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Tag: "baseball"

Water Hogs

[ 28 ] November 1, 2015 |


Who are the biggest water hogs in California? Well, in the Bay Area, the worst is a Chevron exec. Second is some venture capitalist. You’d expect these two types to lead. Third? Billy Beane!

Oakland A’s big cheese Billy Beane, famous for his statistical money-saving approach to assembling a baseball team, has been far less economical with his water, according to an East Bay Municipal Utility District roster that places him among the top water hogs in the East Bay.

The baseball team’s executive vice president, for whom the phrase “Moneyball” was invented, has been slopping nearly 6,000 gallons of water a day on the grounds of his Danville estate and his swimming pool, placing him third on a preliminary list of excessive water users released Friday.

The average residential customer uses about 250 gallons a day per household.

The list of 1,108 names is not complete, according to Abby Figueroa, district spokeswoman, including only about a third of the district’s residential customers — essentially those who received penalties for guzzling more than 1,000 gallons of water per day. Still, it is an indication of the huge disparity in water use among the 1.3 million customers in 35 East Bay cities that receive water from the district.

The East Bay Municipal Utility District as a whole has cut water use by 21 percent since Jan. 1.

Beane issued a statement Friday saying that it wasn’t really his fault.

“Multiple irrigation leaks and a significant pool leak were recently discovered and are in the process of being corrected,” said the man who was using 5,996 gallons a day at home while his baseball team wallowed in last place. “We are more than displeased and embarrassed by the usage and are taking immediate action.”

More on this issue in California broadly.



[ 18 ] October 9, 2015 |


This reprint of a 1977 profile of Reggie Jackson is amazing. It goes up there with the Ken Stabler profile. In fact, there should be more reprints of old sports journalism. Great stuff.

The Atlanta Stadium Mess

[ 84 ] September 22, 2015 |


From the moment the Atlanta Braves announced they were moving from their downtown stadium that is all of 20 years old to the Cobb County suburbs, I was disgusted. Choosing to base your future on the model of the Texas Rangers as opposed to the many teams that have built in the city where public transportation is at least possible said far too much about Atlanta. Turner Field is just south of downtown and you know who lives down there don’t you? That’s right, black people. That’s what a lot of this was about–white people fearing black people, which dominates so much of Atlanta-era politics and has forever, including suburbs refusing to allow MARTA to build out there because of fear that they would come.

But the political machinations and corruption that have gone into this new stadium make this whole story even more gross.

Ah, the Braves bridge. It’s a mess. It has always been a mess. The concept first appeared in November of 2013, shortly after Cobb County stunned the sports world by announcing that it was luring the team out to the ‘burbs. (To keep the negotiations a secret, it later was revealed, county commission chair Tim Lee had secretly hired a lawyer with commission money without telling any of his colleagues, and then made some commission members stand outside in hallways while others met behind closed doors to evade open-meetings laws. The democratic process.) At the time, no one knew how much the bridge would cost, or exactly how it would be paid for. Those details would be worked out in due time.

Two weeks later, the Cobb County commission passed the Braves stadium deal—or most of it, anyway. Still to be negotiated was a “transportation agreement” that would spell out things like any highway ramps or, say, bridges that might need to be built to enable Braves fans to get to games. But that would happen soon, just you wait.

One year later, with construction on the stadium underway, the bridge remained on the drawing board. Cobb County officials, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, “still don’t know how much the bridge will cost or how the county will pay for its half.”

This summer, things got much, much worse, as the Journal-Constitution reported that the bridge might not be ready until September 2017, five months after the stadium opens. That would leave almost an entire season where Braves fans would have to park their cars, then edge their way along the side of a eight-lane highway, underneath an overpass, to finally arrive at their seats. It’s walkable, but as one local noted in a web comment, only in the way that “the road in the game Frogger was walkable”— so probably not the sort of stroll anyone will want to attempt after nine innings and a few beers.

That brings us up to this week, when Lee finally admitted that the bridge won’t be open until at least the stadium’s second season, at the earliest. The Marietta Daily Journal, meanwhile, is reporting that the actual owners of the parking lot that the Braves plan to use—both the state authority that runs the neighboring convention center and the private owners of the office towers that sit nearby—have no interest in allowing the Braves to build a bridge at all, which could result in sad, desperate fans driving to the stadium only to sit forlornly in their cars, listening to games on the radio and wondering what life is like on the other side of I-285.

