Friday, July 11, 2008

Zen Dayley: Benefit of the doubt lost in translation

The Yankees in town, and all the hipsters predicting doom ...

There are times when it doesn't do be glib and knee-jerk.

Reading that the owners who were handpicked by Major League Baseball to own and operate the Washington Nationals (ne Montreal Expos, 1969-2004) haven't paid their rent on their ballpark and that their last-place team has the lowest regional TV audience in major-league baseball by a factor of three is not one of those times. Instinct says that it's really weak to be all told-you-so almost four years after the fact, but well, told you so. It's even less surprising story than the one about how David Lee Roth wasn't really in Brantford last month. (Diamond Dave's star has fallen, but not that far.)

The optics are suddenly so different when it's not a team in Quebec that's involved. The Nationals draw 9,000 viewers for their regional telecasts and it's, well, the team isn't doing very well and it takes time to build up brand loyalty (which is true, it does). It still stings to see such a state of denial when there's emerging proof that baseball isn't working in Washington, D.C., especially when so many in the States were so quick to pronounce it dead and buried in Canada.

Meantime, in Miami, a lawsuit brought forth by anti-tax crusading billionaire Norman Braman (Buddy Ryan's favourite ex-NFL owner) threatens to deep-six construction of a ballpark for the Florida Marlins and owner Jeff Loria. The Marlins have only been playing baseball in a football stadium for 16 seasons -- three longer than the Jays spent at the old Ex -- and yet that's manageable. You don't read anything about MLB holding city and state officials over the coals -- maybe they should, it might be only way the renovations to the Miami airport ever get done -- or condescendingly explaining to them, "This is what you have to do to show us you still want baseball in your city."

(The latest, though, is that the two sides in the lawsuit have been ordered to try and work something out. Chances are the Marlins will get the ballpark, but it might end up costing taxpayers less and Loria more.)

Baseball is not coming back to Montreal. That ship has sailed. It's weak to feel this way, but it's hard not get a sick sense of satisfaction out of seeing the Nationals owners still at loggerheads with a municipal government that already built a $611-million stadium mostly for the benefit of fans who don't even live in the District of Columbia -- and evicted many businesses and social agencies as part of the gentrification.

It looks good on 'em.

Other business

  • It bears passing along: How does MLB invite 64 players to the All-Star Game and not have one of them include a setup man? (Jayson Stark.)
  • Another suggestion from Vegas Watch: Let fans vote one player on each team out of the game.
  • Anyone who's around a TV at 5 p.m. Eastern might want to flip on the CBC Halifax news -- Matthew Leibl, a Winnipegger who visited all 30 major-league stadiums, will be profiled.
The Jays ....

  • Are 16-12 when Vernon Wells doesn't play, 29-35 when he does. That's an 118-point swing in winning percentage. The Neifi Index usually only applies to backup middle infielders. (Dave Feschuk put it best about Wells: "On the bright side, enraged gadget geeks can take comfort that the iPhone's isn't the only Rogers contract that's poor value!"
  • The betting here is Dustin McGowan has thrown his last pitch in 2008.
  • Keith Law believes A.J. Burnett will end up with the Phillies, but he wouldn't part with Double-A catcher Lou Marson. Jason Donald, whose .302/.383/.497 slash stats are best among Eastern League shortstops, was also mentioned as a possibility, although reading between the lines, he might not have the glove to pull off playing short every day in the majors.


Andrew Bucholtz said...

And no one's threatening to move either the Nationals or the Marlins to Oklahoma City yet? Mr. Loria, Clay Bennett's on line 1...

Tyler King said...

Don't be so sure about the Marlins...

sager said...

I'm not sure about the Marlins.... there's a chance the city of Miami and Braman can't resolve the feudin' and the fussin' and end up back before the judge.

Braman's so transparent you could read a newspaper through him .... he's against the big public expenditure since it involves mass transit and fewer vehicles on the road, and of course, he's a car dealer.