When it comes to the Braves moving out of Atlanta, don’t hate the player, hate the game

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CSNBayArea.com’s Andrew Baggarly has a sharp piece today taking the Braves to task for moving out of their still quite new ballpark in Atlanta and heading for the suburbs of Cobb County:

The Braves’ new ballpark might make financial sense. It might be too sweetheart to turn down. But every baseball ownership group should see itself as stewards for the franchise and the community, both those who are economically important and those who are less so. And that’s what makes this wasteful flight to Cobb County such a disappointment. It just feels wrong.

I agree with much of what Baggarly has to say here. Turner Field is still a nice ballpark that several teams would kill to have. Leaving the city that the team will still slap on the front of their road uniforms and heading out of town will abandon a lot of fans who live in the city is hard to take, philosophically speaking. It’s clearly a money move and most of the statements Braves and local officials have made about it have been self-serving and laden with euphemism and p.r.-speak.

All of that said, is it terribly different than what a lot of other teams have done or are trying to do?

It is certainly different in the sense that most teams who make that grab for the dollars grab while sitting in an older or decaying ballpark while the Braves are doing it from a perfectly nice stadium. That cannot be denied and that does set this situation apart. But that’s a function of opportunity on the part of the Braves — they were given a lease with an unusually early and easy out by the city — not one of especially egregious greed, thoughtlessness or, as Baggarly subtly implies, racism. Indeed, it was the normal brand of greed exercised by baseball owners, just on a shorter timeframe.

Beyond that, though, what the Braves are doing is remarkably similar to that which other teams have done and will always do, the San Francisco Giants (which Baggarly covers) included: they have gone to where the money is. Or, at the very least, to where the people with the money are. And where those people happen to be and what those people happen to look like are a function of forces far more powerful than that which any one baseball team can muster or control.

Cobb County is a far northern suburb of Atlanta. It’s where the rich people live in Atlanta and those rich people are overwhelmingly white. The reasons for this are rife with racial conflicts, socio-economic conflicts and history, but they are the facts of the situation on the ground. These factors were not caused by the Atlanta Braves and are unquestionably out of their control. They are a business seeking to maximize profit. While it would be far nicer and far more inspiring for the Braves to make a stand against racial, social and economic segregation by committing themselves to downtown Atlanta and the people who live there, such a stand would not and likely never will be rewarded. As a society we have, for better or for worse, accepted profit as the signature motivation and value for businesses in this country, and within that context the Atlanta Braves — a business, not a civic institution — are acting entirely rationally.

In doing so they have done what the Giants have done. Twice, first when they moved from New York to the Bay Area and then when they moved into AT&T Park. San Francisco does not have the same racial legacy as Atlanta, obviously, but it has its own set of particular problems these days. Scarce and profoundly expensive housing fueled by the tech boom and gentrification have priced people out of the city. Regulations in the region are making building houses for anyone but the rich increasingly difficult and the effects are spilling over into all manner of day-to-day life. San Francisco is becoming, in many important ways, a city for the rich and only the rich. Against this backdrop there is simmering resentment against the tech companies which have fueled the boom and officials who aren’t too terribly concerned with its effects. It’s a big problem and there are no easy solutions to it.

The Giants, like the Braves, are rational actors. They did not build their ballpark next to Candlestick. They built it in SoMa which, even before the time of its groundbreaking, was beginning to become gentrified with museums and clubs taking over old warehouse space and with savvy developers already envisioning the condos that would house the armies of upwardly mobile workers for the growing tech sector. While it would be far nicer and far more inspiring for the Giants to have made a stand against gentrification and the inevitable displacement of the poor by committing themselves to the area around Candlestick or someplace more accessible and affordable for the working class, as a society we have, for better or for worse, accepted profit as the signature motivation and value for businesses in this country, and within that context the San Francisco Giants — a business, not a civic institution — are acting entirely rationally.

