Author: Craig Calcaterra

Palm beach

Funding approved for a new spring training complex for the Nationals and Astros


The Nationals and Astros have been trying to get funding for a new spring training complex in Palm Beach for some time. As Mark Zuckerman of reports, they may finally be getting what they want:

The Nationals’ longstanding search for a new spring training home took a potentially significant positive step forward Tuesday when Palm Beach County commissioners voted to approve funding for a complex that would house both the Nats and Houston Astros.

By a vote of 5-2, the county commissioners approved to allocate $108 million in hotel tax revenue for a proposed $135 million, two-team stadium complex.

The clubs must first find a site. If they don’t do so in 90 days, they lose the money. If they do, the new complex will be ready for spring training 2017.

The Palm Beach location is important for more than just these two teams. If they had left the east coast of Florida for either the Gulf coast or for Arizona, it could have imperiled spring training on that whole side of the state. The Marlins, Cardinals and Mets are on the east coast, but they need some other teams to make things make sense logistically. While the Astros would be leaving central Florida for the new facility, the Tigers and Braves remain there and are still relatively close to the several teams around Tampa Bay.

The Kansas City Star is drunk on World Series excitement

kauffman stadium getty

The Kansas City Star ran an editorial today in which it talks about how great and exciting the Royals in the World Series is. How it has brought the community together and given them a sense of purpose.

Oh, and how this fleeting bit of joy that will be over in a couple of weeks is totally worth a quarter of a billion dollars in taxpayer handouts to one of the richest men in the country:

The power of major league sports to bring this entire community together has been obvious in the past few weeks. It’s a big reason taxpayers were told they needed to approve public funding for a renovated Truman Sports Complex in 2006. And it has worked as advertised.

Apologies in advance for my playing Debbie Downer, but let us recall this report from 810 WHB in Kansas City from two years ago. It’s about how part of the public money given to the Royals was in the form of a maintenance and upkeep fund. This is how that was being used:

The Kansas City Royals have requested nearly $17 million of taxpayer money the past five years from the Kauffman Stadium repair and upkeep fund but spent only 9% of the money received on actual repairs and maintenance to the stadium, according to documents obtained by Sports Radio 810 WHB . . . The Royals have received at least $12.7 million from taxpayers that was approved by the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority as part of the RMMO provision of the team’s lease with the county and spent it on full and part time employee salaries, security, cable tv, first aid, utilities, telephones and even payroll taxes. By using the money for payroll taxes, the team literally collected taxpayer money to pay their own taxes.

The Stadium Authority that is supposed to oversee all of this has been cited by state officials for not having open meetings and stuff too. So in addition to using your tax money to pay their own tax bill, the powers behind this handout to David Glass — who is estimated to be worth around $2 billion — don’t really want you to worry your pretty little head about how the money is spent.

Enjoy the World Series, Kansas Citians. Get excited and go crazy. But don’t go so crazy that you convince yourself that a little sporting event like this is worth a quarter of a billion taken out of your pockets and wasted.

HBT Daily: In which I waffle on my World Series pick

Bruce Bochy

In my preview this morning I picked the Royals in seven. I taped this right after I wrote it and literally during the taping of it I talked myself into the Giants in seven.

If you haven’t guessed, I haven’t a clue, but I do have some stuff to say about the World Series anyway.

The World Series will likely be Lorde-free

george brett and lorde

It’s not just the radio stations playing silly radio station games. Major League Baseball and Royals are not flying Lorde in from New Zealand or wherever she is now to sing her little ditty. From the L.A. Times:

. . . when the Royals provided Major League Baseball with their list of proposed World Series entertainers, Lorde was not among them, said Kevin Uhlich, the Royals’ senior vice president of business operations . . . An MLB spokesman said Monday the league had “no plans at the moment for Lorde to be here at any point.”

I feel like having no plans for Lorde to be at any given place at any given point is the default status for most of us. Maybe let us know if there are such plans, ya know?

Whatever. Everyone quoted in the article is right to note that, apart from the title of the song and the backstory of how she wrote the song, it has absolutely nothing to do with baseball or even with broad themes and emotions even marginally applicable to baseball.

I actually saw Lorde in concert last month and she was surprisingly good, but I feel like baseball and it’s interests would be better served with some pop act that lends itself to a bit more fist-pumping and mup-lighting.

Must-click link: surviving spring training on $0 a day


We’ve talked in the past about the pending lawsuit filed by former minor leaguers against Major League Baseball alleging violation of fair labor practices. Specifically, that minor leaguers are paid way, way less than minimum wage and, at various points in the year, are expected to do things for no pay. Conditioning regimens, personal appearances and all of spring training for that matter.

Today Tony Dokoupil of NBC News has a story about one of the plaintiffs in that suit. His name is Witer Jimenez and he played in the Phillies organization. He came here from the Dominican Republic thinking he actually had a job that would pay him a living wage. Nope. When he got to the Phillies camp in Clearwater he was impressed by the training facilities and the team hotel, but was surprised by the fact that his salary was exactly zero dollars for the month and a half he’d be there:

“This is crazy,” he remembers telling his Latino teammates, gathered one night in the hotel. “Un lio,” they agreed. “A mess.”

Finally, late one night a team official knocked on the door, and took out a roll of money. He peeled off a $20 bill and handed it to Jimenez. “With that we washed our clothes,” he recalled. “If there was any left, we had to eat with that.”

He said lost nearly 20 pounds off an already slim frame. Resentments festered and boiled. His mind returned to the scene at the airport when he left the island. His mother cried and his father embraced him.

“Don’t forget,” the older man warned. “You gave up your education for this.”

Whether the practices major league teams employ regarding minor leaguers are illegal is for the courts to decide. There are some arguments on the other side, of course. For example, MLB may argue that there are all manner of in-kind benefits paid to players that make up for the low and in some cases no salary. Stuff like those free hotel rooms. Or they may convince a judge that players are seasonal employees, even if the requirements of minor leaguers are a more or less year-round proposition. The lawyers will hash all that out in the coming months and years.

But the legalities aside, I remain dumbfounded that teams continue to treat minor leaguers like this simply from a competitive perspective. We’ve long heard stories about how the lack of money in the pockets of minor leaguers forces them to subsist on peanut butter and jelly or, in some cases, five-for-$5 Rally Burgers and the like. Or, as is the case with Jimenez here, to subsist on little if anything. When you’re in the business of developing professional athletes you’d think you’d not create incentives which force them to utterly disregard basic nutrition.

In an age when teams look for every possible edge, however small — that Extra 2%, if you will — how they can’t spend a tiny fraction more on the quality of existence of their baseball players is an utter mystery to me.