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2 posts from February 15, 2014

February 15, 2014

Beckham exploring possibility of joint MLS/UM stadium; Shula takes stand; Fins, Heat, Marlins chatter


David Beckham’s group is exploring the feasibility of building a soccer stadium that would be large enough to accommodate the University of Miami football team, and UM would have interest if the stadium meets the school’s requirements and if the Hurricanes can somehow escape their long Sun Life Stadium lease, according to sources on both sides.

Beckham’s group and UM have had preliminary discussions, but the Beckham camp and MLS likely need a couple of months to determine whether it’s realistic.

UM has told the Beckham camp that it needs a stadium with at least 40,000 seats to accommodate Hurricanes games; Beckham’s group initially has spoken of having 25,000 seats. UM also would need the stadium to have sufficient parking, large enough locker-rooms and enough suites.

Though Beckham likes the idea, there are significant obstacles that could torpedo a UM/MLS shared facility. Perhaps the biggest: UM would need to negotiate to escape the 18 remaining years on its lease with Sun Life Stadium. It’s unclear how much Dolphins and stadium owner Stephen Ross would seek financially to permit UM to do that, or if he would allow it at all. UM has no idea because the matter has never been broached.

Another potential obstacle: Beckham must find a site big enough to accommodate a 40,000-seat stadium and the expected traffic. Also, if the site that’s determined to be best and most realistic for soccer isn’t suitable for college football, then the idea of UM playing there likely would be tabled.

“We’re interested enough in the potential of this to explore the possibility,” an MLS source said. And UM is very interested in hearing what Beckham’s group determines, according to a UM official.

UM isn’t unhappy at Sun Life but would be intrigued by the possibility of playing in a more cozy facility that’s closer to campus. UM is not interested in financing the stadium; that has not been discussed.

Beckham’s incentive to build a larger stadium to lure UM? Not only would his facility have more seats to accommodate larger soccer crowds, but Beckham would have a rent-paying marquee tenant playing there.

Beckham has said the stadium construction will be privately financed, but he hired lobbyists to seek a state sales tax rebate to help with costs.

Beckham's group and the city aren't sure how much the stadium will cost, and that will hinge partly on capacity. But costs of recent new MLS stadiums or planned ones have varied widely, from $84 million for the proposed 18,000-seat stadium in Orlando, to $95 million for a 22,000-seat facility in Houston, to $200 million for a 25,000-seat state-of-the-art stadium in Kansas City.

Among the sites under consideration, the one that might be best suited to accommodate a 40,000-seat stadium is the 36-acre PortMiami location, according to a Miami-Dade County official. But Beckham’s group hasn’t determined if that site is realistic for college football.

One concern is that many cruise ships depart in the afternoon, when UM plays many of its games. Conversely, most or all MLS games will be at night. Building a stadium on the PortMiami site would need county approval.

A proposed site west of Marlins Park likely would not be large enough to accommodate a 40,000 capacity, according to a county official.

A few county officials are aware of the possibility of UM sharing a stadium with MLS, but they are not involved in those discussions and haven’t been updated on that.

“Capacity hasn’t come up,” a county official said. “We’re still very early in the process. It’s an interesting idea.”

UM wants no fewer than 40,000 seats because it has about 30,000 season-ticket holders and allots 6000 seats for students and another 4000 to sell to the visiting team.

UM athletic director Blake James declined to comment. A spokesman for Beckham’s group declined to discuss the likelihood of building a stadium to accommodate UM, saying the group’s focus is “on identifying the right site for a soccer stadium.”

### Marlins Park remains the front-runner to host the Miami MLS team for a year while the proposed stadium is being built. But Marlins Park has been given no assurances.

### Asked if he will be involved in Beckham's group, LeBron James said Friday: "Right now we're not, but it's still open."


Don Shula --- who will join Tony Dungy, Dan Marino, Jason Taylor and Curtis Martin on a Dolphins committee that will formulate a locker-room code of conduct --- says Dolphins veterans should no longer be permitted to make rookies pay for a $30,000 dinner at Prime 112, as they did with defensive rookies last season.

"That's ridiculous," Shula said. "It's not right. Why should they have to do that? Our rookie hazing was just playful stuff, but I don't remember any incident that was uncomfortable or out of line. This is carrying it too far. Everybody has to get back to common sense and don't do anything that causes any longterm harm or ill feelings."

### Though Rams offensive tackle Jake Long wasn’t on the Dolphins last season and wasn’t identified by name in Ted Wells’ report, a Dolphins player said it was disappointing Long never told Richie Incognito to stop acting the way he did toward Jonathan Martin and Nate Garner and others, because Incognito looked up to Long and might have taken it to heart. But at least Long didn’t harass Martin, unlike Mike Pouncey.

