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Braves stadium funding deal approved with no debate and no chance for opponents to speak

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A week after Braves president John Schuerholz admitted that the move to Cobb County had to be agreed to in secret lest anyone oppose it, the Cobb County Commission approved the use of $392 million in public funds to build the new ballpark.

As with everything else in this move, it went really smoothly, with a unanimous vote being registered on most of the specifics and everyone home in time to catch “The Voice” or whatever. Of course it did, because there was no public debate on the matter and the Commission allowed only 12 citizens to speak, all of whom supported the ballpark deal:

The meeting was dominated by supporters of the stadium who executed a strategy to shutout the voice of critics. They were lined up for the 12 speaking slots by 1:45 p.m., for the meeting that started at 7. They effectively snatched up all the speaking slots for the public comment portion of the meeting. A handful of critics were escorted from the room when it became clear early on they would not be allowed to speak and they approached the front of the room to ask the commission to create more speaking slots.

Commissioners denied the request and all 12 speaker slots were filled by stadium supporters.

Also worth noting: the bond documents which detailed how the $392 million would be funded, were released at 6pm on Friday. That is, after working hours on the Friday before a holiday weekend. Which, history shows, is always the time governmental bodies like to release documents that establish taxpayers are getting a great deal and popular measures are being approved.

Practically speaking, this is academic. The deal was going to pass no matter how many opponents spoke and no matter how long ago the documents were released. That’s because the original deal was struck in secret, allowing the messiness of public officials deliberating and being lobbied to go unnoticed. If a big thing like this is going to be unwound, it’s going to be unwound early, when proponents aren’t able to have ready-made publicity and p.r. and fancy websites with artists’ renderings to deploy. When government officials who would otherwise be under scrutiny can’t simply wave the banner of a local sports team to distract some potential critics, tout their unanimity and cohesion to calm other potential critics and begin the conversation as if everything were already decided, which has the effect of making those who are opposed seem behind the game and engaged in a quixotic endeavor. It’s pretty slick politics, I’ll tell you.

And maybe it doesn’t matter even without that stuff. Maybe it still passes easily if the whole thing were announced in the open early and voted on Greek democracy-style with every single citizen of Cobb County being 100% informed and 100% present in turning out to cast a ballot. Heck, my gut tells me it probably would. I don’t presume that there is some really large silent majority out there who doesn’t want a ballpark in Cobb County.

But it’s a shame that Cobb County and the Braves and those who engineered all of this didn’t have the stomach or the decency to test that hypothesis. That they chose to do something, however nobly-intentioned and inevitable it was, in the same manner in which one would enact something ignobly-intentioned and publicly unpopular. Really, if a government wanted to pass the “Screw Every Last One of You Act of 2014,” they’d proceed in much the same fashion.

Process matters. Even if the outcome is preordained. Maybe especially when it is.

Johnny Monell signs with KBO’s KT Wiz

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 06:  Johnny Monell #19 of the New York Mets runs back to the dugout after he scored in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on July 6, 2015 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.

Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.

The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.