Craig Calcaterra

Metal Detector

DHS briefed the owners on ballpark security and it was predictably depressing


Beginning in 2015, something new came to very major league ballpark: metal detectors. A handful of parks had them the year before, but in one of his last acts as Commissioner, Bud Selig ordered every team to either install walkthrough metal detectors or place security staff with wands at every gate. 

The reasons for the metal detectors are somewhat murky. My assumption is that they were primarily inspired by the Boston Marathon bombing, which I suppose is understandable on a certain level. It’s worth noting, of course, that a marathon does not have gates like stadiums do and that ballparks have long had people visually inspecting bags which would, presumably, have identified the types bombs the Boston attackers used.

It’s also the case that there have been no terrorist threats or acts at major league ballparks of which the public is aware. No one has come in and pulled a knife or a gun or has otherwise done anything that the presence of a metal detector would’ve prevented. In light of this many experts have, quite understandably, criticized the ballpark metal detectors as “security theater” which could, perversely, create a dangerous situation in the form of thousands of people bunched up outside of stadiums, attention focused elsewhere, in a location that, by definition, is outside of the security perimeter. Some might even call that a target-rich environment. 

But onward we forge into the post-9/11 world where we spend an awful lot of time fearing fear itself. Against that backdrop, last week at the owners meetings Department of Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson briefed the assembled owners. And quotes like this spun out of the meeting:

“There’s got to be more security than there is now. I don’t know what it will be,”Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said Wednesday. “Everybody realizes that the world has changed and these people are never going to give up, so we have to give up some of our comforts.”

Translated: we have no idea what the threat is or if there is one and we have no idea what to do about it, but dammit, we’re going to do something.

Obviously people are hyper-aware of security and I don’t wish to minimize the danger posed by an individual determined to cause violence. But it’s also the case that when this topic comes up people in charge tend to skim right past logical threat assessment and expert-informed countermeasures and immediately move to the easiest-to-implement and, usually, most inconvenience-inducing means of providing security. Or attempt to at least. And you read things like this:

According to [Marlins president David] Samson, Johnson told the group a stadium could be 100 percent secure if additional steps were taken, such as prohibiting fans from bringing any bags and eliminating food and food-services workers. Checking the trunks and bottoms of cars entering parking lots outside ballparks could be another step discussed at some point.

I presume — and sincerely hope — that the context of those comments was “hey, we can’t be 100% safe and the only way to do that would be to do these crazily insane things and obviously we’re NOT doing that, ha ha ha.” But we live in an age when we all take our shoes off at the airport and do all manner of other silly things that do nothing to actually enhance security, and we never question it. And we get fearful quotes from guys like Reinsdorf which seem to imply that, yes, unless we are 100% safe we’re going to worry like crazy.

Would it honestly shock you if some the things mentioned in that paragraph were implemented? Maybe cutting food service is not going to happen — there’s too much money in that — but I could see them cutting out bags or outside food and drink. I could see them banning tailgating at parks which have it. I could see them firing or discriminating against stadium workers of a certain ethnic or religious background. I can see them imposing “security surcharges” to tickets to pay for those metal detectors or new security staff at parking lot entrances. I could see them starting some form of TSA Precheck, but for season ticket holders, which would allow them to bypass all of this mess for a mere $79.99 a year.

Indeed, I predict the measures which would be claimed as necessary to keep us safe would likewise serve to increase ballpark and club revenue in some 100% unintended and, really, unanticipated ways which are totally beside the point and how dare you even think that such ulterior motives could exist?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for my flight and I need to pick up a $4.00 bottle of water at the gift shop past the security gate. It’s so great that those are there now that we can’t bring our own.

It’s utterly meaningless to say “teams have spent $2 billion on free agents”


I just read Jon Morosi’s latest column over at Fox. Don’t feel obligated to do so yourself, as it’s about how the Royals won because they have great chemistry and you can tell that they have great chemistry because they won. It’s Friday, man. I don’t have the energy to parse the nonsense in that and I doubt you do either.

But the lede is pretty interesting. He starts his column off with this: “Major League Baseball teams have spent more than $2 billion on free agents this winter, according to”

I’ve seen a lot of other reporters mentioning that figure, tweeting it and tracking it as the offseason has worn on. Sometimes with aggregations of years:


Sometimes there are only partial numbers:


Sometimes it’s parroted in a manner which takes the form of a compete and total non-sequitur:

I’m not sure how that last dude can say they’re “doing well.” Indeed, I can’t for the life of me figure out what these figures are supposed to tell us. Two billion is a big number, I guess, but to frame it the way it’s framed above is utterly meaningless.

The gross free agent expenditure is a numerator with no denominator, for starters. How many player contracts does that cover? It covers lots of contracts of wildly-varying lengths too, yes? Also, where does that stand historically? Is that a lot? It’s probably more than last year because salaries tend to rise, but maybe not depending on that denominator. And if more, how much more? Have raises increased or decreased? What’s the graph look like? Also: how does that $2 billion — even if it were even remotely moored to a reference point — compare to baseball revenues? Are the owners making more too? How much more? How do these free agent expenditures relate to overall expenditures?

We never get great answers to those questions and, as such, these sorts of numbers are worth nothing.

Indeed, they’re worse than nothing. They’re a form of subtle propaganda. Perhaps not intentionally so, as I don’t think the reporters cited above mean it in this way, but it certainly serves baseball owners’ interests to have that $2 billion figure out there, floating in the ether. It plays directly into “those players are FILTHY STINKIN’ RICH” sentiments which owners have always used in the grand P.R. game against the players. In less than a year the players are going to be bargaining for things like a higher minimum salary or more friendly arbitration and free agent compensation terms. As all past bargaining has gone, public sentiment will play an indirect role in things, as each side tries to sell its particular brinksmanship strategy to the fans. The owners have always cried poor and have always tried to paint the players as rich and greedy. This helps that cause.

I realize there isn’t a lot of news happening in January and that big shiny figures are fun to repeat, but this stuff is misleading in the extreme. And, like so much else related to the economic side of baseball, it is distinctly slanted against the players in such a way as to make them look like they’re spoiled rotten for making a few billion across a couple of thousand employees.

Meanwhile, precious little scrutiny is ever directed at 30 men who own baseball teams and rake in several billion more by virtue of the players’ labor.

Yoenis Cespedes’ Lamborghini spits fire

Associated Press

This is must-click link material from the New York Times. The story is about Alex Vega, car customizer to the stars. The baseball stars, mostly, though he got the celebrity portion of his business through rappers first. The ballplayers, however, demand the most over-the-top and flamboyant wheels.

Juan Uribe may take the cake. The article details his stretch Mercedes van. Which, yes, is a thing Vegas makes. Think a van limo with couches and TVs in it and stuff. Urbie got one and then Hanley Ramirez did too. Mostly because Uribe and Ramirez are in a competition, apparently, to get the craziest luxury car possible. Not that they’re alone. LOTS of baseball players, starting with Alfonso Soriano several years ago and including a ton of players today, pay Vega big, big bucks to pimp their rides.

Yoenis Cespedes gets extra points for style:

After Cespedes established himself as a star, he bought a Lamborghini Aventador, a car that Vega estimated cost about $400,000. Then Cespedes asked for $75,000 in renovations. Cespedes wanted the car painted satin black with metallic blue accents. He wanted the entire interior redone, a custom wheel design, and for the exhaust to spit fire out of the back.

After he signs a deal with the Nats or the Mets, he’ll be able to move past that relatively entry-level car, one assumes.

(h/t to Lindsey Adler for the heads up)