Tomorrow is Jackie Robinson Day

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Jackie Robinson sliding.jpgTomorrow marks the 63rd anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. Last year baseball began encouraging all players and umpires to wear number 42 in Jackie’s honor. Most do it. Mariano Rivera, however, controversially refuses to change from the number he has always worn. How he doesn’t catch hell for this I have no idea, but that’s what happens when the media is so sick with east coast bias. I digress.

It’s probably an unpopular position, but I’m rather ambivalent about 42 being retired in the first place. The Dodgers should do it because Jackie was their guy, but I always found it cool when the Mo Vaughns of the world chose to wear number 42 as a tribute.  I go back and forth on the idea of retired numbers to being with, actually. Sometimes I think it’s a good idea. Sometimes I think it’s rather silly. As I sit here this afternoon I’m struck by the notion that exactly no one would forget Jackie Robinson if we let someone choose to wear number 42 as an inspirational and reverential gesture.

That minor point aside, tomorrow isn’t all about history. Major League baseball has tied in multiple charitable and scholarship programs both on its own behalf and in conjunction with the Jackie Robinson foundation and tomorrow will serve as a reminder and, in some cases, fundraisers for many of those programs (details here).

I like that aspect of Jackie Robinson Day much more than the solemn remembrances which, for as nice as they are, have a habit of turning Robinson into a secular saint, however unwittingly.  As a result I feel like we lose a bit more of Jackie Robinson the man every year and dive further into myth and legend. It’s probably inevitable, I suppose.

Indians sign Brandon Guyer to a two-year extension

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Brandon Guyer #6 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates Rajai Davis #20 two-run home run during the eighth inning to tie the game 6-6 against the Chicago Cubs in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Cleveland Indians and outfielder Brandon Guyer avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year contract with a club option for 2019.

The Indians acquired Guyer from the Rays at last year’s trade deadline. After coming to Cleveland he posted a line of .333/.438/.469 in 38 games. He’s a .262/.349/.402 hitter over 344 games in five seasons in the bigs. He has led the league in being hit by pitches for the past two seasons, getting plunked 24 times in 2015 and 31 times in 2016. He went 6-for-18 with four walks and two HBPs in the playoffs for Cleveland. The man will work to get on base, my friends. And he can play all three outfield positions.

Nice signing.

Sarasota County to build the Braves a new spring training facility

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The Braves have trained at Walt Disney World for several years. The lease is up, however, and they’ve been on the hunt for a new facility for some time. Disney is just too geographically remote from most of the Grapefruit League facilities so they’ve looked on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts for some time.

Their search appears to be over, however, as they have reached an agreement to move to Sarasota:

The Atlanta Braves formally plan to move the team’s spring training home to North Port in 2019, the team and Sarasota County announced Tuesday afternoon.

The announcement set the stage for final negotiations this spring on a contract to bring the Major League Baseball team to a new complex in the West Villages district just south of West Villages Parkway and U.S. 41, near the State College of Florida campus in North Port.

It’ll be a $75-$80 million complex on 70 acres. The story says it’s envisioned to anchor a “town center” commercial and residential district. If anyone has ever been to a spring training facility, however, one knows how ridiculous such an idea is. There is nothing more geographically un-centered and dispersed than a spring training facility. It’s a sea of open fields which private citizens generally cannot access and large parking lots. These facilities typically require major arteries, not quaint town streets, for reasonable access. The best any facilities do to integrate with surrounding communities can be seen in Fort Myers with the Twins and in Surprise, Arizona with the Rangers and Royals, where the facilities are part of larger community parks and recreation centers. That’s OK, and certainly better than nothing, but they’re not the anchors of the vibrant live/work/shop developments like the Braves and Sarasota are describing here.

But of course everyone involved has to say that, because selling such facilities as the engine of pie-in-the-sky development is a key part of making the large expenditure of public funds seem more palatable. And yes, there will be a big expenditure of public funds here: the Braves will be getting $56 million in taxpayer subsidies for the new place, some from the state, some from the county. The amount from the county, by the way, is calculated to fall just below the threshold required for a public vote on the expenditure. The Braves have always been blessed with the ability to avoid public votes for their corporate welfare, of course.

One wonders how many other wealthy private businesses owned by multinational corporations get tens of millions in tax dollars to build employee training centers. Not many, I’m sure. The Braves always seem to luck out in this regard, however.