiskey.’
On December 30, 1926, The Chicago Tribune reported the 1917 Tigers had thrown a four-game series to the White Sox to help Chicago win the pennant. Within the week, Commissioner Judge Landis began a hearing to investigate the charges.
Risberg was called by Landis to testify about a gambling scandal involving Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker. Although he had nothing to add to that case, Swede (with the help of Chick Gandil) suggested that in September 1917, the Detroit Tigers deliberately lost four games to the White Sox, helping Chicago capture the pennant. Two weeks later, Rosberg added, he and Gandil collected $45 each from White Sox players, and forwarded the money to players in Detroit. Landis called many Tiger players to testify. But the former White Sox and Detroit players contradicted Swede’s story claiming that the money was paid out to Detroit players as a reward for winning late-season games against the Boston Red Sox, Chicago’s chief rival for the pennant. This practice of ‘rewarding’ opponents was common during the Deadball Era. But Landis quietly banned it and cleared the Tigers of any wrongdoing. Will Rogers attended Rosberg’s hearing and in his view, ‘It was just that bottled up hate against everything that made Risberg think he hadn’t had a square deal in the game, and he exaggerated the incident.’ Landis dismissed all charges. Landis could not find any witnesses to confirm any part of Swede Risberg’s claim.
Risberg’s first wife, Agnes, at the time of the events stated about Swede’s game-fixing scandal, that Risberg grew fond of saying, ‘Why work when you can fool the public?’.
Did the Swede tell the truth that the Tigers threw the 1917 Pennant?
During the summer of 1922, Risberg joined Cicotte, Williams, Weaver, and Felsch on a traveling team known as the “Ex-Major League Stars.” They scheduled a series of games against teams from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range, but lackadaisical play and poor management meant the players left with only a few hundred dollars afterward. Cicotte left the team in mid-June after an argument with Risberg over money. It seems the hard-nosed Swede reportedly responded by punching Cicotte in the mouth.
The New York Times claimed him as the worst player in the game.
Why kick off the Risberg story to kick off 2016?
Betting on baseball is illegal. Every player understands what will happen if they bet on the game. Pete Rose knew. Risberg was banned for life from the game. So was Rose. There should be no Hall of Fame talk for any of these who disgraced the game. After all, Risberg said it all…’Why work when you can fool the public.’
Flumoxity….baseball’s way of flimflamming through nearly any and all problems related to the game.
Baseball is a simple game. It is apparently for simple people.
But for the men running the game, they understand more than simple people can understand. For instance, the Band of 30 (those not so simple owners of Major League Baseball teams) occasionally join together to make policy. They have regularly scheduled meetings in AAAA resorts around the nation or the world to gather, talk, dine and make policy for America’s pastime. They have no fear of any overwhelming governmental intervention because they are immune to Monopoly.
Yet these folks, when they gather, can do some amazingly mystical things, like what happened early this year. This was the year when a new Major League Baseball Commissioner was placed on the job. Rob Manfred, succeeded Allan Huber ‘Bud’ Selig. He now sits in a big chair in MLB’s Manhattan offices on Park Avenue, not the one in Milwaukee, where the Commissioner Emeritus sits as an overviewer to allow him to collect a handsome pension, far above the one he would have earned as a used car salesman for his father’s Southside auto dealership. But one digresses because of the love of the man who brought baseball back to Milwaukee.
Alfred sez: “Today, if you ask a car dealer to let you see something for 10 grand, he’ll show you the door!”
One of his first decisions Mr. Manfred made was extraordinary. Imagine if you will, naming Barry Bonds the head of drug enforcement for the ‘good of the game’. No. That has not happened yet. Or, he could allow Pete Rose eligible for the Hall of Fame even though he confessed to betting on baseball games while he was a manager. No, that hasn’t happened yet. But beware. He could do something curious because in one of the first decisions he made when he became the new commish was to appoint New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon as the Chairman of Major League Baseball’s Finance Committee.
That is not a misprint. It is in fact truth. Rob Manfred named Fred Wilpon the overseer of MLB’s money…as the Chair of MLB’s Finance Committee.
Alfred sez: “Most people don’t act stupid: it’s the real thing!”
It is a strange choice. Wilpon was on the financial ropes after he was involved with Bernie Madoff.
His team allegedly owes hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and there is a question of whether the New York Mets franchise has been properly financed over the past half-dozen years. Fred Wilpon seems to be bad with money yet he will be in charge of counting Major League Baseball’s cash. Who would have guessed?