### Two Dolphins people dispute a CBS report that Joe Philbin will have a shorter leash on Ryan Tannehill and might play Matt Moore. But the Dolphins feel strongly that Tannehill must improve his chemistry with Mike Wallace. One Dolphins official said Tannehill can throw a ball anticipating where Brian Hartline will be, but cannot consistently with Wallace.

### Some analysts favor Indiana against Miami, such as Charles Barkley (who said the Pacers big men "own" the Heat), Tim Legler and P.J. Carlesimo.

But several lean toward the Heat advancing to a fourth consecutive Finals, including TNT's Shaquille O'Neal, Kenny Smith and Grant Hill (because "they've been there before"). NBA TV's Greg Anthony said: "Miami can get to a level where the Pacers are defensively. We don't know yet if the Pacers can get to the level offensively that Miami has shown this year."

And TNT's Steve Kerr, who predicted last summer Miami wouldn't emerge from the East, said off air: "I like the Heat's chances of getting to the Finals better than I did during the summer despite [their nine losses to losing teams]. To win a championship, they need to win only two difficult series. The first two will be a cakewalk. The Pacers' turnovers concern me."

### This week’s NFL Combine will be important for UM's Seantrel Henderson after drawing mixed reviews at the Senior Bowl.

"Great in practice, awful in interviews," said one NFL scout who met with him at the Senior Bowl. "He couldn't draw up formations. He just doesn't get it. Not very alert or aware. But he did very well in one-on-one drills and someone will take a shot at him in the second or third round."

### Please see the last post for 10 notes from Marlins Media Day on Saturday, as well as Saturday fallout over the Dolphins' locker-room scandal.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz   

Saturday fallout from Ted Wells report; Ten notes from Marlins media day

Andrew McDonald, identified as “Player A” in Ted Wells’ report on the Dolphins locker-room scandal, isn’t happy that his name has been associated with this mess.

And on Saturday, McDonald’s agent released a statement in which McDonald indicated he has no problem with the Dolphins and expressed only positive feelings about Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner, who on at least one occasion, joined players in teasing McDonald over a running joke that McDonald was gay.

McDonald, incidentally, is not gay.

As most of you know by now, Wells said Turner, as a 2012 Christmas gift, gave female dolls to all his offensive linemen except McDonald, who received a male blow-up doll.

The report also said McDonald was harassed by teammates.

Brett Tessler, McDonald’s agent, said: “Andrew is disappointed that his name has become associated with this story. He’s been a member of another organization since last season [Carolina] and is trying to focus on the future. When Ted Wells approached Andrew at the end of the investigation, Mr. Wells already had all the information contained in the report that he had gotten elsewhere.

“While Andrew can’t speak for any other players involved in the report, he personally has no problem with the Miami Dolphins organization and has the highest opinion of coach Turner both personally and professionally and feels terrible about the way their relationship has been portrayed in the report.”

McDonald’s name was leaked to the media because Incognito’s attorney released a version of the report without names redacted.

Wells wrote McDonald, like Martin, “is quiet and unassuming. During his time with the team, Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey frequently taunted [McDonald] with homophobic insults. He often was called a “fag” or a “faggot” in a demeaning tone."

Incognito reportedly accused him of “sucking d---” and “pissing while sitting down” and asked him “where’s your boyfriend?”

Incognito acknowledged that McDonald, although not actually believed to be gay, was spoken to in this manner repeatedly and persistently—he got it “every day from everybody, high frequency.”

In addition, Incognito and others acknowledged that McDonald was routinely touched by Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey in a mockingly suggestive manner, including on his rear end, while being taunted about his supposed homosexuality.

Incognito specifically admitted that he would grab him and ask for a hug as part of this “joke.”

Martin said that on one particularly disturbing occasion, Pouncey physically restrained McDonald, and, in full view of other players, jokingly told Jerry to “come get some pus---,” and that Jerry responded by touching Player A’s buttocks in a way that simulated anal penetration. Jerry and Pouncey both denied this allegation.


The Marlins do not plan to make a multiyear offer to Giancarlo Stanton until after the season, which is fine with him. But Stanton already has an idea of how much he will be looking for if he surprisingly agrees to a contract that would allow the Marlins to buy out several years of free agency.

Asked if Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman’s recent eight-year, $135 million contract could be similar to what he gets eventually, Stanton said Saturday: “The contract would be similar, I guess. It’s not like he got this, I’m going to work for this. Our careers are very similar. “

The Braves bought out three years of arbitration and five years of free agency for Freeman, whose service time and production have been similar to Stanton’s.

