[UPDATED] Braves not Truist to their word on new tax handouts (via AJC)

The fact that the Atlanta Braves got a ton of cash from taxpayers to build their new ballpark is largely forgotten in the wake of the team’s World Series victory.

But there was an understanding when the Braves got $300 million-plus from Cobb County to construct its park: It was that the team, on its own nickel, would build all the affiliated restaurants, apartments and office towers ― AKA The Battery.

Mike Plant, the team’s development chief, promised this back in 2015 when he said, “We do not ask, nor do we intend to ask, for any incentives for the mixed-use part.”

Well, that was then.

Last week, the Bravos were up at the plate again looking for a second helping of taxpayer love. The team and their friends at Truist, the mega-bank with a silly name, approached the Cobb Development Authority with the latest scheme: a 10-year property tax break to help build a $200 million, 250,000-square-foot office tower overlooking Truist Park. … Read More

(via AJC)

UPDATE: “The Atlanta Braves and Truist Financial this past week withdrew their application for property tax breaks on a $200 million office tower at The Battery, Cobb County development officials confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.”

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Previously
“Atlanta” Braves seek millions more from Cobb County
Ted Turner on the Atlanta Braves’ move to Cobb County
2017 Atlanta Braves Season Preview
Braves finally strike a positive note in move to new stadium
The political costs of a new baseball stadium
Previewing the 2016 Atlanta Braves
The Braves are failing on their own terms
New Braves stadium project continues to falter
Georgia Supreme Court Upholds Cobb’s Braves Stadium Bond Deal
Braves Break Ground on Baseball Boondoggle
The yard sale at Upton Abbey continues
From Barves to Burbs: What’s happening to baseball in Atlanta?

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Introducing Ash Barty…as Herself (via WSJ)

Go forever.

That’s the expectation of great athletes now. The money is fabulous, the sponsors adore longevity, the science is there, the modern accouterments of success make it easier—the physios, coaches, therapists, nutritionists, private jets and more. 

Go and go and go and go. Until the body quits. Until you’ve chased every record and possibility. Until the public has had enough. 

Look at ancient Tom Brady, already back at it. Look at Serena and Venus Williams, chasing greatness into their 40s. Look at LeBron James, pledging to stick around until his own son is playing in the NBA. 

Why not? It can be done. And again: The money is fabulous

Once in a while, however, a great athlete says no more, at an early age, way before they’re due, and they mean it. 

That’s what the tennis star Ash Barty did this week, announcing her retirement from the tour at age 25, while still No. 1 in the world, the reigning champion at Wimbledon and her home country’s Australian Open.

While still No. 1 in the world. Let that linger for a moment. Barty’s playing the best tennis of her life. She’d be a favorite in every tournament she played. She isn’t quitting because of a decline in her skill, or any apparent physical injury. 

It’s quite the opposite. Barty says she’s simply ready…for what’s next. 

“The time is right for me to step away and chase other dreams and to put the racquets down,” Barty said in a short, admirably level-headed interview with her friend and former doubles partner Casey Dellacqua. … Read More

(via WSJ)

No Joy in Mudville, No CBA Deal in Jupiter, and No Opening Day on March 31 (via FanGraphs)

So much for commissioner Rob Manfred’s stated desire to avoid a “disastrous outcome,” and so much for the urgency of the owners’ “defensive” lockout, which was supposed to jumpstart negotiations towards a new collective bargaining agreement — albeit in a most curious manner, with 43 days of radio silence and just one formal proposal to the players over a 71-day span. On Tuesday evening, the commissioner canceled the first two series of the regular season — a total of 91 games, constituting five to seven for each team — after the players union and the owners failed to meet his artificially-imposed deadline for a new CBA in time to preserve the season’s scheduled opening on March 31.

“I had hoped against hope I wouldn’t have to have this press conference where I am going to cancel some regular season games,” said Manfred on Tuesday. Citing the two sides meeting in Jupiter, Florida for nine straight days, he added, “I want to assure our fans that our failure to reach an agreement was not due to a lack of effort by either party.”

If indeed those games are lost, they would be the first regular season games missed due to a work stoppage since the 1994-95 players’ strike, and the first due to a lockout by the owners….

