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It’s All Fun and Games (‘Till Somebody Brings Up the Money…)

Landing a spot in Cooperstown is about more than just a gold plaque.

John Collins



Lemme in Coach! (Credit:

Hall of Fame, Fortune, Flaws and All

Filling the January lull between free agent signings and actual games on the field, Major League Baseball annually releases their Hall of Fame voting results, celebrating those that will be making it into Cooperstown that July. As with anything in sports, of course, this inspires vociferous debate.

Who belongs in baseball’s Hallowed Hall; whose election would water it down or denigrate the game?

Over the years, the Baseball Writer’s Association of America tasked with voting has morphed the process into what has become an almost philosophical question, or morality “litmus test” for followers of the game. How do you deal with the players suspected of doing steroids, even if it’s only hearsay? And the ones like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, who have much stronger ties?

What about the “numbers of the game?” If cheaters bastardized the sports’ most celebrated statistics, should the “clean” players have their stats adjusted accordingly? Essentially, writers are left to sift through all the noise and innuendo; to determine what is “real” and what it means.

Who Ya Got? (Credit:

Laced into all that is the danger of fixation on a tradition that fails to take into account the evolution of the game. Benchmarks have been changed, roles like Designated Hitter and Relief Pitcher have become more specialized, yet that’s not necessarily considered when assessing a player like Edgar Martinez’s candidacy.

Essentially, what’s left is a broken voting system that positions the baseball writers at the center of the story. With no clear standards or guidelines from the Hall, former players are left at the mercy of the BBWAA, with their arguments and value judgments determining who gets awarded one of the highest honors in the game.

That’s all well and good, yet this entire conversation trivializes what is a very real issue for many of the former players from the MLB: the Hall of Fame is a business, entrance into which has very real financial implications for veterans on the ballot.

Being named a Hall of Famers is obviously enormously meaningful, and a great honor for players and their families that has all sorts of pride and emotion attached. Yet beyond that- and perhaps more importantly- how candidates fare in the voting has a direct impact financially! The Wall Street Journal ran a feature years ago about the museum in Cooperstown (HoF) with an emphasis on the reality that more than just honor, baseball nostalgia has become a MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY!

Membership or exclusion from the Hall has a real-life impact on what players are able to do and earn after retiring from the game. After their careers on the field, athletes turn to their reputation to make money. They sign autographs & memorabilia, give speeches, make public appearances, and solicit product endorsements- all of which are enhanced and in much higher demand simply by being able to say “from the Hall of Fame.” That credential alone merits higher fees, attracts bigger clients, and works wonders for a players’ post-career profitability.

Heroes of the Game (Credit:

Memorabilia and Clean Sweep Auctions owner Steve Verkman put it rather bluntly with his declaration that, “Adding Hall of Fame after a signature is the single best predictor of price,” and one player’s agent mentioned, “his {player’s} price just tripled” for appearances and speaking engagements on the day he was elected into the Hall of Fame.

Verkman and the agent go on to describe adding that “HoF” credential as a steady source of income; likening it to a “rock-solid annuity” that players may not receive otherwise. More than just a plaque or award, membership to the Hall is a valuable asset for athletes after their career.

Something so significant to these former players and their families should be dealt with thoughtfully and deliberately. Instead, we’re left with a broken voting system and fixation on an obsequious debate. Candidates are judged with a moving target, as baseball writers responsible for the voting are left without any clear standards or guidelines. So, how do we fix it? Well, personally, I base it on the Potter Stewart “I know it when I see it,” standard; however that’s the luxury of not having a vote.

Unlikely Postseason MVP (Credit:

**Speaking of the Hall of Fame, steroids, and players that may have become persona non grata to the MLB (Pete Rose, Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds, etc…) look at the Alex Rodriguez Revival! A-Rod went “scorched earth” against the sport years ago when he was suspended, and became reviled by the fans. Now, in addition to doing an excellent job on Fox’s MLB Playoff coverage, he’s being added to ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball team, with an uncanny symmetry. Here we go again- just like in 2004- with A-Rod filling a void left by Aaron Boone’s vacancy. Up next…Manager of the New York Yankees 2019…?

