Sadly, no more. There are no more hawkers in the stadiums shouting out, ‘Programs. Programs Here! Can’t Tell The Players Without A Program.’ It is a sound that has passed, like coins dropping in a coin operated telephone in a telephone booth or the ring of a landline phone in the home.
This year, the fans of the Cream City ball club could use the sound of the program hawker. For the money-pinching owners of Pigsville’s Nine, most fans will have trouble knowing who’s on first, what’s on second or I don’t knows on third.
For the record, the first baseman is Eric Thames. ‘Who?’ Eric Thames. Elig temjeuneun nugu-ibnikka? (‘에릭 템즈는 누구입니까?’). He’ll make $4,000,000 and is taking over for Chris Carter who made $2.5 million last season but was headed for arbitration which could have earned him $8+ million. After all, he was the National League Home Run champion. Thus, in the Brewers way of thinking, they saved $4+ million. You have to understand Brewer thinking. They save $4 million and gained 30 points in a batting average. Yet that is all hypothetical because Mr. Thames has been hitting against Korean baseball league pitching for the last three years. 오 좋은! Wow!
At second will be Jonathan Villar. ‘What?’ He is taking over from Scooter. Villar’s salary will be $512,900.
At third will be Travis Shaw. ‘I don’t know’. Shaw? He will earn $515,000.
At shortstop will be Orlando Arcia. ‘I don’t give a damn’ will earn $507,500.
In left will be one of the few we know…Ryan Braun, if he isn’t traded in the next couple of months before he reaches his ability to block any trade starting in late May, when he becomes a 10-year veteran who has spent his past five seasons with his current team. He will earn $20 million.
In center, Keon Broxton. ‘Hit like the second half of last season’ will earn $508,500.
In right, Domingo Santana. ‘Don’t Get Hurt Santana’ will earn $513,800. Catching will be Andrew Susac. Not ‘today’. But this season, Susac, who replaced Maldonado who replaced Lucroy, will be making $507,500.
Compared to last year’s starting lineup, this year’s projected edition will save approximately $4.5 million less than last year. In fact, according to SPOTRAC, the Milwaukee Brewers will have the third lowest 25 man roster salary in the entire Major League. It is estimated that the team salary will be $41.175 million. Watch out, San Diego and Tampa. Milwaukee is coming after your cheap crown.
They have traded away one of the best catchers in baseball for somebody. They have traded away a veteran third baseman for somebody. They have released the National League’s home run champion for nobody.
If they trade away Braun, they will fly by the San Diego and Tampa and threaten the Salt Lake City Bees for salary.
What an accomplishment.
The Cream City Nine’s owner, who has never won a pennant much less a World Series title, will threaten most of the top Major League owners in profit. He knows that the Milwaukee fans will pack the stadium for Tiddlywinks. OK. That may be a stretch, but ‘program hawkers’ will be needed. Perhaps they can have a ‘Tiddlywinks Night’ to introduce all of the new faces.
We’ll be watching, Mr. Attanasio. We’ll be watching.
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.
It’s all quiet in the cathedrals of the sport. The last game of the season has been played. No more fans in the stands. No more vendors hawking things. The ball park is quiet today.
The sport of baseball is like that as we enter the period the Hotstove League. This is a time to look back but more importantly, look forward to the time with pitchers and catchers report to spring training. The GMs are down in Arizona soon for their annual meetings and it is a time when the Free Agent agents swarm around, kill bees finding new honey for themselves as their slice is big.
Some time things work out where fans and free agents find a satisfying conclusion. And none would be better than having Nori Aoki sign with his home town team, the Milwaukee Brewers. There is real benefit her. Aoki has a great consistency to his game. Look at this: he has batted .288, .286 and .285 in his three seasons in the big leagues, the first two with the Brewers. But it is his ability to get on base that is of great value. His OBPs of .355, .356 and .349 is remarkable. The man walks a lot. But his real hidden key is his ability to hit left handers. He has batted .363/.428/.435 against lefties in his first three years. Imagine, a left-handed hitter banging at that rate against left-handed pitching.
He’ll be 32 this year, right in the prime of his career. With a two-year contract, probably at a $15 million for two-year agreement, the Brew Crew could once again have the kind of player that is perfect for the City of Milwaukee. Ron Roenicke said of Nori, ‘He fit in really well with the guys. We had fun with him. But he worked as hard as you could work. You can’t put more effort into the job than he did.’
This would be a perfect move as it would allow the team to trade a valuable Gerardo Parra, who is one of the best defensive players in the league as shown by his two Gold Gloves. But he simply cannot hit and get on base at the rate of Aoki. Every team wants and need a starting outfielder who is a good defensive player. But the Brewers do not. Use the value of Parra to trade for more pitching.
