Emptying the notebook
Today's entry is a collection of thoughts including the potential for downtown baseball, when we can expect the lockout negotiations to resume and the cancelation of FanFest.
Back on the writing horse, and I realized I had a few loose ideas rumbling around. Most of them pertain to the happenings off the field…The lockout…A downtown stadium. You know, the issues of the day when the hot stove had been shut completely off for the time being.
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The Athletic has always been a source of fantastic offseason content and they’re doing their darnedest to keep it going during the lockout. Alec Lewis dropped an always interesting fan poll this week that, if you’re a subscriber, is well worth your time.
Honestly, I could riff on the answers to all of the questions he posed. They’re great questions and fascinating answers. But that would be uncool and I’m not going to do that. However, I will note he ran a question about the potential for a downtown stadium. Answers were almost evenly divided by love it, hate it or need more info. I expect this division will continue to be the case as we move closer to a concrete decision by the organization one way or another. Which, given the stadium lease expires in 2030, will be quite some time.
Personally, I’m ballpark location agnostic. I don’t care where it is in the city. That’s because wherever it is, I’ll find a way to get there. I suspect most fans are the same way. Really the only things I care about if there’s going to be a new yard are:
It has to be outdoor. No roofs, retractable or otherwise.
The playing surface needs to be grass. I figure that’s a safe one.
The sightlines have to be perfect for every seat in the house.
Since it’s the signature item at Kauffman and because I named the damn newsletter after it, there have to be fountains. Or, if you prefer, a “water spectacular.”
I do realize I just described Kauffman Stadium. So if the Royals chose to stay there, that’s fine with me. But if they can build another ballpark in another location that somehow improves on the Kauffman experience, then by all means, let it rip.
There is a certain air of nostalgia around Kauffman Stadium. It’s hosted All-Star Games and World Series contests. A title was won on the carpet in 1985. George Brett became a Hall of Famer at the hot corner. Bret Saberhagen threw a no-hitter. Salvy Perez lashed one down the third base line. The good memories are plentiful, and that means something. It also is something of a jewel, a source of civic pride. It was built almost 50 years ago in an era when multi-purpose cookie-cutter (or toilet bowl, feel free to select your preferred metaphor) stadiums were de rigueur. Kauffman (and its partner, Arrowhead) were the result of some forward-thinking civic leadership at a time when the possibilities of Kansas City seemed endless. It also helps that the stadium isn’t showing its age.
However, there’s nothing to say new memories can’t be crafted at a different location. Or an innovative architect or city planner can’t come up with an idea that tops the current flavor of ballpark villages at the moment. Dream big. Set a new standard in a ballpark, whether it’s downtown or in a suburb. The arguments against a new stadium downtown (i.e. lack of parking, lack of open spaces) aren’t really arguments. If a new stadium is built, you’ll figure out your preferred way to attend. We are all creatures of habit. I suspect if a new yard is built, we will all figure out how to adapt our routines one way or another.
I’ll have a lot more to say on this in the future. It is, as they say, a developing story.
This is the 34th day of the lockout.
The word on the street (and the internet) is that there have been scant negotiations between the sides. That’s unsurprising. Although the owners locked out the players under the auspices that it would lead to more negotiations, that was always a canard. A bald-faced lie meant to spin the narrative to their favor. What happens in collective bargaining is that once a drastic action has been taken (in the form of a lockout from management or a strike by employees), both sides immediately decamp. There is no immediate impetus to get back to the conference room.
The double-whammy of the lockout coming at the start of December is the holidays immediately got in the way. The were never going to be serious negotiations around Christmas and New Year’s. Especially not with camps opening in mid-February. This leads me to another point about the lockout…There has to be a tangible deadline attached to negotiations. Something has to be at stake for the sides to come back to the table for meaningful discussion. In this case, it will be the start of camps in a few weeks. At least one would hope that both sides realize that the mid-February opening of Spring Training camps would provide the impetus. As ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports, there is not a bargaining session currently scheduled.
We’re still about six weeks from when camps would open, so in one sense there’s plenty of time. Yet with the gulf between ownership and the players seemingly wider than ever, they will probably need to get cracking soon. There are too many issues to resolve to wait until February to begin negotiations in earnest.
Once we approach the time when camps are supposed to open, expect negotiations to really pick up steam. I’m still optimistic that games—real games—won’t be lost. They may end up sacrificing a week of spring training, but that wouldn’t be so bad. Camps last a little too long anyway. However, players are going to be gun-shy about cutting too much out of Spring Training, especially coming off the shortened summer camps ahead of the 2020 season.
Indeed, Passan points out the first date to circle on your calendar is February 1. If an agreement isn’t in place by then, Spring Training games will be in jeopardy. If the lockout continues through February, a date of March 1 is when the start of the regular season is in danger.
The Royals canceled FanFest last week.
The release announcing the cancellation was a bit disingenuous, citing only Covid as a reason it will not be held for a second consecutive year. Had FanFest gone ahead, the lockout means that players on the 40-man roster would not have been able to attend. That would’ve made for a bit of a dull gathering.
Look, Covid is absolutely reason enough to cancel FanFest. The Omicron surge is massive and having thousands of people gathered indoors—even with a vaccine and mask mandate—would be unwise. But nobody appreciates half-truths. The fact that the Whit Merrifield’s, Salvador Perez’s and Nicky Lopez’s of the team wouldn’t be there is just as much a reason for the cancellation.
It’s a bummer they had to cancel for a second consecutive year. FanFest is a slice of summer in the middle of January, an opportunity to surround yourself in baseball for a weekend. Here’s hoping it can return in 2023.
Finally, a programming note…
The Salvy Perez Home Run Countdown will continue soon. Damn, that was a fun newsletter to write. Especially with the lockout casting a shadow over everything this winter.
The initial plan was to do 10 entries at a time, but I’m thinking of cutting that in half. I can get the content out faster if I do just five at a time. Also, Substack has a thing where it slices off the newsletter if it gets too long for some email browsers to display it properly. Turns out gifs of Salvy hitting bombs takes up a lot of space. Five feels like the sweet spot.