So backroom dealing, giving lip service about transportation with no actual plan to fund or implement it, and forcing taxpayers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars? All in a day’s work. At least visitors won’t have to see any black people!

The DH

[ 162 ] April 26, 2015 |


Can we please make the Designated Hitter universal? Excellent pitchers like Adam Wainwright who have no business batting getting hurt for the year while doing so is only bad for the game. Having pitchers hit is the equivalent of making kickers play a down in an NFL game because they did so in high school. The only good argument against the DH is that the league didn’t used to have it and everyone knows that the way the game was played when Boomers were growing up was the best way and that’s why players using greenies is OK but players using steroids are monsters who should be driven from the game. There is literally no down side to the DH except for those who like to watch utter incompetence in professional sports. And for that, just become a Mariners fan like me.

Baseball Executives Want to Use the War on Drugs to Avoid the Bad Contracts They Signed

[ 51 ] April 4, 2015 |

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Baltimore Orioles

Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton has a long history of substance abuse that nearly derailed his career. But he finally got it together. Of course, substance abuse and addiction are very difficult issues. He had a relapse over the offseason. He could have tried to avoid responsibility. Instead, he told the Angels and MLB voluntarily.

Josh Hamilton signed a 5 years-$125 million contract with the Angels before the 2013 season. This was a great contract for him but a really stupid one for the Angels. Even at the end of his time with the Rangers, Hamilton’s production was falling. He always struggled with plate discipline and the years of substance abuse probably made his skills decline a touch faster than they would have naturally. His strikeouts skyrocketed in 2012. Hamilton, when he hasn’t been hurt, has been a slightly above league average player the first two years of this contract.

The Angels wanted to suspend Hamilton for violating his substance abuse program, even though he came to them voluntarily. Yesterday, an arbitrator ruled that they could not. The response of Angels GM Jerry DiPoto and president John Carpino did not hide the team’s disappointment:

This led to sportswriters ripping the Angels as it became clear this was about saving money and using baseball’s war on drugs to bail teams out of bad contracts, not helping Hamilton. Bill Plaschke:

The team that has already given away Hamilton’s locker is now publicly kicking him to the curb. The organization known for a cuddly primate has bared its teeth and revealed its vindictiveness. This is not only about wanting to make sure Hamilton is off drugs, this is about wanting him off their payroll and out of their lives.

The Angels want Hamilton suspended so they can save the remaining $83 million on his contract, save awkwardness when he returns to a clubhouse, and basically just save themselves the hassle. They don’t care that Hamilton or his teammates are listening, they don’t care that a Southern California fan base that often winces at such intolerance is listening. They just want him gone.

This column is not a defense of the arbitrator’s ruling. The Angels are right that it was wrong. While the ruling technically adheres to baseball drug law, it goes against the spirit of the discipline required to make that law effective. Reportedly one of the factors in allowing Hamilton to avoid discipline is he reported his relapse instead of failing a drug test. That sets a dangerous precedent. So if a player thinks he just tested positive, he can get off the hook by immediately throwing himself on the mercy of the commissioner before the test results become public? That’s a gaping loophole that needs to be closed.

But the Angels should have kept their mouths closed. Why further humiliate a sick player by warning him he’s no longer welcome? Why not let him finish his rehabilitation while finding some inner peace, then leave open the possibility he could play for you again?

And the usually measured Ken Rosenthal on why everything about this case was leaked throughout the process:

Even if the arbitrator had determined that Hamilton indeed violated his program, the entire matter should have remained private, at least until the moment commissioner Rob Manfred issued his suspension. But that’s not what happened, and make no mistake — Hamilton was wronged in the process.

So, who was responsible for the leaks?

As a reporter, I know that information comes from everywhere, and not always obvious sources. The Angels, however, are the one entity that stood to benefit if Hamilton was suspended and forfeited a portion of his $23 million salary in 2015. He also is guaranteed $30 million in both 2016 and ’17, and considering his declining performance in recent seasons, the Angels surely would love to escape that obligation as well.

