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Monday, January 03, 2021

look out below
I’ve had a day to digest the absurdity of the Seattle Seahawks winning the NFC West with a 7-9 record, the first sub-.500 division champion in NFL history.

And all I can come up with is this: That the National Football League has, improbably, stumbled across its own franchise-level version of the Mendoza Line. The Seahawks’ 2010 winning percentage of .438 might seem gaudy next to the Mendoza threshold of .200, but when we’re talking about football standings, it’s equivalent.

To an extent, the losing record is merely symbolic. Would Seattle truly be any better of a team if it had squeezed out one more win, to finish a comparably respectable 8-8? No. It’s still a rotten team, that just happened to be grouped with three other rotten teams, and somebody had to wind up on top.

It sucks for the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Bucs, the other NFC teams that finished up 10-6 yet were shut out of postseason action. The league can look at revising the playoff qualification rules for the future. But if nothing else, they should really revisit the onetime proposal to strip division winners of homefield advantage if their records aren’t better than those of their wild-card opponents. It’s bad enough that Seattle gets into the playoffs, but to have it host a playoff game is doubly ridiculous.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/03/2021 11:28pm
Category: Baseball, Football
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Saturday, December 11, 2021

buyboughtboughtnaught
This week’s purchase of the New Orleans Hornets by the National Basketball Association is the third such franchise-buyback in recent memory:

- The Phoenix Coyotes were bought out of bankruptcy by the National Hockey League last year; they’re still owned by the league, although a sale to Matthew Hulsizer seems imminent.

- Back in 2002, Major League Baseball bought the Montreal Expos, a prelude to eventually selling the team to investors who re-launched the franchise as the Washington Nationals.

Are we seeing a trend? Each of these buybacks were defensive, last-resort moves. Contraction was mentioned in each instance, and is being bandied about by the NBA even now (although more as sabre-rattling versus its upcoming collective bargaining fight with its players union). While brand value and product integrity are important enough for the NHL, NBA, and MLB to persuade member owners to contribute money to pool together such troubled-team buybacks, you have to wonder when owners will get tired of footing such bills.

Oh, and the missing major-pro league here? The National Football League, of course. The NFL has yet to experience a situation where a franchise couldn’t attract eager buyers. That doesn’t translate into stability — teams have switched cities a lot, the Los Angeles vacancy is an ongoing issue, and the looming player lockout could dent a few franchises. But to this point, it’s telling that the NFL hasn’t had to engage in such bailouts.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/11/2021 05:45pm
Category: Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, SportsBiz
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Thursday, November 18, 2021

Today’s New York Times takes a predictably dim view of Dominican Republic youth baseball academies, known as buscones:

At academies run by investors from the United States, the players are typically 13 to 19 years old and forgo formal schooling to train. Several of the players said they would return to school if they were not signed to a professional contract…

These practices are worrisome for critics like David P. Fidler, a professor of international law at Indiana University. “Buscones in the Dominican Republic are in the business of selling children,” he said. “And it’s very disturbing that American investors would come in to profit from a system that exploits and discriminates against young children.”

It struck me that the part about forgoing formal schooling in favor of athletic development is reminiscent of another sports-development system, in another country: The Canadian Hockey League.

The CHL is the chief talent feed for the National Hockey League, and the three junior leagues that comprise it operate pretty much the same way as buscones do. The main difference is the age of entry — the Ontario, Quebec, and Western leagues typically wait until their kids are in their late teens. But indeed, not only do those players leave home, they also give up regular school in favor of full-time hockey.

So why criticize what goes on in the Caribbean, and not what goes on north of the border? The basic concept is the same. The difference is in the socioeconomic setting.

