Sunday, April 28, 2013

Aaron Rodgers Extension

The big money for NFL quarterbacks continues. Not long after Joe Flacco signed a massive contract to stay with the Ravens, Aaron Rodgers agreed to an extension that will keep him a Packer for a while. Aaron Rodgers has agreed to a five-year $110 million dollar extension. This extension came while Rodgers still has two years left on his remaining deal.

The new contract extension includes $62.5 million of guaranteed money. Flacco's new deal guaranteed him just over $50 million dollars. Rodgers new deal will also make him the highest paid salary per season player in the NFL. Joe Flacco was able to hold this distinction for a few weeks until Rodgers was awarded his extension.

This upcoming season will be very valuable for Aaron Rodgers. In 2013, Rodgers will make $40 million because of the bonus money he will receive. Rodgers was very excited about the new contract (who wouldn't be?), tweeting "Thanks to the Organization, coaching staff, teammates, Packer nation for last 8 years! Excited about 7 more!"

Packers general manager, Ted Thompson, said in a statement about Rodgers, "Aaron is a true professional and a special player." He later went on to comment about Rodgers strong work ethic and his ability to be a great teammate.

Final Thought
The Packers made a great decision to lockup their franchise quarterback through the 2019 season. Quarterback is the most important position in all of team sports. The value of the position has been evident through recent contracts given to franchise quarterbacks. Maybe one day Aaron's brother, Jordan Rodgers, (who just joined the Jaguars as a free agent quarterback) will see a similar contract. Not likely, but he can hope.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dollars & Sense - NFL Draft Primer

Radio City Music Hall in New York City is the place where 253 players' dreams were made last year and where many more hopes were dashed.  Today will begin the journey - the first of three long days - for the countless number of draft eligible players.  We do not know for sure who will be the first player to hear his name called  by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell just a little bit beyond 8 p.m. - although it is looking increasingly more likely that it will be Texas A&M offensive lineman Luke Joeckel.

We do know that those viewing the NFL Draft on either ESPN or the NFL Network will be the first people to hear the picks announced.  Last year, there was some criticism that NFL insiders were negatively impacting the viewing experience by tweeting out the picks before they were announced on television.

With over eight million first round viewers combined between ESPN and NFL Network last year, it would behoove the networks to enter a gentlemen's agreement to not spoil the picks ahead of time.  They did so, as Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch wrote in his Monday "Media Circus" column.  Those who decide to tune into the draft via Twitter will have to wait the few extra seconds.

We do not know if this year's NFL Draft will beat out last year's NFL Draft in terms of television ratings.  The first round on ESPN saw 6.6 million viewers and the first round on the NFL Network saw 1.4 million viewers.  But can each network repeat last year's success?

Repeating success or increasing last year's television success is going to be incredibly difficult.  Last year, the media was all over the Luck versus RGIII story line.  This year, there simply is not the same story.  Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o may be the biggest name in the draft, but he is only a mid-first round pick at best.  The networks will need to rely on the avid football fans to view in droves because the stories needed to bring out the casual fans are simply nonexistent.

We do know that whoever ends up getting selected number one overall will not be getting a Sam Bradford-esque 6-year, $78 million contract signed in 2010.  Due to the rookie salary scale, the past two first overall picks (Cam Newton in 2011 and Andrew Luck in 2012) have signed (still respectable) 4-year, $22 million contracts.

There are two questions that surround the draft: 1) Who will go number one? and 2) Which network will you be watching the NFL Draft on?  ESPN offers a first round crew of Chris Berman, Jon Gruden, Mel Kiper Jr., and Suzy Kolber, while the NFL Network offers Rich Eisen, Mike Mayock, Marshall Faulk, Michael Irvin, and Steve Mariucci with Deion Sanders handling player interviews.  After the first round on ESPN, Berman will be replaced by Trey Wingo and Gruden will be replaced by Trent Dilfer and Todd McShay.

For all things regarding media and the NFL Draft, check out Richard Deitsch's media column.

