NEW YORK – “Let’s Make a Deal.”
Each December, the good and thoroughly competent people of the Sports Business Journal/Sports Business Daily stage one of the better industry think tank conferences, known as “DEALMAKERS.” This past week, a collection of entrepreneurs, bankers, private equity barracudas, venture cap vultures and league/team/agency work-horses took a day from their busy work lives to attend the sports conference at the Westin New York (Times Square).
When members of the attending audience are “connected” just as much as the panelists, you know you’ve arrived at the right place for sports 411, and that was the case this past Wednesday. One of the panelists, batting lead-off nonetheless, was Chicago Cubs team owner Tom Ricketts, who sat down with Joe Leccese, Chair and Co-Head of the Sports Law Group at the Proskauer law firm.
One of the most newsworthy topics was the decision by the collective MLB hierarchy to eliminate approximately 42 minor league baseball teams, a topic that even made its way to the agenda of Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ docket. Quite methodically, Ricketts took our group through a bevy of reasons the MiLB decision was quite sound in business strategy and in player development.
“What was decided was to not do the short season, which is if you draft a guy in June, put him into a short season from July to the middle of September,” explained the Cubs’ franchise guru, noting it was smarter to let the player go to the “Instructional Leagues” and benefit from those training facilities and the best baseball teachers in terms of player development.
“That’s 30 teams,” he said. “Then, there were a handful of teams that just don’t maintain the standards. “they just don’t maintain the standards of the way players should be treated and teams that aren’t investing in the ballparks. You’re also eliminating the 14-hour bus rides and overall, we’re treating our players better. So, it’s just part of the evolution of how we do business.”
In addition to Ricketts, the NBA’s (now) veteran Commissioner Adam Silver spoke to the assembled audience which included his former boss in David Stern, who was with his parter John Kosner, the braintrust behind Micromanagement Ventures, a new sports-and-tech focused venture firm. Silver had his patented but always enlightening discussion with SBJ/SBD Publisher and Executive Editor Abe Madkour and it will highlight the While We’re Young (Ideas) column next week.
Here Now, The Notes: With the calendar pages turning through December, there’s been a flurry of trades and other transactions in Major League Baseball. Thus, our need to spread some Diamond Dust each week. … The Chicago Cubs cut bait on 2B Addison Russell, a season after he served a 40-game suspension for domestic violence issues. … Russell has been a controversial figure over the past 15 months after violating Major League Baseball’s domestic abuse policies. His conduct became known when now ex-wife Melisa Reidy detailed allegations of physical, mental and emotional abuse on her blog in September 2018. … Russell served a 40-game suspension — including the first 28 games of the 2019 season — for the violation. … with the fact the Cubs did not tender a contract, Russell is now a free agent. … The Cincinnati Reds signed free agent infielder Mike Moustakas agreed to a four-year, $64 million contract, noted multiple media outlets early this week. Moustakas, 31, batted .254 with 35 homers and 87 RBIs in 143 games with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019. He made the All-Star team for the third time. According to reports, the Reds play to play the long-time third baseman at second base. … Moustakas was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft and played his first seven-plus seasons with the Royals, earning All-Star honors in 2015 and 2017 and helping Kansas City win the World Series in 2015. The Royals traded him to the Brewers in July 2018. … The Miami Marlins acquired two infielders, claiming first baseman Jesus Aguilar off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays and adding second baseman/shortstop Jonathan Villar from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for left-handed pitcher Easton Lucas. … Aguilar, 29, split last season between the Brewers and Rays, a year after he was an All-Star for Milwaukee. He hit a combined .236/.325/.389 with 12 homers and 50 RBIs in 131 games this year. … Villar, 28, played in all 162 for Baltimore this year, hitting .274/.339/.453 with 24 homers, 73 RBIs and 40 steals. … The San Diego Padres acquired 2B Jurickson Profar from the Oakland A’s for catcher Austin Allen and a player to be named later. … Profar, 26, is entering his final season of arbitration and was a non-tender candidate for Oakland, which is looking at a payroll crunch for 2020. He has been projected to earn $5.8 million next season. … Profar hit .218 with 20 home runs and 67 RBIs in 139 games last season.
Minnesota Twins slugger Nelson Cruz was named the winner of the 2019 Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award. Jorge Soler of the Kansas City Royals finished second in the voting. … The 39-year-old Cruz batted .311 with 41 homers and 108 RBIs in 120 games this season as he helped the Twins claim the American League Central division title. The six-time All-Star led AL designated hitters in runs, hits, total bases, home runs, RBIs, batting average and slugging percentage. … At MLB’s deadline for 2020 contract tenders, a number of players weren’t given contract offers, making them free agents. According to MLB.com, some of the notable players include the following (with their former teams listed):
RHP Blake Treinen and C Josh Phegley (Oakland A’s), 3B Maikel Franco and 2B Cesar Hernandez (Philadelphia Phillies), OF Kevin Pillar (San Francisco Giants), 2B Yolmer Sanchez (Chicago White Sox), RHP Aaron Sanchez (Houston Astros), SS Tim Beckham (Seattle Mariners), 1B C.J. Cron (Minnesota Twins), UT Charlie Culberson (Atlanta Braves), OF Guillermo Heredia (Tampa Bay Rays) and C Kevin Plawecki (Cleveland Indians).
Treinen, 31, was an All-Star in 2018, when he posted 38 saves in 43 chances and had a 0.78 ERA. This past season, he had a 4.91 ERA while going 16-for-21 on save opportunities. … Yolmer Sanchez, 27, won a Gold Glove this year, but he hit just .252/.318/.321 with two homers and 43 RBIs.
Random Thoughts: How about the “Get Smarter” AmeriTrade commercial? … Shouldn’t there be some high-tech “Laser Melter” instead of shoveling or blowing snow? … As a solid two-feet of snow hit Central New York State, how many Syracuse freshman thought twice about their decision to play for the Orange? … With controversy surrounding the Georgetown basketball program, CBB columnist Jeff Goodman posed the question, in defense of Patrick Ewing‘s job for the Hoyas, “Name 20 better basketball “jobs” than Georgetown. The replies on his Twitter feed were numerous. Name 20 programs better than GTown was the challenge: So, we did – in no particular order:
Honorable Mention would be: Wisconsin, Northwestern, Hawaii (yeah, a little nicer than DC), Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cal, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt – not that we’re down on Georgetown or anything. (Note: There are NO New York, Chicago or Boston gigs and ‘Nova is the only Philly school listed, and Northwestern the only school close to Chi-town. So much for the big time basketball Meccas).
Digital Sports Desk posts a once-a-week Sunday Notes column, entitled: “While We’re Young Ideas.” It’s a throwback of sorts to the days when sportswriting and the baseball beat were the best jobs in the entire sports industry, maybe the entire world. One of those sportswriters was named Dick Young and he wrote “Young Ideas” with a “Diamond Dust” section for notes and quotes. … We welcome feedback and suggestions (psst, they call ’em pitches) for mentions within “While We’re Young Ideas” or Digital Sports Desk. Please follow and encourage (at least) another person or two to plug into (@DigSportsDesk) (@WhileYoungIdeas) and (@terrylyons).