John Grisham’s mini-brain fart

Listening to the audiobook of John Grisham’s new novel, Calico Joe, I heard something which made me pause, not unlike how Jaguar Paw might have reacted to coming across a Chili’s outside a Mayan city.

What I heard was that Joe Castle was coming to bat for the 4th time — in a game tied at 6 — with 2 outs in the top of the 9th inning. Any MLB fan fan worth his Bill James Baseball Abstract collection would feel cognitive dissonance rippling through their DNA at the notion that a hitter in that scenario would only have 4 plate appearances, if he had been in the lineup for the entire game.

Here are the limited facts that Grisham provides about Castle’s plate appearances and the game scenario:

  • Castle was in the starting lineup and hit 7th.
  • Came to bat for the 1st time in the top of the 2nd inning. Home run.
  • 2nd at-bat came in the 5th inning. Home run.
  • His team had scored 4 runs before his 3rd at-bat.
  • 3rd at-bat came in the 7th inning. Home run [HR].
  • Before Castle’s next at-bat in the 9th inning, Grisham notes that he had hit 3 home runs in “consecutive” at-bats. This rules out that Castle could have had a non-HR at-bat [i.e., walk, error, HBP]. If that had been the case, Grisham could not have accurately described his HR at-bats as “consecutive.”
  • 4th at-bat comes in the 9th inning with Don Kessinger on 3rd base and 2 outs with the score tied at 6. Castle bunts for a base hit and Kessinger scores. That 7th run is described as the “eventual winning run.”

Here’s the problem. In order for Castle’s 9th inning at-bat to match Grisham’s game scenario [Castle is the Cubs 34th batter], he unrealistically limits the runners left on base [LOB] by the Cubs during a game in which they had scored 6 and eventually would end up with at least 7 runs — “eventual winning run” means the Cubs could have gone on to score more than the 7 runs, but the opponent was held to 6. Here are the results of the previous 33 at bats:

  • 26 – outs made – with 2 outs in the 9th inning
  • 06 – runs scored
  • 01 – runner [Kessinger] on base in the 9th
  • 00 – zero runners left on base [LOB] during first 8 innings

How unusual is it for a team which, after Castle’s bunt, had scored 7 runs and left only 1 runner [Castle in the 9th] on base to that point in the game? Let’s look at the actual team which was the basis for the story, the 1973 Chicago Cubs. The Cubs scored 7 runs in 8 games that season. They averaged 8 runners LOB in those 8 games. The lowest total was 6, the highest was 9.

This might be the last MLB trivia question which cannot be answered online: What is the most runs scored by a MLB team with zero runners left on base? I’d love to know. Even the great Baseball Almanac, does not provide records of Team LOB records based on the number of runs scored.

But Grisham has another problem. During 1973, Don Kessinger’s place in the batting order was 1st, 2nd or 8th. Since Kessinger was the runner on 3rd base during Castle’s 9th inning at-bat with 2 outs, this would mean that Kessinger was hitting anywhere from the 4th to the 6th [since Castle was hitting 7th] spot in Grisham’s lineup.

So the question is why Grisham lays out a baseball scenario which is so unrealistic? I get why homering in consecutive at bats makes a better story than squeezing a walk in between. I get why his last at-bat comes in the 9th inning. What I don’t get is why he sacrificed the plausibility of his game scenario by giving Castle’s team 6 runs and putting Kessinger on 3rd base, instead of 3 runs and Ron Santo or Billy Williams on 3rd base when Castle batted in the 9th?

I don’t object to a major leaguer’s storybook first game. But Grisham draws readers into the story with a number of baseball insights which indicate that a degree of authenticity was important to the story. Hell there was even Willie Montañez reference. One of the main characters even describes himself as obsessed with baseball statistics in his youth. And yet he fails the authenticity test in the most basic way.

The most logical conclusion must be that Grisham never even considered that there might be an issue given Castle’s at-bats and the score. All of which just makes Grisham [and a few well-paid editors and one fact checker] more normal than those of us who love the statistical aspect of the game. So it may not even a case of the author not doing his homework, perhaps he didn’t even realize there should have been an assignment.

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Blinded By The Loria?

Jack Woltz quote in G1 prior to gaining [not getting] a head:

Johnny Fontane ruined one of Woltz International’s most valuable proteges. For three years we had her under contract, singing lessons, dancing lessons, acting lessons. I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. I was gonna make her a big star. And let me be even more frank, just to show you that I’m not a hard-hearted man, that it’s not all dollars and cents. She was beautiful, she was innocent…. And then Johnny Fontane comes along with his olive oil voice and guinea charm and she runs off. She threw it all away just to make me look ridiculous. And a man in my position can’t afford to be made to look ridiculous.

