Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Baseball's "Old School" Defended

During my lunch break today, I had occasion to do a bit of internet surfing. And one of the places my surfboard came to rest was this article by Nate Scott who pens for USA Today. The thrust of the article--if you don't have time to click on the link-- is he thinks some of the old unwritten rules of the game of baseball are stupid. You know, the accepted brush back pitch, not showing up the other team, hot-dogging, etc.

Mr. Scott points to an incident in the blowout of the Yankees by the Astros Tuesday night. Carlos Gomez of the Astros, with his team already leading by a 9-0 score, just misses a Chris Capuano pitch to the point of producing a routine fly ball. Capuano then flips his bat toward his own dugout and mutters something. Some of the Yankees yell at Gomez, including manager Joe Girardi, and afterwards claim that Gomez should "play the game the right way". Gomez yells back, and...well...boys will be boys ensues.

Scott says this and other "internal policing" rules should go the way of the dinosaur. And somehow he totally whiffs on the fact that Gomez is a known hot dog in the sport who is always searching for the spotlight. He also doesn't seem to get that when Gomez, with his team leading big, curses himself and flips his bat he is not berating himself as much as he is showing up the pitcher...in effect saying "That bum threw me a pitch I should have hit to Portugal...and I missed it." Does Gomez consider what his actions say to the pitcher and the crowd? Of course not.

If this childish and self aggrandizing behavior isn't pointed out and halted by the players themselves, guess what? It doesn't get halted at all. Then soon we will have to put up with the same kind of ridiculous and me-first behavior we see in NFL football on a weekly basis. Make a tackle...stomp around the field, pound your chest, huff, puff, and and let out a primal scream. Run for ten yards...and act like you've won the game single-handedly in the first quarter. We see enough of the baseball diva behavior the way it is without allowing it to blossom into the whole show like the NFL does.

Mr. Scott, who is quick to call out what he deems an "old fogy" mentality, even goes so far as to say that the Gomez behavior should be considered a "good thing" in that he is still competing in a blowout. I guess that a 9-0 lead in a team sport isn't good enough? The player should also show that he is ready and anxious to "pile on" no matter how it makes the opposing players or fans feel? Again..it's all about me with today's players and gentlemanly play is "old fogy" stuff.

Maybe today's players, and writers, would do well to re-visit the sport as it was played by the gentlemen of the 19th and early 20th century; we might all appreciate the individuals playing it more.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

NEW Stan/NFL Thoughts

Well...at the very uncomfortable, for St. Louis football fans, Rams/Cowboys practice in Oxnard yesterday, we were treated to the new look. Stan Kroenke has obviously decided to forgo the hair color and present himself au naturel. Stan, we hardly recognized ye.

The Mysterious One was cavorting with his NFL owner-buddy Jerry Jones at the joint practice...each sporting the ball cap of their respective teams. But we were used to the look from Jones, not so much from Silent Stan. Maybe it was time to reveal the "new Stan" for the fans who will be seeing him the most after the coming season? Whatever. Most have been less than impressed with his public image skills. The SoCal media will have a field day with the guy if he repeats his performance of here in the Midwest. Of course, he will buy an extended honeymoon if he moves the male sheep franchise back to San Andreas fault territory.
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As to the significance of any comments coming from either Jones or Kroenke, it was a "no comment day" for Stan, other than the fact that he actually showed up at a Rams practice. Of course he rarely even bothers when the team suits up in The Lou.

Jones, on the other hand, was more than ready to support the effort to get a team to SoCal. And it sure sounded like he preferred it to be Stan and his Rams. He was politically correct enough to allow for the possibility that the Chargers/Raiders effort is a strong one, but didn't hold back in support of good ol' Stan as being the kind of people you want to associate with and see succeed. Jones also declined to say anything in support of the St. Louis stadium efforts. Essentially, that was his "no comment" moment...and that says something.
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The esteemed Jeff Gordon of the Post-Dispatch writes this morning that the best-case plan for cleaning up the growing Los Angeles NFL mess would be for Stan to form a partnership with Dean Spanos of the Chargers (right) to co-inhabit the new Inglewood digs Stan is planning. According to the writings of Sam Farmer of the L.A. Times, both Spanos and Kroenke can block one another when it comes to re-location approval of the ownership in a vote. So eliminating that roadblock with a partnership would be the quickest and least costly approach to their mutual re-location interests. Of course, should that happen the poor Raiders will be left swinging in the Oakland breeze and looking for a solution on their own.
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It has been suggested to me that an expansion team might be the best option in all of this for St. Louis and a new stadium on the riverfront. Scott Wuerz, who puts down his professional thoughts
for the Belleville News-Democrat, suggests that if the league is serious about expansion into a foreign market (London? Mexico City?) that they go ahead and do it and include an expansion team at the same time for St. Louis. You'll remember that St. Louis was snubbed, says Wuerz, in the expansion process before when Jacksonville came into the league. This would right that wrong. However counting on the NFL owners to do the honorable thing by St. Louis can be dangerous place to stand. We would have to hope that Dave Peacock works some sort of guaranteed return, a la an expansion team, for building a stadium even if Stan's SoCal dreams are realized.

If the expansion approach takes flight with the owners, the Inglewood Rams could be re-aligned with western teams in a division on the Pacific coast and the new St. Louis "Archers" (I never liked that one) could play in a more time-zone friendly division.

Obviously, there are a lot of moving (pun intended) targets in this shooting gallery. Buckle your seat belts football fans, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Broncos Scenario Still In Play

I was reminded after my most recent post about the Rams/stadium situation that I had written about a possible "franchise trade" scenario back in January. While it will take some doing, and the facts have changed somewhat since, it still seems like the cleanest option from a St. Louis perspective.

In doing a little nosing around on the net, I find that the NFL is asking the decision makers in the Denver Broncos ownership situation (three trustees) to come up with a lead owner from Pat Bowlen's children in 2016 or sell the team. Whether any of the kids is interested, or has the wherewithal to actually step into the lead owner role is the question. This was the thrust, with many details, of a Denver Post story published last September.

So...The NFL could propose to Silent Stan Kroenke that he back off of his efforts in Inglewood, or just be a landlord, to satisfy the league's cross-ownership rules by agreeing to a trade of franchises...the Rams for the Broncos. In this scenario the Rams would stay in St. Louis to play in the new stadium (assuming it gets done) and the "mysterious one" would take over the Broncos to complete his holdings in Denver. He already owns the NBA-Nuggets and NHL-Avalanche there. Then the NFL would give the go-ahead to the Chargers and Raiders to build their new digs in Carson, or force a reasonable lease agreement for them from Stan in Inglewood.

Obviously, if the Rams stay in St. Louis this plan would require a new owner/owners for the team. Who might that be? My instinct here is that the Dave Peacock/Bob Blitz/Jay Nixon brain-trust has already been coached by the NFL brass to come up with an answer to that question.

Would Mr. Peacock have some friends with the necessary available funds to step up to that plate? Peacock himself has considerable wealth and benefited greatly in recent years as CEO of the AB part of AB-InBev. At least one estimate of his worth (who knows how accurate?) that I found puts him somewhere in the $27 million range. So he would need to put together several extremely-moneyed friends to be able to operate an NFL team. Are there people in St. Louis, or the region, who could do that? Sure. The Blues operate now with such a consortium of the area's wealthy.

The ticket is much pricier in NFL ownership though, so Mr. Peacock had better be talking to the big-time heavy hitters if that is going to happen. I'm sure that all of these scenarios have been put out there in the high-level meetings we keep hearing about, not to mention the scads of video conferences and phone meetings that no doubt are happening every day on this front. It's what people of money do..conduct and participate in meetings. For those of us who care about the future of the NFL in St. Louis, we're counting on Mr. Peacock to be the most persuasive participant in them.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Rams Scenarios Not Pretty

There's no way to stop Stan Kroenke from taking the Rams to L.A. If he really wants to, he will. You know by now he really wants to.

We all know he's smart enough to have thought about all the possible scenarios before he put tons of his dollars into the Inglewood site. Do we really think that he'd be this far along with the Inglewood entertainment complex without considering all possible outcomes?

One of those scenarios is-- The league denies his relocation application...the worst that could happen from his standpoint. Then what? Does he operate a team in a market where he has totally alienated the fan base?...where casual fans will be much more likely to stay at home to watch the games on TV than buy a ticket...for years to come? Forgiveness of such an owner doesn't come quickly here in the Midwest. Not gonna happen. He has already thought that through and will spend whatever money it takes to fight the league and his fellow owners in court. He will call the moving vans and the team will become the Los Angeles Rams again anyway. We have plenty of evidence already that he has given up on St. Louis as his market of choice.


