Monday, January 28, 2008

Again About the Braves

The marriage between the Atlanta Braves organization and Richmond Virginia is over. Custody of the child of the marriage, the R-Braves, has been awarded to Gwinnett County, Georgia. It is a sad end to a long relationship and everybody in Metro Richmond (except perhaps for our beloved Uncle Doug) is doing their own post mortem to figure out how it is that such a wonderful union has come to an end.

I guess it is good to try to figure out what went wrong with the R-Braves. Uncle Doug has promised us we will not go without baseball for even a year, so we need to make sure that our next sports marriage will live long and prosper (as the old Vulcan greeting goes). So it is okay to analyze everything that has happened in the Atlanta Braves-Richmond relationship over the last few years to make sure that we don’t make the same mistakes all over again.

But, beloved reader, we can’t allow ourselves to get mired down in self-flagellation. Let’s not start thinking that River City and its surroundo-burbs are a great failure. We cannot do what the writer of a letter published in the TD today did.

Our writer went and looked at the official web site for Gwinnett County, Georgia. S/he (the name is Julie) found out that Gwinnett County has recently built a big swimming pool and a new football complex. It has new roads and libraries and a police training center and three new fire stations and a new SPCA and a 911 communications center and police headquarters. Gwinnett County has also hired 200 new public safety officers and is opening a big park.

Well, Julie, based on your research, I bet the citizens of Gwinnett County have one hell of a tax bill. Either that or they’re up to their eyeballs in debt. I just don’t believe Santa brought all this expensive construction down the chimney one cold December night? Julie, do you really want us to go on the kind of construction binge that Gwinnett County has undergone? We in the City of Richmond already pay super high real estate taxes. Should we spend more?

Julie then went and looked at the Richmond City website and in his/her words “found nothing.” We have “[n]o accomplishment list whatsoever.” Julie then goes on to list the problems we have in River City. She concludes that it is no wonder that the Braves left.

Come on, Julie, Richmond really isn’t that bad. After all, both you and I live here. And I bet there are many thousands of other good people like us. Beside the people, there are hundreds of great things about living in Richmond. Even with all their spanking new toys (including the soon-to-be-former R-Braves), would you really prefer to live in Gwinnett County, Georgia? Would you want a mailing address of Lawrenceville?

Aside from the need not to blame this marital breakup entirely on us, we have to examine whether this was really that good a relationship to start with. My first birthday in Richmond, my maveness presented me with two season tickets to the Braves. Although I started out excited, I soon found out that there were hundreds of better presents she could have given me (at much lower prices). Most of those tickets went unused. The reason? I found Braves games terribly boring. Oh, they gave me things like dirtiest car contests and a catching a bean bag in your pants contest and they allowed me to pick the song they would play at the beginning of the next inning. What they never gave me was good baseball. (And, I’m not talking about winning. I found the debut season of the New York Mets tremendously entertaining even though they lost 120 games.)

The trouble was, no matter how many times they called the team “your Richmond Braves,” this was never our team. This team was owned by and operated for the exclusive benefit of the Atlanta Braves. The R-Braves’ only purpose was to develop players to help the Atlanta team to win its division, the pennant and perhaps the World Series, preferably at as little cost to the home team as possible (the only reason to want to draw big crowds). If the Atlanta team happened to have adequate strength at all its positions, the R-Braves had a good chance to win a lot of games. On the other hand, if Atlanta suffered a great deal of injuries, the big team would grab up Richmond’s better players and the R-Braves would lose. It made no difference to the Atlanta organization, because having a winning team in Richmond was never its objective.

To me, the Diamond was never a problem. I found it a great place to watch baseball. It wasn’t the package that was lacking, it was the product inside. Anybody who tells you that the R-Braves didn’t draw big crowds because the Diamond is an inadequate baseball venue is not a true baseball fan.

Although this divorce is feeling real painful now, maybe it is the best thing in the long run. Maybe, now that we’re gonna be single again, we can attract a team to Richmond that really cares about the baseball fans here. Perhaps, we can even have a team that is locally owned. Wherever our new team plays, at the Diamond or at a new venue (if we the sports fans of Richmond decide to build it), let us hope that its management is concerned first and foremost with bringing quality baseball to Richmond.

No comments: