<span class="vcard">Craig Calcaterra</span>

Chicago White Sox manager Guillen sits in the dugout against the LA Angels during MLB American League baseball game in Anaheim

Ozzie Guillen wants to manage again

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Ozzie Guillen was one-and-done in Miami, a victim of Jeff Loria’s weirdness, his own mouth and unmet expectations. But the guy brought Chicago its first World Series title in close to a century and was over .500 as a manager in nine seasons and it is weird that, since his departure from the Marlins, he hasn’t had a job with a baseball team.

Scott Merkin of MLB.com caught up with him and finds that that’s something Guillen wants to remedy:

“I hope so. I want to, yes. I mean, that’s my life. That’s what I like to do,” Guillen told MLB.com during a recent interview. “Am I waiting, sitting by the phone, waiting for a phone call? No. I will be lying to you [if I say], ‘Oh, my god. My phone is not ringing.’ If somebody [thinks] I can help, of course I want to do it. If that comes, that would be awesome. But if not, my life right now is pretty healthy.”

As Merkin notes, Guillen is honest to a fault — often an extreme fault — so it’s weird to even think that he’s not being 100% honest when he says that. But there have been enough of these “Guillen wants back in the game” stories over the past couple of years to where I’m actually surprised he puts it as mildly as that. Yes, he’s being paid to do nothing by the Marlins through 2015, but you get the sense the guy wants to manage again.

People always talk about Guillen’s personality — a lot for some to take — when looking for reasons why he hasn’t been hired anyplace else. Merkin talks about all of that. Specifically, his shoot-from-the-hip media style and the fact that, yes, he will tell his boss exactly what he thinks. That can be a definite problem in the go-along, get-along culture of major league baseball. But I almost wonder if a different kind of honesty — more of a self-deprecating honesty — is a problem for him too.

Back when he was with the White Sox he used to openly admit — and honestly, I think, in a way more managers would admit if they allowed themselves — that he’d sometimes daydream during the early innings of a game, realizing that he didn’t have a ton to do until the bullpen came into play. He also used to give tons and tons of credit to Joey Cora as his bench coach, crediting him with all of the thinking and hard work. That was likely partially humorous, but the idea of “Ozzie Guillen: managerial genius” never took hold, not even a little. In no small part, I bet, because of his own demeanor which inadvertently or otherwise took a lot of the air out of the balloon that is the Genius Manager. For the good, in my view, but likely in a way baseball teams don’t much care for or to which they maybe can’t easily relate.

But he was a successful manager. Colorful and sometimes the sort who got into it with his superiors, but I am surprised he’s not had a job in baseball over the past couple of years.

Why don’t cities just buy sports teams instead of paying to build them stadiums?

Condemned
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Neil DeMause of Vice Sports has an article up today posing an interesting question: why don’t cities just buy sports teams instead of build them stadiums? After all, he notes, often times the stadium deals these teams are getting from cities cost more than the actual value of the team.

As far as the out-of-whack values/costs go, it’s a decent observation. One which should be the first argument against any stadium deal when one is proposed. But the other part — why doesn’t the city buy the team? — is more of a problem. Mostly because, as DeMause notes, no pro sports league wants to sell to a government, ever, so it’s never going to happen.

So DeMause’s argument is this:

Okay, so no league is voluntarily going to allow its franchises to fall into public hands when it can keep on using its monopoly power over team ownership to extract subsidies. Is there any other way to force them to?

The answer is: maybe. And the trick lies in one of the same governmental powers that team owners use on their side in stadium deals: the power of eminent domain.

As the headline notes, it’s a “radical” solution. Unfortunately for DeMause’s argument, however, it’s also one that would never work, and not just practically speaking. It wouldn’t work legally because the power of eminent domain — that is, the power of government to take someone’s property and reimburse them for it at fair market value — would never allow for this kind of purchase.

