Results tagged ‘ Bud Selig ’
“I’m sure it can, but talk to Stu Sternberg.”
Quite a statement made by out-going Major League Baseball Czar Bud Selig today to the media masses assembled during the Baseball Writers of America Association(BBWAA) briefing.
I’m not used to hearing a civil tone concerning our region in regards to Selig, and it kinds of scared me at first. Most of the rhetoric pointed towards this region be it Spring or Fall has been pointed disapproval or admonishment towards the are not embracing baseball with both hands, but Selig today in his oracle seemed calm almost to the point of finding his point of Zen towards the whole Rays stadium situation.
Selig acknowledged the viability of baseball within the Tampa Bay market, but he also seemed to show more serenity towards the enduring saga than in the past.
The quotes uttered by Selig today seemed a more transitional than omnipotent outbursts displaying his discontent and disappointment of the region’s snail-like pace towards clearing at least one achievable hurdle in the race for the Tampa Bay Rays to find a new profitable hacienda.
It almost seemed as if we were not talking to the same man who 364 days ago during the 2013 All-Star break seemed to be plotting the ultimate revival or hostile removal of any baseball hopes or dreams within the Tampa Bay area.
This was the same M L B icon who in 2013 profoundly voiced his displeasure and loss of patience with this region of Florida stating: ”You cannot ask a franchise to continue, when they have been so competitive and really, really done a marvelous job, in a situation that is economically not tolerable.”
What a difference a year makes……or does it?
In 2013 Selig seemed to be bringing a double-edged message to the Tampa Bay community on the one sharp edge by voicing the stern narrative addressing the Rays dismal home game attendance numbers while at the same time using the dull edge of his blade to stroke the Rays leadership’s excellent job of putting a competitive product on the field within their limited revenue streams.
The 2013 edition of Selig sounded off like a disapproving leader who was about to summon Rays owner Sternberg to his chambers and lock the doors until a viable and achievable plan could be at least penned to paper.
The 2014 edition…..not so much.
Today Selig expressed some faith in the Tampa Bay market and seemed to be giving the reins solely at this moment to Sternberg. Selig also threw out a curve ball morsel today in that there could be a breakthrough in the Rays slowly-moving stadium evolution before he leaves office in January.
Some logic might point to the change in St Petersburg’s leadership within the Mayor’s office to being more open to letting the team at least chat region-wide about another locale, but it might come at a cost. But no matter what, you can bet any announcement will be made after the Rays finish playing in 2014, that has been the “Rays Way” stadium-wise since Sternberg took the helm.
And for one of the first times in my memory, Selig threw out an unforced compliment to the region that the “demographics in the market are good”. But when asked later if his comment was possibly an endorsement that baseball in the region could work, the baseball czar just as quickly slammed the lid on the Tampa Bay Pandora’s box added, “I’m sure it can, but talk to Stuart Stenberg.”
Selig is set to leave his baseball throne this January, and with the recent reversal of the Oakland A’s stadium situation, the Rays remain one of his only projects that might not see fruition before he leaves his M L B post.
Possibly Sternberg has a master plan that has been viewed by Selig and has gotten a head-tilt to move in that direction with no current intimidation or threats from the top tier of baseball. At least not until a successor has gotten a feel for M L B’s top job, then all bets might be off.
So maybe Selig is letting Sternberg have the chance during the second half and into the Winter of 2014 to make some headway. Possibly Selig is providing a little distance between himself and the Rays stadium situation to afford the illusion of trust and respect the job will be done by Sternberg and his team without interference of the outgoing czar.
Guess only time will tell if this distance remains and if the confidence doesn’t cease come October.
But maybe Selig did take one last parting shot over the Tampa Bay bow when he spoke highly of the Montreal market as a possibly being revisited as an M L B franchise. “I wish them well. And I think they would be an excellent candidate in the future, no question about it.”
But Selig, the 2014-edition, remained steady and on point when asked repeatedly about his concerns with the Rays stadium debacle. “Stu Sternberg is working hard on that, and that should be his problem. I’m here to help him and he knows that. But it is a judgment call he has to make.”
Yep, what a difference a year makes.
Ever since the Florida Marlins proudly announced their plans to build and relocate the team into the heart of the Miami metro area, you know the Tampa Bay Rays have been a bit envious of their Citrus Series rival.
It has not been an easy road for the Marlins, but in the end it will be a prized locale and a stadium worthy of the lofty investment. With their new abode also comes a name change to the Miami Marlins, finally bringing their community name to the front of the Marlins jerseys.
Already their have been rave reviews on the shell configuration of the complex, and even a recent Marlins batting practice “ showcase” in which more than a few pitches thundered off the bat into the current vacant spaces in deep Centerfield. The retractable roof would save the suspect of rain-outs, which had happened 191 times since the team first took the field 16 mile north.
Now the Marlins could open or close the roof at will, forever banishing the elements to the exterior.
You know the Rays are really jealous of the fact the Marlins got their financing and approval intact before the economic downfall that might thrust the Rays into more privately invested waters instead of tapping the public side of the equation.
With the Marlins Ballpark’s current operations running on budget and on-time for the 2012 completion mark, the Rays still sit in total limbo in their own stadium dreams.
As if the Rays needed to be strung anymore by the Marlin’s success, people within the “Marlins inner circle” have been “ unofficially” whispering enthusiastically around the community that Marlins Ballpark will host the New York Yankees in the team’s last 2012 Spring Training contest as a rehearsal for their April 4th M L B home opener against their Spring Training roommates in Jupiter, Florida, the St. Louis Cardinals.
I still think one of the surface smart decisions of this stadium configuration has been the future Marlins cutting back their official capacity to 37,000 which will make the stadium capable of possibly dishing out a few sell-out contests in 2012….a rarity in South Florida right now.
The reduced capacity does come with a glaring possibly Catch-22 situation that their stadium will have the smallest actual capacity within Major League Baseball. That could dampen and drown possible chances for the Marlins getting overall M L B approval for such events as the 2015 All-Star game.