Canada is a developed country, and the kids who are drafted into the junior ranks tend to come from middle-class and higher households — therefore, there’s no characterization of those kids “being sold”. Whereas the Dominican Republic is a third world country, the kids there are impoverished, and so these actions are viewed as exploitative. It’s a double standard.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/18/2010 11:04pm
Category: Baseball, Business, Hockey, Society
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Monday, October 25, 2021

there's a catch
Thanks to the trick of a mid-season trade, Texas Rangers catcher Bengie Molina is guaranteed a World Series ring in this year’s Fall Classic — no matter which team prevails:

He is about to become the first catcher in baseball history to appear in the Fall Classic against a team he played for earlier in the season… Molina also was the Giants’ catcher from 2007 until July 1 of this year, when he was traded to Texas for reliever Chris Ray and minor leaguer Michael Main… Molina played 61 games for San Francisco and 57 games for Texas during the regular season.

Molina is only the second Major League Baseball player to play on the rosters of both World Series clubs in the same season; he’s preceded by leftfielder Lonnie Smith, who got swapped from St. Louis to Kansas City in 1985 — and got his revenge by helping the Royals power past the Cardinals for the championship that year. Hopefully, Molina will earn his WS ring the same way, versus backing into it on the losing squad.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/25/2010 10:52pm
Category: Baseball
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Monday, September 06, 2021

labor daze
In observance of Labor Day today, I figured I’d take a brief look at a couple of notable developments during this National Hockey League offseason, as they relate to the free-agent market:

- Most immediately, the Ilya Kovalchuk contract controversy, which precipitated the addition of a major amendment in the collective bargaining to address similar long-term pacts in the future:

First: For long-term contracts extending beyond the age of 40, the contract’s average annual value for the years up to and including 40, are calculated by dividing total value in those years by the number of years up to and including 40. Then for the years covering ages 41 and beyond, the cap charge in each year is equal to the value of the contract in that year…

Secondly, for long-term contracts that include years in which the player is 36, 37, 38, 39 and 40; the amount used for purposes of calculating his average annual value is a minimum of $1 million in each of those years (even if his actual compensation is less during those seasons).

Somewhat convoluted, but essentially, the league is aiming to discourage using the downside of a player’s career as “voidable years” in a front-loaded contract. The presumption has been that, after the player has gotten the bulk of his money in the first few years, he’ll be more inclined to retire or consent to a buyout when the latter portion of the deal kicks in. That would work out for the team as well, as it can work with a lower averaged-out cap number during that player’s most productive seasons, and save a little money further down the line (while not worrying about the future accelerated salary cap hit if the contract is eventually terminated). But now, these new age-specific rules prevent too much stretching-out of the total compensation — basically, contract length can’t really be used as a bidding tactic anymore.

So, barring the discovery of a new loophole, this will mean shorter-length contracts in general in the NHL, for the remainder of this CBA. Annual salaries/cap hits may not correspondingly decrease, although with the smaller window of averaged-out seasons in play, teams will have less room to bid against each other for sought-after players.

The advent of these super-sized contracts was an interesting response to the unique constraints imposed by the NHL’s CBA: A hard salary cap combined with guaranteed contracts. Using contract length as an outlet to level out the per-season cap hit has been used in the NFL since the inauguration of true free agency in that league. The key there, though, was that those player contracts are not guaranteed. Football teams have operated freely by luring prized free agents with long-term big-money deals that easily fit under the NFL hard cap, because the long-term impact could be instantly negated by cutting the player after one or two seasons (again, ignoring the acceleration penalties, which are mostly manageable). In turn, football players learned to negotiate massively front-loaded deals, usually with half or more of the total contract value payable upon signing and/or in the first season; the rest of the contract years are presumed to be optional.

That’s just what the NHL’s “voidable years” emulated. Realistically, you know that most players hit their downside by their mid-30s, so extending a contract into those iffy years was a low-risk proposition. It was obviously cap-circumventing too, so it’s not surprising that the league finally eliminated it (or, at least, made it less workable).

- From Kovalchuk’s 15-year deal, we go to the other end of the spectrum: An apparent increased frequency in extremely short-term deals. A rundown of CapGeek’s free-agent tracker reveals a total of 385 players signing one- or two-year contracts for the coming 2010-11 NHL season (as of this writing). With only 420 players having agreed to free-agent or contract-extension deals this offseason, this points to an extremely soft free-agent market.

