Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bob Dibiasio Fails to Connect with the Fans

In regards to Bob Dibiasio's impromptu call in to Chuck Booms of CBS Radio 92.3 The Fan:

Never argue with a fool, onlookers listeners may not be able to tell the difference.

Case in point: the following dialogue from Bob Dibiasio:
This is the thing that drives us nuts...and I know people are going to crazy on this line...but people should be celebrating the Dolan ownership because without them and their willingness to deficit spend on a number of occasions  has stopped us from  being certain baseball teams that have been under .500 for fifteen - eighteen years. Teams that have been in last place in the central division for every year of the 17 years we've been in this division.

People should try and be objective once that's all we ask be objective once and look at  this from the other side--what would a size market like Cleveland which is the 22 teams fight this  economic fight that is major league baseball - and I know that a lot of the anger is because of the economics of baseballs crazy and they dump that on the Dolan ownership. - Bob Dibiasio
This old adage was never more true then when Bob Dibiasio took it upon himself to call a local radio station to defend the Cleveland Indians and specifically Paul Dolan who had made some questionable comments regarding the state of the franchise in an interview with Andy Baskin and Jeff Phelps the previous day: The Paul Dolan Buzzkil Interview .

Bob Dibiasio has the title Senior Vice President, Public Affairs. With the exception of 1 year he has worked in the Indians Public Relations department since 1979 and is a native of the region growing up in Lakewood, Ohio. This interview suggests to me that Dibiasio views himself more as a protector of the Dolan way and less of a voice of the fans.

In this interview he sells the results of the Dolan business model as a positive or at the least a necessity, blames more of MLBs economics of the game for failure to produce winning seasons, and suggest that we should be grateful of the Dolan ownership because without his willingness to deficit spend we'd be locked in the same situation as the Pirates, Royals, and Orioles.

And a question for 92.3 The Fan - Is Chuck Booms the best you can do to discuss baseball on your station? To be fair, I am not a listener to the station and am forming an opinion based on this one 15 minute interview but after about 5 minutes of dialogue I was completely amazed that a show with such little substance is allowed on the air.

A number of topics are discussed after the break and it is pointed out where Chuck Booms was unintelligent and incorrect as well as when Dibiasio was out of his realm of expertise, making excuses, or incorrect are discussed after the break. The full interview can be heard here: Chuck Booms takes on Bob Dibiasio.

Before preceding, I'd like to say that I am Cleveland Indians fan. I have no problem with the fiscal approach the organizations takes as I fully understand the economic realities of baseball. I do not believe that the answer to the Cleveland Indians problems is spending money. The answer to the Indians problems will be to follow the Twins model of the late 90's early 2000's and that is a strong commitment to the farm system. The Indians will be unable to create the honeymoon fervor that they had in the late 90's but they can certainly create a new relationship with the fans and to do this the Public Relations department may need a 100% re-training.

Dibiasio, Dolan, and the rest of those affiliated with the Cleveland Indians need to change the dialogue. Explain why the team is going to get better, not why it isn't. Explain why the front office is excited about the future, not lamenting it.

The PR Department needs to be schooled on so much more than just what works against the Indians and need to know how to communicate their direction to the average fan in an easy to understand language.  Don't ever compare the teams success to that of the teams that have failed in the past - discuss how you are going to compete moving forward and catch those teams in front of you. This should be obvious to the entire Indians front office after having a seasoned PR man taken to task by an ill-informed hack of a radio host.

