The Stretch Run 

Parking Benefits Sports Franchises More Than Fans

Parking fees give franchises a guaranteed source of revenue. Although many people who attend events at the arena consider these fees to be unfair and a form of manipulation, there is no law that prohibits facilities from charging for parking.

There are several parking lots adjacent to HP Pavilion and none of the lots offer free parking. Fans who wish to park their cars close to the arena must pay a lot entrance fee of at least $12, which is a standard amount.

In comparison, it is less than the amount charged to park at Candlestick Park. It costs at least $20 to park in the stadium lot for a 49ers game. This is above the standard amount.

So although Sharks fans may not like paying $12 to park, they can take solace knowing that they are paying less for parking at HP Pavilion than at Candlestick.

But, then again, Sharks fans probably pay more money for parking than they do for food at the game. Fans can also buy the cheapest tickets for $7 more than the parking fee.

If fans don't want to pay a parking fee, the alternative is to take Light Rail or a similar form of public transportation to the game. Free shuttle rides are also available. Fans from outside San Jose have the option of taking Cal Train.

However, none of these ways of travel are reasonable alternatives for individuals who don't live near a Light Rail or Cal Train station and would have to drive their vehicle to one. In this case, these individuals might as well drive directly to the arena and pay the fee.

The spaces inside the lots tend to fill up quickly. Therefore, fans are advised to arrive at the arena at least an hour before every Sharks games as it's nearly impossible to find a parking space closer to game time.

On the left of most handicap spaces are areas with painted lines providing enough room for wheelchair ramps to go down. This is an excellent idea, but the only problem is that nearly all vans with wheelchair lifts have doors that open on the right side. I think HP Pavilion should re-paint the lines and put them on the right instead of the left because it would benefit disabled fans.

They should designate more spaces for the disabled, as there aren't enough handicap spaces in the lots around HP Pavilion. I have noticed that many non-disabled people take away handicap spaces from the disabled and this irritates me greatly.

I think the police need to monitor the parking lots more actively. People who park in handicap spaces but don't possess handicap stickers should be fined.

One good thing is that HP Pavilion allows free drop-offs and pick-ups. I know for a fact that it is much easier to drop off someone before a game than it is to pick up someone after it is over. For this reason, I recommend to anyone picking up a friend or family member from the game to arrive at the parking lot before the game is over.

After games, the city police block off many roads around HP Pavilion. As a result, it is difficult to get into the parking lots.

I saw this first hand three weeks ago when I went to a Sharks preseason game. A family member was able to drop me off in front of HP Pavilion without charge and did not have any problems. When my relative came to pick me up after the game, they had a difficult time getting into the parking lot because the entrance had turned into an exit.

I think I've said enough about matters of parking and would like next week to give my take on this year's Major League Baseball playoffs. It has been filled with many unusual moments and I'm sure more of the same will happen in the World Series between the surprising Marlins and the dynasty driven New York Yankees.

Sharks Fans Enjoy Messy Foodstuff At Home Games

Matthew Adamski for SBS

The sale of food and drink at the Tank provides the Sharks with a substantial amount of revenue because these food items are priced much higher than those sold in stores and fast food restaurants. However, most fans buy food and drinks at games even though they know they are paying a higher price.

A popular food item sold at the arena is the Fresh Popped Popcorn. The only problem with selling popcorn at games is that it makes it easy for people to make a mess. Usually spectators drop popcorn on the ground in front of their seat and leave it there when the game ends.

I went to a Sharks home game last week. After the game had finished I saw a lot of popcorn, plastic cups and boxes and various other kinds of debris left on the floor in the section of boxed seats where I sat.

It is quite apparent that making money is a higher priority for Sharks and arena officials than keeping the arena clean. It seems like the messiest foods are the most popular. Most of the food items sold at HP Pavilion are messy in nature. Fresh popped popcorn, salted peanuts in the shell, potato chips, grande nachos, slapshot burritos, ice cream bars and drumsticks, and chocolate chip cookie sandwiches are a few examples of messy food items sold at games. All of these items are priced at or above $3.00 with potato chips being the cheapest and slapshot burritos, Chinese chicken salad, and turkey wrap the most expensive at $8.50 each.

