Baseball Business Today

The baseball season for the Baltimore Orioles officially ended on September 30, 2018; to say the season was a disaster would be an understatement.  Soon after that dreary ending, the team fired – or liberated depending on your point of view – manager Buck Showalter.  Clearly, a total rebuild would be necessary.

Fast forward to the present; skip over the approximately 10 weeks that have intervened.  The MLB General Managers held a convention/meeting; now the MLB Winter Meetings are moving along at a gallop.  The Baltimore Orioles still do not have a manager.  There was a report last weekend that the team had narrowed down their search to six people.  Two of the six have previous managerial experience and that is usually an important ingredient in this sort of a search.  However, in this case, the managerial experience must be relevant experience.

The fact is that the Orioles are going to stink like a bloated rhino carcass in the hot sun on the veldt for at least a couple of years.  Maybe those 115 losses in 2018 represented the nadir of this losing cycle; maybe not…  This is not a team that needs a master in-game tactician to eke out an extra win or three in order to stay in the playoff hunt; this is a team that needs a manager who will not get himself into a blue funk in the middle of the team’s second 6-game losing streak in a month.

And that is why the two rumored guys on the “short-list” with previous managerial experience are particularly relevant:

  • Manny Acta spent 3 years at the helm for the Washington Nationals when the Nats were doormats and then 3 more years managing the Cleveland Indians when the Indians were awful.  He has been around teams that had no pretense of relevance; he would not be fazed by losing once again.  Over a total of five and a half seasons, his record is 372-518 (winning percentage of 41.7%).
  • Mike Redmond spent two and a half seasons guiding the Miami Marlins.  His teams went 155-207 (winning percentage of 42.8%).  Let’s just agree that as a manager he never got used to arriving at the ballpark thinking about how his team was going to use that game on that day to get into the playoffs.

On one hand, it does not matter who the Orioles pick as their manager because the team is going to fail and after a couple of years the new manager is likely going to be kicked to the curb for specious reasons.  On the other hand, it has to be disadvantageous to go into the Winter Meetings without a manager.  When the Orioles’ brass meets with agents and or free agent players in the hotel lobby, how can there possibly be any meaningful discussions when the agent/player have no idea who will be running the clubhouse next year?

Finding a new manager should not take 10 weeks.  If that is a harbinger of the time-line for the rebuild of the Orioles’ team on the field, it is going to be a bleak time in Baltimore…

You may recall that the Oakland A’s announced their plans to build a new stadium on a waterfront location in the Bay Area a couple of weeks ago.  Before the folks in that part of the world get themselves worked into a frenzy of anticipation, there are lots of things that have to happen between artist renderings of the new facility and fans showing up at the gates with tickets for a game on that particular day.  Things do not always proceed smoothly – or even proceed at all.

Consider the situation about 2500 miles east of the Bay Area in a different Bay Area; the Tampa Bay Rays have been pursuing a new “baseball-only stadium” in “downtown Tampa” for more than a few years.  There were plans and proposals and an artist’s rendering of the stadium in a part of town known as Ybor City.  Talks with local politicians and business leaders and the citizenry were afoot; it appeared as if the Rays would find a way to play somewhere in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area other than in Tropicana Field.  Until earlier this week…

The Sporting News reported that the Rays’ stadium proposals have hit the skids.  According to the report, the Rays are committed to stay in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area but that all activities related to their new stadium proposal are abandoned – – for now.  The Rays’ lease for Tropicana field runs through the 2027 MLB season so there is plenty of time for all parties to re-engage in the Stadium Kabuki Dance-Theater in another 3 or 4 years.  That timeframe would allow the team to cite its economic woes and for the local politicians to stand firm against giveaways to billionaire owners and for the business community to do whatever seems to be expedient at the moment.

While that new stadium debate is in hiatus for the moment consider these data:

  • In 2017, the Rays finished last in MLB in fans per game in the ballpark.  They drew only 15,477 per game on average.  The next lowest attendance was 18,219 per game (Oakland) which is 18% more than the Rays enjoyed.
  • In 2018, the Rays finished next-to-last in MLB in fans per game.  [The tanking Miami Marlins sank to the bottom in 2018 losing almost 50% of their attendance relative to 2017.]  Despite “climbing out of the basement” in terms of average attendance, the Rays average attendance still went down.  For the 2018 season they only drew 14,259 per game; that is a drop of 8% year-over-year when the basis for the drop was the lowest average attendance for the 2017 season.

Please note that the Rays’ drop in attendance in 2018 was not because the team was awful; the Rays won 90 games last year.  Having been to the Oakland Coliseum years ago to see a baseball game, I know firsthand that the stadium is a negative factor for the A’s regarding their perennially low attendance.  I have only driven past Tropicana Field – on my way to see the Yankees play in Spring Training – so I can only say that from the outside, Tropicana Field looks a whole lot better than does the Oakland facility.

Finally, here is a note pertinent to baseball in Florida from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“The Florida Marlins announced the signing of touted Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa.

“Team officials can’t decide whether to start him out playing in Walla Walla or Pago Pago.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “Baseball Business Today”

  1. From the inside Tropicana Field is not great, but it is not terrible either. The problem is the location. It is on the wrong side of Tampa Bay, a long drive for the fans, most whom live on the Tampa side of the bay. It is a problem that should have been foreseen easily.

    It should be noted, too, that fans in Florida are a bit more fickle than most. It doesn’t take much for them to lose interest in sports teams. Even the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminole football teams are not filling their buildings lately.

    1. Gil:

      To add to your point about Florida sports fans, the Jags and the Marlins have struggled with attendance for about 20 years now and the Bucs play to a few empty seats these days too. Maybe the problem is that there are too many enticing golf courses and beaches in Florida? 🙂

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