Now we understand how the Milwaukee Brewers will attack the new 2021 season.
What a December they had. While they did not take up the final year of The Great 8’s contract, they did sign Zach Green to a minor league deal. His credentials in 2020 totaled 16 plate appearances and picked up two hits. Then they jumped on Luke Maile from the Pirates. He didn’t play last year because of a fractured right index finger in July. He is another catcher who batted .198 with 10 home runs in his career. On the pitching side, they got Leo Crawford in the Corey Knebel trade. He last played in Double-A in 2019. They also signed outfielder/first baseman Dustin Peterson to a minor league deal. He had big number for the independent Sugar Land Skeeter in 2020 and is hitting bonanza in the Mexican Pacific Winter League.
This is an off season you dream about if you are a Cream City Nine fan.
The Crew gained Luis Perdoma, a right handed pitcher who is recovering from Tommy John surgery as the Padres cut him. When he was pitching he had a 5.19 ERA in 444 1/3rd inning. Then the Brew Crew signed left-handed reliever Hoby Milner from the Phillies. Why he still isn’t with the Philadelphia club is a mystery but a 7.77 ERA might be a clue. They also signed Dylan Cozens to a minor league contract. He hasn’t played since May 2019 because of surgery to remove bone spurs and repair torn cartilage in his left foot.
Then one of the highlights, the Brewers claimed outfielder Tim Lopes off waivers from the Mariners. In 46 of the 60 games last season, he hit .252 and stole 11 bases in 14 attempts.He has value being multi-positional bench player. He could be a super-utility player on the Crew’s bench. Now before you scoff at the batting average, that would have been the third highest batting average on the team last year just behind the leader, Daniel Vogelbach (.328) and Orlando Arcia (.260).
To top off an exciting month, Jacob Nottingham, one of four catchers on the squad, underwent surgery on the radial collateral ligament of his left thumb. He’ll have two months to get ready for spring training in American Family Fields of Phoenix.
And with all of that improvement, Ray Montgomery, Brewers VP/Special assistant to the GM jumped to the Angels to work in an exec capacity under the Halo’s new GM Minasian. Must have been the year-round weather which prompted the move.
Oh, at Midnight Thursday, December 31, 2020, it became official. Miller Park is no more. It is now officially American Family Fields.
Yep. It was a December to Remember.
Can’t wait for the excitement to hit American Family Fields of Phoenix in a couple of months.
One game to go with the Giants, three against the Pirates, the Reds and the Tigers remain on the Cream City Nine’s home schedule.
On the road, three game series with the Cubs, the Pirates and the Cards remain.
Ten at home.
Nine on the road.
Every Thursday is an off day for the final weeks of the Milwaukee Brewers regular season schedule.
This is the season The Crew makes it to the Playoffs.
The reason is they have veteran presence in both pitching and hitting.
The acquisition of Jhoulys Chacin from San Diego gave the Brewers an ace no one ever realized he was.
The acquisition of Lorenzo Cain, (10 HRs & .308 BA) with playoff experience at Kansas City, from free agency was the first step.
The trade in acquiring Christian Yelich from Miami was astounding. At this writing, he has 28 home runs and a .314 BA, 2nd in the league.
The acquiring of Erik Kratz (5 HRs & .248 BA) from the New York Yankee farm system, now with his 7th team, gave depth to the often depleted catching position.
The trade in acquiring Mike Moustakas (25 HRs & .251 BA) from Kansas City gave added veteran strength, again with playoff experience.
The trade in acquiring Joakim Soria from the Chicago White Sox added yet another closer who was a set-up man.
The trade in acquiring Xavier Cedeño from the Chicago White Sox added another closer who is another set-up man.
The trade of Geo Gonzalez from Washington added the much needed veteran front-line starter which everyone knew the Brewers needed.
The trade of Curtis Granderson (12 home runs) from Toronto added additional veteran presence with huge playoff experience.
