Friday, May 20, 2016

Report: Rangers Latest Team to Con Their Way to New Stadium

The buzz around the interwebs the last couple of days is that the City of Arlington is expected to announce their plans to help finance a new retractable-roof stadium for the Texas Rangers.  The Rangers currently play at Globe Life Park, which is barely 20 years old and cost about $190 million in 1994.  Their proposed new facility would cost nearly 5 times that amount and is speculated to open before their current lease is up following the 2023 season.  Arlington's share of the cost would come via dedicated sales tax, which would be on top of the one that already exists for JerryWorld across the street.  Taxpayers largely footed the bill for the current facility as well.

Am I excited that there will be another new park that I get to go see?  Of course I am.  I'm sure Erik and I will be there in its opening season like we always are.  But I think that any remotely intelligent person also understands how terrible of a deal it is when municipalities subsidize sports venues.  The thought of not having a major league team is so ghastly that cities and their citizens, almost without fail, are willing to just throw bags of money at teams lest they threaten to leave.  The Rangers are not the first team to use this tactic and certainly won't be the last.  The Braves successfully did the same thing a few years ago, and there was a story at the beginning of the year about how the D-backs already want out of Chase Field.  And I honestly can't say that I blame any of these teams - I mean, baseball is a business after all, and who wouldn't want for a free stadium if they knew they could get one?  The issue is much deeper than that and speaks to the whole concept that sports teams somehow provide financial benefit and social enrichment to a city, so much so that if one were to leave, it would be devastating.  The Supersonics left Seattle about 10 years ago and the city did not crumble to the ground or experience a mass exodus of people.  Having a sports team, while awesome, is largely a perceived value that does not organically spur economic development, unless that too is subsidized as in the case of many ballpark villages around the country.  Milwaukee went through this with the Miller Park 20 years ago (which we are still paying for), and they are going through it again now with the NBA Bucks.  The Brewers promised that the area surrounding the stadium would boom, and pretty much all we have to show for it is more parking lots and a new Target.  The Bucks have the whole state convinced that their new arena will create thousands of jobs and create a whole new entertainment district, and a state budget that was already in the red bonded the project with little opposition.

It may seem like that I am opposed to teams building new stadiums, but I am not.  If the Rangers honestly believe their current ballpark is already outdated after 22 years, then they have every right to do what is best for their business.  And however intangible, there is definitely something about having a major league sports team that puts a city on a different level.  But it is one thing to finance a project yourself like a normal developer or business would, and another thing to put it on somebody else's tab.  The practice of blackmailing municipalities for new ballparks is a dangerous trend that is only getting worse.  Many of these stadiums are putting cities into holes of debt that they can't climb out of.  Stadiums are getting more expensive and becoming obsolete at a faster pace than ever before, and until there is a fundamental shift in the way we think of the value of a sports franchise, the only losers will be taxpayers like you and me.  Rangers fans owe the team absolutely nothing, and the Rangers will do just fine financially if they play at Globe Life Park for the rest of its useful life.

UPDATE: Shortly after this post more specifics were announced.  Expected to top $1 billion with a 50/50 city-team split and anticipated opening by the 2021 season.  Would be located just to the south of the existing park in the same complex.  The new lease would run through January 1st, 2054.

Brewers 18-23, -11.0 (3 @ Mets, 3 @ Braves, 3 v. Reds, 3 v. Cardinals)
Reds 15-26, -14.0 (3 v. Mariners, 3 @ Dodgers, 3 @ Brewers, 4 @ Rockies
Twins 10-30, -14.5 (4 v. Blue Jays, 3 v. Royals, 3 @ Mariners, 3 @ Athletics)

Erik - 8 (+2 worked)

Peter - 14

Friday, May 13, 2016

The MLB Expansion Saga Continues

Last year, I wrote a largely speculative article about the future of the game and the possibility of expansion.  This past week, Commissioner Rob Manfred finally let slip a few of his thoughts on the baseball landscape and all but announced that MLB expansion was an inevitable reality.  During a stop in Chicago, he shared with the White Sox broadcasters in the booth his upcoming plans.  His comments gave credibility to what I and many others have thought since he took office: that the market for baseball is growing, and that MLB wants to start expanding their product beyond just the United States. 

Manfred confirmed that, following the next CBA, he would like to start looking into adding another two teams to bring the total up to 32.  This number makes much more sense with divisional alignment and there are certain many North American cities that can support an MLB team.  Manfred cited Montreal and Mexico City has his personal favorites.  Montreal has long been the "prodigal son" that people have talked about getting another crack at baseball, but Mexico City was mildly surprising.  It does make sense that the commissioner would want to expand into Mexico and Latin America, but Mexico City certainly has some crime and financial issues that would need to be put to rest before it became any more than talk, and Mexico is far more of a soccer country than some of the Caribbean countries.  There was an exhibition series between the Padres and Astros played at their main ballfield - Estadio Fray Nano, pictured above - this past March, similar to what Montreal did, so that is certainly a step in the right direction.  Some of the Latin American countries that have the biggest history and passion for baseball are not in great financial and political shape at the moment, so there would certainly have to be a stable ownership group and strong national support behind any team starting up there. 

MLB expansion is still just the tip of the iceberg in my opinion.  I still think there is a fair chance that either the A's or the Rays, if not both, move from their current cities, and Montreal and Mexico City could play a role in that.  There is also the issue of one MLB team equals at least another 5 minor league affiliates per team.  Would Manfred push for those to be internationally based as well?  There are certainly many serviceable Mexican and Canadian League stadiums to use on a temporary basis, as well as many older parks on the eastern seaboard that are lying dormant.  As a ballpark chaser, this is the most exciting prospect to me - getting to see potentially 12 more stadiums, and not just 2.  "Put it on the list," as Erik and I like to say.

Brewers 14-21, -12.0 (4 v. Padres, 3 v. Cubs)
Reds 14-20, -11.5 (3 @ Phillies, 2 @ Indians, 2 v. Indians
Twins 8-25, -14.0 (3 @ Indians, 3 @ Tigers)

Erik - 7 (+2 worked)

Peter - 13

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

What MLB Team Should You Root For?

Somewhere in the depths of my Etsy searches for wedding ideas over the past year I came across this flowchart.  I don't know if I just subconsciously meandered into baseball stuff or if my computer just knows my search history all too well.  This may not be a new meme, I'm not sure when this originally came out, but I only found out what a meme was like last year so give me a break.  Is it intended to be a joke?  Yes, but I've followed every path on this chart and it's also amazingly accurate.  For instance, tailgating factors in the determination of about a third of the teams, which is an all-too crucial criterion.

The very first team on the flow chart is the best - do you have a soul?  If the answer is no, you are a Yankees fan.  Enjoy finding out which team you really should be rooting for.

Brewers 11-15, -8.5 (4 @ Reds, 3 @ Marlins)
Reds 10-17, -10.0 (4 v. Brewers, 3 v. Pirates
Twins 8-19, -11.0 (3 @ White Sox, 3 v. Orioles)

Erik - 7 (+2 worked)

Peter - 12