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Friday, May 12, 2021

Fat financial deals designed to snare high-flying corporate talent soon will have nowhere to hide, if the Securities and Exchange Commission gets its way. A proposal that would require publicly-traded companies to disclose how much money they’re paying their best-compensated non-executive employees is raising plenty of hackles:

The entertainment industry is abuzz over the so-called “Katie Couric” clause in a broad SEC plan for publicly traded companies to give shareholders more information about multimillion-dollar salaries. The designation comes from “Today” show co-host Couric, who is leaving NBC at the end of May to join CBS as anchor and managing editor of “The CBS Evening News With Katie Couric” for a reported salary of $15 million over five years Correction from Reuters/AP: An estimated salary of $13-15 million annually for five years.

The SEC proposal — aimed mainly at prying loose more information on the pay of top corporate officers — also would force companies to disclose salary figures for up to three workers whose compensation exceeds that of its top executives.

Of course, companies CEOs, Presidents, CFO, etc. salaries already are required reporting items on the 10-K; but they’re widely seen as skeletal, base-pay figures that come nowhere near representing all the perks and extras the C-level boys get. Naturally, the SEC would like to get a truer picture of how much money is being made. The Katie Couric provision wouldn’t do this alone; I presume the rest of the proposal is calculated to unlock the secret.

While the loudest protests are coming from the entertainment industry, other companies oppose it as well.

Kellogg, the world’s largest maker of breakfast cereal, told the SEC the plan would give rival companies crucial salary information.

Disclosure of the salary of a highly paid non-executive like a salesperson “could cause employee morale issues and provide our competitors with sensitive information that could be used to solicit the employment of our salespeople,” it said.

Media companies are using the same argument.

“The disclosure requirement could have the effect that producers, talent and other individuals would prefer not to be employed by publicly held motion picture companies at all,” said Linda Rappaport and George Spera, of Shearman & Sterling, who wrote the SEC on behalf of several movie studios.

Companies would not be required to name their top non-executive earners under the proposal, but they said the identities would be easy enough to figure out.

DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg also complained in a letter to the SEC that stars’ salaries have less value to shareholders because there is less conflict of interest when negotiating those amounts than in the case of executives’ salaries, which are set by members of the board of directors.

Funny, these companies don’t always have a problem citing their star-level payroll when it’s convenient. For instance, last year the Tribune Co. highlighted its first-quarter $13.5 million charge on account of the trade of Sammy Sosa by its wholly-owned Chicago Cubs baseball team. Sosa’s contract, like that of all major-league pro athletes’, was public knowledge anyway (although even there, it’s rare that much beyond the base salaries are readily known). In fact, in the sports/entertainment fields, such info is already widely disseminated, officially and otherwise. It’s a more prickly matter in other fields, of course.

Frankly, all this will do is force the accountants to get even more creative with the smoke and mirrors. But even fictionalized ledger items would be a hoot to read.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/12/2021 09:20:14 PM
Category: Media, Baseball, Business | Permalink | Feedback

Sunday, April 02, 2021

hey hey tampa bay
They’re division enemies of the hometown Yankees, but the New York Times knows a good baseball-team-as-distressed-property story when it sees one. The Tampa Bay whizkid braintrust of Matthew Silverman, Andrew Friedman and owner Stuart Sternberg is presented as Wall Street fix-it experts determined to resurrect Major League Baseball’s saddest-sack franchise.

Among the finance science being applied to the baseball diamond:

Mr. Friedman, who attended Tulane on a baseball scholarship, spices his language with Wall Street jargon like “mark-to-market accounting” and “positive arbitrage” in describing how he expects to get the most out of his roster. While the Devil Rays’ payroll of $35 million puts the team at the bottom of the league, for example, Mr. Friedman uses the mark-to-market method — which allows a Wall Street trader to value a security in his portfolio at the current market price, not the price he paid for it — to gauge his team’s real worth.

