Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rays Named "Smartest Spenders" in Sports

This should come as no surprise to Rays fans, but the franchise was named the Businessweek "smartest spender in sports" across MLB, the NBA, the NFL, and the NHL.

Bloomberg's press release follows:

Bloomberg Businessweek’s second annual ranking of the smartest spenders in sports is online now at and in the magazine on newsstands Friday, August 31, 2012. The ranking determines how well the 122 franchises in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB spend their money. Bloomberg Businessweek reporter Ira Boudway compiled the list using regular and post-season records, and publicly available payroll data, to calculate how much teams spent per win over the last five seasons. (For baseball, he also included the first half of the current season.) Every team was then compared against league average to see how well they turn wages into wins, producing a total score called the “efficiency index.” The lower the index the

MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays came in at #1 with an efficiency index of -1.82, followed by #2 MLB’s Texas Rangers; #3 NHL’s Detroit Red Wings; #4 NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers; #5 NBA’s Boston Celtics; #6 NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins; #7 NFL’s New England Patriots; #8 NFL’s Green Bay Packers; #9 NFL’s New York Giants; and #10 NHL’s Boston Bruins. Dead last on the ranking is NFL’s St. Louis Rams, coming in at #122 with an efficiency index of 4.07. Joining the Rams in the bottom 10 least efficient spenders are #121 NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves; #120 MLB’s New York Mets; #119 New York Islanders; #118 NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs; #117 MLB’s Chicago Cubs; #116 NBA’s New York Knicks; #115 NBA’s Brooklyn Nets; #114 NHL’s Winnipeg Jets; and #113 MLB’s Seattle Mariners.

For this year’s ranking, bonuses were added for the victories that matter most: wins above .500, playoff wins, and championships. The scale counts regular season wins once, with a half-win bonus for every win over .500. Playoff wins count for 10 percent of a season; championships for half a season. In their Super Bowl winning season in 2011, for instance, the New York Giants got credit for 9 regular season wins, plus a .5 game bonus for their ninth win—the one that put them above .500. Their 4 playoff wins earned them 6.4 more wins. And the Super Bowl victory 8 more, for total of 23.9 “weighted” wins. At, the rankings are interactive as readers can adjust the weights with their own values, and see how the rankings change. They can also sort the rankings by league.

Baseball: Top MLB team is the Tampa Bay Rays (#1); Least efficient is the New York Mets (#120)
Basketball: Top NBA team is the LA Lakers (#4); Least efficient is the Minnesota Timberwolves (#121)
Football: Top NFL team is the New England Patriots (#7); Least efficient is the St. Louis Rams (#122)
Hockey: Top NHL team is the Detroit Red Wings (#3); Least efficient is the New York Islanders(#119)

Boston: The Celtics, Patriots, and Bruins make the top 10, but the Red Sox come in at #70

New York Area: The #9 New York Giants and #14 New Jersey Devils are in the top 15, while the New York Rangers are at #45, New York Jets are at #54, and the New York Yankees are at #98, with the #115 Brooklyn Nets, #116 New York Knicks, #119 New York Islanders, and #120 New York Mets all in the bottom 10

Los Angeles: The City of Angels also has a wide spread, with the Lakers at #4, the Kings at #37, the Anaheim Ducks at #65, the Dodgers at #79, the Clippers at #86, and the Angels at #90

For Tampa Bay fans keeping score at home, the Buccaneers came in just above average at No. 59, while the Lightning were just below average at No. 76.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Baseball's Not Poor

Much like the Tampa Bay Rays expect to do in a few years, Major League Baseball has reportedly inked a giant new television contract. The deal will more than double the league's annual revenue from ESPN to $700 million a year.

Already generating $7 billion a year of total revenue, Major League Baseball should have no trouble topping the mark in 2012. Which once again, begs the question, is the Rays' situation Tampa Bay's problem or MLB's?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Rays to St. Pete: We Accept Your Offer

The Tampa Bay Rays will accept an offer from St. Pete councilmembers to attend a public presentation of a stadium proposal in Carillon, in the city's Northeast corner.

In a one-paragraph letter to councilmembers Thursday, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg wrote that "I anticipate that members of the Rays organization will attend." No meeting date has been set yet, but it is expected that members of the Pinellas County Commission will attend as well.

"Please understand," Sternberg's letter continues, "that our attendance is a courtesy to you, and it has no bearing on our long-standing position: We will consider any potential ballpark site in Tampa Bay, but only as part of a process that considers every ballpark site in Tampa Bay."

The St. Pete council sent a letter to the team last week following its methodical decision to listen, but not participate, in the stadium presentation.

And while Mayor Bill Foster had indicated the team would need to accept his offer to amend the use agreement to consider a site at Carillon, it may not be the case. Carillon, and much of the "Gateway" region, already fall within St. Petersburg city limits.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Odds & Ends: Bucs Blackouts & Glazers' Bucks

On Tuesday, the Tampa Sports Authority unanimously rejected the Bucs' bid to keep $12 million in unused tax funds from going back to local governments. The board ruled the team, which was promised the money for a practice complex back in 1996, lost its right to the funds by not claiming it for 16 years. The Bucs didn't like the decision, but it's a small - and rare - victory for taxpayers over a sports team.

Meanwhile, the Glazers aren't exactly hurting for money after their Manchester United IPO raised something like $200 million without giving up any real voting stake in the club. In fact, they may not mind having billionare George Soros buy up a huge chunk of the stock - with his other Tampa connections, they'll have no trouble talking business at the next Harbour Island barbeque.

Finally, all of the Bucs' preseason blackouts reinforce the point that the league's new 85% blackout threshold was no concession at all. The NFL still sends the message that it would rather make fans buy tickets to see their favorite teams than allow them to watch on TV for free. All the 85% rule does is acknowledge there isn't quite the demand for tickets there used to be.

And team owners, who could always lower the price of tickets, are sending a similar message that they'd rather sell 40,000 tickets at $40/each than 60,000 tickets at $20/each. No concession at all.

Times Editorial Board Hammers Foster....Once Again

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board drills St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster again, this time for not being the one to "break the ice" in the most recent Rays discussions:
It comes as no surprise that the person who has broken the ice on the stalled talks over a new stadium is not St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster or Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg. Real estate developer Darryl LeClair has been quietly working for months on a stadium proposal for mid Pinellas, and the disclosure of his efforts has finally forced some movement. The St. Petersburg City Council will hear LeClair's pitch after the Republican National Convention, and the Rays should attend as a show of good faith. Perhaps the Pinellas County Commission could drop by as well.
Except the conversation is one that Foster tried to have two years ago and the Rays never accepted.

The Times also urges the Rays to accept the city's invitation, despite Foster's unwillingness to consider Hillsborough options:

[T]he Rays should attend the City Council meeting and listen to LeClair. That does not affect Sternberg's reasonable argument that the franchise should look at potential stadium sites in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
Boycotting the meeting would only spur Foster and Wolfe to keep floating their speculation that Sternberg wants to move the team away from Tampa Bay. There is no public evidence to suggest that's likely, and it's not Sternberg whose actions are threatening the future of Major League Baseball here.

But will the editorial board hold the team to the same standard as Foster? In 2011, they suggested Sternberg should "make a reasonable (financial) offer to St. Petersburg after the season" to be able to explore new stadium sites. The board also said Sternberg "should open the Rays' financial books to confirm that the franchise is not making mountains of money."

He didn't - and the Times' issued him a free pass.

Odds & Ends: Rays Attendance, Marlins on Groupon

The Rays keep slipping further into the cellar in the MLB attendance standings, and this afternoon's home game against the Royals won't help. Neither will a giant security wall going up around the park this week ahead of the GOP Convention.

However, the Rays would post huge attendance numbers this weekend if they'd only use that security barrier to prevent fans from leaving the Trop....

In the meantime, don't hold your breath waiting for the Rays to respond to the City of St. Pete's offer to chat relocation.

Things aren't much rosier in Miami, where the Marlins' attendance is slipping and the team just resorted to offering half-priced tickets on Groupon. Their less-than-stellar numbers are only going to make the Rays' efforts to build another Florida stadium even tougher.

Finally, if you need proof that even losing teams with mediocre attendance are huge profit-makers, look no further than the San Diego Padres. A group, including Phil Mickelson, paid $800 million for the team and affiliated investments like television rights.

According to Forbes, the Padres used to make $12 million/year on television until they renegotiated this year. Now, they rake in $50/million year in TV rights, a windfall the Rays could potentially surpass when their current contract expires in 2016.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Why is a Tampa Law Firm Using a PR Service?

I'm always a little skeptical of law firms that tout lawsuits with PR firms, but a case to keep an eye on is Autography LLC's conspiracy/fraud suit against the Rays and top executives.

Here was the Tampa Bay Times coverage of the issue last week.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Foster, St. Pete Challenge Rays

They criticized the Tampa Bay Times, the Tampa Bay Rays, and Tampa Bay sports critics. But in the end, St. Petersburg city councilmembers voted to invite a developer to pitch his Gateway stadium concept at a future meeting.

The board, along with Mayor Bill Foster, also issued a challenge to the Rays to accept a 2010 offer that would allow consideration of possible stadium sites across Pinellas County, not just in the City of St. Pete.

The resolution, said St. Pete city attorney John Wolfe, would "protect the integrity of our use agreement."

Wolfe also criticized the Tampa Bay Times for pushing St. Petersburg to let the Rays break their contract. He said giving up leverage would "open the door for Rays to leave the region."

"We would love to have these discussions with our Major-Leauge partners," Foster said, "but that just hasn't been possible."

Continue reading here.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Glazers' IPO Flat but Family Still Richer

The Wall St. Journal called it"the equivalent of the game that ends in a goal-less draw."

Manchester United's IPO on the NYSE failed to excite...but it also failed to fail...which is a good thing if your last name is Glazer.

The shares of ManU, which came with virtually no voting power or expected short-term dividends, sold for $14 each. That valued the club, according to the AP, at $2.3 billion, "slightly higher than the record $2 billion paid for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team earlier this year."

It also meant the Glazers made about $110 million on the sale.

All-in-all, it has to be considered a successful day given how much power the family retained over the team and given the initial concerns about the IPO. And if any of the stockholders are unhappy, there's still the prospect of selling a whole bunch of new jerseys in Jamaica.

Rays Sink to 30th in Attendance

It's all the Red Sox' fault.

With four games against Boston and four strong showings at the turnstiles this weekend, the Cleveland Indians have climbed past the Tampa Bay Rays in the MLB attendance rankings.

The Rays fall to 30th out of 30 teams, despite averaging 20,572 fans per game this year, a 9% jump from last year's 18,872 per-game average.

Tampa Bay still sits just 76 fans per game behind last year's worst-draw, Oakland. The A's are enjoying a 13% increase in fans from last year's 18,232 average.

The good news for the Rays - besides their increased attendance and big jumps in TV viewership from last year - is of their seven remaining home series, three come on the weekend and two of their mid-week series come against the Red Sox and Yankees.

Economics of Olympics

This post isn't about the billions of dollars NBC will spend on US broadcasting rights for the Summer Games, but more on how politicians are trying to capitalize on the event as well.

When Florida Senator Marco Rubio suggested making the financial bonuses for athletes tax-deductable, President Obama indicated it was a good idea. Forbes did not agree:
Let’s not kid ourselves, the Olympics is big business. Paying athletes performance bonuses for winning medals is no less commercial than anything else the Olympic bosses do. But why this extra cash should be tax-free escapes me. At least hedge fund operators have to pay capital gains taxes on their bonuses.

As my colleague Eric Toder reminds me, there once was a time when this sort of special tax treatment was slipped into revenue bills by high-paid lobbyists in the dark of night. Now, the code has been so corrupted that pols propose this junk without even being asked. For that, I suppose, they deserve the gold medal of stupid tax tricks.
For what it's worth, Politifact ruled supporters' arguments for the exemption were based on fuzzy/misleading math. But it's a reminder no event is above politicizing these days.

There was also an interesting post on The Sports Economist blog refuting suggestions that US Olympic training should be subsidized by the government. I can't imagine the idea would go over terribly well in this climate anyway, but there may be no better argument than "The US has a vibrant private sports market that leads to a lessening of the national importance of the Olympics."

Times Editorial Forecasts Possible Doomsday

In a column designed to remind voters that elections matter, Tampa Bay Times Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens writes that a "worst-case" scenario could involve the Rays leaving Tampa Bay by 2015:
Tropicana Field is closed as well. (Mayor Bill) Foster refused to let the Tampa Bay Rays look for new stadium sites in both Pinellas and Hillsborough, so frustrated franchise owner Stuart Sternberg sold the Rays in 2014 and bought the New York Mets. The new Rays owner moved the team to Charlotte, and the resulting lawsuits are winding their way through the courts. So much for that lease requiring the Rays to play in the Trop until 2027.
First of all, there's no way Charlotte could possibly lure a team like the Rays by 2015...not to mention Charlotte has no money and the Rays are stuck in a seemingly-ironclad contract.

Second of all, everyone should know by now that Stu Sternberg doesn't want to buy the Mets. He's waiting for the Steinbrenners to sell the Yankees, of course!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

12 Acres in Gateway

So in a week where none of the Stadium Saga news was really new, we saw the Mayor of St. Pete indicate he'd meet with both Pinellas County commissioners and a private developer who wants to build a stadium on the Pinellas side of the Howard Frankland Bridge (otherwise known as the "Gateway" region).

But haven't we heard this all before?

Aug '12: Tampa Bay Times editorial board rips Mayor Foster for not doing enough to negotiate with the Rays, while giving the team a free pass
Sep '11: Tampa Bay Times editorial board
rips Mayor Foster while giving Rays owner Stu Sternberg a free pass

Aug '12: Plot of land made available in Gateway for baseball stadium, but officials admit financing it would be difficult
July '12: Plot of land made available in Downtown Tampa for baseball stadium, but officials admit financing it would be difficult
Feb '10: Plot of land made available in Downtown Tampa for baseball stadium, but officials admit financing it would be difficult
Feb' 10: Plot of land made available at state fairgrounds for baseball stadium, but officials admit financing it would be difficult
Feb' 10: Plot of land made available in Gateway for baseball stadium, but officials admit financing it would be difficult

Aug '12: Local TV stations interview fans (and bartenders) who love the idea of a stadium closer to them
June '11: Local TV stations interview fans who love the idea of a stadium closer to them

Aug '12: St. Pete councilwoman rips Mayor Foster for his handling of the situation
Aug '11: St. Pete councilwoman rips Mayor Foster for his handling of the situation

Sound familiar? It should. Even the Rays said, "Over the years, we've heard and read about many developers who would like to include a baseball stadium in their plans."

But also familiar is the silence when it comes to how a new stadium would be financed, since nobody wants to talk about the real issue right now, and that's how to pay for it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pinellas Jumps Into Stadium Saga

Pinellas County commissioners voted Tuesday to invite the Tampa Bay Rays, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, and the St. Petersburg City Council to a future meeting to discuss the ballclub's future plans. While not a party to the current use agreement between St. Pete and the Rays, Pinellas County is a stakeholder, paying off a portion of the stadium's bonds through tourist taxes.

Pinellas County - like Hillsborough County - had been respecting Foster's threat of legal action if any parties tried to interfere with the binding contract between St. Petersburg and the Rays. But just like Hillsborough commissioners decided, Pinellas commissioners figured the risk of legal action was low...especially if St. Petersburg is in on the discussion.

Read more from WTSP here.

You can also catch up on recent comments made by Rays' owner Stu Sternberg, including his encouragement over the Hillsborough developments and a call to local leaders to "step up to the plate" (my pun, not his).

Friday, August 3, 2012

Hillsborough Commissioners Shift on Rays

After Hillsborough Co. Commissioners voted 5-2 to invite the Rays to come discuss their future this fall, it appears several commissioners may have drifted from the stances they took during the 2010 campaign.