It takes all kinds of Brass Junk Hangers to make a decision like this and actually say ‘Public be damned. I’m the Commish!’.
And that he is.
He has to, however, in order to earn all of that annual pay, walk a high-wire act to make the bad inferences all go away. He has been handed a Selig legacy of personal friendship between the former Commissioner and his friend, Wilpon. Selig used personal relationships to build his internal baseball political power base. Favors flowed between the various owners. Selig to former Twins owner, Carl Pohlad, who lent $3 million short-term bridge loan to Selig’s Milwaukee Brewers in July 1995. Contrary to a Major League Baseball rule, the loan was not approved by other team owners at a time that Selig was serving as acting commissioner while continuing in his role as president and chief executive of the Brewers. Coincidently, Fred Wilpon of the Mets said at the time, ‘It may ruffle some feathers, but it’s inappropriate and sad that people would attack Carl and Bud on this.’ ‘Frankly, I’ve borrowed very little money in my lifetime,’ Selig said. ‘He [Pohlad] was a friend. He was a banker.’
Selig and the White Sox owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, who was more like a collusion brother where they together made a pact to keep players pay down, have had an ongoing friendship. They tried to fix free-agent pay scale. That didn’t work. But they tried.
Alfred sez: “Blood is thicker than water . . . but it makes lousy lemonade!
Fred Wilpon and his brother-in-law, Saul Katz, the Mets’ other owner, had been fighting a $1 billion lawsuit against them by the trustee for victims of the infamous Bernard L. Madoff’s fraud. The trustee, Irving Picard, accused them of using illicit profits from their Madoff accounts to fuel their sports and real estate empire. Selig was pleased that Wilpon and Katz, who said they were victims of evidence fabricated or misrepresented by the trustee, tried to sell nearly half the team to raise up to $200 million and the Commish felt it unnecessary to step in to force them to do any more.
The owners trying to get in on the inside, guaranteed high interest returns, had invested some $500 million with Bernard Madoff, the ‘Don of the Greedy’, whose Ponzi scheme collapsed in 2008. After everything unraveled, Mets ownership didn’t even get the benefit of being considered “victims” because they had made more in fictitious gains than they had lost. By 2011, Wilpon and Katz faced a $1 billion lawsuit from Irving Picard, trustee for the liquidation of Madoff Investment Securities, which accused Wilpon and his partners of being reasonably aware of Madoff’s scam while investing more money into it. Now, in 2015, the Mets owners gained a legal victory with Picard and agreed to a settlement whereas Wilpon and Katz could pay the trustee just $162 million, a fraction of the $1 billion he was seeking. Thus, the two will be liable for far less than that huge figure because it has been gradually offset by their losses as Picard continues to recoup funds lost for the Madoff fraud victims.
Alfred sez: “Who says nothing is impossible? Some people do it every day!”
The Wilpon family’s burden with the Madoff liquidation trust is down to approximately $60 million. In negotiating this down, Wilpon and Katz quietly managed to sell some 12 minority stakes in the team, 4% ownership each for $20 million apiece. One of the alleged buyers was noted hedge-fund operator Steven Cohen. This entire endeavor brought the brothers-in-law more than $200 million. They also had to then repay their $40 million loan from Bank of America and the $25 million loan from Major League baseball. All of this must have made the powers that be in the MLB feel like Wilpon was some sort of financial wizard.
But never let greed get out of sight too long. It seems, while the Madoff victims will recover 57¢ on every dollar they lost in the fraud, ESPN reported that this was good news for Wilpon and Katz. They can now deduct 57% of their Madoff losses ($178 million) from the $162 million in gains they owe the trustee thus bringing their new debt to just $60.56 million, payable in two installments in 2016 and 2017. And, that figure will likely go down again before the Mets owners need to make the first payment because Wilpon and Katz agreed to pay a guaranteed minimum of $29 million.
Ain’t it great to be an American in baseball?
Alfred sez: “A lawyer is someone who writes a 40-page document and calls it a brief!”
One can reduce a billion dollar debt down to perhaps only $29 million or, for the mathematically inclined, just 2.9% of the total originally owed.