Applying that notion to baseball allows Mr. Friedman to attach a market value of perhaps $7 million to Scott Kazmir, the team’s star pitcher, who is actually on his payroll for $370,000 a year. Luckily for them, most of the players on the team are contract-bound to salaries lower than what they might command on the open market. The bottom line is this: Mr. Friedman reckons that the real value of the Devil Rays’ payroll is closer to $50 million.

Friedman better hope none of his players (or their agents) read that. Not that the Rays are bound by these comments, but undervalued assets in the form of contracted employees have a habit of figuring out their market value pretty quickly, and let ownership know come negotiation time.

The new Devil Rays regime is obviously being set up as a test case for whether or not business sense can yield results in baseball. A bit of “Moneyball”/sabremetrics is thrown in for good measure, because you can’t claim to be an MLB miracleworker without a nod to the arcane numbercrunching (which has yet to win any team a World Series, by the way). Personally, I still say it’ll begin and end with pitching. Which means this season is nothing but a big-show seasoning stint for the squad, with hopes to build a foundation for seasons to come.

And yes, all the talk about what’s going down at Tropicana Field (not “Tropicana Park”, the one noticable error in the Times piece) did make me a bit wistful for my former hometown. Not that I care a whit for baseball, but I did enjoy having a top-storey window view of the Trop at my last gig.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/02/2021 05:47:33 PM
Category: Baseball | Permalink | Feedback

Wednesday, January 18, 2021

here's the pitch
In the wake of yet another salary dump by Tampa Bay, John Romano tries to spin the trade of Danys Baez into some sort of hallelujah moment for the team with regards to the importance of starting pitchers.

A couple of thoughts:

- It’s nice to see it took only a decade of existence for the franchise to realize that it takes quality pitching to win Major League Baseball games. That’s been the case for, coincidentally, the last 10 years (and really, even before that).

- The Devil Rays have demonstrated several times that they don’t know how to develop pitchers, especially starters. Starting with Bobby Seay, who they ruined before shipping him out, they’ve never gotten even a middling hurler to come out of their system. That’s an institutional problem — for whatever reason, they can’t develop pitching talent. It’s time to shift gears and pony up the money for established Major League throwers.

- Sure, the free agent market for starters is inflated. So what? Every other team is in the same fix, so whoever they could pick up would be no worse than what their opponents would scoop up. At least the pressure would be off the prospects to speed their development.

Regardless of who’s cutting the checks, the on-field product isn’t going to win many games until they commit serious money to real-deal pitchers. Otherwise, it’s a recurring cycle of losing and talent-churn.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/18/2006 06:44:09 PM
Category: Baseball | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Sunday, December 18, 2021

runneth over
The big-league stadium game should be familiar by now. Team owners lobby for a brand-new publicly-funded facility that they’ll own in all but name; the city gets to keep their major league team as a resident, thus maintaining a significant civic status symbol (even as the concrete halo benefits of economic vitality rarely materialize, as I think the city of Cleveland’s situation demonstrates).

By design, a city pays dearly in such deals. But to date, an important financial hedge existed: The issue of cost overruns for these large projects, which customarily have been assumed by the team. Now, the assumption of cost overrun payments for the new Washington Nationals ballpark by the government of the District of Columbia likely represent a precedent in future stadium deals, thus upping the ante for municipalities that try to attract or retain teams.

The way big-ticket real estate development works, overruns are far from contingency factors — they’re reliable ledger items. These items are basically positioned as hidden costs for PR purposes:

Rising estimates are not unusual in stadium construction, given difficulty in predicting fluctuating material costs, interest rates and land prices. Initial estimates are often kept low to bolster political support, said Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist with Smith College.

The early projection for Seattle’s Safeco was $320 million when Washington state lawmakers approved that stadium in 1995. By the time bonds were issued to pay for it, the estimate had swelled to $417 million. The final cost to complete it was $514 million, said Mariners spokeswoman Rebecca Hale.

If the entire bill is going to be footed by the government, there’s little incentive to keep the building costs down. It’s effectively a blank check being handed to the team.