But why? Granted, in any given year, there are only a handful of major in-demand free agents to be had, and they generally get scooped up early with big paydays. After that, second-tier players take what’s left, competing for a limited number of roster holes.

Still, I can’t remember the last time so many proven NHL players had to settle for so little. The preponderance of one-year contracts, in particular, brings to my mind the grand strategy of Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley, at the dawn of Major League Baseball free agency:

Said Finley: “Let Them All Become Free Agents.” What Finley proposed was that after each season every player would become a free agent, free to sign with whatever team wanted his services.

The idea was that, with such a huge pool of talent available each offseason, teams would have far more options, thus driving down the value for each individual player — and this would be the case every year. Certainly, specific needs would lead to some bidding wars: If Team A and Team B really needed a good shortstop, they’d probably target the same couple of players and drive up the signing price. But with no contracts lasting longer than a season, the damage would be short-lived.

In effect, that seems to be what’s being set up for next offseason in the NHL, with most of those players coming loose again (except for a handful that might earn contract extensions). Any time such a large-scale work-status shift materializes in major-pro sports, whispers of collusion surface. They haven’t this time — yet. I’m not sure the owners are conspiring in this case. But it definitely is curious that a flood of the same players will be on the market in 2011, guaranteeing that they won’t be able to command better money/terms than they had last time around.

Overall, it’s been an interesting round of labor pains for the NHL this summer. We’ll see how all this manifests itself when the regular season starts in a month.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/06/2021 11:00pm
Category: Baseball, Football, History, Hockey, SportsBiz
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Thursday, June 10, 2021

from a distance
There’s no way to make this any more absurd than to state it in plain fact: The owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers paid “six figures and even higher”, according to a team attorney, to a physicist-slash-faith-healer named Vladimir Shpunt for transmitting positive vibes in the direction of Chavez Ravine.

In the five years [Shpunt] worked for the Dodgers, he attended just one game. Instead, he watched them on television in his home more than 3,000 miles from Dodger Stadium, channeling his thoughts toward the team’s success.

Shpunt’s work was one of the best-kept secrets of the McCourt [ownership] era. The couple kept it hidden even from the team’s top executives. But from e-mails and interviews, a picture emerges of how the emigre physicist tried to use his long-distance energy to give the Dodgers an edge.

The McCourts, who are embroiled in a contentious divorce, declined to be interviewed about Shpunt. Through their representatives, Frank said it was Jamie’s idea to hire him and Jamie said it was Frank’s.

The power of positive scamming is alive and well. As rife with superstition as baseball is, I’d say this incident reveals a new level of mystic nonsense — and from the executive suite, to boot. The only way to top this is if some owner decides to start serving up sacrificial offerings to the baseball gods…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/10/2021 10:57pm
Category: Baseball
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Saturday, May 15, 2021

3 down, 4 up
Emblematic of the upside-down train wreck that the Eastern Conference bracket has become in this year’s National Hockey League playoffs, the Philadelphia Flyers roared back from an 0-3 series deficit to eliminate the Boston Bruins in their series.

That’s an impressive enough feat, given that it’s happened so rarely in major-pro sports (this is the third time in the NHL, and somewhat ironically, the Boston Red Sox did it in 2004 for MLB comeback marker). What’s even more impressive, and adds a touch of symmetrical destiny to the Flyers’ accomplishment: They had to come back from an 3-0 goal deficit in Game 7 last night to complete the deed.

So it was a double-downer of oh-and-threes that Philadelphia had to overcome, in microcosmic game-time and macrocosmic series grind. And on the flip side, Boston experienced the overcoming. One for the ages.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/15/2010 12:19pm
Category: Baseball, Hockey
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Sunday, May 02, 2021

umpity
If you’re already tired of following hitting, fielding, and pitching stats for your roto roster in this Major League Baseball season, maybe tracking the doings of the men behind home plate, fantasy-style is more your speed:

It is a fantasy league in which umpires are drafted, and in which they score points for you based on… the number of times they eject players or managers. There are convoluted (ok, impenetrable) scoring variations, but essentially it’s four points every time an ump “correctly” runs a guy, and minus three every time he fails to. There’s a draft, just like in more traditional leagues, and everybody I mentioned this to at The Stadium said the same thing: “Angel Hernandez gets taken first?”

