Monday, July 29, 2013

Brewers Giving Back To Fans

This season has been nothing short of a disappointment for the Milwaukee Brewers. Not only have the fans had to deal with a team that is nearly twenty games under the .500 mark, but they are now dealing with the loss of their star player. Ryan Braun recently was suspended for the remainder of the season for what Major League Baseball called "violations of the Basic Agreement and its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program."

Although the Brewers have been struggling this season, fan attendance has not struggled. The Milwaukee faithful have averaged about 31,000 fans this season despite lackluster performance on the field. Brewers owner, Mark Attanasio, knew that the organization needed to do something to give back to the fans.

For the month of August, each fan that attends a game at Miller Park will receive a $10 voucher that can be used for tickets, food, beverage or merchandise. With the average attendance and twelve home games in August, the vouchers are expected to cost the Brewers organization about $3.6 million.

The cost of the voucher program is mainly offset due to Braun's suspension. With Ryan sitting out the remainder of the season without pay, the Brewers will save about $3 million that would have been owed to Braun had he been playing.

Final Thought
When I first heard of the voucher program that the Brewers were offering, I thought it was an excellent idea. Not only will the program not cost the team too much additional money, it is great for publicity. It shows that the Milwaukee Brewers organization truly cares about the fans. It will be interesting to track how well Brewers games are attended in the month of August.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Broken News - Fox Sports Must Improve Web Presence To Compete

The launch of Fox's 24/7 sports network, Fox Sports 1, is now less than a month out from its August 17th date.  Many experts believe that the new network will be the biggest competition that ESPN empire has ever faced.  Fox Sports 1 certainly has the financial backing and the upfront live sports rights to make a splash.  They have also been acquiring big name talent, especially some recognizable names to their direct competition to ESPN's Sportscenter in Fox Sports Live.

As much as Fox Sports 1 may be a viable competitor to ESPN, there is one glaring hole that Fox Sports will need to rework to become an even bigger threat.  Their website.

Powered MSN,'s clear strength is their coverage of Major League Baseball.  With respected veterans Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi on the beat, Fox Sports is to keep their name in the news-breaking mix.  A close second is their NFL coverage with highly respected NFL insider, Jay Glazer, breaking the news (aka "Sources" if you only follow ESPN coverage).

But that's just about it... The rest of  Fox Sports' beat are covered by good journalists, but not names that you will be citing to your friends as the original news-breaker when you share your daily sports musings.  Being good is never a bad thing, but if the goal is to keep up with ESPN, coverage will need to improve.

Perhaps the most glaring area that will need improvement is with their national columnists and commentary.  ESPN has both Bill Simmons (with Grantland) and Rick Reilly heading this department.  As ESPNW continues to grow, more writers will have a chance to showcase their talent.  Grantland has an impressive list of contributors with names like Zach Lowe, Brian Philips, Andy Greenwald, and my personal favorite Charles Pierce.

Fox Sports has, er, Jason Whitlock.

We all know my thoughts on Whitlock, who if anything, may be the most polarizing writer in sports.  That's worth something right?

And let's not forget the leaps and bounds that ESPN has on all of the competition including Fox Sports in terms of original content, journalism, and just straight stranglehold on the complex sports media industry.  When a new opponent enters the ring, it can be easy to overplay their hype.  Fox Sports is promising.  But is has a damn high mountain to climb if it wants to be at ESPN's level.

For now, it seems that Fox Sports' focus is on the television side with Fox Sports 1 and the preliminary talks of a Fox Sports 2.  And that's fine.  Just remember that when to comes to taking down an empire, Fox Sports has a long way to go.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Monday, July 15, 2013

MLB All-Star Game Viewership

Tonight's MLB All-Star Game will determine which league has home field advantage for the World Series. Will this be enough of an intrigue for fans to watch? Major League Baseball sure hopes so. Mixed reactions are still felt today after the MLB decided that home field advantage would be determined via the All-Star Game starting in 2003 to make the game more competitive.

Many fans liked the idea because it was an incentive for players to "play harder." The plan was also devised to help the problem of declining television viewership. The plan initially worked in 2003. Although viewership did not rise from the previous year, it did stay the same. Major League Baseball was satisfied with this result but expected increases in the years to come.

The prevailing trend since the change when it comes to television viewership revolves around the quality of the game. If the game is interesting in score, more viewers have tuned in. Unfortunately for Major League Baseball, the 2012 All-Star Game was anything but a close game. The National League beat up on the American League 8-0. This lead to the lowest-rated and least-watched All-Star game since they started keeping track of television data.

Final Thought
Hopefully for Major League Baseball the game tonight is competitive. It is difficult to determine prior to the game how close it will be because the game features the best players in all of the sport. For the All-Star Game to be viewed more heavily, MLB had to be hoping for Yasiel Puig to be voted in by the fans. If he were to have been voted in, he would have been a major attraction to the game. It will be interesting to look at the television viewership for tonights game!


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dollars & Sense - A-Rod's Impact on Minor League Attendance

For a paper in one of my classes back in my freshman year of college, I sat down with the General Manager of the Trenton Thunder (NY Yankees Double-A affiliate), Will Smith, to talk about what it is like to be a GM at the minor league level.  Of course, one of the major points that I wanted to touch on was how to consistently put butts in the seats, which is the goal of any GM in sports but especially minor league baseball.  He went through the laundry list of business promotions, the focus on selling to groups, the whole nine yards.  But minor league baseball has a unique attendance draw that nobody else has.

Rehab assignments.

Now, he was clear that they do not ever root for a player to get hurt just so that there will be the inevitable rehab assignment.  But these assignments are such a huge draw.  Where else can you see major league stars play while sitting in a $10 seat in the first row?

Alex Rodriguez, the New York Yankees third baseman recovering from hip surgery, recently began a 20-day rehab assignment through the Yankees’ minor league system.  A-Rod’s presence was certainly felt, drawing huge crowds (Single-A speaking) out to the ballpark.
The assignment began in Charleston, N.C. with the Riverdogs, the Yankees’ low-A affiliate.  According to Bleeding Yankee Blue, last year the Riverdogs averaged just under 3,800 fans per game.  Their stadium seating capacity is about 6,000.  On July 2nd, the first game that A-Rod played in Charleston, an impressive 8,255 fans came out to Joseph P. Riley Park.  It was the second largest crowd on head at the park, just behind its opening day in 2007.  

After another night with the Single-A Riverdogs and another night above capacity, A-Rod made his way down I-95 (Hey, that’s us!) to play for the high-A Tampa Yankees. The night prior to A-Rod’s arrival, Tample had a crowd of about 1,500 fans.  The very next night with A-Rod in the lineup, the Tampa Yanks more than doubled the attendance with 3,148 fans in attendance.

As A-Rod moves his way up through the system, more of the Yankees’ farm system will feel the power of having a superstar major-leaguer on their field.  With likely stops in Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, A-Rod’s name will be a huge draw.  Eduardo Nunez recently finished a rehab game with Trenton on the Fourth of July and Derek Jeter has been in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for a few days.  

Although Thunder GM Will Smith said that they certainly do not root for players to get hurt, he certainly does not mind the extra faces in the stands. The Thunder are one of the more successful minor league franchises and even after a couple of days of fireworks and a retirement party for their long-time bat-dog, Chase, A-Rod’s presence will surely bring the best crowds of the season.  

 Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Aftermath of the Bounty Scandal

Many people faced consequences after the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal was unravelled. Many agreed with the punishments because players may have been injured more than was necessary during games. Those who thought the punishments were too harsh typically noted that many teams around the league had similar programs intended to target certain players on other teams.

At the heart of the issue was then Saints defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams. Williams was accused setting up programs that rewarded players for targeting and hurting other players in the league. After Williams suspension was over, he was hired by the Tennessee Titans.

Williams now is facing potentially more issues stemming from the scandal. Former NFL player, Barrett Green is now suing Williams and the Redskins for ending his career prematurely. While Williams was serving as the defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins in 2004, Barrett Green suffered a career-ending knee injury while playing for the Giants against the Redskins.

The curious part of the story is that Barrett Green was playing linebacker and was hurt by Redskins tight end Robert Royal. The lawsuit claimed that Royal had played some defense for Gregg Williams while with the Redskins. The lawsuit says that Royal "intentionally lowered his helmet and drove into Green's knee at full speed." Later in the complaint, the Redskins were accused of a bounty program when the complaint said, "Redskins coaches directed their players to disregard criminal and civil laws, as well as NFL rules, to intentionally injure opponents."