Then there is the remarkable journey of Jesús Aguilar. The massive Milwaukee first baseman, nearly cut after spring training as he and Ji-Man Choi battled for the last spot, didn’t really start until the middle of April when thumper went onto the DL with an injury. Aguilar has become a living legend in Cream City. Not only did he make the All Star game as the last player chosen by the fans (with over 20 million votes) but led the league in home runs for part of the season. As of this writing, he had a .276 BA with 31 home runs and 97 RBI. He is one of the top home run hitters in the game.
The Brewers went into the beginning of the season with Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Brent Suter and Jhoulys Chacin. All but Chacin went on the DL during the season. Jimmy Nelson, who was the staff ace, was a no-show this season as he recovered from an injury sliding into first base toward the end of last season against the Northsiders at Gummy Park. Then there is Wade Miley. 3-2 record after coming off of the DL twice in the season with a 2.12 ERA. How they made it through being one of the finalists for a playoff position this season is the credit of the bullpen. Knable’s up and down season is not on the way up after a disappointing 4.79 ERA with 14 saves. All-Star Jeremy Jeffress has produced an 8-1 record with 9 SVs and a brilliant 1.46 ERA. Josh Hader, a first time All-Star, has averaged 15.2 Ks/9 in a nearly perfect on the field performance. Corbin Burnes has a 3-0 record with a 3.00 ERA, 1 SV and 8.67 Ks/9.
This morning, after the Northsiders lost a double header to the Nats early this morning, the Milwaukee Brewers are in second place of the Central Division of the National League down 3 games in the loss column.
Facebook on Thursday announced a partnership with MLB that will bring 20 baseball games to the social media network. The games are free for all viewers and will air live each Friday, beginning with today’s match between the Colorado Rockies and the Cincinnati Reds. #dailydiaryofscreens 🇺🇸🇬🇧🇦🇺💻📱📺🎬🌎🗺️
There is a promise in the air which begins with hope. The air in the morning is warmer than what you would expect at this time of the year. The same traffic one would expect from snow birds filling up the roads and freeways are the norm. But there is a different sound in the air.
It is not a ping from the golf courses, nor the sound of another automobile crash as that snow bird didn’t go right on read (its the law down here) as a local citizen banged into snow coast driver. No. It is the sound of a ‘pop’ as the ball hits the glove…not a ‘wack’ yet….just a mild ‘pop’ with the milling sounds of baseball language muffled in the air of conversations. ‘Hey, baby. Hey, baby.’ ‘That’s it. Get it in there.’ ‘My glove is tight. Got to get it flexed out.’ ‘Hum baby hum.’ Grunts and groans are customary as the kinks are beginning to work out. Laughter is heard as the players are back home…in their spring homes…on a practice field at a spring training camp.
This is not only a rite of spring, this maybe the right for spring as attention turns away from all of the political wrangling as the sounds and sights of delight present it self once again in Florida. The Major League teams have their pitchers and catchers reporting this week. And that brings us to that great word ‘hope’. There are smiles on faces, young and old. It is a time for, as ESPN anchors might say, ‘positivity’.
For many, living in San Diego or Oakland, Seattle or Phoenix, in Denver or Minneapolis, in Milwaukee and the South side of Chicago, in Cincinnati or Pittsburgh or even Philadelphia, in Atlanta or Tampa, in Miami or in Orange County California, hope is eternal. There is promise, promise from all of those cities owners that this year the rebuilding is going according to plan, or that this is the year that there will be a breakthrough, but in reality, most of the citizenry in these great areas hang onto hope. Let’s face it, Las Vegas odds are 100-1 that the Reds, Braves, Padres or Brewers will win the NL Pennant. For some reason, the D’Backs and Phillies are only 50-1. Go figure. Over in the AL, the White Sox are 100-1 while the Athletics, Rays and Twins are 50 to 1 to win their Pennant.
Now believe it or not, they say the Angels are 25-1 and that Mariners are 15-1.
On the other hand, the Red Sox are expected to win the AL Pennant as 5-2 odds are placed in their camp. In the NL, the defending World Series Champion Chicago Cubs (almost an oxymoron) have 7-4 odds with the Dodgers 7-2.
So you can see what an important day this will be during the coming week as Spring Training arrives.
