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Preview: 6-4-2 — an Angels/Dodgers double play blog

6-4-2 — an Angels/Dodgers double play blog

A blog mostly about the Dodgers, Angels, baseball in general, and other minutiae as it may happen.

Updated: 2017-12-17T04:02:29.231-08:00


The End Of Dreams: Astros 5, Dodgers 1


If it is possible for the Dodgers to have a more ignominious end to their season, I cannot think of it. Battered in Game 3, Dave Roberts sent Yu Darvish out for second helpings in a win-or-die scenario; Darvish made it clear early that the second option was his choice. The Astros out pitched the Dodgers, whose offense never bothered to show up. Honestly, that was the team I watched through much of August and September, the hellacious losing streak that made you wonder which team would be playing in October.

Dylan Hernandez' LAT piece pulls no punches. I think he oversteps by claiming
The Rangers probably knew something. They probably knew he was as likely to perform how he did in this World Series as he was of ever realizing his breathtaking potential. Darvish made two postseason starts for the Rangers and lost both.
 The Dodgers knew that too, but I suspect they were hopeful the better pitching environment of Dodger Stadium would attenuate those bad outings. Nevertheless, Dave Roberts leaving him in for so long was a critical failure; he had to be on a very short leash. Darvish got only two swings-and-misses total in the ten batters he faced, a bad sign that Roberts ignored. Not that it mattered with the offense failing; the two runs the Astros collected in that first inning would be enough.

So, congratulations to the now American League Astros, who win their first title ever for America's fourth-largest city. The Dodgers have their work cut out for them in the offseason.


Disney's $1.5B MLBAM Purchase Foretells Grim Tidings For ESPN


Al Yellon a couple days ago posted a piece about MLBAM being sold to Disney in a $1.5 billion deal. The upshot of this is that every MLB team will get $50 million in cash off the bat, but it also suggests something else: MLBAM, which has been a cash cow for the league, is going away at the exact moment cord-cutting continues to be a problem for cable TV. There's something about this deal that reminds me of the Yankees getting out from YES Network, which now seems prescient: better to let someone else figure out how to sell those ad dollars, and take whatever they want off the top.

Along those lines, ESPN is now launching its own streaming service, which looks from the outside like a Pyrrhic victory. As Techcrunch explains,
"A streaming service, while it might attract sports fans who have cut the cord, won’t solve ESPN’s profit problems. Instead it will exacerbate them. Why? Because ESPN will continue to lose the millions upon millions of cable subscribers who pay for it but never watch it. Losing $7.21 from each non-watcher is going to be a revenue killer. There is no possible way the universe of sports fans who want ESPN can make up that revenue, even if they’re charged more for a streaming service."
(The above was quoted in the story text, but it's unclear from context who was being quoted. Edit: it's an excerpt of this Bloomberg News story.) This is a problem of long-standing I first noticed with the Dodgers and their cable TV deal; there's simply no way the insane TV rights deals stand up without mandatory bundling. Things are going to get tighter for everyone in this space, and soon.

Update 2017-08-23: One aspect of this that has bothered me from the beginning is the same sense I got when the Guggenheim Group bought the Dodgers for $2.1 billion, and that is that this is predicated on revenue streams that simply cannot exist in the real world. (Even my rough contemporaneous pencil test showed the Dodgers couldn't milk that stream for the kind of dough they were getting out of bundled cable deals.) I'll spend some time digging and see if I can get MLBAM subscriber numbers somewhere. Also, it's important to know for return-on-investment figures that Disney earlier bought 33% of BAMTech for $1 billion, so their total investment appears to be $2.5 billion for (effectively) the whole magilla, or at least a majority stake.

It appears that MLBAM as of two years ago had 3.5 million subscribers, though this LA Times article doesn't mention how many are MLB.TV subscribers. But assume that 90% of them are paying for MLB.TV at $112.99/year. That means revenues are
3.5M subscribers * .9 * $112.99 subscriber-1*year-1 = $356M/year
It's not implausible that they might be able to make money under this scenario, but it omits the costs of carriage for MLB, MiLB, PGA, and other content.

A Diffident Anniversary: Six Years Ago, MLB Ousted The McCourts


Six years ago today, MLB ousted the contentious and rapacious McCourts as the owners of the Dodgers. Their tenure as owners would be marred by problems with parking lots, and in particular, the problem Bryan Stow had. This would be a happy anniversary if not for the years-long fight over cable TV revenues that have thus far failed to materialize. The price of ousting the McCourts, apparently, was $2.1 billion, a figure largely hoisted on the now-obviously dim prospects of extracting absurdly generous concessions from a new cable TV network that thus far remains off the cable boxes of most Southern California fans. The math is so absurd, and so large are Dodger salaries, it is impossible to imagine this stalemate going on much longer, but the Guggenheim group seems set on their course. The one advantage of being out of market now is that at least I get to see the Dodgers. It is more than outweighed by being two timezones east, so the Blue finish most of their games after my bedtime. I can only hope my in-market friends get to see their team on the TV some year soon.

