luxury suite

Do luxury boxes cause ballpark violence?

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No, I didn’t formulate that question. Political blogger Mickey Kaus did in his “assignment desk” feature over at the Daily Caller. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, Kaus uses the feature to play editor, coming up with a question that interests him, outlines the parameters and then “assigns” it to a reporter he thinks would be good at handling it. The questions rarely actually get researched. It’s just his way of playing the “hey, I’m just saying” game. Sometimes the questions are interesting. Sometimes they are not.

In this instance, the formulation is probably more interesting than the actual question, because Kaus is interested in exploring ballpark violence in terms of one of his very old topics: social equality and the idea that, to sustain both equality and capitalism, policies should be pursued that make it so that money should have as little influence as possible. The idea: let us do things to avoid a society in which people can simply buy their way out of interacting with everyone else via VIP sections, priority lines and seating, hospitals for only the rich, etc.

Why? Because the coming together of people from all walks of life — be it for good things like Fourth of July parades or bad things like all of us having to wait in the same line at the airport — fosters democracy and social health and all of that.  He wrote a book about it once that I actually kind of liked, even if I think Kaus gets a lot of stuff wrong a lot of the time.

Anyway, Kaus would probably include luxury boxes in ballparks in that world view, and here he wonders if they aren’t in part to blame for violence and rowdiness in the cheap seats:

Here in L.A. we’ve been traumatized by the vicious beating given a San Francisco Giants fan who attended a game at Dodger Stadium.  Many are shocked that this could happen at a ballgame, but I remember being told several times, when I was sitting in fairly expensive seats at the stadium, that I shouldn’t go to the bleachers because that’s where thugs hung out. Which raises a question: Has the class segregation of sports stadiums helped promote hooliganism? The argument would be a fairly straightforward miniaturized version of the argument that concentrating the poor in inner cities helped breed an underclass. Specifically, if all the classes were mixed together–no skyboxes, no separate, more expensive decks–middle class values would prevail, or else the cops would be called and management would hear about it in no uncertain terms. The more they are unmixed–with the cheap seats geographically cut off from the mainstream–the more we a) allow general mainstream norms to be flouted in the cut off areas and b) ensure that the affluent are insulated and won’t care about (a). … Problems with theory: Even bleacher seats aren’t that cheap.

The bigger problem with that theory — aside from the fact that he was sitting in high-end seats when the question occurred to him — is that, as I said last week, I’m willing to bet that there were more problems with hooliganism in the 70s and 80s than there is now, and there was way less class segregation then due to fewer club level,elite level, etc., options in ballparks.

People pay more attention to incidents at ballparks now and they get reported in the media more often. And of course, the Bryan Stow case was such an outlier in terms of its severity that of course it’s being discussed more. Especially in Los Angeles, where Kaus lives.

So, interesting idea, Mickey. I have a pretty strong anti-elitism streak in me (fostered by both reason and, I’ll admit, occasional jealousy!) so I think it’s a good idea to ask whether or not luxury boxes are a good thing in an absolute sense (not that they’re going anywhere).  But I have a hard time linking their existence to increased bad behavior in ballparks, simply because I don’t believe that there is more bad behavior in ballparks than there used to be.

(link via BTF)

Former MLB player Andy Marte also killed in car accident

GOODYEAR , AZ - MARCH 06:  Andy Marte #15 of the Cleveland Indians looks on from the dugout during the spring training game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Goodyear Ballpark on March 6, 2009 in Goodyear, Arizona. The Brewers defeated the Indians 17-7.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Compounding the tragic news of Yordano Ventura‘s passing is a report that fellow Dominican and former MLB infielder Andy Marte was also killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic early Sunday morning. The report was confirmed by Marte’s agency, J.M.G. Baseball, as well as Marte’s former MLB clubs. No further details have been released so far.

Marte, 33, appeared for the Braves, Indians and Diamondbacks from 2005 through 2014. He was ranked in the top 10 MLB prospects by MLB.com in 2005 and held a career .218/.276/.358 batting line, 21 home runs and a .634 OPS over seven seasons in the majors. He signed with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization after the 2014 season, slashing .312 with 42 home runs in 206 games.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Marte’s family and teammates during this terrible time.

Yordano Ventura and Jose Fernandez were two of the most promising arms in MLB

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 3: Starting pitcher Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals throws a pitch in the first inning during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on July 3, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
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Baseball lost two incredible pitchers in the last four months, both to horrible and unforeseen tragedies. Jose Fernandez and Yordano Ventura were among the most talented and promising pitchers in MLB, two young arms that drew both accolades and criticism for their performance on the mound.

Ventura signed with the Royals in 2008, blazing through several tiers of their farm system before he was called up to replace an injured Danny Duffy in late 2013. He secured his rotation spot the following spring and finished a solid 2014 campaign with a 14-10 record, 3.20 ERA and 2.4 fWAR in 32 starts for the club. During the Royals’ World Series run later that year, Ventura dedicated his performance in Game 6 to Cardinals’ prospect Oscar Taveras, who was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic just two days earlier.

In four years with the Royals, Ventura pitched to a 38-31 record, 3.89 ERA and 6.5 fWAR. While his command and overall production rate waned, bottoming out in 2016 with a 4.45 ERA and 1.85 SO/BB rate, his dynamic pitch repertoire still kept him front and center in the Royals’ pitching staff. He brandished an electric fastball that, at its lowest point, hovered around 96.6 m.p.h. and, at its best, topped out around 102.6 m.p.h.

Like Ventura, Fernandez made an instant impression in the major league circuit. He earned Rookie of the Year distinctions in 2013 after delivering a 12-6 record, 2.19 ERA and 4.1 fWAR with the Marlins. Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery in his sophomore year, he recovered to take on a full workload in 2016 and stunned the league with a 16-8 record, 2.89 ERA, career-high 253 strikeouts and 6.1 fWAR.

Ventura developed a reputation for brushing back hitters, which escalated in some cases to volatile bench-clearing brawls. In 2015, he was ejected for three altercations in three consecutive games and served a seven-game suspension. Halfway through the 2016 season, he earned another eight-game suspension after plunking the Orioles’ Manny Machado in the back with a 99 m.p.h. heater. Some speculated that his aggressive behavior on the mound was excused — or, at least, made more palatable — by his talent and track record, while others called for a more heavy-handed approach from the league.

Fernandez, too, found himself at the center of speculation after reports emerged that painted the 24-year-old as a “clubhouse difficulty,” citing attitude problems that damaged relationships between the pitcher and Marlins players and staff. On the field, he was occasionally chastised for failing to adhere to some of baseball’s unwritten rules, most notably when he showed his elation after hitting his first career home run off of the Braves’ Mike Minor in 2013.

It’s impossible to predict where Fernandez and Ventura’s careers would have taken them. We mourn them not for their actions on the mound or their potential as star pitchers, however, but for their inherent value as people who were loved and respected by their families and teams. Major League Baseball will be worse off for their loss.