It was announced this morning that 2014 will be the last season the Athletics train at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. They’re going to move into Hohokam Park, where the Cubs currently train, after the Cubs move into their new place in Mesa and after Hohokam gets a $20 million face lift. Arizona State University’s baseball team will take over this place.
Speaking to the scribes this morning Bob Melvin said it’s a good thing because, for whatever you can say about Phoenix Muni, “it’s dated” and “it’s lacking a bit.” He’s not wrong about that. The park has been around since the early 60s. And while they have done a good job of upgrading the concourses and the press area, the stuff the players actually use has been outclassed by the newer construction. It was probably inevitable that this park would cease to be a spring training home for the majors one day soon.
Still, it makes me a little sad. I have a soft spot for this place. It reminds me of the public schools I went to in the 70s. It was built in a forward-looking, modern/brutalist style in an era where nostalgia simply didn’t exist in the world of sports architecture. Why on Earth would anyone put in some frieze or some quaint feature when there is room for more poured concrete? Poured concrete is cheap and efficient! And, dammit, our resources must be conserved because we have a Cold War to win.
Oh well. Progress. Other random observations from Phoenix municipal:
- I did the clubhouse thing this morning. It’s a split squad day for the A’s, so half the team hopped on a bus at 9:30 AM, leaving things pretty dead. I can report, however, that Pat Neshek wears Oakland A’s-colored Zubaz. Just thought you should know.
- Before he left on the bus Bartolo Colon handed a pair of spandex workout shorts to a clubbie to have a hole sewn up. BARTOLO COLON SPANDEX. They don’t pay clubbies nearly enough money.
- I like coming back to the same parks each year to see the upgrades young players get in locker placement from year to year. I mentioned Mike Trout the other day. Last year I was here for Yoenis Cespedes’ spring debut and he was down at some crowded end with players with numbers in the 70s. He has a nice big locker with plenty of space this year.
- In addition to Michele and the Phoenix Bats, some guy was in the clubhouse taking measurements for custom-made suits too. I think if you’re a major leaguer you eventually forget how to do your own shopping.
- I spoke with Bob Melvin. He seems kind of excited to be playing the Italian team today. He was with the Dbacks when they played Mexico back in the 2006 WBC down in Tucson. He said the crowd was insane and the electricity off the charts. It makes me pretty excited to watch the U.S. vs. Mexico game in Chase Field on Friday night. I’m thinking of rooting for Mexico just to be annoying.
Time to settle in for Italy vs. Athletics. They just played the Italian National Anthem. It’s not short, but it is quite a pretty tune. Oh, and there are plenty of seats available:
The Tigers will promoted Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon to hitting coach for the 2017 season, according to a statement released by the team on Friday afternoon.
McClendon’s history with the Tigers is long and storied. After serving five seasons as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ hitting coach and manager, he got his start with Detroit in 2006 as a bullpen coach, then transitioned to hitting coach from 2007 through 2013. When the Tigers hired Brad Ausmus to replace former manager Jim Leyland, McClendon took the opportunity to break from the team and pursue another managerial position of his own with the Seattle Mariners, whom he guided to a 163-161 record between the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
Following his departure from Seattle during the 2015 offseason, McClendon took a spot as skipper of the Tigers’ Triple-A club, managing the Toledo Mud Hens to a 68-76 finish in 2016. His return to the big league stage is accompanied by the hiring of assistant hitting coach Leon Durham, who previously served as the long-tenured hitting coach for Triple-A Toledo.
On Monday we passed along a report that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are negotiating over an international draft. That report — from ESPN’s Buster Olney — cited competitive balance and the well-being of international free agents as the reasons why they’re pushing for the draft.
We have long doubted those stated motivations and said so again in our post on Monday. But we’re just armchair skeptics when it comes to this. Ben Badler of Baseball America is an expert. Perhaps the foremost expert on international baseball, international signings and the like. Today he writes about a would-be international draft and he tears MLB, the MLBPA and their surrogates in the media to shreds with respect to their talking points.
Of course Badler is a nice guy so “tearing to shreds” is probably putting it too harshly. Maybe it’s better to say that he systematically dismantles the stated rationale for the international draft and makes plan what’s really going on: MLB is looking to save money and the players are looking to sell out non-union members to further their own bargaining position:
Major League Baseball has long wanted an international draft. The driving force behind implementing an international draft is for owners to control their labor costs by paying less money to international amateur players, allowing owners to keep more of that money . . . the players’ association doesn’t care about international amateur players as anything more than a bargaining chip. It’s nothing discriminatory against foreign players, it’s just that the union looks out for players on 40-man rosters. So international players, draft picks in the United States and minor leaguers who make less than $10,000 in annual salary get their rights sold out by the union, which in exchange can negotiate items like a higher major league minimum salary, adjustments to the Super 2 rules or modifying draft pick compensation attached to free agent signings.
Badler then walks through the process of how players are discovered, scouted and signed in Latin America and explains, quite convincingly, how MLB’s international draft and, indeed, its fundamental approach to amateurs in Latin America is lacking.
Read this. Then, every time a U.S.-based writer with MLB sources talks about the international draft, ask whether they know something Ben Badler doesn’t or, alternatively, whether they’re carrying water for either the league or the union.