The Collapse Of Starting Pitcher Wins


It's been a while since anything really caught my attention about baseball — the Cubs won the World Series last year, an event that passed without note in these all but abandoned pages; the team will never need to buy another round anywhere in Chicago, and Theo Epstein et al. probably punched their own ticket to Cooperstown. Reversing the curse in two cursed towns is some sort of witch doctory! But with both my native teams two time zones past my now Central Daylight Time bedtime, I find keeping up with the Angels or Dodgers difficult, save on weekends or during day getaway games. So the game moves on without me, in many ways; the deep detailed looks at various sabermetric aspects (and more, the impressive roster of solid writers) I got at Baseball Prospectus, watering holes like Baseball Think Factory (now enervated thanks to a squabble between founder Jim Furtado and Darren Viola), Jon Weisman's on-again, off-again blogs (Dodger Thoughts, now largely defunct) — all have lost my attention, and that predated my 2015 move to Arkansas. So it's kind of a surprise to see a post that really grabs me, and this one comes from ESPN: "State of the Stat: MLB numbers taking yet another crazy turn" offers some interesting changes lately in baseball. Particularly, home runs: What pops out is the names of the decade home run leaders for the 1990's and 2000's, Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez's, respectively. Neither will make it into Cooperstown as a consequence of steroid use, and more's the pity, especially in A-Rod's case. As with Roger Clemens and Barry bonds, a legitimate first-ballot inductee is being kept out of the Hall largely because of political pressure rather than his actual record. In some ways, though, the most interesting thing in here is the steady decline in wins by starters:   The piece continues: The traditional standard of 20 wins remains a high bar, with just a few pitchers getting there each season. There were three 20-game winners in 2016, two in 2015, three in 2014 and one in 2013. The peak for 20-win seasons came in the late '60s and early '70s, when many starters threw a huge number of innings. There were 15 20-game winners in 1969, 14 in 1971, 13 in 1973 (and 1951) and 11 in 1970 and 1974. As the five-man rotation became standard by the 1980s, the 40-game starter became obsolete. Then the complete game neared extinction. Maybe the 20-game winner is next on the endangered species list. What would be especially ironic is if Bert Blyleven, who famously was kept out of the Hall for so long because he did not have 300 wins, might instead be an early forebear of ending the win as a pitching stat with any actual value. [...]

Bagwell, Raines, Pudge Enter Cooperstown


While only Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez entered the Hall of Fame as players, both Bud Selig and John Schuerholz do so as executives, Selig the commissioner who held baseball labor peace for over two decades. Schuerholz was the general manager of the Braves during the 1990's when they virtually owned the NL East (actually from 1990 to 2007),  and of the Kansas City Royals before that in 1982-1990.

Jeff Bagwell's credentials should have made him an easy first ballot candidate, but steroids rumors delayed his entry by six years. Unlike Jay Jaffe, I'm unconvinced that Tim Raines should be in the Hall, but as with everything, will take his word for it. Finally, Pudge actually did get in on the first ballot, Jay's questions notwithstanding. I take this as a positive sign for other players of the era who may have been tarnished by allegations or actual proof of steroid use. Congratulations to all.

The Dodgers' Cynical 30% Manipulation


Bill Plaschke, improbably, has managed to write a column on the Dodgers' first flirtation with actual negotiations, which appears to be more cynical than real:
That Time Warner Cable has offered to cut the price of SportsNet LA by 30% is admirable, but that the offer is good for only one year is ridiculous.

Would you make that deal? Buy somebody's car for one year at a deeply discounted price, then take your hands off the wheel and agree to renegotiate?
As expected, Plaschke misunderstands the nature of the contract to justify his dudgeon— its more like renting an apartment than buying a car — but his admonition to "[m]ake the discount permanent" is entirely sound, and likely, doesn't go far enough. The reality is the Dodgers are not going to get that $5/head, now nor at any point in the future; bankruptcy looms. That the team uses Vin Scully's last season as a chit is unconscionable manipulation. I did not think it possible that the new ownership would be materially worse than the McCourts, but at least in this one dimension, they are: at least Frank never took the Dodgers off the air.

The Bleeding Continues As SportsNet LA Halves Dodgers' Spring Training Coverage


Bill Plaschke brings the sad yet predictable news that SportsNet LA plans on halving its coverage of spring training games from 31 to 16.
No, this is not about the importance of watching spring exhibitions, which become awfully boring when all the good players hit the golf courses by the fifth inning. No, SportsNet LA is not alone in taking a spring break, as most teams televise only a smattering of games — and even KLAC radio is broadcasting only 14 games from Arizona. And yes, it makes sense when Time Warner Cable officials say they are cutting back because of lousy midweek afternoon ratings.

But when the Dodgers and Time Warner Cable continue to deny 60% of Southern California households a chance to watch their team because of ego and greed, then each misstep becomes more galling than the previous one, and every stumble becomes emblematic of a legendary fall.