This mid-season celebration is a coveted prize, but one that could slip through the Marlins fins as a result of a reduced chance for M L B to cash in totally on a huge crowd. If the Marlins do get their All-Star game, it solidifies the Rays also wanting to have a possible reduced seating capacity facility. If the Marlins are trumped, it will show the Rays that possibly a 40,000 seat stadium in a must to get such events.
As the stadium has risen on the Miami horizon, there has always been doubt or speculation that the Marlins could bring the masses into their new home. The inclusion of a Metro rail line and increased public transit will also be closely watched by the Rays. It has been envisioned by so many in the past that the Rays future stadium and their success might also hinge on transit and the ability to bring people to the ballpark without huge traffic concerns.
The Rays organization has to be monitoring this Marlins Ballpark transformation with eager hearts and minds. So many of the same unforeseen variables the Marlins face, the Rays currently share the same anxiety and stumbling blocks. Odd that once again as in the initial M L B expansion into the fertile Florida market the Marlins will be the first to dive in and see what floats.
The Rays front office has to be frustrated and perplexed that their own community could not harness the same lighting bolt energy that got the Marlins their dream stadium. Political unrest, posturing on both sides of the Tampa Bay estuary has brought rough waters even to beginning honest discussion and proposals. As public funds are being drained like the Florida aquifer, the chances of a highly public funded stadium are sinking into the quicksand.
Suddenly it seems the Rays stadium situation might be on the agenda soon within the closed confines of the M L B ownership. M L B Commissioner Bud Selig has postured in the past, even during a reception under the Teflon roof of Tropicana Field that the Rays need a better facility, but the Commissioner’s voice went silent to many movers and shakers within the community Soon the words will end and some harsh realities will resurface for all to see and judge. Time has past for this Rays stadium chatter to begin, the Florida sands of time ate quickly falling from the top of the hourglass.
I plan on buying a ticket for the Marlins home opener. I might not attend it, but it is a valuable piece of Florida baseball history. If the Tampa Bay community leaders do not quickly put their community pride and judgment in check, it might be the last M L B stadium built in Florida for a long, long time. Most people forget, baseball is a business and when the book begin to show more red than black…changes happen quickly…..even in the slow moving South.
From the Desk of Rays Renegade
January 4, 2011
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig,
I am writing you today to give you some of my MLB fan-based opinions. Hopefully with a few well placed facts and a emotional incentive to possibly charge forward in changing this distrubing “Third World” trend of actions.
I am sorry to say Mr. Commissioner, I am not writing about PED’s, tomorrow’s Baseball Hall of Fame announcement, or even the implimentation of the dreaded salary cap who’s thought might give you horrid nightmares.
I must address this non-democratic situation that I feel we, as a baseball loving Nation have failed our warm breezed cousins to the South. Maybe because I have lived in this country my entire life I am a bit naive to the complexity of the Hispanic community to the South of Florida. But I still think change is needed Mr. Commissioner.
It seem that the actions of few corrupt entities within the Southern Hemisphere Hispanic power gird have impoverished so many young ballplayers in the Tropical belt of the Caribbean and South America that want to play professional baseball. It is a land where a single soul can command the intentions and the dreams of hundreds that love to play our national past time, and they just treat them as if they were hired help.
The fact that a single buscone or ” finder” can manipulate the potential fiscal rewards to a player and circumvent needed revenues to become instant millionaires by preying and praying on the sweat and blood of young boys yearning to fulfill their baseball dreams of becoming the “next” Roberto Clemente, or David Ortiz. How can the United States of America, one of the biggest and baddest countries on the face of this earth just simply stand back and let a stable of Third World bullies decree which players get a chance, and which are destined to a life of poverty.
Mr. Commissioner, you can become that one authority figure who can bring about change and finally remove the tyranny of the buscones or “finders” forever. You could make another footnote to your MLB legacy that you, Bud Selig as MLB Commissioners helped to first formulate rules, regulations and possibly even establish an outside the United States MLB First Years Player Draft system that would provide players outside the confines of the current system a chance to be recognized and rewarded for their years of hard work.
I am not asking for this in 2011, or even within the next 3 years. I know that you will need the backing of one of the most powerful men in baseball with you. That is why I am also sending a letter to Michael Weiner the current President of the Major League Baseball Players Association asking that both administrative branches of this great sports combine energies to promote, provide and institute future avenues for players outside this country to be treated the same as the North American born players we acquire via our current MLB First Year Player Draft system.
With both the MLB and MLBPA set to begin discussing a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in the Winter of 2011, this could be a essential sidebar issue that can get more extended revenues within the MLB coffers, plus establish more jobs and positions within that region’s realm of the game. Could be a plus, plus for both side of the CBA coin.
I know that even a preliminary discussion will consuming hours of dialogue, mountains of correspondence, and endless phone calls, but isn’t the overall health and futurue history of our game worth that sweat and struggles?
The game has evolved so much on the field in the last 25 years, shouldn’t our focus now be on the souls left behind by this progress..Think about it Mr. Commissioner, you can be the savior of millions of future Hispanic baseball players that will be discovered in MLB-sanctioned Baseball Academys set up in the early 2000′s by our favorite MLB teams with the intent to discover new talent, and permanently plug ourselves into a new talent stream.
We saw the first two players from India signed two years ago, and a petite Japanese woman knuckleball pitcher signed to a minor league contracts just last season. Why not give future rising stars in this new World “hot bed of talent” a realistic chance to come on board with respected representation, and loose the stress of wondering if documentation, or even money has changed hands before a single signature is committe to paper.
Can you honestly say Commissioner Selig that you have not felt the disgust and embarrassment of the past few years when countless players are found to be illegally obtained by doctored birth certificates, name changes, or simple taking another person’s name for the sake of the game’s paychecks and prestige.
I know that sports agents have been called the leeches of the modern athlete, but they do not suck dry the blood of their clients the way some of these diabolical buscones or even “family” advisers do in parts of the unmanaged MLB world order. Every year more players come clean about the falsifications of their pasts, and we just slap their hands and let them fall back into line.
