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Braves are, quite rudely, demanding nearly $5 million more from Cobb County taxpayers

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The taxpayers of Cobb County, Georgia are already on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars for the Atlanta Braves’ shiny new stadium, Sun Trust Park. Now the Braves want close to $5 million more.

You’d think that, given the taxpayers’ gratuitous generosity to the massive media conglomerate which owns the Braves, thereby relieving it of having to pay for its own dang office, such a request would be made politely and with at least some humility. But nah. The Braves’ lawyers are being pretty dang rude about it, actually.

All of this can be found in an investigative report by 11Alive.com, Atlanta’s NBC affiliate. 11Alive uncovered a series of letters between outside attorneys for Cobb County and attorneys for the Braves revealing continuing disputes over stadium costs and report that the entire matter is now in private mediation. The back and forth leading up to that arbitration is particularly tasty.

By last spring a number of disputes had cropped up involving post-construction work on the stadium. As a lot of people know, things like pedestrian bridges, signage and access to the park were late additions, so the Braves and the County entered into a bunch of agreements on how that and other ongoing maintenance and fee issues related to the stadium would be handled. Back in early May there was a meeting at SunTrust Park about all of this, with both sides bringing their lawyers.

Fun personal disclosure: the county’s outside construction law lawyers are from the Cleveland-based law firm Thompson Hine which, from 2003 through the end of 2008, employed your author. Your author even did some construction law back then and attended meetings like this one on occasion. I went to one at a minor league hockey rink project in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, for example. They’re usually pretty boring! The place is already built, everyone loves it and now the owners and maybe the construction company are quibbling over, like, who was supposed to pay for the urinal pucks and the fancy light sconces in the luxury suites that are shaped like catcher’s mitts. Yes, it’s litigation, but as far as litigation goes, it’s pretty calm, mostly because a lot of construction lawyers have backgrounds in construction work, architecture and engineering (i.e. real jobs, not fighting-over-money jobs) and thus skew way more chill than, say, your average tax or divorce lawyer does. Usually beers are cracked after these meetings for crying out loud.

Not here! After everyone went back to their offices, my old friends at Thompson Hine, representing Cobb County, sent the Braves’ lawyers a demand letter stating their position regarding the disputed funds. It was a pretty normal demand letter. The Braves’ lawyers shot back with what the article characterizes — and which I concur — is a super snotty and unprofessional response.

Rather than just discuss the brass tacks, the guy makes a point to criticize Cobb County even bringing the lawyers to the meeting, calls it legal malpractice, makes all kinds of noises about how Cobb County is wasting taxpayer money — super ironic noises, I’ll add, given that the Braves are feeding at the teet of Cobb County taxpayers —  and how, if this thing goes to court, he’s going to disqualify their lawyers and call them as witnesses. If you read the letter, reproduced over at 11Alive.com, your eyes may glaze over after the dude gets into contract language and stuff, but trust me, that thing was way out of line for this kind of dispute and, in my opinion, super unprofessional.

There was more back and forth after that — Cobb County’s lawyers made note of the Braves’ lawyer’s unprofessionalism and attempted to move on — but no resolution. That’s why they’re now in mediation. Mediation, 11Alive.com notes, that the public is not privy to. They’ll just have to learn after the fact how much more money they’ll have to give the Atlanta Braves. For what it’s worth, Cobb County and the Braves — not the lawyers, the actual officials — say all is well and rosy and that their partnership is strong and isn’t everything lovely. Which, yes, it likely is even if their lawyers hate each other. Everyone’s either getting rich or else gets nice seats for ballgames that they don’t have to personally pay for out of the deal.

All of this, though, is just reminder number 11,459 that giving hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to extraordinarily wealthy private for-profit businesses that, in reality, had absolutely no leverage to demand it in the first place yet got it anyway because politicians love to kiss the butts of big time sports, is a terrible idea.

Both on the merits and because, as the rude Braves lawyer notes in his letter, it costs a LOT of money for lawyers to yell at each other, especially when they’re yelling over billion dollar projects.

(thanks to J.C. Bradbury for the heads up)

Marlins clinch 1st playoff berth since 2003, beat Yanks 4-3

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK (AP) Forced from the field by COVID-19, the Miami Marlins returned with enough force to reach the playoffs for the first time since their 2003 championship.

An NL-worst 57-105 a year ago, they sealed the improbable berth on the field of the team that Miami CEO Derek Jeter and manager Don Mattingly once captained.

“I think this is a good lesson for everyone. It really goes back to the players believing,” Mattingly said Friday night after a 4-3, 10-inning win over the New York Yankees.

