As we sit around waiting to see how Tom Hicks is going to extract himself from his debt problems and finally get the deal done to sell the Ranger, Maury Brown runs down all of the reasons why Hicks has essentially become persona non grata in baseball circles. The upshot: by failing to make his payroll, giving A-Rod $250 million, failing to make deferred compensation requirements under the CBA and other assorted financial shenanigans he has alienated the league, the other owners and the union. And now that his incompetence has gummed up the Rangers sale, he’s angering Chuck Greenberg, Nolan Ryan and any number of banks.
Not his unpopularity is a function of his recent money problems. For my part, Hicks jumped the shark in August of 2002. Let’s set the scene: Hicks owns a Rangers team with the second highest payroll in baseball. He has recently signed Alex Rodriguez to a contract paying him $100 million more than the next highest
bidder. He has given Chan Ho Park $65 million, Juan Gonzalez $24 million
over two years and even found $7.5 million for Todd Van Poppel of all people.
Then, in the midst of contentious collective bargaining negotiations with the players union he sat on the deck of his yacht in San Diego harbor and said “for the good of baseball, we need to have cost-containment.” I pictured him saying that while eating panda steaks and
wiping the corners of his mouth with bearer bonds.
I don’t wish misfortune on anyone, but if there is to be misfortune in the world, better it fall on a guy with the chutzpah of Tom Hicks than someone else.
Veteran hurler Jake Peavy has not signed with a team. It’s not because he’s not still capable of being a useful pitcher — he’s well-regarded and someone would likely take a late-career chance on him — and it’s not because he no longer wishes to play. Rather, it’s because a bunch of bad things have happened in his personal life lately.
As Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports, last year Peavy lost millions in an investment scam and spent much of the 2016 season distracted, dealing with investigations and depositions and all of the awfulness that accompanied it. Then, when the season ended, Peavy went home and was greeted with divorce papers. He has spent the offseason trying to find a new normal for himself and for his four sons.
Pitching is taking a backseat now, but Peavy plans to pitch again. Here’s hoping that things get sorted to the point where he can carry through with those plans.
This is fun: The San Francisco Giants recently made their last payment on the $170 million, 20-year loan they obtained to finance the construction of AT&T Park. The joint is now officially paid for.
The Giants, unlike most other teams which moved into new stadiums in the past 25 years or so, did not rely on direct public financing. They tried to get it for years, of course, but when the voters, the city of San Francisco and the State of California said no, they decided to pay for it themselves. They ended up with one of baseball’s best-loved and most beautiful parks and, contrary to what the owners who desperately seek public funds will have you believe, they were not harmed competitively speaking. Indeed, rumor has it that they have won three World Series, four pennants and have made the playoffs seven times since moving into the place in 2000. They sell out routinely now too and the Giants are one of the richest teams in the sport.
Now, to be clear, the Giants are not — contrary to what some people will tell you — some Randian example of self-reliance. They did not receive direct public money to build the park, but they did get a lot of breaks. The park sits on city-owned property in what has become some of the most valuable real estate in the country. If the city had held on to that land and realized its appreciation, they could flip it to developers for far more than the revenue generated by baseball. Or, heaven forfend, use it for some other public good. The Giants likewise received some heavy tax abatements, got some extraordinarily beneficial infrastructure upgrades and require some heavy city services to operate their business. All sports stadiums, even the ones privately constructed, represent tradeoffs for the public.
Still, AT&T Park represents a better model than most sports facilities do. I mean, ask how St. Louis feels about still paying for the place the Rams used to call home before taking off for California. Ask how taxpayers in Atlanta and Arlington, Texas feel about paying for their second stadium in roughly the same time the Giants have paid off their first.