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Forbes released its annual MLB valuations yesterday, and for the umpteenth consecutive year (actually 16th), the Yankees rank as the sport’s most valuable franchise. Their $2.3 billion valuation is a) higher than any other club in U.S. sports, b) $700M higher than the second most valuable club (Dodgers), and c) more than double the fourth most valuable club (Cubs). It’s also up considerably from 2012 ($1.85B), especially with regards to 2011 ($1.6B) and 2010 ($1.5B). You can thank the YES Network and the new Yankee Stadium for that.

“The Yankees sold some of their interest in the YES Network as part of Fox’s purchase of 49% of the regional sport network in late 2012 and as part of the deal the team’s rights fee from YES will increase from $85 million this season to $350 million in 2042,” wrote the publication, meaning the team’s value is going nowhere but up. Forbes estimates the Yankees’ revenue at $471M and their operating income at just $1.4M, but Yankee Global Enterprises is far more profitable due to its other holdings. The team technically operated at a loss for about a decade before the new Stadium opened.

The Athletics, up 46% from 2012, saw their value increase more than any other club in the last year. At $450M, the Rays are the least valuable franchise in the sport while the Cubs ($32.1M) and Angels ($-12.9M) had the largest and smallest operating incomes, respectively. Revenue sharing throws a big wrench into those calculations, however. Baseball will be getting a big financial boost in 2014 when its new agreements with FOX and TBS kick in, doubling the money each team receives from national television broadcast.

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Say your prayers... (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Say your prayers… (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Barring a complete surprise, Mariano Rivera will announce his retirement from baseball following the 2013 season during a press conference in Tampa this morning. The 43-year-old has been hinting at retirement for two years now, so the announcement will be no surprise. The show starts at 10am ET and can be seen on YES. I’ll liveblog the particulars below.

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Walkin' away. (Star-Ledger)

Walkin’ away. (Star-Ledger)

An era is ending in the Bronx. Joel Sherman reports Mariano Rivera will hold a press conference on Saturday morning to announce his retirement from baseball following the 2013 season. He could always change his mind between now and then, but I wouldn’t count on it. The press conference is scheduled for 10am ET at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.

Rivera, 43, said he made up his mind about his future when camp opened, but he wasn’t ready to tell anyone anything yet. News of Saturday’s announcement is no surprise, as I think most of us expected Mo to retire following last season. The season-ending knee injury in early-May changed those plans. In fact, Rivera said himself there was a “good chance” he would have retired in the offseason had the knee gotten healthy in time to allow him to pitch in the playoffs.

The Yankees signed Rivera for just $2,000 as a 20-year-old out of Panama back in February 1990. He spent the early part of his career as a starter, gradually working his way to the big leagues and making his debut on May 23rd, 1995 against the California Angels. They clobbered him, hanging five runs on eight hits and three walks against Rivera in 3.1 innings. He remained in the rotation for another three starts and resurfaced later that season, most notably striking out eleven White Sox in eight two-hit, shutout innings on Independence Day. It was, by far, the best of his ten career starts.

(AP Photo/John Dunn)

(AP Photo/John Dunn)

The club moved Rivera to the bullpen to open the 1996 season and the rest, as they say, is history. He pitched to a 2.09 ERA with 130 strikeouts in 107.2 relief innings that year, serving as a super-setup man to closer John Wetteland. Rivera allowed one run in 14.1 postseason innings that fall to help the Yankees to their first World Championship in almost 20 years. All of that happened before Mo learned his trademark cutter.

As the story goes, Rivera was playing catch with fellow Panamanian Ramiro Mendoza in 1997 when the ball just started cutting. That was it, he didn’t alter his grip or anything. Rivera rode that pitch to become the most dominant reliever in baseball history. He took over as closer for Wetteland in 1997 and hasn’t looked back, pitching in that same capacity for the last 17 years now. Mo has helped the Yankees to five World Championships and 18 postseason berths during his 19 seasons.

Along the way, Rivera has become baseball’s all-time leader in saves (608), games finished (892), and ERA+ (206). His postseason record in beyond belief, with a 0.70 ERA and 0.76 WHIP in 141 total innings. That is ridiculous. Rivera has never won a major award but he owns five top-five finishes in the AL Cy Young voting and has received AL MVP votes in nine different years. He will also be the final player in baseball history to wear #42. Mo is a 12-time All-Star and one of the greatest Yankees to ever live. An icon.

Off the field, Rivera is well-known as a kind and caring person who is a true class act. He’s everything anyone could ever want in a baseball player and person. Mo has been my favorite Yankee for a long time and this is a bittersweet day. I’m sad he’s leaving and I’m glad he’ll leave under his own terms. Getting carted off the field following a pregame accident in Kansas City is no way to go out. Teams will give Rivera a grand Chipper Jones-esque send-off this summer and it will be glorious.

