Results tagged ‘ Houston Astros ’

With Possible M L B Realignment on the Horizon…..Some Renegade Thoughts

There has been more than a few whispers and discussion lately about the possibility of forming a “mega- payroll” division staking the big money payroll of mega competitors’ Boston and New York and maybe infuse them with 3 other high threshold salary ceiling squads to form a prestigious “diamond” division.

Sure putting the high dollar darlings in a central division will make it more difficult for them to realistically step over the carcasses of low payroll squads, or teams that rely on their farm systems instead of the Free Agent market. But that also opens a second concern. Could such a maneuver bring about a reversal of the recent parity within the M L B and again pay homage to the league’s “elite”.

We all know that within the upcoming MLB/MLBPA Labor Pow Wow there will be chatter about expanding the post season, but there will be more heated discussion about a more balanced schedule and a possible realignment of the whole enchilada.

Football fans were enraged and bewildered the N F L decided to conjure up another division situated almost exclusively within the Southeastern region of the country. From the moment this region was considered for realignment, people began to refer to it as the “NASCAR Division“.

Some might think with my high Southern posturing I might take offense to this connotation, but I really do not have a problem with it at all. Even though that statement was further stereotyping this region, NASCAR is a symbol of the South.

So it was a bit of a backhanded compliment to Southerner’s like myself. And, yes, I have been known to attend the Daytona or even Talladega NASCAR races, and I do glance at the television sometimes on Sunday to glance at the boys going around with constant left turns.

The formation of this Southeastern division helped the NFL get closer to a level of league-wide parity, which baseball will need to comprehend and address if it expects every M L B team to flourish and grow fiscally as well as physically. This action by another of America’s premier sports might be the successful course of action if MLB brass do not want to see a revolving door of top money payroll teams sprinting towards the Playoffs finish line every October in the near future.

Sure there have been odd twist of fate in the last few years, including the match-up of the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants making it to the World Series after eliminating 2 of those payroll bastions (Philly/NY) . The usual M L B pattern has been that spent dollars have bought more Championships instead of heart, homegrown talent and determination.

Maybe a fourth division in the American or National League would seem to throw the whole globe off its axis and we go wobbling through our orbits tumbling like a deflated ball among the Milk Way. I think we have already started that dizzying journey and have not recognized it yet.

So what did I have in mind to maybe change this?

First off, I would like to introduce the idea of taking one team from every division in both the AL and NL, excluding the AL West, which is already lopsided with 4 teams. You might ask why I would want to dissect a team from each division? To be completely honest, it would then make most of the other divisions a four-team division, with the NL Central lowered to five teams.

You had to already gandered that I would like the Tampa Bay Rays to be included in this new division, and with this new collection in the AL, we hold on tightly to the Designated Hitter rule. The Rays are prefect for this new division because the new division will be rooted in the SE, and only the new abode to open in 2012 in Miami,Florida is further South than St. Petersburg, Florida.

The Rays are already well versed in the ways and means of being a small market team, this division’s formulation can effectively give them the payroll flexibility of knowing that they will not have to adjust and implode their own cash box every year to keep up with the Epstein’s and Cashman’s upgrades via the money pot to survive.

The second team in this division would come out of the National League East and could instantly establish a great Southern rivalry like the annual Florida-Georgia Football game in Jacksonville. I would enjoy seeing the famous Atlanta Brave’s Tomahawk Chop going on right next to the deafening sound of the Rays Republic’s Cowbells.

This expected rivalry could replace some of the expected lost revenues of Boston or New York based on previous sell out crowds during the last time these 2 teams faced off in InterLeague at Tropicana Field. Flights are affordable between the 2 cities, and could muster up a second caravan of road trips for Rays fans to see away games. The Braveswould be the perfect new nemesis of the Rays.

You might question why I did not take the Florida (Miami) Marlins place them in this division instead of Atlanta. I consider the Fish to be perfect InterLeague foes for the Rays, and did not want to split up a AL and NL presence in the state of Florida. I think this state is better for a presence in both the A L and N L , and want to preserve that Citrus Series relationship as it is right now.

Third squad to be added would come out of the AL Central. I did not have to take long to think about this because it came to me the moment I looked at the division. The Kansas City Royals would be my choice based on the simple fact they are a small market squad and would benefit extremely by being in the same division as the Rays.

The relationship between these two AL teams is already formed, and the cities are close enough within the geographical region of the Southern part of the country to make same day flights and televised games a viable options for both teams.