A Communication major from the University of Southern California, with eclectic experience in the sports, business, and the entertainment industry, John Collins is the baseball writer at Front Office Sports. An avid sports fan and highly opinionated writer, John is of the firm belief that Bull Durham is far superior to Field of Dreams and looks forward to you telling him otherwise. Reach out: any time!


Meet the WNBA’s New Boss

Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert will become the first commissioner of the WNBA and the first woman to lead a Big Four professional services firm in the U.S.

Front Office Sports



Photo Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

For the first time ever, the WNBA will have a commissioner. Before now, all of the league’s previous leaders like Val Ackerman and Lisa Borders were given the title of president. 

Cathy Engelbert, the current CEO of Deloitte, will take control of the role on July 17th and will report directly to Adam Silver. 

What should you know?

1. By the time she is done at Deloitte, Engelbert will have spent more time at the company (33 years) than the WNBA has been a league (23 years)

2. Engelbert is the first female to lead a Big Four professional services firm in the U.S.

3. She is the fifth person to lead the league after Val Ackerman (1997-2005), Donna Orender (2005-10), Laurel Richie (2011-15) and Lisa Borders (2016-2018)

4. Engelbert has spent the past four years in charge of Deloitte’s U.S. operation.

Basketball is in her blood…

Although she might be an accountant by trade, Engelbert is no stranger to the game of basketball. 

According to Bob Hille of Sporting News, she played at Lehigh for Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw and was a team captain as a senior. Her father Kurt also played and was drafted in 1957 by the Pistons.

What are they saying?

“Cathy is a world-class business leader with a deep connection to women’s basketball, which makes her the ideal person to lead the WNBA into its next phase of growth. The WNBA will benefit significantly from her more than 30 years of business and operational experience including revenue generation, sharp entrepreneurial instincts and proven management abilities.” – Adam Silver on the hiring of Engelbert

“I think that’s probably one of the reasons I was selected for this role, to come in and bring a business plan to build the WNBA into a real business and a thriving business, quite frankly.” – Engelbert to ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel

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Adam Silver Wants More Gender Diversity

The NBA commissioner states his desire to get more women into the sports industry. The NBA currently has a 31.6 percent ratio of women in team management.

Front Office Sports




Photo Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

If Adam Silver has his way, 50 percent of the new incoming NBA officials will be women.

That number applies to coaches too, Silver said speaking at the Economic Club of Washington.

How do the leagues stack up?

The following numbers, outside of MLB, come from 2018 reports put together by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida. MLB is the first league to have a report done on it this year.

1. NBA – 31.6% of team management are women / 37.2% of team professional admins are women

2. NFL – 22.1% of team senior admins are women / 35% of team professional admins are women

3. MLB – 28.6% of team senior admins are women / 26% of team professional admins are women

4. MLS – 26.5% of team senior admins are women / 31.6% of team professional admins are women

5. WNBA – 48.6% of team VPs and above are women / 58% of team managers to senior directors are women

6. NHL – No report done

Quotes from Silver… 

“It’s an area, frankly, where I’ve acknowledged that I’m not sure how it was that it remained so male-dominated for so long. Because it’s an area of the game where physically, certainly, there’s no benefit to being a man, as opposed to a woman, when it comes to refereeing.”

“The goal is going forward, it should be roughly 50-50 of new officials entering in the league. Same for coaches, by the way. We have a program, too. There’s no reason why women shouldn’t be coaching men’s basketball.”

That’s not all Silver wants to see change…

Silver, who has been adamant about getting rid of the one-and-done rule, provided some clarity as to when that might be achieved.

According to the commissioner, the 2022 NBA Draft will likely be the first one since the 2005 NBA Draft to allow high school players to go straight into the league rather than playing a season in college first.