From a business perspective, Jack Woltz’s personal animus towards Johnny Fontane, caused to him to do a poor job of assessing risk for Woltz International. Similarly, Jeffrey Loria’s spectacularly profitable investment in MLB franchises, has not gone unnoticed by his unwitting benefactors. A few examples of their frustration over being made to look ridiculous:

  • 2008 – Hank Steinbrenner remarks: I don’t want these teams in general to forget who subsidizes a lot of them, and it’s the Yankees, the Red Sox, Dodgers, Mets,” he said to The New York Post. “I would prefer if teams want to target the Yankees that they at least start giving some of that revenue sharing and luxury tax money back. From an owner’s point of view, that’s my point.
  • 2009 – John Henry remarks: … seven chronically uncompetitive teams, five of whom have had baseball’s highest operating profits, had received over $1 billion in revenue sharing money.
  • 2010 – First ever criticism of the revenue sharing abuse by the Florida Marlins from the Major League Baseball Players Association and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball.
  • 2011 – Revealed that the New York Yankees had contributed about $130 million between revenue sharing and luxury tax in 2010.
  • 2011 – Revealed that the Boston Red Sox had contributed about $86 million between revenue sharing and luxury tax in 2010.
  • 2011 – Revealed that MLB had fined John Henry $500K for his 2009 complaints about the current revenue sharing structure.

No truth to the rumor that Loria asked MLB if the John Henry fine could be direct deposited into his bank account.

Larry Beinfest: Hyman Roth’s Progeny?

Tom Hagen, he of German-Irish descent, quote from G2:

Roth, he … he played this one beautifully

Hyman Roth meet Larry Beinfest. The kid’s been running molasses out of Jamestown, Greenboro, Jupiter and New Orleans. He always make money for his partners and eventually, he’ll do the same for some of his prospects. They just need to be patient.

If you’re the Marlins getting ready for 2011, there is one financial constraint you have to work around. The next prospect with a chance to continue the recent string of rookie successes — Coghlan, Sanchez, Stanton and Morrison — cannot use up a year of arbitration in 2011. Which means, as Juan Rodriguez from the Sun-Sentinel explains, that Matt Dominguez won’t make it to the majors until “probably after the late-May arbitration cutoff date.”

So these were Beinfest’s options coming into Spring Training:

  1. Announce that 3B was Emilio Bonifacio’s job to lose
  2. Announce that 3B was Wes Helms’ job to lose
  3. Announce that 3B was Matt Dominguez’s job to lose
  4. Announce that there was an open competition for the job

Option #1 would have brought threats of violence from the Sabermetric community. Option #2 would have brought threats of violence from Wes Helms. His role and future with the Marlins appears set. No need to risk a .150 average in mid-May to potentially ruin the good vibes. So it came down to option #3 or #4.

The risk with option #4 is that Dominguez has a nice spring under the radar and now the Marlins have created a PR problem — New Ballpark = Caring = PR problem — when they send him down at the beginning of the season. Think of it this way, the Marlins had to decide under which option Dominguez would perform better this Spring and then select the other option. The choice on how to handle Dominguez came down to under the radar or as a top gun.

Evidence of the top gun expectations choice is that Dominguez was touted as one of the best fielding 3B in MLB right now and that only hitting would be a question mark. Once Dominguez struggled, now the Marlins have a prospect who probably accepts that he needs additional time in the minors instead of thinking that he belongs in the majors right away.

Somewhere, likely in Hell, Hyman Roth is smiling through a persistent cough and a urinary tract infection. If the Marlins trade for a 3B before the regular season begins, please ignore all the above.

The Rodriguez article is copied in full at the end of the post.
(more…)

Renyel Pinto: The Fredo Corleone of relievers

At the risk of incurring great personal scorn, on this blog I have defended Fredo Corleone and the overall lack of GF knowledge rampant in our society.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more …

Renyel Pinto had a tough game in the Marlins win against the putrid New York Mets on Wednesday. He was predictably getting killed on the morning talk shows. The best line I heard came on the ESPN Deportes station [1450 AM] – Desayuno Deportivo – a caller said that he wanted he wanted Pinto to go far in MLB, … far away. Knowing that fans, like popular emails which are constantly forwarded, are almost never accurate, I wanted to get into the numbers.

There were 95 relief pitchers in the National League which logged more than 40 innings. Here is where Pinto ranked in various categories against those other pitchers:

  • Games pitched: 73 – 16th place
  • Strikeouts per 9 innings: 8.51 – tied for 30th place [with Tim Byrdak]
  • ERA: 3.23 – tied for 39th place [with Tim Byrdak]
  • Innings pitched: 61.1 – tied for 39th place [with Tim Byrdak]
  • HR’s allowed: 4 – Tied for 39th with numerous others [but not Tim Byrdak]
  • Pitches Per Plate Appearance: 4.05 – 73rd place [tied with Tim Byrdak]
  • Walks & Hits per innings pitched [WHIP]: 1.61 – 87th place

Of those 95 National League relievers who pitched more than 40 innings, only 19 were lefties. Here is where Pinto ranked in various categories against those lefty pitchers:

  • Games pitched: 73 – 8th place
  • Strikeouts per 9 innings: 8.51 – tied for 9th place [with Tim Byrdak]
  • ERA: 3.23 – tied for 11th place [with Tim Byrdak]
  • Innings pitched: 61.1 – tied for 5th place [with Tim Byrdak]
  • HR’s allowed: 4 – Tied for 6th with numerous others [but not Tim Byrdak – who inexplicably gave up 10]
  • Pitches Per Plate Appearance: 4.05 – 11th place [tied with Tim Byrdak]
  • Walks & Hits per innings pitched [WHIP]: 1.61 – 17th place

As usual, getting into the numbers led to something even more interesting, Pinto and fellow lefty Tim Byrdak practically had the exact same season in 2008.

