Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year to all...except FOX

I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year out there. Except the executives at FOX who are doing their best to destroy journalism as we know it.

As documented in hundreds of stories this week - including ours - News Corp. (owners of FOX) and Time-Warner Cable (owners of Brighthouse Networks)are at odds over a new contract. The current one is set to expire at midnight on Dec. 31.

Because ad revenue alone doesn't always create profits anymore, FOX wants the cable company to pay a small fee for their broadcast stations. I'm fine with that. It sounds fair. But broadcast stations are traditionally provided for , so Time Warner is balking at the precident-setting demand. I'm fine with that too. It's business.

Heck, I'm even fine with FOX threatening to pull the plug on their stations come Jan. 1 if their demands aren't met (estimated at $0.50-$1.00/mo. per customer). Nor do I have a problem with the corporations taking their pleas public.

However, I have a HUGE problem with FOX forcing its news anchors in local markets to read a scripted ad disguised as news copy. It isn't even entirely true.

FOX anchors here in Tampa are saying that Brighthouse is going to prevent Gator fans from watching the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day. The truth is, it's FOX choosing to remove itself from the cable box prior to Tim Tebow's final college game.

I got a hold of News Corp.'s Senior Vice President of Communications this week (he wasn't happy that I did). But when asked about the company's threat, he responded with a non-answer: "We're not optimistic an agreement will be made in time for Gator fans."

Playing the Gators card is the same strategy the corporation is forcing upon its anchors and reporters at FOX-owned stations. And when news employees are forced to blur - or blatently ignore - the line between journalism and P.R., EVERYBODY loses.

Then again, I don't think anybody should be surprised FOX is willing to inappropriately influence their "news" product...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

More Rumors Swirl Around Glazer Family's Finances

The St. Pete Times writes, "Glazer family denies Manchester United is available."

Rumors are often little more than speculation. But right now, sportswriters on both sides of the Atlantic are speculating that the Glazers may be stretched too thin to run both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Manchester United.

Rays Spent More Than First Thought

It may be comparing apples to oranges, but the Associated Press just released its final 2009 MLB payroll numbers and the Rays apparently spent more than originally thought.

Although the numbers include any player on the 40-man roster as well as things like bonuses and buyouts, the Rays spent $71,222,532 on payroll in 2009. The 39.6% increase over the 2008 final figure ($51,020,720) represents the largest increase in the majors.

Last week, team president Matt Silverman hinted the Rays' 2010 preseason payroll could top $70 million for the first time, but the team would be "overextended" and possibly limited when it came to in-season acquisitions.

However, if you ask me, it's better to acquire a strong arm like Rafael Soriano pre-season rather than in-season anyway.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Reading Between the Rays' Lines

The Rays’ $7.25-million signing of relief pitcher Rafael Soriano is a big step toward proving their commitment to winning in 2010...but it doesn’t come without some emotional baggage for fans.

Two quick disclaimers before I go on: my hat is to the Rays for making one of the biggest signings of the winter; also, since I wasn’t able to attend this week’s press conference, the quotes from team president Matt Silverman are from Marc Topkin’s article in the St. Pete Times.

“We're overextended heading into this year," Silverman warned of the team’s all-or-nothing attitude, which could push the 2010 preseason payroll north of $70 million for the first time.

But just 11 days earlier, VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said, “In 2010, we don't really have any flexibility...when (we overextend), you're stealing from a future year."

What that means is the Rays are saying now that they may have to cut salary in 2011. But what purpose does the warning serve when Friedman said the team doesn't disclose target payroll numbers so their "29 competitors don't know what we're working up against?"

The answer is that the warning is actually part of a plea.

"Last season we were shooting for league average in attendance and fell well short," Silverman told The Times. "This season we will be gunning again for that league-average attendance. There is that connection between the revenues that we generate and the investment we can make throughout our organization."

The Rays have been campaigning for years to get fans to support their team not just with their cheers from home, but also with their butts in seats at The Trop.

And while the latest campaign strategy doesn’t just repeat the message, it also serves as another plea for a new stadium – one that the Rays assure will increase revenue and better-help the team compete in the ultra-competitive American League East.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Glazers Sell REALLY Expensive Home

According to the Palm Beach Daily News, the Glazer family, which owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has sold off a major property in the upscale beach town.

"La Bellucia," at 1200 S. Ocean Blvd, sold for $24 million. Malcolm Glazer's First Allied Jacksonville Corp. bought the 5-bedroom/6.5-bathroom oceanfront property in July 2000 for $14 million.

