Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Big Mac’s buddy, are the Blazers shuffling to Seattle and 76’ers for sale

With friends like Jose, you have it all

The Baseball Writers Association of America are finally going to have to deal with the steroid issue in January deciding if Mark McGwire should be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a first time nominee. Several items in today’s DailyDose suggest it may be time for McGwire to consult a public relations consultant if he ever wants to see his plaque in Cooperstown.

Jose Canseco, the center of the use of performance-enhancing in Major League Baseball problems in 2005 with release of his New York Times’ best selling book “Juiced” believes McGwire should be in the Baseball HOF.

"I definitely think he deserves it, especially for saving the game," Canseco said in an interview with The New York Post.

"No matter if chemicals had a part in it or not. He saved the game at one point. He and Sammy Sosa. They did what they did; you can't take that away from them."

Canseco’s defense of McGwire included Jose’s never-ending belief rampant steroid use among major league players wasn’t limited to just hitters.

"It's the chemical era," Canseco said. "How do we know these pitchers he hit the home runs off of weren't on steroids themselves? Come on, let's be fair."

In a 16-year Major League Baseball career, McGwire was paid $74,688,354 by the Oakland A’s (the first 12 years) and the St. Louis Cardinals (the last four years). Baseball Hall of Fame members can supplement their income once they’re elected into the Baseball HOF, through a variety of opportunities. That said, financially McGwire is set for life as are many generations of his family – assuming he took the money he was paid and made several good investments. You better believe Mark McGwire still wants to be in the Baseball HOF.

Last weekend’s Baseball HOF induction ceremony once again showed how important being selected as a member of your sports’ HOF is to an athlete. Bruce Sutter’s emotional induction speech made it clear how special a day it will always be enter your sports Hall of Fame. In the years’ ahead many HOF members will have earned enough money both on and off the field any financial benefits shouldn’t really matter to those elected.

If McGwire wants to be elected to the Baseball HOF, comments attributed to Big Mac in The New York Daily News offer anyone supporting McGwire’s HOF selection concerns if McGwire deserves to be in the Baseball HOF. The Daily News reported Saturday, McGwire is refusing to meet with former Sen. George Mitchell and his team of investigators looking into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball.

"They're getting no cooperation from McGwire," the source told the Daily News Friday. "He wants nothing to do with this. He doesn't want to talk to them. He doesn't want his people to talk to them."

"He wants nothing to do with their probe," the source added of McGwire.

As the Daily News noted, there is little Sen. Mitchell can do if a player (especially former players) refuse to speak with him. He has no subpoena power. A suggestion in the Daily News report as to why McGwire may have refused to meet with Mitchell illustrates once again how little everyone understands the “law” behind the use of steroids.

Rep. Tom Davis, the Virginia Republican who chaired last year's Congressional Steroid hearings told The Daily News in the spring that McGwire may be keeping a low profile until the statute of limitations passes. Only McGwire knows when he last used steroids, but his last day in baseball was Oct. 7, 2001.

"I think that if we could have provided him immunity he would have come clean," Davis said. "But this guy had quit four years before and there was a five-year statute of limitations, and he would have subjected himself to criminal prosecution. We couldn't work out an immunity deal."

Before 2004 it was legal to use steroids in America. It was however illegal to distribute and sell steroids. It has been illegal to use steroids since 2004. The 1991 Drug Act permitted the use of steroids by prescription (schedule III drug), not otherwise. However, the 2004 Act reclassified steroids into a tougher classification and explicitly bans possession.

Baseball didn’t begin a comprehensive drug testing program until 2004. However it is worthwhile remembering then commissioner Fay Vincent issued a memo in 1991 stating: The possession, sale or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance by Major League players and personnel is strictly prohibited ... [and those players involved] are subject to discipline by the Commissioner and risk permanent expulsion from the game.... This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs and controlled substances, including steroids…"

Given that McGwire likely didn’t sell steroids, and may have allegedly used steroids (and if he did you can be very sure he was well aware of the 1991 Drug Act and had a prescription) as far as breaking any laws (despite Rep. Davis’ assertion regarding immunity for McGwire), McGwire not talking at least follows the message McGwire established at the Congressional Steroid Hearings on March 17, 2005. McGwire was steadfast in his message that day -- "I'm not here to talk about the past," McGwire said repeatedly.

Still another comment McGwire made that day suggested Big Mac wanted to do whatever he could to help young athletes understand how dangerous it is to use performance-enhancing drugs -- "I will use whatever influence and popularity that I have to discourage young athletes from taking any drug that is not recommended by a doctor."

If Mark McGwire isn’t prepared to discuss what may or may not have taken place his silence will continue to speak volumes as to how little those key ‘players’ trust Major League Baseball. Clearly if retired players, marquee names like Mark McGwire are refusing to discuss what they may have done, they are at least in part doing so because they’re concerned they’re going to hurt others and of course whatever reputation they may have left.

It has been said before and it will be said again in the pages of SBN – Mark McGwire and others from baseball’s steroid era should and will be in the Baseball HOF one day. If the goal of the Mitchell group is to help MLB move forward and learn from the mistakes that where made its time for everyone to stop pointing fingers, and start the healing process. History should teach us to correct the mistakes we’ve made, not prevent society from moving forward by constant innuendoes and suggestions.

What next for Paul Allen and his Blazers

Paul Allen, the sixth richest person on the planet announced Friday the Portland Trailblazers and the Rose Garden weren’t for sale anymore. The Blazers are projecting losses in excess of $100 million in the next three years. The real question that needs to answer – does Allen care about the Blazers, given the teams will continue to lose tens of millions of dollars a year? Not really it would appear. The Oregonian suggested in an Op-Ed Saturday, they’ve had enough of Allen’s tenure as owner of the Blazers. And it would appear in the bigger scheme of things, Allen may be looking to move the Blazers in the not too distant future.

“Either way, the sense in Blazerville is that the team has turned another corner, but this time, in the wrong direction. Blazer fans were looking forward to watching the reconstructed team take the court this fall, with the front office turmoil in the rearview mirror. Instead, it appears that the team will start playing with the same "broken economic model" that ownership has been complaining about for months. At the same time, the sale of the Seattle SuperSonics to an Oklahoma group raises the specter that Allen is positioning the Blazers for relocation.”

One belief is Allen took the team off the market because of the teams’ off-season. After several years of lackluster support, Portland area fans are once again excited about the Blazers after a solid NBA draft and the re-signing of Joel Przybilla.

"Selling the team in the offseason, you're left with how the season ended -- no momentum of how things might start," Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon told The Oregonian. "Maybe it's just that now is not the time."

In addition, some of the bids just might not have been high enough because of the prospect of years of operating losses to come, said Marc Ganis of Sportscorp Ltd.

"Most interested and qualified people wouldn't mind paying a lot for a team," Ganis said in an e-mail. "What they mind is having to dig into their pockets every year to cover big operating losses and keep it afloat."

There is a far more intriguing theory being reported in The Oregonian. Helen Jung suggested Allen may have kept the Blazers to bankrupt the team in the next few years. If the Blazers declare bankruptcy, Allen could void the remaining years in the Blazers 30-year Rose Garden lease.

Allen could then move his Blazers to Seattle when the Sonics move to Oklahoma City in time for the 2007 season. NBA commissioner David Stern told the Associated Press Saturday, he expects the Hornets to move back to New Orleans from Okalahoma City in time for the 2007 season. Allen owns the Seattle Seahawks and has established and strong roots in Seattle (where Microsoft is based). The Seahawks won the NFC title last year, making it to their first Super Bowl.

The current Sonics ownership group may be facing the same obstacles Howard Schultz had to deal with in his failed battle to secure public funding for a new arena in Seattle. Allen may be as hesitant Schultz and the Okalahoma City group who now own the Blazers when it comes to putting their money into a new facility. However Paul Allen is very much the ‘flavor of the month’ in Seattle. The cache from the goodwill he has as a result of the Seahawks Super Bowl appearance could be parlayed into the good citizens of Seattle doing for Paul Allen what they didn’t do for others – help build an arena. The irony, Paul Allen has far greater financial resources then the current and former Sonics ownership groups do.

As for the issue of Paul Allen’s stewardship of the Blazers, like any sports owner today, it’s what have you done for me lately. The fact that Paul Allen may have the financial wherewithal to build an arena with his own money isn’t the issue. In today’s complex and very expensive world of owning a sports franchise owners have to held accountable for their teams’ performance on the court or on the field. No matter how rich an owner maybe, successful sports franchises succeed with both private and public dollars contributing towards a facility that has all the needed amenities to ensure the franchises financial health. Gone should be the days of taxpayers building facilities without ownership contributing financially to the building of sports facilities. Fair and equitable funding solutions need to be agreed on where everyone wins.

Are the Philadelphia 76'ers for sale? (Maybe)!

Reports continue to surface from Philadelphia the NBA 76’ers may be for sale. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported over the weekend the 76’ers have hired a New York investment firm to explore the potential sale of the franchise.

"We have been approached by multiple parties interested in purchasing the Philadelphia 76ers, particularly in the wake of recent press speculation," Ed Snider, chairman of Comcast-Spectacor said in a statement Saturday night. "While this is not the first time we have received such inquiries, we have decided to engage the services of Galatioto Sports Partners, an industry-leading sports-investment firm, to help us evaluate our strategic alternatives, including a sale or a new partnership. We emphasize that no decision has been made to sell the 76ers."

Reportedly one of the interested parties is the Kushner Companies, a multibillion-dollar real-estate enterprise based in Florham Park, N.J. Here’s where the story gets interesting. It is not the first time that the Kushner Companies has been interested in buying an NBA franchise. Its former head, Charles Kushner, had joined then-U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine (D., N.J.) in an unsuccessful bid for the New Jersey Nets in August 2004, losing out to Brooklyn real-estate developer Bruce Ratner, who bought the team for a reported $300 million.

In 2005, however, Kushner pleaded guilty to 18 counts of tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign donations. He is currently living in a halfway house in Newark, N.J., and is expected to be released later this month. Kushner, the company’s founder and namesake has since left the company. If the 76’ers are sold the asking price is in excess of the record $401 million paid by banker and real-estate executive Robert Sarver and an investment group for the Suns on June 30, 2004.

If in fact the 76’s are sold will Comcast-Spectacor then put the Philadelphia Flyers on the market? And if that where to take place – the good news at long last the NHL will be done with Flyers general manager Bobby Clarke. Clarke maybe a member of the Hockey HOF but his days as a good NHL general manager have long since passed.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider Report: The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Oregonian, The New York Post and The New York Daily News.