If the home team doesn’t win, I don’t care.

Someone from Major League Baseball finally spoke about the looming deal to provide DirecTV with exclusive rights to the Extra Innings package. In an Op/Ed in USA Today, Tim Brosnan, Major League Baseball’s executive vice president, business, had this to say in defense of whatever action Major League Baseball eventually announces.

We offer the following assurances to our fans: Any deal for the Major League Baseball’s Extra Innings subscription package, when concluded, will in no way affect a single fan’s ability to watch games of his home club in his home market. Major League Baseball will continue to make available on basic cable, satellite and broadcast television more games by far than any other sport (on average, more than 400 games per year are telecast in each market); a subscription package of out-of-market games will continue to be available to a broad segment of our fan base through either MLB Extra Innings or MLB.TV, its broadband counterpart.

There are two fundamental flaws in that paragraph. One reveals why MLB’s executives will make the right decision only if they’re lucky. The other is based on inaccurate marketing fluff.

Basically, MLB has no business acumen. It’s decision is based on justifying what it wants to do rather than doing what is justified. Mr. Brosnan states that the deal for Extra Innings “will in no way affect a single fan’s ability to watch games of his home club in his home market.” This is either ignorant or insulting. The issue is not about home clubs in home markets. MLB thinks the hardcore fans it courts with Extra Innings are merely locals who want more games. It is ignoring those fans who subscribe to Extra Innings to see their favorite team. I suspect that’s the majority of subscribers.

In my case, I subscribe to watch as many Phillies games as possible. I don’t care one bit about the Orioles or the Nationals, the two teams I’m supposed to focus on given my geographical location. I will not ask for forgiveness for developing a rooting passion that doesn’t involve a franchise that qualifies as a toddler or a franchise with a misguided superiority complex.

To Mr. Brosnan’s second claim, of course baseball broadcasts far more games than any other major sport. It plays at least twice as many games as every other sport. This is not a major feat. It’s certainly not something to brag about, given how easily commenter dianagram deflated the non-argument on USA Today’s Op/Ed blog:

Let’s do some math …. 162 games * 30 teams / 2 teams per game = 2430 possible games. You are therefore offering 1/6th of the total universe of games. The NFL offers 4 games per week on basic cable or major network (out of a possible 16 games). They therefore offer 1/4th of their total universe of games. What am I missing (I mean, BESIDES the 60 games a week on Extra Innings)?

Major League Baseball doesn’t understand its fan base. It’s too busy making decisions it thinks customers should want, decisions that comply with the strategy it hopes to pursue, while its best customers adamantly tell it that they want something else. To make this situation worse, MLB is dragging this out at a time when the focus should be on the field. Trading goodwill for a few dollars is bad long-term business.

USA Today’s opposing editorial can be found here.

MLB to fans: Go Eff Yourselves!

I could write a profanity-laden entry about this story, which is what I want to do. Even that wouldn’t begin to convey how angry I am at this move.

Major League Baseball is close to announcing a deal that will place its Extra Innings package of out-of-market games exclusively on DirecTV, which will also become the only carrier of a long-planned 24-hour baseball channel.

Extra Innings has been available to 75 million cable households and the two satellite services, DirecTV and the Dish Network. But the new agreement will take it off cable and Dish because DirecTV has agreed to pay $700 million over seven years, according to three executives briefed on the details of the contract but not authorized to speak about them publicly.

Where do I begin? I’ve been a baseball fan since I first started little league in the late 1970s. Through nearly three decades, I’ve followed the sport with a passion reserved exclusively to this one game. I ‘ve watched games when my choice was the Game of the Week on Saturday. Then we got TBS and the Braves. Then we got the Orioles. Then the Cubs and White Sox. With ESPN, we got a few games a week. Then Extra Innings came along, and instead of the Braves, Orioles, Cubs, and whatever random game involving the Yankees ESPN showed, we got the Braves, Orioles, Cubs, White Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Cardinals, Pirates, Giants, Mets, Angels, Tigers, and so on. I could watch (almost) any game every night of the week for six glorious months of the year.

And now Bud Selig and the Major League Baseball owners decided that a few million dollars for each team were worth selling out those of us who don’t subscribe to DirecTV.

I subscribe to cable because it suits suited my needs. I dutifully subscribe to the Extra Innings package every spring so that I can watch the Phillies throughout the summer. Living in the D.C. area, this is the only chance I get to see my team on a regular basis. Now, under this greedy, anti-fan move, I can choose between the Nationals, Orioles, Braves, Cubs, and White Sox. Notice that my Phillies are nowhere in that list. I assume Major League Baseball is indifferent.

