Changes in Latitude

Texas flagJust a quick note to let everyone know I’ll be changing my latitude, but not my longitude.

I’m moving due south from Chicago to Houston for a great new job. I’ll be covering automotive raw materials for ICIS, a commodities wire service with offices in New York, London and Milan (I’m leaning toward Milan….eventually).

It’s a great opportunity for me. I’ll be writing full-time again. For a wire service. Which is what I love.

I will continue a lot of my freelance work: writing for the Journal’s Leisure and Arts pages, as well as my Nick Mattera novels.

George and I will be leaving Chicago on Thursday. We’ll stop in Memphis for ribs at Rendezvous. Take a slight right through Little Rock, then due south to Houston, where it was 65 and sunny today.

George will commute down once a month. Spend school vacations and summers down in Houston. It’ll also be a good opportunity for us to continue our father-son quest to visit every MLB ballpark in the country. We will, of course, make pretty quick work of the Astros and Texas Rangers. Then, this summer, we will see the Yankees play the Dodgers and Padres, as well as squeeze in trips to Anaheim and Arizona. By early August, we’ll have been to 22 baseball stadiums (not to mention numerous trips to Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees games).

So wish us luck. It’s a great opportunity — for me and George.

(And did I mention they have offices in Milan?)

About Those $14 Hot Dogs….

garlicGood piece in the L.A. Times’ Dodger blog about Felix Hernandez’s new contract.

For those of you who haven’t heard, the Seattle Mariners pitcher, 26, just signed a new contract: 7 years, $175 million. But the gist of the Times story is that Hernandez’s contract could affect every new contract in Major League Baseball and continue the astronomic rise in salaries over the past decade. Here’s the key paragraph from Times beat writer Bill Shaikin:

The Hernandez contract offers further evidence of the robust financial health of baseball, and of the success of its revenue-sharing program.

Consider these substantial signings within the last three years: Albert Pujols ($240 million) by the Angels, Joey Votto ($225 million) by the Cincinnati Reds; Prince Fielder ($214 million) by the Detroit Tigers; Joe Mauer ($184 million) by the Minnesota Twins; Hernandez ($175 million) by the Mariners; Kemp ($160 million) by the Dodgers; Troy Tulowitzki ($158 million) by the Colorado Rockies; Greinke ($147 million) by the Dodgers; Cole Hamels ($144 million) by the Philadelphia Phillies; David Wright ($138 million) by the New York Mets; Matt Cain ($128 million) by the San Francisco Giants.

The New York Yankees are not on that list.

The upshot for the Dodgers — who have yet to win a single game with their new $250 million payroll, is that Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, 24, could demand $200 million to re-sign in 2014. As the Times noted, “Kershaw, 24, the Dodgers’ ace, is two years younger than Hernandez and two years from free agency. Hernandez won the American League Cy Young Award in 2010 and finished second in 2009; Kershaw won the NL Cy Young Award in 2011 and finished second in 2012.”

So think of Hernandez — and all those $100M+ contracts — next time you go to a game and you can’t get a seat in the lower deck for less than $150, parking is $40, and those great Dodger garlic fries are $8.

$250M, 8 Starting Pitchers and No Shortstop

HanleyInteresting piece in today’s L.A. Times Dodger blog about the outlook for the Dodgers, who now have the highest payroll in baseball.

I have to say I’m starting to have serious questions about the Dodgers under Magic Johnson (has anyone ever been to his theaters?). Given the payroll, I think there are HUGE expectations for the Dodgers going into the season. But as the Yankees have often learned — the hard way — a roster full of super stars does not a team make.

The biggest question seems to be Hanley Ramirez at shortstop. According to Dodgers beat writer Steve Dilbeck:

He suffered what’s been called a minor shoulder injury early in winter ball and has spent the off-season primarily as a designated hitter. Now playing for the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean World Series, he made his first appearance at shortstop Monday and committed an eighth-inning error that led to a pair of runs in Puerto Rico’s 6-4 victory.

So let me get this straight: The Dodgers spent $250 million on payroll, have 8 starting pitchers, but no competent shortstop? And their two best prospects — which they’ve already spent $50 million on — are an unproven Korean and Cuban kid?

I think the Dodgers are really setting themselves up to fail. And even if they have a moderately good season, given the payroll and the talent, anything short of 100 wins and a trip to at least the NLCS will be seen as complete failure.

On the upside, I have no skin in the game, except for the fact that the Dodgers started in Brooklyn and are now my National League team. This should be fun to watch.

Let Them Eat (Pinstriped) Cake

010Great news in today’s New York Post. Yankee tickets are still available on StubHub.
Some of you may recall that the Yankees bitched and moaned about re-sale tickets being so cheap on StubHub. They were so cheap, of course, because a) the Yankees stunk and, b) seats in the lower deck are so outrageously expensive that no one can afford them (or the $45 parking, or the $12 hot dogs, or the $15 mixed drinks in the Hard Rock).
Anyway, the Yankees have set up their own re-selling site, but clearly season ticket holders, which is their right, are still selling tickets through StubHub.
Anytime the Yankees get financially screwed by the fans, it’s good news. They’ve done it enough to us over the years.
Here are the pertinent facts from John Crudele’s column:

The Yankees may think they got rid of StubHub by signing a deal with TicketMaster — but that’s not the case.

Readers will remember that the Yanks were annoyed that StubHub wouldn’t set a minimum price on the Yankee Stadium tickets fans were reselling on its site.

So, in a rage against the free-market system, the Bombers bolted from Major League Baseball’s deal with StubHub.

But I told you months ago that wouldn’t be the end of it — and it isn’t.

Recently StubHub sent out an e-mail saying “MLB 2013 Tickets Are Here.” And, sure enough, there are plenty of Yankee tickets in the batch. Thousands of spring training tickets are listed for as little as $9. And there are also thousands of other tickets for regular season games at prices below what the Yankees are asking.

For the April 18 game against the Diamondbacks, for instance, StubHub recently had 2,720 tickets listed. And the cheapest ones were being offered at $8, which includes delivery and service fee.

If fans buy from the Stadium directly, those same seats are $20. The cheapest seats — those in the bleachers — cost more than $12 if bought from the Yanks.

New Slavery Exhibit at the Frazier

shacklesMy latest piece for The Wall Street Journal Leisure and Arts page is about the new slavery exhibit at the Frazier History Museum in Louisville.
It’s the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and many museums are taking a look at the document itself. The Frazier has taken a different tack and is actually looking at the instituion of slavery.
Here’s a snippet:

The museum hits its stride when it gets into the details of human trafficking. What’s refreshing about this exhibit—and makes it well worth seeing, no matter how uncomfortable it sometimes may make you feel—is the curators’ dispassionate examination of the slave trade. Was it horrible and cruel? Of course it was. But rather than look at slavery through the 21st-century prism of a more enlightened society, this exhibit presents the facts, stripped of any moral or political commentary, and looks at the business of the slave trade.

It explains that the Americas were not the only world market for slave labor in the 15th and 16th centuries. The exhibit, using maps, journals and ship logs, shows how Muslims sold Christians—an estimated 1.5 million Europeans—into slavery in North Africa.

Another central theme is that slavery was not a product of bigotry, but of business needs. Europeans required vast amounts of cheap labor in the Americas. Ship captains needed a well-paying cargo to haul back to the Americas after having delivered sugar and tobacco to Europe. And African kingdoms—themselves teeming with slave labor and very much active participants—needed a place to get rid of the strongest and most unruly among the slave class, lest they foment rebellion.