When it comes to the Braves moving out of Atlanta, don’t hate the player, hate the game

91 Comments

CSNBayArea.com’s Andrew Baggarly has a sharp piece today taking the Braves to task for moving out of their still quite new ballpark in Atlanta and heading for the suburbs of Cobb County:

The Braves’ new ballpark might make financial sense. It might be too sweetheart to turn down. But every baseball ownership group should see itself as stewards for the franchise and the community, both those who are economically important and those who are less so. And that’s what makes this wasteful flight to Cobb County such a disappointment. It just feels wrong.

I agree with much of what Baggarly has to say here. Turner Field is still a nice ballpark that several teams would kill to have. Leaving the city that the team will still slap on the front of their road uniforms and heading out of town will abandon a lot of fans who live in the city is hard to take, philosophically speaking. It’s clearly a money move and most of the statements Braves and local officials have made about it have been self-serving and laden with euphemism and p.r.-speak.

All of that said, is it terribly different than what a lot of other teams have done or are trying to do?

It is certainly different in the sense that most teams who make that grab for the dollars grab while sitting in an older or decaying ballpark while the Braves are doing it from a perfectly nice stadium. That cannot be denied and that does set this situation apart. But that’s a function of opportunity on the part of the Braves — they were given a lease with an unusually early and easy out by the city — not one of especially egregious greed, thoughtlessness or, as Baggarly subtly implies, racism. Indeed, it was the normal brand of greed exercised by baseball owners, just on a shorter timeframe.

Beyond that, though, what the Braves are doing is remarkably similar to that which other teams have done and will always do, the San Francisco Giants (which Baggarly covers) included: they have gone to where the money is. Or, at the very least, to where the people with the money are. And where those people happen to be and what those people happen to look like are a function of forces far more powerful than that which any one baseball team can muster or control.

Cobb County is a far northern suburb of Atlanta. It’s where the rich people live in Atlanta and those rich people are overwhelmingly white. The reasons for this are rife with racial conflicts, socio-economic conflicts and history, but they are the facts of the situation on the ground. These factors were not caused by the Atlanta Braves and are unquestionably out of their control. They are a business seeking to maximize profit. While it would be far nicer and far more inspiring for the Braves to make a stand against racial, social and economic segregation by committing themselves to downtown Atlanta and the people who live there, such a stand would not and likely never will be rewarded. As a society we have, for better or for worse, accepted profit as the signature motivation and value for businesses in this country, and within that context the Atlanta Braves — a business, not a civic institution — are acting entirely rationally.

In doing so they have done what the Giants have done. Twice, first when they moved from New York to the Bay Area and then when they moved into AT&T Park. San Francisco does not have the same racial legacy as Atlanta, obviously, but it has its own set of particular problems these days. Scarce and profoundly expensive housing fueled by the tech boom and gentrification have priced people out of the city. Regulations in the region are making building houses for anyone but the rich increasingly difficult and the effects are spilling over into all manner of day-to-day life. San Francisco is becoming, in many important ways, a city for the rich and only the rich. Against this backdrop there is simmering resentment against the tech companies which have fueled the boom and officials who aren’t too terribly concerned with its effects. It’s a big problem and there are no easy solutions to it.

The Giants, like the Braves, are rational actors. They did not build their ballpark next to Candlestick. They built it in SoMa which, even before the time of its groundbreaking, was beginning to become gentrified with museums and clubs taking over old warehouse space and with savvy developers already envisioning the condos that would house the armies of upwardly mobile workers for the growing tech sector. While it would be far nicer and far more inspiring for the Giants to have made a stand against gentrification and the inevitable displacement of the poor by committing themselves to the area around Candlestick or someplace more accessible and affordable for the working class, as a society we have, for better or for worse, accepted profit as the signature motivation and value for businesses in this country, and within that context the San Francisco Giants — a business, not a civic institution — are acting entirely rationally.

Again, I do not mean to equate gentrification with racial segregation or the social issues with which San Francisco is struggling with the issues Atlanta has faced for centuries. I am merely pointing out that the Giants, like everyone else in San Francisco, rode and continue to ride a wave that has led to something of a troubling identity crisis in San Francisco, just as the Braves are riding a wave that reflects a troubling set of issues in Atlanta. The problems are different in type and degree, but the motivations and actions of the baseball teams involved and their owners are really not that different. They want their ballparks near the rich people and they want as many butts in the seats as possible. This goal, while not laudable in my view given the larger world in which companies act and my ideals about how I wish they would act, is perfectly understandable and pretty much inevitable.