By expelling the human parasites that prey on these players and their families we are ridding society of a deceptive epidemic that needs to be exterminated, eradicated and made extinct. Mr. Commissioner, you can be the man that will be held up in the future as the “man who brought baseball and the world together through equality”.
That would be a humanitarian MLB legacy that would transcend anything else you have done as Commissioner of Baseball.
You could be remembered in the town of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic as the man who made fair and equal laws for everyone to play this great game. Major League Baseball has been diligent in the past trying to erase these evils and bring honesty back to these regions.
When MLB established a MLB-sanctioned home base in the Dominican to combat these false records and documentations, somehow players still funneled into the country and were exposed later. Underage players were found out and returned to their countries if they had not at least reached the age of 17. Can you imagine spending even a month in a country like the U S after living in lesser condition in your home country.
Commissioner Selig, you can be the man who can stand proud at the forefront of this revolution to show that we are through with the lies and deceptions, that truth should be the common language, and that players should be rewarded for their talents, not placed like meat in a glass showcase and sold to the highest dolla.
In closing Commissioner Selig, I ask of you that we finally end this tyranny of the few that prey on the weak and poor who only want to play baseball. By establishing at least a dialogue to begin constructing a World Amateur Draft, we can show the entire world that baseball can overcome more than just money and power, but can improve lives and establish fair play beyond just the baseball diamond.
I know I am only one soul writing to you, but sometimes a single voice in the dark can lead you into the light. If we are to keep moving forward as a sport, we have to take other sports lead on the outside countries rights to fairness and equality.
The best way to show that is to point to the NBA, which drafts players from around the world. If you really want to leave this sport in a manner that future generations will remember your name, then by taking on the equality of the Tropics in regards to baseball related matters might be a giant step for your own immortality.
Thank you again Commissioner Selig for your time. I hope to again shake you hand at the Spring Training Grand Slam Dinner again at Tropicana Field in 2011. I am just someone who loves this sport, and only wants to see it grow into a world wide phenomenon.
cc: United States President Barack Obama, Matt Silverman, Presdient of the Tampa Bay Rays Baseball Club, Michael Weiner, Executive Director of the MLBPA.
We all know the tale of Pandora’s box( jar) from Greek mythology. It is base on the actions of Pandora opening the jar she carried with her and unleashing many things upon mankind like toil, ills and sickness. But within all that negative elements was one good and humane element hidden deep within that sacred jar, and it was the element of hope. And that is the key element of the Pandora’s box (jar) that I trust will transfer effortless following the investigation by Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig into the umpiring events of the recent Detroit Tigers versus Cleveland Indians match-up.
Hope that the right thing will be done in this seesawing endeavor, even if it does come with penalties of changing the essence and protocol of the game even in reference to the men who governs its rules. Even if Selig is viewed as toying with the fabric of the established and historical baseball traditions, that his true intention of providing some sort of uncontested justice might just start an avalanche effect into the sturdy mountain of transcendental thoughts surrounding the game.
That Selig even mentioning that he is going to “look into the matter” could send ripples into the historic pond of baseball history and call for other future considerations or radical interventions from the Commissioner regarding his enforcement arm of the game. I agree that the game in question did end on a play that will further tarnish and flaw the role of the MLB Umpires within the scope of a baseball contest. And with all sincerity, how can this unrighteous action not be held up high and mighty for all to see to display the inherent wrongs that can happen with the human element prevalent in the outcome of the game.
We saw today a unusual and unique gesture/signal by MLB First Base Umpire Jim Joyce admitting his wrong, and knowing he might have fully changed a important slice of baseball’s history with his outstretched arm and his “safe” call last night. But human error is part of the unfolding essence of the game. It is expected and it is admonished at the same time. Just like death and taxes, it is a given in the game that errors are human, even by the protectors of the rules. Every job has its flaws and imperfections, and recently baseball mistakes have been earmarked and played continuously for the World to judge for themselves .
Hope that Selig’s involvement into the sensibilities of this “tragedy” will not further open his own Pandora’s box and bring numerous rule enforcement issues back to the surface to produce his own toil, sickness and ills towards his reign as MLB Commissioner. Sometimes trying to fix a bad situation from reoccurring can fester itself into a multitude of eventual dogmatic controversies than could again gain legs and begin crawling from out of the darkness for all to view and gasp. But what final conclusion would be correct?
Even the thought of bringing this controversial game’s unfortunate outcome into plain sight again and dissecting the Umpire crew’s actions could open old MLB officiating wounds and further push the envelope of conspiracy and inconsistent judgments of the “Men in Blue” into the open for a feverish discussion. Even if the MLB Umpires Union has an opinion in this matter, the Commissioner of Baseball hires and maintains the umpiring crews. His mire eye glance towards this game’s misguided “safe” gesture could have repercussions beyond this single Umpiring crew.
Hopethat if Selig does come to the ultimate conclusion of wrong doing in the call by Joyce, that he also has the willpower and the omnipotent fortitude to make an executive decision as to the final outcome. In all fairness to Galarraga and the Tigers, the final outcome of the game can not be changed. Even with the outcry from Detroit and National voices for justice and a reversal, it has to stay cemented and the judgment remain consistent and not be challenged or changed for the overall integrity of the game.
But in rehashing and revisiting of the night’s actions, Selig could produce and set into motion viable changes and radical rethinking of some of the evident problems currently surrounding his enforcement arm of the rules of the game. But then it could be something as simple as expansion of the Instant Replay system to possibly include review of questionable base calls when the Umpire assigned to that position can not fully vest himself in his decision, and a secondary opinion can not prove to be formulated with 100 percent certainty. Replaying the play could provide an honest interpretation of the game, but will open the flaws of being human tri-fold.
Hopethat the investigation my Selig will turn out to be a Godsend to the governing body of the game and that the Special Rules Committee and the Umpires Union do not see it as pressing his thumb down for change, but be welcomed to bring about a successful conclusion for all involved in the process. This same element will be debated and weighed continuously until the Commissioner deems his will upon the game in this matter. Let’s hope Selig gets it right the first time.
