UC Berkeley baseball

The University of California cuts its baseball team; UCLA meets with Charlie Sheen

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Notable University of California baseball players include Jeff Kent, Andy Messersmith, Jackie Jensen, Bob Melvin, Darren Lewis and Brandom Morrow. There will be no more, however, because we learned today that Cal has decided to drop its baseball program entirely:

The University of California announced today it will not reinstate its baseball program despite vigorous fundraising efforts to save it from the chopping block.

Cal announced in September that it would cut five athletics programs after the 2011 season in order to save $5 million by 2014. Athletics supporters quickly mobilized to form Save Cal Sports, which secured between $12 million and $16 million in pledges but fell short of the university’s stated goal of $25 million needed to save all five programs.

Cal chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau issued a statement Friday saying that enough funds were raised to reinstate men’s rugby, women’s gymnastics and women’s lacrosse, but not baseball and men’s gymnastics.

There were Title IX considerations here as well as financial ones.  I don’t pretend to know too much about the economics of Cal’s program or the Title IX implications, but California baseball writers like Bill Shaikan and John Shea are livid today and are calling the decision to axe baseball shameful.

I’m going to dig deeper this afternoon to see if that’s really the case or if it’s simply an understandable case of guys who like baseball not liking it when there is less of it.  But Shaikin and Shea are pretty savvy about behind the scenes things, so my guess is that their indignation at the university is righteous.

If that wasn’t enough California college baseball chaos for you, check out this video over at TMZ of the UCLA baseball team meeting with Charlie Sheen yesterday.  He actually tells them “don’t do crack.”  No word if he told them how much his life has improved in the nearly two weeks since he gave up weekend cocaine binges with porn stars.

The lesson here: if you play baseball, UCLA > UC Berkeley.

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.