It’s called the Umpire Fantasy League, but it’s more properly dubbed the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League, since the heave-ho action is the only stat that matters. Although I’d imagine a hardcore stats geek — which baseball tends to attract like no other sport — would go orgasmic over an ump league that included judgment over called strikes, balls, home-plate slides, etc.

Just when you thought fantasysportsland couldn’t get any more annoying. I don’t care if MLB’s umps should develop an awareness of their fantasy activities, and thus let that influence their ejection actions. I only hope this foolishness doesn’t spread to the other sports, including the ones I pay attention to.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/02/2021 08:02pm
Category: Baseball, Creative
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Monday, April 12, 2021

no cigar
One of the more persistent legends in baseball lore concerns a young Fidel Castro and his flirtation with a Major League Baseball career in the 1950s. The story goes that his pitching performance for his college team in Havana attracted the notice of a New York Giants (some say Washington Senators) scout, who promptly offered Castro a Standard Player’s Contract to play in the Giants’ system in the States. Castro, of course, turned down the offer in favor of continuing his law school studies, and the rest is history.

The implications are obvious: Had Castro opted for the life of a professional ballplayer, he wouldn’t have become a guerilla soldier in Cuba, and the Cuban Revolution never would have happened, or else never have succeeded, or else would have taken a different form (depending on how much you subscribe to the Great Man Theory of history). Speculation on Castro’s personal trajectory favors his ascension to the Majors, making his baseball-diamond pursuit a favored subject of alternate-history fiction, notably in John Kessel’s 1993 short story “The Franchise” (in which he faces off against a similarly-alternated George Herbert Walker Bush in the 1959 World Series).

It’s all an entertaining what-if scenario. Unfortunately, according to Yale professor Roberto González Echevarría, author of “The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball”, it doesn’t hold up because there’s no evidence to support it:

Let it be known here that Fidel Castro was never scouted by any major-league team, and is not known to have enjoyed the kind of success in baseball that could have brought a scout’s attention to him. In a country where sports coverage was broad and thorough, in a city such as Havana with a half-dozen major newspapers (plus dozens of minor ones) and with organized leagues at all levels, there is no record that Fidel Castro ever played, much less starred, on any team. No one has produced even one team picture with Fidel Castro in it. I have found the box score of an intramural game played between the Law and the Business Schools at the University of Havana where a certain F. Castro pitched and lost, 5-4, in late November 1946; this is likely to be the only published box score in which the future dictator appears (El Mundo, November 28, 2021). Cubans know that Fidel Castro was no ballplayer, though he dressed himself in the uniform of a spurious, tongue-in-cheek team called Barbudos (Bearded Ones) after he came to power in 1959 and played a few exhibition games.

Echevarría attributes the MLB story to “a fabrication by an American journalist whose name is now lost”. I’m guessing that Castro’s post-revolution Barbudos appearances spurred some speculation about his baseball prowess, which led to the tall tales. Thus, a legend (more properly, a myth) was born.

I’m disappointed. I’d accepted the Castro baseball story, having come across various manifestations of it over the years. I even recall reading quotes from the alleged scout who tried to recruit Castro, with him noting that it was “unusual” for a Latin American prospect to turn down an MLB offer in those days. As unusual as the entire account, apparently.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 04/12/2021 11:07am
Category: Baseball, Creative, History, Political
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Monday, March 29, 2021

dodgy
Marriages end every day. But it’s not every day that a breakup brings into question custody of the Los Angeles Dodgers:

The larger, more incendiary issue — which carries repercussions for Major League Baseball — is whether Jamie [McCourt] is a co-owner of the Dodgers, as she contends. A date has yet to be set for the trial to determine whether the marital property agreements the couple signed several years ago, putting the Dodgers in Frank [McCourt's] name and their homes in her name, should stand and govern how the court divides the marital assets. Jamie contends she and Frank always believed she was a co-owner of the team. He says he is the sole owner.

