Angels opt out of stadium lease

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The Angels have played in Angel Stadium — which has gone by several names over the years — since 1966. Since that time the park has gone from state-of-the-art to the fourth oldest in the game.

Like every other team, the Angels would love to make a boatload of money on a new or dramatically-upgraded, cash-generating ballpark. Like every other team they would likewise prefer not to pay for a new or dramatically-upgraded, cash-generating ballpark. They want someone else to.

In a lot of places this ends with the Angels getting a new or dramatically-upgraded ballpark at taxpayer expense. California is not a lot of places, however, and in recent years, taxpayers and local governments have made it clear that they do not intend to foot a billion dollar bill for a multi-billion dollar business’ showroom space. Not that the Angels have not tried.

Several years ago, the Angels tried to get Anaheim officials to pay for $130-150 million in upgrades and renovations to Angel Stadium. The mayor led the opposition against that, so the Angels disengaged and approached the Orange County suburb of Tustin, California about the possibility of a new stadium. The idea would’ve been for Tustin to build them something on an ex-Marine base. After some negotiations, Tustin told them no, so the Angels went back to Anaheim. No traction has been achieved in the past two years, however.

That leads us to today, in which the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have opted out of their lease with the city of Anaheim.

That doesn’t mean the team plans on leaving — the terms of the lease required them to either opt-out now or be automatically renewed for a decade — but it does mean that the team has maximum flexibility to negotiate with whoever and wherever it wants. And,  it can find a better deal than the one it has in Anaheim they can bolt. Think of them as the sports team equivalent of month-to-month renters.

The problem is that there isn’t a realistic place for them to bolt to unless they plan on paying for their own ballpark. And they seem to know that. From the Times:

[Angels spokeswoman Marie] Garvey said the Angels understand they are unlikely to find a city in Southern California willing to pay for a new ballpark.

“We understand the realities of California,” she said. “There is a significant investment involved either way.”

Acceptance is the final stage of grief, I suppose. But team owner Arte Moreno is worth $3 billion bucks or so and his team is worth close to $ 2 billion, I reckon. I feel like he’ll be fine whatever he has to do.

UPDATE: Nice statement from Anaheim. It’s the first time I can recall a local government properly acknowledging that a sports team is not some sort of public trust or civic institution as opposed to a simple business, entitled to no more favor than any other:

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.