Sports Outside the Beltway

Investing in minor leaguers

More and more teams are discovering that the most cost effective way to build a team is to draft well. Athletics Supporter demonstrates how this worked in the case of drafting Mark Mulder. (h/t Baseball Musings) If you want to build a team, invest in minor leaguers.

It might also be a way to build a portfolio. Writing in Slate – “Bullpen Market” – Josh Levin tells of a minor league pitcher’s who’s selling his future earnings.

Yesterday, I bought a professional baseball player. It only took a minute. I surfed over to Real Sports Investments, clicked the “Buy Now” button, and purchased six shares of Randy Newsom. Along with my Slate colleagues John Swansburg and Dan Engber, I am now the proud owner of 0.0096 percent of a minor-league pitcher’s future major-league earnings. Mr. Newsom, I wish you a long and prosperous career—emphasis on prosperous. If Newsom makes $1,000,000 over the course of his major-league career, the Slate investment group will take a loss, earning a piddling $96 on an initial investment of $143.82. If he makes $10 million, we’ll get $960. And if he makes Barry Zito money? I won’t be retiring early, but I’ll be able to watch my baseball-playing property on some nice plasma TVs.

The 25-year-old Newsom, a midtier relief pitcher in the Cleveland Indians organization, is the first pro baseball player to hold a self-IPO. Real Sports Investments, the company Newsom hatched last year with two ex-ballplayer business partners, is fantasy baseball minus the fantasy. Newsom is selling off 4 percent of his potential MLB earnings at $20 per share. (A 15 percent “player valuation and share allocation fee” and a 2.9 percent “online processing fee” bump the price up to $23.97). A total of 2,500 shares will be offered, netting the pitcher $50,000 if they all get sold. As of today, investors can only buy shares; selling and trading will come soon, once RSI launches a snazzier Web site. And according to Newsom, this isn’t a “one-player thing”: In an interview with Baseball Prospectus, he says RSI is in talks with lots more minor leaguers.

Once upon a time baseball cards were thought to be great investments. I suppose with the popularization of statistical analysis, they could still be, but why not invest in a baseball player. Actually, there’s a possible reason not to.

Will it work as a market? Jeff Ma, the co-founder of ProTrade and the leader of the Vegas-busting MIT blackjack team, says it’s a winning concept for minor-league ballplayers like Newsom. A ballplayer’s career carries substantial risk, Ma says, and it makes sense to shave off potential wealth in exchange for insurance against never getting a major-league payday. (If Newsom doesn’t make the majors, his investors get nothing.) Ma is skeptical, though, that players with higher earning potential will care to participate, and without these higher-tier prospects, the market won’t be as attractive to investors. “You’re not talking about Barry Bonds or [future stars like] Billy Butler or Tim Lincecum selling their future upside,” Ma says. “How many people will want to speculate on the Randy Newsoms of the world?”

My guess (especially after reading the article) is that people might invest, but probably less with the idea of making money on the deal than in being invested in a professional athlete and whatever psychic benefits that brings.

Once upon a time – maybe even as recently as 20 – 30 years ago – being a part owner of a minor league team was not out of reach for a middle class investor. Now he could, at least, invest in a minor leaguer.

Crossposted at Soccer Dad.

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Yankee News – January 29 edition

- Robbie Cano and the Yanks have reached an agreement on a four-year, $30 million deal, avoiding arbitration.

- David Cone will join the YES broadcasting booth.

- Could Santana finally be traded? To the Mets that is. Carlos Gomez was pulled off his Winter League team. Could be nothing or could be something.

- Brian Banister gave a great interview (also at MLBTR). I especially liked his description of the three types of quality ML pitchers.

- The ’27 Yankees were good. So good, in fact, that their team OPS+ was 137 and their team ERA+ was 120! They led the league in both categories.

- Are steroids responsible for the power surge that began in the early ’90s? I still say yes (at least partially).

- If the Giants want to win, they should cheat, just like the Pats.


It takes a retreat- Miami Heat break 15-game losing streak

Was it just coincidence the Heat win while I was away on a Catholic retreat with 10 other men from the church I attend this weekend?

Winning for the first time since Dec. 22, the Heat snapped its 15-game losing streak Saturday when Dwyane Wade finally ran into an opponent he single-handedly could bring down.

With Wade scoring 35 points, including the final nine of an 11-0 third-quarter streak that helped rally his team from what had been an 11-point deficit, the Heat withstood the Indiana Pacers 98-96 at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“Hopefully,” Wade said, “we can get going and we can forget all about that has happened.”

