Hey look, it’s the inevitable “is Josh Hamilton getting off easy because he’s white?” column!

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I was surprised we didn’t see this within a couple of days of the Josh Hamilton story breaking, but I’m glad it’s here all the same. Not because I think it’s worth a damn — it’s not! — but because no story about a scandal involving an athlete feels complete without it.

Take it away Mac Engel who, after noting that Josh Hamilton isn’t having effigies of him burned in the streets says …:

Now the tricky part—would you feel the same way if Josh Hamilton was not a white dude?

Would Josh Hamilton have been asked, let alone agreed, to make his first TV interview since his now famous relapse on Glenn Beck TV—as he did on Wednesday afternoon—if he weren’t white?

The race card may be an easy out for a column, but here we sit in the middle of Black History Month and there is no better time to ask an uncomfortable question: Does Josh Hamilton inspire, generate sympathy and are people largely accepting and supportive simply because of the color of his skin, and to heck with the content of his character?

It’s a tired argument because it assumes all manner of things about the nature of punishment. There’s actual punishment, of which he should receive none because, no matter what his past is, it’s not illegal for him to have had some beers.

There’s also public opinion punishment, which I don’t think anyone can have a firm grasp on, in terms of either its nature among those who hold it or the person whose opinion is being opined upon. At least not now.  And of course there are the feelings of the person in question. Maybe Hamilton is going through hell and we just don’t know about it nor can we, be he black or white.

But I do know this much: Josh Hamilton’s manager, Ron Washington — who, as you probably know, is black — tested positive for cocaine a couple of years ago.  And he kept his job. And got no small amount of support from everyone with the Rangers and in the baseball community at large. He then won awards, pennants and got a contract extension.

Why? Because (a) he’s a good man who people like; (b) he was contrite and vowed to do better in the future; and (c) he did, in fact, do better and validated everyone who cut him some slack.

So, call me crazy, but yes, I think that Josh Hamilton — who is also someone who is well-liked and has shown contrition and has promised to do better — would likely get the same shake if he were black.

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.