Teams take risks on poor character players, so why not take a chance on a high character player?  Kevin Van Valkenburg on Alabama's Barrett Jones.

Ed Sherman talks with Adam Schefter about the NFL Draft, Twitter, and more.

The NFL Draft is not complete until JaMarcus Russell's name is brought up.  ESPN documents his comeback.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Darrelle Revis Gets a New Team and a New Contract

The New York Jets traded Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the 13th overall pick in Thursday nights NFL draft and a conditional pick in next years draft. The deal has been rumored for weeks and finally came true on Sunday. Tampa Bay took a significant risk trading for a player who has been great in the past but is coming off of ACL surgery.

To compensate for the risk, Tampa Bay guaranteed Revis no money in his new contract with the team. Revis signed a new deal that will pay him $96 million over six years. The Jets were scheduled to pay Revis only $6 million for his final year of the contract. Revis will now make $16 million per year of his new contract.

Although the deal does provide significant risk for Revis, he seems optimistic about the change of teams. Revis spoke on his contract calling it "unique in a lot of ways." Having $0 in guaranteed money was a surprise to most when they heard of the contract details. Although there is no guaranteed money, the contact makes Revis the highest-paid defensive back in the history of the NFL.

The 27 year old Revis will also benefit from differing state tax laws. In Revis's new home state of Florida, there is no state income tax. If Revis would have stayed and played for the Jets, he would owe $538,200 in state income tax on the $6 million he was scheduled to make. If Revis were to sign the same contract with the Jets as he just did with the Buccaneers, he would have owed over $1,000,000 in state income tax in the first year.

Final Thought
Darrelle Revis is taking a significant risk by playing with no guaranteed money. From the perspective of the Buccaneers, I can understand why they would be hesitant to give Revis guaranteed money. Revis is only six months removed from ACL surgery. Although he was one of the best defensive football players in the game pre-surgery, it is difficult to determine how good he will be post-surgery. The high value of the contract and the significant tax benefit are two reasons why the contract could be great for Darrelle Revis. If those reasons are not enough..... he doesn't have to play for the Jets. That should be enough reason for anyone to leave.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Dollars & Sense - Professional Athletes and DUI

$778... That was the government fine for Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo when he was arrest for driving under the influence earlier in the week.  $778 is .01-percent of Gallardo's annual salary of $5,500,000.  $778 is also infinitely more than the zero dollars that Gallardo was fined by Major League Baseball.  

Stepping out of his vehicle, Gallardo proceeded to blow a .22 blood alcohol level, nearly three times the legal limit of .08 in Wisconsin.  Although any level of intoxication is a dangerous level when operating a vehicle, Gallardo was teetering on the brink of disaster driving three times above the limit.  He recognizes that he was wrong, and he apologized to the Brewers' fans.  

Yovani Gallardo addresses reporters at Miller Park Tuesday afternoon.
Gallardo Apologizing (
But why has Major League Baseball handled player DUIs with the perhaps the most Seligian silence?
Aside from the fact that Bud Selig is still in charge of the MLB, the answer is unclear.  No less than 15 MLB players have been arrested for DUI over the past three years, and it is likely safe to assume that countless others have driven an gotten away with it.  

The point is not that DUI arrests plague the professional baseball headlines a handful of times or more over a season.  The is that the MLB has a chance to take a stand.  Nobody can necessarily stop this type of behavior besides each individual and their common sense, but the MLB can at least come out and say that something is wrong with this picture and take appropriate action.

(For more on the MLB's silence on DUIs, check out Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan.)

One thing is abundantly clear here and it is that everyone - not just athletes - need to take more responsibility when they are drinking and thinking about getting behind the wheel of a car.  There are plenty of services in place the get people home safely without taking unnecessary risk.  