There certainly is plenty to forget, including Saturday’s final harrowing minutes, after the Heat nearly blew all of the 94-85 lead it took when Wade converted a 3-pointer with 4:34 to play.

But it took Wade knocking away a Troy Murphy inbounds pass with seconds remaining for the Heat to survive.

“It really felt like we won the championship,” said forward Dorell Wright, who tossed the ball high in the air at the final buzzer.

God works in mysterious ways.

In my youth football and baseball days, I played on more than one pitiful team. When we did win for a change, you’d think we won the league championship. I know what Dorell Wright is saying. At the same time, the unfortunate losers namely the Pacers, feel the ignominy of being the team that ends the streak. Indiana will get over it, but how many more games will it be before the Heat win again?

Miami needs to re-build, and its going to take some time. Shaq is all but done, Wade is brilliant but brittle. There isn’t much in the way of positives for the Heat. I’m sticking to my 2008 prediction, Pat Riley won’t be back as coach for the 2008-09 season. If he doesn’t quit sometime during this season first.


Bedard to Seattle!?

Following the Orioles mailing list last night there was this:

Adam Jones has left his Venezuelan Winter League team and flies to Baltimore tomorrow morning to take a physical so he can be dealt to the Orioles in exchange for pitcher Erik Berdard. No word yet on how many players going Baltimore’s way.

Jones did not mince words when he spoke to a reporter from Diario Panorama in Venezuela today. We have a relationship with the reporter and paper and they have graciously supplied us with quotes from the interview with Jones.

In short Jones was unhappy about missing the rest of the series, but non unhappy about the trade itself. Read the whole article.

Then there was this:

Andy MacPhail denied tonight that the Orioles have agreed to a deal that would send ace pitcher Erik Bedard to the Seattle Mariners for a package headed by young center fielder Adam Jones.

“We do not have an agreement with the Mariners,” said MacPhail, Orioles president of baseball operations.

This didn’t seem like a complete denial that anything was in the works. However Baseball Musings speculated:

Either Jones is playing with a reporter, or MacPhail is sticking to a strict line that they don’t have a deal until the physical is passed.

Back to the Mariners’ blog.

Many of you have started wringing your hands over this item in the Baltimore Sun, written after our blog post, saying that an Erik Bedard-Adam Jones deal had not been finalized. Well, yes, we know that. If it was finalized, then Jones would not be flying back to the United States to take a physical.

Sorry, I’m not trying to sound flippant here. But when you’ve got the Orioles and Mariners, two of the most media-shy teams in baseball, trying to make a trade, any leak is bound to be greeted as an event of earthquake proportions. Let’s all settle down and just look at the facts as calmly as we can, please.

As to the possibility that Angelos would scuttle the deal because Jones spoke out of turn, Baker writes:

Things to watch out for? Only one. Orioles owner Peter Angelos is notorious for scuttling even the best laid of plans at the last minute. I’m sure he can’t be thrilled that Jones told the world he’s about to be traded for Bedard. Would Angelos be upset enough over that to pull the plug on a deal? Some people actually think it’s possible. I say that’s crazy. You either like a deal, or you don’t. If you’re going to conduct business like that, using borderline rational behavior to guide you, then your team might as well forget about ever contending again. We’ve been told that after 10 years of watching the O’s slide into irrelevance, the franchise is now changing its ways and that Angelos will allow his baseball people to do their jobs. We’ll see.

“Borderline rational behavior?” Yes that’s something like what we’ve become accustomed to here in Baltimore over the past decade. Though I’m not convinced that there’s an “ir” missing from that phrase.

So right now it sounds good. Not that I’m anxious for Bedard to leave. I’m anxious for the Orioles to be good. If trading Bedard (and Tejada and Roberts) is the cost, the price is high, but it’s worth it.

I think that Baseball Musings is correct that if Seattle makes Bedard a good offer, he’d stay.

UPDATE: Well, unfortunately it appears, even with MacPhail on board, the new boss is the same as the old boss. The deal with Seattle is either delayed until Angelos can evaluate it or it has possibly been nixed by the Orioles. This leads Baseball Musings to observe:

It’s a good thing Adam Jones has a big mouth, otherwise we wouldn’t be having so much fun today!

Fun, if you enjoy following intrigue. But if you’re an Oriole fan who hoped that years rudderless drifting were over, this is not fun at all.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.

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NHL Players complain about European games

This season’s opener was played in London. On Saturday, the NHL announced its intention to play two games in Europe to open the 2008-09 season. From AP-

ATLANTA – Basking in the spotlight of its All-Star game, the NHL decided Saturday was the perfect time to unveil a big announcement for the start of next season: Four teams will get the honor of opening in Europe.