I’m betting this is the first time a major-pro sports franchise has landed in divorce court. Too bad the Dodgers are being treated as property, versus dependent or child — the judge could give the McCourts joint custody, with the team splitting time between LA and, I dunno, Cape Cod…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/29/2010 07:49pm
Category: Baseball, Business
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Friday, November 06, 2021


This morning I came across a clutch of Yankees revelers, clogging up the sidewalk. Obviously from out of town (upstate or Connecticut, not so much New Jersey), obviously here for the big pin-striped ticker-tape parade, obviously lost and clueless (since they were several block uptown from City Hall).

Just as I was navigating through them, my iTouch‘s shuffle-play ticked up Laibach’s cover of “Sympathy For The Devil (Who Killed The Kennedys Mix)”. A perennial favorite to my ears.

I’ll let you discern any connections between the song and the occasion. Personally, I think it turns out to be apt, if tangential, commentary on how essentially joyless and brute-forced this 27th championship seemed to be. At least it felt that way, to this baseball-apathetic observer.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/06/2021 09:11am
Category: Baseball, New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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Thursday, October 29, 2021

yanked and filledBenjamin Franklin’s assessment of New Jersey as “a barrel tapped at both ends” was never more true than now, with the Yankees-Phillies World Series highlighting the State’s traditional caught-in-the-middle schism:

“New Jersey has a city like Newark (population 281,000), but it’s like these enormous cities are giant magnets with tremendous pull on the state,” says Richard Veit, who teaches the state’s history at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, on the Jersey Shore. “We tend to see ourselves in relation to either New York City or Philadelphia.”

“We are talking about the World Series in class, and students from the North and the South are about to come to blows. They love the debate. They love the argument.”

On the one hand, New Jerseyans can hang their hats on the nickname granted upon this year’s October Classic: The Turnpike Series. On the other hand, that descriptor only reinforces the concept of the Garden State as baseball’s equivalent of flyover country — something to get through, rather than identify with.

The irony: By trying to co-opt the identities of two neighboring metropolises, New Jersey ends up with no true identity of its own. In other words, no matter which baseball team wins the World Series, New Jersey is still full of losers.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/29/2009 11:02pm
Category: Baseball, New Yorkin'
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Monday, June 22, 2021

ballin'
I guess there’s an appropriate improbability in Michael Lewis’ stats-geek bible “Moneyball” getting optioned for adaptation into a big-budget Hollywood movie, helmed by the likes of Brad Pitt and Steven Soderbergh.

And that improbable development shifts into reality-checked probability with news that the $50-million production just had the plug pulled on it, mere days before shooting was to begin. The main reason seems to be doubt from the Sony/Columbia Pictures studio over the profit potential of a baseball movie, particularly in the post-theatrical release phase:

But in keeping with [Oakland A's general manager Billy] Beane’s iconoclasm, look beyond the paper. The key is on-base percentage, and outside Field of Dreams doing $20 million abroad two decades ago — still only 25% of its total gross — what baseball film has ever managed to work overseas? Are we to trust Pitt’s ability to hit for average in foreign territories, or trust the numbers that tell us to bench Moneyball against a notoriously tough curveball pitcher? Considering that the baseball film has struck out more often than Pitt has reached base, is it really that hard a call to make in an economic climate like this?

I assume that the main cratering would occur in the lucrative European market, where baseball doesn’t play. I guess any offset from Japan, Korea, and the Caribbean — the main non-U.S. hotspots for the sport — wouldn’t be enough to make a bases-loaded an international hit. Globalization strikes out!

Actually, that $50-million budget figure has a ring of irony to it, as far as the principles behind “Moneyball” are concerned. Six years ago, when the Oakland A’s were first turning heads with their sabermetrics strategy, Billy Beane himself threw some cold water on the ultimate potential of his penny-pinching teambuilding:

Beane actually said this after [Game 5 of the 2003 American League Division Series, versus Boston]: “I’ll tell you one thing, if you want to give me $50 million more, I’ll promise you we won’t blow the 2-0 lead.”