At this point in the three-year debacle, it is worth wondering whether this might be the worst team-TV partnership in modern sports history. If the Dodgers keep Vin Scully from Los Angeles during his final season, that seals it.
The reason I say this is predictable is due to the fact that the channel is hemorrhaging money, and so they have to cut costs somewhere. Spring training games, broadcast in the afternoons with poor viewership, are an obvious place to trim.

It's rare that I can endorse a Plaschke column in its entirety (or even majority); it seems to happen about twice a year now. But here it is.

Television Rights, Baseball's Tsunami


I unfortunately don't have enough time to properly treat this story, but a couple related pieces turned up on Techdirt and Fangraphs on the always-interesting subject of television rights that are required reading for anyone concerned about the future of baseball. First, Fangraphs draws us up-to-date with a case I can't believe I had missed, Garber v. Office Of The Commissioner Of Baseball. Long-time Fangraphs readers are probably already familiar with the Garber suit, as we’ve previously covered the case on a number of different occasions. By way of a brief recap, though, the lawsuit essentially alleges that MLB violates federal antitrust law by assigning its teams exclusive local broadcast territories (the same rules that also give rise to MLB’s infamous blackout policy). Not only do the plaintiffs allege that the creation of these exclusive territories illegally prevents MLB teams from competing for television revenue in each others’ home markets, but they also contend the rules restrict teams from competing with the league itself in the national broadcast marketplace (preventing teams from signing their own national television contracts, for instance, or offering their own out-of-market pay-per-view services in competition with MLB Extra Innings and MLB.TV). The plaintiffs want to entirely do away with regional broadcast restrictions, which would possibly pave the way for MLB Advanced Media (MLB.TV) to take over that entirely. It could also allow the Indians to sell games in the New York market, or vice versa (much more likely), opening the prospect for both internecine warfare and additional revenue streams. MLB will argue that fans benefit from the current situation by keeping smaller market teams in higher revenue local TV deals. There is something to that argument, particularly with respect to casual fans, who are mightily subsidized by cable viewers who don't care about baseball. Such subsidies are unfortunately not part of Techdirt's analysis, which fails to grapple with the fact that the overall revenue picture is much bigger with cable than without, for the simple reason that the average fan can only shell out so much: It's an argument that essentially claims that MLB must limit the number of broadcast options customers have to choose from because not limiting them will eventually lead to even less options when teams fold. This argument rests on MLB's revenue sharing practice, where teams negotiate their local broadcast rights and leave the national rights entirely up to the league, which then doles out national broadcast (and streaming) revenue democratically through the league, meaning the popularity of the Yankees and other large market clubs is resulting in income for small market teams (like the Tampa Bay Rays). Here's the thing: everyone knows this argument's time was twenty years ago. Fans know it, because they use the internet and streaming services and they embody the desire of customers to watch more teams in more ways without blackout restrictions. MLB knows this as well, as you simply can't make sense of all the work the league has done to expand its streaming options without that knowledge. What they are trying to save in all of this is a bit of the right to still handle national streaming rights the way they handle national broadcast rights. It's about retaining control. But the league itself is what allowed for the expansion of the league into small market areas. For them now to rest the argument for their antitrust exemption on the un-viability of those markets, resulting in harming consumer choice, doesn't make any sense. It's essentially asking for a kind of bailout for some teams via the exemption. Put another way, MLB's argument amounts to: some of our teams don't have enough fans to sustain themselves, so we need an antitrust exemption to keep them afloat,[...]

Ken Griffey, Jr. And Mike Piazza Elected To The Hall Of Fame


Per ESPN, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mike Piazza were the only players voted into the Hall of Fame. Griffey, who is by no means an inner-circle Hall of Famer, garnered a 99% vote, which I presume is mostly a protest at the steroid era. Piazza is the lowest draftee ever to go to Cooperstown, and Griffey the highest (first overall):
While Griffey was selected first in the 1987 amateur draft and became the first No. 1 pick to make the Hall, Piazza was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the 1,390th pick on the 62nd round in 1998. Since the draft started in 1965, the lowest draft pick elected to the Hall was John Smoltz, taken with the No. 574 pick in the 22nd round in 1985.
Update: I should explain a bit on my remarks about Griffey. There's a 30-point JAWS dropoff between Mickey Mantle and Junior, the largest between any two players above the mean. Partly that was from memory, so if you want to disagree based on the fact that he's well above the mean of 70.4 JAWS, feel free to do so.

