Friday roundup: New sports venues, new sports venue threats, and our dwindling journalistic resources

Deadspin’s Albert Burneko is a national treasure whether he’s writing about sports or movies or punctuation, and his takedown this week of a Fivethirtyeight article that asserts there are too many minor-league baseball teams is very much no exception. Drop whatever you’re doing — which is reading this post, so okay, drop whatever you were going to do after that — and read it now, whether you care about the purpose of sports as entertainment or the role of the media in management-labor relations or the increasing propensity to reduce human beings to measures of technocratic efficiency. With the demise of the alt-weeklies, there are fewer and fewer outlets eager to combine tenacious reporting and big-picture analysis and engaging writing toward the end of helping us understand the world we live in beyond “here are some potentially viral things that happened today,” so we need to cherish those that remain while we can.

And with that, here are some potentially viral (in the not especially infectious sense) things that happened this week:


23 comments on “Friday roundup: New sports venues, new sports venue threats, and our dwindling journalistic resources

  1. The Aloha Bowl did not move to Orlando three years ago. The Pro Bowl did.

    Also, the constant MLS-expands-everywhere snark is just old by this point. There are fewer MLS teams, still, than in the other leagues and that will be true even after the next expansion. This shtick you have where you ignore any pretense of truth when it comes to soccer is just tedious.

    • You are correct about the Pro Bowl, that was a thinko.

      You are incorrect about MLS, which is expanding at a rate not seen by any sports league since the days when the invention of jet planes and the threat of rival leagues was forcing sports to do things like double in size in one season, as the NHL did. You can consider it a savvy attempt to spread the MLS brand throughout the U.S., or a gambit to cash in on expansion fees before anyone notices that MLS isn’t exactly a revenue juggernaut, but the point we should all be able to agree on is that Sacramento is getting a team sooner or later, because a whole of cities are going to in the next few years.

  2. I totally disagree on the Burnenko article.

    His first question/criticism is “who the fuck is the “we’ who don’t need minor league baseball. If you actually read the piece it is crystal clear it is written from the perspective of Front Offices/Teams. As presumably someone like Burneko who works at Deadspin knows, Swachik might not have even written the headline, regardless. So it just isn’t an honest criticism unless Burnenko can’t read.

    Nowhere in the article is it suggested minor league teams be shut down. It is instead suggested major league teams might benefit from not supporting as many. That isn’t the same thing.

    His second question is: “Who exactly is minor-league baseball for?”

    “The 30 big-league clubs use it as a developmental system for their young prospects, of course. Is the fact that tens of millions of people choose to buy tickets to watch affordable baseball games incidental to that.”

    A) Once again if he didn’t intentionally misundertand the piece this wouldn’t be a question.
    B) Whether the fans are incidental probably has a lot to do with whether the teams are financial supporting their affiliates. That the Brainerd Brain-nerds or whoever provide access to low cost baseball is neither here nor there if the way they do this is from a fat subsidy from a big league team relying on them for player development it is no longer getting.

    After that the criticisms mostly just trial off to idiocy.

    Just as an example: “The reason to have a baseball game in a stadium, in front of thousands of paying spectators, is not so that a guy with a camera can collect data about the pitch grips and swing trajectories of the people playing in it. The reason to have a baseball game in a stadium in front of thousands of paying spectators”

    Once again Burnenko is somehow assuming Swachick is suggesting a universal ban on minor league teams or something. Instead of what he is suggesting that the MLB could perhaps reallocate player development related resources elsewhere. That there might be other totally separate reasons to support minor league baseball is neither here no there, and not something the article brings up at all.

    Basically it seems like Burnenko is doing the internet commenter thing where he just read a headline and wrote his response to that, rather than read and understand what he was replying to.

    As for his point 7) Who the fuck cares? It is not the teams duty to employ as many people as Burnenko wants, nor Swachik’s duty to worry about that. It is just completely tangential to the discussion and if Burnenko want sot write about that great. But it isn’t some failing on Sawchick’s part, it is just a different discussion.

    8) What business is it of Burnenko’s that people enjoy sports differently? Get over yourself.

    I couldn’t even continue past that point it was such pretentious horseshit.

