A More Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy

How can you not despise baseball’s upper management?

There are two things on my front burner this week. Both demonstrate the contempt management has for the institution of baseball and the common fan when it doesn’t have a positive effect on the bottom line.

On Oct. 23, the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. will award the contract for the demolition of Tiger Stadium. The following data points are courtesy of Neal Rubin’s recent column in the Detroit News. In the interests of full disclosure, I’m a big fan of his work, since he’s one of the few writers in the Motown media who doesn’t read like he’s been writing while “looking up” at Mike Ilitch.

(For some additional background, we’ve discussed this issue on a couple of other occasions.)

Here are some questions every Detroiter should be asking about Tiger Stadium:

Why is it being demolished?

Who will develop the land?

How does the city benefit from demolishing Tiger Stadium?

How will the demolition be financed and who pays for it?

Guess what? There hasn’t been one thin dime put on the table for developing the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.

Not one dime, not one nickel, not one penny.

So it’s not being demolished to make way for new development. The residents of Detroit know all too well that there are a great many buildings in the city that could be demolished. A good number of them have been abandoned longer than Tiger Stadium. Why aren’t they being consigned to the dustbin of history? Simple: Nobody has any interest in development of those sites.

“The Corner” doesn’t have anybody interested in developing it, either, but it’s on death row. That’s not quite true: A number of groups have expressed interest in in preserving parts, if not all, of Tiger Stadium, so allow me to rephrase that. “The Corner’ doesn’t have anybody interested in developing it for non-baseball-related enterprises either, but it’s on death row.

The money for destruction is allegedly coming from the Clean Michigan Initiative and city brownfield tax credits. The Clean Michigan Initiative (CMI) is a $675 million bond approved by state voters in 1998. Much of the money ($335 million) was slated for brownfields—areas where there are environmental issues.

I said it’s allegedly coming from this source because:

1) The city hasn’t applied for money from the initiative.
2) The CMI doesn’t feel Tiger Stadium would qualify for the funds since there are no real environmental issues surrounding the land.
3) There’s less than $4 million left in the fund and several applications are ahead of Tiger Stadium.

Which means that chances are good that it’s the taxpayers of Detroit who will foot the bill for its destruction, even though some parties are interested in purchasing the land for baseball-related enterprises.

This raises the logical question: Of all the abandoned properties in Detroit, why is Tiger Stadium slated for destruction when there is absolutely no commitment from any (non-baseball-related) parties to develop the site and it will end up costing city taxpayers $1 to $2 million?

The answer was indirectly answered by Detroit’s planning and development director, Henry Hagood:

“We don’t believe another ball club should go in there.” (bolding mine)

Why would a city official make such a statement? Why qualify what kind of business should be run at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull as long as it’s legitimate? Regardless of who buys the land, the money is still green and is a positive for the coffers of Detroit. To sell the property, no strings attached, adds to the city’s revenues and lightens the tax burden whereas the destruction of Tiger Stadium will cost taxpayers almost $2 million.

The city is destroying the park because there’s no developer interested enough in the property to pay for demolition. The only parties interested in the corner of Michigan and Trumbull are ones who want to put the stadium to baseball-related use. This means that Detroit politicians would prefer to take money out of Detroit taxpayers’ pockets instead of doing something that would be of benefit to the tax base all because the city’s position on “the Corner” is: “We don’t believe another ball club should go in there.”

Does it make any logical sense to spend millions and forego millions (plus the taxes paid by whomever takes over the stadium) all because of an opinion that roughly boils down to: “The property at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull is suitable for any kind of legitimate business venture that you can come up with—save one… baseball. Due to this we will do something that will cost the public rather than increase city revenues that could be used to benefit the public.”

Is that a logical stance for a public servant?

It is a perfectly logical stance for a corporate servant—especially if your master is named Mike Ilitch and your master wants to protect his private business (that was, and is, subsidized by the public to the tune of a few hundred million dollars) from any competition.

The prophet Ezekiel may well have foreseen politics in Detroit when he wrote:

“Every prostitute receives a fee, but you give gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from everywhere for your illicit favors. So in your prostitution you are the opposite of others; no one runs after you for your favors. You are the very opposite, for you give payment and none is given to you.”—Ezekiel 16:33,34

An irreplaceable piece of baseball history is about to be destroyed by a city that already has given hundreds of millions of dollars to a competition-hating capitalist to protect his profit margin…at the expense of the very people who wish to save it.

Just remember this the next time an owner whines about players’ salary demands. Players only want money. Owners want money so badly that they’ll devour souls to acquire it.

Sadly, Bud Selig isn‘t an idiot…

He knows precisely what he’s doing. As to the Mitchell steroid investigation, on the surface, Bud is doing everything wrong. He encourages players to be forthcoming but at the same time, punishes (and threatens to punish) those who do speak up. Tests that were supposedly confidential are being mysteriously leaked.

Right now, Selig is thinking seriously of suspending Jason Giambi for his remarks to USA Today, where he said:

“I was wrong for doing that stuff… What we should have done a long time ago was stand up—players, ownership, everybody—and said: ‘We made a mistake.’ We should have apologized back then and made sure we had a rule in place and gone forward. … Steroids and all of that was a part of history. But it was a topic that everybody wanted to avoid. Nobody wanted to talk about it.”

Or, Giambi might be suspended for not testifying to George Mitchell. In other words Giambi might be suspended for talking, or he might be suspended for not talking. Selig himself stated:

“Any admission regarding the use of illegal performance-enhancing substances, no matter how casual, must be taken seriously”

He’s created a situation where players are unlikely to talk.