And these word spoken by then Rays Team Owner Vince Namoli to the Tampa Tribune might sum up the great celebration and also the knowledge that we still had a long journey ahead of us before that First Pitch in 1998. “It’s been a path of 10,000 steps, 10,000 phone calls, 10,000 frustrations. Now we’re at the end of the path, but we start a new path,” Naimoli said. “We start to focus on hiring a general manager, on the Dome, on the development of the franchise, on the minor-league system, on Opening Day 1998. We’re into the fun path.”
I still remember both announcements as if it was yesterday and still have that memory of finally hearing we had our dream of a professional baseball team in our sights and had a hard road ahead of us, but one that always has been a pleasure. From our first pick (Paul Wilder) in the 1996 First Year Players Draft, to the recent announcement of two-time All Star Hank Blalock being signed by the Rays, to paraphrase an old television commercial, this team has come a long way baby!
And today I hope all Tampa Bay fans take a moment after 12 pm to again try and remember and enjoy this moment. Sure we might have had a few rough years starting out before our Rays farm system began to churn out players like outfielder Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, or pitcher Joe Kennedy who showed us that building through our minor leagues was our path to the top. And less than 7 years after Crawford first played on the turf of Tropicana Field, we envisioned a rise to Playoff status, and an eventual ride to the World Series.
And as we near that special moment in time today, it is actually fun for me to go back in time and remember I was sitting in a local gym when the announcement hit the airwaves that sent the room into an instant celebration. Because around me also working out were minor league players from the Orioles system and also a few University of Florida football players getting ready for Spring drills. Instantly the mood went from working out to celebrating, and I know we were not alone in wanting to paint the town red that night.
February 20, 2009
Dear Commissioner Bud Selig,
I am writing you today to give you some opinions, facts and hopefully some impulse to charge forward in this situation. I am sorry Commissioner, I am not writing about PED’s, rain-shortened World Series games, or even the dreaded salary cap issue that might be giving you nightmares. What has taken my mind to such lengths that I feel it must be addressed is this situation where baseball players from outside the borders of the North American countries and Puerto Rico are held to such a high level of integrity and honestly, but we have failed out warm breezed cousins to the south.
The actions of few have impoverished the many in the Tropical belt of the Caribbean and South America. It is a land where a single soul can command the intentions and the dreams of hundreds that love to play our national past time, and we just treat them as hired help. The fact that a single buscone or ” finder” can manipulate the system to become an instant millionaire on the sweat and blood of young boys yearning to fulfill the dreams of Roberto Clemente, or David Ortiz. How can we, as one of the biggest and baddest countries on the face of this earth stand back and let third world politics decree what player get a chance, and which one is destined to poverty.
You can make a huge difference in this situation Commissioner, you can be the guy who changed the regions history with baseball. In this country people line up at small stores to purchase a Lottery ticket that might be their ticket out of their country and penniless environment. You can be the beacon that makes it all sane again and brings the same order to the Tropic belt that past commissioners and image makers have to produce rules, regulations and even establish a draft system with players ouytside the confines of the current system. I am not asking for this in 2010, or even within the next 3 years. I know that you will need the backing of one of the most powerful men in baseball with you.
I am also sending a letter to Donald Fehr of the Major League Baseball Players Association asking that both administrative branches of this great sports combine energies to promote, provide and institute future avenues for players outside this country to be treated the same as the players we acquire via our current amateur draft system. I know that it will be consuming hours of dialogue, mountains of correspondence, and endless phone calls, but isn’t history of our game worth that sweat and struggle. The game has evolved so much on the field in the last 25 years, shouldn’t our focus now be on the souls left behind by this progress.
Think about it Commissioner, you can be the savior of millions of future baseball players that will be discovered in MLB-sanctioned Baseball Academies set up in the early 2000′s by many of your teams with the intent to discover new talent and to input themselves into new talent streams in other countries. We have seen the first two players from India signed this year to MLB contracts. We have seen a Japanese woman signed to a minor league contract. Why not give future rising stars in this hot bed of talent a chance to come on board with respected representation, and loose the stress of wondering if documentation, or even money has changed hands before a signature is even obtained.
Can you honestly say you have not felt the disgust and the embarrassment of the past few years when countless players are found to be illegally obtained by doctored birth certificates, name changes, or simple taking another person’s name for the sake of the game’s paychecks and prestige. I know that agents have been called the leeches of the modern athlete, but they do not suck dry the blood of their clients the way some of these buscones or even family advisers do in this area of the world. Every year more players come clean about the falsifications of their pasts, and we just slap their hands and let them fall back into line.
With establishing a set of rules and regulations and letting them have an ample picking of these great athletes, you might also begin a path to parity, which will help the teams grow more equal and competitive and make for a more excitement league come the first days of April every season. By expelling the demons that pry on these players and their families we are ridding society of a parasite that needs to be exterminated, eradicated and made extinct. Commissioner, you can be the man that will be held up in future talks as the “man who brought baseball and the world together through equality”. That would be a legacy that would transcend anything else you have done as Commissioner of Baseball.
You would be remembered in the town of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic as the man who made fair and equal laws for everyone to play this great game. Baseball has been diligent in the past trying to erase these evils and bring honesty to the region. When we established a home base in the Dominican to combat these false records and documentations, still players funneled into the country and were exposed later. Underage players were found out and returned to their countries if they had not at least reached the age of 17. Can you imagine spending even a month in a country like the U S after living in lesser condition in your home country.
Commissioner, you can be the man who is at the forefront of this movement to show that we are through with the lies and deceptions, that truth should be the common language and that players should be rewarded for their talents, not placed like meat in a showcase to be selected by the big money teams. In closing Commissioner, I ask of you that we finally end this tyranny of the few that prey on the weak and poor who only want to play baseball in our country. By establishing at least a dialogue to begin constructing a World Amateur Draft, we can show the entire world that baseball can overcome more than just money and power, but can improve lives and establish fair play beyond just the field.