Even if the league prefers the Carson/Chargers/Raiders stadium plan, if Stan thinks he can get his team operating in Los Angeles before that project is underway, he'll do it. That would force the league owners to decide whether to approve the Chargers/Raiders stadium plan with Stan already there. Would they? Doubtful.

That's where things could get really messy because they don't want a 3-team L.A. market. Would the other owners disenfranchise Stan and take away his official membership in the league? Could there be a trade of franchises worked out to satisfy everyone? There are many other possibilities, none of which come into play unless the new stadium in St. Louis gets approval and is built.

If it all goes Stan's way, does St. Louis lose its second NFL franchise in 30 years? Obviously, the answer is yes. The best-case scenario then would be that it's only temporarily.

If Commissioner Goodell and Stan's fellow owners have an ounce of integrity, they will make some type of deal with the Dave Peacock team and the fans of this market to locate a team here. Again, that's if the Nixon task force is successful in getting the stadium built. If St. Louis gets a team sooner or later would then be the question. If such a deal is made, and the L.A. Rams are back in business, who do St. Louisans get to be excited about?

Could it be the Raiders? Apparently not under the current ownership, from what Mark Davis has said publicly. "No interest in operating in St. Louis". You have to take him at his word, although he's in the business of supporting the Carson project at this point.

Could it be the Jaguars? Shahid Khan-the Midwest guy to the right- doesn't appear to be pining for an opportunity in St. Louis, although he put in that bid for the Rams a few years back. I'm sure the league would prefer a team in the 21st television market rather than the 47th. But in comments after Tuesday's presentations in Chicago, Khan seems to have moved on from his St. Louis desires. He gives the impression of being happy with the situation in Florida. Or he is playing it coy.

Are there any other existing smaller market teams/owners that might enjoy a new, riverfront palace in St. Louis in which to rake in dollars? Questionable. Cincinnati, Buffalo, KC, Green Bay, Tennessee, and a few others are in lesser-populated markets, but all have strongly-established brands and fan bases in them. And none have, for public consumption, groused about a stadium situation like the California teams. So you wouldn't expect a rush to fill the void in St. Louis.

A market move for an existing team would be complicated and drawn-out. And any such application for market transfer would take years. So we would likely be facing a similar situation time-wise to what St. Louis had after the Bidwill/Cardinals move to Phoenix. The key in that situation would be to have a hard-and-fast commitment from the NFL that a team would be located in St. Louis if the stadium gets built. And is that even a possibility? Expansion? Are we ready for more years of losing?

If you are one who believes that St. Louis football fans will come out of this OK, I'd like to hear your argument. If you don't care, I understand. If you are against providing an NFL owner with a single dollar of public money, I get that too. But if you are interested in the NFL still calling the Gateway City one of its homes, the picture doesn't look like it's shaping up all that well from where I sit. Remember Silent Stan has the money to call his shot.

The next key date on the calendar is October 6/7 when the Peacock team updates the stadium plan for the owners. Owner/league reaction after that should go a long way toward clarifying the possibility of pro football being a part of the St. Louis self-image for the next few decades.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New Blues Arena?

So let me see here? The leaders of St. Louis, (starting with Missouri's Governor) have deemed it necessary to build a new outdoor stadium next to the mighty Mississippi, to the tune of almost a billion dollars. This, in order to keep an NFL team playing here. (And, okay, maybe...possibly get a pro soccer franchise too.) The current stadium, the Edward Jones Dome completed in 1995, was part of a massive local effort to lure the Rams to St. Louis. I've got that all right, don't I?

The Jones Dome is now, for numerous reasons which most of us know, judged unworthy to continue as the market's pro football venue. So prominent citizens are put in place to avert the tragedy of losing another NFL franchise to some other city. Presumably, if this effort is successful, the ownership of that NFL team (Rams or otherwise) will be gifted with another sweeter-than-sweet deal to generate riches in the new facility.

Meanwhile, a local ownership group operates a professional sports franchise that plays in another facility in town...the Scottrade (originally Kiel, and then Savvis) Center. And, guess what? That building opened in October of 1994....before the Dome.