Obviously, if it works for the Nationals, the passing-on of cost overruns will find its way to the negotiation tables of every other Major League Baseball team looking for a new house, and from there, to every other NHL, NFL and NBA situation. Cities and states will have one less bargaining chip, because if they refuse to take on the overruns, a competing region surely will do so as part of a standard relocation package.

I guess sports as a regional status symbol will have to be perceived as that much more valuable, since the real-dollar pricetag is about to go up significantly.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/18/2005 02:22:12 PM
Category: Politics, Baseball, SportsBiz | Permalink | Feedback

Friday, November 18, 2021

amped up
With all the hoopla about cracking down on steroids in baseball, Gary Shelton nails it when he notes that such focus on a “fasionable outrage” only deflects attention from a more serious Major League drug problem: The rampant and institutionalized use of amphetamines.

Two years ago, Gwynn suggested that as many as 50 percent of position players used amphetamines to get ready for games. Chad Curtis, the former Yankees outfielder, says the number is 85 percent. Caminiti said there were only one or two players per team who didn’t take them, who “played naked.”

Day games after night games. West Coast games after East Coast games. Stadium lights after hangovers. There are a lot of reasons players say they “bean up” before games for that three-hour burst of energy and focus. Some of them, the stories go, would rather play without pants.

“Guys feel like steroids are cheating and greenies aren’t,” Gwynn told the New York Times.

And there’s part of the problem. Even as steroid usage became rampant, the abusers knew enough to hide it. Rules or not, they knew they were cheating the game.

Even though amphetamines are illegal without a prescription, the situation is different. Players have openly joked about them for years. Back in 1969, Jim Bouton filled Ball Four with one-liners about greenies kicking in. Tug McGraw and Bill Lee wrote about them. Dwight Gooden and Wells, too. Rose admitted taking them. A court case showed the ‘79 Pirates used them heavily.

Amphetamines are often described as “baseball’s dirty secret,” but really, they haven’t been secret at all. They’ve merely been tolerated. There has been a general indifference as to their use, as if amphetamines are somewhere between taking two Advil and having a strong cup of coffee.

The NFL tests for amphetamines, as do the NBA and the NHL and the Olympics. Baseball never has. In baseball, it often has been a bigger disgrace for a player not to take amphetamines than to take them, and sometimes, it seems the key statistic might not be a batting average but a dosage. Turns out, this might be real Green Monster in the game.

It’s comical to try to divine distinctions between one illegal substance and another based on effect. Amps and steroids juice you up in different ways, but they still provide an “artificial” boost.

But then, the culture of athletic optimization is such that the line inches upward all the time. Hypercaffeinated energy drinks, and even coffees, are part of the crest of this wave. At some point, the classifications will be such that you’ll be able to buy the equivalent of “greenies” at a 7-11 (if you can’t already).

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/18/2005 06:17:31 PM
Category: Baseball, Society | Permalink | Feedback

Sunday, October 02, 2021

october show
In an uncharacteristic move, I’m actually following up on an earlier initiative I laid out here: The posting of major-sports full playoff schedules as soon as they’re determined.

I’d already done this with the 2005 NBA Finals, so now I’ll make it two in a row with the 2005 Major League Baseball playoff schedule. Coincidentally, these first two exercises are for sports for which I care nothing; can’t wait until I give this treatment to the NFL and NHL!

American League Division Series (ALDS)

Boston Red Sox vs. Chicago White Sox
Game One: Tuesday, October 4th - Boston at Chicago, 4 p.m.
Game Two: Wednesday, October 5th - Boston at Chicago, 7 p.m.
Game Three: Friday, October 7th - Chicago at Boston, 4 p.m.
Game Four: Saturday, October 8th - Chicago at Boston*
Game Five: Sunday, October 9th - Boston at Chicago*

New York Yankees vs. Los Angeles Angels
Game One: Tuesday, October 4th - NY at LA, 8 p.m.
Game Two: Wednesday, October 5th - NY at LA, 10 p.m.
Game Three: Friday, October 7th - LA at NY, 8 p.m.
Game Four: Saturday, October 8th - LA at NY*
Game Five: Sunday, October 9th - NY at LA*