The initial report on Hamilton from the Los Angeles Times said he was meeting with baseball about a disciplinary issue and that the team was bracing for possible penalties. Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed that Hamilton was in New York but said nothing else. A scramble then ensued to report why the meeting took place, and both and New York Daily News reported that his relapse involved cocaine.

I’m not sure the Angels acted properly in confirming Hamilton’s initial meeting in New York. And the club went public again Friday, saying in a statement, “The Angels have serious concerns about Josh’s conduct, health and behavior and we are disappointed that he has broken an important commitment which he has made to himself, his family, his teammates and our fans.”

This, for a player who was deemed not to have violated his treatment program.


I understand why baseball pursued the matter; if Hamilton had indeed violated the program, then it would have been only proper for the sport to enforce its policy. But baseball, too, needs to take responsibility for the way Hamilton was cornered publicly.

He deserved better as a recovering addict. He deserved better as a major leaguer. He deserved better as a human being.

Of course some sportswriters, even wanting to fight the War on Drugs from their computers, are talking about how this is really about the Angels wanting to get Hamilton help, but that’s totally absurd.

I’m curious to see if this affects the Angels with free agents going forward. This isn’t some steroid case where many players really want those players out of the game. This is a sick man who has struggled with life-threatening addiction for a long time. He deserves support from his team, not contempt. But Angels owner Arte Moreno doesn’t want to pay the money he owes Hamilton and so wants to see him suspended. That can’t make the next aging slugger or pitcher Moreno offers a bunch of money feel real great about it. I suspect agents are definitely taking note of this. And whoever was leaking this information about Hamilton to the media probably should be fined or suspended by MLB. Not that it will happen.

Lock Out the Kids!

[ 29 ] March 4, 2015 |

The refinery giant Tesoro has decided that it can’t allow youth baseball leagues to use the fields it owns next to its Martinez, California refinery. That’s because there are pickets at the plant due to the refinery strike. Oh, and also to protect the kids from the horrors of the outside agitator.

Oil giant Tesoro is locking out 600 youth baseball players from practicing on 15 fields located next to its refinery in Martinez, California. As part of a nationwide work stoppage involving some 7,000 workers, the Martinez workers have been on strike since Feb. 2, with regular pickets from the United Steelworkers and their allies protesting health and safety conditions.

“It’s for the safety of the kids and the parents and spectators that would have to cross picket lines,” Tesoro spokeswoman Patricia Deutsche explained to the local press. “We just don’t have to expose them to any negative interactions.”

In another interview, Deutsche specifically mentioned the threat of outside agitators from groups like Occupy, the California Nurses Association and Communities for a Better Environment, a group that works on environmental justice issues affecting low-income and minority communities.

These groups insist they pose no threat to children.

“This is a PR stunt,” said Nile Malloy, Northern California program director for Communities for a Better Environment. “It’s just really sad — like, really? … Everybody who protests is peaceful. They’re there to demonstrate solidarity with the workers, to protect the health and safety of the community, the climate.”

“Nurses are a threat to kids playing baseball?” said Charles Idelson, spokesman for the CNA. “How disgraceful [for Tesoro] to be blaming anybody else but themselves.”

“There’s just absolutely no way we’d picket a Little League field,” Scott told the Vallejo Times-Herald.

Tesoro spokeswoman Tina Barbee told International Business Times “there have been reports of strike-related incidents deemed to be unsafe at the gates of our refinery and in the areas near the facility’s ballfields.” But when asked for more information about the “strike-related incidents,” Barbee said she did not “have additional details to share.”

That is pretty pathetic. I guess it is an attempt to turn the community against the strike, but that is lame.

Cubs Failure

[ 66 ] August 22, 2014 |

Typical that the Chicago Cubs, with their century of pathetic failure and fans who revel in it combined with their Koch Brothers-esque owners, would provide one of the great, if minor failures in baseball history so the billionaires wouldn’t have employees become eligible under Obamacare.