Since it is also abundantly clear that many people cannot handle that type of responsibility, it is time for other forces to step in.. For baseball players, that force is the MLB.  Maybe discipline will not stop DUIs from occurring, just as there is still PED use and people still blatantly break the law.  But punishing players for DUIs will deter some, make others think twice, and shame those get caught.  And on top of that, punishing players for DUIs will make the MLB look like they actually care.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Dramatic Masters Finish Draws Big TV Ratings

Tiger looked to be surging toward the top of the leader board at the Masters on Friday. When he hit his third shot on the par five 15th hole, everything changed. Tiger hit what looked to be a great shot but he caught a terrible break. The ball hit the flag stick and then proceeded to ricochet into the water. After Tiger took his drop and proceeded to make bogey, he thought the hole was over. After review, Tiger was penalized the next morning two strokes because of an illegal drop.

Despite the unfortunate break and the penalty, Tiger was still able to put himself in the conversation on Sunday. After playing average golf on the front nine, Tiger put together a run on the back nine but fell short in the end on Sunday. Tiger being in the hunt at the Masters was critical to CBS's high television ratings.

Not only was Tiger brining excitement to the Masters. A tight leader board filled with names going into Sunday's final round included Angel Cabrera, Jason Day, Marc Leishman, Brandt Snedeker, Adam Scott and more. The tournament remained close throughout.

Adam Scott looked to take control when he birdied the 18th to give him a one stoke lead over Angel Cabrera whose was waiting to hit from the 18th fairway. Cabrera proceeded to hit a close shot into 18 and make his birdie put to force a playoff. After both players made par on the first playoff hole, Adam Scott made a birdie putt on the second playoff hole to win the Masters. All the excitement was evident and reflected in the television ratings.

Sunday's final round drew a 10.2 overnight rating which was up 26% from last year. Ratings were expected to be up because last year's tournament was held on Easter weekend. Last year's tournament did also feature a playoff, so the increased ratings were a good sign for the sport. The high point for ratings was seen (not surprisingly) between 7:00 and 7:30 Sunday night when ratings hit a 13.4.

Final Thought
The tournament was great to watch with so much drama down the stretch. Tiger is a huge part of the success and TV ratings in the sport of golf. I would be curious to know what the Sunday ratings would look like if Tiger was not in contention. If the tournament was as exciting as it was, I tend to believe that ratings would still have been up from last year even without Tiger in the hunt. There is no doubt however that Tiger Woods is a huge factor in controlling how popular the sport of golf is at any given time.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dollars & Sense - The Masters Primer

The 77th playing of the Masters will tee off this weekend from Augusta National in Georgia under sunny skies and much of that world famous Southern hospitality.  "A tradition unlike any other," Jim Nantz's famous saying goes.  As the world around Augusta National becomes evermore engulfed in corporate greed, shaky ethics, and general hatred, the Masters has become a bubble of serenity.

2013's version of the Masters will see 14-year old Guan Tianlang compete in the same field as 63-year old Tom Watson.  It is where a four day pass to the competition days costs a minimum of $250 (if you're lucky), and a pimento cheese sandwich and a beer will only set you back a total of $4.50.  It is where we could see magic like Bubba Watson's near-impossible 163-yard gap wedge hook from the woods last year or collapse like Rory McIlroy's final round 80 in 2010.

While the business of sport has been rapidly growing for years, the business of the Masters has been focused on keeping the tradition alive.  In this day and age in sports, we are not used to going to a major event (or even minor, for that matter) that is without a parking fee, without corporate hospitality tents, and without exorbitant concessions prices.

There are very few events in the world that has the kind of history and tradition that the Masters has.  There are even fewer that capitalize on that history and tradition to make it the focal point in the selling process.

This year, Tiger Woods comes in with the number-one ranking in the world and the odds in his favor.  McIlroy comes in with his new Nikes after a scorching hot 2012.  Watson comes in to defend his title.  Keegan Bradley and 2012 US Open winner Webb Simpson come in with their maybe soon-to-be-banned anchored putters.  2012 Open Championship winner Ernie Els comes in with four major titles but no top-tens in the Masters in almost 20 years (T-8 in 1994).

The field is wide open, so any prediction that I were to make would likely be deemed useless within the first 18 holes of competition.  Though we do not know the numbers on the scorecard, we do know some of the numbers in the checkbook.  Here are some need-to-know stats for the 2013 Masters.

Prize Money:
Winner - $1.44 million
Runner-Up - $864,000
Total Purse - $8.0 million

Economic Impact:
The Masters will bring in an estimated $110 million economic impact to the city of Augusta, Georgia during the week of the tournament.

The Masters have appeared on CBS for 54 consecutive years.
CBS and ESPN will split the broadcast of the 2013 Masters.
Only four minutes every hour are allowed for television commercials.

Tee Times:
Check out the Golf Channel for tee times in rounds one and two.

Concession Prices:
As mentioned earlier, the concession prices are unmatched by any place in sports. In the best way possible.

Follow @The_Masters on Twitter for tournament updates.

Visiting Augusta National and need an itinerary? Rick Reilly has you covered.

Arnold Palmer:
How does Arnold Palmer order an Arnold Palmer? Answer.

Guan Tianlang:
Want to read more about the 14-year old competitor from China? Gene Wojceichowski profiles him.

Jim Nantz:
Fresh off of the NCAA Tournament finals calling Louisville's victory over Michigan, Jim Nantz heads to Augusta to cover the Masters, just as he has every year since 1986.  Ed Sherman talk to him about transition and tradition.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Big Ticket Prices at the Masters

Golf's most prestigious tournament is set to start on Thursday. The Masters. For me it is one of the most exciting weekends in sport. Many who do not enjoy the game of golf may think it is crazy that four days of golf can be so exciting to me, but it is...

On my bucket list is a trip to Augusta National to watch the Masters. It would truly be a remarkable experience. That remarkable experience is coming at a hefty price to many this year.

The combination of Tiger Woods playing good golf and the final four of the NCAA tournament being played only a couple hours away in Atlanta, has made the Masters even more desirable than usual this year. In order to purchase tickets, most must use the secondary ticket market. For the four days of golf the only way to get an original ticket is to be on the list of recurring buyers who get asked every year. Those who are fortunate enough to be on this list pay a minimal $250 for the four day badge.

The practice round is also a difficult ticket to purchase. In order to be lucky enough to attend the practice round, you must win a lottery or be a patron of Augusta National. The practice round tickets go for a mere $50.

The big ticket money for the Masters can be found on the secondary market. Those who have waited until the last minute to purchase a four day badge have been paying around $7000 for the four days. Even the practice round tickets are getting a lot of money on the secondary market. Recently a practice round ticket sold for $1000. After doing a quick Stubhub search, you can buy a practice round ticket for about $500 today.  A single ticket for Sunday at the Masters would cost more than $2000 on the secondary ticket market.

The ticket prices for the Masters are insane. Too costly for most of America's public. Most of the high prices being paid on the secondary market are related to corporate American's who are already in the area watching the final four.

There is some good new as far as prices go for the Masters. Once you get inside, you can eat and drink for minimal cost. For the famous pimento cheese sandwich and a beer, it will only cost you $4.50 (and you get to keep the cup with the Masters logo on it).

Final Thought
The perfect storm has made the secondary ticket market for the Masters hot this year. Even in a usual year, ticket cost would be extraordinarily high. There is a reason why tickets to the Masters is one of the hardest tickets to get in sports. I will keep a trip to Augusta National on my bucket list, but for now watching on television will have to do.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Ayanbadejo Takes High Road After Release From Ravens

When Brendon Ayanbadejo was released by the Baltimore Ravens a few days ago, the chatter was not focused on his age, his recent performance, his football ability, or really football at all.  The media chatter was focused on his activism and outspoken support of LGBT rights. It seemed like an easy topic to point to. Controversial to some, political in nature, and certainly a topic that I’m sure many owners and front offices would like their players to shy away from discussing.

Brandon Ayanbadejo via USA Today
If there were any questions surrounding what the Ravens’ motives were for releasing Ayanbadejo from his three year, $3.22 million contract, they were answered today by Ayanbadejo himself. 

In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Ayanbadejo was quick to support the Ravens organization and say that it was no doubt a question of his playing ability, not a question of his LGBT support. He seems fully genuine throughout the interview and constantly letting his loyalty to the Ravens organization be known.  Ayanbadejo has always been a man to live life on the high road, and he was not about to change now.

The interview was conducted over an hour and touched on a range of topics and, of course, the possibility of a player coming.  To this, Ayanbadejo had an interesting response.  He said:

"I think it will happen sooner than you think," Ayanbadejo said. "We're in talks with a handful of players who are considering it. There are up to four players being talked to right now and they're trying to be organized so they can come out on the same day together. It would make a major splash and take the pressure off one guy. It would be a monumental day if a handful or a few guys come out.
"Of course, there would be backlash. If they could share the backlash, it would be more positive. It's cool. It's exciting. We're in talks with a few guys who are considering it. The NFL and organizations are already being proactive and open if a player does it and if something negative happens. We'll see what happens."

Four players coming out at one time would be an incredible event.  Since the idea of a player coming out has received such mainstream coverage, much of the thinking around it would be that one player would come out and then others would trickle out behind them before it became common place.  For the most part, we sort of envisioned a situation not unlike Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. 
With the one defining player idea also came the push back that it may never happen because of the media scrutiny and intense microscope that would follow.  Having four players come out simultaneously will disperse that media spotlight so that it is not so bright on one player.  Making it easier on the first wave of players to come out is key to not only having the first wave come out, but having the subsequent waves follow suit.
Players coming out is inevitable and as Ayanbadejo said, it may be soon. It is likely that the actual players that come out will get the attention from the fans and media, good and bad, but we must not forget the work that Ayanbadejo (and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe and former NFL linebacker Scott Fujita) have done for this movement.  When we thinking of making a permanent positive mark on a sport, we rarely envision a backup linebacker and a punter making such a mark.  They have done just that, they should be celebrated, and when it is all said and done, their work should not be forgotten.
I know that players speaking out on issues like this can be tricky because so many are worried about their commercial appeal.  Hurting their brand is a risk taken when speaking out, especially on topics that are inherently political. But we need more players to use their position in society as professional, revered athletes to make this kind of change just as Brendon Ayanbadeo has done.

Read the whole Baltimore Sun interview with Brendon Ayanbadejo here.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dollars & Sense - Jay-Z Signs Robinson Cano to Roc Nation Sports

When you think of player agents in sports, there are probably two major names that pop into your head: Scott Boras and Drew Rosenhaus.  Both are polarizing figures, but both reel in the big name, big money, franchise defining talent.  Boras has quickly become the New York Yankees of sports agents, and it is fitting that they share the same sport.  Many love to hate Boras just as everybody that is not a Yankees fan loves to hate the Evil Empire.  I mean, come on now, it is tough to look past Boras extorting your beloved team with nine-figure contracts for guys that do not seem too much better than the minimum pay rookies.

The love-hate relationship that we all have with Boras made just about everybody snicker a bit on Tuesday when Yankee's second baseman Robinson Cano dropped Boras.  In a contract year no-less.  It was a head-scratching move especially when taking a peek at Boras' list of wealthy (deservedly and undeservedly) clients.  Names like Prince Fielder, Alex Rodriguez, Stephen Strasburg, and Daisuke Matsuzaka just to name a few.

But wait, Cano leaving Boras was not even the biggest headline of the story. It is that Cano is leaving Boras for [drum roll, please]... 


Yes, the co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records, the husband of Beyonce, and the part-owner of the Brooklyn Nets (among countless other things) is venturing into the player representation space.  With Cano under his belt, Jay-Z is off to a great start with the agency that will be branded Roc Nation Sports.

