4 days until Triple A Opening Day. Unfortunately the Lynx have to compete with the Sens for attention that evening and the weather forecast looks bleak. If the weather was good and the Sens were off I thought it might act as a barometer on the level of Lynx nostalgia in the region this season. I am predicting that there will be a noticable bump in attendance this year as fans who abandoned the product many years ago return for one or two last games.
From SBJ March 19 -25 edition - "The Lehigh Valley IronPigs and Coca-Cola of the Lehigh Valley reached an agreement for the naming rights of the IronPigs baseball stadium.........The IronPigs, set to begin play next year, will be the Class AAA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies." Business is good for Minor League ball south of the border. The IronPigs are an example. How's Coke for a Corporate partner? They ain't minor league. As I discussed at Media Day with John Russell and Rod Nichols, this is a glory era for minor league ball in the US ( well all pro ball, MLB & Indy as well), great new facilities across all levels and record attendance. What a contrast to our country where Professional baseball has collapsed. Expos, enough said. Triple A has left Vancouver, Edmonton & Calgary. Medicine Hat had a low minors team, London was the Double A affilitate of the Tigers for some time. Now Vancouver has Short Season and Edmonton & Calgary are Indy / Northern League cities. The only city that bucks the trend is Winnipeg where Mayor Sam Katz's Goldeyes are one of the strongest franchises in the League. ( I've been to Winnipeg - albeit in November - and the only city in this country that I think worse is Sudbury.) I am at a loss to explain it, and not in some baseball chauvinist manner. Baseball fans in Canada as well as south of the border are predominantly ( the increasing Hispanic US population like baseball also ) like me, white, middle aged, middle class, middle of the road yada yada. I don't understand why my peers lost interest, the game hasn't changed fundamentally. The reason I'm always given by former baseball fans is that the 94 strike ruined it for them. Yet I look at the popularity of the NHL in our country and it is obvious that none of the hockey fans ( many who are former casual baseball fans ) give a shit about the lost NHL season of 04 - 05 ( do I have the right season?). I digress.
I saw a headline on the Lynx website that they are going trans fat free this season. I'm more in tune with the Dodgers new promotion this season, the all you can eat, all friggin game, all inclusive, all gross out, all in, alright, all, all, all section.
The 05 Lynx had a player test positive for something...we'll probably never know what. One of the Lynx best players in 05, 2nd baseman Bernie Castro, "is serving a 15-game suspension for violating the minor league drug policy in 2005"....He played at Triple-A Ottawa in the Orioles' organization in 2005 and also spent time with Baltimore that year." ( April 06 AP ) It's due to a technicality that he is only now serving his suspension. Castro was recently removed from the Nationals 40 man and to quote Jim Bowden "Once we outrighted him off the major league contract, he was now back under the minor league policy, which means the 15-game suspension he was supposed to serve a couple years ago he serves now," I very much enjoyed watching Castro play here, slick in the field, fast on the basepaths and a .315 hitter ( not a fluke, 502 AB's )and the IL All Star 2nd baseman that season. Did he test positive for PED's? Maybe, I think it's naive to think that only the power hitters are juiced. There is weight training at all positions now ( I think, I am in my basement, but I can see ) and where you find serious weight training you'll find "supplements". Anyway, I am in the minority, I don't care that some / many high performance athletes ( I include "amateurs") take PED's. I like bigger, stronger, faster ( anybody like watching the NFL?). Bernie Castro is not the most notable Lynx to have his name dragged through the mud for this sort of thing. That honor goes to OF Armando Rios who was a Lynx very, very briefly in July 04. Rios has been widely "implicated" in the BALCO scandal and is a former San Franciso Giant. It is also rumored that he tested positive for steroids in the PCL in 03. I distinctly remember seeing him in the on deck circle here, I knew that his name was linked to BALCO, and I was curious. He looked pretty thick. Rios serves as an example for those who say that taking the juice does not instantly transform you into a great home run hitter ( well a big league home run hitter ). You can check out Rios here. The BALCO related player I most remember seeing here was C Bobby Estalella, as a visiting Red Baron ( and later a Clipper ). Huge, jacked. He was a Blue Jay very briefly and a former Giant. Most of the BALCO customers were Bay Area athletes, notable exceptions being Giambi(s)? & Sheffield. Estalella was enormous long before he got to the Bay Area.