Miami will start the playoffs on the road Wednesday, its first postseason game since winning the 2003 World Series as the Florida Marlins, capped by a Game 6 victory in the Bronx over Jeter and his New York teammates at the previous version of Yankee Stadium.

“We play loose. We got nothing to lose. We’re playing with house money.,” said Brandon Kintzler, who got DJ LeMahieu to ground into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded after Jesus Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th. “We are a dangerous team. And we really don’t care if anyone says we’re overachievers.”

Miami (30-28), second behind Atlanta in the NL East, became the first team to make the playoffs in the year following a 100-loss season. The Marlins achieved the feat despite being beset by a virus outbreak early this season that prevented them from playing for more than a week.

After the final out, Marlins players ran onto the field, formed a line and exchanged non socially-distant hugs, then posed for photos across the mound.

“I can’t contain the tears, because it’s a lot of grind, a lot of passion,” shortstop Miguel Rojas said. “It wasn’t just the virus. Last year we lost 100 games. But we came out this year with the hope everything was going to be better. When we had the outbreak, the guys who got an opportunity to help the organization, thank you for everything you did.”

Miami was one of baseball’s great doubts at the start of the most shortened season since 1878, forced off the field when 18 players tested positive for COVID-19 following the opening series in Philadelphia.

“Yeah, we’ve been through a lot. Other teams have been through a lot, too,” Mattingly said “This just not a been a great situation. It’s just good to be able to put the game back on the map.”

New York (32-26) had already wrapped up a playoff spot but has lost four of five following a 10-game winning streak and is assured of starting the playoffs on the road. Toronto clinched a berth by beating the Yankees on Thursday.

“I don’t like any time somebody celebrates on our field or if we’re at somebody else’s place and they celebrate on their field,” Yankees star Aaron Judge said. “I’m seeing that too much.”

Mattingly captained the Yankees from 1991-95 and is in his fifth season managing the Marlins, Jeter captained the Yankees from 2003-14 as part of a career that included five World Series titles in 20 seasons and is part of the group headed by Bruce Sherman that bought the Marlins in October 2017.

Garrett Cooper, traded to the Marlins by the Yankees after the 2017 season, hit a three-run homer in the first inning off J.A. Happ.

After the Yankees tied it on Aaron Hicks‘ two-run double off Sandy Alcantara in the third and Judge’s RBI single off Yimi Garcia in the eighth following an error by the pitcher on a pickoff throw, the Marlins regained the lead with an unearned run in the 10th against Chad Green (3-3).

Jon Berti sacrificed pinch-runner Monte Harrison to third and, with the infield in, Starling Marte grounded to shortstop. Gleyber Torres ran at Harrison and threw to the plate, and catcher Kyle Higashioka‘s throw to third hit Harrison in the back, giving the Yankees a four-error night for the second time in three games.

With runners at second and third, Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly.

Brad Boxberger (1-0) walked his leadoff batter in the ninth but got Luke Voit to ground into a double play, and Kintzler held on for his 12th save in 14 chances.

Miami ended the second-longest postseason drought in the majors – the Seattle Mariners have been absent since 2001.

Miami returned Aug. 4 following an eight-day layoff with reinforcements from its alternate training site, the trade market and the waiver wire to replace the 18 players on the injured list and won its first five games.

“We’re just starting,” said Alcantara, who handed a 3-2 lead to his bullpen in the eighth. “We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing.”

TOSSED

Yankees manager Aaron Boone was ejected for arguing from the dugout in the first inning. Plate umpire John Tumpane called out Judge on a full-count slider that appeared to drop well below the knees and Boone argued during the next pitch, to Hicks, then was ejected. Television microphones caught several of Boone’s profane shouts.

“Reacting to a terrible call and then following it up,” Boone said. “Obviously, we see Aaron get called a lot on some bad ones down.”

ODD

Pinch-runner Michael Tauchman stole second base in the eighth following a leadoff single by Gary Sanchez but was sent back to first because Tumpane interfered with the throw by catcher Chad Wallach. Clint Frazier struck out on the next pitch and snapped his bat over a leg.

SLOPPY

New York took the major league lead with 47 errors. Sanchez was called for catcher’s interference for the third time in five days and fourth time this month.

REMEMBERING

Mattingly thought of Jose Fernandez, the former Marlins All-Star pitcher who died four years earlier to the night at age 24 while piloting a boat that crashed. An investigation found he was legally drunk and had cocaine in his system. The night also marked the sixth anniversary of Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium.

UP NEXT

RHP Deivi Garcia (2-2, 4.88) starts Saturday for the Yankees and LHP Trevor Rogers (1-2, 6.84) for the Marlins. Garcia will be making the sixth start of his rookie season.