Some of the items discussed after the break:
  • The Dolan's financed the top payrolls in club history.
  • Jacobs willingess to stay on the heels of the Yankees in terms of spending.
  • The success and ability of the Minnesota Twins to remain competitive and retain players.
  • The discussion as to whether the Indians can afford a 20-25 million dollar a year player.
  • Retaining Asdrubal Cabrera or Shin-Soo Choo.
  • Failure of the Dolan's to make any money and even a lot of years of losses of 3-7 million per year.
  • Forbes value of the Indians (and other) teams (video included).
  • The market economics and deficit spending of the Detroit Tigers.
  • How the outcomes of two games since 2000 would of changed the conversation about the Dolan ownership.
The first item of contention in the interview is in regards to payroll.
The top player payrolls in the history of the franchise - ALL OF THEM - have been under   the Dolan ownership. That is a FACT - so people need to understand that the highest ever was 96 million
This is always a point of contention for me. Just 24 hours earlier on this very station, Paul Dolan inferred that the previous owner had signed guys to contracts that were backloaded in order to win and increase the value of the team. In other words, Dolan was saying that he was "stuck" with the contracts. Now, when it suits the PR Department they use this as FACT that Dolan has spent.  Can't have your cake and it to guys.

Host Chuck Booms comes in with the statement:
Now Bob, let's be fair - when you said that we were at 56 million and the Yankees were at 63 million does that not say that that ownership group in the 90s said we're going to be right on the Yankees ass. We're going to be up there spending with them.You can go back economically and look at the times and the money and everything but that group said at least stay pace with those people.
Dibiasio's message should of focused on the simple fact that revenue drives payroll. The former ownership wasn't spending money close to that of the New York Yankees to proves willingness to spend or to stay right on their asses. The goal was to put the best team on the field with the budget given.

In July of  2000 MLB released their Blue Ribbon Report compiled by independent economist- and before we get into the devaluation of the data  - many teams had a representative assist the panel and the Indians representative was none other than former owner Dick Jacobs. With that said, the report concludes that most teams were losing money during the late 90's, something that I just do not believe.

The bulk of local annual revenues as defined by the Blue Ribbon Report include gate receipts, local television, radio and cable rights fees, ballpark concessions, advertising and publications, parking, suite rentals, postseason and spring training.

From 1995 to 1999 the Indians were neck and neck with the Yankees in total revenue. Since then, due largely in part to the explosion in regional sports networks (YES, NESN, etc) and large lucrative cable operator deals (Anaheim, Texas, etc) the gap of local annual revenue has grown considerably.

As the gap between revenue was widening players salaries were also escalating. In 1995 the average player made $1,110,766. By 2000 the average player salary increased 41% to $1,895,630. By 2005 the minimum salary increased another 28% and was $2.632,655, and last year the average players salary showed a 20% increase from 2005 and was $3,305,393.

According to Forbes (who wil be brought up later in the interview) the Yankees revenues for 2011 top out at 427 million while the Indians revenues top out at 168 million. Using Forbes data the Yankees had revenues of 427 million and an net operating income of 25.7 million which means that put 94% of their revenue into the operations of the club. Meanwhile, the Indians had revenues of 168 million and a net operating income of 12.1 million which means that the Indians put 93% of their revenue into the operations of the club. The difference between the Yankees and the Indians is that the Yankees have a revenue stream $259 million dollars higher than the Indians.

Revenue drives spending and the Indians, like many other teams, were left to try to find ways to compete after the explosion in revenues for larger market clubs starting in the late 90's. Any notion that the Indians or any other team outside of Boston could have stayed on the Yankees heels is a false premise and should be pointed out.

Chuck then goes on to discuss the Minnesota Twins - he says:
I've always wanted to talk about the new ballpark. Ah Minnesota has a new ballpark they didn't even really sell out the first year completely of Target Field and they certainly didn't last year and their not gonna this year but they ponied up a nice fat 100 - 200 million contract to keep uh Joe Mauer (Dibiasio points out that there a lot of people that will suggest that's going to hut them) -- Booms says "Not the Fans of the Twins"
How could Dibiasio let this gift horse go by the board:..

Booms first statement is completely false as he said "the Twins didn't even really sell out the first year completely of Target Field." A quick look at the numbers - the official seating capacity of Target Field is 39,504 and over 81 games the maximum sold out capacity would be 3,199, 824 and the Twins drew 3,223,640 which is over full capacity. 

