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.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.