Fourth team to be added would come out of the NL Central division and take their division down to four teams. I thought long and hard as to if I wanted to realign the entire MLB a bit, or just select this one team and end the debate fast and furious on which Texas teams would get an invite to the NASCAR division.

I thought the team that would get the most out of the move would be the Houston Astros. Not only would they be able to convert to the D H system easily, they have the talent in-house already to pop a great DH in the line-up as early as 2012.

I think that the teams on this division “wish list” have great stadiums with a awesome home team presence, and would be totally conducive to building a rivalry and expanding their team concepts without minimal changes.

Realignment is on the horizon. It will be talked, debated, then instituted. This is just my idea of what could effectively comprise a movement towards giving the high dollar and low budget teams a breather and a chance to compete yearly in the post season.

I like the concept and potential of this NASCAR division. It will have great speed, solid defense and a ton of raw young talent circulating throughout the years. Several of the teams that would comprise this division have been hotbeds of minor league talent. That new talent would bring excitement along with value to these teams.

It is a division I not only would pay money to see at Tropicana Field, but would definitely travel to other cities to see play against our Rays. In turn, that would help these small market teams keep their coffers filled to pay their young players to stay with their teams past their arbitration years….It is a “win-win” proposition.

Minor League Problems in 2009?

 

Minor League
baseball has always been the bread and butter of the major leagues. They help
support and replenish the league with players and coaches, and even bring about
change in promotions and in-game entertainment. So why is it in 2009, we might
see a huge reduction in minor league activities at our local ballparks? Is the
culprit the economy that is forcing the major league big clubs to scale back a
down flow of capital, or is it a sign of the time that when the economy is
slacking, so will the attendance at the lower levels of
baseball.

If you take a
brisk walk from the lavish suites of the Las Vegas epicenter of baseball
centered at the famed Bellagio hotel, where major league baseball executives and
agents  haggle and discuss multimillion-dollar contracts for players. You will
find another much more nervous group of baseball officials and job seekers
gathered around just looking for answers and promises for the upcoming 2009
minor league seasons.


 

At the Winter Meetings edition of the  minor league job fair and trade
show, the topic on many minds is the floundering and unstable economy, which
will be  expected to have a far more economical effect on baseball’s lower
levels than on the major leagues. Many minor league teams are searching for
creative ways to save  revenue and venue money but keep loyal fan bases’
heading out to their ballparks, and  current baseball experienced job seekers
are finding few openings. Some of the cost-saving measures will affect  the fans
in the long run, and others will reach out into the confines of the field.


Take for example, the St. Louis Cardinals’ entire minor league system,
where many of the teams’  players will be issued and will wear last year’s
uniforms. Buddy Bates, the  Cardinals minor league equipment  manager, said it
was difficult to find items to cut on the field because the teams still needed
catcher’s equipment, helmets and baseballs. But, he said, reusing uniforms was
something his organization could get away with. Uniform repairs cost will soar
in 2009, and with that fact, the teams’  seamstress  might be kept busier in
2009 repairing pants  than in stitching on players names on their jerseys.
Patches might be  the order of the day on pants and knee areas for the entire
minor league system.


 

 



Many other  minor league organizations have come to the same conclusion,
said Mike Gentz, the team uniforms promotion manager for Wilson Sporting Goods.
But will the lean times and reduced money flowing downhill from the Parent clubs
be enough to evoke cost saving measure early in the season. Or will the club
just start the season on a cost-conscious budget and  take a ‘wait and see’
attitude into the early stages of the upcoming seasons. And why is the uniforms
being the first thing cut in a time of crisis?

Most teams have upgraded or even done huge replacements on their uniforms
yearly, but this year  that number might be a bit scaled back until the true
number begin to hit the turnstiles of the stadiums.  You can bet at the major
league level, the cost cutting will not be as visible as in the minors,but will
it is not nearly as much enforced early in the minor league programs. Getz said
he has a talked to 15 to 20 team
representatives, and most were going to try
to just fill in a few standard things, but most have expressed a need to try
and reuse their old uniforms.”



Some teams
needing new ones, Gentz said, have decided against the traditional jerseys with
the logo sewn on the front. Instead, they have chosen a less expensive option in
which the team logo is pressed onto the jerseys, like a promotion T-shirt, or
jersey that used to be propelled into the stands with an air cannon in the
past.
“You can’t
notice it unless you are up close,” Gentz said. “It saves anywhere from a third
to half the cost.”