The Sharks and the Tank will continue to sell these food items regardless of how untidy HP Pavilion gets just as long as fans continue to buy them at the current prices.

Fans who purchase a food item usually buy a drink to go along with their tasty yet messy chow.

It is the Tank's policy to prohibit bringing alcohol to games. This is not an action of general concern by franchise officials for Sharks fans. Rather it's simply a smart business decision on the part of the front office managers and executives.

They know that alcoholic beverages are the most popular drinks at public events especially sporting events. They also know that people would much rather bring their own drinks to the game. It's a safe bet that they would if it wasn't for the rule that prohibits them from doing so.

Since many people like to drink alcohol at games, they ultimately decide to buy a beer at the arena regardless of price because they don't have other options. Of course, this would not be the case if fans could bring a can or bottle of alcohol from home.

Beer, liquor, and wine are the three types of alcohol sold at HP Pavilion. Alcohol is not the only kind of beverage sold at the arena. The other beverages are soft drinks, bottled water, and fresh brewed coffee. Whichever beverage one chooses to buy, they should expect to pay no less than $3.50. Liquor drinks, wine, and beer in a plastic bottle are the most expensive beverages and each are priced over $8.

I think the start times for Sharks home games are ideal for maximizing revenue. Nearly all Sharks home games start at daily meal time hours. The common start time is at 7:30 in the evening while a few games start in the early afternoon. It is at these times that people are most likely to purchase food and drinks while in attendance.

The total amount of revenue accumulated at every game are quite large when one considers the capacity of the arena, the number of sellouts in a season, the percentage of fans who purchase food and drink items and the price of each item.

Fans who drive to the game spend about as much money for parking as they do for food and drink. I invite you to check back next week as I turn my attention to parking fees at HP Pavilion, a third way to obtain revenue.

Merchandise Provides Revenue For Sharks

Matthew Adamski for SBS

There are many ways sports franchises can gain revenue. One way is to effectively sell merchandise representing their team. The San Jose Sharks are one of the best-marketed teams in the NHL. The Sharks' team colors of teal, black, and white are eye-catching and appealing to an ever-growing base of fans. The team's mascot S.J. Sharkie continues to attract families to games and to encourage sales of products associated with the mascot.

A large assortment of products that promote and represent the team are bought and sold within the Bay Area, California and other states as well as around the world. For the purposes of this article I will focus on Sharks' merchandise sales in San Jose simply because it's the hometown of the team.

There are several places in San Jose where fans of all ages can buy products representing their favorite team. One of those places is the San Jose Sharks merchandise store located in HP Pavilion at San Jose. Although the store is temporarily closed for remodeling, it will be re-opened on Thursday, October 16 for the Sharks home opener. While fans wait for the store to open again, they can purchase merchandise online on the Sharks Web page or at the Pro Shop located at Logitech Ice.

For fans with plenty of money to spend, a wall clock, wizard neon sport clock, table top hockey game, or stain glass table lamp would make a nice addition to a fan's den or home.

Sharks jerseys, hats, tees, sweatshirts; sportswear and outerwear are the categories of clothing that can be bought at the locations mentioned. Trading cards, collectibles, accessories, vintage items and hockey memorabilia are the other categories of items being sold.

Jerseys and hats are clearly the most popular among Sharks fans. It is a common sight to see people of all ages in San Jose wearing Sharks jerseys and hats in public places.

Trading cards sold on the Sharks website are of former Sharks such as Mike Vernon and Teemu Selanne, as well as current Sharks such as Patrick Marleau, Marco Sturm, Evgeni Nabokov, Brad Stuart, and Vincent Damphousse.

My favorite category of items is the Shark collectibles. I especially like the team NHL Bendo figurines and bobble heads.

In case you're wondering what a NHL team Bendo figurine is, let me explain. A Bendo figurine is a collectible item that bends in any direction and pose. It stands approximately 5 1/2 inches tall and comes complete with a hockey stick, NHL team logo and smiling face.

Every time I see these items, I can't help but laugh. They remind me of Gumby or miniature Mr. Stretches because of their elastic nature.

The NHL team Bendos are new to the market and I would not be surprised if they become a giant hit among consumers because they are cheap and fun to look at. Sharks Bendos are priced at $9.99.