Again, I do not mean to equate gentrification with racial segregation or the social issues with which San Francisco is struggling with the issues Atlanta has faced for centuries. I am merely pointing out that the Giants, like everyone else in San Francisco, rode and continue to ride a wave that has led to something of a troubling identity crisis in San Francisco, just as the Braves are riding a wave that reflects a troubling set of issues in Atlanta. The problems are different in type and degree, but the motivations and actions of the baseball teams involved and their owners are really not that different. They want their ballparks near the rich people and they want as many butts in the seats as possible. This goal, while not laudable in my view given the larger world in which companies act and my ideals about how I wish they would act, is perfectly understandable and pretty much inevitable.

Put differently: it’s perfectly fine to hate the game, as the game here is one that controls life, business and culture in this country far beyond its control of baseball teams and where they play. A game so large and omnipresent that hating the player — in this case the Atlanta Braves — seems sorta pointless.

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Braves 5, Marlins 2: Braves win, that’s great, but obviously the takeaway from this game was Jose Urena‘s completely classless and idiotic intentional drilling of Ronald Acuña on the game’s first pitch. Bill said just about everything that needs to be said about it last night, but please indulge me as a I express my feelings on the matter.

Baseball needs to make a major example of Urena and the Marlins for this. Not just for basic, perfectly sufficient “it is wrong to throw a ball nearly 100 m.p.h. at someone with the intention of hitting them” reasons. Also for “it is an awful look for the game in general when a pitcher for a losing team that has made a mockery of the notion of entertaining and competitive baseball via its complete disinterest in putting a real roster together because it places more value on debt service and cash flow than it does wining to intentionally injure one of the game’s most exciting young talents and, potentially, alter the course of a pennant race, simply because that exciting young talent is playing very good baseball lately.”

And it’s not just Urena and the Marlins. It’s the entire establishment of baseball which has decided, via its moronic devotion to a mindless chivalric code developed by the same jackasses who, once upon a time, decided that racially segregating the game was right and proper, that sure, there are some times when you must do violence for reasons they can’t even begin to explain because, with all due respect to the talents of baseball players, managers and executives, a great lot of them are frankly stupid and a great many more of them are moral and ethical simpletons. Even the ones we have all decided are lovable for some stupid reason.

Apologies for the run-on sentences and apologies if my feelings on this matter are less than clear.

Cubs 8, Brewers 4: Anthony Rizzo homered, drove in three runs and stole two bases, Jason Heyward had three hits and two RBI and David Bote had two hits, scored twice and flashed nice leather at third as the Cubs bounced back from their ugly shutout loss on Tuesday and extended their division lead back to three games over Milwaukee. Sorry for even more run-on sentences. I’m still rather worked up over the Urena-Acuã thing. I have my annual physical at 8:30 this morning. My doctor is probably gonna hospitalize me when he takes my blood pressure.

Cardinals 4, Nationals 2: Austin Gomber shut Washington out for six innings and Daniel Poncedeleon did it for two more innings before running out of gas while trying to get a three-inning save. Didn’t matter, though, as Bud Norris came in and closed it out before things got out of hand, giving the Cardinals their eighth straight win. Marcell Ozuna homered, Harrison Bader singled in one run and scored another on a wild pitch and Yadier Molina knocked in one as well. The Cardinals are tied in the loss column with the Brewers now for the second Wild Card. Meanwhile, the Nats have been trailing by a lot of games for many weeks but this is the week we’ll look back on and say “Yep, that’s when they broke. That’s when they gave up on the 2018 season.

Mariners 2, Athletics 0: This game was scoreless after nine very, very quick innings thanks to efficient and effective work from Mike Leake (8 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6K) and Brett Anderson (7.2 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2K). You just don’t see a ton of games like that anymore, but I can certainly say it brightened my afternoon to watch such good work. On to extras it went where it remained scoreless for two more innings. In the top of the 12th, Yusmeiro Petit walked Mike Zunino immediately after which Dee Gordon deposited a two-run homer over the right field fence which held up to give Seattle a much-needed win and to avoid the sweep by the A’s. Oakland falls back to two games back of the Astros. The Mariners climb back to two and a half behind Oakland.