Teams are looking beyond uniforms for savings. One of the greatest
additions in recent years to the minor league experience, has been the upgrades
in in-game entertainment and stadium participation events. The Round Rock
Express, the Houston Astros’ Class AAA affiliate, has often bought or produced
yearly in-game entertainment features for fans from one season to the next. In
2009, however, the team plans to run the same video entertainment on the
outfield screen between innings.


That might include the same cap shuffle video instead of changing the
whole thing, like they have done in years past.  Most of these changes might
seem a bit subtle, but they do add up in the course of the season. Most teams
might not  redo their entire in-game system, but will strategically change their
entertainment. Even the action of maybe renting more of their inflatable things
will move in the right direction to show a decrease in spending and save more
traditional things, like a fireworks event during the season.

Because many teams at the lower levels of minor league baseball
played
their last games in late summer, they had not yet experienced  any type of brunt
from economic downturn. Since Sept. 1, the Dow
Jones industrial average has
dropped close to 25 percent, and the broader economic outlook for next year has
worsened by the day. Even with promises of economical upswings in the early
parts of 2009, it will take some time for any effects or upswings to hit the
minor league system, and  any upward move in revenues might not be felt by the
smaller clubs until 2010.

 

                               

 

 

At this years Minor League job fair, prospects seemed bleak for a
chance of landing  a good job with full benefits.  Most of the young turks
paid $225 to register for the fair, which helps them put their respective
résumés in front of minor and major league officials.  It seemed that in 2007,
at the same meetings in Nashville, Tennessee there were a lot more jobs and
a fewer people seeking the positions. Even jobs in ticket sales have been scaled
back in anticipation of financial downward spirals.



Broadcasting has always been a cherry position to acquire in the minor
leagues. In recent years, the broadcasting industry had more money flowing
through it, and few applicants for the positions. But now, the jobs are
considered seasonal, and benefits are also being pulled back to ensure financial
stability. So in 2009, you might get a coveted gig on the mic at one of the
ballparks, but it will most likely be only a 7-month position, and you will need
to seek a job for the other 5 months of the year.



A weak
economy is harder the lower you go on the ladder in the minor leagues. Most
teams survive on yearly budgets ranging from $3 million to $10 million, and have
relied heavily on companies like car dealerships to buy advertising and
sponsorships.
  Because of
the uneasiness in the auto industry right now, such sponsorships will be hard to
come by in 2009. More creativity will be needed to close deals with sponsors,
and multi-sponsoring events might become a great trend in the coming year.



 

 

 


To be able to
diversify sponsorship dollars among multiple sponsors might be able to bring
back some of the past years events, but might also limit other activities at the
ballparks. A great idea by one club in Minnesota is to pay $6,000 for an
inflatable jersey to use for in-game and promotional events, but to include a
velcro strip area on the jerseys front area to be able to use multiple logos, or
even seperate logos at events througout the year.



That would
save money, and also use creative measures to ensure sponsors are included at
their own events, and can be changed for every other events without huge cost to
the team. But will the economical downfall also be a time where sponsors who
might be making money hoard their resources and not even renew past contracts
with teams in spite of increased revenues. Will the influx of hard luck financial
stories be a catalyst for some sponsors as a excuse to pull
out.



Or will the
increase in gas prices and costs be a move for more people to go to local
ballparks instead of spending more money attending major league events and game
during 2009. Could being affordable or even a local option increase the people
walking through the turnstiles at minor league parks in 2009. By and far, the
minor league product is cheaper and more economical than attending a game at the
major league level. From ticket prices to concessions, the public get a better
deal at the minor league parks.



But will that
lead to concessions having a reduced price menu, or even a selected priced
location to get deals or even a series of deals within the confines of the
ballpark.  But in the end, the teams might just take the low road when it comes
to concessions ans offer a small portion, or even a smaller size to try and
eliminate the food costs and also help portion control issues.  Could last years
french fries  portion of 6 ounces be downsized to an economical 5 ounces this
year, or maybe the size of the stadium staple hot dog might be  a little
smaller, but still priced fairly reasonable.


 

 


Teams will
have to cut corners somewhere. The food courts and the food concessions is an
easy area to fulfill economical upside without throwing a lot of attention to the
plight. All I know is that in 2009, my hot dog will still be hot, my beer will
still be cold, and the sun will feel warm on my face when I hit those afternoon
games at Brighthouse Networks Field to watch the Florida State League Clearwater
Threshers.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 288 other followers