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Tuesday: According to Neil Best, Yankees Ticket Exchange will have price floors of some sort. “Right now, we’re experimenting,” said Yankees COO Lonn Trost. “We’ll use this year to make a determination. Certain games may have it; certain games may not. Certain sections may have it; certain sections may not.”

Apparently StubHub is looking to open an office close to the Stadium that will allow fans to pick-up their tickets on-site, but the Yankees will try to prevent that. The team seems to be going to great lengths to make purchasing tickets a pain in the ass just for the sake of resale value.

Monday: Back in December we heard that the Yankees were opting out of MLB’s agreement with StubHub in favor of a partnership with Ticketmaster, a partnership that is now in place. Darren Rovell says the two sides have formed Yankees Ticket Exchange, which allows fans to safely and easily sell their tickets — with no price floor — to others who can then download them immediately.

“The Yankees Ticket Exchange will be a safe, convenient, reliable and expedient way to purchase and sell guaranteed authentic Yankees tickets … It is unfortunate that unscrupulous resellers utilize deceptive practices and tactics and employ unofficial websites, all of which give rise to counterfeit tickets,” said Hal Steinbrenner in a statement/shot at StubHub. Yankees Ticket Exchange may be convenient, but it will be expensive thanks to all sorts of handling fees and per ticket service charges. You’ll still be able to purchase tickets on StubHub, but you won’t be able to download them instantly. What a pain.

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Via Tyler Kepner: The fake-to-third, throw-to-first move is now officially a balk. That was one of three rule changes — along with coaches being allowed to bring an interpreter to the mound and teams being allowed to have a seventh coach in uniform in the dugout — approved by the owners earlier this month that had to be run by the players’ union. I’m guessing the other two rule changes were given the okay as well, but I haven’t seen any confirmation of that. Minor stuff, but at least the rules will be implemented correctly. The fake-to-third, throw-to-first move was always a balk because it was attempting to deceive, it was just never enforced by umpires.

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I had a feeling a report like this would surface eventually, but I thought it would take until next offseason. Ken Rosenthal says the Yankees’ plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold might not be as lucrative as the team originally anticipated due to various goings-on around the league. I’ll let him explain…

Under the labor agreement, the 15 clubs in the largest markets will forfeit an increasing percentage of their revenue-sharing proceeds starting in 2013, and become ineligible for any such money by ’16.

The revenue-sharing funds that would have gone to those clubs then would be redistributed to payors such as the Yankees. The idea is to motivate certain big-market clubs — the Toronto Blue Jays, for example — to increase their revenues, knowing that they no longer would qualify for revenue-sharing money.

From that perspective, the plan appears to be working — the Blue Jays, Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves are among the big-market clubs that anticipate higher revenues next season, according to major league sources.

Such developments would reduce the size of the market-disqualification pot — and in turn reduce the percentage of that pot the Yankees would receive.

In English, that means there were top 15 market size teams that were not among the top 15 revenue generators, like the Nationals and Blue Jays. Those teams received revenue sharing payments but are now disqualified under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the money they would have been received goes back to the clubs that paid out. Since they’re generating more revenue though, they would have received a smaller piece of a revenue sharing pie and thus the Yankees won’t get back as much. Got it?

Rosenthal cites a Joel Sherman report I don’t remember seeing that says the Yankees anticipated $10M in revenue sharing savings by getting under the luxury tax threshold in 2014. That then jumps up to $40M (annually, I assume) if they continue to stay under in subsequent years, something Hal Steinbrenner has confirmed they will do. All of that is on top of the money saved by not paying the luxury tax, which is a decent chunk of change. Just based on the team’s revenue sharing number ($10M) plus the luxury tax (~$12M) plus the general payroll reduction (~$20M), the Yankees are looking at something like $42M in savings in 2014.

None of this is a guarantee, of course. If teams like the Blue Jays and Nationals don’t generate as much revenue as expected — or if (when, really) a revenue sharing payor like the Astros turns into a payee due to a revenue drop — the Yankees will get a larger rebate on their revenue sharing payment. We also have no idea how exactly they calculated their potential savings either, but I’m guessing the club evaluated several scenarios before deciding to scale back payroll. And yeah, I’m willing to bet at least one of those scenarios involves missing the postseason and losing out on millions in playoff revenue.

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Geez, that wasn’t even a good move Brett.

