Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.

The Braves are in first place! . . . when it comes to bilking taxpayers

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So much attention has been paid to the Braves moving out of their less-than-twenty-year-old stadium in Atlanta to a new ballpark up in the suburbs. But that is merely the latest and largest of their many, many efforts at extracting money from local taxpayers for ballparks, pitting cities against one another and making themselves rich off of it all. Oh, and making sure the deals were all done and past the point of no-return before most taxpayers even knew about it.

Today Bloomberg Businessweek has a story about that practice, centered on a case study of how the Braves got a new ballpark for their Double-A team in Peal, Mississippi. It paints a pretty straightforward picture of the calculating and, at times, mercenary nature of a ballclub on the make. One that shows that sports teams are businesses, just like any other. In some cases worse, actually, in that they can pick up and leave whenever and use phony appeals to civic pride as a means of getting greater subsidies for themselves than any other business might expect:

Over the last 15 years, the Braves have extracted nearly half a billion in public funds for four new homes, each bigger and more expensive than the last. The crown jewel, backed by $392 million in public funding, is a $722 million, 41,500-seat stadium for the major league club set to open next year in Cobb County, northwest of Atlanta. Before Cobb, the Braves built three minor league parks, working their way up the ladder from Single A to Triple A. In every case, they switched cities, pitting their new host against the old during negotiations. They showered attention on local officials unaccustomed to dealing with a big-league franchise and, in the end, left most of the cost on the public ledger. Says Joel Maxcy, a sports economist at Drexel University: “If there’s one thing the Braves know how to do, it’s how to get money out of taxpayers.”

They do it because, with very few exceptions, taxpayers and politicians let them get away with it. We should stop letting them get away with it.

Athletics to call up top prospect Sean Manaea

Associated Press
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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Athletics are calling up pitching prospect Sean Manaea to start Friday night against the Astros.

Manaea, the Royals first-round draft pick in 2013, was acquired from Kansas City last year in the Ben Zobrist deal. While he has a sketchy health history heading into this year, he has been doing just fine at Nashville in 2016, posting a 1.50 ERA and a 21/4 K/BB in 18 innings.

The future is now.

Charlie Morton needs hamstring surgery, out for the rest of the year

Associated Press
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Bad news for the Phillies and Charlie Morton: the 32-year-old starter needs surgery for a torn hamstring and is done for the remainder of the season.

Morton had a 4.15 ERA in four starts, but he tore his left hamstring Saturday while trying to beat out a bunt. Viva the pitcher batting, I guess. Adam Morgan is expected to take his spot in the starting rotation, at least at first. The Phillies will use a lot of pitchers this year, no doubt.

It’s not like Morton was the key to the Phillies 2016 season or anything, and it’s unlikely that he’d even still be on the team the next time they’re contenders. But a player like Morton is a valuable cog on a young team like the Phillies, taking the innings someone has to take, doing his best to save the bullpen so it can be used with younger, less-experienced pitchers and being a role model and mentor to the guys who will, one day, play for the next good Phillies team. For those reasons, and simply for his own well-being, of course, this rather sucks.