The other day Bud Selig was on Mike Lupica’s radio show* and, when asked about how Frank McCourt got the Dodgers in the first place, said that he was really the only viable bidder. That may be technically true given Selig’s definition of viable bidder, but Buster Olney makes a damn fine point about that in his column today:
I’d bet there would be more bidders if baseball worried less about picking potential owners that fit into a certain personality box, and worried more about deep pockets. If you can find aggressive bidders for the Texas Rangers, you should be able to draw interest in the Dodgers.
The defining feature of baseball’s ownership group — at least those who bought in after 1993 or so — is fealty to Bud Selig. There may be some very good features to such a clubby system. That consensus we spoke of this morning is often a good way for complex organizations to operate, and you don’t get that unless you have owners around who are willing to let the Commissioner lead. But you also wind up with the Frank McCourts of the world. A guy who, while he’s in pitched battle with Selig now, probably never would have gotten hold of the team if he had not been a favored candidate then.
I have made no secret of the fact that I am rooting for Major League Baseball to squash Frank McCourt like a grape. But don’t confuse this rooting interest with an approval of MLB’s handling of baseball ownership writ large. We are damn lucky that, so far anyway, we only have two or three teams in financial distress. Because when your primary criteria for ownership approval is how friendly they’ll be to the league office as opposed to how deep their pockets and how sharp their financial savvy is, you’re bound to run into trouble.
*I know, right? Wow.
The Nationals began the year with Blake Treinen as their closer. That didn’t last long, and now Koda Glover seems to be Dusty Baker’s man in the ninth inning. He earned a save for the second consecutive game yesterday. Glover has been pretty darn good in the early going, posting a 2.35 ERA and striking out six batters and walking only one in seven and two-thirds. That obviously a small sample size, and anything can happen. If it does, Baker has Shawn Kelley as an option.
Not many household names there, which is probably why the Nationals are reported to be interested in the White Sox’ David Robertson and Alex Colome of the Rays. That report comes from Jim Bowden of ESPN, who also notes that the A’s have a number of guys with closing experience on staff and are likely to be sellers too. The David Robertson thing may have more legs, though, given that Mike Rizzo and Rick Hahn pulled off a pretty major trade in the offseason. If you know a guy well, you call that guy first, right?
As far as problems go this isn’t a huge one. The Nats sit at 13-5 and, as expected by most prognosticators, are in first place in the National League East. The Cubs had some questions in the pen this time last year too. They had the luxury of trying to figure it out before making a massive trade for a closer. The Nats do too, and likely will. But expect them to be a part of any trade rumor conversation for the next couple of months.
Travis Sawchik writes about the post-Camden Yards generation of ballparks over at FanGraphs. The ones everyone loves because they’re nice and clean and friendly and are full of amenities. And that’s true! They are nice! But they all have a huge flaw: unless you’re in expensive seats, you’re too far away from the action.
Sawchik uses cross sections of ballparks — available at Andrew Clem’s website — to show that fans sitting in the upper decks of ballparks are way higher and way farther back than they used to be at many old ballparks such as Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, Old Comiskey, Tiger Stadium and Ebbets Field.
A lot of this has to do with an admirable impulse: to eliminate the beams which obstructed the view of many seats in those old parks. If you want to move that upper deck closer to the field, you have to have the beams because one can only achieve so much via cantilever effect. But that’s not the only impulse and probably not the primary one. More expansive lower bowls — which feature more expensive tickets — push the upper deck back and up. As do the luxury suites and club level amenities in between the lower and upper decks. Exacerbating this is the fact that most newer parks are built on vast tracts of land with few architectural constraints. If you can sprawl, you will, which leaves the most affordable seats in the land of binoculars.
I don’t agree with everything Sawchik writes here. He spends a lot of time talking about how much better neighborhood parks like Wrigley Field are and how it’d be better if newer parks were built in neighborhoods. I agree, neighborhood parks are ideal, but the fact is, most places don’t have mass transit like Chicago does. In most cities you have to have a place for 40,000 people to park.
That’s a quibble, though. Mostly, it’s a good look at an important thing most folks overlook when they praise the new parks. Important because, if you don’t have an enjoyable experience at the ballpark, you’re not likely to come back. And if you’re not fortunate enough to be able to buy expensive tickets, you may not have a great experience at the ballpark.