The second comment "They certainly didn't last year". Well, here he may have a point. Although the 25,000 season tickets sold out well before opening day (96% renewal rate) the team only drew 3,168,1116 which is only 99.1% of capacity. 

As for 2012? The Twins are in fact coming off a horrible season. One may think the attendance is going to drop, but we don't know to what degree. Are we to assume that the Minnesota Twins fanbase is so fragile that one bad year is going to dramatically lessen the attendance at the park? Are corporations going to walk away from their luxury boxes and season tickets? The Twins are, like the Indians were in the 90's, in the honeymoon period with the fans. 

Moving on to the continued discussion about the Twins. Booms continues to use them as a model:
Going back to Dibiasio's assertion that many people in baseball that will tell you that gonna hurt them. Booms says "Not the fans of the Twins". Dibiasio says - well again the Twins-but it's gonna hurt them on how they're able to go about doing business to put a competitive team on the field. 
Well we do know they've been able to do it year in and year out. Since 2000 and the Dolan's ownership whose been in this thing more? The Twins or the Tribe? I mean it's just a fact that the Minnesota Twins .
What Booms says is true but it should be pointed out that the Twins did it the exact way that the Indians are trying to accomplish being competitive now. The model that was so successful for the Twins included staying out of the free agent market, drafting and developing players, and acquiring talent through trades.

When the Twins were faced with the pending free agencies of Torri Hunter, arguably the organizations best player at the time, Joe Nathan, and Cy Young winner Johan Santana they operated in much the same way as the Indians. They allowed Torri Hunter to leave via free agency, they traded Johan Santana, and signed Joe Nathan to an extension. The table below shows the Twins payroll, not only in terms of dollar amount, but including the AL Rank. It should be noted that only once on this list did the Twins break into the upper half of payrolls in the AL. At some point the honeymoon at Target Field will end, the contract of Joe Mauer will restrain the ability to add on to the roster via free agency, and the Twins will have to return to their player development model.

Dibiasio makes the statement that the Indians can not compete by paying one guy an exorbitant amount of money.  
Chuck Booms begins to suggest that the Indians could of signed Prince Fielder:
We also sit here with no one under contract after 2013.
Dibiasio says "Wrong, that is absolutely wrong and that's another fact that we just don't understand 
Booms interjects that Paul Dolan said yesterday on the air and we can get the exact quote - I believe that he said that he didn't know any of this until he talked to Les Levine - I didn't know you guys hired Les.
Dibiasio says that What people are trying to connect the dots which is just absolutely bizarre to us is the fact that we don't have any multi-year contracts for people like Shin-Soo Choo or Asdrubal Cabrera right now. They still have to play for us this year and next year but if you really want to do the technical aspect of multi-year deals - Carlos Santana is signed for 5 more years, Michael Brantley is signed for 5 more years, --snip-- Jason Kipnis 6 more years, Chisenhall six, Justin Masterson for 5 more years, Vinnie Pestano 5 more years, Chris Perez is on for another 4 more years these guys are all under - these guys are all young maturing...snip--so don't say that guys aren't signed to multi-year deals.
Dibiasio changes gears and asks the following:
So lets go to Asdrubal Cabrera. Obviously a star. A star in baseball. Probably the best shortstop in the American League. I could make the argument, so could you, that maybe he's the best shortstop in baseball. The guys just a stud that does everything well, he's an Indians through and through. Why not do something for the fans and get a deal done with this guy?  So when you always do the speech about core players. That is a core player that is a star. You see we hear about Jason Kipnis -- and I love Kipnis - and  in 6 years or 5 years he'll be a star but then he'll go to the Yankees. Why can't we keep Asdrubal Cabrera?
Dibiasio does a nice job explaining that the Indians were coming up on an arbitration hearing and that the Indians continue to negotiate a multi year deal with his agent. There was absolutely no reason to put the Indians feet to the fire to sign him just because an arbitration date was coming up.  Of course, this answer doesn't suffice for Chuck Booms who wants to bring up the Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia pitching matchup in the World Series.

