Phoenix Municipal Stadium only has one more spring training left in it

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It was announced this morning that 2014 will be the last season the Athletics train at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. They’re going to move into Hohokam Park, where the Cubs currently train, after the Cubs move into their new place in Mesa and after Hohokam gets a $20 million face lift. Arizona State University’s baseball team will take over this place.

Speaking to the scribes this morning Bob Melvin said it’s a good thing because, for whatever you can say about Phoenix Muni, “it’s dated” and “it’s lacking a bit.” He’s not wrong about that. The park has been around since the early 60s. And while they have done a good job of upgrading the concourses and the press area, the stuff the players actually use has been outclassed by the newer construction.  It was probably inevitable that this park would cease to be a spring training home for the majors one day soon.

Still, it makes me a little sad. I have a soft spot for this place. It reminds me of the public schools I went to in the 70s. It was built in a forward-looking, modern/brutalist style in an era where nostalgia simply didn’t exist in the world of sports architecture. Why on Earth would anyone put in some frieze or some quaint feature when there is room for more poured concrete? Poured concrete is cheap and efficient! And, dammit, our resources must be conserved because we have a Cold War to win.

Oh well. Progress.  Other random observations from Phoenix municipal:

  • I did the clubhouse thing this morning. It’s a split squad day for the A’s, so half the team hopped on a bus at 9:30 AM, leaving things pretty dead. I can report, however, that Pat Neshek wears Oakland A’s-colored Zubaz. Just thought you should know.
  • Before he left on the bus Bartolo Colon handed a pair of spandex workout shorts to a clubbie to have a hole sewn up. BARTOLO COLON SPANDEX. They don’t pay clubbies nearly enough money.
  • I like coming back to the same parks each year to see the upgrades young players get in locker placement from year to year. I mentioned Mike Trout the other day. Last year I was here for Yoenis Cespedes’ spring debut and he was down at some crowded end with players with numbers in the 70s. He has a nice big locker with plenty of space this year.
  • In addition to Michele and the Phoenix Bats, some guy was in the clubhouse taking measurements for custom-made suits too. I think if you’re a major leaguer you eventually forget how to do your own shopping.
  • I spoke with Bob Melvin. He seems kind of excited to be playing the Italian team today. He was with the Dbacks when they played Mexico back in the 2006 WBC down in Tucson. He said the crowd was insane and the electricity off the charts. It makes me pretty excited to watch the U.S. vs. Mexico game in Chase Field on Friday night. I’m thinking of rooting for Mexico just to be annoying.

Time to settle in for Italy vs. Athletics.  They just played the Italian National Anthem. It’s not short, but it is quite a pretty tune. Oh, and there are plenty of seats available:

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Fun day.

Don’t let Rob Manfred pass the buck

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Yesterday morning, in Ken Rosenthal’s article, Rob Manfred made it pretty clear what his aim is at the moment: throw blame on the union for the sign stealing scandal getting to the place it is. It was clear in both his words and Rosenthal’s words, actually:

In fairness, Manfred was not alone in failing to see the future clearly. As far back as 2015, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) expressed concerns to MLB about the rise of technology in the sport. The union, however, did not directly focus on the threat to the game’s integrity.

Then, in his press conference yesterday, he went farther, saying that the union refused to allow a situation in which punishment might happen, going so far as to claim that the union refused to make Astros players available for interviews without blanket immunity.

The union, both in its official statement last night and in Tony Clark’s words to Yahoo’s Hannah Keyser earlier this afternoon, is basically saying Manfred is full of it:

“We were approached with respect to their intentions to not discipline players. Our legal role and responsibility is inherent in accepting that consideration, which is what we did.”

Which is to say, it was Rob Manfred, and not the union, which started from the presumption that there was immunity for Astros players. Manfred is the one who settled on that at the outset, and he’s now trying to make it look like the union was the side that insisted on it so that people who are mad will get mad at Tony Clark for defending the indefensible as opposed to getting mad at him for creating a situation in which there was no legal way to punish Astros players.

And, as we have noted many times already, he did create that situation.

It’s undisputed that Manfred never attempted to make rules or set forth discipline for players stealing signs. Indeed, he did the opposite of that, saying over two years ago that GMs and managers, not players, would be held responsible. If he wanted to discipline players now, he’d have a big problem because he specifically excluded them from discipline then. I’d argue it was a mistake for him to do that — he should’ve said, three years ago, that everyone’s butt would be on the line if the cheating continued — but he didn’t.

Some people I’ve spoken to are taking the position that the union is still to blame here. I’m sort of at a loss as to how that could be.

It is the union’s job to protect its members from arbitrary punishment by management. It is not the union’s job to say “hey, I know our workers were off the hook here based on the specific thing you said, but maybe we should give them some retroactive punishment anyway?” If someone in charge of a union proposed that, they’d be in dereliction of their duties and could be fired and/or sued. Probably should be, actually. A lot of people might be mad about that, and I know fully well that unions aren’t popular. But then again, neither are criminal defense attorneys, and they don’t go up to prosecutors and say “well, there isn’t a law against what my client did — in fact, the governor issued an order a couple of years ago saying that what he did wasn’t prohibited — but we’re all kind of mad about it, so why don’t we work together to find a way to put him in jail, eh?” It’d be insane.

That doesn’t make anyone feel better now. The players are certainly mad, with new ones every day finding a camera to yell at over all of this. I get it. What has happened is upsetting. It’s a situation in which some members of the union are at odds with other members. It’s not an easy situation to navigate.

They should take that anger, however, and channel it into telling their leader, Tony Clark, that they don’t want this to happen again. That, to the extent Rob Manfred now, belatedly, proposes new rules and new punishments for sign-stealing or other things, he should get on board with that. They should also — after the yelling dies down — maybe think a little bit about how, if the facts were slightly different here, they would never argue that Rob Manfred should have the power to impose retroactive or other non-previously-negotiated punishment on players.

Either way, neither they nor any of the rest of us should take Manfred’s bait and try to claim that what’s happening now is the union’s fault. If, for no other reason, than because he doesn’t have much credibility when it comes to this whole scandal. Remember, he’s the guy who issued a report saying that, except for Alex Cora, it was only players involved despite knowing at the time he said it that the front office had hatched the scheme in the first place. Which, by the way, similarly sought to make the players out to be the only ones to blame while protecting people on management’s side. He’s not someone who can be trusted in any of this, frankly.

At the end of the day, this was a scheme perpetrated by both front office and uniformed personnel of the Houston Astros. To the extent nothing more can be done about that than already has been done, blame it on Rob Manfred’s failure of leadership. Not on the MLB Players Association.