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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.

Rangers avoid arbitration with Mitch Moreland

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First baseman/outfielder Mitch Moreland and the Rangers have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $5.7 million deal.

Moreland requested $6 million and the Rangers countered at $4.675 million, so the two sides settled on the player-friendly side of the midpoint.

Moreland bounced back from an injury wrecked 2014 season to have a career-year in 2015, hitting .278 with 23 homers and an .812 OPS in 132 games. Arbitration eligible for the final time at age 30, he’s set to be a free agent next offseason.

Tiger Stadium redevelopment group loses $50K because of its preference for artificial turf

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Craig Calcaterra
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We’ve posted frequently on the topic of the old Tiger Stadium site. If you’ve kept up with it you know that the site, nearly overgrown with weeds and strewn with trash before being rescued by a group of volunteers called the Navin Field Grounds Crew, is now being slated for redevelopment by the Detroit Police Athletic League.

The PAL is committed to keeping a baseball field as part of the development, but they are also, quite unfortunately, committed to putting artificial turf down over the bit of Earth where baseball legends once walked and ran.

Backlash to the plan has begun, however. Not just from people like me or the Navin Field Grounds Crew, who are opposed to fake grass, but to an actual donor to the Detroit Police Athletic League:

With an annual contribution of $50,000 to Detroit PAL’s programs, the Lear Corporation has been a major benefactor of the nonprofit for years. But in light of PAL’s controversial plan to redevelop the Tiger Stadium site with artificial turf, Lear’s CEO is speaking out.

Matthew Simoncini says that Lear is withdrawing its financial support of PAL for its mishandling of this delicate issue.

“I believe the [PAL] plan is severely flawed [and] a terrible use of resources,” says Simoncini. “[It] does not preserve this site and provides [an] unsafe playing surface for the children,”

I’m guessing $50,000 is not the sort of money that will seriously hinder a real estate redevelopment plan, but it’s good to hear someone with a stake in all of this voting with their wallet. Here’s hoping more do and that, eventually, PAL understands that there are some things more important than saving some money at the front end of a project.

Evan Gattis undergoes surgery for hernia; recovery is 4-6 weeks

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Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle shares the bad news

One of the Astros’ big bats won’t be taking hacks when the Astros hold their first full workout on Feb. 23.

Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis recently underwent surgery to repair a hernia, the Chronicle has learned, taking away most of his spring training at a minimum. The recovery is four to six weeks but fortunately for Gattis and the Astros, the injury is not considered severe.

Gattis was working hard on his overall conditioning this winter, even telling MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart in late January that he had already dropped 18 pounds. It sounds like the big slugger might have gone a bit overboard with those workouts, and now he is in real danger of missing the first couple weeks of the 2016 regular season.

Gattis batted .246/.285/.463 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 153 games last season for the Astros. The 29-year-old is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and has a hearing with the Astros scheduled for February 16 to determine his salary for 2016. He requested $3.8 million and was offered $3 million when figures were exchanged a little over three weeks ago.

Suddenly the Astros’ front office might have a new talking point for those arbitrators.

Seung-Hwan Oh finally receives his work visa, will be on time for Cardinals camp

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At last check, new Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh was still awaiting a work visa from the United States Embassy in South Korea and there was some worry that he might not be able to arrive on time to spring training in Jupiter, Florida.

But that is now officially a non-story.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Oh has recieved his work visa and is expected to report to Cardinals camp next week along with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers. Oh might even show up a bit earlier than the Cardinals originally asked him to, per Goold.

Oh saved 357 games in 11 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization before inking a one-year contract with St. Louis this winter. He also registered a stellar 1.81 ERA and 772 strikeouts across 646 total innings in Asia, earning the nickname “The Final Boss.”

Oh is expected to work in a setup role this year for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.