UPDATE: Maybe the Rangers-FOX deal is not 20-years, $3 billion

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UPDATE: Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News hears that the Rangers’ deal with
FOX is actually worth $1.5-1.6 billion, not $3 billion
as reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today, but that there are some incentives and escalators and stuff.  Even if it stays flat at $1.5 billion, however, that makes it, on average, a $75 million deal, which is over and above every team’s TV deal with a non-affiliated network of which I’m aware (remember: the Dodgers get $45 million; the Mariners are reported to get around $40 million). So, still a great deal for Texas, even at its lowest.

4:54 PM: I shoulda listened to those killjoys who go on about how things that sound too good to be true likely being too good to be true. A FOX spokesman tells Sports Business Journal that the figures reported by USA Today earlier this afternoon were “wildly inflated.”

Of course, the definition of “wildly inflated” matters here too. If the truth of the matter is that the deal is for, say, $50M a year over 20 years, sure, USA Today was out to lunch and this deal would represent a healthy, but not necessary crazy figure for the Rangers. If, on the other hand the truth is that the deal starts at $50M or $75 million but increases
every year and inflates until it’s still a $3 billion deal, then it’s
still kind of nuts
.  The devil is in the details, as they say.

By they way: I was chatting with Gleeman as this update came down a few minutes ago. He observed that it’s entirely possible that there will be no Rangers games on television at all in 20 years and, in fact, there may be no television. I think he meant that everything could go to some streaming internet or wireless kind of system that renders television as we know it obsolete. It’s possible, however, that he has inside information on an imminent nuclear war or zombie apocalypse.  Which, I don’t need to tell you, would totally be a buzzkill for Rangers baseball.

1:58 P.M.: It’s going to be hilarious when FOX executives realize that the contract they just signed was with the Rangers, not the Cowboys or Vivid Video or something else more marketable than baseball is thought to be:

The Texas Rangers, who clinched their first division title in 11
years over the weekend, just might start making this an annual routine
considering their giant financial windfall.

The Rangers,
cash-strapped for years with owner Tom Hicks, have signed a 20-year
extension with Fox Sports Southwest that will guarantee them $3 billion.

$150 million a year!  To put that in perspective, the Dodgers get about $ 45 million a year from FOX. The Yankees get less than $100 million from YES (though, obviously, they own a big chunk of the network so it’s not apples-apples). I doubt any team currently gets anything like $150 million from a non-affiliated network.

Two questions that immediately spring to mind in light of this deal:

  • Is it any wonder why so many people were willing to jump into protracted litigation to get a piece of this team? and
  • How bad a businessman is Tom Hicks if he couldn’t make the Rangers solvent with that kind of scratch available?

Whatever the case, with this TV deal, the Rangers shouldn’t be lumped in with the mid-market teams going forward. They should be considered a high-dollar player the moment the first check comes in.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.