I know I am only one person writing this to you, but a single voice in the dark can lead you into the light. If we are to keep moving forward as a sport, we have to take other sports lead on the outside countries rights to fairness and equality. the best way to show that is tp point to the NBA, which drafts players from around the world. There is the prime example for you to use if you want to leave a legacy no one can tear down. If you really want to leave this sport in a way that generations will remember your name, taking on the equality of the Tropics in baseball related matters might be a giant step for your immortality.
Thank you again Commissioner for your time in reading this letter, and hope to see you someday soon again at Tropicana Field. I am just someone who loves this sport, and only wants to see it grow into a world wide phenomenon.
cc: United States President Barack Obama, Washington Post, New York Times, St Petersburg Times, Matt Silverman, Presdient of the Tampa Bay Rays Baseball Club, Donald Fehr, Executive Director of the MLBPA.
This is the last part of a 3 part series on the current maple bat controversy. I have decided that tomorrow, 1/23/2009, I am going to profile two of the current inventors who have decided that have viable alternatives to today’s bats. Both have promoted safety and reliability of the bats, even at an affordable price for MLB teams and players. Hopefully in late 2009, we will no longer have to address this kind of matter and we can all feel safe and secure, even in the front rows at our favorite ball parks around America.
There is nothing quite like the breaking of a bat during a baseball game. the sound of the wood splintering after the perfect pitch blended with the sight of the hitter holding the remnants of his destroyed weapon make for a thrilling sight for baseball fans. Lately however, broken bats have been anything but amusing and colorful. Bats are no longer just breaking; they are exploding and sending fragments everywhere and not concerned about damages or injuries to others.
Today’s bats are not breaking cleanly, or even staying together at the barrel, but hurdling shattered remains in all directions without regard for safety. And the one thing that has been constant in all of these matter of shattering shards being propelled at spectators, players and even MLB officials, is that they have not yet become lethal.The culprit is plain and simple to baseball officials. The maple bat has brought upon the major league baseball diamonds a new fear and a constant reminder of safety issues that need to be addressed before a critical injury takes a life on the field, or in the grandstands.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is aware and concerned about the matter. In this 3rd installment on the maple bat controversy, I will be addressing the MLB leadership moves so far to curtail further damage. I will also inform you of two inventors who believe they have a solution to the epidemic that is plaguing the bat world. Hopefully this series has enlightened a few people to the real dangers and the consequences of turning away from this issue. At stake is maybe a life, or a permanent injury to a fan or player that could have been avoided if action was taken swift and forceful beginning in the Spring of 2009.
Some people have asked me how the MLB could let such an issue proliferate? Well, for starters, the collective bargaining agreement between the players union and the baseball owners makes it difficult for baseball, like a large tractor-trailer, to make swift and sharp turns. In 2006 labor negotiations, the owners did ask the players union for permission to change the official bat specifications over the concern for the maple bats, but the players opposed those specifications.
Currently baseballs approved bats can have a barrel no larger than 2 3/4 inches, with handles no thinner than 16/19th of an inch diameter, and a total length of no more than 42 inches.In comparisons, the bat that Babe Ruth used in 1927 was a 35-inch bat with a weight of 40-ounces. The funny part is that Ruth, the father of power hitting, did not need such as weight or mass in his bat. Because the bat already has so much more mass than the ball, bat speed ( velocity ) is much more significant than the mass.
Selig decided that he needed to get the collection of varied opinions together from both the owners and the players union and commissioned the MLB Health and Safety committee to address this situation on June 24, 2008. The 16-member panel convened in New York to discuss what steps could be taken to either eliminate or curb the problem. The committee consists of 8 members of the players association, and 8 members of the MLB management. They discussed the issue of the maple bats during their meeting. They went over the facts that maple bats show a surface hardness of 20 percent over the typical ash bat, and spent the bulk of the meeting going over the specifications currently on the MLB books concerning the bat’s handles, weights, thickness and overall durability.
Before this meeting ever began, MLB had been investigating the maple bat situation by gathering from all 30 teams the remnants of all broken bats over the course of at least 6 weeks to try and give more evidence to the committee about the bat controversy. The maple bat balancing act that the committee was trying to foster would have to satisfy not just the owners, but also the players. What ended up coming out of the June meeting was that MLB needed to do more experiments on the bats, and also consult with bat manufacturers and seethe formulation of the individual bat from billet to completed model.
The committee knew that in light of the situation that an agreement of overall opinions during this first meeting would be unheard of considering they needed to satisfy all parties with their recommendations. They also knew that the players would veto any action that would of boycotted the use of the maple bats. An idea of extending the protective netting might help the fans, but still players would be at risk having to stand within 150 feet of the batters box, with no protection. And the idea of having one bat inspector who would monitor and approve bats before delivery would be costly and not very effective because of bats already out in the MLB system could be used without officials noticing before their breakage.
One bright light did come out of the meeting, the members agreed upon an idea to increase the bat’s dimensions. Be it a larger bat handle larger than 16/19th of an inch, or a smaller weight-to-length ratio ( 34 inch bat would weigh 30.5 ounces ). Another option brought up was a smaller barrel ( 2 3/4 inches ) would actually chafe a few players because of a change in the bats hitting surface. That would give hitters less bat space to hit and would require them to re-define their swings accordingly.
For now, MLB is sending its samples to Jim Sherwood, who runs the Baseball Research Center at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and conducted a test in 2005 that showed maple provides no greater performance off the bat than ash but does break differently, snapping instead of cracking. MLB did institute new bat rules in December 2008, and the news was not met well by current bat manufacturers who feel their bottom line will be affected by the new regulations.
This regulation is viewed by the bat manufacturers as a costly addition to current bat production because of the change in the location of the bat manufacturer’s stamp on the bat. It will take a retooling of the lathes and machinery used to burn the logo into the bats and the desired location for the MLB’s new stamp would hinder sales and recognition of the product. Starting in 2009, all bats are mandated to have the bat company’s stamp on the edge grain and no longer on the face grain of the bat. Stamps were to be located on the face grain ever since they were invented, and it has been a common practice to teach players to use the bat with the label facing towards them in order to hit the ball 90 degrees from the label.