Are the owners of the Bucs trying to sell off their assets to pay their debt on Manchester United, as some have suggested on both sides of the Atlantic? And was Dan Sileo onto something when he said the Glazers were in financial dires that would eventually force them to sell their billion-dollar NFL franchise?

It's unlikely we'll know anytime soon, as the Glazers aren't exactly the most forthcoming individuals...but it's hardly mere coincidence the Bucs have both the NFL's lowest payroll and NFL's worst record.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Friedman: Rays Have No Flexibility in 2010

The Rays want to improve in 2010...but not at the expense of jacking up their payroll. That was the message delivered by the Rays' Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, Andrew Friedman, in an interview before the start of MLB's Winter Meetings.

"In 2010, we don’t really have any flexibility," Friedman said with regards to the team's payroll. "Like we’ve always maintained, we always have some flexibility, but when that happens, you’re stealing from a future year."

For more, continue reading here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

St. Pete Steps Up Fight to Keep Rays

Despite a last-minute letter from a senior administrator with the City of St. Petersburg, the ABC Coalition voted unanimously to approve its initial draft of conclusions designed to keep the Rays in Tampa Bay "for generations to come."

St. Petersburg City Development Administrator Rick Mussett sent a letter on Wednesday, urging the committee to show more respect toward the current lease ("use agreement") with the city, despite data that suggests the team would fare better closer to Hillsborough County.

For more, continue reading here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pitchman Wants "Great Wall of Jeter" Too

He wanted a six-foot privacy wall like his Davis Islands neighbor, Derek Jeter, so badly, Anthony Sullivan copied his request for a code variance word-for-word. Unfortunately for Billy Mays' former partner on the TV show "Pitchmen," the city's Variance Review Board may not see him in the same light.

For more, continue reading here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What the Mayoral Election Means for the Rays

Bill Foster wasn't the only winner in Tuesday's election in St. Petersburg. The Tampa Bay Rays, eager to get out of downtown because they say it's too far from the center of the area's population, were probably celebrating like they had won a title too.

For more, continue reading here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bucs Lash Out Over Madoff Reports

Reports that the owners of the Buccaneers lost $450 million in investments related to Bernie Madoff and may have to sell the franchise were refuted on Thursday by team co-chairman Joel Glazer. It also landed the sports-talk host who broadcasted the reports in hot water.

For more, continue reading here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rays, ABC Coalition Add Observations

If they haven't made their point yet, the Rays presented more evidence Wednesday afternoon that they suggest shows Downtown St. Pete is too remote of a location to sustain a Major League Baseball team in the long-term.

For more, continue reading here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Could/Would/Should Rays Consider Leaving?

Despite all the talk of the Rays possibly leaving Tampa Bay, it seems like an incredible long shot given the legal implications, the fact that the Rays don't really hate the area, and the possibility that Pinellas Co. will eventually build the team a new home in the Gateway area of St. Pete/Clearwater.

For more, continue reading here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rays Aren't Small-Market

It's sometimes hard to listen to fans and analysts call the Rays a "small market" team. Sure, it looks that way when you compare them to their "large market" division foes, the Yankees and Red Sox.

And sure, there's simply no comparison between the number of people that live in Tampa Bay and the people that live in the New York or Boston area. The Yanks and Sox have more people to sell tickets to and they make more in TV revenue with more people watching. But to blame the Rays' limited payroll on Tampa Bay's limited market size is deceiving.

For more, continue here: http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=113050

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rays Have New Ways to Fill Trop

The Rays may still be searching for a way to sell-out their 81 home games, but they think they've come up with a solution to filling the stands on some non-game-days.

Their new subsidiary - the Sunburst Entertainment Group - will look to open up business opportunities for the team outside of baseball. That includes bringing more events to Tropicana Field like football games, concerts, and community events.

For more, continue here: http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=113166

Thursday, August 20, 2009

ABC Coalition Starts Building Final Report on Rays

For the first time, the ABC Coalition - the group studying the best way to keep baseball in Tampa Bay in the long term - started forming some initial conclusions at its Thursday afternoon meeting.

For more, continue here: http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=111901

And find the final report here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Can Hulk Hogan Slam Property Taxes?

Hulk Hogan is letting everyone know about his new tag-team partner, GuaranteedLowerPropertyTaxes.com.

Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, has been hired by the Fort Myers-based company that claims it can lower your property taxes by appealing the appraised value of your home.