One item that is already a giant hit among sport fans is the bobble head. It is a good bet that many Sharks fans would like to purchase a Ricci 3rd Jersey Legends Bobble head. All NHL 3rd Jersey Legends Bobble heads are hand-carved and painted with intricate face detailing, decals, full hockey gear and player's name. They have a price tag of $19.99.

Sales of small items such as bobble heads and bendos provide franchises with a decent amount of profit even though they're at a low cost to consumers. These items sell quickly and in high quantities compared to higher priced items, which sell in lesser quantities and take longer to sell. Therefore, sales of both items are equally important.

Merchandise sales are not the only way sports franchises can gain revenue. Another way to make money is through food concessions at stadiums where teams play. In my next article, I will look at food concessions at the Shark Tank.

This October Giants Could Turn Beer Into Wine

Matthew Adamski for SBS

The Giants were left with a bad taste in their mouths after last year's series defeat to the Anaheim Angels in the World Series. The championship got away from them after it appeared they were going to run away with it in Game 6. However, they blew a six run lead in that game and went on to lose Game 7.

This year, they will get another chance to return to the World Series and win a championship when they begin another playoff run.

I think the Giants will not let a championship slip away this time around. This year's team is too strong for that to happen.

Last year they qualified for the playoffs as the National League Wild Card. This year they won the NL West by holding on to the division lead since day one.

If they finish with the best record in the NL, they will have home field advantage except for the World Series. This would help them greatly as it would allow them to play more games at home than on the road. The Giants don't lose much at Pacific Bell Park where they have a record of 54-23, the best home record in the National League.

Outside of Pac Bell, they're not bad either. They are tied for the second best road record in the NL at 43-37 with the Cubs.

The Giants will have four solid starting pitchers on their postseason roster instead of only three last year. Jason Schmidt is the ace of the Giants' pitching staff and a Cy Young Award candidate. His 17 wins and 207 strikeouts this season are a career high. He is the first Giants to break the 200 K mark since John Montefusco blew away 215 in 1975. Schmidt is playing well entering the playoffs winning 11 of his last 13 games.

Kirk Rueter continues to be a reliable veteran.

The Giants lost Livan Hernandez and Russ Ortiz in the off-season. Jerome Williams, a first year starting pitcher, has been a pleasant surprise this season filling one of the vacant spots in the rotation. Williams has 2 complete games and 1 shutout in 20 games.

Sidney Ponson, a pitcher who they acquired via a trade with the Baltimore Orioles, has filled the other vacancy. He has struggled to earn wins as a Giant despite playing well. He has a 3.71 ERA in 10 games. Some of the games he started ended up as losses instead of wins because he had backups as his supporting cast who were unable to provide him with enough run support he needed to win. This won't be the case during the playoffs when backups will play very little.

Their star closer Robb Nen has been on the shelf all season due to an injury. Fortunately, Nen's absence has not hurt their success on the playing field, as Tim Worrell has been extremely effective closing out games. His effectiveness can be measured by his 37 saves in 44 opportunities.

However, the Giants are hurt by the simple fact they must pay Nen's hefty salary despite missing him throughout the entire season. He has a salary of $8.75 million, which is second highest on the team.

Barry Bonds, who makes $15 million, is the only player with a higher salary. The Giants aren't complaining because they have arguably the best player in baseball. The price they pay is worth every penny.

When you look at how much attention opponents put on Bonds, it's hard to deny that this alone give the Giants a great chance to win it all this year. He gets walked in practically every game, which provides the batters who hit behind him plenty of opportunities to drive in runs. Plus, when he gets pitched to he gets a hit 40% of the time and half of his hits are home runs.

The bad news for the opposition is that even if Bonds gets out or walks; the Giants have enough offensive weapons to hurt the other team. Ray Durham is a much better lead off hitter than Tsyoshi Shingo because he is a more consistent hitter and has great base running ability. He also has fit nicely as their second baseman with the departure of Jeff Kent to the Houston Astros.

Edgardo Alfonso is an upgrade at third base over Derek Bell. Alfonso can hit for power and can get the clutch hit when needed. J.T. Snow and Rich Aurilia continue to play like Gold Glovers while making tough plays and few errors on defense and providing adequate offensive production.