I have little doubt that Major League Baseball will compare its decision to the NFL’s exclusive deal with DirecTV. The obvious difference was that the NFL was never on another service. Every time I moved, I knew that if I wanted the NFL package, I had to subscribe to DirecTV. Major League Baseball, on the other hand, is yanking a service it offered for years. Making me change technology hardware would be rude. Making me change the services I subscribe to is hostile. This is not progress, no matter how many extra pennies it might put into owner pockets. (Also, the NFL is appointment television because there are only 16 regular season games. Major League Baseball is every night of the summer.)

I’m not sure it will make money for DirecTV. The Extra Innings package had approximately 750,000 subscribers last year. Many of those undoubtedly subscribe via cable. Not all of them are going to switch. The price of the package last year on cable was $169, if I remember correctly. To recover $100 million per year, as well as whatever extra costs it will incur to carry high-def games, DirecTV will likely raise the price. How many of that now reduced subscriber base are so die-hard that they’re indifferent to price?

Looking beyond the basic economics, the nature of satellite versus cable is a bad harbinger for the deal. What if a customer doesn’t subscribe to DirecTV and doesn’t want to switch? Too bad. What if that customer lives in an apartment or a house with an obstructed southern view? Again, too bad. But all is not lost, Major League Baseball will say. That customer can still watch the same games on The Internets, in a small pop-up window on a computer. Watching a clip on YouTube is significantly different than watching a 3-hour game in a window the same size. This will not end well.

Major League Baseball is free to make whatever decisions it wants. I don’t have to like it, and I can certainly call bullshit on its stupidity. In the same way I don’t receive baseball radio broadcasts because I prefer Sirius over XM, I’m now screwed because I prefer cable over DirecTV. Making 162 games a premium purchase is an obscene abuse of common sense. But that’s what we’ve come to expect of Bud Selig, isn’t it? He failed to kill the sport in the ’90s, but he’s finally on the right path.

(Source: Baseball Musings)

Sports is a business.

First, with the Phillies’ recent acquisition of starting pitcher Freddy Garcia, we the team now has one too many starters. With many teams in need of a proven starter, a trade will occur before spring training. The odd man out is Jon Lieber, but that’s not what’s important. This quote from Phillies assistant GM Mike Arbuckle explains how to operate in a market.

“If we’re sending Christmas gifts to starting pitchers, we’ll probably only have to send out five,” he said with a laugh. “But we’ll let numerous teams come to us and see what the best offer is. Supply and demand may work in our favor.”

Bud Selig and the other owners in Major League Baseball talk a lot about parity, which can be seen as little more than talent redistribution when carried to the extreme. Yet, it doesn’t work out that way. Some teams seem to build talent in excess of what they need.

In this case, the Phillies and starting pitchers. Would it make sense for Major League Baseball to take one of the Phillies’ pitchers and give him to the Devil Rays, for example, because they need starters? Of course not. The Devil Rays, and every other team, are left to extract that player from the Phillies in exchange for another player. As any reasonable person could predict, the Philadelphia will try to improve its roster (demand) by offering a starter (excess supply). This is logical, so why do so many in our government feel that this does not apply to every other situation in economics?

Next, Senator Arlen Spector has interesting opinions about the NFL and its collectivist bargaining of television rights. Consider:

Whatever his motivation, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., claimed at the end of a Thursday hearing that he will sponsor legislation to strip the NFL of the antitrust exemption that permits the league to negotiate its television contracts for all 32 franchises, rather than have the teams do so individually.

“Wouldn’t consumers be better off if teams could negotiate [individually]?” Specter said. “This is the NFL exerting its power right down to the last nickel.”


Specter said the NFL should not use the exemption to negotiate exclusive programming packages such as DirectTV Inc.’s “Sunday Ticket,” which allows viewers to watch teams outside their regional market.

“As I look at what the NFL is doing today with the NFL channel with the DirectTV … a lot of people, including myself, would like to be able to have that ticket,” Specter said.

Among the grievances cited by Specter in what he termed a “fans be damned” mentality demonstrated by the NFL was the relocation of franchises, and decisions like the one that moved Monday Night Football from ABC, an over-the-air network broadcaster, to ESPN, a cable entity.

Using Sen. Spector’s logic, couldn’t individuals better negotiate wage contracts with employers tailored to meet their own needs? Perhaps collective bargaining is a great benefit for those involved. Perhaps not. But those involved should decide how they best wish to negotiate, free of government intervention or protection. The NFL’s structure is a voluntary club in which individuals and corporations transact with known rules. This is not the problem.

