melott52: As you look back at the season, what are your personal highlights and favorite moments?
DeWitt - Going back to the beginning, I would say watching Albert tear it up early in the season was a lot of fun from a pure fan standpoint. He kept us in it while the fans had time to respond and show us that they were behind us. Then the moves we made and the immediate impact they created on the field would rank second for me. It's not always the case that the best laid plans actually work out, but this year they did. Finally, I would have to mention the All-Star festivities overall. To be a part of a massive planning session lasting over two years and then seeing it come to fruition was very gratifying.
jlando: How do you plan on keeping the Cardinals organization directly in competition with the Boston, LA's, and New York's of the world? Are we going to be able to spend more in order to stay as competitive as possible?
DeWitt - Clearly the big markets of New York, LA, Boston, and Chicago have the competitive advantage due their market size. This is particularly true in baseball because the local TV revenue is such a big part of the revenue equation, and the bigger markets just have more eyeballs watching and therefore higher rights fees. That said, the Cardinals are able to compete with the teams in these cities because our fan support is so incredible. No other team improves its revenue ranking in the industry due to extraordinary attendance more than the Cardinals. Specifically we rank 24th in the market size in MLB, yet we have averaged 8th in revenue ranking over the last 10 years. This is because our fans come to games, they spend money when they are here, they watch the games on TV. This, we are able to have a top 10 payroll from a bottom third TV market position. This is something that I don't think many people realize and it highlights just how important our fans are to this franchise.
sweetal: Congrats on another good year - thought we had it in the bag but September proved to be sad - Hope the Cy Young comes to St. Louis as well as MVP! Love the Cardinals and PLEASE never give # 51 to anyone -retire Willie's # with honor.
DeWitt - Thanks for the well wishes. Willie is obviously a fan favorite and even a number of years after his retirement we get a lot of fans asking about his status from a historical perspective. All I can say on this is that we are going to review all of our tributes to former Cardinal greats as we move towards more detailed planning for our museum that will be in the future Ballpark Village development. We will eventually have a "Cardinals Hall of Fame" to honor great players who might not quite make it to Cooperstown, and the planning for this is already underway. Obviously, Willie would be a great pick for this type of honor some day.
danboy54: Can you explain the thought process that went into building a smaller stadium than the old Busch? If you had sellouts at the old one, looks like you would have put more seats in the new one.DeWitt - Busch II was at 50,000 capacity after we build the hand-operated, out-of-town scoreboard in center field (which is now part of the concourse in Busch III as a tribut to Busch II and helping to block the highway noise from the south). Busch III has just under 45,000 seats, with the ability to put a couple thousand standing room seats in specifically-designed standing-room platforms around the stadium. If we sold out every game, total attendance would be in excess of 3.6 million, which we have never achieved, so I am confident the inventory is there, in most cases. Also, from a pure baseball geometry standpoint, every seat in excess of 45,000 is not a very good seat, and the fan experience suffers as a result.
flyboy516: Can you give us an update on ballpark village?
DeWitt - We are continuing to work hard behind the scenes to line up our financing and complete some key leases that will help us create the critical mass on the project.
I will be the first to admit that the delays have been frustrating, but I do think that at the end of the day we will have been glad that we had to wait out the difficult economy because we have continued to modify the plan to accommodate the changing conditions and the final project will be better as a result.DeWitt - As for timing, I've been burned on predictions in the past so I don't want to promise anything, but I would be surprised if we were unable to close a deal and get started sometime next year. Let's hope the economy continues to show signs of life and the credit markets start to move again.
Cardsfan4life: - Given Albert's recent comments that he is in no hurry to sign an extension, what is the strategy to change his mind and get a deal done with the best player in baseball?
DeWitt - Obviously keeping Albert a Cardinal for life is a major organizational priority. That said, I think we have some time to work out the details with two full seasons left including the option.
I think the key is to maintain very good lines of communication with both Albert and his agent (which I know Mo is great at doing) so that both sides can be ready to discuss the details whenever the opportunity presents itself.
I'm pretty sure Albert and the Cardinals share the same goals as far as his career is concerned, and so I am optimistic that we will figure out a way to get something done sometime over the course of the next couple of years.
liv4cards1: What accomplishments are you most proud of as you look back at the last ten seasons (2000-2009)?
DeWitt - Certainly the World Championship in 2006 has to be number one. That's what we strive for every season and to finally get to that level after a lot of close calls was something I'll never forget.
A close second would be the fact that we led the National League in victories over the last decade, and were third overall after the Yankees and Red Sox. This speaks to the conisistency of the on-field performance, and is a good indicator of the day-in-day-out value that our fans get from following the team.
Third on the list would be the successful development of the new ballpark -- it was such a long and challenging process, and to finally open the facility and see people enjoying was personally very gratifying to me.
Honorable mentions would be the Dave Matthews concert last year and All-Star game this year which were unique events that took additional planning above and beyond the normal rhythm of the season and were fun to be a part of.
This concludes the session today - thanks for your great questions and I look forward to doing this again soon!