The crowds have gone home. Hot dog wrappers and paper cups litter the grandstand. There is a chill in the air. And, beyond the gates there is only the hope of a better season next year. The Reds, Brewers, Pirates, Phillies, Marlins, Braves, the Diamondbacks, Padres and Rockies join for a rare time, the Cardinals in the National League as the gates are closed and locked on their hopes for 2016. Their dreams of winning a pennant or the World Series is over. In the American League, the Twins, White Sox, and the World Champion Royals are joined by the Rays, the once mighty Yankees, the Mariners, A’s, Astros, Angels are joined by the Tigers, where dreams of a great season have ended.
Now, one of the most exciting times of the year begins with a shock and a bang. The playoffs begin on Tuesday.
But it is up to those fans, whose teams are no longer in the run, left to wonder ‘what if’. What if the Brewers had a 3rd base coach who didn’t cost so many games? What if the White Sox had realized that Robbie Ventura just couldn’t manage a winning squad? What if the Twins hadn’t gotten off to one of the most horrible starts any club has faced. What if the Yankee owners hadn’t gotten cheap? What if the Marlins hadn’t lost their stars? What if the Rays didn’t play baseball. What if the Braves hadn’t left Milwaukee? What if the Pirates got a manager? What if the Reds actually had a good front office? What if the Astros weren’t a flash in the pan? Unfortunately for them, they woke up. What if the Padres actually had a team? What if BillyBall actually worked? What if Arte Marino kept out of baseball decisions for the Angels? What if the Colorado Rockies moved to sea level? What if the Royal didn’t have Ned as a manager? What if the Phillies could actually rebuild? What if the Tigers were owned by the owner of another pizza company? What if the D’Backs had more than one player? What if the Mariners were owned by SONY? Who’d that matter? What if Cardinals didn’t get old? What if …. What if …
What if Vin Scully didn’t retire….we could all hope the dreams of tomorrow were closer than ever. Who else would weave into the balls and strikes, ‘The Yankees put pinstripes on their uniforms to make the Babe look thiner., ball one.’ Or, as he said this Friday about Giants second baseman, Kelby Tomlinson . ‘Everyone in his family has a name that begins with a ‘K’. And when their son came along, his mom loved the name Shelby so she called him Kelby. He comes from a small town called Elgin, Oklahoma. It only has 2,156 people. It is so small, they have a hardware store, a grocery store, a Sonic and a McDonalds’. His mom works……..ball two’.
Now most of us wait for the next year.
Other sports will be played. We’ll have Thanksgiving and begin our hectic shopping season. We’ll go to Grandma’s for Christmas. The chill of winter will grab us and then, once again, as the thought of flowers pop up through the snow, the thoughts of the sounds of spring in Florida and Arizona will grab us like a great friend and shake us into the new dreams of another year.
After all, if it can happen to the Cubs, it can happen to any team.
It begins with an affection…perhaps from childhood, when you admire from afar that player who becomes one of your favorites on your favorite team…perhaps after one moves and establishes new ties, there is that certain player that literally allows you to slightly shift alliances and like your ‘second’ team. It is convenient. You can always fall back on your ‘second’ when or if your ‘main’ team stumbles during a season.
Then something happens. Adoration is damaged with a scratch which draws angry protest or dismay over the actions of the player or the team. It is a blood spill. The next day or the next week or month, a scab develops to cover the pain of the initial hurt. Eventually, the scabe goes away and there is just a mark left…then a feint mark then…nothing.
This week in the land near Pigsville, the team departed to the West Coast and with it the disappearance of one of Cream City’s favorite sons. He was one of us. He came up through the minor league system. He was the ‘good citizen’ of the group…a favorite among veterans of the Armed Forces for the work he did. He was one of the best defensive catchers in the Majors and in fact, a two-time All-Star. He was an accomplished hitter. And, he was not the top earning player on the team, not even close. Yet, he was one of the very best. And that made him vulnerable to the system of baseball. He was an attractive, valuable piece to be traded on the board game of baseball.
