Archive for February, 2009

The Inside Baseball
February 15, 2009

One sunny day more than a decade ago, I learned an intrinsic truth about the game of baseball: what you don’t see – the psychology and strategies of the game, the “inside baseball” – truly make the game.  For anyone who doesn’t realize that, sitting through nine innings is as interesting as watching the spin cycle on a washing machine.  Thanks to my friend and baseball maniac JT who did play-by-play for me at that spring training game, I learned there is much more to baseball than meets the eye, and that it is fascinating as it unfolds.


Sort of like politics.


Now combine the two, and you have the maneuverings and machinations behind what may eventually be a billion tax-dollar deal to build a new stadium for the Marlins. 

That said, some questions arise from the Friday the 13th vote-that-wasn’t, questions that probably won’t make the evening news:


* The Miami commissioner who raised concerns about the details of the deal was criticized for “rewriting” the deal on the dais.  But where else does an elected official officially and publicly question a deal crafted largely in closed meetings and not fully released until hours before?


* What is it about maternity leave that prevented Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence Jones her from casting the all-important vote? (Congrats, by the way).  I’ve been on maternity leave.  Twice.  Tired?  Yes, but fully functional.  No, it wasn’t the baby that kept the up-for-reelection Commissioner Spence-Jones from showing up to be a certain swing vote.   If the commissioner wants to develop her parenting skills, she should start with role modeling responsibility and courage.


* Is the Miami Herald bi-polar?  The day before the scheduled vote, the newspaper’s editorial writers endorsed the stadium deal, even as its own reporters had spent weeks detailing every reason why the deal is a bad one for taxpayers.


* Why are “jobs” the big selling point now?  It was never about jobs, not during any part of the last decade of debate about whether to publicly fund a new stadium and how much to spend.  It was never about jobs, until the economic hemorrhage a few months ago added an opportunity for supporters to insert the new buzzword “stimulus” into the argument for a new construction project.  Certainly thousands of construction jobs, however temporary, would be a great benefit.  The question is – at what cost, and can half a billion dollars “buy” more and better.



Supporters of the stadium deal, including the Miami and Miami-Dade County mayors, have waxed poetic about the “intangible” benefits of a new stadium, the inherent value of baseball, the love of the game, tradition-building.  Filled with misty-eyed emotion, they envisioned dads taking their kids to the ballpark and team spirit that would build our civic bonds.  Contrast that with a conversation I had a few weeks ago with Marlins President David Samson, who helped craft the potentially profitable deal for his franchise using a lot of public money.  He said, flat out, the stadium negotiation is “a business deal”.  Nothing more, nothing less.  No passion, no drama, no emotion, just a numbers game to get to a profitable conclusion. 


March 12th is the next “at bat”.