The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution recognizes the federal government’s right, in some cases, to take property, and the Fourteenth Amendment and attendant state laws grant states the right to do the same. All of these laws, however, limit the government’s takings power to property that will be put to “a public use.” Think of a roadway that cuts across a corner of a farm or a park that will sit on a former factory site.

Of course, over the years, there have been efforts, many successful, to expand the definition of “public use.” These days it doesn’t have to be for land or property that everyone will use. For example, “public use” has been expanded to mean “aesthetic improvement” in some cases, wherein governments can buy up slum property and the like to beautify it. The most recent major attempt to expand it came when a government tried to condemn land simply because some developers thought of a better economic use of the land. Specifically, they tried to take some houses because they assumed a mall would do much better there. Efforts like that one have been largely beaten back due to a fierce backlash against what was perceived to be an attack on the rights of property holders, and now it is much harder for the government to take property on the basis of an economic argument alone. (note: the author of that last linked article is devilishly handsome and wise).

Which takes us to a hypothetical city wanting to buy a hypothetical sports team via eminent domain. How does that happen? What’s the “public use” argument? Will the city make admission to the ballgames free and treat the place like a public park? Of course they won’t. So it really won’t be a “public use,” it’ll be a commercial enterprise. Which is fine if the city buys a team from a willing seller, but as DeMause notes, it’s not going to have one of those.

Heck, this would fail even if that backlash I mentioned above hadn’t happened and courts were routinely allowing cities to condemn property and take it because they can come up with a good economic use argument. Because, as we may have noted one or two times around here, no one has ever actually made a convincing case that the presence of a sports team provides cities with economic benefits. Sure, owners of sports teams argue that all the time when it suits them, but the actual scholarship on that shows that they’re wrong. And if you can’t make a convincing argument about sports teams being public economic boons in a newspaper editorial or a town hall presentation, good luck doing it in a court of law when an eminent domain case comes up.

All of that said, I’d like to see someone try it, simply so that Rob Manfred or Roger Goodell or someone would have to argue, under oath, that no, there is no public economic benefit to the operation of a sports team, as they would have to argue if they wanted to stop a city from taking a team. That’d be positively delicious!

So, good thought experiment, I guess. But a complete and total non-starter.

UPDATE: DeMause comments. Some decent points in there about the potential of at least using the tactic as a bluff:

I’m not a lawyer and you are, Craig, but I still think that you’re selling the possibility of eminent domain slightly short. There are tons of public use arguments, many of them put forward by the team owners themselves — economic benefit, “civic pride,” what have you — that are no more ridiculous than the winning argument in Kelo. Yes, you and I would probably end up being in the weird position of testifying on behalf of the leagues on these, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work.

Besides, for eminent domain to be workable as leverage, a city wouldn’t have to win a case, just to have enough of a chance of winning to scare the leagues and team owners into lessening their demands. If I were mayor of a city, I’d at least send my lawyers to explore the possibility.

Five Hall of Famers this year? And a big jump for Tim Raines?

Tim Raines
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Hall of Fame tea leaf reading has become far more fun than “bad Hall of Fame column” outrage. The latest tea leaves can be seen over at Tangotiger’s blog, where he breaks down known ballots into four different types and assesses the changes from last year to this one, primarily for Tim Raines.

While it would not be wise to bet on such a thing because it has never happened, Tango wonders whether it’s possible that we’ll see five inductees this year.

Pirates exec says millennials are go-getters

pirates logo
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For many, many years we’ve been “treated” to articles about how millennials are lazy or entitled or victims of helicopter parenting and that they just don’t want to work or grow up or blahblahblahblahblah.

Yes, such articles have been written about just about every generation. At least since we started naming generations and caring about some single trait that defines a certain group of tens of millions of people who happened to have been born during an arbitrary set of years. But I do get the sense that there have been far more written about millennials than other generations. Probably the fault of those selfish and vane Baby Boomers who control the media. Let me tell you the thing that defines all of them . . .