The first offer over the weekend was with Cleveland. But like a smart player, he had exercised his right not to go to Cleveland. Besides LaBron, who would go to Cleveland? Even United Airlines pulled out as a hub city. Not to say there is anything bad with Cleveland but it is Cleveland.
According to Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated, the Indians offered Lucroy absolutely nothing to approve the deal. Lucroy, a strong defensive catcher who finished fourth in the National League Most Valuable Player voting in 2014 and has hit .300/360/.484 (123 OPS+) thus far this season, projects to be worth $26.7 million next season and more than $100 million over the next five years. By way of comparison, the most expensive contract in Indians history was the four-year, $57 million extension they gave to Travis Hefner in late 2007. That was considered a bust. The Indians understandably refused that demand given the impressive quartet of prospects they had agreed to send to Milwaukee—catcher Francisco Mejia, shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang, centerfielder Greg Allen and right-hander Shawn Armstrong. Then the Indians told the Brewers it was up to them to get Lucroy to accept the trade. Given that Lucroy’s focus was on “long-term gain,” per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt, there was little the Brewers could do that would make sense for them or Lucroy and the deal collapsed.
Then the game turned into a school lesson for the new, youthful General Manager. Granted, his marching orders when he was hired was to rebuild a farm system that had been depleted as the Brewers made their charge in the past ten years which came to a complete collapse under the non-leadership of Roenicke. Boy GM was about to meet his match. He quickly found out that the learning tools of an effective general manager in major league baseball is not what he saw as an assistant in Houston. This is a game for big boys. This is a game where one plus one equals a minus one. Take the deal which created that which is a scabe today.
Meet Jon Daniels. He is the President of Baseball Operation and General Manager of the Texas Rangers. He has led the Rangers to two World Series appearances and besides the Blue Jays and the Yankees, is the only franchise to win back-to-back American League pennants in the last 22 years. When he was hired, he was the youngest GM in MLB at the time. He was only 28 years old when elevated in 2005. He is a Master of The Trade. And he is the Master of Milwaukee. Lets review: just before the 2006 trade deadline, he traded Lance Nix, Kevin Mench and Francisco Cordero to the Milwaukee Brewers for Nelson Cruz, who would become an All-Stare in 2009, and All-Star left fielder, Carlos Lee.
Now, ten years later, he led a lamb to slaughter. He suggested to the young general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers that he would be interested in acquiring the All-Star catcher, Jonathan Lucroy. The rookies GM in Cream City said he would have to have a couple of players which would have to include one of the most sought after young slugging third basemen in the minors, Joey Gallo. Gallo is a legend and has all of the ability to become a great player in The Show. The crafty GM of the Rangers said, he would have to have a pitcher along with Lucroy for that trade to become a reality. The rookie stumbled going back to his chair to think about the implications. Lucroy was a jewel in his trade crown. How the other guy wants a pitcher, a relief pitcher. The young GM couldn’t offer the 8th inning specialist, Will Smith because he had already committed to trade him to the Giants for a great prospect and a journeyman catcher. How about the closer, Daniels suggested. Jeffress was the closer for the Brewers with 27 saves in a horrible season for the team. He was the real deal who had been brought up through the farm system only to be traded away in the Greinke deal from KC and then returned last season. Mulling this over, the young GM obviously felt comfortable because he was going to trade Lucroy and he needed a catcher to back up Maldonado, so he brought up Pena from Colorado Springs, the center of pitching hell in the minors. Then told Lucroy not to travel with the team. If a trade could not be worked out, he would fly him out to San Diego to rejoin the team in time for Monday nights game.
That was check-mate time at the Miller Park B-Bar-B.
Daniels either pulled Gallo from the deal or simply did not include him in any further discussion and now left the rookie GM with a bag of nothing except an quietly concerned owner and a reputation that was clearly becoming backboneless. He balked and probably demanded Gallo be put back in. If he didn’t, that would be crazy. Daniels knew that he didn’t have to do anything because the kid didn’t have any cards. All the aces had been played and Daniels held all the kings.
