Jan 22

Analyzing the Dodgers-Time Warner Cable deal

Here’s my Variety analysis of the imminent deal between the Dodgers and Time Warner Cable that will create a new network dedicated to the Big Blue Wrecking Crew.

By partnering to launch a new regional cable network in an overflowing market rather than making a straightforward rights deal, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Time Warner Cable have doubled down on their belief that skyrocketing revenues in the sports TV world are anything but a bubble.

The Dodgers could have simply sold their post-2013 cable rights to Time Warner Cable Sports Net’s English and Spanish components — joining a pair of networks that only launched less than four months ago — or to current host Fox Sports Net. Either way, the Dodgers could have counted on getting $6 billion or more over the next 20-25 years (triple the price that Guggenheim Partners paid for the entire team in March), with no need to worry about the future health of sports TV revenue.

For its part, Time Warner Cable could have said that two new networks were enough and held fast against launching any more into a market that some believe has plenty, thank you.

Instead, according to sources commenting on a deal that has yet to be officially announced, the Dodgers will draw a still healthy commitment from Time Warner Cable that comes with the heightened risk/reward scenario of an ownership stake. …

Read the rest of the story here

Jan 21

Farewell, Stan Musial and Earl Weaver

Saturday was a seriously rough day for baseball fans with the passing of Stan Musial and Earl Weaver.  My dad is taking the Musial passing particularly hard. He wrote in an e-mail:

Part of my history and a big part of my addiction gone.

Difficult to accept the typical, mediocre $8 mill per year persona that populates the mid to low ranks of most franchises as compared to what it was like at Wrigley or Ebbets, much less Sportsman’s, to see The Man walk to the plate, crouch and hammer the ball against a right-centerfield wall.

There was nothing like it.

But I wanted to take a free moment to pass along two worthwhile pieces about Weaver that appeared today. At Baseball Prospectus, former Dodger general manager Dan Evans talked about getting to spend time at age 22 with Weaver.

… Hall of Famer Don Drysdale was one of the White Sox announcers at the time, and he was quickly becoming one of my mentors. We talked immediately after the tough loss, and Drysdale mentioned that Weaver was a master, a manager I should pay close attention to and learn from.

Early the next morning, Don called my room and asked if I would like to meet Weaver. I jumped at the opportunity.

Drysdale and I wandered over to the batting cage as the Orioles began batting practice that evening, and the next 20 minutes were incredible. It was apparent that Weaver and Drysdale were on good terms. Weaver was engaging, eager to talk about the game he loved. He spoke about how essential pitching and defense were to a winning club, because the two components never went into extended slumps. He talked about the need to keep extra players sharp, but more importantly, make them feel they were part of the team by finding spots for them to perform. He stressed that he was constantly trying to find favorable match ups, whether through an in-game substitution or a start for an extra player. Weaver said that his legendary index cards tipped him off to info that would reinforce his gut hunches and also would be used in conversations with players about whether they were playing or going to sit. He mentioned that every player is flawed, and that the key is finding situations where their strengths have the best chance of being best utilized, and not to dwell on their weaknesses.

Then Weaver looked right at me and said, “this game is all about outs.” He said that you had to convert potential defensive outs to win regularly and had to maximize your offense’s ability to score runs. He and Drysdale talked about how important instincts were, and how nearly all the great defenders in baseball history were equipped with great instincts. Weaver kept mentioning intelligence and instincts being critical elements of players who touched the ball the most on defense, because it was their decisions that would often affect the game’s outcome.

Our conversation moved to Ripken, who was in the cage at the time and would win the AL Rookie of the Year Award after that season. Weaver had decided to move Cal to shortstop just three weeks earlier, and he made a couple of terrific plays against us in the first two days of the series. He told us that Ripken was one of those examples of intelligence and rare instincts. Weaver said that Ripken would be outstanding down the line, that he was just learning the position but seemed to be in the right place all the time. He and Drysdale tried to list all the “big” shortstops, and they struggled. Then Weaver added, “plus, this guy is going to hit, and hit a lot.”

That is the evaluation side of Weaver that separated him from most of his peers. Not only could he identify talent, but he also knew how to squeeze the most out of his players, and not ask them to do things they were incapable of doing. …

And at the Hardball Times, Chris Jaffe passes along “11 things I didn’t know about Earl Weaver.” He touches on something that stunned me as I realized it Saturday.

Jan 20

Pele and Cheetos

My youngest child, who will be 5 in two months, is the first of my three children to show any kind of broad interest in sports. Playing sports, that is – I still live in a house completely unadorned with anyone who would voluntarily watch a sporting event on television except in the least dire of circumstances, or watch one in person without the promise of a constant stream of stadium food to distract and delight.

In fact, there are very few sports my 8- and 10-year old like to play.  Other than goofing around in the swimming pool, the only one they really seem taken with is skiing – the most expensive one they could have picked. They’re rather remarkable at it, considering they only get to do it one week a year, thanks to the largesse of my parents.  Young Master Weisman is a true burner, while Young Miss Weisman is technically skilled and in fact won the slalom race in her ski-school class because she was more prepared to make quick, smooth turns.  Both tackled their first black-diamond runs two weeks ago with hardly a hitch.

But Youngest Master Weisman has a roll call of sports that he’s into. In addition to doing his first full green run on the slopes this month, he is interested in basketball, baseball, golf (well, putting), taekwondo, swimming and soccer. He’s been playing soccer on Sundays for roughly a year now, failing, like his dad, to be bored by it within the first five minutes. (A constant supply of Goldfish crackers doesn’t seem to hurt.)

In his current soccer class or whatever you would call it, he’s in a group of 4-year-olds that includes several of his ability – and one who’s young Pele. Now, my son is rather astonishingly coordinated given his genetics, but he is not on the same planet as this ball-magnet, shoot-from-any-angle dynamo. And so when they play games in the second half-hour, some other non-Pele parents and I get a little edgy, because none of our kids are as quick to the ball as Pele. Though I did introduce my son to the word “assist,” it’s not like age 4 is the moment where kids are prepared to learn the glory of passing.

During today’s activity, I toyed with the idea of asking the coaches whether they were going to consider moving Pele up to the next level of soccer players – promote him to Double-A ball, so to speak. After all, in addition to being sort of an innocent ballhog (the kid doesn’t seem anything but nice) who was depriving everyone else their fair share of touches, it seems clear that it can only be good for his development to play against better competition.

Then I second-guessed myself. A huge chunk of my parenting hours are spent repeating “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset” in one form or another. Why should I go out of my way to remove this layer of character-building adversity? I think I’m so prepared for my kids to fall out of love with a given sport that I’ve become afraid of anything that might discourage them. But now I’m dealing from strength, with a kid who really seems to have a taste for sports in general. (Plus, if there’s one sport I’m willing to have my son surrender, it’s soccer.)

And there is an upside to this. The presence of Pele could inspire or essentially force my son to play better, or teach him how to handle situations where everything doesn’t go his way. It’s not easy to watch, but at the same time, it’s everything I’m looking for.

When the session ended, my son came off the field and said in a happy voice, “I didn’t score any goals, but my team won!” I mean, what more could you ask for than that?

Five minutes later, he burst into tears because I wouldn’t buy him Cheetos as a follow-up to all the Goldfish.