Andres Gallargha is not only a great backup to J.T. Snow, but also a dangerous hitter. He has great power and strength, but above all he can flat out hit and start late inning rallies.

Behind the plate, Benito Santiago plays like he is ten years younger. He throws runners out with regularity and has excellent hitting skills. Yorvit Torrealba is solid backup to Santiago.

Marquis Grissom and Jose Cruz Jr. are solid outfielders. Grissom is one of the team's best hitters. He is second on the team in home runs with 20, third in RBIs with 77, and third in batting average at .299.

As the Giants enter the playoffs, I believe they have the right blend of pitching, solid defense, and explosive firepower that will enable them to replace the bitter taste of defeat with the sweet taste of championship victory.

Added Notes:

Matthew Adamski for SBS

The Giants have the fifth highest payroll in Major League Baseball at $89 million. The Braves, Red Sox, and Yankees are the only three-playoff teams with higher payrolls. The Yankees are on the top of the list at $157 million. Four of the six division winners have a top ten payroll including the Braves, Yankees, Giants, and Cubs. The other two division winners, the A's and Twins, are not in the top ten. Five teams in the top ten did not make the playoffs including the Dodgers, Mariner's, Mets, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks.
The A's have the lowest payroll among all playoff teams at $49 million, but still managed to win the AL West. The Mariners could not win the division or earn a Wild Card Berth despite having the sixth highest payroll.

A New Breed of Sharks Are Swimming in the Tank These Days

Matthew Adamski for SBS

The NHL off-season is now over and Sharks' training camp is underway. Training camp gives veterans and young players the chance to prepare for the upcoming season. The veterans spend most of training camp conditioning their bodies for the long, grueling marathon ahead or recuperating from injuries incurred the year before. They also offer some advice to inexperienced players.

Some teams' rosters are stacked with young veterans such as the Sharks. Patrick Marleau, Marco Sturm, Mike Rathje, Scott Hannan, Brad Stuart, Mark Smith, Scott Parker, and Alex Korolyuk are players on the Sharks that fit the description of young veterans. These players are in their 20s, but have been in the league for at least a few years.

Scott Parker, a left wing acquired from the Colorado Avalanche during the off-season, is getting familiar with his new teammates during the camp sessions. He will fill the role of enforcer on the team with the ability to occasionally contribute on offense.

Mark Smith, another center, added ten pounds to his five-foot ten-inch frame and increased his strength. The extra pounds and muscle should make it more difficult for defenseman to knock him off his skates.

Center Mike Ricci and winger Scott Thornton are coming back from injuries. It will be interesting to see who will be named the captain this season now that former captain Owen Nolan is gone.

I think Mike Ricci would be the right person for that designation because he has excellent leadership skills and is the ultimate team player that will do anything to help his team win. He is respected by his teammates and fans, plays hard every night, and is not afraid to sacrifice his body to make plays.

Plus, he is a solid two-way player. Last season Ricci was a runner up to the Selke Trophy, an award given to the best defensive forward.

Thornton and Reech have played together on the same line in many games over the last couple years. It wouldn't surprise me to see them paired again on the second line for stretches of games this season.

The oldest veteran on the team is center Vincent Damphousse, who is over 30. I expect him to be the assistant captain once again. I also expect Sturm, Marleau, and Damphousse to start the season on the first line because they are the team's best offensive players.

While the veterans are a lock to make the Sharks' starting lineup, the players with limited experience must compete with other players and win a spot on the roster.

Besides competing for a job, training camp gives these young players time to learn the offensive and defensive systems of their team and get a basic idea of how hockey is played in the NHL.

This year Sharks' training camp will be noticeably different than the previous camp coached by Darryl Sutter. Ron Wilson will be running his first training camp as a member of the Sharks organization.

The Sharks have a few open spots available that will most likely be filled with a few promising players with minimal or no NHL experience. This was the not so last season. Only one or two were available then.

Miroslav Zalesak, Niko Dimitrakos, Lynn Loyns have the best chance to make the team because they played in a bunch of games for the team last season and made a positive impression on the coaches.

