Dodger Stadium

The push for a new Dodger Stadium makes no sense whatsoever

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So I read Matthew’s post on Major League Baseball exploring the possibility of a new downtown stadium for the Los Angeles Dodgers. And as I read it I had one of those strange quasi-out-of-body experiences in which you look around and then slap yourself and try to make sure you’re not dreaming.

First thought: this has to be a bluff. A threat to Frank McCourt that, if necessary, people will work around him. Second thought: a bluff is only as good as the target’s belief that the bluffer is willing to go through with it, so even if it’s a bluff, it bears analysis and consideration. As for that consideration: I’m struggling with just how crazy it would be for the City of Los Angeles to even pretend to go along such a scheme.

I don’t know anything about Los Angeles politics, so if I’m way off base, someone please tell me, but (a) on what planet does a city lift one finger or spend one cent to help a baseball team get a new ballpark when that team already has one that people tend to describe as a jewel; and (b) on what planet does Bud Selig’s Major League Baseball support and actively pursue 100% private investment for a ballpark?

I know about the football stadium thing people have talked about for downtown, but set your McCourt hate aside for a minute and ask yourself, what possible support could there be for a downtown stadium project for the Dodgers? And don’t tell me that it’s all AEG money, because no stadium project — not even the vaunted AT&T Park — is 100% privately financed. There would be tax abatements lobbied for and obtained. There would be infrastructure improvements required. Millions of public dollars would be spent on any stadium project, no matter what the press releases say about it being privately financed.

There is a gleaming, wonderful baseball stadium in Chavez Ravine that no one could sanely claim requires replacement for any reason other that the McCourt mess and the unsavory possibility of him being the landlord for any new Dodgers owner. But the McCourt mess is neither the fault nor the responsibility of the people of Los Angeles. It is the fault and responsibility of Bud Selig and Major League Baseball, who let this irresponsible jackass into the club.

If, in an effort to solve this problem, they push for the abandonment of Dodger Stadium and the construction of a new ballpark, it will be perhaps the most craven, cynical and shameless undertaking attempted since Selig took over. Sure, we can all identify a way in which Dodger Stadium is not ideal — traffic; location — but no sane person would have ever suggested its replacement absent Major League Baseball’s Frank McCourt problem.  As such, this kind of proposal is the equivalent of burning down the village in order to save it.

And it’s also why, even as a bluff, it’s useless and ineffective.

Marlins acquire starter Dan Straily from the Reds

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 3: Dan Straily #58 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the first inning of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on September 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
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The Miami Marlins have acquired starting pitcher Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds. In exchange, the Reds will receive right-handed pitching prospects Luis Castillo and Austin Brice and outfield prospect Isaiah White.

For the Marlins, they get a solid starter who logged 191.1 innings of 113 ERA+ ball last year. Straily has moved around a lot in his five big league seasons — the Marlins will be his fifth club in six years — but it was something of a breakout year for him in Cincinnati. The only troubling thing: he tied for the league lead in homers allowed. Of course, pitching half of his games in Great American Ballpark didn’t help that, and Miami will be a better place for him.

Castillo is 24. He split last season between high-A and Double-A — far more of it in A-ball — posting a 2.26 ERA over 24 starts. Austin Brice is also 24. He pitched 15 games in relief for the Marlins last year at the big league level with poor results. He seemed to blossom at Triple-A, however, after the Marlins shifted him to the pen. White was a third round pick in the 2015 draft. He played low-A ball as a minor leaguer last year, hitting .214/.306/.301.

A mixed bag of young talent for the Reds, but stockpiling kids and seeing what shakes out is what a team like the Reds should be doing at the moment. For the Marlins: a solid mid-to-back end starter who may just be coming into his own.

Have Hall of Fame Voters actually made the PED thing More complicated?

Sammy Sosa
Associated Press
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The story coming out of this year’s Hall of Fame balloting is that the BBWAA voters are finally easing their antipathy toward players with performance enhancing drug associations.

Jeff Bagwell — the subject of unconfirmed PED rumors — made the Hall! Pudge Rodriguez, who was named in Jose Canseco’s book and who had a . . . curious physical transformation around the time PED testing came online, made it on the first ballot! Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, whose PED use was well-documented, saw their vote totals advance above the 50% mark, making their future elections look more likely!

It’s an interesting development, and one I’m obviously pleased with, but I wonder if the BBWAA’s new approach to PED guys, while far more forgiving than it used to be, has actually become more complicated in practice.

I ask this because I look way, way down the ballot and I still see Sammy Sosa scraping by with around 8% of the vote. I ask this because I still see Gary Sheffield at 13%. I ask this because when Mark McGwire was on the Today’s Game ballot in December, no one really stumped for him at all. I ask this because, even though Bagwell and Mike Piazza got in eventually, they still had to go through a lot of hazing first and I suspect, if they hit the ballot for the first time again tomorrow, the same arguments and delay would occur with respect to their cases.

In light of that, what I suspect has happened has not been a wholesale surrender of the anti-PED voters. Rather, I think it has been a transformation. One in which a moral test — did he use PEDs or not? — has been discarded as a threshold question and a scientific/physiological test — would he have been great even without the PEDs? — has replaced it. In essence, voters are becoming “PED discounters” in the aggregate. Making calculations as to whether a guy was, in their mind, a creation of PEDs or not.

Such an approach explains these new voting patterns as well as those in recent years.

  • Ivan Rodriguez may have been called out by Canseco and may have noticeably shrunk over an offseason, but his calling card was his defense behind the plate and voters, I suspect, have told themselves that such a thing is not PED-aided.
  • Bonds and Clemens may have been PED users, but each of them was undeniably talented and, if you discount for the PED use, hey, they’re still all-time greats.
  • Sammy Sosa’s case rests disproportionately on homers and, as everyone knows, PEDs = instant dingers, so no, he’s not gonna cut it.

And so on.

As I said, I’m glad that the strict moral test — did he use or not? — is losing its hold on Hall voters. But I do not think the “did PEDs make him who he was test?” is a good approach either. Baseball writers are in no better a position to assess the physiological and performance enhancements caused by pharmaceuticals than they are to be judges of character and morality. Given the identities of players confirmed to be PED users, the old eye test implicit in these cases is famously faulty (Neifi Perez, anyone?). The idea that PEDs only affect home run totals — and not, say, the ability for a player to take the abuse of the catcher position for 21 seasons — is crude and ignorant.

I suppose it’s naive to expect voters to completely disregard PEDs in their assessment of players. It’s a bell that cannot be unrung. But while we may, thankfully, be moving away from a moral test with respect to drugs, it’s been displaced by a scientific test that is no more reasonable in practice.