Earlier this week, the Chicago Cubs grounds crew experienced a disaster. As rain poured onto Wrigley Field, they were unable to cover the playing surface with a tarp in time. They were booed. The game was called. Because of the mismanagement, their opponents, the San Francisco Giants, protested the game after it had been called as a win for the Cubs. They succeeded. It was the first successful protest in Major League Baseball in 28 years, according to Deadspin.

But the whole bizarre episode was cast in a new light Thursday when the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Cubs had slashed worker hours to keep them under 30 hours a week to avoid paying health benefits under Obamacare.

Citing “numerous sources with direct knowledge,” the Sun-Times reported that the Cubs had sent home 10 grounds crew workers early the night of the Tuesday game that ended in disaster. And at least part of the reason, per the newspaper’s sources, is that the team has been trying to keep seasonal workers under 30 hours per week as the Affordable Care Act takes effect.

The law requires large employers to offer health insurance to full-time employees (defined as those who work more than 30 hours a week) or pay a fine. The rule goes into effect in 2015.

A spokesman for the Cubs, which are reportedly worth $1 billion and were the most profitable team in baseball in 2013, didn’t refute the claims when asked by the Sun-Times, but he denied personnel changes were responsible for the field tarp incident.

The only problem with the Cubs enduring another 100+ years of failure is that it gives their fans a meme to organize around. Would another deserved 100 years help or make the franchise and its fans even more annoying, if that’s possible?

Your Clearly World Series Contending Seattle Mariners

[ 86 ] August 16, 2014 |

Run differential as of 8/15/14

1. Oakland +163
2. Seattle +94
3-30. Some other, less good teams.

And outside of the actual 3 and 4, which are the Angels and Nationals, there’s no one else even close.

My brain tells me not to take the Mariners seriously. And my heart kind of tells me that too. But the statistics do not lie. This is a team that has been one of the best in the major leagues this season and it isn’t luck. They are simply better than most other teams.

Hall of Fame

[ 102 ] August 15, 2014 |

The Baseball Hall of Fame voting procedures are a joke, now even more so with random rule changes to ensure that those big bad steroid users everyone loved at the time and weren’t breaking any rules don’t get in. A sensible way to improve those voting procedures is to expand the number of people voters can choose. Of course, baseball will probably react to this by lowering the number since everyone knows that baby boomers’ childhood nostalgia of the right kind of baseball players is the real important dividing line between who belongs and who doesn’t.

The Mexican League

[ 28 ] July 26, 2014 |


My wife is a historian of Oaxaca, a state in southern Mexico. So that means that I spend some time here when she is doing her work. Such is now. It’s not exactly a vacation, as I am finishing the edits on one book and the manuscript on another, but the work is interspersed with an amazing lunch every day, the likes of which you would be jealous of if you understood how awesome the food is in Oaxaca. Seriously, just put Oaxacan food in Google Images.

Anyway, Oaxaca is home to a Mexican League team, the Guerreros. And over the last two summers, I have had the great enjoyment of attending some games. The Mexican League is considered AAA level. I’d say this is a bit generous. There are decent number of ex-major leaguers in it. There are also some serious out of shape players and poor fundamentals at times. It’s probably more akin to AA except without the future stars that often play there. But it is quality baseball overall. A lot of pitchers throwing in the mid to high 80s with some hard throwing relievers who have too many control problems to stick in the majors.

Like in AAA games, one of the joys of seeing a Mexican League game is recognizing the ex-major leaguers. The Tijuana team for instance has a great collection of washed up major leaguers holding on, including Russell Branyan, Miguel Olivo (no word if he has bitten off the ear of any players yet), Jose Contreras, and Ramon Ortiz. That’s pretty sweet. The Guerreros are led by former Orioles catcher and Oaxaca native Geronimo Gil, who is now in his late 30s, really slow, but still has some pop. This team also has Eliezer Alfonso, who played a few years, mostly for the Giants and Padres and evidently with the Mariners but I don’t remember it. Last night, they were playing the Quintana Roo Tigres, a team noted for having the very tough home town to play in of Cancun. They were led by Karim Garcia plus 30 pounds since he last played in the majors a decade ago.