National League Division Series (NLDS)

San Diego Padres vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Game One: Tuesday, October 4th - San Diego at St. Louis, 1 p.m.
Game Two: Thursday, October 6th - San Diego at St. Louis, 4 p.m.
Game Three: Saturday, October 8th - St. Louis at San Diego, TBA
Game Four: Sunday, October 9th - St. Louis at San Diego*
Game Five: Monday, October 10th - San Diego at St. Louis*

Houston Astros vs. Atlanta Braves
Game One: Wednesday, October 5th - Houston at Atlanta, 4 p.m.
Game Two: Thursday, October 6th - Houston at Atlanta, 8 p.m.
Game Three: Saturday, October 8th - Atlanta at Houston, TBA
Game Four: Sunday, October 9th - Atlanta at Houston*
Game Five: Monday, October 10th - Houston at Atlanta*

American League Championship Series (ALCS)

Boston/Chicago winner vs. Los Angeles/New York winner
Game One: Tuesday, October 11th, 8 p.m.
Game Two: Wednesday, October 12th, TBA
Game Three: Friday, October 14th, 8 p.m.
Game Four: Saturday, October 15th, 7:30 p.m.
Game Five: Sunday, October 16th, 4 p.m.*
Game Six: Tuesday, October 18th, 8 p.m.*
Game Seven: Wednesday, October 19th, 8 p.m.*

National League Championship Series (NLCS)

San Diego/St. Louis winner vs. Houston/Atlanta winner
Game One: Wednesday, October 12th, TBA
Game Two: Thursday, October 13th, 8 p.m.
Game Three: Saturday, October 15th, 4 p.m.
Game Four: Sunday, October 16th, 7:30 p.m.
Game Five: Monday, October 17th, 8 p.m.*
Game Six: Wednesday, October 19th, 4 p.m.*
Game Seven: Thursday, October 20th, 8 p.m.*

2005 World Series

NL Champion vs. AL Champion
Game One: Saturday, October 22nd - NL at AL, 7:30 p.m.
Game Two: Sunday, October 23rd - NL at AL, 8 p.m.
Game Three: Tuesday, October 25th - AL at NL, 8 p.m.
Game Four: Wednesday, October 26th - AL at NL, 8 p.m.
Game Five: Thursday, October 27th - AL at NL, 8 p.m.*
Game Six: Saturday, October 29th - NL at AL, 7:30 p.m.*
Game Seven: Sunday, October 30th - NL at AL, 7:30 p.m.*

* - if necessary

As before, this is here chiefly for my own easy future reference, as I’ve found that it’s difficult to track down this comprehensive list as the postseason drags on.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 10/02/2021 11:17:16 PM
Category: Baseball | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Friday, August 26, 2021

hurler's delight
Ah… I cannot tell you what a warm, fuzzy feeling I got from reading about the Florida Marlins batboy who heaved his guts out from the old gallon-of-milk-in-sixty-seconds trick.

Because college just wouldn’t have been the same without that scam, along with the classic Wonderbread challenge. And we never even had to offer the princely sum of $500; I doubt more than 10 bucks was ever wagered.

Of course, some joker’s always upping the ante in this arena:

The Saltine Challenge: Ingest six Saltine crackers in 60 seconds (Note: All challenges must occur without the help of water or any other digestive lubricants)…

The Cinnamon Challenge: Ingest one teaspoon of cinnamon in 60 seconds (Note: cinnamon sugar is not acceptable)…

The Saltine Challenge No. 2: Ingest four saltines in 60 seconds AND then whistle.
The Twinkies Challenge: Ingest three twinkies in 60 seconds.
The Wendy’s Challenge: Put the entire contents of a Wendy’s kids meal into a blender (small hamburger, fries and Sprite), and ingest it in five minutes.

Hard to believe why anyone would hate us for our freedom…

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 08/26/2005 05:15:46 PM
Category: Baseball, Food, College Years | Permalink | Feedback (2)

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