Since then, the A’s still haven’t gotten particularly close to a World Series, so I guess Beane is still looking for that extra $50 million for his payroll. Hey! Maybe Beane can persuade Sony to fork over that now-unused $50 million to him, and have the money go to some use after all.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/22/2009 11:05am
Category: Baseball, Celebrity, Movies, SportsBiz
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Saturday, May 23, 2021

training
Even though it has previously applied the trademarked “Take The Train To The Game” tagline to all the area’s major-league sports venues, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has noticeably ramped up that promotion for the just-completed Metro North Railroad Yankees-E. 153rd Street Station stop.

“Take The Train To The Game” is a catchy little turn of the phrase. Catchier still if you’re a New York child of the ’70s and still remember — no, make that “can’t possibly forget” — the similar “Take The Train To The Plane” jingle in the old JFK Express television commercials.

So why not leverage that old campaign now? The MTA should collaborate with the Yankees to cook up a nostalgic ad or two that repurposes that brain-burrowing two-verse ditty:

A mock-nostalgic sarcastic tone would work well. An inside joke to those of us old enough to get it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/23/2009 10:50am
Category: Advert./Mktg., Baseball, History, New Yorkin', TV
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Tuesday, May 19, 2021

puckpigskinbatshoops
Being a hockey fan, I’m well-accustomed to the denigration of the sport in general and the National Hockey League in particular, to the point where they’re not considered to be on the same relevancy level as the major-league editions of football, baseball, and basketball. So it is that, for instance, a dissection of the identity crisis suffered by Columbus (Ohio) lists as one problem the lack of any major-league sports teams in the city — disregarding the local NHL club and thereby underlining the lack of consideration for hockey as a big-league concern.

But when the sportsbiz calls for some time in front of the judge, it seems that the Big Three consider their on-ice brethren to be cut from the same cloth as they are:

The NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA have lined up in support of the NHL’s court fight to block the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes and move to southern Canada.

The other major sports leagues, including the office of baseball commissioner Bud Selig, filed statements in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Monday in support of the NHL.

All three statements ask the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to “respect the National Hockey League’s rules and procedures regarding ownership transfer and relocation.”

The statements of baseball and the NBA ask that the court “not set precedent that could severely disrupt the business of professional hockey,” baseball, basketball and other major league sports.

The NFL statement had similar wording, asking the court to avoid a “precedent that has the potential to undermine or disrupt the business of professional hockey, football or other major league sports.”

Nothing like litigation to bring family members together. Not that the economies of scale, labor issues, and political-economic arena strategies didn’t already make it obvious.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/19/2009 09:24pm
Category: Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, SportsBiz, True Crime
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Sunday, May 17, 2021

puckpigskinbatshoops
Just for fun, here’s a brief league-by-league rundown of the last time (to date) that franchises in the National Hockey League, National Football League, Major League Baseball, and the National Basketball Association have left one city/market in favor of another:

NBA - 2008: The SuperSonics leave Seattle in July and become the Oklahoma City Thunder

MLB - 2005: The Expos decamp from Montreal in Autumn 2004 and begin the next season as the Washington Nationals

NHL - 1997: The Whalers officially pull out of Hartford in May and commence the 1997-98 season in Raleigh as the Carolina Hurricanes

NFL - 1997: The Oilers finalize their departure from Houston at the end of the 1996 season and begin the 1997 season in Nashville Memphis as the Tennessee Oilers (and settle into Nashville the season after that, and become the Tennessee Titans)

There’s plenty of context behind each of these moves. I won’t go into detail, but highlights include: OKC hosting the Hurricane Katrina-displaced New Orleans Hornets prior to the Sonics arriving; the Expos being bought out by MLB, considered for franchise contraction, and split-timed between Montreal and Puerto Rico prior to landing in DC; and a spate of expansions/relocations encompassing Los Angeles, Winnipeg, Cleveland, and Jacksonville (among other cities) in hockey and football. Sports leagues don’t function in a vacuum, so all those background circumstances led to the franchise shuffles.

