WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY — November 27, 2019 — I’m not a big fan of the billion-dollar bailouts that we hand out to rich and powerful corporations like candy. They’re bad economics. They don’t work. They don’t enrich anyone but the corporations.
But I do support moving swiftly and smartly to assure the survival of the four minor-league teams that just had their throats slashed by Major League Baseball. The Auburn Doubledays, Batavia Muckdogs, Binghamton Rumble Ponies and Staten Island Yankees were told they would lose their major-league affiliations. It will be very hard to survive the economic and marketing consequences.
These teams are part of the fragile social fabric of their communities. They are employment and economic magnets. They improve morale and local identity. They’re worth saving.
It’s hard to fathom what MLB is thinking. There’s mumbling about rationalizing the minor leagues nationwide and they’re cutting over 40 teams. There’s no acknowledgement of baseball’s responsibility to their host communities.
What makes it worse is that taxpayers have poured billions into baseball. We built a new Yankee Stadium and a new Citifield for two of the richest corporations in the world. This was corporate welfare at its worst. If anyone can afford to build their own business premises it’s the Steinbrenners and the Wilpons. But that’s water under the bridge.
But it creates an opportunity to do the right thing and recoup some of baseball’s ill-gotten subsidies on behalf of four local communities in need. It makes enormous sense to have the state step in and clean up this mess. The governor should jawbone MLB into putting up most of the cash that would be needed for a long-term solution, and the world wouldn’t end if a small portion of state money was set aside as well.
There’s a larger issue underlying the crisis of the four teams. New York is caught in the grip of outdated and ossified thinking. We’re among the worst offenders in corporate welfare and are stuck in the grasp of a big-project mentality. Tesla, IBM, and Goldman Sachs all line up for handouts and everyone kinda nods. Small, local projects need not apply. It’s time to rethink this, and there’s no better place to start than minor league baseball. A switch to real community development could be a smart way to signal a new and more effective economic development strategy. Less is more.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has usually sensed political opportunity in these kind of local problems. His instincts have not served him well in this case. Yet. If he’s on his game he’ll pop up as the scourge of MLB and the savior of the four teams.
If nothing else, we can stand up for the tradition of local baseball teams representing local communities. And wouldn’t it be grand if we preserved the unique and euphonious names that adorn local teams. Everyone who wants to help the Muckdogs survive, raise your hands.
Richard Brodsky is a former state Assembly member.
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Original publication by Times-Union on November 24, 2019. https://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Richard-Brodsky-As-American-as-baseball-Mom-and-14859733.php