While MLB tries to figure out if it can cobble together enough players for a shortened season amid the increasing number of players testing positive and opting to sit out the year, a different group of rich dudes are working on another possibly quixotic quest: landing a major-league franchise for Nashville. As you may recall from the before times, said rich dudes had previously drawn attention for speculation by announcing that their team that they don’t have would be named the Nashville Stars, then releasing stadium renderings that featured previously unheard-of crimes against geometry; there was also that rumor that the Baltimore Orioles could move to Nashville, which presumably wasn’t the wannabe owners’ doing, though since the report cited just “one rumor” as a source, it could well have been them.
Anyway, this week saw two separate headlines about Nashville’s MLB dreams:
- Music City Baseball LLC (that’s the rich dudes) have hired former MLB GM Dave Dombrowski as a “consultant,” which presumably is meant to convey credibility or something? If the key to landing a major-league franchise turns out to involve signing aging players to exorbitant contracts, Dombrowski certainly brings that skill set.
- Nashville could become MLB’s first majority-Black-owned team, says Dave Stewart, an even worse GM who is also currently on the Music City Baseball payroll.
The managing director of Music City Baseball is John Loar, who is a real estate developer (of gated communities in California!) and film producer (Teenage Paparazzo, an Adrian Grenier–directed documentary that according to one Rotten Tomatoes reviewer was “more thought provoking than I would have expected“) and looks like this:
I don’t normally like to make assumptions about people’s ethnicity, but I think it’s pretty fair to say that this guy is white.
Neither Stewart nor Loar, it turns out, said anything to USA Today about how the team would be majority Black-owned, but they did drop a whole lot of references to African-American things in hopes you won’t notice what the main owner and public face of the non-franchise looks like:
They plan to present MLB through a feasibility study and economic analysis why Nashville would be ideal for MLB. The plan is to build a 42,000-seat stadium, in honor of Jackie Robinson, with privately-funded money, and a surrounding mixed-use family sports and entertainment district.
“We have something unique here, and a way to unite the country,’’ said Loar, who also is creating a diversity oversight committee. “I really think MLB has a chance to be very proactive. We will honor the Negro Leagues with the name, the Nashville Stars. The connection to the Negro Leagues, diversity and inclusion is a big part of the foundation. We reached out to the black community here, our board is majority minority, and our current investors are over 30% diverse.
To recap: The stadium will “honor” Jackie Robinson, the Stars name will “honor” the Negro Leagues, and about a third of the individual investors (not a third of the shares, presumably) are “diverse,” however that’s being defined. To be charitable, one could say that Loar is reading the room well; to be less charitable, he’s a white guy trying to gain entry into the lucrative MLB owners’ club by portraying it as a way to “unite the country” around race.
None of which is likely to matter all that much to MLB, which will almost certainly select any future expansion franchises on the basis of 1) how much money an ownership group offers, 2) how big a media market it represents, and 3) see 1. On that count, Nashville scores pretty poorly: It’s the sixth-largest Nielsen market without an MLB team (behind Sacramento, Charlotte, Portland, Indianapolis, and Raleigh-Durham, plus Montreal, which as a Canadian city isn’t covered by Nielsen). It does have one of the better-attended Triple-A franchises, the Sounds, and is bigger than San Diego, Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati, so you could make a decent case that it could be a marginal MLB market; however, you could make just as good a case for any of those other cities, so it’s hard to see why Nashville should be seen as at the top of any heap.
Also, MLB probably isn’t expanding anytime soon, though it’s possible that could change if owners decide they want a quick cash infusion to make up for Covid-related losses. More likely is that Thom Loverro is right:
Baseball's newest Washington https://t.co/yGvqegEqgv
— thom loverro (@thomloverro) July 6, 2020
A savvy negotiator creates leverage, and you can’t have leverage without other suitors. Maybe Loar is hoping that other MLB owners will be so happy with him for giving them a move threat candidate to shake in the faces of their current homes, they’ll eventually reward him with a team of his own? That would indeed be a kind of unity, but probably not the one most people would be hoping for.