As time slipped by, and no deal in sight, the deal was concluded when Daniels offered a solution. He would give the rookie not one but two minor leaguers…a AA outfielder, Lewis Brinson, a right handed AA pitcher, Luis Ortiz plus the most famous words in baseball, a player to be named later.
With no other team to rescue him, one young Mr. Strearns accepted. He was just sent to school…baseball school.
Jon Daniels stated, ‘We feel we definitely improved the club and we feel like we kept a number of the young players we liked.’
Thus the cut was made and now the scab formed…another mark on our body of baseball life.
Now we have no Jonathan. We have no Jeffress. We have no Smith. We have no Hill. But one thing we do have is a boat load of minor leaguers.
Rush to the ticket office, Brewer fans. See what-his-name playing over there. After all, its still baseball.
Often, in Urban conversations among athletes, the term ‘disrespect’ comes up. It is usually centered around a verbal slight that the athlete has experienced or believes he has experienced. But rarely has an athlete who is the center of attention had others use the word to express their dismay. And never has a Major League team shown such sophomoric behavior and insensitivity than have the Milwaukee Brewers to one of their bright young stars.
Zach Davies is a young pitcher for the Crew whom the Brewers acquired at last year’s trade deadline from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for OF Gerardo Parra. Many of you probably recall his starts from last September. He appeared in six games for the Brewers totaling 34 innings. He put up a pretty solid 3.71 ERA and 3.81 FIP. His .210 BAA was excellent, which helped keep his WHIP quite manageable (1.21). For those who are not up to speed with the vernacular of the MLB stat wonks…he showed a lot of promise with an amazing amount of poise for such a young pitcher. After he was traded, Buck Showalter, Manager of the Baltimore Orioles called the Brewer manager, Craig Counsell, and told him he was getting a bright young star.
Davies has a slight build (6’0”, 150 lbs) and has a fastball in the 88-91 range. While his build and average fastball is a call his critics give, don’t believe this lack of confidence. Believe the importance he brings to the Brewers as a starter. His change-up is terrific. And he also has an good curveball. But it is his above average command that allows everything to work. Like most pitchers, he needs his command to succeed.
However, he excels in one pivotal area: batted ball distribution. While many today are fly ball pitchers, Davies has always induced ground balls at a well above average rate. It’s an impressive package. Counsell points to Davies’ growing relationship with catchers Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado as one reason for his recent success. “They’re really getting on the same page and making good choices,” Counsell said. “He’s been on the attack. He’s got all four pitches as weapons. I think he’s really starting to get a feel for playing with the hitter front-to-back, side-to-side. “It’s good stuff.”
Davies used his weapons just before the All-Star break in meeting and beating the Washington Nationals. The Nationals’ lineup features reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper and current NL batting leader Daniel Murphy, who was hitting .347. “He’s a young starter who is learning as he goes and proving as he goes; he’s gaining more confidence, getting comfortable with his stuff, how it plays to hitters and how it needs to be good,” Counsell said. “He’s getting it through experience. It’s not easy to go out there for a young guy and what’s good is that he’s taking everything that’s happened before, applying it and getting better. “
It was interesting how Davies found his way into the starting lineup this season. Matt Garza, 32, was expected to return to the Brewers’ rotation after losing his spot late last season, but he was placed on the disabled list instead. Davies stood out in the Spring as a likely candidate to step into the rotation.
The year before, he faced the Cardinals, always a problem for the Cream City Nine. “He just made quality pitches,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.”He used his breaking ball to steal strikes early in the count. But it was about fastball location and chasing out of the zone with the change-up,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. It left St. Louis’ sluggers frustrated after entering the day second in the National League with 71 homers and a .460 slugging percentage. ‘It’s just one of those where he just had trouble finding the feel on a consistent basis,’ Matheny said. ‘But still, he only gave up only a couple runs, five hits. But he had a lot of traffic and a lot of stress innings.’
Kolten Wong, who struck out twice, said Davies kept the Cardinals off-balance with his change-up. ‘Just something that caught us off guard,’ Wong said. ‘He kept us off balance with his fastball coming in and threw that change-up away.’
That’s the kind of stuff he brings to the game. And he did it once again against the Nationals. That was Tuesday before the All-Star game. On Wednesday morning, the infamous Milwaukee Brewers optioned Davies to Class AAA Colorado Springs to open a roster spot to add first baseman/outfielder Andy Wilkins from that club. It was noted that the team had been playing short-handed on the bench while carrying eight relief pitchers for several weeks. Here, their winning pitcher the previous night in a 5-2 victory over Washington, boosting his record to 6-4 on a losing ball club with a 4.10 ERA in 15 starts, including a 6-1 mark and a 3.24 ERA over his last 12 outings, was ceremoniously banished to the Sky Sox.
The Brewers PR spin was that in sending down Davies, the Brewers said he would not pitch for Colorado Springs, which also entered its All-Star break after play on that Sunday. But rather then sending down one of their incompetent relief pitchers, which are many, they pick on the kid…a kid who is a rising star in their own organization. To make matters worse, the official pronouncement from the Brewers was that Davies would not pitch for Colorado Springs. But a player must remain in the minors for 10 days when optioned. Thus Davies would be recalled to pitch for the Brewers on the third day after the break in Cincinnati. That would be today.
But that’s not all. The cheapness of the Milwaukee Nine caused Davies to lose 10 days of major-league service time as well as about $24,000 in salary with the demotion.
To his credit, the mild Mr. Davies, upon hearing the news, quietly told reporters ‘Baseball is a business.’
His agent, the legendary Scott Boras, said the Milwaukee Brewers should not have have sent rookie right-hander Zach Davies to the minors for 10 days to open a spot for an additional bench player. Boras was more direct, saying, “In this game, performance earns respect. After beating one of the best teams in the National League, he was told he no longer was a member of the team. “It’s disrespect for someone who will be a principal part of the organization for years to come, to add a bench player for 10 days. Not exactly a valued ethic. In this game, teams do not send down starting pitchers who are performing well.’
He added, ‘Flying a starting pitcher cross-country interrupts his regular routine and his normal bullpen sessions. This is not how you prepare successful starting pitchers.’
Meanwhile, the Freshman Brewers General Manager, David Stearns, said he meant no disrespect to Davies in making the player move. Stearns said the major goal was to provide another bat for the bench during a period in which Davies would not have pitched for the Brewers. Unfortunately, without experience, young Mr. Stearns created a PR gaff unprecedented in modern baseball management.
‘We certainly value Zach’s contributions to the club and consider him an important part of our starting rotation,’ Stearns said. ‘Given that he wasn’t scheduled to pitch for a 10-day stretch, we wanted the extra flexibility of another player on the bench.’
Baseball purest suggest from a pure baseball point of view, the move makes great sense. Davies, as a starting pitcher who has already made his final start prior to the All-Star break, made it a good decision. He couldn’t be recalled for 10 days but with the All-Star break coming, that wouldn’t even cost Davies a start.
But the baseball side isn’t the only one to consider. We simply can’t forget about the human element. In sending Davies down, the Brewers are costing him service time. That can potentially impact the timing of him becoming a free agent down the road. This is not to say anything of the $24,000 he lost after beating one of the best teams in baseball.
Milwaukee was well within its rights to do this. It’s certainly true that baseball is a business. But good businesses also have business partners. With this move, the Brewers are giving a potential business partner a reason to be upset or frustrated with them down the road. At the moment, Davies isn’t upset (at least not publicly), but Boras clearly is. And you don’t want to make Mr. Boras angry.
It’s certainly a business move, and admittedly, stuff like this isn’t entirely unprecedented. Still, it’s generally not a kind of move pulled by the game’s top organizations. This goes to the root of all that is bad about the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club. They are not a class organization. Nor are they a top organization. In all the years they have been in the Majors, they have never won a World Series, a key mark in measuring the quality of a management team. They have a losing record. Again, not a mark of a good management team.
Now, the new management group is making its mark to the world.
They are disrespectful.
P.S. So how did Davies do upon his return on Sunday, July 17, 2016?