No...nobody is complaining about the atmosphere or amenities at Scottrade...yet. But it is getting older. It isn't offering some of the glitz and glamour of other indoor facilities hosting hockey, basketball and concerts these days. It certainly requires a heavy investment in maintenance that newer buildings do not. And those local owners need to pony up for that operational expense. Frank Viverito and the St. Louis Sports Commission folks could probably tell you that Scotty is getting harder to sell to those (like the NCAA) when they pitch St. Louis for events.

I can speak personally to the antiquated nature of the building's audio/video operation. One can take a short drive to Kansas City to see how much of an upgrade a new building with the latest features would provide. Fans who witness a game played at the Sprint Center (where the Blues played, and I announced for,
a pre-season game in September) are treated to all the newest bells and whistles. And, oh by the way, a KC group has been trying to land a hockey team to play in that market for a couple of decades. They really, really want a team.

I don't know if it crosses Blues lead owner Tom Stillman's mind every day, but I'm sure by now he must have thought that if Stan Kroenke can threaten to move the Rams to Los Angeles and get this sort of panicked and concerted reaction, should he do the same? What would happen if Stillman's team were to finally win the Stanley Cup for this hungry fan base...only to have him hint at relocating the team to K.C., or somewhere else? Or, even worse, sell it because the ownership can't, or won't, sustain operations. Would there be the kind of rallying by state and city leaders that we're seeing now?

The argument could be made that the Blues are just as important a civic asset as the Rams. The Note certainly has a longer history in the Gateway City, and there is no more fervent and loyal fan base. The Blues have 50 or so home dates per season that bring people into downtown St. Louis, a place in sore need of a more vital business and entertainment environment. The Rams play 10 home games per season. Who has the greater impact there?

Scottrade Center does not need to be replaced. But it certainly will sooner than later unless investment in the facility is made sometime soon. The Blues owners could use a better operating agreement with the city to help make such an investment happen. The building needs a more up-to-date operational infrastructure, and a good-and-thorough interior remodeling. Plus, it would just be nice to see some civic and state gratitude in an outward display (tax relief/rebates?) like we're seeing for the sake of pro football.

There are some considerable and prominent St. Louisans invested in the long-term success of the Blues in the ownership group. I'm sure they are observing the NFL stadium organizing frenzy, and the financing fury being mounted that would benefit one of the wealthiest owners in pro sports, with keen interest.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Strategy for Goodell

Since nobody is able to talk to the monastic Stan Kroenke, and only God knows his strategy for someone inhabiting the proposed stadium in Inglewood, here's a scenario that we think just might work for all concerned.

Kroenke has apparently been quoted as saying the L.A. project is a "real estate deal". He is a real estate mogul. And.. who knows?.. he may be trying to cash in on whatever team the NFL decides is OK to play there. The stadium situation in L.A., as is well documented, is confused with other proposed stadiums going nowhere fast and no teams in sight. At least Kroenke has managed to get land and come forth with a stadium plan that appears would work. Once his edifice starts going up in Inglewood, he will have clarified the stadium issue for the NFL, even if the Commissioner and the other owners are uncomfortable with it. (Reports have San Diego ownership ready to sue to keep Stan and the Rams out of LA).

We would propose a simple plan to satisfy everyone involved to a reasonable degree. It would require serious commitment and lots of delicate negotiating from the man charged with keeping peace among the rich folks who own NFL teams. It goes as follows...

The NFL gives its blessing to Kroenke's Inglewood stadium project if he agrees to the following-