Forward Nils Ekman, Jon DiSalvatore, Milan Michalek, Brad Boyes, Marcel Goc, and Steve Bernier are top rookie prospects that will also be considered. The Sharks also have a few prospects on defense including Matt Carkner, Jesse Fibiger, Rob Davison, Christian Ehrhoff, and Robert Mulick.

Another significant difference from last camp is that all of the Sharks' players are signed to contracts and ready to train for the season. This was not the case last season when key players such as goalie Evgeni Nabokov and defenseman Brad Stuart did not sign until after the season. As a result, they missed valuable practice time at training camp and a portion of the season.

Nabokov did not play at his best and it cost the team greatly. It is expected that with a full training camp under his belt, he will return to his all pro form of two seasons ago.

NHL Hopes "History Won't Repeat Itself"

Matthew Adamski for SBS

It appears the NHL is headed for a long work stoppage. When the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires next September, players and owners will begin negotiations on a new labor agreement. How long it will take for both sides to come to an agreement is anyone's guess.

Many people around the league are guessing it will take at least a year and maybe more. And that would be disastrous for a league that already must deal with a growing list of economic problems including inadequate revenue funding, uneven payrolls, escalating salaries, and increasing ticket prices. The list will continue to grow if the NHLPA and NHL can't agree on how to fix those problems.

The league and owners have made it clear already that they will be pleading for a salary cap or a luxury tax. If history is any indication, it will be difficult for Bettman and the owners to persuade the NHLPA to accept any major changes to the current system, including a "salary cap".

Prior to negotiations in 1995, owners insisted on a salary cap to reduce the growth in player salaries because they were concerned about escalating payrolls. The players rejected it. In 1990-91 the NHL average player salary was $271,000. In 1993-94, the last season before the agreement was reached, the average player salary had risen to $572,000.

The owners then offered a luxury tax that would penalize teams for going beyond an arranged salary ceiling. Players didn't want to hear it. The owners continued to change the ceiling, but the players resisted every time.

When the owners offered a salary ceiling of $18 million for each team at the end of the negotiations, the players refused. They argued that the Buffalo Sabres had four players with a combined salary of $11 million and if they paid the other 20 players more than $7 million the team would be taxed and they would lose some of their profit.

Eventually, the owners gave in to the players because they did not want the entire 1994-95 season to be canceled. The two sides reached an agreement right before the noon deadline on January 13, 1995 and a week later the shortened season began.

Te NHL can't afford another work stoppage like last time. All parties involved must do whatever it takes to avoid one because it would only lead to more problems for the league. After all, the NHL and its teams can't gain revenue from ticket sales if no games are being played.

There is still a possibility the two sides will be able to avoid a work stoppage, but both sides seem far apart on the key issues facing the league.
Goodenow argues that a mismanagement of revenue distribution is the reason for the financial disparities between teams. He feels that revenue sharing would solve the problem.

I disagree. I don't think revenue sharing would be good for the league because it would mean that all teams including small market ones would be forced to pay a tax. It would put more of a burden on teams that don't get enough revenue to pay off expenses.

Bettman argues that under the current CBA, the league and teams can't generate enough revenue to pay off rising player salaries. As a result, several teams are losing money and financial disparities exist among the teams.

The St. Louis Blues lost $43.1 million in 2001-02. The New York Islanders lost $22.5 million. Tampa Bay has lost $50 million over the past three years. Phoenix expects its losses to be at least $25 million for 2002-03. The Los Angeles Kings estimate a loss between $12 million and $13 million for 2002-03. The Stars estimate their loses at $3 million for last season.

The financial disparities are obvious when you look at the big and small market teams.

The big market teams like Detroit, Colorado, and Dallas have a competitive advantage over the small market ones. The big market teams can afford to spend money on free agents while the small market teams have trouble keeping their best players and rely heavily on the NHL Entry Draft.

The New York Rangers spend $79 million on player salaries while the Minnesota Wild spend over $20 million.

The higher payroll teams seem to win the Stanley Cup ever year. The Rangers are the only exception. Seven of the past 12 Cup winners have been in the top five in salary. The New Jersey Devils, last year's Cup winner, had a payroll in the top ten.