While you’d think the food at a Mexican League game would be great, especially in Oaxaca, you’d be wrong. Mostly it’s even worse versions of American ballpark food than you’d get in the U.S. Bad nachos, revolting looking hot dogs and the like. There are some standard empanadas you can get covered in onions that are OK. On the other hand, you can sit right behind home plate for 50 pesos (about $4) and buy a tallboy of Victoria for 30 pesos. So that ain’t bad.

And then there’s Tato and the cheerleaders. Tato is the mascot you see above. He is like a character The Simpsons would have created back when it was good in the 90s. He’s the mascot with big-time attitude. At one game last year, he was out between innings doing his thing. He pulled out a chair and sat on it. A female mascot that looked the same but with long hair came out. She then proceeded to give him a lap dance. This was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen at a ball game. At another game, he put a can of silly string up to his crotch and sprayed it toward the fans behind home plate. The cheerleaders are a whole other deal. 6 or 7 young women wearing very skimpy costumes, doing dance routines a couple of times a game between innings, and getting their picture taken with young Mexican boys whose fathers are training them in heteronormativity. Or with the occasional American frat bros who show at the game and who make me want to be Canadian.

The game was pretty good. Despite the Quintana Roo pitcher having no control, he managed to go 5 innings and give up 1 run thanks to two of the worst baserunning mistakes I’ve ever seen live. The Tigres went up 4-1, but a 5 run 8th brought Oaxaca back. This was great because the crowd was going crazy. They have organized chants. A guy was playing a cowbell with a screwdriver handle (last year there was a very old man banging a drum the entire game. He wasn’t there this year, which worries me). They also started doing the Tomahawk Chop to stereotypical “Indian” music from westerns like they play at Braves and Florida St. games. Now this is interesting because here you have people engaging in Indian “savage” stereotypes which I hate–except that nearly everyone in that stadium was at least part is not full blooded indigenous. I don’t think they had any ethnic identity with North American Indians. It’s just what you did. Life is complicated.

Anyway, the Guerreros closer came in for the top of the 9th to Hells Bells. Not original but still effective. He got the 1st batter out easily and then the control went away big time. By the time there are 2 outs, Quintana Roo has scored a run and there are men on 2nd and 3rd. Karim Garcia is up. He hits a groundball to the first basemen. Slight bobble which means he can’t run it to 1st himself. The pitcher is slightly late getting to the bag. Bang-bang play but because Garcia can’t run anymore because he’s kind of out of shape, he’s out after sliding headfirst into the bag. Game over. Oaxaca wins 5-4.

Good times if you are ever in Mexico.


[ 25 ] July 22, 2014 |

I know I am supposed to be all doom and gloom all the time. But that’s only true 99% of the time. Sometimes there are victories. Such as the concession workers for the San Francisco Giants who just ratified their first contract with 98% of the members voting yes.

Instead, it took place in the stands where 800 seasonal concession workers organized by UNITE HERE Local 2 just ratified by 98% a contract with Centerplate, the subcontracted concessionaire at Giants Park and one of the largest hospitality companies in North America.

The agreement provides the best wages and benefits in the country for their type of work.

The terms included an immediate raise of $1.40 an hour with some back pay, strong job security protections, dental insurance and fully paid family medical coverage without co-pays through the contract’s 2019 expiration date.

The agreement will also fund a big improvement in pension benefits and will tie future health care and wage increases to San Francisco’s big hotels – so when Local 2 hotel workers get wage and benefit increases, Centerplate will match them at Giants stadium.

This convergence of interests is not accidental.

Local 2 members regularly discuss the importance of solidarity. Membership unity across job classifications and work sites strengthens the union and, as results indicate, increases its bargaining leverage considerably.

Tying their salaries with those of the hotel workers in a strong local is a big deal.

Baseball’s Idiotic Unwritten Rules

[ 62 ] July 20, 2014 |

Given that baseball players are not the most intellectually curious of people, the battle for dumbest player can be tough. But Colby Lewis has a strong case given his outrage after Colby Rasmus committed the unpardonable crime of bunting against a shift with two outs and the Blue Jays up two in the 5th. I mean, have you ever heard of such a thing? Trying to get a runner on base up 2 with half the game left! I’m surprised Lewis didn’t throw at his head in the next at bat!

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