We know the heads of the management of Cream City’s Nine do not like Aoki for whatever reason. So this may be moot in thinking…in hoping such a player who gives his all would come back.
Milwaukee needs the kind of player Nori represents. That would be A OK.
One of the songs waffling in the air during a September in the Midwest is the sound of the crowd at the baseball stadiums. For those who expect to win, the sound is full of excitement. For those who are on the brink of collapse, the sound of pending failure is deafeningly muted in its outburst of last air escaping from a dying effort.
Down by two in the bottom of the night, with two outs and a runner on third, while two rookies tried in vain to deliver a key hit to extend the comeback, there was a crescendo from the crowd lifted by the hope that what might be could happen. But most in the park understood that this is where so few of these epic victories have taken place as the inevitable surly would happen.
Baseball in most cities in the Major Leagues have rarely seen the delight of a championship season. It is the hallowed ground of the Yankees and the Cardinals, the Dodgers and the Giants. Oh, there have been bursts of greatness in Oakland and once in Phoenix, Atlanta has had one and ironically, Miami and Baltimore have seen their share as have Minneapolis and Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati. Boston and Chicago, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and once years ago by a team no longer in Milwaukee. Even Washington saw it before most people who are alive today were born. But never has the World Championship flag flown in Houston or Dallas, Tampa or San Diego. Seattle has never seen it fly except in other team’s stadiums.
But now in the present era of the game, the team that now occupies a place in the major leagues in Milwaukee has never seen it fly at home. They came close one time when they had won the American League pennant, but never since…some thirty two years ago. And perhaps, after a gallant season where they were in first place in the Central Division for so long, since early in April until Labor Day, another season sounded a possible death knell last night as the crowd silently filed out of Miller Park into the gloom of another failed season’s night. And who else would have silenced the crowd but their brewery town rival from the western edge of the Mississippi River down on the Eastern edge of Missouri.
One has to understand that it will be another long season where the Hot Stove league always brings hope for the next season, where the Cubs could win this next year because they have all of these great young players. But settling back on a cold winter’s night with every next day is pewter gray, the thought will haunt how close the Brewers were to finally raising the crown this year.
But the assembled veterans who made first base their home really couldn’t pull off the power first base as Prince used to do for so many years. Scooter just turned out to be a rookie who couldn’t come through in the clutch while Rickey did an amazing job raising his average with so few attempts at Second. Jean was hit in the face with a bat by a team-mate in the dugout, lost his son in a season to be forgotten by him and all of us who hopes he never has to go through anything like this again. Davis performed OK in his rookie season, hitting with power sometimes when it really didn’t count and in need of an arm to control left. Go Go was just a shade off of amazing before he hurt himself again, and now the team misses his power of excitement and energy. Braun just looked hurt all year, unable to regain the powerful stroke that made him a superstar before his fall from grace. Now, sadly, he is just another ball player. Vonnie continued to pick at the corners into mediocrity where he could no longer blow the ball past the pesky hitters who continued to run the count to full. Lohse just could not eliminate the one bad inning. Peralta, after an amazingly strong first five months, simply ran out of steam. Garza was a complete waste of a three-year, $50 million contract, no longer capable of being a stopper. Yet maybe there will be hope as Lucroy had a career season along with Maldonado who should be the catcher as Lucroy could solve the first base situation. Fiers was tremendous for the past month and the amazing Aramis was the real pro at third base who delivered with the bat and played a remarkable third, fielding superbly. No one plays the slow rolling grounder to third better.
When the great slump of 9 losses finally ended, the inexperience of the manager was exposed and his coaching staff, praised by the team announcers on television as hard-working, were overwhelmingly inadequate.
And on Saturday as the crowd quietly slipped out of the Miller gates, the field left behind was again witness to another close-but-no-cigar season of fading dreams.
Now the pewter gray days and cold winter nights are surely ahead as we head in the direction of Pigsville. But for the Cream City Nine, this year was better than most and with that as a memory, it is a blessing for those of us who have rarely seen the big flag fly above the place called home.
The Marquette will taste the same at Real Chili. The pepperoni and extra onion pizza will still be sensational at Balistrai’s in Tosa. And the Belvedere extra dry will be blessed at Elsa’s on Cathedral Square. Nothing will change. And the Brewers will miss the World Series Championship again.
It felt like post season play. The small market Cream City Nine was taking on the mighty New York Yankees…the Bronx Bombers…the Gotham Nine…the biggest of the big major league baseball teams in the world. Arguably one of the best know sports brands on the planet, the Yanks stride into a city, heads held high, looking smart and comfortable within their skins as the legends they represent on today’s playing fields are. No team has won more World Series Championships than the men in pinstripes. They are so great they may have invented pinstripes.