Extensive testing from MLB during a six-month-long study of maple bats showed hitting on the wood’s face grain would bring about fewer breaks than the edge grain. Baseball hired the Forest Products Laboratory, a government entity, along with Harvard statistician Carl Morris, and wood-certification company TECO to analyze more than 2,200 bats broken in MLB games between July 2 and Sept. 7 2008. Their primary task was to figure out why the bats are breaking and make suggestions to limit future breaks before a serious or mortal injury. Their scientific conclusion was that the former conventional wisdom that discouraged face-grain contact was actually wrong.
The teams’ research and testing found that the large percentage of shard inducing breaks, or ones in which barrels with splintered ends go airborne like medieval weaponry were actually due to a poor “slope of grain” on the wood itself. The best quality of wood to use for baseball bats have an even grain, and some manufacturers were using low-quality wood with large barrels and thin handles, leading to increased breakage and bat damages. The other suggestion, about hitting on the face grain, came from Roland Hernandez, a TECO employee.And Hernandez should know a thing or two about the bat manufacturing process having been the owner of a previous bat company, Rockbats, which made maple bats for the MLB. He then began to work at Forest Products Laboratory before finally going to work for TECO. Rockbats was the only company to suggest hitting on the face grain. No MLB player currently uses Rockbats in games.
But another bat manufacturer even went beyond a simple word with the press about this new regulation and sent a memo to every bat company owners and operators, and to the MLB key man in this investigation, Roy Krasik . Romeo Filip wrote a email containing 696 very terse and subjective words to show his distaste for the MLB’s new mandate. He states that the tensile strength of wood runs down its edge grain. Hitting against the grain would produce bats that will snap more violently and towards the center of the field and not down the foul lines.
Filip’s company, Diablo Bats isn’t doing much business right now. He is in a group of about 30 companies that produce some form of a maple bat for the MLB players. He says that the MLB study, that cost around $ 500,000 dollars has doubled the licensing fees required to sell bats to MLB players. Plus the addition of a insurance policy with at least $ 10 million dollars in coverage is now mandated by MLB.
So the MLB studied the regression analysis of bats that had broken on the field in 2008, tested the actual wood, and also compared models and brands to see who’s might be considered a safer alternative to the current bats out on the market. They studied both ash and maple bats to give ample scientific proof for both models without bias or prejudice on the types of bats. This testing did finalize the thinking that with ash bats, players should still hit with the edge grain to prevent shelling or flaking of the bats during the hitting process.
MLB also visited three current bat manufacturers plants to view first-hand the bat making process. They included in this tour the plants of Hillerich & Bradsby, the parent company of Louisville Slugger, and also The Original Maple Bat Corporation, the home of Sam’s Bats. What is unique about Sam’s bat is that their original maple bat was actually a bet made in a bar in 1996 by an old MLB scout, Bill McKenzie to Sam Holman, who dabbled a bit in carpentry and created the bat producing company out of a bar bet.
MLB then released their 50 page study which is not available to the public, and bat manufacturers’ were not content with the scientific merit of the findings. One company posed a question to the MLB Health and Safety committee during a conference call asking if they had conducted testing on bats that weren’t breaking to see why they preformed better than other models. MLB’s answer to this was “No”. They decided not to submit the study to a peer review , figuring that the checks and balances from the large assortment of scientists would be enough variety in opinions and findings. One bat manufacturer has stated that the MLB’s new regulation can be beaten. the current MLB test to find out if a bat has a even grain is to place on ink dot on the bat handle, and if it bleeds more than a quarter of an inch diagonally, the bat will not be certified. He states that by rubbing 250-grit sandpaper over the handle before the test, it closes the pores on the wood and masks its true grain.
The confusion is spiraling all the way down to the players, who know that the new models will arrive before spring training. Bat makers are trying to call the players in advance to let them know about the regulation changes, and why the bats will have a different look to them in 2009. Even if the bat companies now suggest that the players hit with the face grain, the players have adapted their own ways of hitting and might not take to the change at first. But after a period of time they will also have to adjust and find ample ways to combat the new bats and their face grains.
MLB will again meet with the bat manufacturers some time during spring training and discuss the drying process that the bats go through in their bats production. Also under consideration during that meeting will be the shape of the bat and the way it might break under pressure. This is considered the first steps in trying to gain a foothold on the problem. The committee might be more of an evolving group right now considering that more scientific tests and findings are revealed all the time.
Also not revealed to the public would be any penalties or even fines that could be imposed if someone uses an non-certified bat or even hides the fact they are using such bats in their games. This will be an on-going and basically be a feel-in-the-dark period for baseball during Spring Training. Hopefully by the time the player take the field in April, MLB and the players will have adjusted, and the batting controversy will begin to fade into the background with the game again being the lone giant on the field.
The MLB management will continue evolving the batting controversy until it is finally considered totally safe and injuries and bat shards are again a thing of the past. hopefully in 2009, this will be the beginning of a great revolution in the bats used by professional baseball players. And with the changes already starting to take the game to another level, hopefully a death or serious in jury will not propel us into a last second ban or elimination of any type of bat.
The pursuit of major league baseball in the Tampa Bay area began hard and furious in the 1988 after the proposed building of the Florida Suncoast Dome in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. The area now had a viable baseball stadium within the area, and also had an estimated 12,000 deposited Season Tickets on hand. The area baseball group were tireless in their pursuit of either an existing team, or an expansion franchise for their new domed stadium.
The local group them began to woo major-league baseball to the Sunshine State by visiting and trying to obtain ownership shares in existing MLB clubs that were in either financial trouble or wanted leverage to get stadiums or other breaks from their local city governments. Yet despite nearly eloping with several teams like the Minnesota Twins, Oakland A’s, Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, and San Francisco Giants, the region had to wait until 1998 to field a team of its own.
