Marlins ballpark

Six lies about the Marlins’ new ballpark

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We’re going to be hearing a lot of glowing reviews of the Marlins’ new ballpark as the finishing touches are put on it over the course of the next 9-10 months or so.  And for good reason. From what we’ve been able to see of it in artists’ renderings and in the photos of it in its partially-completed state, it looks beautiful.  It’s replacing an awful place for baseball. And the hype will definitely increase if the Marlins continue to play great baseball as they have thus far this year.

But as that hype grows louder and the ballpark takes final shape, it’s worth noting all of the b.s. that went into its planning, financing and construction.  Helping us do that is this feature that appeared in the Miami New Times last week that pulls absolutely no punches:

Like a festering, silver-plated pustule, a grotesquely huge can opener, or just an obscene ode to wasted cash, the new Florida Marlins stadium is rising above Miami’s skyline. Whether you’re driving down a tree-shaded block in Little Havana or cruising the Dolphin Expressway to South Beach, there it is: a $515 million money sucker that is probably the worst deal for taxpayers of any stadium in America.

Bam!

I don’t know if I’m in any position to judge whether or not the ballpark is truly the worst for taxpayers, but taxpayers aren’t exactly happy with how the deal went down.  One of the primary architects of the financing plan for the joint was former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, who was recently recalled by voters in one of the most lopsided countywide electoral margins in history.  According to Old Gator — who, despite what you think of his take on cheesesteak, knows the goings-on down in his Macondo — a huge proportion of those voters polled stated that the stadium deal was one of the biggest reasons that they voted to dump him.

As for the specifics of the Miami New Times article, longtime friend of HBT Jorge Costales, who was quoted in the article, makes several clarifications over at his blog.  For what it’s worth, Jorge is pro-stadium and was actually pro-taxpayer funding for the stadium as far as it went.  But he has been a sharp critic of Jeff Loria and the Marlins’ claims of poverty that helped get the deal done.

And I think that’s where I come down.  Personally, I am against taxpayer funding for ballparks.  I can understand, however, why some folks like Jorge take a different side of this depending on the specifics of the funding, the need for the stadium, the location and other factors.  All politics is local, and there’s a direct correlation between one’s knowledge of a given area and one’s righteousness in taking a strong stance on the matter. When I speak about ballpark funding it’s usually a philosophical matter, and that only gets you so far.

But no matter the merits of any specific plan, the case for a ballpark has to be made honestly. And it seems fairly clear to me that the case for the Marlins’ new palace was not made honestly. That’s something that should be remembered when the place opens up next spring.

Johnny Monell signs with KBO’s KT Wiz

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 06:  Johnny Monell #19 of the New York Mets runs back to the dugout after he scored in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on July 6, 2015 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.

Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.

The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.