When they come out before the game, there are no pinstripes on the grey traveling uniforms and no names on their jerseys. ‘You can’t tell a player without a program was not invented by the Yanks because everyone knows who the players are. There are way more people than normal in the stands, showing up for BP. These are not the Pittsburgh Pirates. These are the real deal, honest to God, Yankees. They don’t even need a city locater in front of their name on their website (www.yankees.com). Everywhere you look there is a story: Mark Teixeira, 34-year-old big first baseman and former All-Star who is back after missing most of last season. He’s bigger than you think. Out jogs Ichiro. At 40 years old, he doesn’t need a last name as he is one of the greatest baseball players of this generation who was in every All Star game for a decade. Batting .373 this season and fewer than 300 hits away from 3,000, strangely he is relegated to pinch running roles which give a whole new meaning to steal a base when he is on, or an occasional Sunday start. There’s Jacoby Ellsbury, the 29-year-old former Boston center fielder and All-Star, jogging in the outfield. Isn’t that Alfonso Soriano, a former seven-time All-Star, taking ground balls? CC Sabathia, 33-year-old former hero of Milwaukee and a six-time All-Star, is taking BP. Welcome back to the Senior Circuit, CC. Brian McCann, 30-year-old former Braves’ All-Star, walking out, swinging a bat ready to go into the cage. Walking back to the dugout is Carlos Beltran, 37-year-old, 8 time All-Star, now playing right field for his fourth team. Then, last out of the dugout comes The Captain…Derek Jeter. In his farewell trip, and always a crowd favorite, he comes out just as he always has with his head held up high, jogging out to short to take a few grounders. He is the man. Even coming into the dugout to grab his bat, there is a regal kind of presence.
Then, out in the bullpen, there is the Master of Hyogo, Masahiro Tanaka, who was 24-0 in his homeland, and is still perfect in the Bigs too, throwing bullets. There is a reason he hasn’t lost sometime since 2012. His control is perfect. His demeanor is perfect. His presence is perfect. Imagining him anywhere else in major league baseball is imaginable. He is a Yankee.
It is that kind of night. The Yankees are in The Keg.
When Jeter comes to the plate, as will happen when CC Sabathia comes to the pate the next day, these Midwestern folks who know their baseball and understand the moment like few others in the game, rise and give him a standing ovation. A STANDING OVATION for an opposing player. In all of baseball, that is unheard of. But there is a reason. Derek Jeter is one of the great baseball players that has ever lived. And, he has represented his sport like few other professionals in the history of the game. Here is a guy who even warns some guy who runs out to short during the game to ask for a hug and Derek Jeter just says to the fan near his idol, “You’re going to get in trouble. “And then he repeated that the fan wanted a hug, and Jeter said, ‘Look out.’, just before security guards grabbed the guy and took him out of the ballpark. What kind of a guy is Derek Jeter?
Call it what it is…Braunschweiger covers the skies over the Cream City Nine like none other before in the history of baseball in this midwestern setting. Usually the talk is about hope and what if’s. Today it centers around how will he handle it. How will the team handle it? How will he perform? How will he handle the jeers when he steps to the plate time and time again when the voices of the opposition are the loudest? How will he handle the bombardment from the fans in the tight confines of right field throughout his tour of cities this season where the taunts are more pointed and individually pin pricking? From the moment when he steps out of the protected environ of the clubhouse and the dugout, and onto the grass, he will be under some of the greatest scrutiny in baseball.
The Brewers on the other hand are using the old fashioned methods of banging the drum of interest. Attempting to get the fans fired up with various hoopla, and the signing of aging starting and relief pitching, the answer to the team’s success still all centers around the one thing management is not talking about…that guy in right field.
The management instead are talking about having a possible team record in payroll. That’s what you get when you hire old players and trade away your best lead-off hitter who only cost a couple of million a year. It is also reflective of having one of the lowest payrolls in the game in one of the smaller markets in baseball. Mark Attanasio has been stated that he expects to win this season. As reported in the Journal Sentinel he stated ‘We’re at the point now where we’re well into the top half of payrolls in the major leagues. We have more pitching depth than we’ve had, really, in 10 years. As I’ve explained to everybody, as investors you wouldn’t make that decision to lose.’ He added, ‘The ownership group felt like this was the year to invest (more) in the team. I think we’re going to surprise people this year.’
Perhaps. They added Matt Garza and brought back K-Rod for the bullpen. Some estimate the new payroll will top $102 million. Yet this team will go only as far as their #1 player takes them. The guy in right has to perform up to and above his MVP season and during the history-making first few years of his being in the majors. No more Prince to protect him. No more Aoki to be on the base paths ahead of him to provide the added potential RBI. Now with the pressure of all that upon him, will he be able to make this a winning season for the Cream City Nine?