Pinto’s WHIP is the one critical area where Pinto is as bad as local fans think he is [especially after a bad outing]. However, if Pinto’s control were to improve — he issued the most walks of any lefty NL reliever — he likely moves up from being an average reliever pitcher to one of the better ones. Better to have a pitcher who needs to improve his control rather than his ‘stuff.’

One other additional factor in Pinto’s favor. His age, he is 27. The average age for the lefty relievers was 30.5. Only five of the 19 lefty relievers were younger than Pinto. For two of those, D Herrera [CIN] & C Zavada [ARI], 2008 represented their first year as a full-time reliever. Another one, J O’Flaherty [ATL] missed most of 2008 with an injury. For W Wright [HOU], 2009 represented his 2nd year as a full-time reliever, as compared to 3 years for Pinto and S Burnett [PIT], the other younger lefty reliever.

Overall Renyel Pinto was an average reliever in 2008. Being a lefty, he has more value that an average right-handed relief pitcher and has showed good durability — between 58 and 64 innings pitched for the past 3 years. In addition, the fact that lefty relievers are typically older — indicating that pitchers need a lot of experience to handle that role properly — Pinto’s relative youth gives him even more of a comparative advantage.

Bottom line, Renyel Pinto is a valuable left-handed relief pitcher with excellent prospects for improvement given his age. So go ahead and boo, flog and request that he be traded every time he goes to a 3-1 count, but understand that you do so out of frustration rather than any appreciation about how pitchers develop to succeed in that role.

A tale of two piggies

It was the best of [MLB] crimes [profitable],
it was the worst of [MLB] crimes [dishonorable]

I was hoping that my headline could read, “pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.” But as you will soon read, the hogs assault on their fans and free-agency eligible players will continue, largely unabated.

Gather round children, let us tell a tale of greed. Not the type of greed which serves a role in a capitalist society, but the sort of greed which prospers lecherously on the backs of others, greed of TARP-esque dimensions. The piggies / hogs I refer to are the owner and the financial face of the Florida Marlins franchise, Jeffrey Loria and David Samson.

As described in Juan C. Rodriguez’s Sun-Sentinel blog, yesterday the the MLB Commissioner’s Office and the MLB Players Association issued a statement which read in part:

In response to our concerns that revenue sharing proceeds have not been used as required, the Marlins have assured the Union and the Commissioner’s Office that they plan to use such proceeds to increase player payroll annually as they move toward the opening of their new ballpark.

Given that they were dealing with a franchise which redefined “improve its performance on the field” to mean that revenue sharing monies could be used to pay for their portion of the new stadium costs, I was disappointed at the weak language — “increase player payroll annually” — used in the agreement.

If spending one dollar more in player payroll in each of the successive seasons would seem to put them in compliance with that language, then it is hard to see how effective this agreement could realistically be. It is puzzling why the terms could not have been more defined. After all, this franchise probably could have doubled their 2009 team payroll of $36 million and still shown operating profits. They certainly could have done that [doubled salaries and still show operating profits] in each year since 2006. Someone please just look at the numbers below. The numbers are based on the Forbes reporting which are disputed only by those who stand to be embarrassed by their accuracy — read here and here.

How To Understand What The Florida
Marlins Have Done Since 2006

Pretend that a generous neighbor on your block gave you $10,000 yearly to “improve the look” of your home because he had a vested interest in having the neighborhood look better. Imagine further that you turned around used the money to pay down the principal on your mortgage instead of fixing up your property. Could you convince that neighbor that his monies didn’t go into your pocket? Could you make the case that the property looks better when it carries less debt? If you could, you are ready to be an executive for the Florida Marlins.

Replace the term “improve the look” with “improve its performance on the field” and you have the equivalent of what the Florida Marlins have done to those teams which are net revenue sharing payers [Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Cubs etc].

If you were that generous neighbor and suspected that your monies were being misused for four years and finally confronted your abusively free-loading neighbor and the best you could negotiate was that the abusively free-loading neighbor would be gradually less abusive over the next three years, well then you are destined for greatness as a negotiator in the world of MLB finances.

Somewhere in a cell at the Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, N.C., a fella named Madoff is reading about the Marlins and wondering, where’s the outrage?

I supported the new stadium, not because I wished to further enrich this management crowd, but because I thought it was necessary for my city to have a MLB future. A future which at some point practically all local fans hope does not include Jeffrey Loria, an owner who is as welcome in South Florida as Art Model is in Cleveland. This wrist slap by MLB is a disappointment. Who knew that Loria and Samson, like the Rosato brothers, would end up being protected by both sides in this revenue sharing drama. The only consolation is that the protection for the Rosato brothers proved to be only temporary.

Below is a Profit and Loss financial statement I have put together for the Florida Marlins since 2002 using Forbes Business of Baseball figures.

Please click on image below to enlarge or print.

It is a far, far better thing that they can do, than they have ever done; if they would only please sell the team.

The Juan Rodriguez blog post referenced is copied in full at end of post.

—————————————————————————-
Florida Marlins: Low payrolls prompt Players Association to take action

Posted by Juan C. Rodriguez on January 12, 2010

The Florida Marlins ranked last or second-to-last four consecutive seasons in final payroll. That did not go unnoticed in the Commissioner’s Office or with the Players Association.

In a joint statement released Tuesday, the Players Association said it had concerns the Marlins were not in compliance with Article XXIV (B)(5)(a) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. That provision states:

“A principal objective of the Revenue Sharing Plan is to promote the growth of the Game and the industry on an individual Club and on an aggregate basis. Accordingly, each Club shall use its revenue sharing receipts (from the Base Plan, the Central Fund Component and the Commissioner’s Discretionary Fund) in an effort to improve its performance on the field. Each Payee Club, no later than April 1, shall report on the performance-related uses to which it put its revenue sharing receipts in the preceding Revenue Sharing Year. Consistent with his authority under the Major League Constitution, the Commissioner may impose penalties on any Club that violates this obligation.”

The Marlins were one of “several clubs” Major League Baseball and the Players Association discussed. Here are the statements each of the sides made subsequent “extensive discussions”:

MLBPA Executive Directior Michael Weiner: “In response to our concerns that revenue sharing proceeds have not been used as required, the Marlins have assured the Union and the Commissioner’s Office that they plan to use such proceeds to increase player payroll annually as they move toward the opening of their new ballpark. Today’s agreement, which covers the period 2010 through 2012, calls for ongoing communication among the Marlins, the Commissioner’s Office and the Union as the Marlins proceed with that plan. It also permits, after consultation among all parties, adjustments in the Marlins’ plan to respond to unforeseen developments, and calls for arbitral intervention if disagreements arise. We greatly appreciate the willingness of the Commissioner’s Office and the Marlins to engage with us and ensure that all terms of the Basic Agreement are met.”

Marlins’ President David Samson said: “The Marlins have consistently made every effort to put the best product on the field and our record supports the fact that we have been successful in that regard. Throughout the discussions, the Marlins maintained that there had been no violation of the Basic Agreement at any time. While we know that the Marlins will always comply with the Basic Agreement, we were happy to work cooperatively with the Union and the Commissioner’s Office on this matter.”

MLB Executive Vice President, Labor Relations Rob Manfred added: “The Basic Agreement contains confidentiality provisions that preclude the parties from publicly discussing the specifics of the Marlins’ finances. There will, therefore, be no comment by any of these parties on any further specifics of this agreement. All three parties agree that the Basic Agreement provision on the proper use of revenue sharing dollars is an important part of our agreement. Today’s announcement is the product of a positive dialogue between the MLBPA, the Commissioner’s Office and the Club.”

Bottom line: Looks like the Marlins payroll will increase incrementally leading up to the opening of their new ballpark in 2012, perhaps by greater leaps and bounds than they planned.
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The logic of Billy Preston and the Ballpark vote

I got tired of not finding an actual headcount on how the Miami-Dade County commissioners might vote tomorrow, so I’ll take a shot at it here. [Warning: I’m getting killed in my Descarga NCAA Brackets–I’ll never trust Clemson again–so please, no wagering.]

I bring no particular insight into the topic of how the commissioners might vote, given that I was unfamiliar with more than one of them before I started this post. What I can contribute as a long-time Miamian, is to say that any politician of a Hispanic background would be loathe to cast the deciding no vote on the Marlins ballpark deal. Whereas white politician’s with a non-Hispanic background, would wear that no vote like a ‘stinkin-bage‘ among their Howard Beale-sque constituencies. To say nothing of the annually replenished Norman Braman vehicles at their disposal [new ones for the first two years, then pre-owned, then … listen, just talk to Buddy Ryan] such a vote would produce. The African-American vote is more of a wild-card. This and what follows represents my shameless attempt to channel The Wire.

Publicly committed: 3 Yes votes – 3 No votes

District 4 – Sally A. Heyman – No
District 5 – Bruno A. Barreiro – Yes
District 7 – Carlos A. Gimenez – No
District 8 – Katy Sorenson – No
District 9 – Dennis C. Moss – Yes
District 12 – José “Pepe” Diaz – Yes

Publicly undecided – the Circumspect Six = 6 Yeses

All six of these commissioners voted for the stadium project in 2008.

District 1 – Barbara J. Jordan: Ms Jordan was recently appointed Chair of the Transit, Infrastructure and Roads Committee by the Commission Chairman Dennis Moss, who is a stadium supporter. No seemingly ideological agenda re public funding etc, so I assume she’s a reliable Moss ally on this issue.District 2 – Dorrin D. Rolle – Mr Rolle’s most recently sponsored legislation involved the Port of Miami tunnel. That tunnel is a key component of the mega-plan which is encompassed by the Marlins ballpark deal. Further, he is very active with inner-city youth groups. If MLB doesn’t end up sponsoring one of his activities in Liberty City, someone should get sued for political malpractice.
District 3 – Audrey Edmonson – Ms Edmonson’s district is adjacent to Little Havana neighborhood where the Marlins ballpark is to be built. Further, she co-sponsored the Port of Miami tunnel legislation with Mr Rolle. Her activities include a lot of outreach to the Hispanic community. Again, I have to assume she’s a reliable Moss ally on this issue.

