Thursday, September 25, 2008

The sad saga

The truth is that neither the Reds nor Giants wanted to be here.

A few weeks ago, a Giants official gave me the read-between-the lines message of he being too busy dealing with San Francisco media, so I should not call him and stick to getting my quotes/info from the Defenders. Call it creating distance, call it confidence that they'd be elsewhere, but the Giants were dead set against coming back here.

Defenders GM Charlie Dowd told me he felt his team was never in a position of leverage, something Carolina Mudcats GM Joe Kremer felt his team had going for him. He said that both teams "wanted" to be in Carolina. This is why the whole process took so long -- Carolina was making sure it made the choice it wanted. In essence, the Defenders had to wait until a decision was made for them, and even after that happened, they didn't know which way Carolina had decided to go until hours after it announced it had called a press conference.

Before anyone thinks about doing damage to themselves over the apparent lack of love, the Marlins wanted to be here, but never imagined the Dodgers would leave Jacksonville, Fla. That simple move changed everything. The Dodgers went to Chattanooga, the Marlins left Carolina, the Dodgers' move forced out the Reds, who as we know, decided upon Carolina.

What made Carolina so attractive?
For the Giants, it's closer to Augusta and not Norwich.
For the Reds, its the Southern League and they had been in Chattanooga 21 years, being familiar means something. Plus, both teams wanted the weather and away from the uncertainty here.

Speaking of that, the rumors are getting stronger that the team will be sold within the next year and moved to Richmond, Va. Is that a done deal? No. Would I bet against it? No.

What can be done? First people need to go to Defenders games. If ownership and the Eastern League feel this team can't grow and sustain that growth -- I'm not talking the nice bumps the last two years brought, but double that immediately -- then it's as close to a foregone conclusion. I've asked Lou DiBella several times in the past about selling the team. He's never said it wasn't an option, but he's also said it's not an option he wants to consider.

Getting back to the matter at hand, the Mudcats GM told me both teams wanted to be there. Charlie Dowd said that the Giants and Defenders never expressed a "definitive" desire to go separate ways. That's because both knew they are the red-headed stepchildren in this bi-annual dance. No one wanted the Giants and no one available wanted Norwich.

All along, the Giants were trying to, as a common phrase in politics these days goes, put lipstick on a pig in its presentation to Carolina. Carolina felt the Giants would do well there. Just not as well as the Reds. Once the Reds made their call, the final pieces fell into place.

At that point, neither had a choice.

8 comments:

greg8370 said...

"No wanted the Giants and no one available wanted Norwich." That's pretty sad summation.
Hope folks realize that next season could be it for Double A ball in SE Connecticut and once it leaves it's not coming back.

thehondohurricane said...

Joe,

How on earth could we even hope for the improvements you mentioned with everyone knowing the lame duck status of the team? I can't imagine in my wildest dreams 400K going thru the Dodd gates. I doubt that the team is going to spend the money to replace the quality personnel it lost last year, and actually, they should have already been replaced. Who's going to generate the enthusiasm to get things rolling? And how are we ever going to rid this black cloud hanging over Dodd that it's such a lousy place?

Whether or not this could ever have been successful, we'll never know. And I lay it right at Louie's feet. He came here with a boxing promoters mentality and for two years he had non-baseball people running the show. And I still maintain, absentee ownership doesn't work.

I have no idea what it would take to satisfy ownership from a P&L point of view, but if 225K to 250K attendance won't do it, then it's curtains.

Let's face it, next year is going to really reek. It's going to be like a 71 game wake.

Enough venting for today, I'll try to organize my thoughts a little better for future posts.

Joe said...

Hondo,

I'm not talking about doubling the attendance of the last two years, which would be fantastic. I'm talking about doubling the increase of the past two years. If there;s any hope at all, the fans need to come out strong from Day 1 and maintain that intensity.

If the team somehow can draw an additional 400 fans per game, that's 250,000 for the season provided a full slate is played.

There's so much more than absentee ownership at play here. It's market size, it's fan indifference (and to an extent conviction that another team will come), the economy is hurting fans and the team -- just wait until they make less in advertising, a hot/cold relationship with the city and on top of it all is the location.

Now, despite whatever Lou might say, the location isn't the problem. Fans went before and they COULD come again. Does the team need billboard on I-395? Yes, that would help some, not a lot.

The city doesn't view the team as an asset, yet you'll find Dodd Stadium on the cover of the Yellow Pages.

Do we, as a city and a region, want this team? Now is the absolute last chance to make that known and have some sort of say. Rally your friends, write letters to city government and the stadium authority and to EL President Joe McEachern and to Minor League Baseball, who would love to see the Defenders in Richmond, Va., in 2010.