Buying Low On Aroldis Chapman, Or, The Precedent Of Michael Vick


David Pinto passed on an excerpt from a Mike Axisa essay about the Yankees possibly buying low on Aroldis Chapman: I think it’s pretty gross the Yankees essentially used a domestic violence incident to buy low on a player. That’s how I feel. You’re welcome to feel differently. The Dodgers had a deal in place for Chapman earlier this offseason, then backed away when news of the incident got out. (Here’s the story if you haven’t seen it.) The Reds then dropped their asking price — Brian Cashman confirmed it during a conference call yesterday — and the Yankees swooped in. There are a lot of people out there whose lives have been impacted by domestic violence and I think turning a blind eye to it sends a very bad message. Pro sports teams — it’s not just baseball, it happens in every sport — have shown time and time again they will overlook stuff like this as long as the player is good enough. I’d like to think the Yankees hold themselves to higher standards but it’s clear they don’t. It’s one thing for a player to be a jerk and difficult to get along with. Allegations of domestic violence are much more serious. Not a good look, Yankees. There are a lot of potential responses to that. A particularly greasy, commercial observation came from (at least) MLB Trade Rumors, when they noticed that if Chapman misses 45 days (the maximum possible for the domestic violence offense he's accused of is 50 days), the Yankees could end up with not one but two years of team control. This means the Yanks might land arguably the best available reliever in baseball at a comparatively bargain price, and on a multiyear deal, no less. (No telling how Chapman might react if it turns up the Yanks schemed to get the commissioner's office to throw the book at him in full force.) But if Chapman's poor self-control off the field costs him in his contractual matters, it says very little about what sports leagues more generally need to do about domestic violence. One of the bigger off-field cases to come up in recent years was that of the NFL's Michael Vick, which I wrote about at the time. Vick's depravity to dogs, his lack of remorse, and his failure (entirely due to the state prosecutor in the case) to spend a single day in prison on animal cruelty charges led me then to conclude the league had taken inadequate steps to deal with the situation. It did not help that the league itself appeared to be a willing participant in the charade, even going so far as to hand him a farcical Comeback Player of the Year award. From what, exactly, did he come back? And so with Ray Rice, whose pugilistic elevator exploits had to be broken on TMZ Sports, of all places, presumably because ESPN owes the NFL a great deal. Certainly, the cable giant is not in a position to want to tarnish the NFL's brand; quite the opposite, as Deadspin documented amid arched eyebrows. This pattern of the league covering for an active player — and in the case of Vick, a former (and newly rising) star — seems nothing if not constant. Largely, the fans have been complicit with such efforts, provided enough time elapses between the observed complaints and the player's reinstatement. Vick continues to play unimpeded, most recently for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but previously for the Philadelphia Eagles a mere two years after his initial suspension due to occupying a jail cell. Ditto Rice, who didn't even have to wait that long after TMZ's release of the surveillance video, winning a reinstatement the same year. Protests have been muted, and have had little lasting effect. Particularly, the league's mealy-mouthed domestic violence policy changes amounted to a nothingball, something Roger Goodell could have implemented on his own had he chosen to do so. While Rice remains for the moment sidelined, it's har[...]

Some Great Koufax Stories From Wired


David Dobbs in Wired has some fantastic stories about Sandy Koufax, one of the greatest left-handed pitchers ever to throw the ball (and until Randy Johnson, arguably the greatest). The whole story is worth your time (it also gets into why the curveball is so effective: it combines physical movement with an optical illusion), but I wanted to focus on this excerpt:
2. A Koufax story I read a few years back, either in Leary’s bio of him or perhaps an Angell piece. Koufax, retired almost 20 years and in his 40s, was pitching batting practice to the Dodgers (whom he often helped coach) between post-season series in the mid-1980s. This was the great-hitting Dodger line-up with Sax, Garvey, Baker, Cey, and others. Koufax is just throwing easy minor-league 45-year-old man fastballs for BP, letting the hitters groove their swings. One of the hitters calls for the famous curveball. This Koufax usually didn’t throw, lest it aggravate his elbow. But this hitter wanted to see the thing, see if he could hit it, so Koufax indulges him.

This is a major league hitter who knows what pitch is coming, batting against a man in his mid-40s.

Curve comes in, drops like a stone — a swing and a miss.

Hitter calls for another. Same result.

Several more; the same.

By now the hitter’s teammates, watching, are in hysterics. They’re howling. The batter gives up, walks off, tells his buddies, Fine then, you try it. And one by one they do. This great Dodger line-up comes up, every hitter knowing what pitch he’s getting, and no one can connect. Koufax is 45 or so — and with one pitch, pre-announced, he is unhittable.


As the story goes, manager Lasorda walked out to the mound and, using the pretext he wanted to protect Koufax’s arm, asked him to stop — but to Koufax he said, Cut it out already, I don’t want my hitters mentally destroyed just before a post-season series because they can’t hit a one-pitch man in his 40s.

