May 25, 2013
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Thursday, March 12, 2009
Maybe it's crazy to look for hidden benefits in all of the recent economic strife, but I try to do it anyway. One of them -- and I realize that it may be pie in the sky as opposed to a silver-lined cloud -- is the possibility that the bad times may lead to an increase in social equality. I don't mean direct economic equality really, because we're not likely to have that, but rather, an increase in the spheres of human activity in which people from disparate backgrounds can meet and interact as equals.
Yes, there have always been havens for the very rich, but it used to be that a far greater proportion of the population had to go down to the post office and wait on line together, or leave from the same train station, or get sick, get better, or die at the same hospitals. It's only been very recently that anything approaching a significant number of people had the means and inclination to opt-out of public or quasi-public institutions via the purchase of previously exclusive goods or by gating themselves off from the masses in ways both figurative and literal. To put a baseball spin on it, the great grandstand of yesterday has all but disappeared as more and more of us have aspired to luxury boxes and club level seats, usually paid for by corporations rather than ourselves.
I don't know if such a dynamic has a quantifiable impact on our health as a nation, but it does seem like we've lived in an unprecedentedly decadent, and socially-isolating age. On one level I suppose access to the finer things is the very promise of modern capitalism. When I think about it, however, it strikes me that the aspiration for exclusivity flies in the face of the democratic ideals which have made modern capitalism possible. And when I get in such a frame of mind, stories like this make me feel better:
Break out the sunscreen and come hungry for a hot dog or two. Because of the struggling economy, seats on one of those cool rooftops across the street from Wrigley Field can now be yours for a dozen or more Cubs games this season.
I suppose its naive to think that the Wrigley rooftops will ever return to the relatively non-commercial entities they once were -- if indeed they ever were -- but maybe this is symbolic of something bigger. Maybe the bad times which we're currently enduring will beat out of us the notion that the professional classes and the moderately well-off are the class-apart we've allowed ourselves to believe they (we) are. Maybe some 20 years down the road, when the owners are looking to renovate or replace the stadiums they built in the past two decades, they'll feel compelled to build in more grandstands and fewer club level seats.
The Giants are looking to do more in Japan:
If you can't beat 'em, recruit 'em.
Question: do they have 36 year-old corner players coming off of fluke seasons and demanding three-year deals in Japan? If so, Sabean's interest here is obvious.
OK, that was a cheap shot. Good on the Giants for doing everything they can do to get better. They are only the fifth team to have a full-time Japanese operation, and the earlier you get in to any market, the better you'll do. As far as wooing the Japanese, however, this may be the best thing they could possibly do:
Early Wednesday, Willie Mays was in the Giants' clubhouse signing three dozen balls for Japan's players and coaches. It was his idea, and one of the Japanese clubbies who brought back the balls called the gesture "unbelievable."
One would think that based on the five-hour shorter flight time from Tokyo alone San Francisco would have a leg up on other teams trying to land Japanese players. Add in some Willie Mays schwag and you've got yourself a seriously cool hearts and minds campaign.
From our friend MooseinOhio, in the Think of the Children thread, on baseball's ability to provide teaching moments:
As a parent and uncle to children under six who are already expressing a real interest in baseball (nephew memorized Red Sox yearbook latt year) I wonder when it is appropriate to talk about the negatives of baseball. There is a long history of negative issues associated with baseball including the Black Sox scandal, the exclusion of non-white players, racist ownership groups that did everything possible not to integrate, Pete Rose’s saga and why he is not in the HoF and why players have a history of abusing their bodies with items such as excessive alcohol, uppers and PEDs.
Italy is apparently trying to make bloggers register with the government.
So much for my plan of retiring from the law and producing ShysterBall from a little Ligurian village.
Last year Fox's Dayn Perry started -- and then suspended -- what looked to be shaping up into a must-read blog called Spolitical, which focused on the intersection of sports, politics, business, and society. The suspension was for a good reason: he owed a book to a publisher, and as I'm finding out, it's hard to maintain a job, a blog, AND write a book (or in my case, pretend to write a book). For the record, I think the book was about how to rig the fantasy league you run so that you win the championship. Or at least it should be, because Dayn's an expert in that area.
Anyway, to the joy and delight of us all, Spolitical is back, and Dayn is posting at a feverish pace. Check it out. You'll be happy you did.