Stanton, who will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season, said he wants to see some roster stability before he would consider an extension. But he’s pleased the Marlins gave him $6.5 million for this season, instead of taking him to arbitration, and is encouraged about the roster upgrades.

“Last year, there was some bitterness,” he said, referring not only to the Marlins slashing payroll after the 2012 season but also because they renewed him in March 2013 for a $537,000 salary, less than a $50,000 raise from the year before.

After hitting .290 with 37 home runs and 86 RBI in 123 games in 2012, Stanton hit .249 with 24 homers and 62 RBI in 116 games last season. “I learned from that,” he said, adding his problems last year were not mechanical. Stanton said having better hitters around him should result in seeing better pitches.

Manager Mike Redmond said he’s confident Stanton will rebound “because of how much talent he has. For whatever reason, it was just an off year. But he still hit over 20 home runs.”

### Marlins officials said they made it a priority this offseason not only to add productive players, but players who have been on winning teams. General manager Dan Jennings noted that Rafael Furcal has been to the playoffs 12 of 14 seasons; Jarrod Saltalamacchia won a World Series with Boston last season and Garrett Jones made the playoffs with Pittsburgh.

“We felt we needed a cultural change in the clubhouse, and we made it a point to interview and sit face-to-face with these guys before we brought them on board,” general manager Dan Jennings said. “There was one common denominator in each guy we brought in. That was team first.”

President/baseball operations Michael Hill said even though the Marlins have had quality veterans on the bench, “we had never been able to add that veteran every day player who could be that leader,… with the championship pedigree,” like Furcal and Saltalamacchia.

### Jennings said the Marlins received numerous trade inquiries about their young pitching over the winter, but the offseason mission was to “improve the offense and hold on to the pitching.” He said MLB teams had spent $722 million on starting pitching this offseason, as of a week ago, and “if you are a small or mid-market team, you have to grow your own pitching.”

### Redmond said Rafael Furcal will bat first and Christian Yelich second, but he’s unsettled about three through six from among Giancarlo Stanton, Saltalamacchia, Jones and Casey McGehee, with Jeff Baker also figuring into that mix when he plays.

### Pitcher Jose Fernandez said his conditioning and endurance should be improved after riding his bike 500-to-600 miles several weeks this offseason. Twice, he surpassed 100 miles in a day, including a high of 124. Fernandez has lost about 20 pounds and is down to 215.

“I feel better now; I feel great,” he said. “I’m glad I did it. We were going 20 to 30 miles per hour consistent.”

### Redmond, on his team: “We’re excited. There’s a different vibe. Our players can feel it.”

He said, as a manager, “It’s more comfortable going into the second year, knowing what to expect. [As a rookie manager], the hardest thing was not knowing a lot of the players. There’s a comfort level there now.” His veterans liked him and appreciated that he didn’t rip into them, because the 100-loss season wasn’t a result of effort, but talent (Stanton’s issues aside).

### Redmond was NOT taking a shot at the Dolphins (so Joe Philbin doesn’t need to call him and complain, like he did with Tony Dungy.) But Redmond couldn’t see a bullying scandal in the Marlins’ clubhouse because “I’m always in that clubhouse.”

### New third baseman Casey McGehee, who hit 28 home runs in Japan last season, hopes to return to the level he played at for Milwaukee in 2010, when he hit .285 with 23 homers and 104 RBI. He slumped to .217, 9 and 41 in his last big league season (2012).

McGehee, 31, said one key has been getting in better shape by eating more healthy meals at home instead of dining out. “And I’ve learned a lot about myself,” he said. “I’ve got to be stubborn at the plate and not deviate from my plan.”

Asked if he went to Japan to scout McGehee, Jennings cracked: “We [were] trying to get there. We did go to a Japanese restaurant close by.”  

But seriously, the Marlins obviously studied him and “utilized some contacts we had met over our time in baseball to do background checking in Japan. We learned he hired a nutritionist. He leaned his body out. He quit trying to turn on every pitch. He had a monster year over there on a good team. He fit for where we are right now.”

### Outfielder Jimmy Paredes, who was designated for assignment by the Marlins, was claimed by the Orioles. But pitcher Chris Hatcher cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple A New Orleans.

### MLB’s new national TV contracts reportedly were supposed to provide another $25 million per team, but Marlins president David Samson said all teams have received only a $9 million boost instead because the full amount of the increase was not distributed to the teams. MLB’s central fund kept the rest.

Samson’s expectation for this season? “I just want us to have improvement.” That should be easy enough after a 100-loss season.

Samson, concerned about secondary market ticket sales, said Stubhub can’t sell any Marlins tickets for less than $6.           

Please check back tonight for lots of news in the Sunday buzz column... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz