Are they offering Confederate money?

Some members of the press in and around Frederick don’t want to side against the minor league franchise currently playing in their city.
Perhaps they like the fact a major league organization has roots in their city.
But what city — in this economy — can afford to turn down money?
Well, according to at least one writer: Frederick, Md.
At least that seems to be the point of an editorial published by Gazette Newspapers.

The Class A Frederick Keys have played at Harry Grove Stadium since 1990. The team has negotiated a couple short-term leases with the city, but the city believes the Keys’ should pay more than $30,000 to lease the stadium. So the city has opened up the bidding process, and an ownership group that hopes to plant an Atlantic League franchise in Frederick in 2012 has submitted a proposal.
An ownership group led by Reston, Va.-based attorney John “Jack” Lavoie submitted one lease proposal. The Keys submitted another.
The editorial makes the argument that if the proposals are equal the Keys should be awarded the lease.
Well … duh.
This is similar to the conversation I had with an editor, who remarked that one newspaper devoted an entire article to proving that more crimes took place in the poorest section of their city. Well … duh.
In an argument meant to prove that the Keys actually provide more income than their lease, the editorial pointed out: “…Dave Ziedelis, the Keys’ general manager, said ticket buyers contribute about $500,000 annually in combined state and local admission and amusement sales taxes.”
And this means what exactly?
Do they think an Atlantic League franchise would not have any “ticket buyers?”
Lavoie seems like a decent guy, but last time I checked, if he’s awarded the lease he will be running a business. In order to stay in business his team will need to attract fans — or ticket buyers. And by the way, the Atlantic League drew more fans to their ballparks than the Carolina League did last season.
The editorial also contains this gem: “The real question is whether fans (will) come out to support an independent league team if the Keys are run out of Frederick.”
Any question of the author’s objectivity has been shattered with the crafting of that last sentence, specifically the phrase “run out of Frederick.”
The Keys won’t be physically pushed out of town. If their proposal is not accepted, they will not be run out of town. They will lose in a bidding process. It happens every day in the construction business. Does the author of the article not believe in a free market system?
More to the point, the Keys have no one to blame for this current bidding situation except their own front office/ownership. Negotiating with the city for years, the Keys failed to strike a long-term deal. Their inability to agree to a long-term lease opened the door for other franchises to come to the bargaining table. If the Keys can’t match the financial offer from a proposed Atlantic League franchise, they goofed. They made the mistake, not the city. After all, the Keys could have avoided this situation by agreeing to a long-term lease.
Unfortunately, the article continues …
“It is unlikely that an independent team will have the fan base in Frederick that the Keys have drawn for the past two decades. There is a certain bragging right for a city to have a Major League Baseball-affiliated team. It enables the team to draw from the fan base of the parent club.”
How can anyone say it’s “unlikely” that an independent franchise will attract a fan base comparable to what the Keys have drawn? Where’s the research?
The Keys have attracted Orioles fans to Harry Grove Stadium, because that’s who the team is marketed to attract. True, Atlantic League franchises don’t want to attract an audience limited to just Orioles fans. They can attempt to attract some O’s fans — see the hiring of Chris Hoiles, Andy Etchebarren, Al Bumbry, Tippy Martinez and Ryan Minor — but they also want to draw young families, young professionals, diehard baseball fans and casual sports fans. Now the argument could be made that the Keys market to this same audience, but the Atlantic League has somehow managed to succeed at pulling in fans despite having no major league affiliation.
Does the author know that the same men who brought baseball to Frederick, that is Peter Kirk and Keith Lupton, are advising Lavoie? Readers are to believe the very men who developed the original fan base in Frederick have somehow forgotten how to attract a fan base?
The editorial contains one more big point: “… a certain respect and consideration should be offered to a 20-year tenant so neither of the two sides is left with a bitter taste.”
In other words, Lavoie’s money is no good.
Frederick may be struggling to pay bills, but the author would rather the city remain in the same financial situation than accept a better offer. Apparently Lavoie’s money should not be accepted because nobody wants to see the Keys walk away with hurt feelings.
How can anyone stand behind this viewpoint? How could anyone have this opinion? It lacks logic.
Financial responsibility isn’t necessary, apparently, when it comes to baseball. We aren’t talking about the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn. We’re talking about the Keys.
The city of Frederick may not need any more money. But if the city rejects a more lucrative proposal based on the color of a jersey or a team’s affiliation, the voting public in Frederick needs to examine how their city is being run. And the next time Frederick needs to raise taxes, the city might want to try shaking their keys. See if that fixes the problem.

About Jim Seip

Jim Seip wore a cookie monster costume to help close out the Spectrum on Oct. 31, 2009.
This entry was posted in Andy Etchebarren, Atlantic League, Baltimore Orioles, Chris Hoiles, Frederick, Md., Jim Seip. Bookmark the permalink.