Considering the four African-American commissioners as a voting-block–Moss, Jordan, Rolle and Edmonson–it is just hard to imagine one of them breaking off and sinking this project. In addition, one would assume a degree of cooperation with Michelle Spence-Jones over at the City of Miami commission, especially with respect to ensuring that their constituencies are not ignored in disbursing potential CRA funds.

District 6 – Rebeca Sosa – Ms Sosa’s district encompasses the city of Hialeah. A MLB-backed youth baseball academy was established last year in Hialeah. Non-Hialeah Cubans-Americans think Hialeah Cuban-Americans are really loud and intense baseball fans. Forget any issues here. The woman has to vote yes just to be able to enjoy meals in her district.
District 11 – Joe A. Martinez – West Dade district. Has been a commissioner since 2000 and once served as Commission Chairman. He probably is the biggest no vote potential given his experience, but I just don’t see the end game to his no vote. Again, following my perception that Hispanic commissioners would not want to be identified as killing this project, the safe play would have been to be out in front with a no vote.
District 13 – Natacha Seijas – The longest tenured commissioner, since 1993. Recently reappointed as chairperson of a Trade Consortium by Moss. Has ties to the AFL-CIO and recently commented that she is pleased that her concerns about labor unions have been addressed.

So while the ‘Circumspect Six’ may not exactly represent profiles in courage, the logic of the great Billy Preston–Nothin from nothin , leaves nothin’–will likely carry the day. The odds are high that County commissioners will have some new concession to point to–like their brethren at the City of Miami–by the time they vote. When you think about it, the undecideds are are practicing, at a gut-level, the same skill which is earning tenure at universities, game theory–an egghead description:

Game theory is the study of the ways in which strategic interactions among rational players produce outcomes with respect to the preferences (or utilities) of those players, none of which might have been intended by any of them.

See politician’s are laughing at those geeks, ‘Man, you had to go to college to learn to keep your options open?’ It’s actually pretty interesting stuff, see the Pirate puzzle example.

One publicly undecided Commissioner’s odyssey –
From Amerigo Bonasera to Alfredo Amezega

Of the undecideds, Mr Souto is the only one to have voted against the project in 2008.

District 10 – Javier D. Souto – Despite his no vote in 2008, Mr Souto’s remarks about the stadium deal merely express concern about getting a better deal for the County. Which is what politician’s do to keep their options open.

Check out what Mr Souto was doing Saturday according to the Miami Herald:

… County Mayor Alvarez [stadium supporter] spent Friday morning at the Miami International Cattle Show, admiring prized stud bulls with key swing-vote Commissioner Javier Souto. The cattle show is Souto’s pet project. Souto could not be reached for comment Friday night.

My guess is that he is for now, the pro-ballpark forces Amerigo Bonacera, a dormant asset. One text later, he will be their Alfredo Amezaga. Although Mr Souto lacks Amezaga’s distinction of having attended the great Miami Senior High, he can play one on the Commission.

OK we’re done, I’ve officially jinxed the Marlins ballpark deal. Wait, let me bury it completely; Hell, what could go wrong?

The lyrics to Billy Preston’s ‘Nothing From Nothing’ and article referenced are copied in full at end of post.

—————————————————————————-
Lyrics for: Nothing From Nothing

Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
You gotta have somethin’
If you wanna be with me
Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
You gotta have somethin’
If you wanna be with me

I’m not tryin’ to be your hero
‘Cause that zero is too cold for me, brrr
I’m not tryin’ to be your highness
‘Cause that minus is too low to see, yeah

Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
And I’m not stuffin’
Believe you me
Don’t you remember I told ya
I’m a soldier in the war on poverty, yeah
Yes, I am

[Instrumental Interlude]

Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
You gotta have somethin’
If you wanna be with me
Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
You gotta have somethin’
If you wanna be with me

You gotta have somethin’
If you wanna be with me
You gotta bring me somethin’ girl
If you wanna be with me
——————————————————————————
Struggle for a Florida Marlins stadium comes down to last pitch BY JACK DOLAN AND CHARLES RABIN

Posted on Sun, Mar. 22, 2009

With a final vote on the Florida Marlins’ new stadium looming Monday, the franchise appears to be one tense afternoon away from a goal it has chased since 1994 — a South Florida ballpark to call its own.

For critics opposed to spending hundreds of millions from public coffers to build the stadium in Little Havana — and those pushing the Marlins to pick up more of the proposed $634 million tab — Monday’s vote by the Miami-Dade County Commission could be the last stand.

Momentum swung dramatically in the Marlins’ favor Thursday at Miami City Hall, where the team won a tight 3-2 vote approving the deal.

But city commissioners extracted two significant concessions: a greater share of the profits for the county and city if the team is sold after construction, and a promise that at least half of the people who will build the stadium will be hired from South Florida.

That leaves stadium skeptics on the County Commission eager to extract concessions of their own, even as some begin to admit that the stadium deal will likely pass.

”I think they have the votes now, but you can still make the deal better by changing some aspects of it,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, the most outspoken stadium critic on the county board.

Commissioner Joe Martinez made a similar point in a memo to his colleagues immediately after the city’s vote.

”In the eleventh hour, the Marlins have now conceded to changes under pressure from the City Commissioners,” Martinez wrote. “If the Marlins will agree to these changes, perhaps they will do even more.”

So the question isn’t so much whether the stadium agreement will pass, but how much the Marlins might have to give up to make the deal go through.