It’s worth reiterating that any attempt to reduce the number of games below 162 and thus salaries, service time (including eligibility for free agency), and bonuses would be subject to collective bargaining as well, opening a can of worms that could affect both sides’ positions on other issues….Read More

(via FanGraphs)

The Bonds of Enshrinement: Assessing the Cooperstown Case for David Ortiz in 2022

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Earlier this year,* the Baseball of Fame passed an important threshold when Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa each failed to secure enough votes for induction on their final year of eligibility (though various mop-up committees conceivably could change that in the future). In other news, David Ortiz was the only player selected for enshrinement this year.

In the last decade or so, the online baseball social media community quickly and unequivocally came to the unwavering position that Bonds, allegations of wrongdoing cast far aside, belongs in the Hall.** Thus, any voter supporting Bonds’ candidacy is cheered as righteous, upstanding, intelligent, and correct, while any failing to do so is an unreconstructed hypocrite. These are the only choices.

As ever with these types of social movements, it isn’t enough to be “right.” One also must be right for the right reason. Naturally, herein also enters the discussion of identifying the right reason why the wrong are wrong, perhaps so as to convert them– upon receipt of the crowd’s wise and agreed critique– to being right. Among collective critics, few devices are more seductive than the critique of hypocrisy, and boy are people who think Barry Bonds should be in the baseball hall of fame enjoying lobbing that one over the barricade right now. As enunciated by ESPN baseball “insider” and live Pinocchio puppet Jeff Passan, the latest version goes like this:

The campaign against Bonds has spanned decades, involving malfunctions of fairness and logic across multiple cohorts.

It starts with Major League Baseball and the blind eye that Selig, his office and the game’s stewards turned toward PEDs. From there came the duplicity of riding the steroid wave to new stadiums and bigger TV deals and exponential revenue growth while villainaizing the very people who fueled it.

Perhaps ironically (irony being another too-seductive critique of people expressing themselves on the internet), Passan’s thesis contains some infirmities of its own. Omission of serial commas aside, this seems to ignore the fact that the Hall is a separate entity outside the control of MLB or its commissioner or club owners. Everyone associated with baseball profited from the game’s pharmacologically driven power boom in the second half of the 1990s, and MLB still recognizes all of the statistics posted and records broken during that era. Among “the game’s stewards,” only the Hall and its electors have tried to deny laudatory acknowledgement of this period of history. The facts do not support this particular smear of Bud Selig and the owners. (Readers of this site know there are plenty of other, valid reasons to engage in that exercise.)

Nor does logic support the levying of this charge. If player-driven, sport-wide profits should buoy the Hall-of-Fame credentials of the players whose playing pushed those profits, then, the theory would hold, more support is due to, for example, the non-serving players who kept the game going during World War II (vis-a-vis the likes of Hank Greenberg and Ted Williams) or the white players, simply by virtue of their skin color, during MLB racial segregation. As concerns this sort of parsing, the far-better and generally accepted view is, of course, the opposite. Passan’s contention is too reductive to be useful.

And none of this explains Ortiz’s first-ballot election. Let’s start with the case for Ortiz. He spent most of a twenty-season career with a very successful, popular, and visible Boston Red Sox team for which he was one of the most visible faces. He was a key part of three World Series championships, adding World Series and ALCS MVP honors to ten regular-season All-Star nods. Ortiz didn’t experience much of a decline as he aged, and, as a forty-year-old, he led all of baseball in slugging (.620), OPS (1.021), and doubles (48) in 2016, his final season. He finished with 2,472 hits and 541 home runs.

I don’t lose much sleep over first-ballot (or unanimous first-ballot) status; you’re either in or you’re out. That said, here, in reverse-chronological order, is the full list of players selected for enshrinement on their respective first ballot:

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Halftime Score: Age statements for past Super Bowl halftime show performers

People say age is just a number. Here are some super numbers:

Extra credit awarded to Phil Collins and Shakira for performing at the Super Bowl on their respective birthdays.