But what legal maneuvering giveth, morality and the gods of baseball taketh away. You see the team and the cable network still carry a lot of debt, even as the owners’ debt to the Madoff trustee shrinks. Just last year, good ol’ Saul was reportedly considering selling his entire stake in the team, leaving his bro-in-law just a minority owner. While Saul may no longer be responsible for his brother-in-laws character, Wilpon was still able to get the team in legal trouble over sexual discrimination suits brought upon them by a former high level single executive. But, who’s counting?
Alfred sez: “Nowadays, the perfect crime is getting caught and selling your story to T.V.!”
They still have more money troubles than that. It is reported that the Mets still owe money to two players that haven’t played for the Mets in 20 years: Bobby Bonilla, who has $1.2 million coming to him every year until 2036 and Bret Saberhagen, who is owned $250,000 each year until 2029.
Now you can see just how good a money man this Wilpon is. The brothers-in-laws have managed to stay afloat largely by borrowing against the skyrocketing equity in their 65% investment in S.N.Y. Yes, that’s the cable home of the Mets. You see, it has been reported that they have been using the local sports television network boom to stave off bankruptcy.
It seems very logical. This Wilpon fellow really knows how to handle finances. Thus, who wouldn’t make him the Czar of all the MLB cash.
Which all begs the question: What’s he got on the Commish?
Alfred sez: ‘In retrospect, it becomes clear that hindsight is definitely overrated!’.
In 1889, the guy who first used a fielding glove in the major leagues, traveled to France and introduced the game. A.G. Spaulding did not make many inroads. The game was strange to the French and it wasn’t until the French Baseball Union, an amateur league formed in 1912 by ex-patriots, that it enjoyed success. The game grew up in Paris and a game between Vésinet and Diepp drew 3,000 spectators. The league went on hiatus but French soldiers began to love the game as Canadians used the time between battles in WWI to practice the American pastime with allied troops. The arrival of Americans in 1918 did even more to widen the sport’s reach in France. Rouen, the capital of Normandy, became a baseball hotbed. A game between two American teams drew 20,000 fans. The popularity of the game must be credited to Major League players who were serving in the military in France such as Christy Mathewson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, George Kelly and Jonny Evers.
The game reached its peak at the conclusion of World War I and did not re-emerge until the allies liberated France in World War II. Between 1955 and 1992, Paris and Nice won 26 of 28 French Championships. In 1976, there were 21 baseball clubs in France. By 1987, there were 170.
The domestic league in France is called the French Elite League and it has eight teams: Rouen, Montpellier, Savigny, Senart, La Guerche, Toulouse, Montigny and Clermont-Ferrand. The Rouen Huskies have dominated the past decade, winning 9 of the last 10 league titles.
Joris Bert was the first French player to be drafted by a Major League team, as he was selected in the 19th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2007 first-year player draft.
So, why is this even up for discussion today?
There is a bond between the two nations that go beyond the political…the support at the earliest days of our country. Many Americans are Francophiles. Many French are Americanophile.
But today we are all French.
The miniature extension of the legendary Ichiro, Nori Aoki, two inches shorter than Suzuki, again hit an unusual wall in Major League Baseball. The San Francisco Giants declined to renew their option on Aoki. He had been receiving a base salary of $5.5 million. He hit .287 with 5 home runs and 14 stolen bases in 93 game (392 plate appearances). Ultimate Zone Rating for defensive play said he saved between three and four runs with his glove. It was exceptional value for any team. His strike out rate of 6.4 was the lowest in baseball. The next closet had a 7.1 rate. And, Aoki ranked third in contact percentage, connecting on 91.6% of his swings this past season.
That is called being a great contact hitter.
What a journey he has had in the Major Leagues. First, with the Milwaukee Brewers, he had to go through a multi-day hitting and fielding drill for the suits and then former manager, Roenicke, before they decided to offer a low-ball contract in the 11th hour. It was the best he could receive. Then unexpectedly, he was traded to the Kansas City Royals, after becoming one of the best lead-off hitters in the history of the team. He and his wife had a child in Milwaukee. His friend, Hall Of Fame announcer, Bob Uecker was even asked to name the child. Of course after Bob suggested ‘Uke’, the Hiragana and Katakana writing was on the wall, ‘詳細はありませんビール’.
He was traded for a guy named Smith, a fellow the then General Manager had been watching for many many hockey seasons. The trade was an absolute steal for Kansas City which uses the Milwaukee Brewers like a minor league affiliate drum as the All-Star center fielder, Lorenzo Cain, and the All-Star shortstop, Alcides Escobar, were also given to them by Milwaukee along with two others for a pitcher who was traded to the Los Angeles Marinos for a not as good shortstop. I know. You can’t make this kind of story up.