There was a story on NPR last night about a man trying to reconcile his young son's love of baseball and the steroid era. The subject, Jim Gullo, has an eight year-old son who is becoming a hardcore baseball freak, but who, at the same time, is acutely aware of Barry Bonds' issues, the Mitchell Report, and the rest of the ongoing steroid saga. This, according to the piece, presents a problem:
Gullo, 52, introduced his son to an old baseball board game that he used to play as a kid. He also was Joe's Little League coach. When Joe turned 7, Gullo got him a PlayStation 2 baseball video game that his son fell in love with. But that same year, the Mitchell Report on doping in baseball was released. Gullo suddenly had to confront a dark reality of cheating and lying, and drugs. Many of the top players in Joe's video game were implicated in the report, as was the player whose name was on Joe's new baseball glove. Joe's prized baseball card collection became possible evidence of wrongdoing. He started separating cards that had suspicious home run numbers — a big surge in home runs, followed by a drop-off. He'd crunch the numbers and then ask his dad if the player did steroids.
This all seems rather weak and contrived to me. If you listen to the actual audio of the story, it's plainly obvious that his son is not suffering any lost love for baseball whatsoever. Indeed, he sounds like a more amped-up version of me when I was eight combined with the healthily skeptical adult fan you can find anywhere these days. At the same time, the father doesn't exactly come off as the "won't somebody think of the children?!" type either. Certainly not the kind of guy who is outsourcing the role model business to pro athletes. He loves baseball. His son loves baseball. They're both able to talk about it intelligently and with perspective. What's the problem?
After listening to the story, I can't help but think that this "dilemma" and the search for "a new kind of baseball hero" is being played up a bit in the service of the memoir Gullo is writing. My guess is that that in the book, the "new kind of baseball hero" is going to end up being Gullo himself for introducing the game to his son and taking him on what sounds like will be a great trip. Which is how it should be.
CC Sabathia is having a rough spring:
This was bound to happen.
CC himself notes in the article that he started last year in atrocious fashion: 0-3, with an ERA of 13.50 and nearly a walk and two hits per inning. I'm sure a huge number of Yankees' fans are unaware of this and will immediately expect the Sabathia they saw last September once the season starts. If that doesn't happen, the Bronx Zoo is going to open early this year.
Bob Young of the Arizona Republic is reviewing the new Cactus League spring training complexes. Yesterday was New Dodgertown. Today it's the Indians' new place, where he found some unhappy folks:
Their complaint wasn't with the ballpark itself, but with the "Recreational Complex" that includes the team's development facilities, clubhouse and practice fields. For some, the only thing missing from the place is razor wire.
Quite true. It's been a while since I've visited spring training, but my sense is that folks don't go so watch semi-competitive baseball games played by minor leaguers and NRIs. They want to walk around, rub shoulders with ballplayers, and pretend to be scouts or beat reporters or something. That's awful hard to do from a distance.
The idea of bringing the A's to San Jose is quickly moving from thinking out loud to formal campaign:
The campaign to bring the Oakland Athletics to San Jose will be launched at the April 7 City Council meeting, city officials decided Wednesday.
Not that everyone is on board:
In the crowd were several people who spoke against the idea of building a stadium near downtown, including one man who hoisted a sign that read “A’s OK in San Jose But Not Taxes.”
"A deadening?" Is that really true? I'm no expert on San Francisco history, but my understanding was that the South Beach neighborhood -- where AT&T Park sits -- was basically homeless encampments, dilapidated warehouses, grown-over storage yards and rusty piers. Sure, the kind of development seen around the ballpark there comes with its own set of concerns -- pricing out lower income people and businesses chief among them -- but we're not talking about an even arguably vibrant working class neighborhood, are we?
Citigroup and any other business that buys naming rights obviously wants more than their name on the building. They want the name to be used constantly as people refer to the place in conversations, on broadcasts, in directions, in news stories, and everywhere else for that matter. "I'll meet you at Citi Field." "We're located just off the Long Island Express Way, two blocks from Citi Field!" "Hello again everybody, and welcome to beautiful Citi Field, where today the Yankees play the Red Sox in a game relocated due to Yankee Stadium's destruction at the hands of Dr. Manhattan." That kind of thing.
In reality, the majority of these efforts are thwarted in that people either continue to use the old name for the stadium or the name of the stadium the corporate name is replacing, or more creatively, people come up with cutesy new names in an effort to avoid using the corporate name. BOB. The Phone Booth. That kind of thing.
The New York Metropolitan Transit Authority is taking it one step further, telling Citigroup that if they want their name used on a subway station, they'll have to pay for the privilege.
Good for the Transit Authority.