Also note that I didn’t bother to count situations where teams moved into new arenas that remained in their existing market, but just happened to be in a new ZIP code. So, for instance, the New Jersey Devils move in 2007 from East Rutherford to Newark doesn’t apply, as they remained in essentially the same area (northern New Jersey).

And yes, I compile this list with full knowledge that the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes could move to Hamilton, Ontario soon. Although the way that’s shaking out, it doesn’t look too likely that the move will come off; so this post should remain up-to-date for at least another year.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/17/2009 05:10pm
Category: Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, SportsBiz
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Wednesday, April 22, 2021

rough diamond
Just the other day, I was bitching about how overly-enamored this town is when it comes to their precious baseball teams.

Apparently, that devotion has its limits when it comes to forking over premium-seating cash:

After spending $2.3 billion on new stadiums packed with suites, restaurants and the latest technology, the Mets and the Yankees expected fans to embrace their new homes and pay top dollar for the privilege. Almost every team that has built a new stadium in the recent past has seen an immediate surge in attendance.

Instead, the Mets and the Yankees face a public relations nightmare and possibly millions of dollars in lost revenue after failing to sell about 5,000 tickets — including some of the priciest seats — to each of their first few games after last week’s openers.

The empty seats are a fresh sign that the teams might have miscalculated how much fans and corporations were willing to spend, particularly during a deep recession. Whatever the reason, the teams are scrambling to comb over their $295- to $2,625-a-seat bald spots.

So much for sports being recession-proof. They actually are to a degree, just like any other form of entertainment; but disposable income stops being disposable when the per-game pricetag tops a thousand bucks to just plant your butt in a seat.

This underlines just how shallow the well has become. The Yankees certainly have been beating the bushes to reach new high-end ticketbuyers, even engaging luxury real-estate agents to package those premium seats with home purchases. Since the housing market in the tri-state area is just now softening, the timing couldn’t be worse for that pitch.

As for the Mets, I detect a potential silver lining for me personally. I already mentioned that last week’s canceled insider’s tour of Citi Field would be rescheduled, with a good chance of game tickets being thrown in. If those home-plate premium seats are still unsold by that point… Dare I dream?

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 04/22/2009 02:20pm
Category: Baseball, New Yorkin', SportsBiz
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Thursday, April 16, 2021

I was going to spend a good chunk of tomorrow morning in Queens, taking in a behind-the-scenes tour of the Mets’ just-opened Citi Field baseball barn. And yes, I was planning to live-Twitter about it via my iTouch (provided that there was a freely-accessible wi-fi connection, which I have to assume a brand-new state-of-the-art stadium would have).

Alas, it’s not to be. I got word late today that the Mets canceled the tour. They’re giving a raincheck for later this season, with the real possibility of free game tickets being thrown into the rescheduling. If so, hooray anyway!

And as it turns out, tomorrow probably won’t be an ideal day for substantive tweeting anyway. Because all indications are that Oprah herself will be sending her very first tweet, live on the Friday edition of her TV show (with help from guest-Twitterer Ashton Kutcher, of course — of course!). Given that Twitter already creaks under the strain of its existing user activity, chances are very good that the resulting onslaught of Oprah acolytes will crash the site before the weekend commences.

And that, naturally, will be but the first step toward Twitter’s eventual celebrity-induced destruction.

So, it looks like the Twitterati wouldn’t have gotten my report from Citi Field anyway. And perhaps it never will. Good thing I got this here blog.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 04/16/2009 09:22pm
Category: Baseball, Celebrity, Internet, New Yorkin', TV
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Thursday, March 12, 2021

train to the game
Despite grousing over allowing a bailed-out bank to spend millions on sports naming rights, Citigroup is still going to see its brandname atop Citi Field, new home of the New York Mets.

But they won’t see that name at the subway/train station stops:

Instead, the station, on the No. 7 line, will be called simply Mets/Willets Point. New signs will go up soon replacing the old signs, which say Willets Point/Shea Stadium. The nearby Long Island Rail Road station will be renamed in the same way.