While in Kansas City, Nori led the team, along with his other former Brewer teammates, to an American League Pennant and seven games in the World Series before losing to the San Francisco Giants. Ichiro never played in a World Series game. For some reason, Kansas City did not resign Nori. So, he, his wife and Little Uke, left for Bagdad by the Bay. There he was headed to an All-Star birth when he was hit while at bat which produced a fractured fibula, taking him out of the lineup for a month. Coming back was hit in the head by a pitch in Chicago on August 9th and sustained a concussion that forced him to miss the final month of the season. Yet he still had a terrific season in only 93 games. Of course, that all has caused Little Uke and his mom and dad to seek a new experience somewhere in America for next season.
But that certainly isn’t the end of the story.
The Brewers, before the Royals and now the Giants, have made a major mistake. Not because of the great leadoff hitting Nori provides, but they are missing out on one of the great young talents in the game…the young American called Little Uke. Truth be told, there is a rumor that he has a fantastic arm. Standing only 1’9”, it is rumored (again, with no viral social media proof showing this legendary action) that he has chucked a rattle, from his play pen, around a slight bend of the wall, into the glove of his dad, some 98’ 6” away. And the smack it made hitting the glove caused the rattle to explode after reaching, some have said because no jugs gun was available, at a severe 106 mph. Dad’s hand is a little sore but there is no evidence of any concussion ailments recurring. But he does have a slight twitching of his left eye any time he attempts to close his left hand.
Dad’s interpreter said that ‘Nori was shocked to see the rattle had a slight tail coming around the corner. It reminded him of the story that was told when he was a kid, about Baby Ichiro, who, as legend has it, fired his rattle 104 mpg but only 96’6″. This is called ‘pedigree’ folks.
Now, the Milwaukee, Kansas City and San Francisco teams find themselves not in the most favorable position to sign the youngster to a ‘Futures’ contract. As Bob Uecker told a Pigsville Press reporter, ‘What a shame. Here we could have had the future ‘Leaksville Lefty’, Vinegar Bend Mizell. Sorry, I’m so upset I have to go down to Saz’s and have a brat.’ Dismay has also traveled to KC, where, when they found out about YU, attempts were being made to trade unsigned Alex Gordon for the future rights to the young phenom.
San Francisco learned about YU AFTER they declined the option on the old man (33 years of age) and quickly sent a cable car half way to the stars to have a sit down with Nori. But Nori’s intrepetor was not available as he was going along with Nori’s agent to Mattel to sign a deal for YU, securing his family fortune. Yes, they are even talking about a ’Speed Rattle’ and a ’Speed Rattle Jugs Gun’, both with the Little Uke logo and trade mark. Nori is still trying to learn the correct response to the question of ‘sweet’ or ‘sweep’. (See above)
Sometimes Major League baseball just doesn’t think things through, as right in front of them is an analytic vision in plain view. While the Yankees are considering hiring a 13-year-old phenom GM from PS 112 to head up their ‘Looksee Analytic Force’ (LAF), it was said that this kind of thing would be on their radar if they can convince the teenager to join the pinstripes in time to make an offer for YU.
It seems that the interpreter and agent for Nori have some time after the Mattel deal is finalized. Rumor has it that Mars candies is also very interested in making YU a lifetime spokesperson deal for M&Ms.
The Texas Rangers are flying to San Francisco as this is being written. Vu Darvish is jetting in from Tokyo with a cowboy hat in hand, to have an old family style Bon Odori to create a meaningful group gathering. While usually held during the summer, Prince Fielder’s kids suggested it be pushed back for this very special meeting. It is thought that Prince’s kids understand bushi and ondo, traditional Japanese folk songs. Could be Little Uke might become a Cowboy’s fan this Spring while wearing the Star of the Rangers? According to unnamed social media sources, The University of Texas is pushing through an amendment to bypass the normal procedures and offer Little Uke admission into their University (school of his choice) for next year’s Fall semester even though he is only two years of age.
What the Giants and the Royals before them and the Brewers before them has caused, will not drastically affect their future into the next decade. For the Giants and Royals, that’s really not a problem for right now. They are loaded. For the Brewers, it is not a problem because they have never really seen ultimate success of wearing a World Series ring.
Meanwhile, the number 1 song on Dallas country western radio is ‘Ichiban’…ナンバーワン.