Maybe the league should have made sure the players were on board.

Saying there were still details to be worked out, the leader of the NHL Players’ Association objected to the league announcing two games would be played in both Prague and Stockholm to start the 2008-09 season.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said the New York Rangers are scheduled to meet the Tampa Bay Lightning at Sazka Arena in the Czech Republic, while the Ottawa Senators would face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Globe Arena in Sweden’s capital city.

The games would be played Oct. 4 and 5 — assuming the Players’ Association signs off on the plans.

That might be a problem. Paul Kelly, the NHLPA’s executive director, said he was aware of the European games but warned the league not to make a firm announcement until the two sides worked out all details.

“If they want the Players’ Association to be a true business partner, then they have to include us in discussions about these matters at the earliest stages,” Kelly said. “We shouldn’t read about it in the press and we shouldn’t find about it after the fact.”

Kelly said he was approached by league officials Friday night and asked to sign off on the European games, which would mark the second straight year the NHL has opened its season on the other side of the Atlantic.

His response: “Look guys, you know we have a lot of details to work out. Travel, promotional issues, NHLPA involvement, accommodations, the schedule, etc. So there’s still lots of details to work out, but if you want to announce it generally, that’s fine.’

From Kelly’s statements, it appears the NHLPA is unhappy because they weren’t included in the decision making process. They should have been, but that’s water under the bridge now.

As to playing games in Europe, I don’t like it from the point of view of the Sports US fans. Both Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay will be losing one home game. If you’re a season ticket holder of either team, you have a right to complain. Why should your team have to play a home gain 1/3rd the way around the world? I didn’t like it when the Miami Dolphins agreed to play The New York Giants in London last year. Dolphin fans had more reason to be upset, considering they only get 8 home games a year, and the Giants were making a rare appearance in South Florida.

US football in Europe if it wasn’t a financial bust, was hardly a success either. As to hockey, most countries have their own hockey leagues. How many Czechs and Swedes are playing in the NHL now? Quite a few. I think local fans prefer to watch their own teams. Not ones brought in from another continent. Even if interest is generated, I’d bet it is only temporary.


Washington Redskins fire coaches Gregg Williams, Al Saunders

So much for them being considered candidates to replace Joe Gibbs. From AP-

WASHINGTON – The Washington Redskins seem to have a whole lot of their coaching staff in place for next season — except for the head coach. And that head coach won’t be Gregg Williams. Or Al Saunders.

As for the rest of the candidates, they’ll have to wait until the Super Bowl is done.

On a busy Saturday at Redskins Park, the team fired assistants Williams and Saunders, promoted Greg Blache to lead the team’s defense and formally announced the hiring of Jim Zorn to head the offense.


Williams’ dismissal removes one of the early favorites to succeed Gibbs. Williams had been in charge of the Redskins defense for all four seasons under Gibbs and was popular among fans and many players, but his confrontational style and poor track record at his previous head coaching stint with the Buffalo Bills did little to help his chances for the top job.


The person also said Saunders, who ran the offense the past two seasons, was never a candidate for the head coaching position and was told several days ago that he was not in the team’s plans. Saunders, like Williams, was considered a possible heir-apparent to Gibbs when he arrived in Washington, but he was never able to generate the type of consistent, high-yardage attack he had during his long stint as an offensive coordinator in Kansas City.

Does anyone want to be the next Redskins head coach? Team owner Dan Snyder has the attention span of a toddler, combined with the patience of your average I-95 driver in Florida. Only a masochist would want to be head coach of the Redskins.

No I am not applying.


MLB Catcher Mike Lieberthal retires

The Dodgers recently declined to pick up the option they had on the long-time catcher. From AP-

LOS ANGELES — Catcher Mike Lieberthal has decided to retire after a 14-year big league career with the Phillies and Dodgers.

“I’m done,” Lieberthal said on Saturday. “I decided a couple weeks after the season ended. If [the Dodgers] had picked up my option, I probably would have played one more year. But I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”

The 36-year-old Lieberthal, who grew up in nearby Westlake Village, played his first 13 seasons with Philadelphia before signing with the Dodgers last winter. He hit .274 with 150 homers and played in two All-Star games.

The Dodgers declined the option they had on Lieberthal for the upcoming season. Lieberthal played in 38 games last season as a backup to Russell Martin, hitting .234 in 77 at-bats.

Mike was a good ML catcher for over 10 years. My best memory of him isn’t related to the real game, but to the Strat-O-Matic tournaments I used to play in. His home run for me at the 2002 Worlds in a must win game allowed me to make it to that year’s Quarter-finals. Thanks for getting me there Mike, and good luck in retirement.


