Dodger Stadium

Comment of the Day: Don’t dismiss the Downtown Dodgers too quickly


I’ll admit, I’m still kind of steaming over that downtown Los Angeles Dodger Stadium thing I went on about this morning.  But I’ll also admit that, from a “could it happen” perspective, I may be looking at this too narrowly.

My thinking (actually my outrage) is based on the fact that no solvent Dodgers owner would ever consider moving the team out of Dodger Stadium. Why? Because a solvent Dodgers owner owns the park, owns the parking, has no competition from outside food or drink vendors or any of that stuff, and thus has no incentive to move downtown where everything would have to be shared with developers, other retail, etc. But of course the insolvent Frank McCourt and a new but as yet unidentified Dodgers ownership don’t have the same incentive structures.

Against that backdrop, someone I know who knows lots of someones in California business sent me an email a few minutes ago trying to explain the downtown L.A. dynamic to me.  I’ve reproduced it below, and it makes a compelling argument for the “why would the City of Los Angeles be behind the Dodgers moving downtown” angle to it all.  It’s hung on what’s going on with the L.A. Live entertainment complex, the Staples Center and the adjacent development.

I still don’t get why Major League Baseball would want to go this route. Getting around Frank McCourt’s ownership of the ballpark has to be easier than simply abandoning it and going in with some developers, right? But this goes a long way in explaining the non-baseball parts that are moving here.

L.A. Live is incredibly impressive.  And while yes, it got some love in terms of zoning or tax breaks or whatever from the city, it really was built with private capital.

L.A. Live fulfills the self image of L.A., and L.A. politicians, in ways that are hard to express.  It really is a combination of sports and entertainment and glitz all in one place.  The Grammy Museum is there.  People like J-Lo and Denzel Washington are regularly visible from the windows of rooms that I have meetings in.  The Lakers play there, and the role of Lakers tickets in the social hierarchy of L.A. cannot be over-expressed.  The thought of putting a baseball stadium right there, and adding a summer season (“the box seat Hamptons” to go with “the courtside seat Aspen” of the Lakers) excites a lot of rich and powerful people.

For the first time ever, there’s something attractive in downtown L.A. to draw people in.  Until now, the only things in downtown L.A. were politicians who felt lonely.  Do not underestimate the desire of those politicians to have a nice entertainment place nearby. Yes, it will take 10 years, but this move is a key chess piece in bringing the NFL back to L.A. Believe it or not, the Dodgers are like a rook or a bishop at best in that game — maybe a knight is more appropriate.

The fact that it’s bubbling now, as you point out, is to put more pressure on Frank McCourt.  But not only is it a credible threat, it is actually the plan. And when it is done, Dodger Stadium will be bulldozed, the NFL will be back in L.A., and Phil Anschutz will own the stadiums where basketball, baseball, football, and soccer are played in the #2 media market in America. L.A. Live is making lots of money. It’s got huge hotels, a dozen restaurants, three live music venues, a movie theater, a bowling alley, a shopping mall, the Grammy Museum…   just wait until there’s baseball nearby, sweet condos across the street, another urban shopping center built…  you know the drill.

Concrete will be poured.  Money will flow.  Mark my words.

Mets expected to tender a contract to Jenrry Mejia

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 12:  Jenrry Mejia #58 of the New York Mets reacts as he walks off the field after getting the final out of the seventh inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citi Field on July 12, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
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Jenrry Mejia appeared in just seven games this past season due to a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs, but Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Mets are expected to tender him a contract for 2016.

While the Mets were vocal about their disappointment in Mejia’s actions, it makes sense to keep him around as an option. Had he played a full season in 2015, he would have earned $2.595 million. He’s arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and figures to receive a contract similar to his 2015 figure, but he’ll only be paid for the games he plays. He still has 100 games to serve on his second PED suspension, which means that he’ll only be paid for 62 games in 2016. This likely puts his salary closer to $1 million, which is a small price to pay for someone who could prove useful during the second half and beyond. He also won’t count toward the team’s 40-man roster until he’s active.

Mejia, who turned 26 in October, owns a 3.68 ERA in the majors and saved 28 games for the Mets in 2014. He’s currently pitching as a starter in the Dominican Winter League.

Braves and Jim Johnson reunite on a one-year contract

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 17: Jim Johnson #53 of the Atlanta Braves throws a ninth inning pitch against the Chicago Cubs at Turner Field on July 17, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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UPDATE: The deal is official. Bowman adds that Johnson will make $2.5 million in 2016.

6:11 p.m. ET: Jim Johnson enjoyed some success out of the Braves’ bullpen in 2015 until a midseason trade to the Dodgers and Mark Bowman of reports that he has returned to Atlanta on a one-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved.

After an awful 2014 between the Athletics and Tigers, Johnson signed a one-year deal with the Braves last winter and bounced back to the tune of a 2.25 ERA and 33/14 K/BB ratio over 48 innings. He also saved nine games. However, things went south for him after a trade to the Dodgers in late July, as he put up an ugly 10.13 ERA in 23 appearances. He was left off the team’s roster for the NLDS against the Mets.

It’s unclear what role the Braves have in mind for Johnson, as Arodys Vizcaino finished the season as the closer, but they have made upgrading their bullpen a priority this winter.

Report: Barry Bonds under consideration to be the Marlins hitting coach

Barry Bonds

This shouldn’t cause any controversy, lead to a lot of people saying dumb things or provide fodder for jokes at all. Nope, none whatsoever:

In what promises to be a bombshell move, if executed, all-time great slugger Barry Bonds is under consideration to become Marlins hitting coach.

Team higherups have quietly been discussing this possibility for weeks.

That’s Jon Heyman, who reminds us that Bonds has worked with the Giants in the spring in recent years. And who, no matter what else you can say about him, was one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. Also worth remembering that despite his controversial past, that greatness came not just from physical gifts, naturally or artificially bestowed. It came from his approach, preparation and strategy at the plate. No one can teach a hitter to hit like Barry Bonds, but you’d think that hitters could be taught to try to approach an at bat the way Barry Bonds would. And who better to do it than Barry Bonds?

That is, if Bonds is willing to drop his seemingly ideal retired life in San Francisco, move to Miami and work for Jeff Loria for nine months a year. Which, eh, who knows? But the possibility of it is pretty fascinating to think about.

Yadier Molina’s new backup: Cardinals sign Brayan Pena to two-year deal

Brayan Pena Reds

Veteran catcher Brayan Pena has agreed to a two-year, $5 million contract with the Cardinals, who’re investing much more than usual in their backup for Yadier Molina.

After bouncing around for a decade without getting even 250 plate appearances in a season Pena signed with the Reds and topped 350 plate appearances in both 2014 and 2015. His production didn’t improve any, as Pena hit .263 with five homers and a .652 OPS in 223 games as a regular.

Pena’s best skill is rarely striking out, which enables him to hit for a decent batting average, but he has very little power and swings at everything. He struggled to control the running game this season at age 33, but has a decent throw-out rate for his career.

Making a multi-year commitment to Pena suggests the Cardinals are no longer counting on Molina being the same type of workhorse behind the plate, which certainly makes sense given his age and injury history. Pena will replace Tony Cruz, who’s been Molina’s understudy since 2011 while hitting just .220 with five homers and a .572 OPS in 259 games.