The New Chaos: On Arte Moreno's Hyperactive Ownership


I read with no surprise, sadly, that the Angels had just barely missed the postseason (old news), and that Jerry Dipoto resigned after years of arguing with Mike Scioscia (even older news) to be replaced, temporarily, with Bill Stoneman, GM emeritus, returning to that role. So when former also-ran and Yankee front office product Billy Eppler won the job, it took me a bit to realize something fairly important: Eppler is now the fifth general manager the Angels have had in the Arte Moreno era (fourth if you count Stoneman's two terms as one). You think the Gene Autry era was tumultuous, what with its loud personalities and poor decision-making skills? The worst they managed was three GMs in as many years, from 1991 through 1993. Arte's got a problem, and whether it's in the mirror, or the field manager having too much power, or both, the echoes of the old, bad teams from the early 1990's are impossible to ignore.

Cord Cutting Continues, Now Up To 8.2% Of The Subscriber Base


Something I forgot to write about last week: a new study by Digitalsmiths shows an 1.3% year-to-year decline in the number of people with cable TV, making 8.2% overall who are former cable customers, while "a much larger 45.2 percent said they reduced their cable or satellite TV service during the same time frame." This "cord shaving" suggests people are doing other things with their free time, and cable/satellite TV is increasingly irrelevant. Unclear how many of them are in the LA area, but this can't be a good sign for traditional cable.

Why Sports Net LA Can't Sell A La Carte


With the Dodgers' $8 billion/25 year TV deal in the can but not realized (still), Time Warner taking on water to the tune of a $1 billion loss over the life of the contract, and the proposed merger with Comcast dead, it's been a terrible year for Dodger fans hoping to see their team on TV, and mostly without hope. Or it was, anyway, until Time Warner bid and won on the consolation prize of Charter Communications, immediately expanding the reach of SportsNet LA. For customers on that network, nine innings of Vin Scully is a reality again. But the money drain continues for that channel; they still have less than half their projected audience, and there's no other sign of them getting to an agreement with the remaining cable and satellite carriers. It's interesting, then, to take a look at one of the more commonly suggested answers to the problem of rising cable costs, a la carte purchase. Despite a great deal of belief in the idea that live sports are the last redoubt of cable TV, the reality is somewhat more complicated; for instance, only 35.7% of those polled said they would buy ESPN if it were offered as a separate channel. Similarly, the economics become highly questionable, to say the least. Let's dig in by first taking a look at a recent Times story on the ratings boost provided by the Charter acquisition. Charter serves 300,000 subscribers, while Time Warner has "four times" that number, making 1.2 million for that carrier, or 1.5 million in all. An earlier LAT story suggests the total number is closer to two million, but it's unclear whether that includes San Diego County homes that would be in the Padres broadcast area and would not get SportsNet LA; for this discussion, I use the lower figure. If we take Time Warner's subscriber base and reverse the calculation that they're 30% of the market, the overall subscriber base should be 4 million. As a sanity check, let's look at the dollar figures from the contract to make sure we're not missing something. The first year of the deal required Time Warner to pay the Dodgers $210 million, which means if we were to assume they merely broke even, that would be $210M/year / $5/subscriber*month / 12 months/year = 3.5M subscribers (For the purposes of simplicity, I round up the $4.90 per subscriber per month figure to $5.) So we know we're on the right side of these numbers; Time Warner has to make a profit somewhere (that's the extra 500,000 subscribers from our earlier calculation). Now that we know the size of the market, we can look at prior years' ratings to give us an indication of the number of people willing to fork over their hard-earned dough so they can root for the Dodgers. Ratings vary quite a lot depending on whether a team is winning or not, and the Dodgers are no exception. Their successful 92-70 2013 season resulted in average per-game ratings of 154,000 viewers, where the mediocre 82-79 2011 season yielded an average of 65,000, less than half. While the 94-68 2014 season was even more successful than the prior year, the cable TV impasse sent ratings even lower, to an average of 40,000 viewers per game, the lowest figures in nearly two decades. So let us assume that the Dodgers are capable of averaging around 100,000 viewers per game, even though we know the variance is quite large. Let us also assume that each and every one of those viewers will be willing to pay for a subscription to see the Dodgers. In an a la carte scenario, that means we're going to divide the expected revenue by the number of viewers. Get ready. $210M/year / 12 months/year / 100,000 subscribers = $175/month*subscriber One hundred seventy five dollars per month per subscriber. This monthly figure is more than the price of MLB.TV f[...]

