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Duke Lacrosse; $449 Baseball Glove; $400 Matsuzaka Ball

Thursday, 12 Apr 2007 | 5:15 PM ET

UPDATE - Matsuzaka Marketing Is Represented By Boras:
After discussions with more people about Matsuzaka's autograph deal, I actually learned this afternoon that Architect did in fact hand over Matsuzaka's U.S. marketing and licensing rights to Boras Marketing. When reached, Steve Fortunato, vice president of Boras Marketing, confirmed this fact. Fortunato said that the company is entertaining offers right now, but that "the focus is on baseball." Asked if an autograph deal is imminent, Fortunato said: "We continue to maintain active discussions with leading memorabilia companies."

Duke Lacrosse Shirts Are Best Sellers:

AP

I’m not too surprised, but Tom Craig, general manager of retail stores at Duke University, just confirmed for me this morning that -- over the past year -- the Duke Lacrosse team T-shirt outsold the Duke basketball team shirt. Ever since the sexual assault scandal, the shirts were flying off the shelves. I thought it was a temporary thing -- a sick joke -- when I first discovered the trend last year. But sales still are brisk.

“They’re not selling the same way they were in April, May and June of last year, but they are still selling much better than they were before that time,” Craig said. When everything came out, I was actually surprised that Duke University didn’t pull the shirts from their stores, as the local Dick’s Sporting Goods decided to do. It seemed like they were clearly capitalizing off the scandal. But they actually had a pretty reasonable story -- the women’s lacrosse team was No. 1 in the country at the time and the shirts are generic in that they don’t say men’s and women’s on it.

“We asked the university if they thought we should pull them off the shelves,” Craig said. “And they said, ‘No.’ What they didn’t want us to do is promote the shirts in any way and we’ve followed that guideline.” Craig said that the Duke Lacrosse shirt went from the fourth most popular sport shirt to the first, from selling hundreds of shirts a year to thousands.

I’m still kind of uncomfortable with that. So I’m advocating that the university donate all the proceeds of these shirts to the legal defense fund for these three kids against whom the charges were dropped yesterday. Say the school sold 7,000 shirts for $16 each. Duke’s take of that in royalties is roughly 64 cents per shirt or about $4,500. That’s a drop in the bucket considering the fact that Duke spent $164,000 to field the men’s lacrosse team last year.

The $449 Baseball Glove:
It’s that time of year again. If you’re a parent, you know it well. Going to the sporting goods store to buy all the new Little League items for the kids. Well, if you really want to give your kid the absolute best this year, you’re going to have to go Primo . I’m talking about the $449 ($487.68 with tax to be exact) Rawlings glove being touted as “The Next Line of Defense.” It features two layers of rich Italian leather from the Tuscany region of Italy and an Italian calf lining. Folks, I’m not kidding here. For a segment I’m doing today on Rawlings’ owner, the publicly traded K2, I got one of these puppies into the office. It comes in a vinyl bag with a sewn Rawlings logo, and I have to tell you, the glove feels great -- as well it should at $449. It should come with a disclaimer though, “IF YOU CAN’T CATCH TO BEGIN WITH, THIS GLOVE WON’T HELP YOU.”

The $400 Matsuzaka Signed Ball?:
The sports autograph world has been waiting patiently for Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke

AP

Matsuzaka to sign an autograph deal for weeks now, but insiders are telling me there’s apparently no rush despite the enormous demand. So if you’re waiting to get an officially signed Dice-K ball, you’ll have to wait, but you might as well put some money in the bank and let it collect interest. That’s because -- if all goes as expected -- one autographed ball from a pitcher whose record is now 1-1 will cost you more than $400.

If Matsuzaka does sign, he’s expected to be paid well north of $100 a signature. “I could be the highest price ever paid to a modern player,” said one insider, who preferred to keep his name quiet. So what’s that price? Well, a couple years ago, sports autograph guru Harlan Werner negotiated for a deal that would pay Mark McGwire $200 to $1,000 per autograph. Remember, that’s for McGwire himself. The public usually pays a retail of in between double and triple that.

So let’s say Matsuzaka does sign a deal -- I’m putting Upper Deck in the top spot and the folks at Steiner second -- will it be worth it to buy a ball for a half a grand?

“I’d say buy it because you like the guy, not as an investment,” said Werner of Sports Placement Service. “If you want to buy for an investment buy Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb or even Ichiro. An Ichiro signature might cost you $600 on a baseball and that would be a deal because the guy has performed, he’s going to be in the Hall of Fame and it has only become harder to get his autograph.”

Werner deals almost entirely with retired athletes, but the deal he did for Kazuhisa Ishii when he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002 serves as a cautionary tale. Ishii was hyped as the next great Japanese pitcher, but he only went 14-10 in his rookie season and since then -- 25-24.

“I paid $50 per autograph and 90 percent of them are still sitting here,” said Werner. “I’d be glad if someone would just buy them for $5 apiece now.”

Werner isn’t feeling any hit from the McGwire deal as most of the items are now at Steiner, where there’s plenty still available at discounts ranging from 26 to 65 percent off.

Back to the Matsuzaka. Despite yesterday’s loss, the hype hasn’t cooled down.

“Take Ichiro and Matsui mania and put it into one and you have Matsuzaka,” said Gil Pagovich of Maxximum Marketing, which also negotiates autograph deals. “There hasn’t been this hype on a guy in a long time.”

So what’s with the holdout? Well, insiders say it’s just a whole bunch of confusion. It was assumed that Scott Boras’ team was going to do the marketing, but that was before Matsuzaka informed them that he already had a marketing firm in Japan -- Architect Inc. -- and they would be handling things going forward. The fact that there isn’t a deal in place has people bidding for Matsuzaka’s autograph rights wondering whether it’s because of Architect’s inexperience in the space, whether the price is wrong or whether Matsuzaka just might not want to sign an exclusive autograph deal.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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