1) The NFL would negotiate with the Denver Broncos ownership the sale/transfer of that franchise to Kroenke. (essentially a trade of teams)  Kroenke agrees to keep the Broncos in Denver. Kroenke will be "landlord" of the Inglewood stadium in partnership with the NFL. 
  • The Broncos ownership situation is a bit tenuous because of the failing mental health of majority owner Pat Bowlen. Bowlen (right) was removed from decision making in 2014 because of his battle with Alzheimer's. There have been rumors that the Broncos may be sold sometime soon anyway. 
  • Silent Stan's other teams (NBA Nuggets, NHL Avalanche) are in Denver and we presume Kroenke wouldn't mind having most of his family's pro sports assets in that market. It would, on paper, be an NFL upgrade for Stan in market size, tradition, and recent success. 
  • We would assume those currently working for the Broncos wouldn't mind having the second richest owner in the NFL. 
  • Kroenke has yet to satisfy the NFL's rules for cross-ownership. If he were to own the Broncos, it would become a non-issue and couldn't be leveraged against him anymore. 
2) The NFL takes control of the Rams, temporarily, until new ownership can be vetted and approved. 
  • This would be dependent on the announced riverfront stadium plans going forward. The Dave Peacock/Bob Blitz team would need to get quickly to a point at which the NFL and it's owners are comfortable that St. Louis will remain "NFL-worthy". A reasonable deadline for that would be agreed upon. 
  • If the St. Louis new stadium efforts fall short, or apart, the NFL would be free to find a new home for the Rams. We would assume they could come to some agreement with Kroenke for the use of his Inglewood digs. 
  • If the league decides the Chargers or Raiders are also to be an LA-based operation, they then could have two teams work out of the Inglewood stadium (a la the Jets and Giants in NY). 
That's obviously more than a two-step process. But it identifies the two major accomplishments for the league, Kroenke and St. Louis to make everything workable. It would be a big job for Commissioner Roger Goodell's office, for sure. Particularly the Denver transfer. But that's why he gets paid the large bucks. Right?

With the league taking control of the Rams, the "lame-duck, who cares" 2015 season would be much more likely to actually sell some tickets for games at the poor-old Jones dome. As is, nobody will want to put money in "Stan-the-Van"'s (as in moving) pockets. 

Of course, if Kroenke has a different plan in mind, and an "I'll do what I want" attitude about it, then you can throw this idea out with the recycling; and the league will have much bigger fish to fry. We'll all find out what his thinking is some day in the next few years. Until then, we can only guess...just like his fellow team owners. But here's a blueprint for Mr. Goodell to work from in the meantime, free of charge. Let's see if his stable of attorneys go to work on it. 

Monday, January 05, 2015

Response to SoCal Stan

And we all thought it was a good thing when Stan Kroenke took control of the Rams after Georgia died. It appeared he was a Missourian.

If Kroenke wants an NFL team to play closer to his Malibu home, I say fine. But I would suggest he doesn't get to keep his current team. Follow me on this.

The other 31 NFL owners, and Commissioner Roger Goodell, (who will eventually have to sign off on whatever happens) certainly understand some basics about this situation. Namely;

  • That an NFL team in Los Angeles will happen again in the near future
  • That the Rams used to play there (which makes them more attractive as that new L.A. team) 
  • That Kroenke has the financial wherewithal to do whatever he wants, but not their guaranteed approval
  • That St. Louis has demonstrated that it is a good football market (certainly at least as good as several others currently operating) with a problematic stadium
  • That Kroenke is ready to abandon a fan base in St. Louis in an effort to seize control of the "NFL Los Angeles scramble". 
  • That Kroenke has not satisfied the cross-ownership guidelines for NFL owners (which currently allows him to operate in St. Louis while he owns an NHL and NBA team in Denver)
  • That Kroenke's announced Inglewood stadium creates an ugly PR situation at the NFL office; and doesn't help them in dealing with Dave Peacock, Bob Blitz and those attempting to resolve the St. Louis stadium situation. 
  • That Kroenke is first and foremost a businessman; and is used to playing hardball to get what he wants.  
Leverage...it's all about leverage.

Given the current landscape, I would suggest that the Commissioner consider this solution.

  • Add two NFL teams (they've talked expansion anyway). One in L.A. and one in San Antonio. 
  • Let Kroenke have the new expansion team in L.A. (he could even call them the Rams) 
  • Find a new owner for the current St. Louis team (hopefully someone who outwardly cares about the city and fans), 
    • This would be predicated on St. Louis coming up with a worthy stadium solution.  
    • St. Louis fans have shown amazing loyalty to a lousy team and shouldn't have to deal with an expansion team's issues for the next decade.
  • Find an owner for the San Antonio team...(There's lots of money to go around in Texas) 
Obviously, there would be collateral issues to deal with, but this would be a starting point. If Goodell is convinced that the St. Louis stadium people are coming to the table with a reasonable solution, and Kroenke's LA stadium proposal is simply an effort to improve his leverage, then Goodell, and the other 31 owners, could give Stan a "chill pill" with the announcement of such a plan (or at least leak the possibility); and while they're at it express an intention to make him fix the cross-ownership issue...or else. 

The fans in St. Louis deserve better...both on the field...and at the ownership level. Goodell should now come forth with some response that shows he knows this to be true.