Tiger Woods wins Buick Invitational; ties Arnold Palmer on all-time win list

Twenty one wins and counting till Tiger breaks the all-time PGA career win record held by Sammy Snead. From AP-

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods joined the King, and left everyone else at the Buick Invitational feeling like paupers. In his most dominant start to a season, Woods built an 11-shot lead Sunday until his game and the fickle weather turned cold on the back nine. A birdie on the last hole gave him a 1-under 71 and an eight-shot victory, giving him 62 for his career to tie Arnold Palmer on the PGA Tour list.


Woods opened with a 40-foot birdie putt, threw in a 60-foot birdie just to keep a four-deep gallery from falling asleep, and only looked mortal when he made three straight bogeys toward the end of his round.

All that did was affect the final margin, not the name on the trophy.

Woods finished at 19-under 269 to win the Buick Invitational for the fourth consecutive year, tying a PGA Tour record for consecutive wins in a single tournament. Woods is the only player to own such a streak at two events, having also won four in a row at Bay Hill.

Ryuji Imada matched the best score of the final round with a 67 and was the runner-up.

Woods returns to Torrey Pines in June for the U.S. Open, and if this week was any indication, it could be another long week for his peers.

Watching Tiger win by eight is about as exciting as watching grass grow, but I had the Buick on this afternoon. He’ll pass Palmer this year, which makes Ben Hogan’s 64 win total on deck. Tiger should pass that with ease this year, Jack Nicklaus total of 73 is possible in 2009, though I’d predict Tiger to pass Jack in 2010 unless Tiger gets injured.

History in the making can be fun to watch. Woods success isn’t rubbing off on US youth at present as seen by the slim amount of winners age 29 and younger on tour who were born in the US. If you need more proof, look at the dismal failure of recent American Ryder Cup teams.


2008 Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft

Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft 2008 The Super Bowl is still more than a week away and the coaches from the other 30 teams are just barely getting involved in talent evaluation, so mock draft speculation is way premature. Especially since free agency hasn’t opened yet and what happens there will greatly impact the draft. Still, it’s a lot of fun.

While I’ll be tracking overall 2008 NFL mock drafts on a serious basis in a couple of months, I think it’ll be more enjoyable at this juncture to focus my energy on guesses about what the Dallas Cowboys might do.

The consensus, which I share, is that the team’s main needs are to get younger at wide receiver (both Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn are in their 30s and the latter may be done), better at cornerback (you need three studs in the modern NFL and the Cowboys have only one-and-a-half in Terance Newman and Anthony Henry), and deeper at running back (Julius Jones will almost certainly go in free agency and Marion Barber can’t shoulder the burden on his own). And another offensive lineman or two certainly couldn’t hurt.

By all accounts, this draft is rich in talent at running back and offensive line and decent at wide receiver and corner, so the ‘Boys should do well if the Old Jerry Jones continues to stay away and we don’t reach for Quincy Carter-type players. The Cowboys currently own the 22nd (via last year’s trade with Cleveland) and 28th picks (their own) but Jones is known for wheeling and dealing, so they could pick anywhere.

Most of the mocks I’ve seen have Dallas taking either a WR or CB with the first pick and a RB with the second. While I’d argue RB is a 2nd or 3rd round need — since we’re talking MBIII’s backup here unless he gets away in free agency — the draft is apparently so rich in RB talent that “best available athlete” trumps need.

My picks:

    22. Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma: A great athlete and a scouting department that focuses especial attention on the Big 12 makes this a natural fit.

    28. Felix Jones, RB, Arkansas: Jerry Jones won’t be able to resist a fellow Razorback here.

Others’ picks in the extended entry.

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Michelle Wie to start ’08 at LPGA Fields Open

It will be her first professional event since October 2007. From Golf Week-

Michelle Wie will make her 2008 LPGA debut at the Fields Open in Hawaii, according to a report in the Honolulu Advertiser.

The Fields, the second LPGA event of the season, will be held Feb. 21-23 at Ko Olina Golf Club in Honolulu. It will be Wie’s first tournament since she finished second-to-last at the Samsung World Championship last October.

“I’m excited to see Michelle because she’s spent so much time out here,” Ko Olina director of golf Greg Nichols told the Advertiser. “It will be great to have her back. … This is her home course and I fully expect her to play well.”

Wie finished third at the 2006 Fields Open, a shot out of a playoff; she did not play the event last year.

Michelle is a very talented golfer. If her wrists have healed, she should return to pre-2007 form. Her passing on the Sony Open was a good sign, lets hope there are more in the year ahead.


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