    • I would say it’s ironic that an internet commenter exhibited willful misunderstanding of a piece in a manner resembling pretentious horseshit whilst calling another piece exactly that, but these days it’s just droll. Enjoy watching other people play OOTB.

      • The Fivethirtyeight headline is more extreme than the article, no doubt. But when the article takes place against a backdrop of MLB teams threatening to contract minor-league affiliates in response to minor leaguers demanding to be paid according to minimum wage laws, saying “Hey, maybe we don’t need all these minor-league teams” takes on a somewhat different meaning.

        There’s a weird techno-libertarian trend these days, common to sportswriting and business writing alike, that values things based on how efficiently they exploit human beings in order to generate profit. If Sawchik were just pointing out that MLB teams might soon choose to have fewer minor-league affiliates and more storefront pitching clinics, that would be useful and informative; when it’s framed as “Hey, here’s a cool idea: What if baseball owners figured out a way to lay off a hundred of their most poorly paid players and focus only on those who are pre-approved as prospects so they could make extra money while denying cheap baseball to lots of towns that can’t get major-league teams, wouldn’t that be taking advantage of an awesome MARKET INEFFICIENCY,” it starts to feel like he’s less a fan of baseball than of toxic capitalism.

        Also, “as an intermittent depression enthusiast” made me laugh. But YMMV.

        • “But when the article takes place against a backdrop of MLB teams threatening to contract minor-league affiliates in response to minor leaguers demanding to be paid according to minimum wage laws, saying “Hey, maybe we don’t need all these minor-league teams” takes on a somewhat different meaning.”

          You understand that the fact that minor leaguers want more money is an even bigger reason why some teams may need to go? The minor leagues are not hugely profitable as it is. If the big leagues teams are seeing less value in using them for development, and the teams themselves are having increased labor costs, that absolutely seems like a recipe for contraction, and a sensible one.

          No one is owed a job playing baseball, even a shitty paying one. Just like no one owes me a career playing Race for the Galaxy card game or whatever. The minor league teams and the players involved are going to need to sink or swim on their merits, as does everything.

          “There’s a weird techno-libertarian trend these days”

          Its not about “exploitation”. It is about efficiency more broadly. It is not society’s job to take care of you, it is your job to take care of you. And if we focus on efficiency there is the greatest possibly for collective and individual flourishing. Which is what we are seeing, massive global flourishing, despite what the naive communists at Deadspin or the childish idiots at r/latestagecapitalism seem to fixate on. When is the greatest time in human history to be alive? Right now. But inequality you say!

          When is the the best to bee a poor person in the US? Right now. What about in the third world? Right now.

          The past couple centuries of increasing “techno/libertatrianism” or whatever you would disparage it as has seen a massive increase in the quality of life for everyone, everywhere. I am not some blind market worshiper who thinks there should be no rules. I am in favor of things like a Tobin tax, universal healthcare, and other quite left leaning ideas. But one thing society does not need to take special time to prop out is minor league baseball. It can survive or not based on the value it provides. That Burneko claims to value it (I wonder how much he actually spends on minor league baseball per year) is no argument for giving it some special dispensation.

          “Hey, here’s a cool idea: What if baseball owners figured out a way to lay off a hundred of their most poorly paid players and focus only on those who are pre-approved as prospects so they could make extra money while denying cheap baseball to lots of towns that can’t get major-league teams…”

          It is just not their problem/responsibility. They don’t owe society teams, or any perspective minor league baseballer a job (beyond existing contractual arrangements or whatever). I mean you could cut your income in half and hire a full time admin person for this site? Think of the the job you aren’t creating! But you don’t because you don’t want to for whatever reason. And that is your prerogative.

          • The poor people of 50 or 100 years ago had roofs over their heads. They may not have been nice roofs. But you didn’t see rampant homelessness directly related to housing costs like you do now.

          • Juvenal, I don’t disagree with everything you say above (though “When is the best time to be a poor person in the US? Right now” is the kind of statement that only really makes sense if your standard of well-being is whether or not you own a cellphone). But this:

            “It is not society’s job to take care of you, it is your job to take care of you. And if we focus on efficiency there is the greatest possibly for collective and individual flourishing.”

            is exactly the kind of blanket statement that I find weird and dangerous. There’s plenty to like about efficiency — it’s efficient! It’s right there in the name! — but as with anything else that’s a mix of the useful and the problematic, whether the Bible or socialism or CBD oil, elevating it to a universal good that will cure all ills seems awfully dangerous. All of those things have been and are being used for extremely damaging purposes, and it doesn’t do anybody any good to make them into shibboleths.

