Around the Business of Baseball

In September, we reported a number of stories related to the business of baseball.  There have been some recent developments, so we now provide this update.

Getting Home From Late-Night Nationals’ Postseason Games

We reported in mid-September about the difficulties facing Nationals fans when weekday games run very late due to the midnight closing time of the Washington Metro (the subway operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority). The issue had been brewing all season, and with the Nationals headed to the postseason — when games traditionally start later to accommodate the national TV broadcasts — concerns were raised about how to ensure that Nationals fans could reliably get home from weekday postseason games.  The Metro will stay open an hour later, but only if the person or company requesting the additional hour pre-pays a deposit of nearly $30,000.  The Nationals seemed poised to make that deposit, until Major League Baseball expressed concerns about “setting a precedent.”

Now Living Social, the daily deals company located in Washington, D.C., has stepped forward to make the $30,000 deposit and guarantee up to two hours of extra Metro service for all weekday Nationals games during the postseason. The Washington Post reports that Living Social contacted WMATA last week to make the arrangement. The deal was announced at a news conference last Thursday attended by representatives from Living Social, WMATA and the Nationals.

The Post also reports that over the summer, the D.C. government granted Living Social $33 million in tax incentives to keep the growing company — and its employees and tax revenues — in the District. It’s not completely surprising, then, that Living Social would step up and pay for the late-night service. It is, of course, also good public relations for the company.

In addition, Living Social’s agreement to fund the extra subway service moots the dispute between the Nationals, who wanted to make the deal, and MLB, which was apparently concerned about setting a precedent for the other 29 teams. MLB’s concerns never made much sense, given the subway and rail service offered in most major-league cities. Instead, a private company has come the rescue in what appears to be the never-ending corporate sponsorship of everything related to Major League Baseball.

A New Regional Sports Network in Houston

In August we reported on a dispute between the new FoxSports San Diego and several cable and satellite operators in the San Diego area that kept about 40 percent of San Diego residents from being able to watch Padres games at home this year. The Padres own only a 20 percent equity stake in FSSD and have not been able to forge an agreement between the station and the cable and satellite operators.

Monday marked the broadcast debut of Comcast Sports Houston, a new regional sports network in the growing NBC Sports Group. The Houston Chronicle reports that the Astros own 46.384 percent of the new channel while the Houston Rockets of the NBA own 30.923 percent. The Chronicle notes:

Astros games will continue to be available, pending distribution deals, across Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and New Mexico. But they will face competition from Fox, which will air a full schedule of Rangers games in Houston.

The reference to “pending distribution deals” refers to the arrangements between Comcast Sports Houston and the cable and satellite operators that tripped up much of the Padres fan base this season. There is no information to suggest that those agreements won’t be worked out before the beginning of the 2013 baseball season.

The note about the Rangers games broadcasting in Houston is also interesting. Dallas and Houston — separated by 240 miles or so — are not in the same MLB territory. That doesn’t preclude the Rangers from broadcasting games to the Houston area, of course. Look at the Giants and the A’s, who we know don’t share an MLB territory. Those two teams broadcast their games into the same area, on sister stations, no less. But the Astros and Rangers will be direct competitors next season, when the Astros move the American League West. It will be interesting to see if the new in-state rivalry boosts ratings for either or both teams.

Lawsuit To Stop The A’s Proposed New Ballpark in San Jose

In early September, we reported on the lawsuit filed by a group known as Stand for San Jose to stop the City of San Jose from completing a land sale to the A’s for the purpose of building a new ballpark. The lawsuit was filed last December, but things were quiet until the A’s, with support of the City, filed a motion with the Court to take the sworn testimony of Stand for San Jose’s members — with the goal of showing that the group is just a front for the Giants, and does not represent actual San Jose taxpayers.

A short update here: Judge Huber of the Santa Clara Superior Court held a hearing on the A’s motion last Friday, September 28. The judge took the matter “under submission” which means he will will issue a written ruling in the near future. Stay tuned.

Print This Post

Wendy writes about sports and the business of sports. She's been published most recently by Vice Sports, Deadspin and You can find her work at and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.

14 Responses to “Around the Business of Baseball”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. MikeS says:

    So MLB has their “precedent.” They don’t pay for anything, they wait till somebody else does.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. JimLahey says:

    Wendy – do you know if any teams have to pay a Mass Transit Use tax or something of the sort? I think the Red Sox should have to pay a few $MM a year to the MBTA for their services/overcrowding/shutting down the transit system whenever there is a Sox game. Couldn’t find anything on a quick search of google though..

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Tyler says:

    I am pretty sure Fenway Sports Groups (I’m a former employee) pays for the overtime work for the T on games that run out of normal schedule. For example if a rain delay pushed it back to after 2am, then they would make sure everyone who needed the train got on one.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Petetown Matt says:

    If it was found in civil court that Stand for San Jose was in fact an orchestrated move by the Giants, does this have any criminal on MLB-sanctionable repercussions?

    Being from Ottawa, I have a particular for special interest groups trying to block stadiums

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • a5ehren says:

      IANAL, but I think it would remove Stand’s standing to file the lawsuit if it turned out that no one in the group actually lived in San Jose.

      Given the Bay Area’s geography however, they could very easily be Giants employees who also happen to live in San Jose. I think this would mean that the suit could technically go forward, but it would great fodder in a jury trial.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Bab says:

      I was confused by your question, burns think its worthwhile one. Your use of terms is a bit loose. If you mean ‘civil court’ in the specific an technical sense, than no, there would be no ‘criminal’ charges since it would be administered as a civil case. Civil and criminal courts in the US handle the legal division of labor according to typology of offenses, etc

      If you mean ‘civil court’ in the broadest sense of an institution charged with adjudicating disputes and various events according to current public law, than the question comes into focus.

      So the reformed question: who, if anyone, gets in trouble if Stand for San Jose is ‘exposed’ as having some type of relationship with the San Francisco baseball Giants?

      In that case, depending on details most of us here will not know, probably no one. It could generate bad press in various audiences – pro-stadium East Bay folks, pro-Oakland San Francisco folks (which doesn’t exist btw), pro-stadium San Jose boosters, you get the point – and maybe be something of a cause célèbre expose among observers who decry financial influence in just about anything involving he public.

      But the real question, who gets busted? The Giants? The interest group? Some outside public relations firm? And what wound be the charge? Distasteful use of right to voluntary association? Conspiracy? Anti-competitive behavior? That stuff generally dont’t stick.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Wendy Thurm says:

      The consequences of the San Jose/The A’s finding out that the members of Stand for San Jose are not actually taxpayers of the city, is that the lawsuit would be dismissed. There wouldn’t be any criminal action taken at all.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Barry says:

    Great update. One of the many reasons I enjoy Fangraphs. Real news and analysis without unnecessary tripe. It’s refreshing.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Wendy – you should write an article about the significant events that happened in baseball this year, Darwin Barney on making only two errors at 2B in 154 games, Adam Dunn setting a new strikeout record (maybe), there were a few more.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. noseeum says:

    I live in SF for 12 years and left 3 years ago. From the first year I got there I constantly heard about two things:
    -The 49ers new stadium
    -The A’s moving to San Jose

    How depressing that neither has happened yet. C’mon, Bar Area. Get it together and get it done!

    Vote -1 Vote +1