Phillies spring training as off to a spectacular start. The offense is pretty awful. Pitchers are getting hurt. Jimmy Rollins is having one of his occasional spats with his manager about his perceived effort.
Rollins, despite being healthy, has been out of the lineup for three straight days, with Freddy Galvis taking his place. When asked about that yesterday, Sandberg sounded frustrated with Rollins. Specifically, after he praised Freddy Galvis for his “energy” and his “positive influence on everyone around him,” he offered a “no comment” when asked if Rollins provides such things.
This morning reporters found Rollins and asked him about Sandberg’s “no comment.” Rollins said he had no problem with Sandberg and that he’s the manager, so “he gets to have the last say.” But he also made it clear that he disagreed with Sandberg, saying “everyone is allowed to have their opinion. That doesn’t make it right.”
It’s probably worth noting at this point that Sandberg has taken some behind the scenes criticism for approaching spring training in a rather intense manner. When I was in Clearwater last week Sandberg had the entire team out on the field on a gameday doing cutoff and infield drills on the main field. It was noted by some around me — people who have observed the Phillies for several years — that it was pretty unusual for them to do that, and that perhaps Sandberg was trying to send a message or make a point at best, trying way too hard at worst. That it was a little drill sergeanty for the first week of March with a veteran team.
Which makes me wonder how much of this is about Jimmy Rollins being Jimmy Rollins — a guy who has butted heads with managers and has been criticized for lack of effort in the past — and how much of this is about Ryne Sandberg being at an 11 when most players would expect him to be at a 6.
Veteran hurler Jake Peavy has not signed with a team. It’s not because he’s not still capable of being a useful pitcher — he’s well-regarded and someone would likely take a late-career chance on him — and it’s not because he no longer wishes to play. Rather, it’s because a bunch of bad things have happened in his personal life lately.
As Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports, last year Peavy lost millions in an investment scam and spent much of the 2016 season distracted, dealing with investigations and depositions and all of the awfulness that accompanied it. Then, when the season ended, Peavy went home and was greeted with divorce papers. He has spent the offseason trying to find a new normal for himself and for his four sons.
Pitching is taking a backseat now, but Peavy plans to pitch again. Here’s hoping that things get sorted to the point where he can carry through with those plans.
This is fun: The San Francisco Giants recently made their last payment on the $170 million, 20-year loan they obtained to finance the construction of AT&T Park. The joint is now officially paid for.
The Giants, unlike most other teams which moved into new stadiums in the past 25 years or so, did not rely on direct public financing. They tried to get it for years, of course, but when the voters, the city of San Francisco and the State of California said no, they decided to pay for it themselves. They ended up with one of baseball’s best-loved and most beautiful parks and, contrary to what the owners who desperately seek public funds will have you believe, they were not harmed competitively speaking. Indeed, rumor has it that they have won three World Series, four pennants and have made the playoffs seven times since moving into the place in 2000. They sell out routinely now too and the Giants are one of the richest teams in the sport.
Now, to be clear, the Giants are not — contrary to what some people will tell you — some Randian example of self-reliance. They did not receive direct public money to build the park, but they did get a lot of breaks. The park sits on city-owned property in what has become some of the most valuable real estate in the country. If the city had held on to that land and realized its appreciation, they could flip it to developers for far more than the revenue generated by baseball. Or, heaven forfend, use it for some other public good. The Giants likewise received some heavy tax abatements, got some extraordinarily beneficial infrastructure upgrades and require some heavy city services to operate their business. All sports stadiums, even the ones privately constructed, represent tradeoffs for the public.
Still, AT&T Park represents a better model than most sports facilities do. I mean, ask how St. Louis feels about still paying for the place the Rams used to call home before taking off for California. Ask how taxpayers in Atlanta and Arlington, Texas feel about paying for their second stadium in roughly the same time the Giants have paid off their first.