Bombshell: FBI Investigating Cardinals Hacking Of Astros Front Office


The New York Times uncorked a doozy today when they broke the story that the FBI is investigating the St. Louis Cardinals for hacking into the Astros' network and stealing proprietary player data. The Astros hired Mr. Luhnow as general manager in December 2011, and he quickly began applying his unconventional approach to running a baseball team. In an exploration of the team’s radical transformation, Bloomberg Business called it “a project unlike anything baseball has seen before.” Under Mr. Luhnow, the Astros have accomplished a striking turnaround; they are in first place in the American League West division. But in 2013, before their revival at the major league level, their internal deliberations about statistics and players were compromised, law enforcement officials said. The intrusion did not appear to be sophisticated, the law enforcement officials said. When Mr. Luhnow was with the Cardinals, the organization built a computer network, called Redbird, to house all of their baseball operations information — including scouting reports and player personnel information. After leaving to join the Astros, and bringing some front-office personnel with him from the Cardinals, Houston created a similar program known as Ground Control. Which suggests that Luhnow and others in the Houston front office didn't bother to change their passwords from their time at St. Louis. It also suggests that the Cardinals store their passwords in plaintext, which, why? Fangraphs has a fine piece on the legal ramifications: The primary law implicated by the Cardinals’ alleged hacking would appear to be the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The CFAA was originally passed back in 1984 to protect both the government and the financial industry from electronic espionage. The law was later expanded in 1996, however, to cover any unauthorized, remote access of another’s computer. Under Section (a)(4) of the CFAA, anyone who “knowingly … accesses a protected computer without authorization” in order to “obtain[] anything of value” is subject to potential criminal liability for the hacking. Similarly, Section (a)(5)(B) of the law prohibits “intentionally access[ing] a protected computer without authorization,” should it result in any damage being inflicted on the computer’s owner. The act provides for a five year sentence per instance of access, which could mean life imprisonment for ongoing spying. Also, the Electronic Espionage Act of 1996 makes the entire Cardinals organization possibly complicit in criminal activity, but only if the government can show high-level Cardinals knew or should have known about the matter. But is that likely? As one of the commenters at a Facebook group observed, commissioner Rob Manfred has been pleased to use stolen evidence when it suited him; how hard can he really come down on the Cards? (Ignoring for the moment the consequence of criminal investigations, and assuming that there will be repercussions at the MLB commissioner's office.) One thing's for sure, there'll be a lot of billable hours among all parties. [...]

Wid Matthews' Matchless Track Record


Jon Weisman has a brief story up about how the Dodgers missed out on Willie Mays:
Jackie [Robinson] says the Dodgers blew a chance to land Willie Mays when he was a 16-year-old phenom with the Birmingham Black Barons. “The Dodger players were much impressed with Mays when we played an exhibition game with the Barons,” said Jackie. “The front office in Brooklyn was contracted, but Wid Mathews, Mr. Rickey’s assistant, turned down Willie because Wid said he couldn’t hit a curve ball.”
This is genuinely incredible, because Wid Mathews also wrote off Jackie Robinson  as "strictly the showboat type". It's one thing to be wrong about a player, but to clank so impressively on two Hall of Famers is something like a reverse Midas touch.

Nancy Bea Hefley Nearly Retires


I was unaware of this, but Dodgers organist Nancy Bea Hefley handed in her resignation in sorrow at her diminished role (she only plays "Take Me Out To The Ballgams" now, and perhaps three or four other numbers, a total of five minutes a night) — but was talked out of it.
"They said I had a job as long as I want the job, the job would not be open for anybody else," Hefley said. "I will be signing a new contract at the end of the year."
Whew. Bullet dodged.

How The Luxury Tax Threatens Labor Peace


A great couple of posts by Nathaniel Grow at Fangraphs about MLB's luxury tax and its erosive consequences for player salary. Salaries as a percentage of league revenue have been in dramatic decline since the inception of the luxury tax in 1996, particularly since peaking in 2003: Overall, however, it appears that the luxury tax threshold has effectively become a de facto salary cap for many of MLB’s larger market teams, and thus represents an important contributing factor to the players’ declining share of MLB’s overall league revenues. This is not insignificant. One of Bud Selig's signal achievements is two decades of labor peace, bought mostly on increasing revenue for the clubs and climbing salaries for free agents. In hindsight, then, the MLBPA likely made a mistake by agreeing to a more restrictive luxury tax framework in the last several CBAs. And to the extent the union intends to address the players’ declining share of overall league revenues in the 2016 collective bargaining negotiations, modifying the luxury tax will likely prove to be an important piece of the puzzle.  Counteracting this, to some degree, is the willingness of teams to sign their young stars to extended deals that buy out not only remaining arbitration years, but their early free agency terms. This has the side effect of raising the cost of the few players who do actually reach free agency despite being on the wrong side of 30, precisely because there are fewer of them. But in the main, the benefits adhere to owners, who now nab the lion's share of revenues. The explosion in TV deal revenues is largely going unshared with the players, for a curious reason: Unlike ticket sales – which generally rise as a team improves on the field – television revenue is fixed via long-term broadcasting agreements. So while franchises can increase their in-stadium profits to some degree by spending more on payroll – thereby improving the quality of their team – the same is generally not true for television revenue. As a result, teams have little incentive to spend any added broadcasting profits on payroll (because, in economic terms, the added television revenue has not adjusted the team’s marginal revenue product). The Dodgers are in some ways an anomaly in that regard, and we shall see just how much of that actually pans out in a deal that appears largely doomed. If the MLBPA has been content to let ownership gradually but dramatically increase its revenue stream without sharing, that may not last past the next round of negotiations. On the other hand, I have to believe that negotiators for both sides remember the crippling 1994 strike, how much it soured fans on the game, and how nobody wants that again. [...]

