Josh Hamilton wins the AL MVP Award

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The voting for the final award of the year is in and the trophy goes to Josh Hamilton, who beat out Miquel Cabrera and Robinson Cano for the AL MVP award.  Hamilton received 22 of the 28 first place votes. Cabrera had five and Jose Bautista — who finished fourth overall — had one.

I think Hamilton, Cabrera and, to a slightly lesser extent Cano, were all plausible choices, and if either Cabrera or Cano had won there wouldn’t be a ton of room for squawking.

Hamilton, when healthy, was probably the best player in the American League this year. But Cabrera was close and had a few more plate appearances.  Cano trailed them offensively, but was tremendously valuable on defensive and, for long stretches, carried a Yankees team that saw slumps and injuries from putative big guns Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. If I had a vote I would have given it to Hamilton, but again, this is not a year where my favored guy not getting it would have been an atrocity.

As for these results: I think that both Joey Votto’s comfortable win yesterday and Hamilton’s today shows us that voters still think of the MVP award as very much a team award, not a purely individual one. Votto’s and Pujols’ years were virtually identical, but Votto’s overwhelming margin of victory was attributable to the fact that the Reds beat the Cardinals. Some voters came right out and said so.  I think a lot of that was at work here as well, with team results hurting Cabrera while helping Hamilton and Cano.

Which did not, it should be noted, lead to any sort of injustice this season.  But it has in the past when there weren’t as many obvious good choices on contenders, and could in the future. And that’s somewhat troubling to me.  I appreciate that there are multiple definitions of the word “valuable,” but how voters have come to view the team’s overall performance as having such significance to an award that we all appreciate is an individual award is baffling.

But let’s leave that battle for another day. Today we should (a) congratulate Josh Hamilton for his award; and (b) congratulate the BBWAA for — once again — doing what I feel was a pretty damn fine job on the awards voting.

Now, if we can only do something about those gold glove voters . . .

The Braves are not just a baseball team. They’re a real estate company too.

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I’ve taken the Braves to task quite a bit in this space lately. This post and then, later, this post got a lot of attention, both from Braves fans who agree and nod their head and those who disagree and think I’m an overly cynical bad fan or whatever.

I don’t think I’m a bad fan or that I’m cynical. I just look at the facts on the ground and draw conclusions from them. The overarching fact that seems to matter here — separate and apart from any individual move or non-move the Braves front office makes — is that the Braves, as an organization, have interests other than winning baseball games and those interests, in turn, cannot help but impact the Braves’ approach to winning baseball games.

Interests like real estate. As the Cobb Business Journal reported yesterday, the Braves are involved in a complex bond transaction, the details of which bore me, but the upshot of which is that the Braves are building office towers:

The Development Authority of Cobb County signed off on a necessary step for the Braves to get the loan on Tuesday . . . Jonathan Smith, deputy general counsel for the Braves, said at Tuesday’s meeting that the project will span about four acres owned by the Braves. About half the land is being leased by Thyssenkrupp for the R&D tower, which the German conglomerate will own.

The other half will house the office building, which the Braves are building and will own, according to Smith. Half the office building is being leased to Thyssenkrupp, Smith said, and the other half is being leased to other companies, though no tenants have been announced yet.

This is all part of the Battery complex which surrounds SunTrust Park and in which the Braves — through a vehicle called Braves Development Company — have a substantial interest. When you appreciate the magnitude of that development and the sort of revenue the Braves are realizing from it now and will realize in the future, it’s hard not to conclude that the Braves did not get SunTrust Park built for them simply or even primarily to become a more competitive baseball team. They got it built for them so that they can become a real estate development company that happens to have a baseball team as one of its many components.

And don’t think that that the relationship between the development and the ball club is some weak and attenuated thing. Check out the Braves’ org chart, as set forth on MLB.com, with my highlight added:

Whatever the legal relationship is between Braves Development Company and the baseball team, both entities answer to Terry McGuirk, apparently on equal footing based on the titles of the people who run them. As such, when McGuirk says, as he did last week, that he “couldn’t be more optimistic” about the Atlanta Braves, it makes one wonder if he means the baseball team or the overall venture, only one part of which is concerned with baseball. Indeed, one of his answers to the question about why all the increased revenues aren’t being plowed into the team was “it costs a lot to build this edifice.” That answer was likely more literal than most people understood.

Sure, the Braves want to win — I truly believe them when they say they want to — but achieving that desire is far less critical to the Braves, financially speaking, than it would be if they did not have office towers to build, own and lease out with favorable tax treatment and other governmental assistance. The hit from missing the playoffs, for example, is a drop in the bucket compared to what it might’ve been back when they played in Turner Field or Fulton County Stadium. At the same time, money that is realized by the Braves, their real estate ventures, or both, can be used in any number of ways. Maybe the baseball team is the priority sometimes. Maybe it’s not.

Observing that does not make one cynical. The Braves are a baseball team with real estate interests. Or maybe they’re a real estate company with baseball interests. The proper way to characterize that depends on a lot of stuff about their financials and their priorities the Braves are likely unwilling to share with us, but it’s a simple fact that they have priorities that have little if anything to do with baseball. It’s fair game, then, to question the organization’s priorities when scrutinizing the baseball decisions they make.