“We’re willing, as we have said, to entertain corporate names on stations, but only for a fee,” said Jeremy Soffin, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

This civic shakedown only works if the stadium/arena in question actually has a for-sale nameplate, though:

Across town, the Yankees will also open a new stadium, but they are keeping the old name. Mr. Soffin said that the names of the 161st Street/Yankee Stadium stations on the B, D and No. 4 lines would not change.

A new Metro-North Railroad station at Yankee Stadium, built with $52 million in authority money and $39 million from the city, will have a slightly different name. It will be called Yankees/E. 153rd Street.

So the Yankees are exempt. As for the Metropolitans, the MTA went after the second-hand dollars — they hit up the baseball team for a fee, rather than Citigroup. It’s a novel approach, and I wonder if other metro areas around the country shouldn’t try the same tack with their local teams.

Or else… millions of fans, especially out-of-towners, will get lost on the way to the ballpark? Actually, by making the destination-designator as dead-simple as the name of the team tenant, I’d think this would be preferred — you might not know the current name of the barn, but you’d surely know the name of the team you’re going to watch. On the flip side, it could get hairy for concerts and other non-sports events.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/12/2021 01:22pm
Category: Baseball, Business, New Yorkin', Politics, SportsBiz
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Thursday, February 19, 2021


Yesterday while walking around Manhattan isle, I encountered not one, but two instances of the familiar New York Yankees team logo displayed upside-down, as pictured above (next to the regular version, for comparative purposes).

Well, they weren’t exactly as pictured above. In both cases, the logo was on articles of clothing (a winter cap and a sweatshirt), and the people wearing them had chosen to turn those articles inside-out. So what was on display was the reverse-stitching of the logo, in its mirror-imaged form. It actually looked unusual enough that, both times, it took me a few seconds to recognize exactly what I was looking at. The first time around, in the case of the cap, the weird outlines of the reversed “NY” put me in mind of some kind of Klingon alphabet symbols

Anyway, I’m sure that both cases, the effect was unintentional. Still, I’d like to imagine that this flipping of the Yankees imagery was some kind of silent protest, conscious or not, in response to the ‘roid-raging Alex Rodriguez scandal. In similar spirit to flying an upside-down flag.

Probably not. But why not make it so? I say, any Bronx Bombers fan pissed off enough over A-Rod’s a-roid situation should reverse out their Yankees cap, tshirt, and other merchandise and walk around with it in full view. It’ll be non-committal way of showing off displeasure.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/19/2009 11:57am
Category: Baseball, Fashion, New Yorkin'
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Wednesday, January 14, 2021

residential run
Given that modern stadium Personal Seat Licenses are a disposable-income equivalent of buying a lease, it’s logical that sports teams should target their ticket-sales pitches via property-brokering channels. So it is that the New York Yankees have engaged residential real estate agency Prudential Douglas Elliman to sell their ultra-pricey luxury boxes and premium seats in new Yankee Stadium to their house-buying clients.

Jim Grinstead, the editor and publisher of Revenues From Sports Venues, an industry newsletter, said he had never heard of real estate brokers marketing premium seating.

“The Yankees are tapping into a constituency to which real estate agents have better access than Yankee executives do,” he said. “It’s an interesting play. When people talk about pricing seats in stadiums and arenas, the phrase is ‘location is everything.’”

The Pinstripes are characterizing the move as simply another way to reach potential ticket-buyers in “an innovative way”, while insisting that the new barn is selling out briskly anyway. That’s a blatant lie, although it’s true that the seats would eventually get snapped up anyway; this is simply a quicker way to convert sales.

I’m looking forward to the strained marketing slogans to emerge from this seat-filling effort, either from the Yankees or Prudential. Especially from brokers, who could neatly wrap the promise of season tickets into a juicy lease, in an otherwise buyers’ market. Let me contribute the first: “If you lived here, you’d be behind home plate by now”…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/14/2009 11:56am
Category: Baseball, New Yorkin', SportsBiz
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