Administrivia: Link Cleanup


Cleaned up a ton of stale links, including the minor league links, which I hadn't fixed in a couple years (and shamefully pointed to pre-2014 affiliations in some cases). A few blogs that haven't been updated recently got the axe, as well some various sites I haven't used in a great long while. I've fixed a few other links; the sidebar post references are, after a couple years of breakage, now semi-functional, at least through 2007. I hope to fix that shortly.

The O's Lose The Fans, And Why The Dodgers Should: Orioles 8, White Sox 2


You would be hard pressed to find a more remarked-upon or remarkable game than today's White Sox/Orioles tilt at an entirely empty Camden Yards, due to the rioting in Baltimore. The game itself was mostly noteworthy for its astonishing speed, completing nine innings in a barely-recognizable 2:03 despite the high-scoring offense.  If MLB rules people want to figure out how best to accelerate the pace of play, this game might well be a good place to start, an experiment otherwise impossible that yields an interesting result, just as shutting down all air traffic on September 11, 2001 yielded some interesting (or not) results. Taking the fans out of the park might be the most radical idea yet advanced to this end, but is it too much to imagine that showboating batters, the staged drama of walkup music, the endless preening of the pitcher between pitches might be considerably lowered in such an environment?

If any team can achieve such a thing, it's the Dodgers, who have staked what appears to be the vast majority of their revenue streams to television contracts, rather than seats in the park. While it might be overkill to suggest the team could play entirely without fans in the stadium, it could certainly operate financially without them, although their current TV contract's viability is in grave peril. Think of the advantages for the team: no parking hassles (or revenue), no more Brian Stows, no fan interference, no need for concessions or staffing. Security could be reduced by no less than two-thirds. This begins to sound better all the time.

ESPN BoxRecap

Update: Apparently the Orioles signed autographs for and tossed balls to fans that weren't there.

More On Josh Hamilton and Mat Gleason


I confess, thanks to lingering and intractable login problems on my main computer, I had largely stopped reading Halos Heaven, but they've got a good Halolinks piece today citing something I really think needs emphasis: Josh Hamilton is a raging jerk. He blames the Angels for a lack of an accountability partner (when he was the one to cut that cord). He didn't thank his Angels teammates, and of course there was his childish refusal to take accountability for anything.

It's ironic, perhaps, that this episode had the side effect of Mat Gleason's exiting Halos Heaven. Nobody knows this but me, him, and Tyler Bleszinski, but Blez offered me the job of running the HH blog before it started; I basically turned him down, and it went to Mat. Nobody was more surprised than me at the time, but I think Blez made the right choice. Halos Heaven is the success it is in large part because of Mat's dedication to the task; irascible, tendentious, and pugilistic, Mat was always interesting to read, and he kept going through some awful seasons. (This blog, as you know, has largely gone dormant after 2010.) I haven't spoken with Jim Gardner and don't know him; shortly after the news broke yesterday, he wrote a piece introducing himself and announcing his new position as interim ringmaster; one of the comments therein suggests Mat wrote a goodbye letter, which was subsequently yanked. I briefly spoke with Mat yesterday via e-mail, encouraging him about the situation. He was characteristically incendiary. I still think he was right, though.

Mat Gleason Leaves SB Nation


What I choose to write about here surprises even me sometimes. I was utterly amazed to see that Mat Gleason has been fired resigned as the head blog-runner at Halos Heaven in the wake of his intemperate comments about Josh Hamilton. Irascible, tendentious, and pugilistic, he was never dull. He did a good job with that blog for years. The Halosphere will be diminished for the absence of someone willing to post with vigor and candor.

