Simmons, Deadspin are wrong to hate on Kansas City

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As you know by now, Kansas City has been selected as the site of the 2012 All-Star game.  In the past 24 hours this decision has been subjected to derision by two of the most influential voices in online sports media: Bill Simmons and Deadspin. I have much love for both The Sports Guy and the House that Leitch Built, but they’re absolutely full of it in this case.

Simmons didn’t hit the matter hard, but he did it on his Twitter feed last night, sarcastically cheering the choice by sayingYeah!!!! Four days in Kansas City in mid-July when
it’s 110 degrees!!!!! Who’s in???” and then agreeing with readers that one of the New York parks, Washington, Philadelphia or Minnesota were better options. When a reader reminded him that Kauffman Stadium was “new” it appeared that he either (a) assumed that the person was mistakenly suggesting that it was a 100% brand new ballpark and sarcastically changed his mind; or (b) honestly didn’t know about the renovations to the place himself.  He then moved on.

Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky was a lot more hostile in his post this afternoon, saying Kauffman “received the 2012 MLB All-Star Game, for some reason. No clear reason,
actually,” and seemed to completely miss the fact that the Royals and the people of Kansas City just got done pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a massive renovation.  Petchesky went on to say “All-Star Games should be about either showcasing shiny new stadiums, or
beautiful old ones,” and added that Kauffman was “far from beautiful.”

Which merely shows that Petchesky has never been to Kauffman Stadium, because he’d be hard pressed to find a more beautiful park in Major League Baseball.  I mean it — the place is gorgeous and — the quality of the current tenants notwithstanding —  it’s a wonderful setting in which to see a game.

But maybe that’s just an aesthetic difference on our parts. More troubling for me is what seems to be a weird schizophrenia on Petchesky part about the value of an All-Star Game to begin with.  On the one hand he says Kansas City doesn’t deserve it, and that it should be a reward to places with newer parks or a longer, richer baseball heritage.  Then he goes on to trash the reality of having an All-Star Game in one’s town, saying that the financial benefits are “bunk” and that it’s a giant hassle for everyone involved.  So I assume that you don’t care if Kansas City has it then, Barry?

Overall, both Simmons and Petchesky take on the matter reeks of — and I don’t believe I’m going to say this — coastal bias.  Doesn’t matter which coast. Simmons is physically on the west while his mind and heart reside in the east.  I don’t know where Petchsky lives, but the whole “Kansas City? Really?” attitude just stinks of the east coast and people who call anything west of the Hudson flyover territory.

I propose this: a road trip for Simmons, Petchesky and Joe Posnanski or some other person who appreciates how cool Kansas City really is – and it’s very, very cool — to disabuse them of whatever misinformation they’ve been fed about the place over the years.

Then we can revisit this in 2012 when baseball holds its All-Star Game in a beautiful park that is home to great baseball fans and is surrounded by a pretty damn spiffy city.

UPDATE:  More Kansas City scorn, this time wrapped up in a bow of “oh, wouldn’t it be great if Boston got the All-Star Game!”  So right. I mean, the Sox are so overlooked and they haven’t had an All-Star Game in Fenway since 1999!

Red Sox owner: “spending money helps”

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The other day Rob Manfred said, as he and other owners have said often in the past, that there is no correlation between payroll and winning. He said that defensively, in response to criticism of the slow free agent market of the past two offseasons.

As we have noted in the past, Manfred is not being honest about that. While, yes, in any given year there can be wild variation between payroll and win total — the Giants stunk last year, the A’s won 97 games — common sense dictates otherwise. What’s more, a recent study has shown that there is a pretty strong correlation between winning and payroll over time. Yes, you can fluke into a big season with a low payroll — Deadspin compared it to a cold snap occurring during a time of climate change — but if you want that “sustained success” teams claim they want, the best way to ensure it is to spend more money over time.

If you know anything about baseball labor history, though, you know well that the Commissioner and the owners will continue to mischaracterize the dynamics of the business as it suits them. Mostly because — present lefty sportswriters notwithstanding — very few people push back on their narratives. Fans tend to parrot ownership’s line on this stuff and, more often than not, baseball media acts as stenographer for ownership as opposed to critic. That gives owners a far greater ability to shape the narrative about all of this than most institutions.

Which makes this all the more awkward. From David Schoenfield of ESPN:

In apparent contradiction to his own commissioner, Boston Red Sox owner John Henry said Monday that, while there is not a perfect correlation between a bigger payroll and winning, “spending more money helps.”

Which is right. The correlation is not perfect — teams can spend a lot of money on a bad team if given the chance and a low payroll team like the Rays can bullpen their way to 90 wins — but you’re way more likely to win year-in, year-out if you’re spending than if you go cheap all the time and hope for a miracle season.

Which is not to say that Henry is some labor activist owner. He and his fellow front office officials have a long history of backing the league office on just about everything that matters and will no doubt do so with labor matters in the runup to the next CBA negotiation. The owners tend not to have a solidarity problem.

But Henry does seem to draw the line at peddling baloney, which is a shockingly necessary thing when the league and the union’s relationship turns acrimonious.