Start campaigning to keep the Defenders here. Write to Lou DiBella and tell him you want your baseball team.

Get local baseball teams -- little league, AAU, high school, college -- to unite to keep this team here. How about teams joining together to buy season tickets? At last year's $473/seat rate, maybe teams can raise enough to buy two seats? Maybe some of the better off businesses in town can buy a few. Or even sponsor a promotion?

Whatever the course of action is, if the fans of baseball and the Connecticut Defenders wait until Opening Day, it may be too late.

greg8370 said...

In reading some of the Carolina coverage today the Reds will bring the team to Carolina for an exhibition game on April 3, 2009.
Also the stadium is putting down a new field, installing a new outfield wall and creating a shorter right field fence.

LAYBACK said...

JOE---
TOO MANY TIMES I HAVE SAT THERE AND COUNTED 300--500 PEOPLE IN THE STANDS---ONLY---TO HAVE THE ANNOUNCED ATTENDANCE @ 1,200.
YOU WANT TO INCREASE THE ATTENDANCE--JUST INCREASE THE IMAGINARY FOLKS THAT ARE AT EACH AND EVERY GAME.
YOU / THEY WILL NOT GET 400 MORE PEOPLE TO OUT TO THE APRIL / MAY GAMES IN THE 35 TO 40 DEGREE RANGE--IT IS JUST TTTOOOO COLD FOR BASEBALL AT THAT TIME OF YEAR.
ONE OF THE BEST THINGS THAT CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED BY THIS TEAM'S FRONT OFFICE--IS--TO RECONNECT WITH THE SEASON TICKET HOLDERS AND MAKE THEM FEEL THAT THEY ARE IMPORTANT TO THIS TEAN, NOW AND IN THE FUTURE.

dweeb said...

I'm not sure I buy the 'it's too cold' argument for Dodd Stadium, though I concede it is VERY brisk up there in 'early Spring.'

Look at Portland's early season attendance figures (or perhaps find someplace that tallies how much hot grog is sold up there) and see what I mean.

Attendance at a Defenders ballgame really is a matter of recognizing that it's good value for the money as well as a good time for all who attend.

I've never read that ownership makes a fortune while operating a minor league franchise, so much as when they sell it to someone else.

I'd assume this is true for Double A baseball as well as other sports, and there's nothing wrong with making a profit (if you're a Wall Street broker we we have a Treasurer on speed dial to help.)

If those who enjoy value-priced sports entertainment don't make it worth the team's while to stay here, they won't.

And the region will start to tell tales about the ten million dollar plus stadium, sitting idle and empty in the Norwich Business Park.
Folks say, on dark and moon-lit nights, the ghost of Tater can be seen, stealing second.

Joe said...

Dweeb,

That's good stuff. If the team were to leave after this next season -- which is expect -- I would love for someone dressed as Tater to roam the business park. Although, he/she may be mistaken for wildlife and end up as road kill.

Anyhow...the cold is a non-issue because I don't believe the argument that it's colder in Norwich than in Portland, New Hampshire, Erie, Reading, Trenton, Akron, Altoona (which is at a higher elevation), Binghamton or New Britain

Do you know who hides behind the weather excuse? The Giants and Giants apologists who simply wanted an excuse to leave town. Guess what? They're stuck here for at least another 12 months.

The value is the BIG thing so many people fail to grasp. With the miscellaneous deals the team offers on tickets, many of which are deeply discounted such as free kids' tickets, it's a head scratcher.

A family of four, plus a hot dog and soda for each, plus a popcorn to share will cost less than four tickets to a movie, plus you get to be outdoors. You also don't have to worry about having to tell the kids to be quiet -- noise is appreciated at games.

What about Sun games? I've had people at my office tell me the Sun are a better value. No, they aren't. Tickets for a family of four are immediately more expensive than the Defenders' package. Plus, the promotions are better at Dodd.

I can understand people not wanting the hassle of dealing with the business park traffic. I hate traffic, but it's normally not bad except on Fridays with fireworks and the few other rare occasions.

Here's the other thing about the traffic. With the Plain Hill road entrance closed via contractual obligation, consider that when I took that course in late July on an off-day, there was a large number of houses for sale. As far as I'm concerned, that means this issue needs to be reopened. Understand it won't be everyone, as some of the residents will tell you, that will come and go that way. But if people are leaving, there should be a new discussion.

greg8370 said...

See, folks will always remember Tater, not Cutter.

How active will the EL be behind the scenes to "help" ship the team south?

What to do with Dodd in 2010???