The Braves chose a stadium architect — now, be bold!

34 Comments

The Braves have chosen an architect for their new Cobb County ballpark: Populous, the firm formerly known as HOK, which has built or massively renovated nearly 20 current big league stadiums.

Populous/HOK Sport is launched the “retro” era of baseball park design in the 1990s, beginning with Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It’s been quite a revolution and, certainly on the whole, a welcome one. It led the the (near) end of multi-use stadiums and has brought the game closer to fans (well, at least rich ones) and made it more comfortable for everyone.

But the retro-park thing has run its course. Indeed, the last few new parks — Target Field, Marlins Park and Nationals Park — are finally sloughing off the old-timey brick designs of the 1990s parks. These have been hit and miss from what I have seen and read — Minnesota is said to be gorgeous, Miami, well, a bit too much — but the effort to at least attempt to be forward-looking is welcome.

And I hope it maintains with the Braves new park. More than maintains, actually. I seriously hope that Populous and the Braves come up with something truly forward-looking and modern without even a trace of a nod back to old-timey baseball.

For one thing, the Braves aren’t really deserving of nods to tradition. When they move into the new park they’ll have played in four cities and five parks in a little over 60 years. You can’t do that while simultaneously attempting to leverage history. At least not with a good conscience. Limit the history to the championship banners, the retired numbers and for the Braves museum back behind the bullpen or wherever it’s going to be.

For another thing: you’re building this park in, basically, an empty field next to a mall in a growing exurb. There are no limits forcing you to put in odd dimensions or architectural quirks. The move to Cobb County is, more or less, an embrace of the future. Or, at the very least, an embrace of where everyone thinks the rich parts of the population will continue to live and grow in the future. You have a chance to put a unique stamp on an otherwise faceless and bland landscape. Be bold. Make the ‘burbs a better place with some much-needed flair.

I’m not terribly optimistic, though. The Braves are a conservative organization by most measures and they’re moving out to a particularly conservative part of their region. I fear that they’ll try to play it safe and conventional. That they may even backslide on the more recent work of firms like Populous and skew retro, with nods to Braves Field in Boston or something, as if anyone would care.

Please, prove me wrong, Braves. Build something bold and forward-looking and cool. It’s baseball. It’s supposed to be fun. Take a risk or three.

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

Rick Yeatts/Getty Images
41 Comments

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.