Which is what he probably wants. Selig isn’t trying to get to the bottom of anything. Mitchell isn’t digging for management’s complicity in this fustercluck, Selig is trying to keep the focus on the players. What Bud wants from this investigation is:

1) Make sure that public perception is that performance-enhancing drugs was a baseball players scandal—not a baseball one.
2) Demonstrate to Congress and the public that the Mitchell investigation proves that he is a crusader on a mission to get to the bottom of this dirty business and restore the game’s integrity.
3) Show Congress that he is indeed “serious” about purging anabolic steroids from his sport by coming down hard on those miscreants guilty of using them.

Selig wants information—but not too much. He’s looking for a delicate balance where he can protect his legacy and baseball’s late-1990s renaissance while at the same time looking like he’s serious about ridding baseball of drugs. It’s also about the four-decades-old cold war that has been part of labor relations in MLB since Marvin Miller. The MLBPA has been on the defensive the last few years and Selig wants to keep it that way.

As to Mr. Giambi, he has no assurances, and a lot of good reasons to suspect that anything he says will be leaked. He’s seen his grand jury testimony leaked, he’s seen a confidential amphetamine test result leaked, and now Selig is trying to get him to admit that he may have committed a crime knowing full well that what he says likely will end up on the public record. I know it’s fashionable to infer that the commissioner’s office tends to have phallicranium-behavioral issues, but it appears that it has a prostate problem, too, judging by its chronic problem with leaking.

One thing we’ve learned about management is this: It keeps its word and its promises only when it’s in management’s best interests to do so. If baseball management feels its best interests are served through reneging, it’ll renege. It’s that simple.

The Whine Cellar

Even a blind squirrel will find the odd nut.

After Roy Halladay went on the DL for appendicitis, I wrote:

As a result, I think the Jays will be a pleasant surprise over the next while. I’m not saying they’ll go 25-5 over their next 30 games, but they’ll do a lot better than folks think. (17-13 maybe?) Jeremy Accardo, I think, will be fine as the closer and the more confidence these guys get in their stuff, the better.

The Jays are 17-13 since Roy Halladay’s last start concluded the Jays’ nine-game losing streak.

I’m not happy about it, however. (Am I ever? What’s the title of this section again?)

The Jays’ limp offense has blunted what has been some terrific pitching of late. Among the heroes of the last 30 games are A.J. Burnett, Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan (4.30 ERA since Halladay went down, 3.00 ERA over his last five in 33.2 IP), and brilliant bullpen work (2.45 ERA in 91.2 IP), including 53 innings of 1.19 ERA pitching from Brian Tallet and others. (Tallet’s the unquestioned hero of late…before getting dinged for two runs in 1.1 IP Wednesday he hadn‘t been scored upon in 10 of his last 11 appearances spanning 21.1 IP). Jason Frasor has a 1.35 ERA since he was taken out of the closer spot and setup man Casey Janssen has a 1.00 ERA over his last 16 appearances.

In all, the relief corps had a combined 77 appearances and didn’t give up a run in 59 of them.

The totals:

Reliever        G  SA* IP  BB   K   ERA
Brian Tallet   12  10 22.2  8  18  1.19
Casey Janssen  17  14 18.0  4  11  1.00
Scott Downs    17  13 15.2 11  15  3.45
Jason Frasor    8   6 13.1  3  16  1.35
Jeremy Accardo 14  11 13.0  6  15  5.25
Josh Towers     3   2  5.1  0   7  1.59 
Brian Wolfe     4   2  3.1  1   1  5.41
Jordan DeJong   2   1  2.0  2   4  9.00 

*scoreless appearances

Even though Halladay came back earlier than expected, the Jays got 16 quality starts out of the 27 non-Halladay games. Burnett and Marcum notched five each, and McGowan kicked in four. (Jesse Litsch and Tomo Ohka each had one.) You’d think that if you combined the work of that trio (14 QS) with a razor-sharp bullpen, the Jays would come away with something better than an 8-6 record.

Over the last 30 games, Burnett/McGowan/Marcum made 20 starts, averaged over 6.1 IP and posted an ERA of 3.24. Halladay won two of three and pitched better than I expected out of the gate after his surgery (his 5.71 ERA since he came off the DL was the result of an eight runs/3.1 IP pounding by the D-Rays).

True, the bullpen had a couple of mishaps, but those mishaps could’ve been prevented with better offensive support.

Even though Burnett might have to miss a start, Towers’ peripherals are encouraging. Although he’s given up more hits than innings pitched, he has a BB/9 of 1.33 and a K/9 of 8.41 this year. His problem is that he’s given up seven of his nine HR with men on base. As stated here before, Towers has to stop worrying about the stolen base and start worrying about the three-run jack. His strikeouts and stinginess with walks should insure that even if he gives up the odd stolen base by pitching from the windup, he’s far better off with that than the .318/.328/.682 line he gives up pitching from the stretch (he’s .255/.291/.378 from the windup).

The Jays’ pitching staff over the last 30 games, despite significant pitcher attrition, had an aggregate ERA of 3.58 ERA. However, in 17 of those games Toronto scored three runs or fewer.

Now you know why I’m not happy.

Webb Search

As of June 14…

Players are on (or close to*) pace to top Earl Webb’s record of 67 doubles (assuming 600 AB):

Player            2B  Team  Pace 
Magglio Ordonez   30   DET   76
David Ortiz       25   BOS   68
Chase Utley       23   PHI   63

*on pace for at least 60

We’ll be following their progress on this page as the season goes on.

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