BOB:  Twins and Rays stadium news

Twins cash in on new stadium

The Minnesota Twins got bumped from the playoffs in the first round again but fans can take some consolation in the fact that their new ballpark brought in a substantial amount of money for the team. Whether you believe author Andrew Zimbalist’s $50 million figure of Forbes magazine’s $70 million figure the end result is the team should have plenty of money to lock up key free agents over the coming years.

Of course Field of Schemes brings up an interesting point in that if the team is having such a windfall, why are county residents footing the bill for the ballpark through a sales-tax hike? Field of Schemes also mentions that this honeymoon period can sometimes be short lived if the team doesn’t perform on the field and even when they do, they usually end at around seven years at best.

Rays stadium rhetoric heats up

As I’m writing this, the Tampa Bay Rays are getting ready to fight for their playoff lives in a pivotal Game 5 showdown against the Texas Rangers. While the Rays’ success on the field has them as one of the best teams in baseball, their pursuit of a new stadium has shifted in a new direction. Baseball author and columnist Howard Bryant gives us a nice rundown of the Rays and their current success. Buried in the piece is some disturbing information that could lead up to what everyone expects to be a stadium showdown.

First, he mentions that MLB commissioner Bud Selig has suggested the team not make any significant financial investment in the area until attendance improves. The Rays, despite finishing with the best record in the American League, finished with just the 22nd best attendance and they were one of just nine teams to have less than a 2 million person draw.

Bryant also goes into some of the specific stadium issues as well. He talks about how the geography doesn’t help because it cuts off a portion of the fan base. Another factor is that Florida is more of a football state but even the football teams aren’t selling out in this tough economic environment. For now, the city of St. Petersburg and the Rays have decided to put off discussions on a new stadium until after the end of the season but with that approaching, we’ll soon see what the next chapter is in this story.

Mesa’s spring training quandary

On Nov. 2, 2010, Mesa, Ariz. voters will vote on proposition 420 and if that’s passed, it would allow the city to spend up to $99 million on a new spring training complex for the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs have agreed to stay in Mesa but only if the new complex is built. The big wild card is voters will have to go into the vote not knowing how the new complex will be paid for because none of the solutions that have been thrown around have stuck. Talk about a leap of faith.

If passed, $84 million of the $99 million would be spent on the new complex and the remaining $15 million would go toward any associated infrastructure costs. If the ballpark costs more than $84 million, then the Cubs will pick up the rest of the tab. As far as how the stadium will be paid for, the options range from dipping into the city’s enterprise fund to a hotel tax.

Grumbling over umpires leads to meeting

Some of the missed calls this year have led for a new round of outcry for instant replay. While the league hasn’t gone all in on instant replay yet, the Major League Baseball Players Association has pushed and will get a sit down meeting in December with the players, umpires and league officials hashing out ideas for the future. Details of the meeting haven’t been revealed but it’s been made known that the tension between the players and the umpires is about as high as it can get.

Minor League news

There were some stragglers as the teams have mostly finalized deals with their minor league affiliates. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim has a new Class A advanced affiliate in the Inland Empire 66ers. The Detroit Tigers renewed their player development contract with their Double-A affiliate, the Erie SeaWolves, for another two years. Finally, the Florida Marlins will have the Jacksonville Suns as their Double-A affiliate for another two years.

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Comments

  1. southsidemike said...

    I don’t “call for more replay”, I call for better umpires.
    How many umpires have been called on the carpet for errors this year?
    How many have been fined for shoddy work?
    How many have been fired?

    …Answer: NONE. How can the umpires be expected to get better when there are no penalties for failure?

  2. gdc said...

    Penalties are appropriate for behavior but not low performance.  Fining a player for popping up a bunt is not likely to make him a better player, but fining him for not running it out in case it doesn’t get caught might keep everyone from dogging it.
    So unless there is something like being too heavy to stay in a good position or being too argumentative with players/managers, I think only your last one is a factor, but unless there is a way of measuring what minor league ump might do better (as opposed to having the most seniority) it’s like a bad team just running people through their roster and dropping them when they hit a cold streak.

  3. gdc said...

    Penalties are appropriate for behavior but not low performance.  Fining a player for popping up a bunt is not likely to make him a better player, but fining him for not running it out in case it doesn’t get caught might keep everyone from dogging it.
    So unless there is something like being too heavy to stay in a good position or being too argumentative with players/managers, I think only your last one is a factor, but unless there is a way of measuring what minor league ump might do better (as opposed to having the most seniority) it’s like a bad team just running people through their roster and dropping them when they hit a cold streak.

