"Friendly Confines" held hostage!
It didn't take long for the "political corruption crime spree"* perpetrated by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to spill over into the baseball world. Federal prosecutors allege that the governor retaliated against the Chicago Tribune for editorials critical of him, warning that state money for renovating Wrigley Field would be in jeopardy unless certain editors were fired. (On Sept. 29 the Tribune editors had urged state legislators to consider impeaching Blagojevich, as rumors of his crookedness mounted.) As reported by the Chicago Tribune:
According to the criminal charges, Blagojevich's chief of staff, John Harris, repeatedly warned an individual identified by authorities only as a "Tribune Financial Adviser" that the governor's support for a Wrigley Field deal "could get derailed by your own editorial page."
Ironically, Tribune Chairman Sam Zell and his wife contributed more than $82,000 to Blagojevich's campaign in 2002. Maybe that wasn't enough... Also see Yahoo News (link via Bruce Orser). Scheming to make a profit from hallowed grounds is outright sacrilege, and cannot be tolerated or excused.
This sheds new light on what happened one year ago, when Gov. Blagojevich endorsed the idea of selling Wrigley Field to the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority for a token sum in exchange for a promise to invest in massive upgrades to the facility. Chicago Mayor Daley resisted on budgetary grounds, however. I'll bet Blagojevich couldn't wait to get his greedy hands on that precious jewel...
Meanwhile, the Tribune Company which owns the Cubs has filed for bankruptcy, but this supposedly will not affect the Cubs. See MLB.com. Man, when is that team going to catch a lucky break?
* That is how U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald described what Blagojevich did.
N.Y. demolition update
Eric Okurowski has some photos of the demolition of Shea Stadium at stadiumpage.com; hat tip to Mike Zurawski. The wrecking crews are starting to move a lot more quickly, knocking down the front edges of the upper decks.
Over in The Bronx, meanwhile, it appears that Yankee Stadium will survive intact through the summer season, in part to make possible the filming of a movie, Keeper of the Pinstripes. Guess who one of the stars is? Former center fielder Bernie Williams! See Newsday.
Sabathia joins Yanks
Here we go again: Just about every winter, it seems, the New York Yankees make some huge deal with a legendary player (Clemens, Giambi, A-Rod, Matsui), and just about every year the added talent helps them get into the playoffs. This year, the new superstar on the block is C.C. Sabathia, who agreed to $160 million (more or less) seven-year contract with the Yankees. Details are still being negotiated. See sportsline.com; hat tip to Bruce Orser. The ongoing crisis on Wall Street may be causing misery all around the country, but it's apparently not having much effect on the economy in New York City...
Nats offer Teixera $160m
Another player targeted by the Yankees has apparently eluded their grasp: the Washington Nationals have offered first baseman Mark Teixera a $160 million eight-year contract, slightly better than the terms offered by the Orioles. See MLB.com. Apparently the Lerners got the message that if they didn't spend big bucks on top-quality players, they were at risk of losing their fragile fan base. If the deal is consummated, Nick Johnson and/or Dmitri Young might not play for the Nats next year. Let's just hope that the investment pays off for them. For a team with such a thin pool of veteran talent, it's hard to justify putting so many eggs into one basket.
Bad economy? What bad economy?