Citing “active discussions” with the NBPA, Silver noted that they are still “a few years away.”

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“I Thought This Was a Good Deal”: AAF Vendors Speak Out

Amidst the spring football league’s collapse, countless vendors are still waiting to get paid for services rendered.

Robert Silverman




Ultimately, it was the little things that best told the story of how dire things had gotten for the Alliance of American Football (AAF), an ex-team social media manager said. Starting in Week Five, social media managers no longer traveled with the team for road games. Even before, they’d doubled up on hotel rooms. The final bit of penny-pinching was the most bizarre: For the eighth and final AAF game, social was told Getty’s photographers would not be in attendance. Instead they would have to rely on “generic images,” making the job vastly more difficult.

Less than a week later, on April 2, the chaotic, short-lived lifespan of the spring professional football league, launched in March 2018 by filmmaker Charlie Ebersol, the son of venerated TV producer Dick Ebersol, came to an abrupt end. A little over two weeks after that, the AAF filed for bankruptcy, as first reported by Front Office Sports.

In the aftermath, stories like the social media manager’s have become ubiquitous. A  former player was sent a medical bill for treatment received during training camp. Scores of others reportedly had to cover their own airfare or were sent four-figure bills for hotel rooms. There was the class-action lawsuit filed by two players, claiming that ownership misled them about the league’s long-term fiscal solvency. Founders pointed fingers at one another after the debt-ridden league came crashing down. All manner of now ex-employees, from team officials to players,  learned they were out of a job thanks to social media.

The league’s bankruptcy filing revealed that $48.3 million was still owed to a variety of creditors against a $11.3 million in concrete assets, a scant $536,160.68 of which remained in the league’s bank accounts. Moreover, the AAF informed the thousands of creditors that any attempts to recoup their losses would be pointless right now, because, per Sports Business Journal, its coffers are entirely bare… “If it later appears that assets are available to pay creditors, the clerk will send you another notice telling you that you may file a proof of claim and stating the deadline,” the filing states.

But like the social media manager, many of those selfsame creditors began to suspect the AAF was on rocky financial ground long before the league officially pulled the plug.

Shortly after Tom Dundon, the majority owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, who built his financial empire on the backs of subprime auto loans, bought a majority share of the financially-strapped league, he started to cut corners, looking to pare down expenses by any means necessary according to a report by Sports Illustrated. “As soon as Dundon took over, our f——— expense reports were getting approved out of Dallas,” where Dundon Capital Partners’ office is located, a former mid-level AAF employee told the magazine. (Dundon did not respond to multiple requests for comment sent via the Carolina Hurricanes. The form to contact Dundon Capital Partners on their website was removed at some point in the past few months )

With the AAF bleeding millions each and every week it remained in existence, per USA Today, Dundon deemed it necessary to scrimp and save wherever possible including on the margins. So vendors—companies that supplied locker room supplies, traveling equipment and more—were approached hat in hand and offered less than the full amount owed by the AAF.

READ MORE: AAF Files for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy 

While AAF officials served as the point of contact, two sources involved with the negotiations told Front Office Sports that the debt-clearing plan was conceived and ordered by Dundon’s financial team. If that meant exploiting AAF officials’ pre-existing relationships with vendors and playing on the faith placed in the league, so be it. As one former AAF official told Front Office Sports, it was “just a shit situation.”

Some of the companies did take the lowball offers, but others refused to accept less, insisting on full payment. It didn’t matter. Both paths led to vendors getting stiffed by the AAF. Dundon’s financial team kept stalling, promising the equivalent of “the check’s in the mail,” right up until the moment when the AAF closed its doors for good.

Now those vendors have been reduced to poring over the bankruptcy filings. They know all too well that, despite being out five or six figures, they’re way at the back of the line, trailing giant conglomerates like MGM and Aramark which are owed millions. And they’re not happy about it.

“I definitely feel scammed,” one vendor said.


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