Anyway, today it was refreshing to read a story that actually talks up the millennials as ambitious hard workers. I link it here because the hook is the assessment of Drew Cloud, the chief sales and marketing officer for the Pirates, and that’s baseball, so here you go.

Oh, and Cloud is 43, which makes him a Gen-Xer like me. And everyone knows that all Gen-Xers are admirable people who assess the world in smart and correct terms, always.

Jose Iglesias, with an extended aside about cheeseburger and burrito stats

Jose Iglesias
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The Tigers were dealt a big blow last spring when their starting shortstop, Jose Iglesias, went down with fractures in both of his shins. He’s been rehabbing, however, and reports have been good. The latest report has him almost completely cleared for baseball:

“The only thing he hasn’t really done full bore is a sprint on a regular basis on hard ground,” [Tigers GM Dave] Dombrowski said . . . He’s running on a physical therapy treadmill designed to put less pressure on his feet.

“He’s running almost 100% on that,” Dombrowski said, saying he is where he needs to be without any pain. “All very encouraging,” he said. “They tell me he’ll be OK.”

In other news, that story is from Anthony Fenech at the Detroit Free Press. He’s the new regular Tigers beat guy. He’s young and he’s good and evidence of that can be seen by the fact that, when talking about Iglesias’ 2013 season, he casually-but-usefully drops Iglesias’ BAPIP:

Iglesias hit .303 during his rookie year in 2013, split between Detroit and Boston, but that mark was aided by a .356 average on balls in play.

It’s just one part of one sentence, but that one part of that one sentence is significant and provides beat writers with an excellent example of how to deal with advanced metrics.

These days most mainstream baseball writers are conversant with advanced stats. Yet either they or their editors still have this habit of treating them as some foreign thing that requires a separate conversation complete with extended definitions and prefaces giving readers a general overview of the sabermetric movement. Bill James is still often name-checked. It reminds me of when Taco Bell menus used to look like this:

source:

Maybe there was a need for this in the late 60s and early 70s when burritos were still sort of exotic to a lot American fast food eaters, but they stopped doing that at some point. Why? Because Taco Bell realized that we can handle a burrito. Yes, we ate nothing but cheeseburgers for years and we probably still understand cheeseburgers better, but by some time in the 1970s we were totally are capable of processing what a burrito was as long as it was presented properly (i.e. fast, cheap and available at, like, midnight).

Mainstream baseball writing (i.e. newspaper baseball writing) still hasn’t figured that out for the most part. It probably was necessary in 2002 to explain advanced metrics, such as they were then, in greater detail. Batting average and RBI were our cheeseburgers, and we were being asked to process something new.  But we’ve been eating our SABRburritos for a good while now, so it’s not necessary for them to be over-explained to us. It’s actually sort of distracting and creates unnecessary controversy when they are. WAR debates and “geeks vs. jocks” cultural garbage. I’m rather tired of that. Aren’t you rather tired of that?

The point of advanced stats is to help people understand baseball better. And while, yes, like any advances in any field, advanced baseball analysis lends itself to super-esoteric thinking and debate, only the academics really care about that. I’m glad they do care about it, because all of their thinking and arguing about it moves the ball forward and helps us learn stuff, but the vast majority of fans care no more about the details of that sort of analysis than they care about what’s going on in a test kitchen someplace.

Just like your average restaurant goers just want a good meal and appreciate a better one when they get it, regular baseball fans just want better information, preferably in context, preferably in a way that relates directly to the game as we consume it. Wanna signal to people that Iglesias may not really be a consistent .300+ hitter? Drop a quick, clear reference to his batting average on balls in play like Fenech did there, don’t do yet another feature article on “The Sabermetric Revoltuion,” complete with Bill James quotes, a “Moneyball” reference and a diplomatic handling of the stats vs. scouts divide, eventually getting to the point — gently given, as if the reader can’t handle non-cheeseburger stats — that perhaps Jose Iglesias will not be hitting .303 on the regular. To do so is distracting and risks losing the reader with crap they don’t care much about.

This is a small thing, but it’s an important thing.