White Sox

Sports Business 15 to Watch: Peyton Manning retires

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Sports Business 15 to Watch: Peyton Manning retires

1. It’s official: Peyton Manning is retiring. The two time Super Bowl winning quarterback reportedly informed Denver Broncos staff and his teammates of his decision on Saturday night, and a formal press conference is scheduled for Monday. With estimated annual earnings of $27 million according to Forbes, Manning, a multiple MVP winner and the first quarterback in history to win Super Bowls with two different teams, is a virtual lock for the NFL Hall of Fame. And despite his substantial off-field business portfolio, led by his signature 21-franchise deal with Papa John’s Pizza, it is likely that Manning will keep at least one foot in football. All of the NFL’s media partners are clamoring for his wisdom and wit in the broadcast booth, and Manning has expressed interest in ownership and possibly a front office position, following in the footsteps of his Broncos mentor John Elway. Stay tuned for more Manning details to emerge in Monday’s presser, and in the weeks to come.

2. New UConn Athletic Director David Benedict is clear: the Huskies should be in a Power Five conference. In his introductory press conference, Benedict expounded on walking the fine line between leaving the American Athletic Conference while respecting the league and the job it has done in its brief history. “I think the American has done a great job putting together a very strong conference in a very short period of time and we are going to be great members to that conference,” he said. “At the same time, we are going to make sure we position ourselves so we can remain competitive nationally in all of our sports.” Benedict becomes only the 12th AD in UConn’s history, which has deep roots of athletic success, especially in men’s basketball. The Huskies last won the NCAA championship in 2014, and are hoping to reach the Final Four in Houston this year.

3. After changing the rules last summer, the USOC now allows non-Olympic sponsors to run ads starring Olympic athletes – but not with complete freedom. According to Ad Age, if a potential non-Olympic sponsor wants to qualify, they must run the ads “continuously starting no later than March 27.” Because of this regulation, advertisers could flood the market with Olympic ads well before the Rio Games this summer. Old rules disallowed advertisers from running ads featuring Olympic athletes during a designated blackout period – lasting from a few days before the opening ceremony to a couple days after the closing ceremony. This year, non-sponsors can request a Rule 40 waiver from the USOC, which allows them to run ads during the blackout period. One of the first non-sponsors to take advantage of this new rule is Under Armour, which has launched a global advertising campaign featuring the U.S. women’s gymnastics team.

4. In a sport that attracts an older demographic, golfer Rickie Fowler is using fashion to tap into the millennial market. The flashy Puma pants, shirts, flat-bill hats, and high top shoes he wears on course have caught the attention of younger golf fans, according to Golf Digest. Fowler is currently showcasing Cobra-Puma’s newest apparel, a cap that brings a “faded look to the PGA Tour.” Fowler first wore the Cobra Golf Tour Fade hat at the Honda Classic, and the company is hoping it will become popular among his followers. Yahoo Sports’ Dan Roberts said about the golfer’s style, “You want to get kids and millennials more involved in watching the sport…He’s a great ambassador for the sport right now, and I think others should take a page from his book…Rickie is the future of the sport in terms of the style and panache."

5. The Chicago Cubs have tabbed Olivet Nazarene University as the team’s official education partner, in a four-year deal. The small Christian college currently hosts the Chicago Bears’ training camp, but would like to expand its role among the city’s professional sports teams. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, Cubs second baseman and university alum Ben Zobrist will be a school spokesman. ONU Associate Director of Marketing Jen Owen said that the school "had been interested in using the red-hot Cubs as a platform before Zobrist came to town, but his addition 'sealed the deal.'" While Zobrist will focus on the school's Cubs partnership, its brand will also be showcased at Wrigley Field. This is just one creative new sponsorship deal for the Cubbies, who are the early favorites to win the World Series as spring training settles in.

6. David Beckham’s quest to bring an MLS team to Miami just hit another bump in the road. Or parking lot, as the case may be. According to the Miami Herald, a senior Miami-Dade County official has claimed there is "enough concern about where fans would park when attending games at the new Overton stadium" that the county "may try to negotiate some parking improvements before approving the sale of a three-acre county property to Beckham's group." Currently, Beckham and his ownership group have no plans to construct a parking garage, instead relying on a Metrorail station three blocks away and a range of parking lots within half a mile that are capable of hosting 7,000 cars. Given Miami’s car-dependent lifestyle, Beckham’s lack of parking plans are a major concern for Miami Major Tomás Regalado and other city officials.