County Mayor Carlos Alvarez, the principal county advocate for building a stadium for the Marlins, argues that professional sports teams are a key feature of any world-class city, and that the stadium will create public-works jobs at a time that the economy is starved for them.

He announced Friday that he wants the commission to cast a single vote on the five contracts that constitute the deal — an effort to avoid the spectacle of the agreement being carved apart piece by piece on the dais.

That’s bold, because one measure — waiving the competitive bidding process to allow the Marlins’ chosen firm, Hunt-Moss, to build the stadium — requires a nine-vote super-majority of the 13-member board.

A SUPER-MAJORITY

”We want it to go forward as one big resolution that requires nine votes, with everything in it,” Alvarez spokeswoman Victoria Mallette said Friday.

That announcement came after Alvarez spent Friday morning at the Miami International Cattle Show, admiring prized stud bulls with key swing-vote Commissioner Javier Souto. The cattle show is Souto’s pet project. Souto could not be reached for comment Friday night.

The agenda for Monday’s meeting, released late Friday, shows all five stadium contracts voted on at once. But the agenda can be changed by a simple majority.

Among those firmly behind the project are Chairman Dennis C. Moss and Vice Chair Jose ”Pepe” Diaz.

On Friday, Diaz said that if the hotel-tax money that would finance most of the stadium could be used for police or social services, he wouldn’t vote for the deal. But by law, bed taxes must be spent on tourist development, such as a stadium.

”We’re going to create jobs in making the park itself,” Diaz said. “We’re going to create jobs around the park. It will create jobs when the stadium is functional.”

Opponents have other ideas.

Gimenez has called for scrapping the existing contracts and writing new ones, with the public contribution dropping from about $480 million to about $76 million. The Marlins are committed to paying $120 million toward construction and repaying a $35 million county loan.

”A motion to start all over? That’s absolutely ludicrous at this point,” Alvarez said.

PUSH FOR REVISIONS

Should Gimenez fail to persuade his colleagues to start from scratch, he said he wants the Marlins to contribute their share for construction first. Under the current deal, the public pays to build the first three-quarters of the stadium; the Marlins pay to finish it.

Gimenez also wants the public to get a share of the profits if the team is ever sold — not just in the first nine years, as the current contract stipulates. And he wants the county to hire an independent auditor to make sure that the Marlins have the money to live up to the deal. Team owner Jeffrey Loria has refused to open the Marlins’ books to show assets and liabilities.

”It’s a major-league franchise,” Alvarez said. “We met with the commissioner of Major League Baseball. These are legitimate people.”

A skeptical Gimenez said the county shouldn’t enter into such a big business deal based on its partner’s word.

Gimenez isn’t the only one who will be waiting for the deal with a legislative scalpel.

Commissioner Sally Heyman said she’ll introduce an amendment to reduce the county’s share of the construction cost to $206 million and to make Major League Baseball cosign the Marlins’ promise to stay in Miami for 35 years. That way, the league could be sued if the team were to leave.

Heyman also wants to get rid of the so-called ”death clause” that would allow Loria’s heirs to sell the team without the requirement to share the profits with the city and the county.

”I am very concerned about the agreements because they offer little financial or legal protection for our citizens,” she wrote in a memo Wednesday.

While commissioners debate the contracts Monday, Loria will sit in the audience, possibly one momentous roll call away from a dream that he and two previous owners have been chasing for 15 years: a permanent home, with a retractable roof, for a team that consistently ranks near the bottom of the major leagues in attendance and payroll.

Despite playing in a football stadium that is often nearly empty, the players have managed to win two World Series.

”South Florida really needs a baseball-only facility,” Marlins catcher John Baker said last week after Miami’s vote. “It would be a great benefit to the community to have a stadium.”

Miami Herald staff writer Andre Fernandez contributed to this report.
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The ghost of Orange Bowl past is smiling

A historical injustice is about to be corrected. A Miami Herald article [copied at end of post] notes that plans have been finalized for another stadium to rise where the Orange Bowl once stood. In her informative The Business of Sports blog, Sarah Talalay from the Sun-Sentinel, highlights the various concessions the Marlins have made since the original outline of an agreement. The Marlins and local governments unveiled their plans–see the actual documents, about which more in due time–for the new stadium. The City and County votes has been set for Friday, Feb 13th, of course.

I am tempted to evoke the words of Hyman Roth, by wondering why there “isn’t even a plaque – or a signpost – or a statue of [the OB] in that place!“–but it was hard to tell from the drawings released. You would think that honoring the Orange Bowl will be a given at the new stadium. If for no other reason, but to follow my lead.

Stadium Critics – A Few Observations

Something to keep in mind from those attacking the stadium plans between now and Feb 13th. For the local critics, it is fair, and telling I submit, to ask where they stood on the construction of the Arsht Center. If those who oppose the stadium were OK with the Arsht Center, their opposition is a matter of tastes not principle.

