Angels block Dodgers’ attempt at doing something cool

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There’s an interesting story in the Los Angeles Times today about a neat idea the Dodgers had a couple of years ago. The idea: converting a dying mall in the San Fernando Valley into a small minor league ballpark and moving their single-A California League team there.

The plan would cost taxpayers nothing as the Dodgers and the existing landowners would foot the entire bill. It would not add to traffic, parking or zoning problems in the area — L.A.’s mayor said it would have less impact than if a Costco opened on the same property. It would provide cheap, accessible entertainment for an area of the city which is home to almost two million people for whom simply bopping down to Dodger Stadium is a tremendous headache given the traffic and expense. It would also help solve the California League’s problems with a couple of teams located in places where neither the teams nor the towns were particularly fond of one another any longer.

Sounds good, right? Well, it did to everyone but the Los Angeles Angels who, as is their right as co-owners of the Los Angeles Territory, have veto power over a minor league team locating there. They exercised that veto power, the plan died and the parties have all moved on. The land in question is probably going to be redeveloped into some boring mixed-use thing. There might even be a Costco there someday.

You should read the whole story because it provides a great overview of L.A.’s minor league history before the Dodgers showed up and provides an interesting glimpse into both the politics of minor league baseball and the dynamics of suburban/exurban communities for which they’re well suited.

Most importantly for our purposes, though, it reveals how dumb MLB’s territory system is.

In the couple of hours before a typical game time, the Angels are at least a two hour drive from where this park would’ve been, so there’s no reason whatsoever to think that they’d lose a single dime from by virtue of a an A-ball team existing in the Valley. Indeed, the Dodgers current California League team in Rancho Cucamonga is closer. The Angels are, likewise, extraordinarily unlikely to ever attempt to develop a fan base, let alone move the team, to the northern parts of the territory they share with the Dodgers. It makes little sense given their 50+ year history in Orange County and the Dodgers’ dominance in L.A. proper. That aside it strains credulity that, if they changed their mind on that score, a Class-A team would stand in the way of any such effort. Yet their territory rights are their territory rights and thus they had the power to kill this.

Not that we should pick on the Angels too much, of course, as there’s every reason to think that the Dodgers would do the same thing if the situations were reversed. Just as both of them would fight like mad to the point of litigation if Major League Baseball wanted to put a third team in Los Angeles. Just as other teams in other cities would fight just as hard if it was happening to them. This despite the fact that the economics and demographics of the country suggest that, maybe, a third L.A. team — or a third New York team, Chicago team or a second team in any number of other large cities — might make a ton of sense.

It’s unlikely to ever happen, though, because the genius capitalists of the Major League Baseball ownership class seem to value nothing more than their governmentally-granted monopolies and all of the corporate welfare that monopoly power has enabled them to extract over the years.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.