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It’s Time To Cash In On Minor League Baseball

“Arguably, the investment in the infrastructure of MiLB is why Endeavor and Silver Lake are looking to buy forty MiLB franchises.”

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Minor League Baseball was traditionally a precarious investment, but times are changing.  Player Development Contracts (PDC) are the traditional agreements between Major (MLB) and Minor (MiLB) League clubs.  These agreements are generally for three years at a time.  

Significant changes have occurred in MiLB over the past few years.  First, the number of MiLB teams contracted from 160 to 120.  Second, name, image, and likeness (NIL) opportunities will likely drive more high school graduates into college versus the Minor Leagues.  Third, Major League Baseball has continued to use the Atlantic League as a way to test new MLB rules before deciding on implementation (e.g., seven inning double-header games, pitch clocks, and a runner starting at second base for the batting team in extra innings).  Fourth, in a monumental move, Major League Baseball has decided to pay for Minor League baseball player housing beginning in 2022.  

Tyler Zombro, Durham Bulls, struck by ball | wcnc.com
Courtesy: WCNC

Arguably, the investment in the infrastructure of MiLB is why Endeavor and Silver Lake are looking to buy forty MiLB franchises.  It could also be that Minor League franchises do become MLB franchises from time-to-time.  The development of one Minor League team into the MLB would more than pay for an investment in forty.  

Will MiLB games and franchises ever match what Disney just sold for NHL game advertisements?  Not in the immediate future.  However, the Premier League model in international soccer and the development of players and brands through a franchise is important and a long-term goal of MLB and its franchises.  The relegation of teams and promotion of franchises?  Very unlikely as American owners in the Premier League were pushing for a Super League and would likely enjoy a model where teams do not get relegated so their investments do not fall in value.  

In an interesting twist, MLB teams could learn something and vice-versa from the other regarding marketing tactics and campaigns.  Minor League teams are often known for their very funny advertisements that are maybe seen as unfit for the highest professional ranks.  However, in the words of Bryce Harper, maybe MLB should make baseball fun again.  

The MiLBY’s are Minor League baseball’s version of the ESPY’s.  The show will highlight the most fun and most accomplished players and brands.  It will indeed bring more exposure.

MiLB could also look into international expansion with minor league affiliates throughout the world with a Minor League baseball version of the World Series to be played between them.  Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, Venezuela, Brazil, Japan, Korea, and many other countries come to mind.  China and Cuba would also be ideal, but for the political concerns and turmoil.  

If players are already drafted on the international stage, would it not make more sense to develop the players from an earlier age through a minor league system? The earlier exposure will help with learning American culture and the English language, which are often more difficult to learn as one gets older.  It would also hopefully improve conditions internationally for athletes.  

Minor League teams are now being offered affiliated partnerships.  The centralization of MLB and its affiliates means MLB team owners will have more say and control over their franchises, brands, and development.  It also means there are an additional forty formerly affiliated clubs that are likely to fold or search for independent leagues to join, which again provides more opportunities for baseball players.  

If anything, the increase in the valuation of professional franchises across sports has gotten team owners more interested in their brands and values now and down the road.  Imagine selling an MLB club along with its trademarks, venue, and minor league affiliates, their trademarks, and venues.  Valuation in the billions could be multiple billions with the affiliates.  

Amarillo Sod Poodles vs. Midland Rockhounds.
Courtesy: John Moore

There are already several Minor League teams in cities or regions where they are the only show for miles around where attendance and branding are already very successful.  The strengthened partnership between MLB and MiLB will only increase that value.  American baseball is wise to do this as college increasingly becomes a somewhat easier road to travel through NIL and the college vs. minor league environment.  Often college teams bring the national media exposure and huge athletic department budgets that minor league teams formerly did not have access to through traditional PDCs.  The new age of Minor League baseball is upon us.  

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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