Baseball first arrived in Tampa/St. Petersburg as teams began to flock to Florida for spring training. The father of major-league baseball in the area was Al Lang, a Pittsburgh native who had moved to St. Petersburg in 1910 and within a few years had joined the management of the local ballpark. After failing to talk Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss into having his team train at Waterfront Park, the future home of Al Lang Field, ( Dreyfuss refused, calling the backwater a “one-tank town” ) and watching the Chicago Cubs move their spring operation from New Orleans to nearby Tampa.
Lang finally convinced Branch Rickey to bring his St. Louis Browns to St. Pete. In anticipation of the team’s arrival, financing was approved for a new ballpark, seating 2,000 fans. The first game at the new field saw the Cubs defeat the “hometown” Browns 3-2, behind a first inning homer by rookie outfielder Cy Williams. Professional baseball in the town was an instant hit, and soon became so popular in St. Petersburg that businesses began to close early on weekdays so that fans could attend games.
However, Rickey’s players, unable to find any other sources of entertainment (movie theaters closed early, and alcohol was forbidden by town law) were bored silly. Embroiled in a financing dispute, the Browns left after their first year to be replaced by the Philadelphia Phillies, who moved to the town’s training facilities in 1918. In 1922, the New York Yankees and Boston Braves arrived in St. Petersburg. Babe Ruth, the Yanks star attraction, was once chased out of the outfield by alligators at Huggins-Stengel Park located near the center of town.
In 1928, the baseball-mad city helped Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert turn a $60,000 spring training profit. The St. Louis Cardinals arrived in town in 1938 and stayed until 1997, at various times sharing the city with the Yankees, Giants, Mets, and the Orioles. Tampa, too, has had its share of spring training tenants, having hosted six teams since the Cubs left after the spring of 1916.
Local interest in bringing a team to the Tampa Bay area first emerged after MLB expanded into Toronto and Seattle in 1977. While attracting major-league teams to the area for the spring was never a problem, luring a team on a permanent basis proved to more problematic. Most of the problems were a result of a lack of cooperation between the Tampa and St. Petersburg city governments. Although it was mutually agreed upon between the two cities that it was in their best interests to bring major-league ball to the area, Tampa and St. Petersburg’s local sports authorities independently courted dissatisfied major league owners while making plans for separate stadiums.
In 1984, a group of investors known as the “Tampa Bay Baseball Group” ( led by businessman Frank Morsani ) managed to buy a 42% stake in the Minnesota Twins, hoping to move the team to Tampa. But Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, acting in what he called “the best interests of baseball,” pressured the group to sell their share to Carl Pohlad, a local banker who intended to keep the team in the Twin Cities. Tampa was foiled again in 1985, when Oakland A’s president Roy Eisenhardt, after agreeing in principle to sell the team to Morsani’s group for $37 million, decided to keep the team after agreed to a new stadium lease with Oakland’s mayor.
In November 1985, both cities made separate presentations for expansion teams (amidst charges of plagarism ) to Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who was annoyed at the local community civil war. However, the rivalry continued. From 1986 onwards, St. Petersburg appeared to be the destination of choice for the Chicago White Sox, who were unhappy with Comiskey Park. The St. Petersburg group went so far as to break ground on the Florida Suncoast Dome in 1988, ostensibly the new home of the White Sox. Their neighbors across the bay steamed, and the Tampa Tribune opined that that the locale of the new stadium “puts one in mind of a particularly pinched Albanian village.”
However, hopes ended in 1988 when Chicago officials managed to pass financing for a new stadium at the last minute by unplugging the Legislative clock to get a resolution passed to keep the team in the South Side of Chicago. Even though the Sox ended up staying in Chicago, the Suncoast Dome was well on its way to being built, effectively ending the long rivalry between the two cities with regards to baseball; it was agreed that any team coming to the area would be housed in the new stadium.
However, opportunities evaporated as quickly as they appeared. Morsini’s attempt to buy the Texas Rangers in 1988 was foiled, MLB left the Tampa Bay area out of its expansion plans in favor of Miami in 1991. Then Seattle Mariners owner Jeff Smulyan had made a verbal agreement with the Tampa Bay baseball group, but decided to try and keep the team in the city by selling his team instead to Nintendo in 1992. MLB again rebuffed Tampa Bay in late 1992, when National League owners rejected a agreed upon proposal that would bring the San Francisco Giants to the Suncoast Dome.
Finally, Tampa Bay was awarded an expansion team on March 9, 1995, ending what new owner Vince Naimoli called “a path of ten thousand steps, ten thousand phone calls, ten thousand frustrations.” Three years before starting play, the team named former Braves executive Chuck LaMar as their general manager; LaMar, charged with the task of building a team from scratch, decided to build his club around veteran cornerstones. To that end, the team signed future Hall-of-Famer Wade Boggs, slugger Paul Sorrento, and Opening Day pitcher Wilson Alvarez. They then traded for Tampa Bay native Fred McGriff and Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Kevin Stocker. The trade for Stocker took the most heat as the team had picked young outfielder Bobby Abreu and then turned around and traded the young star to Philadelphia for the experienced shortstop.
Larry Rothschild, who had never before managed a game but has always been a well-regarded major-league pitching coach, was named the team’s first manager. So here we have a just a short history of the Tampa Bay area and their quest to obtain their MLB franchise. The area sweated long and hard to finally field a team in the local sunshine of Tampa Bay. And within 11 years of their first game, celebrated a playoff berth for the young team.
Tampa Bay’s pursuit of major league baseball was a investment in the past and the future for the region. And the area is finally reaping the benefits of acquiring a professional team to play in the confines of Tropicana Field.
If you missed the first part of this small installment, I am going over the launch and conceptual beginning of the new MLB Network set to debut on New Years’ Day all over the cable industry. I want o tell you that you should make a point of trying to view a show with former Rays broadcaster, Joe Magrane, I can guarantee you it will be a fun time to hear this great former player and tongue-in-cheek broadcaster. So, let’s pick up where I left off before hitting the confines of a small room with the smell of anxiety and bad oxygen in the air:
With the cable industry agreeing to allow access to the MLB of the previously contracted out-of-market concept, Extra Innings package to drive channel carriage. They used other professional leagues as a starting point for their transformation. The NHL has tied carriage deals to its channel with access to Center Ice. And the NBA is planning to use League Pass to try to persuade cable operators to move NBA TV off sports tiers and into the mind of their subscribers as a optional network.