Astros 12, Rockies 1: Houston stops the five games of bleeding thanks to Gerrit Cole‘s one run, 12-strikeout performance and thanks to two homers from Evan Gattis, two homers from Tyler White and a dinger from Yuli Gurriel too. The 12 runs were more than Houston had scored in its last four games combined.

Mets 16, Orioles 5Kevin Plawecki hit a grand slam, Brandon Nimmo went 5-for-5 with three RBI and Todd Frazier singled, doubled homered and drove in four. The Mets had a nine-run sixth inning. I have tickets to see the Indians-Orioles game in Cleveland tomorrow. I’m struggling to think why I should be compelled to play full price if I’m only seeing one major league team.

Phillies 7, Red Sox 4: Welcome to the Phillies, Wilson Ramos! The recently-acquired and just-activated catcher went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a triple, drove in three runs and nailed a would-be base-stealer at second as Philly beats the mighty Red Sox. It was only Ramos’ second triple ever and it was, to be completely honest, a fluke thanks to an odd bounce off the wall. Even then, Jackie Bradley Jr. has a cannon for an arm, so once he got to the ball it was still fairly close at third. Fun play all around:

The Phillies used eight pitchers in this one. They should’ve let Ramos be one of them too. He probably would’ve struck out the side.

White Sox 6, Tigers 5: Matt Davidson and Jose Abreu each hit two-run homers in the middle of the game, turing a 3-2 deficit into a 6-3 lead and later held on as the Tigers plated a couple more. Carlos Rodon worked eight innings here, and those initial three runs would be all he’d allow.

Twins 6, Pirates 4: The Twins’ bullpen tossed 5.1 shutout innings and Logan Forsythe knocked in three runs. Chris Archer allowed four runs in five innings and the Pirates stranded a ton of runners and in dropping their third straight game.

Rays 6, Yankees 1Mallex Smith hit a two-run homer and Kevin Kiermaier had two hits, scored a run and drove in one. The Rays have taken seven of nine from the Yankees.

Indians 4, Reds 3:The Reds jumped out to a 3-0 lead in this one but after plating two to pull close, Melky Cabrera hit a two-run homer in the sixth to put Cleveland up for good. The Indians sweep the Reds in Cincinnati, outscoring them 22-7 in the three-game set and, in the process, taking the Ohio Series 4-2. The Reds, I heard, bet the Indians a year’s supply of Cincinnati chili on the outcome of the Series but the Indians awkwardly declined collecting their winnings. Weird that.

Blue Jays 6, Royals 5: Curtis Granderson hit a grand slam in the Jays’ five-run fourth and Kevin Pillar knocked in the other two Toronto runs via a couple of RBI singles. Granderson has two grand slams this year. Both came against the Royals. He has ten for his career. All ten have come against the Ro– haha, just kidding. That would be silly. But I bet if I wrote it deadpan at least some of you would believe or, at the very least, go check. The power I possess is so great that sometimes even I reel at its possibilities.

Angels 3, Padres 2: Rene Rivera hit a solo homer to break a 2-2 tie in the top of the ninth, giving the Halos the win. He, like Wilson Ramos, was just activated before this game after a stint on the disabled list. Big day for fresh catchers.

Dodgers 4, Giants 3: It looked like another bullpen disaster in the making for the Dodgers as they blew a 3-0 lead in the eighth thanks to an Andrew McCutchen three-run homer, but Dodgers relievers then somehow pulled four scoreless innings out of their butts and Brian Dozier‘s sac fly in the bottom of the 12th gave them a much needed walkoff win. Another bright spot: Hyun-Jin Ryu throwing six scoreless innings in his first start in more than three months.