Notes: Public team ownership, A’s ballpark funds

A deep dive worth diving into, and my latest from BP, plus a response to a comment there.

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R.J. Anderson has done some deep dives over the years at CBS Sports, but Tuesday’s feature might be one of the deepest: he looked at the history of private team ownership in professional sports, why it’s worked, why it’s been obstructed, and why it could be a useful rejoinder to the exceptionally greedy, corporate mentality that plagues pro sports today.

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Notes: A’s request to not play in Las Vegas after move to Vegas, MLB gambling

The A’s haven’t even moved to Sacramento, never mind Las Vegas, and they’re already trying to skip playing home games in Vegas. Plus some thoughts on MLB and “mixed messaging” regarding gambling.

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According to a report from the Nevada Independent, the A’s proposal for their 30-year non-relocation agreement requests up allowing up to eight home games per year to be played at neutral sites. So, not the Las Vegas ballpark. Sure, being able to go to London and play or what have you can be a thing MLB teams do, but up to eight per year is a lot, and the A’s want to do it in order to build their brand.

To be fair, their brand is in the toilet, but hey things are more complicated than what the whims of the A’s suggest. Which is pretty normal, really.

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So how bad are the White Sox, anyway?

Guess whose 11-loss streak has them right back in “historically awful” territory?

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We’re two months into the 2024 season, and the White Sox are through 60 games. They’ve won all of 15 of those contests, because they are very bad at baseball. It’s not the players’ fault that they’re this bad, they didn’t cause themselves to be put all together into a team-like structure like so, but that’s the truth of the matter, regardless.

This isn’t a normal thing to check in on necessarily — there are always bad teams — but the White Sox have been a special kind of bad that deserves a closer look. Sixty games into the 2023 season, for instance, the A’s were off to a historically awful start, as they were 12-48 — a winning percentage of .200 — and had already been outscored by 210 runs. The White Sox, through their own first 60, are just a little bit better, but not by much. A 15-45 record, a run differential of -138, and a winning percentage of .250. It looked like they were maybe turning things around for a little bit, at least in terms of not being as embarrassing as they had been, but then whoops, they lost 11 in a row. That’s right: the White Sox were, just a couple of weeks back, merely 15-34, which was on pace for 50 wins if you round up. Now, though, they’re on pace for 41 wins, or, 122 losses (again, rounding up for both, hence the 163 games in total there).

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Notes: The Las Vegas A’s stadium is on track unless it isn’t, Yankees sustainability, MLB absorbs Negro League stats

The Las Vegas A’s remain more conceptual than anything, the Yankees utter a word that would have killed The Boss, and Negro League statistics are now MLB statistics.

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If you ask the people behind the Las Vegas A’s stadium push, everything is great! There’s no need to worry; everything is happening as it’s supposed to, we’re happy to take questions so long as they aren’t about where A’s owner John Fisher is going to get the additional financing needed to actually build the thing. If you ask people who know how these things work, though, who aren’t unregistered lobbyists, well. Neil deMause handled that at Field of Schemes already this week:

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Notes: Tax loophole, MLB realignment, Oakland sells Coliseum, NCAA settlement

More on the tax loophole, a couple of thoughts on realignment, Oakland’s stadium situation gets additional wrinkles, and the NCAA is primed for a major change.

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Lots to get through today, so let’s get to it.

I went in deeper on the billionaire sports owner tax loophole news for Baseball Prospectus earlier in the week, getting into the origins of the loophole, what it is, why it’s a problem, and why we should hope the IRS decided to remove or rewrite it. The shorter version of it is that it would keep, say, a team that costs $2 billion from pretending 80 percent of the team’s valuation is going to lose value instead of gaining it like what happens with sports franchises simply for existing, allowing them to avoid $650 million in taxes over the next 15 years that they really should have paid. The longer version, well, I wrote that for BP, and while you need a subscription for that, at the least, you could always read the ProPublica reporting from three years ago on the subject.

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Fanatics claims it owns your kids’ likeness rights, forever

Fanatics has their latest cost-cutting scheme, and it’s trying to get perpetual likeness rights from children and potential future minor leaguers years before they go pro.