I take the side of the owners and Bettman in this debate. I think a salary cap is the best way to eliminate the financial gap between teams in the NHL because it would ensure payrolls are equal, prevent salaries from further escalating, and allow lower ticket prices. As a result, teams would be more competitive, owners would be better able to manage their expenses, and fans would be able to attend more games.

The owners only want to do what is best for the league and I think its' about time the players do the same by cooperating with the owners.

The current system is clearly not working and the players should allow some changes to be made, even if it means a salary cap or a similar limit on payroll.

The players seem to be afraid that a salary cap or luxury tax would result in a significant drop in their salaries. However, the cap or luxury tax would only affect team payrolls, rather than salaries.

Owners gave in to the players last time. Now it's time players gave in to the owners, as it doesn't look like the owners are going to do the same again.

Struggling Pirates' Search For Treasure Continues

Matthew Adamski for SBS

The Pirates have a long history filled with memorable moments and extraordinary events. They have won 5 World Series championships, 9 league titles, and 9 division titles throughout their history. The Pirates have retired the numbers of eight players including Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski, Pie Traynor, Roberto Clemente, Honus Wagner, and Danny Murtaugh.

Despite the franchise's winning past, they have not made the playoffs since 1992 when they won the NL East. The last time they won the World Series was in 1979. The fans would like nothing more than to see their team return to the postseason and compete for another championship.

However, the fans will have to wait another year and potentially more for a similar scenario to occur as the Pirates will miss the playoffs once again this year. They are eight and half games back from the Saint Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros in the NL East and have a record of 62-72 with less than 30 games left in the season.

There are several reasons why they have struggled to win this year.

The Pirates have not had much luck with injuries. Eight players have been on their disabled list at some point during the season including Salomon Torres, Kris Benson, Brandon Lyon, Randall Simon, Matt Stairs, Pokey Reese, Josh Fogg, and Brian Giles.

The club currently has four players on their injury list including second baseman Pokey Reese, starting pitcher Kris Benson, catcher J.R. House, and shortstop Pat Meares.
Pitcher Salomon Torres was taken off the disabled list on August 28 and started Friday night against the Braves. He had been on the list since August 8 due to a strained right hamstring.

All of these injuries have forced the club to recall 10 players from the minor leagues including pitcher Ryan Vogelsong and outfielders J.J. Davis and Rob Mackowiak. They also have made some trades in an effort to cut costs and field a competitive team in spite of losing key players to injury.

Recently they traded leftfielder Brian Giles to San Diego for left-handed pitcher Oliver Perez, outfielder Jason Bay and a player to be named. In nearly five full seasons with the Pirates, Giles had a .300 batting average. Bay is expected to replace Giles in left field and Perez made his Pirates debut at home against the Braves on Saturday.

No team can win many games when their starting pitchers are unable to pitch complete games, suffer from injuries, and allow too many runs, walks, and hits.

Pirates' pitchers have allowed a total of 1244 hits, 148 home runs, 270 extra base hits and 415 walks in 1175 innings. They have only 5 complete games and 9 shutouts, allowed an average of 4.61 earned runs per game and pitched an average of 5.9 innings per start. The 651 runs they have give up is more than the 617 runs that the offense has scored.

The Pirates would be wise to add players to their lineup who can consistently hit home runs, drive in runs, and get runners in scoring position. They have not gotten enough production from their hitters as evidenced by their 137 home runs, 580 RBIs, 1200 hits, 266 extra base hits, and .266 batting average. Reggie Sanders is the only player on their roster with more than 20 home runs and 70 RBIs.

The Pirates also have not stolen many bases or sacrificed many runners. They have only stolen 61 bases and sacrificed 99 runners as a team. Reggie Sanders leads the club with nine stolen bases and Jack Wilson leads with 14 sacrifices.

The Pirates need to get more players who can steal bases and sacrifice runners. A team that is able to move runners over successfully has a better chance to score runs.
The Pirates have a number of promising young players on their team such as Josh Fogg, Jack Wilson, Kip Wells, Nelson Figueroa, Jason Kendall, Jason Bay, and Tike Redman.

Josh Fogg pitched 7 2/3 innings without allowing a run and shortstop Jack Wilson had four RBIs tying his career high and extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a bases-loaded triple off Florida left-handed pitcher Dontrelle Willis in a 5-0 win over the Marlins on August 21.