7. New social media outlet Slyce just got the best investor a startup could ask for: Stephen Curry. The Golden State Warriors guard, who openly admires LeBron James’ off-court business portfolio, just became a co-founder of Slyce, according to USA Today. The platform, which allows users to sift through questions and topics to find ones they want to address, was started by Curry’s former college roommate at Davidson, Bryant Barr, and former Nike designer Jason Mayden. Curry said that Slyce gives him a way to "take back just a bit of control of his own voice in the chaos surrounding" the Warriors this season, and allows him to focus on topics he likes: the Panthers, golf, charitable initiatives, and topics other than basketball. Slyce joins CoachUp, Under Armour, and the other companies in the MVP’s diverse portfolio.

8. Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross has reportedly held “secret talks” with English Premier League clubs Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester City, in an attempt to pitch them on his new business endeavor: The European Super League. According to the London Sun, Ross’ plans "are the biggest threat" to English soccer since the EPL breakaway in 1992 and "would spell the end" of the UEFA Champions League. One of the benefits of the proposed Super League is guaranteed qualification. Under the current Champions League format, top clubs have to qualify each year and annually face the risk of not making the cut. While Ross hopes to launch his league soon, The EPL’s top clubs insist that “a breakaway from the Champions League [is] not on the agenda.” Ross has been involved in the International Champions Cup in the US, China, and Australia, and hopes to make the Super League his biggest contribution to global soccer yet.

9. While concussion protocols have become much stricter across all contact sports, more retired athletes are now coming forward to complain about the handling of head injuries during their playing days. Steve Ludzik and four other former NHL players recently sued the league over its explicit handling of concussed players. The NHL said that Ludzik, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, "should be ordered to take a PET scan, which measures brain function,” and the league also “wants its own medical team to examine” the five players, according to TSN.ca. Further, the NHL wants to formally conduct blood work and neuropsychological or psychiatric examinations. The league and the former players have been haggling over medical procedures since last June, and the lawsuit is only the latest salvo in their intense negotiations.

10. With its contract set to expire in two years, Nike is working to re-up its deal with Barcelona in an attempt to remain the club’s kit sponsor, according to AS. The new offer would be for $92.4 million per year, but could ultimately reach $108.7 per year based on incentives. The new deal would go into effect in July, 2018. The cash injection would nearly triple Barcelona’s revenue; the club currently earns $38 million from its current Nike deal, with an additional $20.7 million coming from merchandise sales. Club President Josep María Bartomeu and other top executives have made it clear that their principle objective is to bring in more money, despite already being one of Europe’s strongest brands. Bartomeu is also spearheading a new arena for Barcelona’s basketball club – the project has an initial budget of nearly $100 million – so the extra Nike revenue would aid that building process as well.

11. Fresh off their Super Bowl win, the Denver Broncos are raising ticket prices for a fifth consecutive season, and will introduce a variable pricing strategy on season-ticket plans for the first time in franchise history. All seats are set to increase by 3% at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos have also designated several rivals, including the Patriots, Panthers, and Colts, as candidates for “premium games,” in which prices will be hiked up even more to capitalize on consumer demand. On the other side of the country, the New York Jets just announced plans to increase tickets prices for the first time since 2011, according to Newsday. The Jets previously employed variable pricing – they will continue to use it this season – and are set to increase prices by an average of 4% per seat.

12. In an attempt to play catch-up, Adidas is setting out to capture a larger segment of the $76 billion global women’s shoe market. Research from Euromonitor International shows that Nike’s 5.7% share of this market is more than double Adidas’, with Puma further down the list. Nicole Vollebregt, Adidas’ first-ever global head of women’s products, has been tasked with finding innovate ways to win over a larger segment of the women’s shoe market. Adidas, now heavily focused on women’s lifestyle apparel, aired commercials during the female audience heavy Academy Awards telecast. One of the biggest challenges Adidas will face is that both Nike and Puma are targeting the same market in an attempt to double their respective sales by 2020. Adidas remains optimistic, and expects to see revenue and operating profit “rise at a double-digit rate this year following three years of uneven growth and scrapped profit targets."

13. Domestic violence has unfortunately become commonplace across professional sports, with athletes being accused of domestic abuse seemingly every month. But drastic reforms have come in the wake of these problems, as zero-tolerance policies are firmly in place across all pro sports leagues. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred just issued a 30-game suspension to Yankees Pitcher Aroldis Chapman for “domestic violence allegations stemming from an October incident at his Miami home, according to the New York Daily News. The suspension, which will start on Opening Day, will not prohibit Chapman from participating in spring training or preseason games. Manfred’s unflinching wielding of the discipline hammer will hopefully show all MLB players that there is absolutely no room for domestic violence in baseball. Manfred was ready to hike the suspension up to 40 games, but Chapman and his legal team “negotiated a lesser penalty.”

