The class system and the ballpark

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Emma Span of Sports on Earth looks at that business with the Twins’ aborted effort to sell tickets to batting practice and gets to, what I feel anyway, is the heart of the matter: the luxury-i-fication of Major League Baseball games:

Target Field is a beautiful new stadium, but like most of the beautiful new stadiums, it comes with much more built-in class separation than most ballparks used to have … there are more than a few additional luxury seats and suites and clubs than there used to be. Increasingly, ballgames feel like airlines: they have a clearly defined caste system. People willing to pay extra get an entirely different experience than the rest of us. And that context makes a relatively harmless offer like early BP tickets feel more ominous: just one more perk for the fans with money, one more thing they get that we don’t.  There are a lot of those moments in life, of course, and this is way, way down on the list of important ones. Still, it would be nice to get a bit of a break from all that at a ball game.

This is not just at ballparks. It’s seemingly everywhere. The ability to pay to get out of some sort of drudgery of everyday life or, alternatively, to get a taste of the good life. Front-of-the-line-passes. Elite status everything. It’s, in most respects, a logical extension of a capitalist system — if people want something, someone will provide it at some cost — but it also comes at another cost, and that of a shared civic experience.

Maybe it’s not worth the inconvenience, but there is something being lost in this country when it comes to this sort of thing. The idea that all of us, rich or poor, know what it’s like to stand on the same line for some thing. There is an equalizing aspect to it all. Sure, maybe the super rich could have a servant go mail a package or something, but most of us all used to sit in the same general sections, stand in the same lines and deal with the same experiences as anyone else. And even if there were differences — good seats always cost more than cheap seats — there wasn’t such a clear demarcation between them. The exclusivity of a given thing was not so apparent. Indeed, I think half the time now you pay that extra bit precisely for that image of exclusivity more than you pay for the enhanced good or service itself.

Now we don’t have to sit in the same areas and stand in the same lines. At least we don’t if we have the means to avoid it.  Which, quite often, is nice. But I do feel like it highlights our differences and creates divisions in ways that the old, inefficient and sometimes dreary ways never did. And even if it’s not enough to make me want to take away someone’s Platinum Elite Priority Status, it is in many ways regrettable.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.