Put differently: it’s perfectly fine to hate the game, as the game here is one that controls life, business and culture in this country far beyond its control of baseball teams and where they play. A game so large and omnipresent that hating the player — in this case the Atlanta Braves — seems sorta pointless.

Miguel Montero throws Jake Arrieta under the bus after the Nats steal seven bases

3 Comments

It takes a lot of things to happen for a runner to steal a base. He has to be fast. He has to get a good jump on the pitcher. He has to beat the catcher’s throw down the second and he has to avoid a tag if it’s close.

In light of that, any number of people can, theoretically anyway, be responsible for an opposing base runner stealing a base. The pitcher can be responsible for not holding the runner or for being slow in his delivery to the plate. The catcher can be responsible for getting off bad throws to second. The middle infielder can handle the throw poorly or apply the tag poorly. Or, in some cases, the defense may do everything right and still not nab that runner because he was just too dang fast.

Last night the Washington Nationals stole seven bases off of the Chicago cubs. Trea Turner, one of baseball’s fastest players and best base stealers, stole four of them. The pitcher on the mound for all seven of them was Jake Arrieta. The catcher behind the plate for all seven of them was Miguel Montero. The infielders for all seven of them were Tommy La Stella and Javier Baez. All of these men, Turner, and his teammates Anthony Rendon and Michael Taylor, who also stole bases, were the moving parts in play.

Who was to credit and who was to blame for all of those stolen bases? If you ask Miguel Montero, it was his pitcher, Arrieta:

 

If you can’t watch the video, here’s what he said:

“The reason why they were running left and right today because they know he was slow to the plate,” a visibly frustrated Montero said. “It really sucked because the stolen bases go to me, and when you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time.”

You can watch all seven of the stolen bases here. Turner gets great jumps and that can partially be blamed on Arrieta. That’s especially true on a couple of steals that didn’t even draw a throw from Montero. But on one of them Montero bounced his throw, on another it was a delayed steal that seemed to take Montero by surprise, on a third the pitch was high and outside, making it hard for Montero to get rid of the ball quickly but not attributable to Arrieta being deliberate, one came with a runner on third, which caused Montero to, wisely, hold on to the ball to prevent a run from scoring, and on the last one Montero airmailed the throw.

Perhaps someone with a stopwatch on Arrieta could better proportion blame here, but by my estimation Arrieta was clearly to blame for two of them, Montero was more at fault on three of them and the other two were really no one’s fault but circumstance. And that’s without giving Turner, Rendon and Taylor credit, which is just dumb.

But sure, Miguel, go ahead and throw this all on your team’s ace. That’s a fantastic thing for a backup catcher to do. Leads to great job security.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

Getty Images
4 Comments

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Nationals 6, Cubs 1: Max Scherzer allowed one run over six innings, striking out six. Four of the Nats runs came via a couple of infield singles and a couple of Cubs throwing errors. The other two came via a Michael Taylor RBI double. The Nationals stole seven bases off of Miguel Montero and Jake Arrieta, four coming from Trea Turner. After the game, Montero wanted everyone to know that it wasn’t his fault, it was Arrieta’s:

“The reason why they were running left and right today because they know he was slow to the plate,” a visibly frustrated Montero said. “It really sucked because the stolen bases go to me, and when you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time.”

Team. Player. Joe Maddon, any comment?

Rangers 2, Indians 1: Adrian Beltre hit his 450th homer. And he did it at a wonderful time: in the ninth inning of a tie game, giving his team the win. The homer was his 2,969th career hit. Which is nice.

Orioles 3, Blue Jays 1: Kevin Gausman and three relievers held the Jays to a lone run. Which, once you adjust for this being the Orioles, is the equivalent of any other team holding the opposition to, like, negative eight runs. Mark Trumbo doubled in two, Adam Jones singled in one. A ninth inning solo homer from Troy Tulowitzki was the only damage the Jays did all night.

Tigers 5, Royals 3: Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez each homered, helping the Tigers overcome an early 3-0 deficit. Justin Verlander allowed three over seven and the bullpen tossed two shutout innings. Which, once you adjust for this being the Tigers, is the equivalent of any other team’s bullpen shutting out the opposition for, like, eleven innings.