14. Ahead of this summer’s Euro 2016, Tournament Director Martin Kallen told Germany’s Sport Bild magazine that organizers and French security services “had been working together to discuss options in case of a perceived threat” – keeping the November 13th Paris attacks in mind. A UEFA official commented on these talks, saying that this year’s championship, which will be held in France, “could be moved or played in empty stadiums if security services considered there was danger of an attack,” according to Reuters. While Kallen did not say that this outcome is likely, he followed these remarks by stating that “safety and staging the tournament takes priority over everything else.” Organizers of the tournament have already “increased the security budget” by 15% in the wake of the Paris attacks, strengthening safety measures and bumping the overall security budget to nearly $37 million.

15. Becoming the most recent company to gamble on an up-and-coming “sport,” Yahoo has rolled out a brand new e-sports vertical. The company’s plans include airing live tournaments, player-focused features and expert commentary, and maintaining industry calendars, stats, and player rankings. Yahoo E-Sports will focus on a few specific games, including, “League of Legends,” “Dota 2,” “Counter Strike: Global Offensive,” “Heroes of the Storm” and “Street Fighter V.” Yahoo Sports Media VP Bob Condor spoke of this new business venture, saying, “We’re approaching our coverage of e-sports with the same tenacity and professionalism we always have with Yahoo Sports, News and Finance.” Yahoo is joining other digital sports platforms offering new e-sports coverage – ESPN launched its dedicated e-sports vertical in January.

Would potential bargains like Mike Moustakas or Carlos Gonzalez make sense for White Sox?

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USA TODAY

Would potential bargains like Mike Moustakas or Carlos Gonzalez make sense for White Sox?

The 2017-18 baseball offseason continues to be, well, the 2017-18 baseball offseason, even with spring training games being played in Arizona and Florida.

A bunch of names remain on the free-agent market, including All-Star players who thought they would be in for big multi-year contracts. But as teams continue to deny the wishes of guys who expected to get big deals, the suggestion that those players might end up needing to take one-year offers if they want to play during the 2018 season is becoming a more common talking point.

So with potential bargains to be had for some pretty big-name players, do the White Sox jump into the waters and try to lock up a potential future piece on the cheap? Though they aren’t expected to contend this season, the White Sox have been mentioned in a pair of recent reports surrounding a pair of All-Star position players: Mike Moustakas and Carlos Gonzalez.

MLB.com's Jon Morosi wrote last week that the White Sox are a potential fit for Moustakas, who has sat and watched as former Kansas City Royals teammate Eric Hosmer received a huge contract from the San Diego Padres. Moustakas set a new Royals record last season with 38 home runs but has yet to find a team.

The White Sox, connected to Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado earlier this offseason, seem to have a current big leaguer or highly ranked prospect locked into almost every position on the diamond for the foreseeable future, but third base isn't necessarily one of them. Jake Burger was last year’s top draft pick, though there’s speculation he could slide over to first base. The team still envisions him as a big league third baseman, for what it’s worth.

Moustakas is 29 and already has seven big league seasons under his belt, including a pair of All-Star appearances and a pair of trips to the World Series, including the Crowns’ championship back in 2015. His 38 homers and 85 RBIs in 2017 were both career highs. He slashed .272/.314/.521, the final of those three numbers the best mark of his career.

Moustakas has rarely hit for average or reached base at too high a clip, though those recent power numbers would be intriguing at a hitter-friendly park like Guaranteed Rate Field, where he has 10 career dingers, 26 career RBIs and a .249/.308/.456 career slash line as a visitor.

Certainly Moustakas would be a buzz-worthy addition, and if the White Sox could get him for a good value thanks to this slow-moving market, that adds incentive to bring him aboard. A short contract would have even more incentive for the rebuilding White Sox, who would have the option to either sign him to a long-term deal or deal him away in a deadline deal depending on his immediate production levels.

But for fans hoping the White Sox will spend big on a third baseman in one of the next two offseasons — Machado is a free agent next winter, and Colorado Rockies star Nolan Arenado is set to hit the market the winter after next — slotting in an outside addition at the hot corner now could impact those plans.

Gonzalez is a completely different story, a three-time All Star during his 10-year big league career who is just three seasons removed from a 40-homer campaign in 2015. The 32-year-old Gonzalez also has a trio of Gold Gloves to go along with his 215 career home runs. FanRag’s Jon Heyman listed the White Sox as a possible landing spot for CarGo this weekend.

But his walk year in Colorado was not a very good one by his standards. In 136 games for a Rockies team that ended up in the playoffs, he slashed .262/.339/.423, all those averages way down from his usual level of production. And his power numbers plummeted to 14 homers and 57 RBIs after he combined for 65 homers and 197 RBIs in 2015 and 2016.