            Which may not be what you’re intending re efficiency, but it’s something that Travis Sawchik and Fivethirtyeight and much of American internet culture at large have an unfortunate tendency towards these days, most often in the service of justifying policies that benefit those in power. (Making all public transit free of charge would be hugely efficient, for instance, but somehow we don’t hear that argument much.) So pointing out when sportswriters are fetishizing efficiency to the exclusion of all other considerations, yeah, I find that extremely valuable.

  3. I feel like with the amount of money MLB get subsidized with via stadium money they can continue supporting the low tiers of MiLB. I will keep the Kingsport Mets in my thoughts & prayers regardless.

    Fooey to bean counters & KC bootlickers.

    Happy Friday to ya.

  4. Matthew McConaughey, “alright, alright, alright. Let’s get digging. The nice things about these new stadiums is I keep getting older, but they keep getting younger.”

  5. I think if they did a downsizing of Aloha Stadium, removing the upper decks and most of the end zone seating, and then a canopy over the remaining seating, they could squeeze another 15 years out of it.

  6. I think the Deadspin article is arguing mostly with the 538 headline. Most of the 538 article dealt with the Astros dropping just one affiliate, and speculating you could do with a lot fewer minor league affiliates. The headline “Do we even need Minor League Baseball” seemed a bit over the top. A more accurate, but less provocative headline would be “Could we do with slightly less minor league baseball” but that would not generate many clicks.

  7. I don’t quite understand the critique of replacing Aloha Stadium. Is it the price tag, or that they’re replacing it at all? The stadium is suffering from significant structural rust as I understand it, which would mean no more Rainbow Warriors football or any other large outdoor events given the paucity of facilities in Honolulu. I think Hawaii is a bit of a unique outlier from other cases, simply because of its geography and lack of venues. If the issue is one of cost then I can perhaps understand, but what would be a reasonable price tag for Hawaii construction?

    • It’s two things: That they’ve deemed the stadium in need of replacement (it has some design flaws, yeah, but it’s not at all clear that the repair costs would be prohibitive), and that they’re spending $350 million on a stadium for a college football team that draws 20,000 fans a game. You can build an MLS stadium of that size for around half that price tag, so it seems pretty crazy for Hawaii to decide that it needs a state of the art 35,000-seat stadium just because all the other kids do.

      • Ok, that makes more sense then. I just wanted to be clear it wasn’t a position of “eh, just discard the stadium and get rid of a beloved football program,” which would be really harsh.

  8. I’ve never understood why the news media gives free advertising to the stadium naming companies by freely mentioning the naming sponsor for nothing in return. You would think the newspapers, radio, and TV sports media would require the namers to at least buy some advertising in return for constant mentioning the game at “Acme stadium/arena”. I’m surprised they don’t electronically blur the corporate stadium logos on telecasts ’til they cough up some ad dollars to the tv network..

    • The IOC is way ahead of you here… all facilities used for Olympic events must have their corporate names/logos covered, regardless of contractual requirements elsewhere.

      Since in most cases the broadcaster is heavily allied to the league who’s product is being broadcast, they must accept whatever corporate shilling is required as part of the deal unfortunately.

      Even allegedly independent paper’s staff (sportswriters) are very clear on who butters their bread… I’ve had exchanges with several over their idiotic pro stadium/arena stances (which usually involves simply parroting back any claims made by the team owner, then going even further overboard on their own as regards “benefits”). They are, almost unanimously, shameless stadium boosters as it goes to their own personal bottom line and will tell any lie – no matter how unbelievable or demonstrably false – in order to support their team owner’s position. I’ve had a couple actually admit that “no team, no job covering team”.

      Journalism may not be dead, but it is really quite, quite sick.

  9. I’m in Columbus. When Mapfre Insurance bought the naming rights to Columbus Crew Stadium, their name started appearing in traffic reports because I-71 has a curve that runs right next to it. That’s a lot more publicity than they ever get from soccer or concerts that take place at the stadium.

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