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Thanks to some excellent reporting from Britt Ghiroli at The Athletic, we now know what the latest chapter in the “everything Fanatics touches is terrible in some way” saga is. Fanatics is partnering together with Perfect Game, the “world’s largest baseball scouting service” which serves as both a showcase for amateur players and a high-level competitive environment for amateur baseball, in order to create memorabilia for these kids. Sounds innocent enough, right? Of course there’s another layer to all of this.

Perfect Game already had kids giving up the rights to their likenesses, as agents have been warning parents for a couple of years now about the practice, but, as Scott Boras told Ghiroli, “They have now gotten into profit-taking on this.” Amateurs can’t have agents, but agents can advise them, and not signing is one thing they’re being advised about now.

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On the salaries of MLB’s ‘disposable pitchers’

A day in the majors isn’t worth what happens to the salary of this new class of churned-through pitcher.

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Last week, I shared a Baseball Prospectus story written by Jarrett Seidler and Rob Mains on the rise of the “disposable pitcher.” A trend has emerged, with teams calling up a pitcher — a not-really-a-prospect kind of pitcher — on the 40-man roster up from the minors for a very temporary stay in the majors, and then designating them for assignment after they’re done with them rather than optioning them back to the minors. This allows for them to, effectively, stream a 40-man roster spot for additional call-ups like this down the road, while also allowing them to avoid exposing any genuine prospects to the majors or the need to be optioned before they feel like those players are ready for the show.

As I wrote last Friday:

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Notes: Manfred speaks, the disposable pitcher, Diamond Holdings

Looks at the week that was.

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Forgive me for being a little behind here on the coverage dates, but my phone was undergoing a slow and then rapid death, which cuts into the whole keeping up with the news thing. So now, new and working phone in hand, we can hit some notes from around MLB, starting with the thing Rob Manfred recently opened his mouth about.

On May 6, Manfred spoke to (or spoke “at,” as Neil deMause put it) a gathering of editors at an Associated Press conference, with an emphasis on extolling the virtues of publicly financed stadium projects. It is incredibly Manfred for its… style. You know the one. That thing where he exaggerates and makes wild, indefensible claims without any proof to back them up, and would definitely get angry at a reporter or fans or sitting Congressperson for calling him out on it and asking for more details.

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Tax loopholes beloved by sports teams under IRS ‘scrutiny’

Maybe the first step toward closing a tax loophole that sports owners abuse every year.

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Let’s rewind to the summer of 2021 for a moment. A trio of ProPublica reporters published an extensive look at the legal tax loopholes that sports team owners used to, essentially, lie about their finances. The idea being that they could make a profit, but, by utilizing some tax loopholes, report the opposite, allowing them to not have to pay their share of taxes. And that kind of money adds up, whether you’re talking about what owners are allowed to pocket, or the money that should have gone into the federal government’s coffers. Maybe there would be more money around for repairing the country’s failing infrastructure if the wealthiest actually paid their portion each year!

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Notes: MLB/Roku streaming deal, White Sox still bad

MLB might have a new streaming partner soon, and Jerry Reinsdorf’s White Sox are certainly made in his image

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According to The Athletic, Major League Baseball might be leaving Peacock behind when that deal is up, and moving over to Roku for streaming Sunday morning baseball games. It’s not that Peacock is uninterested in maintaining their relationship with MLB, so much as, per Andrew Marchand, they were willing to do so for one-third the value of the current deal, which pays $30 million annually.

Now, exactly which service MLB ends up with isn’t of much concern, but the thing to wonder about here is what Roku will be willing to pay to pry the league’s Sunday morning games away from Peacock. If there is no other competitor for the services, then sure, maybe Peacock gets away with offering less than last time, because MLB’s choice is then $10 million per year or nothing. With Roku involved, though, maybe Peacock bumps their offer up, or, in order to get their foot in the door in this realm, Roku is happy to surpass any offer coming from Peacock in order to be the most attractive option. Which could in turn mean MLB is (1) finding new partners to increase their revenue or (2) finding new partners in order to maintain their current level of revenue. Whether it’s the first or second thing depends a lot on how everything shakes down with Diamond and MLB’s eventual streaming-heavy future.

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