Victor Crist cast a vote to meet with the Rays despite saying in 2010 that trying to lure a resource from one Tampa Bay community to another is like "competing against yourself." He also said then that Hillsborough commissioners should strive to help keep the Rays in Pinellas Co.

Read more here.

Coverage of Hillsborough/Rays Discussions

Thursday brought the expected "invitation to talk" from Hillsborough Co., but the real news of the day was the Rays' indication they'd accept it, despite the threat of legal action from St. Petersburg.

While much of the Tampa Bay broadcast media covered the predictable, WTSP's Adam Freeman did a nice job explaining St. Pete's reaction and advancing the story to "what next?"

"Hopefully this will alow us to start to break the log jam that has not moved in over three years," Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan told Freeman, who also questioned Hagan how St. Pete's contract could be bought out when he said the Rays a "200- to 300-million dollar economic engine." Hagan said he only expected a buyout to cost in the "tens of millions," but didn't elaborate.

Hagan, who had previously told the Tampa Bay Times that he was willing to cause the "divorce" between the Rays and St. Petersburg, has now advanced the Stadium Saga to the regional conversation the Rays have so desperately longed for. But he has also given the team the leverage it needs to potentially pit one side of Tampa Bay against the other. The Times editorial board applauded the move as a "smart decision."

But nobody is willing to yet address the issue of how to pay for a $600 million stadium (St. Pete's mayor once said, "Am I worried about people assembling land in Hillsborough and Tampa? I've seen their budgets."). The ABC Coalition already summarized years ago that the Rays would be better off playing near the Howard Frankland Bridge or Downtown Tampa.

Still, this could be an important step toward addressing the elephant in the room: that any new stadium in Tampa would likely have to be financed by some sort of a multi-county tax. Pinellas County, by comparison, has more funding available for a stadium, which is why Gateway remains very much in the mix.

Hillsborough County and the Rays are taking cautious steps toward a fall public meeting (with guidance from all of their attorneys), but as Field of Schemes' Neil deMause best summarizes, "is just looking OK?"

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ex-NBA Ref Tim Donaghy Ordered Out of Gambling Business; He Wants Back In

It's sort of a sports business story, so let's cover it here. Former NBA ref Tim Donaghy, who served time in the federal slammer for providing tips to gamblers, wants to keep earning a living in the gambling field. But a pesky judge wants him to knock it off...for at least the last three months of his probation.

You can continue reading the story here.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hillsborough Ready to Talk Rays...and Media Mistakes

With Hillsborough County commissioners due to take up the Rays' Stadium Saga today, it's worth taking a look back at some media misfires the last few days:

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board chimed in again, commenting that the Hillsborough developments were long overdue.

But in-between some valid points, the editorial assumes that "The Rays want to talk." Yet, St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster has contended that if the team doesn't like it's contract, they should suggest a fix to him....and they haven't jumped at that opportunity. So aren't both parties just as much to blame?

Plus, am I the only one who realizes the Rays are still bound by the iron-clad contract and won't be able to accept Hillsborough's invitation to talk?

UPDATE: A day later, the Trib editorial board echoed the Times and blamed Foster for inaction. It's certainly not the first time the Tampa-based paper has lobbied for a move across the bay. But suggesting the Rays could be contracted or that the team doesn't owe it to the region to actually prove financial struggles is irresponsible.

The Trib even cites White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf as an influential leader who wants to contract teams - the same Jerry Reinsdorf who made St. Pete look foolish before admitting "a savvy negotiator creates leverage. People had to think we were going to leave Chicago."

Contraction ain't happening. Period.

Also worth pointing out: WTVT in Tampa took Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan on his word that the Rays are "a $200 to $300 million a year economic engine."

Aside from the number being rather arbitrary, and aside from the fact that you'd never find a reputable economist to back up those numbers....I don't even think the Rays would agree with those numbers. If they did, and they one day broke their contract with St. Pete, the buyout and/or damages to the city would be in the billions.

Ken Hagan and the rest of the Hillsborough Co. commission will discuss the Rays Thursday morning at 10:30.