I could get behind Sen. Spector’s sabre-rattling about antitrust exemptions, but he’s attacking the wrong beast. He apparently can’t fathom the idea that the government should have little role in the operation of business. Remove/reduce the concept of antitrust and this matter goes away. Sen. Spector doesn’t want that; he is a politician, after all. But he seems to believe that being a football fan also entitles him to manipulate a market because he’d rather get the NFL and DirectTV’s combined product without having to include DirectTV. No. Subscribe to DirectTV or don’t, but leave the government out of it.

On Sen. Spector’s last point, what would he propose regarding Monday Night Football? That ABC receive a monopoly on broadcasting that, even if someone else (ESPN, like ABC, owned by Disney) is willing to pay more? I don’t recall reading anything about a fundamental right to free broadcasts of the NFL in the Constitution.

Finally, the Orioles are getting a new JumboTron, except they don’t want it. They’re not paying for it, so they want a bigger JumboTron.

The Maryland Stadium Authority agreed yesterday to move forward with the purchase of a new Mitsubishi video screen for Camden Yards despite objections from the Orioles.

Orioles officials say the DiamondVision screen is too small and technologically inadequate and plan to file a temporary restraining order in Baltimore Circuit Court today to block the $1.5 million purchase. The restraining order would give the Orioles time to move the dispute to arbitration as is called for in the team’s lease for the stadium.

On the surface, this is little more than a contract dispute. It should be decided as such given the constraints of reality. It’s possible to accept the facts while rejecting the assumptions. The taxpayers of Maryland should not be forced to subsidize the purchase of a bigger video screen for a private business.

Major League Baseball and the NFL are businesses and should be treated as such. Politicians who interfere *cough*Tom Davis*cough*, for whatever reason, are anti-capitalists trying to break fundamental laws of economics. They should not be tolerated.

Hat tip to Baseball Musings for the last item.

“It’s simply beyond words. It’s incalculable.”¹

I love “name the team” contests. This time, the Phillies were involved, as their AAA team is moving from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pa. to Allentown, Pa. in 2008. The new team name, when it begins play? The Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

It’s being roundly booed throughout the Phillies phlogosphere, which is not so surprising. The name IS a little stupid. But, and this is coming from someone who proudly owns a Batavia Muckdogs t-shirt, I absolutely cannot wait until I can buy an IronPigs t-shirt. I’m positively giddy at the prospect. I know that marketing to nimrods like me is a primary reason for these “name the team” contests, but I don’t care.

Say it with me: Go IronPigs!

¹ I mentioned Scranton, so what would this post be without a quote from The Office.

Remembering Cory Lidle

I had another entry written about the plane crash into an apartment building in New York today, but I’m not going to post it now. Critiquing a few government terrorism quotes can wait.

Cory Lidle, the plane’s pilot, played for the Phillies until July 30th. As a phan I watched him pitch during the last couple of years, and grew to appreciate his game. He was never flashy or overwhelming on the mound, but every time he pitched, everyone knew the outcome before the game. He’d inevitably make a quality start, which is six innings or more with three or fewer earned runs. Generally that meant exactly six innings and three runs. He’d win some and lose some that way, as it’s not dominant, but he almost always kept his team in the game. He was a solid pitcher.

I last saw him pitch against the Blue Jays in Toronto on July 1st. I joked ahead of time that he’d give up three runs in six innings. Through five, he’d pitched a shutout, and I was “worried” that I wouldn’t be prophetic. Lidle didn’t disappoint. With one out, he gave up two quick home runs to plate three runs. He took care of the final two batters with ease. Six innings, three runs. He was automatic. It might seem like I’m putting him down, but I intend that as a compliment. Baseball is a game of uncertainty. That little extra certainty lets his teammates know what they need to accomplish.

He didn’t leave Philadelphia on the best terms, but I never cared about the politics of his team dynamic with the Phillies. That was for those directly involved to worry about. As a phan, I could only value what happened on the field. I liked him enough given his performance that I’d hoped the Phillies could keep him. (He would’ve been a free agent after the World Series.) Brian Cashman, General Manager of the Yankees, demanded Lidle to complete the trade for Bobby Abreu with the Phillies. Needing to trade Abreu for salary reasons, the Phillies agreed. That, I think, speaks most about his abilities.

More thoughts at Beer Leaguer and Balls, Sticks, & Stuff