Assume for a second — and it’s a grand assumption — that Main League Baseball safely completes its 60-game schedule and postseason. Even in that best-case situation, the game faces a murky rapid future.
Homeowners will search to chop payrolls this winter. The gamers’ union will seethe. When groups reopen ballparks to followers, they’ll attempt to promote tickets to 81 house video games in a stricken financial system. And the identical negotiators who couldn’t agree on the construction of this mini-season should devise a brand new collective bargaining settlement by the top of subsequent yr.
In different phrases, it’s stormy out there, and no person builds an addition throughout hurricane season.
However there is no such thing as a hurt in hunkering right down to plan, and that’s what Dave Dombrowski, the longtime baseball govt with two World Collection titles to his identify, is doing now. Dombrowski, 63, was named final week as an adviser to Music Metropolis Baseball, a bunch that desires to deliver an growth crew to Nashville. Expertise tells him these clouds will move.
“Early in my profession, I had the fortune to work with the White Sox when Invoice Veeck owned the crew, and searching again at what he went by within the warfare period — the financial system, the world, the whole lot was totally different, and hastily the sport bounces again,” Dombrowski mentioned by cellphone final week. “So that you take a look at all several types of issues which have taken place over 100-plus years, and the sport nonetheless bounces again, as a result of it’s such an incredible recreation. That’s how we have now to method it.”
Dombrowski was most lately the president of baseball operations for the Boston Purple Sox, spending huge to win a championship in 2018. He was fired last September as possession ready to shed payroll — a activity Dombrowski has completed himself. He constructed the growth Florida Marlins into champions in 1997 — their fifth season — then tore down the roster and set the inspiration for an additional title six years later, after he had moved on to Detroit.
The game has weathered two prolonged strikes and a lockout throughout Dombrowski’s profession, which might be over as a high baseball operations govt. He’ll quickly transfer to reside in Nashville full time, and mentioned it might take 4 or 5 years to begin a brand new crew. However he likes what he sees.
“Looking my lodge room, I can see one, two, three” — he counted to 11 — “cranes for buildings being constructed downtown,” Dombrowski mentioned. “They haven’t shut down through the pandemic. So the city is simply booming, and it’s going to proceed to do it. It’s a younger metropolis, with a vibrant leisure space, hockey has executed nice, they usually simply added a soccer crew.”
Baseball has not expanded since 1998, and Commissioner Rob Manfred has usually mentioned he needs to increase to 32 groups, from the present 30. Doing so would make scheduling simpler whereas rising the sport and enriching house owners by growth charges.
On the All-Star Recreation two years in the past, Manfred named Nashville as a “viable” market, with Charlotte, Las Vegas and Portland, Ore., in the USA, and Montreal and Vancouver in Canada. There may be different enterprise that should be dealt with first: The 2 present groups searching for new stadiums — the Oakland Athletics and the Tampa Bay Rays — should resolve these points earlier than the league expands, and neither franchise has damaged floor.
Nashville might theoretically lure a kind of groups, but it surely too wants a significant league-size ballpark. The plan, Dombrowski mentioned, requires a privately financed park with a retractable roof beside the Tennessee Titans’ stadium on a financial institution of the Cumberland River, only a pedestrian bridge away from downtown. Becoming right into a rising sports activities panorama — with the Titans, the Predators of the N.H.L., Nashville S.C. of M.L.S. and Vanderbilt’s groups within the Southeastern Convention — can be one other problem.
“Proper now there’s not a lot of a drive for it as a result of it’s not practical to lots of people,” mentioned Willy Daunic, a longtime radio host for ESPN Nashville and a former minor league pitcher. “However a five-year plan is a brilliant plan as a result of it’s going to take that lengthy with the logistics of the stadium. And the hot button is for guys like Dombrowski to remain current and make these connections with town leaders and the followers. If they’ll do this, they’ll undoubtedly construct quite a lot of assist.”
Dombrowski will not be alone within the effort. The advisory group additionally contains the Corridor of Fame supervisor Tony La Russa and the previous All-Star pitcher Dave Stewart, who was recruited by his pal John Loar, a longtime actual property developer in California who moved to Nashville in 2018 and is the group’s managing director. Alberto Gonzales, the previous United States legal professional normal, is chairman of the board.
Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas Metropolis, Mo., is one other board member, and the plan is to name the crew the Nashville Stars, after a Negro leagues crew. To Stewart — who has been a coach, a normal supervisor and an agent since retiring as a participant in 1995 — the group’s dedication to various possession is important to assist change the largely homogeneous tradition amongst baseball authority figures.
Derek Jeter is the Marlins’ chief govt and a part of the Miami possession group, however amongst M.L.B. discipline managers and high baseball operations officers, greater than 83 % (50 of the 60) are white, and all are male. A Nashville crew, Stewart mentioned, would promote progress.
“We didn’t know two years in the past we had been going to be going by this pandemic and the social injustices on the fee we have now this yr,” Stewart mentioned. “However baseball has been one of the crucial closed sports activities relating to hiring in higher positions and on the sphere, and this requires a time to do one thing historic, which is to have true Black possession — or various possession — within the recreation.”
The specifics of reaching that purpose will take time to type out. For now, at the very least, it’s a part of an encouraging imaginative and prescient, far off within the distance, hinging on the premise that baseball can elevate itself up — once more — and discover a method to flourish, even in a brand new setting.
“You take a look at town, the individuals concerned, the power to strive to do that factor proper,” Dombrowski mentioned. “It’s excessive threat, with no ensures, but it surely’s an fascinating proposition, and I believe it’s enjoyable.”
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