One thing Chuck Booms did in his characterization of Asdrubal Cabrera was build him up into the sure bet silver slugger and gold glove candidate that will be a star shortstop for the next decade. Of course, Dibiasio can't come out and mention that Asdrubal had an extremely high HR/FB rate last year to carry some of his power numbers and in his other fantastic season of 2009 he had a BABIP of .360. What if Cabrera's numbers stabilize to a normal BABIP and a more realistic HR/FB rate? What if his range decreases over the next year and the alarming amount of errors he makes increases?

Asdrubal Cabrera is 26 years old. He is a switch hitting shortstop who seems to have developed more power than what was once expected.  If I were his agent, I'd model my contract request after the Hanley Ramirez deal which is 6 years and 70 million but would increase it to 6 years 80 million. Is Asdrubal Cabrera worth that based on his 2011 season?  If I were Cabrera's agent I would refuse to sign any extension especially with the knowledge that 28 year old shortstop Jose Reyes just signed a 6 year 106 million dollar contract and Derek Jeter's contract with the Yankees expires following the 2013 season. It would seem to me that the scales are tilted toward Cabrera.

The conversation begins to tilt toward signing free agents at high dollar amounts.
Dibiasio says that the one thing we can not do, unfortunately,  is the 25 million dollar player. WE CAN'T - It's just to costly. 
Booms interjects:
To be fair - did they not - if my memory serves me correctly the Dolans - this is the Dolans -this isn't Jacobs - did they not when they bought it go right to the end with Manny Ramirez at 20 - 21 million and lose out to the Red Sox - did they not go that high - they did.
The Indians were still firmly in their honeymoon period after the 2000 season. The Indians had just drawn 3.5 million fans to Jacobs Field and probably had a fairly good idea that they would break 3 million fans over the next several seasons. As the Indians had more certainty in their economic model they could act accordingly.  ESPNs Outside the Lines followed the negotiations for Manny Ramirez and the transcript of the show is linked.

A few items: the Indians initial offer was 7-years and 119 million. After the Red Sox got involved they came back with 5-years, 100 million.  The Indians did increase their offer to 8 years and the same dollar amount (more deferred money) as the Red Sox but because Manny felt underpaid during his time in Cleveland he decided on Boston.

Dibiasio responds:
We offered CC 20 million for 5 years. They said no because they new they knew they were able to get 23...25 
The offer to Sabathia was closer to 4 years and 72 million with a signing bonus to bring his 2008 salary up from 11.75 million to somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 million. The contract would be a 5 year 90 million dollar contract.