A little skeptical?  As was I.  We have seen rap/media moguls attempt to make a name for themselves in this space before and fail.  Master P represented former University of Texas and NFL running back Ricky Williams after poaching him from the hands of now ESPN Business Analyst Andrew Brandt.  In addition to drafting what is known as one of the worst professional sports contracts of all-time, Master P had no backing with his "agency."
This is where Jay-Z makes all of the right moves.  Roc Nation Sports is backed by Creative Arts Agency (CAA), one of the highest powered sports agencies in all of sports with a multi-sport base and also clients in entertainment as well.  Strategically, Jay-Z aligning his agency with CAA is the best move possible.  

It will be interesting to watch and see where Roc Nation Sports goes from here.  There have also been reports that New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz is set to join Roc Nation Sports.  If they would want to venture into the professional basketball landscape, then Jay-Z would have to sell off his ownership piece of the Brooklyn Nets because otherwise it would be a major conflict of interest.  Landing the likes of Cano and Cruz is solid starting point for Roc Nation Sports and with the backing of CAA, look for Jay-Z to land some more big names in the future.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Monday, April 1, 2013

MLB Team Salaries: How Can They Compete?

Baseball fans love this time of year. The start of a new MLB season. Fans are excited to see the team they have viewed on paper finally take the field. All fans feel that it might be the year for their team to have success.

Can this hope really become reality? Has the payroll disparity between teams become so great that it is impossible to compete? Let take a look.

The opening day payrolls, which is a projected number, have a huge disparity for the 2013 season. The number one team nearly has a payroll 10 times that of the lowest payroll team. Take a look below at the teams with the top 5 and bottom 5 payrolls.

1. New York Yankees ($228,995,945)
2. Los Angeles Dodgers ($216,302,909)
3. Philadelphia Phillies ($159.578,214)
4. Boston Red Sox ($158,967,286)
5. Detroit Tigers ($149,046,844)

26. Oakland A's ($68,577,000)
27. Pittsburgh Pirates ($66,289,524)
28. Tampa Bay Rays ($57,030,272)
29. Miami Marlins ($39,621,900)
30. Houston Astros ($24,328,538)

The disparity in income between the top and bottom teams is truly shocking. How is a team with a tenth of the player salaries supposed to compete. It is difficult and those teams that can should be recognized for excellence. The 2013 opening payrolls have a greater disparity than that of 2012. Lets take a look at the top and bottom payroll teams from 2012 and see how much success they had.

Top 5 Payrolls

New York Yankees- 95 Wins 67 Losses
Philadelphia Phillies- 81 Wins 81 Losses
Boston Red Sox- 69 Wins 93 Losses
Los Angeles Angels- 89 Wins 73 Losses
Detroit Tigers- 88 Wins 74 Losses

Bottom 5 Payrolls

Pittsburgh Pirates- 79 Wins 83 Losses
Kansas City Royals- 72 Wins 90 Losses
Houston Astros- 55 Wins 107 Losses
Oakland A's- 94 Wins 68 Losses
San Diego Padres- 76 Wins 86 Losses

The numbers reveal that spending money does not guarantee wins, but it does play a factor. The 2012 team had large disparities in payrolls, yet the disparity is far greater for the 2013 season.

Final Thought
The financial disparity in baseball is a serious issue. Leagues like the NFL have been far better at providing an even playing field for all teams. The presence of a hard salary cap may be necessary in order to fix this issue. If the disparity in baseball continues to increase, I suspect that the higher spending teams will become progressively too talented compared to the lowest spending teams. Under this scenario, the lowest spending teams will never be able to compete.

Great organizations can be made by being a lower spending team and having success. It is rare to be able to have this success, but it is recognized league-wide when it does. If a hard salary cap is not an option for Major League Baseball, something needs to be done to make the league more fair. The current MLB luxury tax is significant, yet clearly not significant enough. Further taxation on the wealthy teams in the MLB may be necessary in order to provide a more level playing field.