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Beware claims that the Braves new ballpark will be privately funded


As is the case with any breaking news story, there are conflicting reports about the details of the Braves new ballpark in Cobb County, Georgia. Specifically the financing. Reports have the place being a $672 million project overall. Some reports, however, have it as a ~$450 million public contribution from Cobb County with the Braves paying for the rest. Other reports are characterizing that $450 million component of it as private funding or private funding “arranged” by the county, with the Braves paying the rest.

We’ll know the details eventually. But even after we think we know the details, be sure to use your critical listening and critical thinking skills to figure out what you’re really being told. Because politicians and baseball team owners are notoriously opaque about this stuff.

Specifically, they’re big on characterizing what are, in reality, public funds as private funds. Or at least something other than tax dollars. Because in the political orthodoxy of the past 30 years, nothing has become more politically toxic than using tax money for anything. Or, at the very least, having one’s political opponents claim you used tax money for something. Even for things that taxes are actually supposed to pay for like, say, fighting off anarchy and society-killing social and economic dislocation!

So they spin. Like crazy. A hotel bed tax — which is most certainly a tax and is most certainly the spending of public money — is often spun as something other than public funds. So too are bonds. So too are loans. So too are tax breaks and abatements. All manner of politicians with actual educations have stood before cameras before and claimed, with a straight face, that those things aren’t the expenditure of public dollars. As if money wasn’t fungible. As if the government’s spending of money it has for one thing doesn’t necessarily mean that the money can’t be spent for another. Or, if it was derived for a sole purpose, that it could have gone un-derived in the first place.

Private expenditures would be the Braves paying for it all. Or the Braves and a consortium of private businesses using their own money. And, hey, it’s possible that Home Depot (based in Cobb County) or the local Lockheed Martin plant could cut $450 million checks for the place. If so, yes, I will view this project in a very different light.  I just doubt it’s happening that way because it hardly ever happens that way.

Anyway: wait for the information. And, given the compulsion politicians have to avoid looking like they’re spending taxpayer money on anything besides the military, look skeptically at anyone claiming that this is all a private deal with no costs to the taxpayers.

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
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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.

While we wait for free agent signings: Andrew McCutchen stars in a one-act play

Andrew McCutchen
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It’s a pretty slow offseason so far. We’ve had a couple of minor signings. I guess Jordan Zimmermann is sort of a big deal. But it’s a lot more quiet so far this year than it was this time last year. I suppose there’s no real rhyme nor reason for it. Baseball offseason is long, there is no salary cap and thus there’s no rush to do things too quickly.

So, while we wait, here’s Andrew McCutchen doing his best to kill time until spring training starts:

Red Sox sign outfielder Chris Young

Chris Young Getty

Veteran outfielder Chris Young thrived in a platoon role for the Yankees this past season and now he’s headed to the rival Red Sox to fill a similar role, signing a multi-year deal with Boston according to Ken Rosenthal of

Young was once an everyday center fielder for the Diamondbacks, making the All-Star team in 2010 at age 26, but for the past 3-4 years he’s gotten 300-350 plate appearances in a part-time role facing mostly left-handed pitching. He hit .252 with 14 homers and a .773 OPS for the Yankees, but prior to that failed to top a .700 OPS in 2013 or 2014.

Given the Red Sox’s outfield depth–Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Brock Holt even with Hanley Ramirez back in the infield–Young is unlikely to work his way into everyday playing time at age 32, but he should get another 300 or so plate appearances while also providing a veteran fallback option. And it’s possible his arrival clears the way for a trade.