Chuck Booms interjects:
Allright - so you said we can't do 25 million dollar player? Can we do a 20 million dollar player? You offerred CC 20...can we do a 20 million player...(Dibiasio interjects that Fielder didn't get 20).....Booms responds - I'm not saying Prince - Let's just move ahead to next free agent class or just said we offered  20 million to CC which is a nice chunk of change and he should of given us a hometown discount as should Pujols should of with St. Louis...but does that mean we can get a 20 million dollar guy? AND if we can't ---can we make sure Asdrubal doesn't leave - you know - for less than 10 million a year...some nice deal that makes him happy - that's all were asking for.
Dibiasio explains:
Well those are valid questions to ask.  Now the issue is in any negotiation we have to make sure that we give Asdrubal or Shin-Soo or whatever player a CC whoever - you work the negotiations by trying to find a number that makes sense for the player that obviously provides respect and value for that athlete but also can work within the confines of  your franchise so that you can put a team around that player to be a competitive championship caliber team. You just don't give one guy a whole bunch of money 
Booms says:
Let's say the Dolans would of been successful and announce - with you standing there at a presser saying CC Sabathia's here for the next five years at 20 million a year - the whole town would of had a party --are you saying then that we wouldn't of been able to put other players around him and we would've had just one big fat pitcher for 20 million a year and nobody good around him?
Dibiasio says:
The confines of how we have to go about putting together a baseball team that has to be an aspect to it. To add Prince Fielder at 24 million a year to the 74 million dollar payroll that we had in place prior to that sign would of put us into the 90 million dollar range--Now..How many tickets would we of sell because we  did that? I don't think anybody knows....(Booms interjects A LOT)...well there would be a lot there would be an increase but...if it didn't work- if it didn't work- that for some reason the addition of that single player didn't put us in a position to attract the kind of numbers a championship caliber team - you end up losing 20 million as a franchise that season -- that affects you for years on how you go about signing players, signing scouts..doing the things you need to do as a franchise....
Dibiasio didn't need to go here. The attendance push from signing a Prince Fielder was going to happen. Citing how the Twins won continually throughout the first decade of the 21st century needs to be reintroduced right here.The ticket push would make the Indians a nice tidy sum of money year one of the deal.  The point of not singing a Prince Fielder has to be the long term commitment to a player who may not produce much value over the last 4+ years of the contract. The Indians can not afford to go term of 8 or 9 years on a Prince Fielder or any other mid-27 year old free agent- no matter what the short term gains are. As for Asdrubal Cabrera - again, he hasn't proven to me to be the player worth a Hanley Ramirez or Jose Reyes type extension.

Here's where Dibiasio loses a lot of credit:
If there's anyone out there that absolutely believes that the Dolan's ownership takes in a PROFIT every year -- they're crazy.
Booms brings up Forbes Magazine and says that the Indians franchise is valued at 52 million more than they bought it for which means that they've made some money. It's actually valued at slightly higher 391 million or a 68 million dollar increase. But, if the value of the club was to have risen just at the rate of inflation it would be worth $453 million today. So, has the franchise really appreciated in value?  For a look at some more valuation information check out the video from Forbes below.

Dibiasio claims that there are a couple of years where the team made a couple of million - that's it.  And there's lots of years we lose anywhere from 3 to 7 million.
The average fan a) doesn't care about the above quote and b) doesn't believe it one bit. It should never be brought up in any interview.
This is the thing that drives us nuts...and I know people are going to crazy on this line...but people should be celebrating the Dolan ownership because without them and their willingness to deficit spend on a number of occasions  has stopped us from  being certain baseball teams that have been under .500 for fifteen - eighteen years. Teams that have been in last place in the central division for every year of the 17 years we've been in this division.

People should try and be objective once that's all we ask be objective once and look at  this from the other side--what would a size market like Cleveland which is the 22 teams fight this  economic fight that is major league baseball - and I know that a lot of the anger is because of the economics of baseballs crazy and they dump that on the Dolan ownership.
Booms comes back with the Detroit market dynamics: The Detroit market is not bigger than us and it's about the same size city and you want to talk about a town in economic blight that town you trip over the homeless to get to Comerica Field.
Dibiasio responds: There's a difference here...there are about 6-7 teams major market that generate so much revenue that they can afford the 150 - 200 million dollar salaries. <snip>  There's one team out there that deficit spends in the 20 million range.--there's equate that to our ownership or the other 22 in our business that has to work in the confines of the realities of the economics - we don't think that's fair. And I would just ask people to be a little bit objective and look at what we have been able to do and the thing that's most frustrating is if you would of gone back --and you said from 2000 on --you go back and look...2 simple wins 1 in 95...err...1 in 05 and 1 in 07 changes the entire dynamic on how people look at it.


  1. good article, but do you proofread at all? there are errors everywhere in this article and the guy's name is Chuck Booms (with an S).

  2. Thanks for the Booms corrections...whatever his name is!

    Couldn't find too many other errors and am satisfied with the crudeness of the transcript of the dialogue as well.

    Thanks again.

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