"I'm in the same boat as you guys," said Hogan at the campaign's kick-off event in Estero, Fla. this past weekend. "But I bet your bottom dollar that we could look at your situation and take a quick check on where you're at with your history and what's going on with your home, and we can save you money."

For more, continue here: http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=111778

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Derek Jeter can go ahead with plans to build a six-foot concrete and wrought-iron wall around his Davis Islands mansion after a City of Tampa board unanimously voted (7-0) to provide him an exception to city code, which limits solid structures to just three feet.

The home has drawn the ire of his future neighbors, many of whom spoke out against the exemption request.

For more, continue here: http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=111361

Friday, August 7, 2009

Yankees Star Wants to Build "Great Wall of Jeter"

Derek Jeter's attempt to build an outfield-sized wall around his new 30,000-plus-sq. ft. Davis Islands home has, well, run into a bit of a wall.

The Yankees star is looking for an exception to the city's three-foot-tall limit on solid walls, citing privacy and security issues at the waterfront mansion. His request for a six-foot-tall concrete and wrought-iron fence will go before Tampa's Variance Review Board on Tuesday, August 11.

For more, continue here: http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=111092

Friday, July 31, 2009

Mayoral Candidates Re-Debate Rays Stadium

Several months after we first asked the frontrunners in the St. Petersburg mayor's race for their thoughts on a new Rays stadium, the same candidates were asked to react to the initial findings from the ABC Coalition and - once again - what steps they favor in keeping baseball in Tampa Bay long-term.

We compare the leading candidates to each other and compares how some platforms have changed since May.

For more, continue here: http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=110625

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sarasota Will Build It, Orioles Will Come

After a marathon meeting featuring pleas from dozens of passionate residents, Sarasota County Commissioners approved a "memo of understanding" with the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night.

The agreement - signed by the county and team - is essentially a rough draft of a lease. It will bring the Orioles' spring training to Sarasota in 2010 and preserve an 86-year tradition of Major League Baseball in the city.

For more, continue reading here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Research Says St. Pete Among Worst Options for Rays

The private group commissioned last year to ensure the long-term success of baseball in Tampa Bay suggested Thursday that Downtown St. Pete is not a suitable long-term home for the Rays.

As it continues to release its initial findings, the Stadium Options committee of the ABC Coalition said that it studied five possible trade areas in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, and Tropicana Field's current location near downtown St. Pete was too remote for most baseball fans to get to conveniently.

For more, continue reading here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Group Releases First Findings on Rays

Nearly a year after it was created, the ABC Coalition - a private advisory board tasked with keeping the Rays in Tampa Bay - began releasing its initial findings on Monday.

Although the findings came with the disclaimer that they were preliminary and completely non-binding (the group has no legislative authority), some of the numbers discussed were staggering.

For more, continue here: http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=109480

Friday, July 10, 2009

Fans Launch Campaign to Move Rays to Tampa

With new reports from stadium-search group "The ABC Coalition" due next week, fans in Hillsborough County are launching a grass-roots effort to land the Rays a new home in Downtown Tampa.

For more, continue here: http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=109345

Friday, July 3, 2009

How the Rays Stadium Saga Will Go Down

A tug-of-war - first between two local communities, then two communities separated by hundreds or thousands of miles. Blogs, petitions, editorials, and maybe even a full-page ad or two. Anger. Heartbreak.

These are all the things we in the Tampa Bay area have to look forward to in the next couple of years as the Rays lobby for a new state-of-the-art baseball stadium.

For more, continue here: http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=108842

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Report: Renovating The Trop Too Expensive

The Rays say they need a new stadium with wider concourses, better seats and a more appealing roof. Now, they've got some evidence that Tropicana Field may not be a suitable long-term home.

World-renowned stadium-builder Populous (formerly HOK) released a report Monday that estimated the cost of renovating Tropicana Field to modern stadium standards at $430 million. That includes wider concourses, better sightlines, wider seats and a retractable roof. They estimated the cost of a brand-new ballpark at $470 million.

For more, continue here: http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=107767

Friday, May 22, 2009

Location, Location, Location

Two weeks after we first reported plans for a new waterfront stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays were forever dead, the team made it official on Friday: building a retractable-roof stadium at Al Lang Field is no longer an option.

For more, continue here: http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=106426

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mayoral Candidates Debate New Rays Stadium

On a night where the Tampa Bay Rays completed a two-game sweep in the new Yankee Stadium, the six frontrunners in this fall's St. Petersburg mayoral race debated how - and where - a new baseball stadium should be built in Pinellas County.

For more, continue here: http://www.tampabays10.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=105529