Phillies 8, Mariners 2: Maikel Franco and Arron Altherr homered for the Phillies, who overcame a 2-0 deficit. Which, once you adjust for this being the Phillies, is the equivalent of any other team overcoming, like, a six-run deficit. Aaron Nola allowed two runs over seven and struck out nine.

Red Sox 9, Twins 2: Most pitchers will not come back after a rain delay of more than an hour or so. Here Drew Pomeranz waited out a 76-minute rain delay in the second inning and stayed in the game to deliver five solid innings, backed by homers from Christian Vázquez and Chris Young In his last seven starts, Pomeranz is 4-1 with a 2.70 ERA, 44 strikeouts and 9 walks in 40 innings. The Red Sox reclaime sole possession of first place in the AL East.

Rays 4, Pirates 2: avid Freese misplayed a groundball at third base in the top of the 10th inning, allowing Steven Souza to score and giving the Rays the win. An Adeiny Hechavarria sac fly added an insurance run. Hechavarria also singled in a run in the eighth. Not a bad first day on the job for the newest Ray.

Reds 8, Brewers 6: The Redlegs were homer happy with Joey Votto hitting a tiebreaking two-run homer in the fifth and Billy Hamilton, Adam Duvall and Eugenio Suarez all going deep as well. Travis Shaw hit a three-run shot in a losing cause. The Brewers have lost three of four but continue to hold a one-game lead in the NL Central.

Marlins 6, Mets 3: Mets starter Robert Gsellman left the game after straining his hamstring while trying to beat out a grounder in the fourth inning and will now likely be the sixth Mets starter to hit the DL this year. DH uber alles. He also allowed three runs in three innings, but the Mets came back to tie it with a Travis d’Arnaud homer in the seventh. A pinch-hitting Ichiro singled in J.T. Realmuto in the bottom half of the seventh, however, and Christian Yelich singled in two more in later that inning to pad the Marlins’ lead.

White Sox 4, Yankees 3: The Yankees’ bullpen imploded once again. Leading 3-1 in the eighth, Domingo German and Tyler Clippard combined to issue four walks to allow the White Sox to get within one. In the ninth, Dellin Betances walked two guys and hit a batter before Jose Abreu smacked a walkoff single. Abreu also had an RBI double in the third. The White Sox snap a four-game losing streak.

Athletics 6, Astros 4: Ryon Healy hit a a grand slam in the sixth and Khris Davis scored one run and doubled in another. Sean Manaea was solid into the sixth, holding the mighty Astros lineup to one run. That grand slam gave the A’s needed room to absorb George Springer‘s ninth inning three-run shot.

Diamondbacks 6, Cardinals 5: The Cardinals bullpen blew this one. Leading 5-2 in the eighth, Trevor Rosenthal surrendered an RBI single to Daniel Descalso and a sac fly to Chris Herrmann to allow the Dbacks to get within one. In the ninth, Seung-Hwan Oh gave up a solo homer to David Peralta to force extras. Herrmann struck again in the tent, knocking in Reymond Fuentes with a game-ending RBI single off of Matt Bowman.

Dodgers 4, Angels 0: Kenta Maeda tossed seven shutout innings and the Dodgers scored all four of their runs in the six via a Cody Bellinger RBI single and a Joc Pederson three-run blast. This one was over in a crisp two-hours, thirty minutes. Some kook wrote a column the other day in the Wall Street Journal saying weeknight baseball games should be seven innings. If that was the case here fans could’ve kept their engines running while they watched the game and popped right back out.

Braves 3, Padres 0: Rookie Sean Newcomb shut out the Padres for six innings, striking out eight, to pick up his first career win. He’s only allowed four earned runs in 24.1 innings over four starts, so he probably deserves to have more than the one win. Padres manager Andy Green thinks Newcomb maybe didn’t deserve his eight strikeouts here:

“That was the largest strike zone I have seen against our guys behind home plate. Newcomb threw the ball very well. But Tyler Flowers is the player of the game in my mind. He is snatching balls above the zone, below the zone, and bringing them back in and getting a strike on all of them.”

Miguel Montero agrees, it was someone else’s fault. Atlanta has won eight of ten.

Giants 4, Rockies 3: This one went late but Denard Span finally sent everyone home with a walkoff RBI single in the bottom of the fourteenth inning to give the Giants the win. Kelby Tomlinson forced extras with an RBI single in the eighth inning. The Rockies are reeling, losers of seven straight. They were in first place entering play a week ago today. Now they’re in third, five and a half back of the Dodgers. So much for that early season feel good story.