Disney / ESPN screwed up big time. The ESPN Fantasy Baseball site crashed and burned, not commercially, but technologically. I regulary visit the "Player News" content in their Fantasy section because it is extremely thorough ( if a player has a questionable stool the fantasy geeks need to know ) and very, very current. Earlier this week I couldn't access the Fantasy Section, instead there was a message that it would be available the next AM and there was a Corporate apology...I didn't care. Subsequently I read on bizofbaseball.com that the problem is REALLY BIG, "ESPN spokesman Paul Melvin would not confirm how many subscribers will receive refunds of approximately $30 per team due to the glitch, which caused daily player and team data to be processed incorrectly and at incorrect times." Yahoo is swooping in to pick at the carcass, "The company has announced that fantasy enthusiasts can sign on to Yahoo Sports Fantasy Baseball ’07 through Apr. 28 and still play a full season, despite the fact that the real world baseball season is more than a week old. Yahoo is doing so hoping to appeal to angry fantasy players who have been burned by ESPN.com, which has experienced massive technical difficulties with its own fantasy product over the past few weeks, leading the site’s execs to issue a public apology on Apr. 11." Fantasy fans are the most avid, to the point of obsessive ( yes, worse than me ), they must be PISSED. These guys devote a lot of time to picking their teams and making trades and to have ESPN f--- it all up will alienate them as customers I predict FOREVER. The competition is vicious in the digital sports media "space" to attract Fantasy players, Disney has lost bad, Fantasy is big, big business.
I have written that I believed the motivation behind the Bonds Grand Jury Investigations was nothing more than a prosecutor - Kevin Ryan - with a personal mandate / vendetta. I had predicted that with the firing of Ryan in December that the Investigation would stop. Well, I think I was wrong. A former Giants trainer Mark Letendre testified before the GJ February 14. I had gone all Oliver Stone on this, Bush on his soap box during a State of the Union about steroids, the dog and pony show before Congress, BALCO...why all this money, time and energy suddenly devoted to a problem that everyone knows has existed for decades? And then I decided to shelve the bong for a bit....but I'm wondering again...
In 04 Bonds withdrew from the PA's group licensing agreement - the first ( and only? ) player to do so. ( Ever wonder why you never see Fehr or Orza defending Bonds? ) This season, in theory, should provide the big payoff for that move. Barry screwed this up too. According to SBJ a few years ago Bonds had "nearly two dozen licensees " and now it appears there are only a handful.
Irony of ironies. MLBAM not only produces MLB.com & MLB.TV and all that goes with that, but they also contract out their services to the likes of NYC - ecommerce, US Figure Skating Assn - online video and CBS - assisted with CBS March Madness on Demand ( how cool is that? a league morphing into a media company ). Well, one of their customers is also Barry Bonds. Yep, Bonds pays MLBAM to produce BarryBonds.com and handle all the e-commerce on the site.
MLB might try to limit media access to Bonds' home run chase. ESPN & FOX operate under rules governing "exclusive" & "non exclusive" windows for airing MLB highlights & clips. MLB might stringently enforce these rules to prevent ESPN / FOX from doing live "cut-ins" on Giants broadcasts to limit coverage of Bonds "assault" on the record. How petty.
I see complaining about Bud Selig's recently published earnings from MLB of $14.5 million for the fiscal year ending October 31 2005. Who cares? I don't. I wouldn't care if the 30 super wealthy individuals / corporations that own the teams wanted to hand him $40 million a year of their money. Re. SBJ "During Selig's 14-year tenure running the league, MLB revenue has soared from $1.2 billion to an expected $5.5 billion this year." He's probably worth every penny of it.
Ray Warren of Carat Media Group Americas thinks MLB will continue to grow in the near future. "What MLB is doing better than anybody is building an international game here in the US. By 2012, consumers will be multicultural, and baseball is best positioned to take advantage of that." Does that mean in large part the aforementioned burgeoning Hispanic population in the US?
Looks like the Twins are over the last hurdle in the struggle to get construction started on their new park. Eminent domain proceedings will commence to settle the dispute over the value of the real estate that the stadium will be built on. I always disliked watching baseball in the Metrodome ( well on my TV or PC in the Metrodome ). Visiting players losing fly balls against the baseball colored ceiling / roof, the stupidly lively turf, the hideous green garbage bags on the outfield walls, the plexiglass on the outfield wall, the absurd noise level during playoff games. Good riddance.
I thought the key to the Jays 06 season was Dustin McGowan and I think he's the key to this season as well. He always had big, big potential but has had arm surgery, has battled diabetes and got jerked between starting & relieving last season. ( The Jays plan at the beginning of last season was that he be groomed to replace Speier and Schoeneweis who they knew would leave as FA's ). It's early, but I'm hopeful. The Syracuse stats: 10 IP, 0.90 ERA, 17 K, 3 BB. Thank you Jeff Blair.
One of Bonds' licensees is McFarlane Toys, whose founder is Calgary native Todd McFarlane. McFarlane is the comic book guy who collects home run balls. He's got some of Sammy's, Big Mac's and Bonds' 73rd ( for which he paid $450.000 ).
Local C Pierre Luc Laforest was called up by the Padres this week to replace the injured C Josh Bard.
I guess Geddy Lee will be disppointed by the ESPN Fantasy Baseball nuclear meltdown. From SBJ March 26 - April 1 " ESPN created a fictitious band, Iron Diamond, to promote how its fantasy baseball "rocks," with the crew led by Geddy Lee...The multiplatform marketing of Iron Diamond enven includes a MySpace page." I should like RUSH, I was raised in Madoc, white trash to the core, but I still don't like it.
Carl Kiffner is a good Canuck, thank you Carl, it worked. Check out Carl's Ottawa Lynx blog here.