The Entitled Josh Hamilton


So, Josh Hamilton said things: Josh Hamilton took strong exception to Angels owner Arte Moreno’s comments suggesting that Hamilton lacked "accountability" by suffering a substance-abuse relapse that ultimately led to the troubled outfielder getting traded to the Texas Rangers on Monday. “I have no clue what he’s talking about,” Hamilton said during a news  conference at Globe Life Park in Texas, his first comments since he reported his relapse to Major League Baseball in early February. “I showed up every day and played hard when I was there. I hadn’t been the player they wanted me to be, I know I haven’t been, but I worked my butt off this winter to be that player. “They just didn’t want that to happen for some reason. It doesn’t hurt my feelings or make me mad, but I prepared. [Moreno] knew what the deal was when he signed me. Hands down, he knew what he was getting. He knew what the risks were. He knew all those things. Under the [joint drug agreement], it is what it is.” Those defending Josh Hamilton as a product of addiction have a certain limited point about the nature of that disease and the risks therewith; but "he knew what he was getting" sounds disturbingly like an excuse. In the end, character matters. Josh Hamilton did not have it, but he will have a very large fraction of the remainder of $83 million, paid by the Angels. Having recently gone through it with someone who is a genuine addict myself — and shockingly, with a friend who came disturbingly close to enabling behavior — I cannot help but see this as smirking arrogance. As Mat Gleason wrote, Josh, when you finally die of a drug related matter it won't be Arte Moreno's fault. It won't be the fault of the good fans in Anaheim who figured out your little game. They might have Donnie Moore's karma on them but they won't have yours. As much as I would like to say the blame for your future fate lies with the enabling national media and coddling players union, I think of Steve Howe's face crushed against his truck's windshield on a lonely interstate highway with crystal meth in his bloodstream and I know that all the blame will be on you, all of it, as it was with Howe. I can only hope that when you do yourself in, which you will, that, mercifully like Howe, you take nobody else with you. Amen. Update 4/28: It appears I am in the minority in endorsing the Rev's words above, because they have since been taken down.  The vituperation against it on Twitter seems to be pretty close to unanimous, if my feed is any indication. I have known Mat for a number of  years now, and hyperbolic, tendentious opinion is his schtick (viz. his reaction to the news that Hamilton wouldn't appear at spring training), but it has not always been thus; once upon a time he offered a much more conciliatory tone, writing: Perhaps this is just an issue with his surgery, many fans would be relieved by some drug test going wrong because of modern medicine. The benefit of the doubt should go to the man, a suffering human being deserving of our compassion. But the likelihood that he used and is owning up to it seems to be the razor truth of the matter. Say a prayer for Josh Hamilton, the man. We can determine what this means for the team at another time. For now, be thankful your demons are not dragging you into a goldfish-bowl-shaped hell. In the end, I suspect Mat's own personal wrestling with the demons of addiction informed his m[...]

Angels Could Expel Josh Hamilton In "Days", And How Arte Might Do It


Michael McCann at Sports Illustrated claims that Josh Hamilton could be gone "in [a] matter of days", and even his salary. The basis for this is language in the Uniform Player Contract: Some of the relevant language can be found in the UPC’s Loyalty Clause: Loyalty 3.(a) The Player agrees to perform his services hereunder diligently and faithfully, to keep himself in first-class physical condition and to obey the Club’s training rules, and pledges himself to the American public and to the Club to conform to high standards of personal conduct, fair play and good sportsmanship. The Angels, it would seem, could persuasively argue that Hamilton’s relapse constitutes a failure to render services “diligently and faithfully,” as well as a failure to “keep himself in first-class condition and to obey the Club’s training rules.” A drug and alcohol relapse, moreover, could be viewed as evidence that Hamilton breached his contractual duty to “pledge himself to the American public and to the Club to confirm to the high standards of personal conduct ... and good sportsmanship.” It has been occasionally tried in the past, most recently by the Padres with Lamarr Hoyt, but unsuccessfully; also, the Rockies ended up buying out 80% of Denny Neagle's contract when that team tried to invoke the "personal conduct" clause to sever ties. None of this language, however, will authorize the Angels to terminate Hamilton’s contract. Through the grievance process, the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA) has aggressively prevented teams from attempting to use the aforementioned language to terminate guaranteed player contracts. The MLBPA is most concerned with preventing the creation of a precedent whereby teams can readily convert guaranteed contracts into non-guaranteed contracts. More: If anything, the Angels—rather than Hamilton—might have run afoul of the Program by issuing remarkably harsh and unsympathetic statements following the arbitrator’s award. For instance, a spokesman on behalf of Angels president John Carpino bluntly remarked, “It defies logic that Josh's reported behavior is not a violation of his drug program.” Note that the Program bars teams from issuing “public statements which undermine the integrity and/or credibility of the Program.” While Carpino’s statement and others like it likely will not lead to any consequences for the Angels, it’s a reminder that Hamilton’s conduct is not the only one at issue in this controversy.  Well, we'll see, but I'm still not hopeful. For the record, I'm somewhat opposed to the tenor of Craig Calcaterra's observations a while back that Arte is being craven or greedy here: But really, that’s what’s going on with the Hamilton stuff. People are disapproving of Hamilton’s acts, which are borne of addiction and not malice, yet they will nod at Moreno’s efforts to not pay Hamilton, which are borne out of greed and, maybe, a side of brains. Is there room in this discussion for mentioning personal integrity and how Hamilton exhibits very little? I mean, I agree that Arte's also failing at it (per the functional gag order mentioned above), but it's hard to root for either side in this mess. Update 3:43 PM: Bill Shaikin of the Times has an update on the situation: The Angels are in talks with Josh Hamilton that could result in the troubled outfielder leaving the team within 72 hours[...]

Comcast/TWC Deal Dead, SportsNet LA Renegotiation Can't Be Far Behind


Bloomberg reports that the Comcast/Time Warner Cable deal is dead, after Comcast decided to pull out. (Warning: auto-play video at that link.) Almost certainly, this also means the Dodgers' TV deal with SportsNet LA will be renegotiated, possibly as a consequence of that entity going into bankruptcy. Probably good news, but not for Dodger TV fans, not soon, anyway.