You Took the Words Right Out of My Jam

Nobody hit that grand rock production sweet spot like Meat Loaf, who died yesterday at the age of seventy-four, and who, this now being the end of time for which no one prayed, Satan better hope is not coming his way. My first memory of Meat Loaf was an appearance at an MLB all-star game. (Google suggests it might be this one, but I’m not so sure.) When I later heard the original music he created with Jim Steinman, Prof. Roy Bittan, the Mighty Max Weinberg, and Todd Rundgren, with assists from Edgar Winter and Phil Rizzuto, it was almost impossible to believe it was real, and seeing that music presented in the context of the Rocky Horror Picture Show didn’t make it any easier to believe. Bat out of Hell, Meat Loaf’s 1977 debut, is punch in the face after punch in the face, and the title track and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” are knockouts. A decade and a half later, 1993’s Bat out of Hell II proved Loaf & Co. still had it, opening with comeback epic singalong “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do that).” (Full disclosure: this post is not sponsored by Dr Pepper.)

Meat Loaf’s memory can bear two selections, and these two heavy hitters will serve as this week’s Jam:

Riddim Jam

ALDLAND’s news desk is a bit backed up, but we can’t permit more time to pass without marking the passing of the Jamaican Bass Bard, Robbie Shakespeare, who stepped onto a new groove earlier this month. One half of a stellar rhythm section alongside drummer Sly Dunbar, Shakespeare played with numerous Jamaican artists, including Peter Tosh, before expanding his circle to include others in America and the U.K. Along with Dunbar, Shakespeare joined Bob Dylan as part of his incredible Infidels band, which also featured Mick Taylor and Mark Knopfler on guitars. Dylan’s camp recently released video of alternate selections from those studio sessions, one of which is today’s Jam:

Miguel Cabrera stays positive in 2021, and the Detroit Tigers outperform expectations

Before the 2021 season began, we, along with everyone else, predicted that it would be a historic season for Miguel Cabrera. The team’s veteran anchor had within range two of baseball’s all-time career benchmarks: 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. On August 22, Cabrera knocked his 500th career homer over the right-center fence in Toronto, becoming just the twenty-eighth player in MLB history to accomplish that feat. And, even in the face of declining batting average and power production, Cabrera came within a baker’s dozen of 3,000 hits. He finished the year with a career total of 2,987, teeing up another exciting celebration for early in the 2022 season.

Also significant: according to WARP, Cabrera was a positive-value contributor to the Tigers in 2021. While not remotely glamorous, his 0.7 WARP represented his best seasonal performance by that metric since 2016. It also marks his nineteenth-consecutive year as a positive WARP contributor, keeping alive the possibility he finishes his career among the elite, selective group of players who played at least twenty-one seasons without tallying a negative in the wins-above-replacement column. Among active players, only Yadier Molina (eighteen seasons of positive WARP); Robinson Cano (sixteen seasons of non-negative WARP); and Joey Votto (fifteen seasons of non-negative WARP) even are candidates to join this group in the next six years, and the best bet probably is that none of them will make it. As much as anything, Cabrera’s contract, under which he’s signed through his twenty-first season (with extremely unlikely to vest options for more beyond that), makes this achievement a possibility.

As for the rest of the team, there were some other things to like in 2021 too. Other outlets have covered player and prospect development more comprehensively, so I’ll just add a note that the team as a whole outperformed the major projection systems’ preseason expectations (PECOTA: sixty-six wins; FanGraphs: seventy-one wins) by notching a lofty seventy-seven wins. There were some nice winning stretches this season, including a hot start to the second half, which afforded them, with five games to go, mathematical possibilities of finishing with a .500 record and second place in the division (alas, neither of those things occurred).

Finally, on the subject of projections and expectations, had 2021 played out the way PECOTA saw it before the season started, we would have seen some special oddities:

Cabrera didn’t hit a triple, and Buck Farmer did not earn his first career save, the latter a big miss for our readers, especially since the Tigers released Farmer in mid-August after just 35.1 innings pitched. Jeimer Candelario was not caught stealing all year, though, and Matthew Boyd at last notched a sub-4.00 ERA season. Not bad!