Three notable rule changes were approved at last week’s owners’ meetings, and they must now being given the okay by the players’ union before they can be officially implemented this coming season. That isn’t expected to be much of an issue. Here’s the skinny on the changes, courtesy of Jayson Stark

  • The Jeff Nelson move, as Michael Kay calls it, will now be considered a balk. That’s the ol’ fake-to-third, throw-to-first move. A handful of players fall for it each year. MLB can actually implement this without the union’s approval, but they’ll run it by the players for the sake of labor relations peace.
  • Coaches and managers will now be allowed to bring interpreters to the mound. That’s a pretty big deal and not just for the Hiroki Kuroda‘s and Hyun-Jin Ryu’s of the pitching world. There’s an awful lot of young Latin American-born pitchers who have yet to fully grasp the English language out there. Heck, I still haven’t grasped it.
  • Teams can now have a seventh coach in uniform and in the dugout during games. They had been limited to six before. A number of teams are carrying second hitting coaches these days — the Yankees haven’t added one yet — and this accommodates them.
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(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

MLB’s quarterly owners’ meetings are taking place right now, and Ken Davidoff managed to catch up with Hal Steinbrenner for a few minutes today. The team’s owner confirmed they have not had any serious talks about an extension for Robinson Cano (not new information) and acknowledged the club still needs a bat, but that’s not all. There’s more…

First thing that comes to mind: lol.

Second thing that comes to mind: The Yankees have a natural edge over the rest of the league because of their market and it’s immense money-making capabilities. Scaling back payroll even for one year is, frankly, a disservice to the fans. Doing it for multiple years is pretty close to a slap in the face. The Yankees aren’t hurting for money. They just built a new stadium and will receive hundreds of millions of dollars from their YES Network deal with News Corp., not to mention all the extra cash they’ll receive from MLB’s new national broadcast agreements. Hal’s dangerously close to saying “I know you know we make all this money, but not only are we not going to reinvest it in the team, we’re going to rub it in your face too.”

Whether they realize it or not — they don’t based on Hal’s comments — the Yankees are losing the PR war right now. The record-low ratings in our Fan Confidence Poll are not an accident. Fans are angry because they’ve done nothing to improve the team this offseason and plan to cut back on spending next winter. We’re not splitting atoms here, it’s pretty obvious why people aren’t happy with the team. If ownership and front office are truly oblivious to that, then things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

Brian Costa has a full recap of Steinbrenner’s quotes, just in case you want to slam your head against the table a little more.

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(Jed Jacobsohn/Getty)

Ten years and eight days after leaving the Yomiuri Giants and officially coming over to MLB, former Yankee Hideki Matsui has decided to call it a career. Daigo Fujikawa reports that Godzilla has retired from baseball and will make the announcement at a press conference in New York. He last played for the Rays this past season.

“Hideki is proof that baseball is an international attraction that brings people from all over the world together in their passion for the game,” said Brian Cashman in a statement. “He was the type of player and person you want young fans of this game to emulate. He played with pride, discipline and of course talent, and flourished when the lights were at their brightest. People naturally gravitated towards him, and that’s a direct reflection of his character. He was a true professional in every sense of the word and it feels good knowing he was able to raise the championship trophy as a member of the Yankees.”

Matsui, 38, spent seven massively productive years in New York. They started with a grand slam in his first Yankee Stadium game (video!) and ended with a thorough beatdown of Pedro Martinez in Game Six of the 2009 World Series. That game almost single-handedly earned him World Series MVP honors. Matsui hit .292/.370/.482 (124 wRC+) with 140 total homers in pinstripes, and his best season came back in 2004, when he produced a .298/.390/.522 (140 wRC+) line with 31 homers.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a player more reliable than Matsui. He played in 538 consecutive games to open his career with the Yankees before suffering a fluke wrist injury sliding for a ball in the outfield in 2006, and even then he still managed 140+ games played in five of his seven years in the Bronx. Godzilla produced a .312/.391/.541 (143 wRC+) batting line in the postseason and was, without question, someone everyone wanted at the plate in a big spot.

In addition to his on-field production, Matsui was also a total professional and as classy as they get off the field. He was a True Yankee™ in every way and it was a thrill to watch him during his time in New York. The news of his retirement is bittersweet because no one wants to see their favorite players hang the spikes up, but I’m also very happy Hideki is walking away from the game on his own terms (sorta). He was a global star who had a brilliant career and deserves all the praise he gets. So long Godzilla, and thanks for the memories.

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Early last week, an agreement was reached allowing News Corp. to purchase 49% — potentially as much as 80% down the road — of the YES Network from investors like Goldman Sachs and Providence Equity. The deal is expected to be finalized by the end of the calendar year. Here’s some more on the transaction, courtesy of Richard Sandomir

  • The Yankees will retain control of all Yankees-related content on the network. The announcers will continue to be biased — “We tell our people if you want to be bipartisan and fair, don’t work for YES,” said team president Randy Levine to Sandomir — and long-running features like Yankeeography and Yankees Classics aren’t going anywhere.
  • FOX, which is owned by News Corp., will bring some programming to the network however. It doesn’t sound like a SportsCenter-esque, nightly sports news show is in the cards though.
  • The Yankees will receive $420M from News Corp. to keep the team on YES through 2042. They’re getting half of that now and the other half in three years. Just think, they’re trimming payroll in less than 16 months.
  • Just as we heard the other day, Sandomir says the Steinbrenners are unlikely to sell the team in the wake of the agreement. The team continues to make a fortune and, perhaps more importantly, the family would get slapped with a massive tax bill should they sell.
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