The Braves moving to a new park is understandable but perverse

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I’m still processing the announcement that the Braves are abandoning a 17 year-old ballpark for a new ballpark in the Atlanta suburbs. But in the meantime, here are my initial thoughts:

  • If anyone sees what the Braves are doing and STILL argues for public funding of ballparks, they should have their head examined. Turner Field was built for the Olympics and converted for baseball at great cost — some private, some public — and remains a more or less new and near state-of-the-art ballpark. Now Cobb County is going to pay for a new park. At some point it should begin to dawn on governments and tax payers that professional sports teams are playing them, but I’m not sure when that point is.
  • We live in a world where the Rays are stuck in Tropicana Field and the A’s are stuck in the Oakland Coliseum, yet we will soon have two perfectly wonderful ballparks in the Atlanta area, serving a team that rarely fills one. Thanks antitrust exemption. If baseball owners were forced to deal with the same competitive environment as most business this wouldn’t happen. Someone would come take over Turner Field. Or move to New Jersey. Whatever the case, this is sorta perverse.
  • That said, the impulse for the Braves to want to move makes some amount of sense. The Braves are a business and their goal is to make money. They have a crappy TV deal so stadium revenue is paramount for them. They are clearly making a calculation that they can make way more money in the new ballpark under new circumstances than they can hope to make in Turner Field. The Braves released a map today which shows how large a proportion of their ticket sales come from the northern suburbs, where the new ballpark will be. They’re not idiots. The financial incentives in play are probably pretty compelling.
  • But let us not confuse what will surely be financial success with brilliant business acumen on the part of the Braves. At least not the sort of acumen which usually gets lauded as the genius of capitalism or whatever. MLB owners live in a world with basically zero risk in order to get their billions. As stadium financing shows, baseball owners live off of other people’s money. Usually public money. And no one ever seems to call these already rich men and corporations out on accepting millions from the government the way poor people are called out on accepting a few hundred or a couple of thousand because they can’t feed their families or get basic medical care.

Politics aside: I’m a Braves fan. I’ll probably always be a Braves fan. Why? Because fandom is inherently irrational. We root for laundry. We root to perpetuate memories and good feelings we had when we were kids. I root because I rooted for Dale Murphy and Bruce Benedict at one strange time in my life and then just followed the thread. We all have that same story. It’s why we give a longer and more charitable look at the new players our teams acquire and thus continue on with them too. You can’t just let that go.

But if it were rational? If we just chose who we rooted for based on objective criteria as adults? If you dropped us down on Earth for the first time in 2013 and told us to root for the team which most appeals to us in terms of the behavior of the organization as a whole, its fan base, its culture and everything else? Man, it would be harder than Hell to root for the Atlanta Braves right now.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Mets 24, Phillies 4; Phillies 9, Mets 6: At least in a doubleheader you have the chance to shake off the first game if it doesn’t go your way. And boy howdy did the first game not go Philly’s way. In that one the Mets hung a 10-spot in the fifth inning and scored 24 runs on 25 hits. Only 11 of those runs were earned. It was an ugly, ugly game with two position players pitching including one, Scott Kingery, who was just lobbing in slow, fat pitches that didn’t even register on the radar gun. The only saving grave for the Phillies was that the game was “broadcast” on Facebook and no one watches those. If you want a full writeup of the carnage Bill, a Phillies fan, had to do it last night.

In the nightcap Philly righted the ship, with Zach Eflin pitching into the seventh and Phillies batters jumping on Steven Matz early. Rhys Hoskins hit a three-run homer and Kingery hit a solo shot that went out a bit faster than his fastballs came in in the first game.

Rangers 8, Angels 6: Neither of these teams are going to be playing six weeks from now, but they’ll always have this weird, kind of disjointed bases-loaded 5-4 triple-play to remember. It was an historical one too as it was the majors’ first triple play without retiring the batter in over 106 years:

Jurickson Profar, who started the triple play and was its MVP, at least if triple plays can have MVPs, also homered, as did Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo.

Rays 3, Yankees 1: Tampa Bay just has New York’s number I guess. Blake Snell returned to toss two-hit shutout ball for five innings and the Yankees would only manage a Giancarlo Stanton RBI double the rest of the way. Masahiro Tanaka was scoreless in innings 2-6, but unfortunately he started in inning 1, allowing two runs. Maybe the Yankees should try using a Rays-style opener for him?

Cubs 1, Pirates 0: Jon Lester hasn’t had a great second half — or last part of the first half — but he looked like the Lester of April and May last night, twirling six shutout frames, striking out eight and not walking anyone. Ivan Nova came close to matching him, but surrendered an Ian Happ solo homer in the fourth for the game’s only scoring. Chicago increased its lead in the NL Central to three and a half games over the idle Brewers. Pittsburgh lost its fourth straight to fall to .500.

Nationals 5, Cardinals 4Bryce Harper had three hits and drove in three runs to help the Nats snap its four-game losing streak and send the Cardinals to a loss for the first time in nine games. The most exciting thing here: the Nats taking a one-run lead into the ninth inning. Somehow Koda Glover held it. I mean, sure, he put two men on with two outs before closing it out, but what is life if it is not at least a little interesting?

Rockies 5, Braves 3: Atlanta could not close out its lead, however. In front 3-2 heading into the ninth, Trevor Story, the leadoff hitter that inning, reached via a Dansby Swanson error, Brad Brach — pitching in that situation because the Braves’ bullpen is sort of a mess right now — walked Gerardo Parra to move Story to second and then he came in on a Ryan McMahon pinch-hit RBI single to tie things up. Two batters later David Dahl — who had homered earlier — then came to the plate and knocked in both Parra and McMahon to give the Rockies a two-run lead that would hold up. The Rockies have won five of six. The only good news for the Braves was that Ronald Acuña played, singling in his first at bat and finishing 1-for-4.

Twins 15, Tigers 8: Logan Forsythe had five hits and Jorge Polanco drove in four runs for the Twins, three of which came on a three-run homer. There were lots of homers here, in fact, with the teams combining for seven round-trippers. The Twins must’ve left the air conditioner blowing out for the whole game. [*Editor whispers*]. Sorry, still not over the 1987 ALCS. I’m gonna accuse the Twins of somehow figuring out how to pull that crap in their new park too.

Royals 6, Blue Jays 2: For the third straight game a rain delay stopped the beginning of a game in this series, this time by over two hours. The Royals earned the series split, however, thanks to a single RBI from six different batters, including a Lucas Duda homer, and Royals relievers Brian FlynnKevin McCarthyBrandon Maurer and Wily Peralta shut down Toronto on three hits over the final five innings.

Diamondbacks 5, Padres 1: If you placed money on “Some time in 2018 Clay Buchholz will pitch a complete game, allowing only one run on five hits, getting the win for a playoff contending team” before the season began you would’ve been arrested for suspected time-traveling and/or placed in a rubber room so you could not do any harm to others or to yourself. Yet it happened. He got five runs of support in the first inning, thanks in part to a David Peralta three-run homer, and other than allowing a Hunter Renfroe solo shot in the eighth, he was lights-out. Not too bad for a guy everyone thought was burnt toast not too long ago.