As nice as those small accomplishments appear, their respective contexts provide additional color. For Candelario, it was a nothing-ventured-nothing-lost situation. While he wasn’t caught stealing for the first time since 2017, nor did he successfully steal a base, something that also last occurred in 2017. Candelario, it appears, was not part of A.J. Hinch’s base-stealing revolution in Detroit. For Boyd, his 3.89 ERA made for a career-best mark, but it wasn’t a career-best season for him, as the Opening Day starter appeared in just fifteen games and pitched fewer than eighty innings, missing all of July and nearly all of August and September due to soreness in his throwing elbow. Boyd, who may be headed to free agency, likely would’ve traded a slightly worse ERA for a full season of healthy starts in 2021. A difficult reminder that PECOTA may be able to tell us the what (at least fifty percent of the time, anyway), but not the how or why.

Now it’s onto the postseason (the AL wild card round begins tonight) and, hopefully, an exciting and active offseason for the Tigers, who appear ripe to move aggressively back into contention for the division in 2022.

Five Hundred Home Runs Dies In Darkness?

The ever-astute and hip Washington Post decided to celebrate Miguel Cabrera’s historic home run achievement by opining that Cabrera and Albert Pujols may be the last major leaguers to reach five hundred home runs and three thousand hits because apparently they tallied a lot of their numbers while opposing pitching was relatively bad and batters (but we’re not saying who!) artificially extended their careers with prohibited performance-enhancing drugs, and pitching is good now and PEDs are gone.

Rather than engage that cheerful take, let’s join the throngs of the genuinely happy and have yet another look at the rarity of Cabrera’s accomplishment from two big-picture perspectives.

Cabrera famously hit his first career MLB home run in his first career MLB game, a walk-off shot in the bottom of the eleventh inning. That day, June 20, 2003, Cabrera, then twenty years old, became the 18,306th person to play Major League Baseball. (A list of all 2003 debutants is available here.) As of this writing, 22,538 people have done so, meaning that Cabrera, the twenty-eighth player to five hundred homers, joined a group that represents barely a tenth of a percent of all MLB players ever. Whether we eventually will look back at this benchmark as– perhaps like Rickey Henderson’s 1,406 career stolen bases or maybe Denny McClain’s 31 wins in 1968– an irreplicable vestige of eras past is, for this moment, a matter for dour D.C. dilettantes to debate. We can celebrate and appreciate the extreme rarity and therefore special nature of Cabrera’s feat right now.

Also noteworthy in the present moment is the rarity of the observation of the achievement for current fans. The six seasons between Cabrera’s five-hundredth blast and David Ortiz’s was the longest such gap between such career landmark hits since the nine-year period between Mike Schmidt’s (1987) and Eddie Murray’s (1996).

That the combination of talent, consistency, and longevity required to hit five hundred major-league home runs always has been rare and appears likely to remain so does not in any way diminish the significance of the accomplishment. And although the Washington Post isn’t projected to produce any journalism on the level of Woodward and Bernstein’s Watergate work in the foreseeable future and hasn’t since, neither has Cabrera taken time to comment on the Post’s weaker competition during the zenith of institutional print media. (Selections from today’s online front page for modern reference.)

Thus, a humble suggestion that the Washington Post aim its performative social criticism elsewhere. Cabrera, with his excellent resume and obvious love of the game, can handle it, but it doesn’t become them. Perhaps the editors just are embarrassed that their own team can’t hang onto this type of historic player and so responds by lashing out at other greats. Regardless, I look forward to not reading a Washington Post sportswriter’s forthcoming book on Stephen Strasburg’s career entitled The Final Days.

Miguel Cabrera’s Monster Milestone (via FanGraphs)

On Sunday afternoon against the Blue Jays, Miguel Cabrera became the newest member of an elite baseball club by hitting his 500th regular-season home run, making him just the 28th player to reach that mark in MLB history; he joins Albert Pujols as the only active players on the list. (He’s also the first-ever Tiger and first ever Venezuelan-born player to get there). Cabrera is also chasing entry into the equally exclusive 3,000 hits club, but he would need roughly a hit per game for the rest of the season to do that, making 2022 more likely, so let’s focus on 500 and his road there. … Read More

(via FanGraphs)

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