Its contracts are up at the end of this season. The NFL also is rumored to be considering making Sunday Ticket available to cable operators, in exchange for NFL Network carriage when that contract ends in 2011. It’s uncertain whether this strategy will work for other leagues, but it is clear that other leagues are trying to use MLB’s strategy on their own properties.
“When we were putting the Oxygen Network together, we thought getting to 30 million homes was a big deal, but now getting to 50 million with the MLB Network, you have a real viable product,” said Tom Werner, Boston Red Sox chairman, a board member of MLB Network and longtime TV producer.
After MLB owners approved distribution contracts with DirecTV and cable operators last May, Brosnan and Chris Tully, senior vice president of broadcasting, immediately got to work on finding a home for the network. The process quickly turned from daunting to seemingly impossible, even with the commercial real estate market in the New York market softening and available inventories rising. The key issue was finding something that had high ceilings, open floor plans and modern infrastructure to accommodate a high-end studio set design MLB wants that will rival elaborate build-outs at ESPN and NFL Network, while at the same time was not prohibitively expensive.
Brosnan and Tully looked for months all over the five boroughs of New York City, as well as portions of suburban New Jersey and Connecticut, continuing to run into dead ends. Network partners such as DirecTV Chief Executive Chase Carey, however, continued to press MLB to focus on Manhattan. Not only is the island the country’s media focus, but a suburban or outer borough location would all but kill much-discussed plans to have players regularly come on set to appear on the network.
Common thinking was that New York is considered the center of the world to a lot of people in the country and the world. And for this new network to be more than a typical league network, you have to devise multiple ways to create excitement. You really need to be in Manhattan to make it accessible to everyone.
MLB then became connected with Vornado, which needed an anchor tenant to help push forward its plans for the modern, 21-story office tower in Harlem, using the former site of a hotel and retail development that never materialized. Within a matter of weeks, negotiations were well along for the MLB Network to occupy two lower floors for its studio and production operations, two upper floors for administration and sales, and place elaborate electronic signage and video boards facing the high-traffic, adjacent areas along Park Avenue.
Financial terms of the real estate venture have not been disclosed. But industry sources suggest that MLB, even after contributing up front to some of the tower’s development costs, will do far better than other city properties investigated that lease for more than $70 per square foot. Further sweetening the situation is that the space will be completely build-to-suit. In the meantime, the MLB Network will operate out of Secaucus, N.J., using the recently vacated MSNBC studios. The tenancy will be temporary, with the move to Harlem projected to occur in mid-2010.
The MLB-Vornado deal has not nearly been the end of the story. The project has sparked another feisty debate on the merits of gentrification and whether Harlem truly wants or needs an upscale commercial development such as this. Complicating that debate is roughly $20 million in city tax breaks that Vornado and MLB are believed to be seeking as part of the project. The pair of entities have received city planning approval for needed zoning variances to build the full 21 stories as intended, with city council authorization still pending.
While its distribution and headquarters location are under control, the network was pretty slow to find an executive to run the channel, especially when compared with other network launches. The NFL, for example, hired Steve Bornstein about 15 months before NFL Network launched in November 2003. Similarly, Jon Litner came over to work on SportsNet New York’s launch 13 months before that RSN launched in March 2006.
The list includes top media executives from various broadcast and cable channels, sources say. The new CEO will report to a board made up of five owners, two MLB executives and representatives from strategic partners DirecTV and Comcast. Tully has been tabbed as a likely COO candidate. The CEO also will “collaborate on a day-to-day basis with Brosnan,” according to a document Spencer Stuart sent to prospective candidates.
The Spenser Stuart group finally came down with recommendations for the top spot at MLB Network, and the job was offered to Tony Pettit in April 2008. This gave the highly motivated executive a mire 8 months before signing on for the first time for the network. Pettit’s position to manage the daily operations of the MLB Network came with very high references from his former employer, and a key allies in baseball front office.
Petitti resume showed outstanding points of interest for MLB, and a firm background in media. Pettit attended Haverford where he majored in economics before attending Harvard Law. He worked for two years at the law firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft before joining ABC Sports in 1988 as general attorney. After being named Vice President of Programming, where he was responsible for acquiring and scheduling ABC Sports programming, he was hired by CBS in 1997 as Senior Vice President of Business Affairs and Programming. In December 2005, Pettiti was named Executive Vice President, CBS Sports and was responsible for all day-to-day operations of CBS Sports, where he was largely responsible for the network’s NFL coverage. He basically, was held responsible for everything you see on the Sunday telecasts nationally.
It was announced on January 3, 2008, that Mr. Petitti would be placed in charge of day-to-day operations of CSTV , the college sports network that is being absorbed into CBS sports, effectively replacing network co-founder Brian Bedol , who had been serving as president of CSTV since the network was purchased by CBS Corporation in 2005. CSTV was renamed the CBS College Sports Network on March 16, 2008. Pettit a few weeks later decided to venture into the new frontier with MLB and lead the new network.
So with a high profile CEO now in place of the new network, MLB executives started planning to approach top-tier corporate sponsors such as Chevrolet, Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi to pitch presenting sponsorships that will integrate the company identities deeply into network content.
As for MLB Advanced Media, baseball’s interactive arm is barely mentioned in the Spencer Stuart prospectus, and the operation is not expected to be involved significantly in the network. The strategy differs sharply from those at the other major leagues, and in part, is designed to maximize the economic value of both assets.
Also at play is that both MLBAM and the MLB headquarters see the respective media product as very different, with the lean-back and lean-in fan experiences quite separate and distinct. Similarly, there is currently no set deal for MLBAM to operate the network’s Web site once it launches.But asked if MLB Network, already on a faster growth curve than even the triumphant MLBAM, will ultimately overtake its Web counterpart in size and scope, Selig demurred. stating, ” Only time will tell.”