My other point is a great example of how bias is practiced underneath the surface of the stadium arguments. The actual stadium construction costs are listed at $515 million. The problem is that that has been the quoted cost for a few years now. Stadiums are notorious for costs overruns. I’m sure part of the reason the Marlins insisted on negotiating for their own architect and construction company, is an attempt to keep those costs under control. But a major factor in the stadium deal is the fact that the Marlins are on the hook for additional costs beyond the $515 million. If that were not the case, the fact that the $515 million is likely an understated amount would be prominent in those arguments against the stadium. Look for that the next time a stadium critic notes that the Marlins share of the stadium costs are too low. Fairness would dictate that they note that the Marlins percentage is certain to rise. My follow up question would then be; Too low compared to which other recent stadium construction project?

I provide Hyman Roth’s full quote referred to above, below. I do so not for context, but out of pure lust. WARNING: Please don’t try to read out loud without inserting the 16 verbal tics so necessary for an accurate rendition. The soul of Lee Strasberg is listening, you child. [Even this last sentence, if spoken, should be done so with a disdainful tone worthy of a Gust Avrakotos].

There was this kid I grew up with – he was younger than me. Sorta looked up to me – you know. We did our first work together – worked our way out of the street. Things were good, we made the most of it. During Prohibition – we ran molasses into Canada – made a fortune – your father, too. As much as anyone, I loved him – and trusted him. Later on he had an idea – to build a city out of a desert stop-over for GI’s on the way to the West Coast. That kid’s name was Moe Green – and the city he invented was Las Vegas. This was a great man – a man of vision and guts. And there isn’t even a plaque – or a signpost – or a statue of him in that town! Someone put a bullet through his eye. No one knows who gave the order – when I heard it, I wasn’t angry; I knew Moe – I knew he was head-strong, talking loud, saying stupid things. So when he turned up dead – I let it go. And I said to myself, this is the business we’ve chosen – I didn’t ask who gave the order – because it had nothing to do with business!

Articles referenced are copied in full at end of the post.

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Marlins Stadium Update No. 2012000, Updated

Posted by Sarah Talalay at 2:07 PM

The Marlins are hoping Friday the 13th turns out to be their lucky day. Miami-Dade County Commissioners and Miami City Commissioners are to vote Feb. 13 on the five agreements that spell out the financing, construction and other details to make their ballpark at the site of the former Orange Bowl a reality.

The five agreements – Construction Administration; Operating; Non-Relocation; Assurance; and City Parking – were released Tuesday. If you want some light reading, take a look at the documents here on the county’s website.

Acknowledging that I haven’t read every page YET, the agreements overall appear to extract more from the team, thereby offering more protections for the public. The budget for the ballpark is to remain the same, the documents show, ($347 million from the county; $155 million from the team; and $13 million from the city), but the team is responsible for any cost overruns incurred on the ballpark AND the public infrastructure. That means if there are overruns on the estimated $21 million in drainage, sewer and road work the city and county will split, the team will be responsible for those.

The team’s rent payment of $2.3 million a year will rise 2 percent a year – meaning more money for the county to cover its debt. The team will provide 81,000 tickets – or 1,000 a game at an “affordable price” starting at $15 in the ballpark’s inaugural year. Another 10,000 – double the original 5,000 – a season will be provided free for youth groups and community organizations.

If the team is sold within seven years, the team would have to pay a higher percentage than initially planned, to the county as a profit share. Under last year’s agreement, the team would pay 10 percent if the team was sold in year one; under the new agreement, that’s shot up to 18 percent. The percentage falls each year, but is significantly more onerous than in the earlier agreement – arguably creating something of a disincentive to sell.

Neither County Manager George Burgess nor Marlins President David Samson would say the changes were made to appease the concerns of county commissioners who have threatened to vote against the ballpark agreements.

“We wanted to get something stronger,” Burgess said.

“You do what you think is right to achieve a goal you have. Our goal from the beginning was to partner with the city and county … through the course of negotiations there were certain provisions that changed,” Samson said. “Our focus has been to get this deal done.”

Even if the commissions sign off on the agreements, there’s still an option for any of the parties to terminate them by June 30. Burgess and Samson said they don’t expect that to happen. They expect construction to begin this summer with the ballpark opening in 2012.

The city commission is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Feb. 13, followed by a 1 p.m. meeting of the county commission. The county commission must approve the agreements by a two-thirds vote — or 9 — of the 13 county commissioners. Expect it to be another long day.
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Vote on Florida Marlins’ stadium coming Feb. 13

Posted on Wed, Jan. 28, 2009

BY CHARLES RABIN AND JACK DOLAN

Miami and Miami-Dade leaders are poised to cast rapid-fire, historic votes that could end the decade-long search for a permanent home for the two-time World Series champion Florida Marlins.

If approved Feb. 13, the partially glass-encased, 37,000-seat facility with a retractable roof would rise to face the downtown skyline from the Little Havana grounds where the revered Orange Bowl once stood.

The votes, required for five contracts that must be approved before ground can be broken, could be vindication for team owner Jeffrey Loria, who, like the two owners before him, suffered through a series of broken last-minute deals at the hands of government.

Passage is not guaranteed, as construction and management agreements require a two-thirds majority vote by county commissioners. And, even if approval comes, critics question whether the dire economy could derail construction and cause the county’s borrowing cost to jump.

Yet the team has never been closer to having its own stadium, with renderings and final contracts released Tuesday, and supporters saying the public-works project will infuse the economy with jobs.

