MINNEAPOLIS, MN — As I write this, it’s just about 4PM Eastern time on Sunday afternoon. There are 10 Major League Baseball games going on and four more will start within the next 10-15 minutes. Also, and you may have heard about this, the World Cup Final is going on. It’s tied 0-0 at the half at the moment and it’s totally dominating my Twitter feed and the consciousness of, oh, a billion or two people.
Also happening: batting practice for the Futures Game, which will get going in less than an hour. Tell me: how many sports fans plan on tuning in to the Futures Game?
I can’t imagine many, which is a damn shame. The Futures Game is one of the more overlooked events in all of baseball. We spend so much time talking about prospects, obsessing about prospects and, if the team we root for is not on the path to a championship, placing an inordinate amount of our hopes and dreams on the shoulders of these prospects. Yet, when 50 of the best young players in the world come together to play an all-star game, it’s almost an afterthought.
Can anyone explain to me why Major League Baseball doesn’t do something about this? Such as moving the Futures Game to Monday night and getting rid of the Home Run Derby? Or, if the Home Run Derby is too much to lose from a financial perspective, shifting everything forward a day, with the Futures Game on Monday, the Home Run Derby on Tuesday and the All-Star Game on Wednesday? Heck, if we were to do that more pitchers could take part in it due to the extra day of rest. Plus: we won’t have the utterly and totally dead baseball night on Wednesday.
As it is: Target Field is not going to be full for the Futures Game. Just as Citi Field was not full for it last year. While I presume the ratings will be good for an MLB Network broadcast, serious baseball fans will be watching their local team’s broadcast, not this. Certainly nowhere near as many as would be watching it if it had prime time exposure and no competition from regular season big league games and the biggest sporting event on the planet.
MLB has done so much in the past decade or so to improve on its marketing and promotion. Why they haven’t done anything to rescue the Futures Game from obscurity is beyond me.
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.