Kip Wells and Nelson Figueroa are the only 2 pitchers on the team with an ERA under four. Wells leads the team in strikeouts with 119 and innings pitched with 155.1 while Figueroa has made only 3 starts and pitched 16 innings.
Jason Kendall, Jason Bay, and Tike Redman have batting averages above .300.

The Pirates also have some veterans on their team that can help the younger players learn and develop including Reggie Sanders and Matt Stairs.

In order for the Pirates to return to the postseason in the next year or two, they will need to score more runs than they allow. Team management must sign some veteran free agent pitchers and other position players either through free agency or trades to ensure that this happens. They must continue to develop promising prospects and the players on their roster must stay healthy as well.

Life without Mulder: A's finding way to win without star pitcher

Matthew Adamski for SBS

Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito have played a significant role in the A's success over the last few years.

Since picking up Zito on July 22, 2000, the three starting pitchers have put up impressive numbers and shown a great amount of durability.

During that time, the trio made 320 starts, going 171-80 with a 3.19 ERA and averaging more than 225 innings per man each season. Hudson and Zito haven't missed a start since then and Mulder managed to avoid serious injuries until now.

It seems certain that Mulder will miss the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in his upper femur.

The loss of Mulder comes at the worst possible time for the A's who are in a battle with the Mariners and Red Sox for a playoff spot with over thirty games left in the season. On a positive note, the A's have enough talent remaining to contend without Mulder.

On Sunday, the A's ace right-hander Tim Hudson pitched 6 full innings in his first start since being hit by a line drive off his hand on Aug. 16. It was the first time an A's pitcher lasted more than 5 1/3 innings since the team's 7-day road trip began.

During the first five games of the trip the A's were forced to use their bullpen for a total of 24 innings because their starting pitchers were unable to pitch enough innings. Fortunately, the bullpen has responded well to the increased playing time.

Halama got the call to start in Saturday's game and left after four innings with the game tied at three. The bullpen then stepped in and kept the Jays to two runs over the last five innings.

No. 4 starter Ted Lilly went just 3 1/3 innings on Wednesday and rookie Rich Harden lasted only 2 2/3 innings on Thursday.

Oakland's bullpen and offense has helped the A's win five of their seven on the trip, including Saturday's 11-5 victory and Sunday's 17-2 victory over the Blue Jays at Sky Dome.

The starting pitchers, especially Mulder and Zito, need to pitch more innings to take the pressure off of the bullpen. Mulder's performance on Sunday should give the A's confidence to perform at their best.

Unless the A's acquire a pitcher off waivers or through free agency, they will be forced to utilize their bullpen more often and add pitchers from their farm system to the starting rotation. Justin Duchscherer is one of the candidates being considered to fill a starting role. He is 12-2 with a 3.22 ERA at Sacramento this season.

The A's called up right-hander Mike Wood from Sacramento on Thursday to replace Mulder in the roster. He pitched 3 1/3 innings of relief that day against Boston in his Major League debut and has also been mentioned as a possible replacement for Mulder in the starting rotation.

Either way, Oakland would have two rookies among their five starting pitchers.

If the A's are going to make the postseason for the fourth consecutive season, they will need more offense from their key offensive players like Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, Scott Hatteberg, Erubiel Durazo, Jose Guillen and Ramon Hernandez as well as more big performances out of the bullpen and starting rotation.

The A's offense seems to be coming alive. They scored a total of 39 runs in the Toronto series. On Sunday, Miguel Tejada and Ramon Hernandez made A's history by hitting grand slams. It was the first time the A's hit 2 grand slams in the same game during their 103-year history and the team's first two grand slams of the season.

Perhaps, this is the start of something magical like another 20 game win streak that carries them to the playoffs or better yet deep in the playoffs.

Welcome to Matt's Hockey and Baseball Business News Blog by SBS

Welcome to my blog. This is where you will find news and opinion columns on the business side of Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League including contracts, trades, cash flow, sponserships, and much more written by me. Also, if you have any thoughts, opinions, or comments about any topic related to the business of MLB or NHL, feel free to post them on this site. I would encourage you to check this page for updates on a weekly basis as new content will be added each week. Thanks for visiting.

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