7.0 inning pitched
4 Fly outs
23 Batters faced in 7 complete innings
Brewers lost in bottom of the 9th as Thornberg, with two outs walks Hamilton. Then, walks Votto. Will Smith comes in, can’t hold Hamilton as he goes to third and gives up winning run with a Passed Ball (Lucroy), Hamilton scoring.
Final score: Cincinnati 1 Milwaukee 0.
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.
The entirety of the old confines fell unearthly quiet. The home team’s dugout was complete with disbelief. Sitting motionless with blank stares of imminent closure was complete evidence. The manager stood on the second step of the dugout, set in a frozen stare before an ever so slight shaking of his head as if in shock.
With a 3-2 count in the top of the 1st inning on a Wednesday, October 21, 2015, there was no goat to blame…not Bartman to condemn…no rain as in the night before. Simply put, the pitcher put a pitch over the plate and a fellow named Duda smacked it out, over the vines in deep left center field to bring complete and total silence to Clark & Sheffield, where dreams continue down a path worn with grief and agony. The New York Mets defeated the home team, the Chicago Cubs on that pitch…in that instant…in that fraction it takes to smash a dream for another day…another season…another year.
The look on the young Cubbie faces were blank, searching for an answer to the more than evident answer. The long, long drought of the Chicago franchise on the North Side of the City would continue. Youth was destroyed. Pennants were banished. Blame it on Duda.
The vines began to fade along with the autumn somewhere between the 1st and 2nd inning when Duda drove in two more to make is 6-0 in 1 & 2/3rds innings of the fourth game of the NLCS. The only sound one could hear was the movement of arms-to-mouth for another sip of Old Style. And that seemed slower than usual, as the crowd was in nonbelief.
On this Fall evening, after the lights were out, the North Siders failed…again. This time it was the Metropolitans from the place where the Big Apple rises in center field who won in four straight games to win the National League Championship in 2015 with a score of 8-3.
Long live the memories of Tinkers to Evers to Chance. It didn’t happen when Baez to Castro to Rizzo played in their dreams.
For many fans of the remaining 26 teams no longer playing the game that began when the pitchers and catchers reported back in February, this is the worst of bad times. All of the hopes of Spring have evaporated into listlessness of Fall. Those teams we almost hate are parading around on our television sets as if they belong in the Fall Classic. They are all pretenders.
There are teams in blue, not Dodger Blue, but some kind of blue based in the Midwest or in Canada. There are teams who rarely if ever appear in post season events, outside of baseball card shows, who are not front and center night after night. Much of the land has no team to cheer for, only against. There is no team left west of the Kansas/Missouri border or two miles south of I-70.
There are moose antlers, for goodness sake. Someone hit an apple with a home run. There are vines in an outfield, never seen before in many, many decades. And there are fans who throw Molson bottles and cans onto a field as if it were octopus after a hat trick. Everything about this year is backwards. Opposite of groundhog day, this is the nightmare of ’15, something we have never seen before.
There is a team participating where the second baseman decided to stop running for a pop fly and it proverbially, opened the gates to defeat. There is another team that hasn’t been this high since a guy named Bartman decided to become infamous.
In other words, this is one messed up season of the year as the marathon comes near its end while all of the favorites, except one, are participating in something which has become a traditional classic. There is nothing traditional about this year’s happenings.
All you have to do is look at the stands to see why this is a different type of post season. There are a lot of young people in the parks. Look at Wrigley. They have never witnessed anything like this. There are a lot of guys in the New York ballpark. Women don’t like baseball in that part of New York? Seinfeld in post season? You’ve got to be kidding? They don’t even drink regular beer in one of the parks. After all, its been 20+ years since real fall baseball appeared in Canada. Then there is the guy in Kansas City who insists on wearing an orange Marlins jersey behind home plate behind the batter’s head.
Yup. This is some kind of post season, kind of like being invited to a Thanksgiving dinner from that aunt you’ve never been invited to Thanksgiving since you were a kid and that was because it was your parents who received it and dragged you along, probably for protection rather than enjoyment.
Now all you look forward to is your aunt standing up after tapping that water-glass and saying, ‘What a lovely tradition’.