Final Thought
It will be very difficult for Barrett Green to have success with his lawsuit because of the lack of evidence. Although Gregg Williams was "convicted" by commissioner Roger Goodell, legal action outside of the league was not taken. For Green to be successful with his lawsuit, he would need to prove many aspects of the injury that are most likely unprovable. Although this lawsuit will most likely prove to be a failure, it is interesting to see how many more lawsuits come from the bounty scandal. If an injured player can prove they got hurt by Williams defense in New Orleans, it is a possibility that Gregg Williams could face some serious legal actions.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Dollars & Sense - Stevens Making the Leap from College to the NBA

With the sports news in an afternoon lull, it looked as if we were all going to be heading into the evening wondering what A-Rod will do in his couple of at-bats at Single-A Charleston.  And then... BOOM!
Out of nowhere, the Boston Celtics plucked the 36-year-old coaching prodigy, Brad Stevens, from the tight grasp of the Butler Bulldogs.  Stevens, who led Butler to two NCAA Championship games in his six seasons at the helm, has reportedly agreed on a six-year deal worth $22 million.  Having turned down the UCLA head coaching job earlier in the offseason, the Celtics must have been one of Stevens' dream jobs that he said would be the only way that he would leave Butler.

The opening on the Celtics bench was created when previous head coach Doc Rivers was traded (yes, the coach was traded) to the Los Angeles Clippers for a 2015 first round pick.  The Rivers trade was one of two major deals that the Celtics have made in their rebuilding offseason; the other was sending superstars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett as well as Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph (wait two Kris's with a "K"?) and three future first round picks.

With all of the movement at the head coaching position in the NBA this offseason, the Celtics' move to hire Stevens now joins the Nets and newly retired-player-turned-head-coach Jason Kidd as the two major coaching stories to watch going into next year.

Stevens' situation is particularly interesting for two reasons: 1) Stevens is making the leap from college to the NBA, and 2) the Celtics are rebuilding.  Stevens is certainly not the first coach to make the leap, but given his status and accomplishments at Butler, he is one of the most intriguing.

The Celtics are no stranger to hiring college coaches.  Prior to Doc Rivers, the last three Celtics coaches had a wealth of college head coaching experience.  John Carroll took over after Jim O'Brien's resignation.  Carroll was a one-time Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year at Duquense.  Before Carroll, it was O'Brien, who won the 1996 NCAA title as an assistant at Kentucky.  And of course, how could we forget Rick Pitino, who bolted from Kentucky after the 1996 NCAA title.  In hindsight, maybe it wasn't the best idea to give Pitino all of the keys to the organization.
Of the three coaches before Rivers, O'Brien had the best record going 139-119 for a .539 winning percentage.  The three combined to go 255-287 over seven seasons.  At Butler, Stevens went 166-49 in six seasons.

Stevens though offers great hope.  Although the Celtics may struggle this coming year, the franchise is clearly building for the future and are willing to ride it out with Stevens as indicated by the six-year deal.  It will be interesting to see how Stevens handles the NBA-size egos, although many have already made the joke that he coached better talent at Butler than he will this year with the Celtics.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Monday, July 1, 2013

So Much Talk About Taxes!

It may not be a new trend, but every time I hear of a high profile athlete signing with a new team I always hear about taxes. It makes sense that we only hear about the high profile players because they have the most to lose in taxes by signing big value contracts.

The latest example is Dwight Howard. Howard is currently a free agent and exploring different teams that he could play for next season. The only thing that is a near certainty for Dwight is that he will receive a max contract or something close.

Currently Dwight is being rumored with many teams across the league. Two of particular interest for tax reasons are the Dallas Mavericks and the Houston Rockets. Both of these Texas state teams have an added advantage when signing free agents because they operate in a state without income tax via the state. Florida professional sport teams also enjoy this added incentives to acquire free agents.

If Dwight resigns with the Lakers, he might be subjected to the 13.3% state income tax in California for individuals earning more than $1 million. The reason why Dwight would not automatically be subjected to this tax is because of his residency. State income tax is assessed by where someone is considered to have primary residency. Dwight has a home in Florida that he could attempt to use as his primary residency.

The tax factor for Dwight Howard is significant because if he has to declare residency in California, he could be accepting a lower value contract with the Lakers. Although the contract with the Lakers would be a max deal, a four year deal from a Texas team could result in higher net dollars.

Final Thought
It will be tough for Dwight to declare residency in Florida because the state of California has more aggressive policies in tracking information related to taxes. Dwight would also be an easy target because of the high gross value he would receive per season. I would be curious to know how big of a factor taxes play in Dwight's decision. Although I do not think taxes alone will decide where Howard plays next season, it is understandable that taxes will weigh into the decision.

For teams who have the benefit of playing in a state with low or no state income tax, they should take advantage of it. These teams have the ability to add an incentive that another team could not match no matter what they do. Taxes are one of the rare things that teams do not have the ability to control.