  4. Jim C said...

    I agree with southside mike about the umps. They are missing too many important calls, and are just too arrogant. I think all umps should be wired for sound, so that it can be learned just what was said in an argument, and how much the umpire contributed to it. As to a stadium for the Rays, if a way could be found to build it around historic Al Land field, in a great location on the waterfront, I think that would be ideal. It would probably need a retractable dome to deal with the weather, and mlb should help with the costs.

  5. Brad Johnson said...

    I’d like to see the Rays get out of Florida while they still have a brimming player development system, but where do you send them? North Jersey seems like a possibility that’s rarely discussed, but the Yankees, Mets, and Phillies would be quick to spurn it. The other options don’t seem to be any better than Florida.

  6. Jim C said...

    The only viable alternative for relocation in the US is Las Vegas, I think. What other market that has the population base to support a team, and has not already rejected ballot measures to pay for a ballpark, does not already have a team? DC was the best hope, but they have a team and a new park now, thanks to the fact that it only took four city council members to approve it, not an entire state legislature, or a ballot referendum. If MLB is serious about making the sport more international, then why not a team in Mexico City? The travel schedule would not be affected significantly, and it would be bold and daring. And if relations with Cuba are ever normalized, a team in Havana should be automatic.

  7. Brad Johnson said...

    It was my understanding that the actual market in Vegas was greatly overstated because of the tourism in the region. I mention North Jersey because a team in that area would have access to parts of 2 large markets and as an added bonus would draw fans away from the Phillies, Mets, and Yankees. From a competition standpoint that can only be seen as a good thing, although the business aspect is less sunny.

    As for Mexico City or Havana, the MLB needs much looser rules on how players choose their teams. Like it or not, there would be American players who would refuse to sign with a team not based in the US or Canada.

  8. Brad Johnson said...

    I don’t know offhand how competitive a team in Mexico (or Cuba) would be considering that their revenues would be in pesos and their expenses in dollars.

  9. Danmay said...

    @southsidemike

    “How many umpires have been called on the carpet for errors this year?”

    A lot, or at least it seems that way. I have to admit that 2010 seems to be a year where a lot of stuff (pardon my generality) is being called out more than ever, but I would attribute this to changes in the structure of media.

    If that isn’t enough then I would say that a blown call on a perfect game in the beginning of June would generate a lot more scrutiny for the rest of the year.

    That being said: Give me some instant replay, please.

  10. Paul said...

    Penalties for poor performance are completely appropriate.  In the business world, failure to perform the duties assigned can result in all sorts of punishments including denial of raises/bonuses, docked pay, suspensions without pay, demotions, and outright termination.  I do not see why baseball umpires should be different. 

    Perhaps it is true that our demands on the umpires have increased.  In this day and age we can review their failures on instant reply from three different angles within seconds of the call.  And while I can sympathize with this greater burden, the fact remains that they have a job to do and either they do the job or they should be replaced with others who can.  Furthermore, if the new demands are simply too much for anyone, then technology should be implemented to improve their performance, just like any other industry.  Get with the program or watch the game from the stands.

    But gdc does have a point that if you are going to punish/fire umpires for poor performance, you better have a way of measuring performance.  High profile blown calls are a poor way to judge unless the umpire has a pattern of blowing high profile calls (umpire clutch rating anyone?)  But this sort of analysis can actually be done.  ESPN did a two week review of umpire calls (no balls and strikes) and was able to classify every play into right, wrong, and too close to tell.  If the MLB is serious about improving umpires, they should be doing this for all games.  Combine that with the QuestTec data for balls and strikes and it should become clear who should be seeking alternate employment.

  11. Brad Johnson said...

    Building on that, you have to evaluate the umps in the minors too. You don’t fire Garrett Atkins so you can make Willie Taveras a 1b. Before relieving someone, someone who’s either better or has greater potential needs to be available. Unlike baseball, potential is difficult to evaluate in umpires and there’s no army of scouts to dig out that info. Even performance is difficult to figure.

  12. Jim C said...

    Umpires are evaluated at every level, which is one of the ways they move up. But one of the requirements to be in the minors or majors is attendance at, and graduation from, one of a few umpire schools run by former major league umpires. This contributes to the continuing of bad positioning, not asking for help, and confrontational attitudes that have been prevalent for generations. It is usually easy to tell when an umpire knows he has missed a call. When the player or manager starts arguing, he gets defensive, screams at them at least as loud as they are screaming at him, and he ejects one or more people. I’ve seen this at every level at which I played, coached, and spectated. I was at a SABR event once where a minor league umpire made this astonishing statement; “If a shortstop goes in the hole and makes a great play, even if the throw is a little late, I’ll call the runner out every time.” I didn’t get to ask any followup questions, but I can only guess he was a failed shortstop, who could not make the play in the hole.

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