As County Manager George Burgess released the terms of the five remaining contracts, city of Miami staff members unveiled previously unseen stadium renderings.

The stadium would be surrounded by garages and parking lots that could fit up to 6,000 vehicles, intersected by walkways, with a grassy open field to the northwest just above home plate. In between the field and home plate is the stadium’s “Grand Entry Plaza.”

Total cost, including parking spaces: $609 million, with almost two-thirds coming from the county, and the city donating land. The team is contributing $120 million, and will repay the county another $35 million via rent payments.

TEAM CONCESSIONS

Burgess said the Marlins — who would become the Miami Marlins — agreed to a host of contract concessions, moves likely to help shore up support of the two contracts requiring a two-thirds County Commission approval. The other contracts to be approved involve an assurance agreement and deals for parking and nonrelocation.

”We got more because I felt like we needed to get more,” said Burgess.

Among the changes:

• If Loria sells the team next year, the county would get 18 percent of the profit, a share that diminishes annually until year eight, when the county would no longer share in the profit.

• The ball club’s $2.3 million in yearly rent will go up by 2 percent each year.

• Extra costs incurred due to scheduling or problems between the contractor and subcontractors will now be paid by the Marlins.

The Marlins or any potential buyer would be obligated to play at the Little Havana ballpark for 35 years, the team will give away 10,000 free tickets to youth groups each year and 1,000 seats for each home game will go for $15.

”He’s [Marlins President David Samson] probably throwing darts at our pictures as he speaks. He’s made a lot of concessions,” said Burgess.

Not exactly. Reached Tuesday, Samson called the deal fair and said he will meet personally with the 18 commissioners from the two boards over the next two weeks.

”We had very strict marching orders from Jeffrey,” Samson said. “That was to save baseball in South Florida.”

GOVERNMENT PAYMENT

The county’s share of the stadium’s cost is likely to rise. That’s because Miami and Miami-Dade have agreed to split the cost of moving electrical lines and road improvements, expected to be as high as $10 million each. Both governments will also pay $1.7 million to keep the Little Havana ballpark green.

Also, because of rising interest rates, the county’s ultimate cost over the 35-year-agreement may rise by millions of dollars.

To pay the yearly nut, the county will rely on tourist taxes. Its most recent budget predicts growth in tax revenue but acknowledges that the stream of money “could be affected by economic conditions.”

Tourist taxes already pay for the Performing Arts Center, the Miami Beach Convention Center, the Homestead Miami Speedway and the AmericanAirlines Arena.

Any of the three parties — city, county or team — can kill the deal by July 2009 if bonding is in jeopardy. The county gets more days to use the stadium, with 50 percent of the profits going to yearly stadium capital improvements. The county and city each get use of a suite for 40 games.

The team gets all the revenue from the stadium, including the naming rights, which could exceed $2 million a year.

BARRIERS & INCENTIVES

The question now is whether the team’s contract changes will be enough to persuade a County Commission that barely passed a series of votes a year ago to keep the stadium deal alive.

Because there was no bidding for the construction or management groups — both hired by the Marlins — a two-thirds majority of the 13-member County Commission must vote to accept.

County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, a stadium-deal skeptic, said the Marlins aren’t paying enough. He also fears that the souring global economy could undermine the county’s plan to pay for its share through loans and hotel bed taxes.

”Last I heard, tourist revenues were down,” he said. As for interest rates to be applied to bonded money, “Are we just going to roll the dice and hope they are not too bad?”

Commission Chairman Dennis Moss, a stadium supporter, agreed that the current economic climate is tough but said it can’t last forever. ”Clearly, there’s risk involved,” Moss said, “but it’s kind of a leap of faith.”

In contrast with earlier approvals, which critics felt were rushed with little public input, Moss insisted that commissioners get at least two weeks to review the new proposal, which includes more than 350 pages of contracts, budgets and artists’ renderings.

”I hope by then we have enough information to vote this thing up or down,” Moss said. “That’s going to be the big day.”

To sweeten the pot, Major League Baseball agreed to pay $3.2 million to build a youth baseball academy in Hialeah. It comes with a caveat: Commissioners must pass the vote before the academy is built.

County Commissioner Jose ”Pepe” Diaz said MLB’s input goes a long way. ”I think they’re generally interested in helping the kids in our community,” he said.

Loria and Samson believe that a new ballpark, with money from concessions and corporate suites, will keep the franchise in South Florida.

FACE TO THE FUTURE

Annually ranking near the bottom of baseball in payroll and attendance, the Marlins have long cried foul about the team’s lease agreement with H. Wayne Huizenga at Dolphin Stadium.

That lease ends after the 2010 season, but the new ballpark will not be ready until Opening Day 2012. Team officials hope to work out a one-year lease with soon-to-be Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

Samson said Loria has good relationships with the banks ”that are eager to do business with us.” The team doesn’t have to pay its $120 million until construction is almost complete — giving it the benefit of accumulating cash through ticket sales before it borrows money.

County Mayor Carlos Alvarez, trying to sell the deal in a county with a skyrocketing unemployment rate, said Tuesday that the stadium was being built for the community — not the Miami Marlins.

”Let’s not forget — right now a stadium means jobs, thousands of jobs,” the mayor said.

Miami Herald staff writer Larry Lebowitz contributed to this report.
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