The good news for the White Sox is that down year makes Gonzalez far more affordable. Should he command only a one-year contract, the White Sox could take a flier, stick him in the outfield — which still has an unresolved spot with few strong offensive options for center field — and trade him should he bounce back in a big way. Or, at 32, perhaps he’s a guy the White Sox could opt to keep around should he prove valuable and the rebuild continues to move along ahead of schedule.

Gonzalez seems the less risky move at this point, as Moustakas could still be looking for a multi-year contract. But the White Sox have plenty of financial flexibility and flexibility in their decision-making should they add either guy and he proves worthy of a midseason deal or a long-term look.

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

MINNEAPOLIS—The applause was thunderous on the welcome back for Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, two Timberwolves draft picks sent away when the chance to acquire Jimmy Butler came along.

But some of the air was taken out the Target Center due to the absence of Jimmy Butler, who’ll miss the next several weeks after deciding to have surgery on his right meniscus following an injury Friday night.

So while there was no rematch of the thrilling contest the two teams had in Chicago, some things were very much the same.

Lauri Markkanen’s struggles continued.

LaVine showed more flashes of his complete game and Dunn had a couple moments of his own.

And on the other side, Tom Thibodeau kept his starters in the game with victory secured and his team up 20 points in the Timberwolves’ 122-104 win over the Bulls Saturday night.

The Timberwolves broke the game open in the fourth quarter with some key shot-making from veteran Jamal Crawford, as he was one point short of the Timberwolves having four 20-point scorers on the night.

Jeff Teague, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins combined for 70 points in their first game of many without Butler.

LaVine was a main reason the Bulls stayed afloat in the first 36 minutes, finishing with 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds in his first game back in front of the Minneapolis crowd he spent his first few years playing for.

Going head-up with his former teammate Wiggins for a stretch, the two seemed to relish their practice matchups. Wiggins was doing a lot of pure scoring while LaVine seemed to enjoy probing the defense and making plays for teammates, taking more of a ballhandling role as opposed to floating around the perimeter for 3-point attempts.

“He’s doing a much better job not settling for tough shots,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s attacking the basket much better than he was. You can just see him getting his legs, getting more comfortable. It was good to see him as a playmaker, he was terrific.”

Perhaps the Bulls are unlocking something with LaVine, getting him the ball in different places and on the move, where he made some nifty passes in traffic, exercising patience and maturity.

“I liked it. Hopefully we get a little bit more of it,” LaVine said. “But it’s working. Should’ve stuck to it.”

They didn’t, as the Bulls didn’t look as organized as they have previously. Dunn looked extremely motivated and aggressive but it seemed to work against him at times as Teague took advantage of Dunn being too quick for his own good. So hyped up, Dunn blew a breakaway dunk in the first half, but luckily Nwaba was right behind him for a putback.

That type of energy was expected for Dunn and LaVine, maybe even moreso for Dunn considering his underwhelming rookie year where he didn’t get much chance to play as a top-five pick.

Dunn finished with 10 points on four of 12 shooting while Cameron Payne scored 11  in 19 minutes, but the decision making from both point guards left plenty to be desired—which is to be expected given the lack of veterans on the floor.

Their starting unit again struggled as Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez again sat as the evaluation of the younger players continued.

Cristiano Felicio had a better outing than his foul-plagued game against Philadelphia, scoring 11 points but had his hands full on the other end. David Nwaba impressed for the second straight game as a starter, getting in the open floor to force the action, scoring 14 with nine rebounds in 34 minutes.

“The second quarter, I thought, was one of our better quarters of the year,” Hoiberg said. “As bad as we played in the first quarter, I thought we were down 20. We just didn’t sustain it. Against a great team like that, it’s gonna cost you.”

Nwaba, along with Bobby Portis, was a big reason why the Timberwolves couldn’t run away from the Bulls until well into the fourth quarter, even after taking a double-digit lead in the first quarter and sending Hoiberg scrambling for early timeouts.

“You can expect it because you haven’t played with that group before,” LaVine said. “We’re gonna get that chemistry down. We (only) had a couple practices with that lineup.”

Whether it’s the lineup change or just the rookie blues, the year has clearly caught up with Markkanen, who only made one field goal in 32 minutes.

“Gotta get some extra shots up. I see myself thinking too much,” Markkanen said. “That’s how it is. Of course it’s frustrating to not make shots but it is what it is. Gotta work through it.”

Markkanen has gone one-for-eight in each game coming from the All-Star break and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts.

“He’s shooting the heck out of the ball in practice,” Hoiberg said. “He’s struggling right now with his confidence, no question about it. As a shooter, you gotta keep looking to be aggressive, take the open ones. It takes one game to get that confidence back.”