A glimpse of Florida’s future? MLB All-Star boycott brewing

Yovani Gallardo

If Yovani Gallardo of the Milwaukee Brewers gets picked for All Star, he ain’t going. Ditto for Tampa Bay’s Joakim Soria and Detroit’s Jose Valverde. A-Rod is being a punk (and that’s from a Yankee fan) and refusing to say what he’d do, but a growing number of Latino Major League Baseball players are saying that if the All-Star game is played in Arizona next year — you know, the state whose governor accuses every illegal immigrant of being a head-chopping drug mule??? — they’ll say “thanks, but no thanks” to the game.

We’re told that a majority of Floridians, marching in tune to the Smoke Monster, want to follow Arizona’s lead. Really, Florida?

From NBC Sports:

Yovani Gallardo is firm. Even if he’s fortunate enough to make the All-Star team again next summer, he’ll skip it.

“If the game is in Arizona, I will totally boycott,” the Milwaukee Brewers pitcher said Monday.

… Tampa Bay reliever Joakim Soria said he would support a Latino protest and stay away. Detroit closer Jose Valverde can see himself steering clear, too.

“It’s a really delicate issue,” said Toronto outfielder Jose Bautista, who leads the majors with 24 home runs. “Hopefully, there are some changes in the law before then. We have to back up our Latin communities.”

“If I do get chosen, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said.

Arizona’s much-debated measure takes effect July 29. The statute requires police, while enforcing other laws, to ask about a person’s immigration status if there is reasonable suspicion that the person is in the country illegally.

“They could stop me and ask to see my papers,” Soria said. “I have to stand with my Latin community on this.”

The Mexican-born Gallardo said he’s talked with Soria and All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez about the Arizona law.

“We don’t agree with it,” Gallardo said. St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols said he opposed the law and Valverde called it “dumb.”

And from the Arizona Republic:

“Nothing against Americans, but us Latinos have contributed so much to this country,” said Valverde, who pitched for the Diamondbacks from 2003 to 2007. “We get our hands dirty and do the work gringos don’t want to do. We’re the ones out there cleaning the streets. Americans don’t want to do that stuff.

“They say it’s about this, that or the other. But it’s all about getting Latinos out of this country. We’re just here to help our people. Whether it’s Mexico, Dominican, Cuba, we’re just trying to help our families.”

MLB is roughly one-third Hispanic.

Commissioner Bud Selig is punking out on taking a stand, and so are some players:

“That’s a political thing,” New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano said. “I don’t have anything to say about it. They already made a decision. If I say anything it’s not going to make any difference.”

“Wrong guy,” teammate Alex Rodriguez said, pointing to other players in the interview room.

Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal said he would wait for guidance from the players’ union.

“The game is going on at this point, regardless,” said former All-Star Tony Clark, who played for Arizona last season and now works for the union. “Whatever decision an individual player makes, they would have the full support of the union.”

Steinbrenner hasn’t even been buried yet and he’s probably already rolling around in his grave… such courage, A-Rod!

But the bottom line here isn’t the players. Florida has more illegal immigrants than Arizona, to be sure, but we’ve also got more, and more complex business and tourism ties to Latin America and the Caribbean. Arizona may be the gateway to (and from Mexico) but Florida is the Gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean. At any given time, there are thousands of businesspeople in this state, conducting commerce, and thousands more tourists from all over the Western hemisphere (including Canada) visiting our tourist attractions. You want to pass a law making them afraid to get a traffic ticket? Really?

And if Florida faces the same pariah status and boycotts as Arizona, you down with that, Florida? For gods sakes, there’s a chance Florida will elect a governor even more odious than Jan Brewer, turning this state into not just a pariah, but some throwback, palm treed version of 1950s Alabama! Rick Scott’s America ended in like, 1950. Now, he wants to bring it back and dump it on the rest of us.

And then there’s Baseball itself. Florida and Arizona compete head-to-head for coveted spring training, which Arizona’s “Cactus League” began poaching away from Florida’s “Grapefruit League” after World War II. Currently, 15 MLB teams hold spring training in Florida, including the Washington Nationals, the New York Mets and the New York Yankees; and 15 hold spring training in Arizona, including the Cubs, White Sox, Rockies and Royals. Why would any responsible person, who wants to be the governor of this state, risk a baseball backlash in the second of two of the most important states to Major League Baseball? A note about history:

The Cactus League became a reality in 1947, when Horace Stoneham’s New York Giants and Bill Veeck’s Cleveland Indians took up residence in Phoenix and Tucson, respectively. That Veeck ended up in Tucson wasn’t a surprise — he owned ranches in the Southwest and at the time owned a ranch near Tucson — and Stoneham was a natural for Phoenix, as he developed business interests in the area.

By this time, spring training was a formalized institution. Teams realized that there was money to be made from spring training, and over the years many teams tried to combine some sort of real-estate development with spring training. Horace Stoneham ended up developing a luxury resort centered around the San Francisco Giants spring-training routines; most recently, the Kansas City Royals were lured into participating in the Boardwalk and Baseball theme park in central Florida: the Royals trained at Baseball City adjacent to a theme park with a turn-of-the-century baseball theme.

In recent years Arizona’s Cactus League has made inroads in luring teams from Florida. Last season, for instance, both the Kansas City Royals and the Texas Rangers shifted training facilities from Florida to Surprise, a suburb of Phoenix.

Florida should be making itself a friendlier climate for baseball, not an unfriendlier one. Florida has already lost five teams to Arizona in the last decade. Republicans in Tallahassee used to be interested in luring them back. Apparently now, they’re so frightened of the tea parties, they’re willing to risk an Arizona-style backlash against their own state, and the wrath of Hispanic baseball players (who also vacation here, shop here, and buy homes here, boosting our economy in the process…) just to prove their fealty to the racists and nutbags in their base. Well if the wingers won’t listen to reason, how about cold, hard cash:

a recent economic impact study showed spring training baseball generated $752.3 million for the state in 2009.

“What it tells me is that even in a down economy … we have a very good story to tell about tourism and Major League Baseball spring training in Florida,” Mark Bonn, the study’s author, told a legislative committee in November. “And that we should do everything possible to nurture this economic engine.”

Bonn, president of a market research firm, obtained figures from the league to calculate stadium and team expenditures and surveyed 1,600 visitors at all 15 spring training stadiums in 2009 to determine how much they spent on average.

The report, commissioned by the state tourism office, estimated that direct spending topped $442 million, but the ripple effect — indirect and induced spending — boosted the state’s economy by $752.3 million.

Bonn told lawmakers that spring training spending supported or created 9,205 jobs, though he later acknowledged that most of those jobs are part-time positions.

More than 1.5 million fans attended the season’s 259 games, according to the league, but state figures show the total spent on spring training represented less than 1 percent of tourism spending in Florida.

And the impact of baseball stretches across this state, with the Grapefruit League touching local economies from South Florida to Disney to Sarasota.

Rick Scott, who still can’t name all 67 counties in the state he wants to run, may not know that. The legislators in Tallahassee certainly do. And yet, the quislings among them (Bill McCollum included) are scurrying to get to the right of Satan on the immigration issue. They’ve got to prove to the base that they’ll make local law enforcement stop writing speeding tickets (on second thought, we need the revenue…) they’ll make local law enforcement stop wasting their time going after AK-47-wielding criminals (oh, Second Amendment … how shiny you are …) and turn their attention to raiding Florida’s tomato fields and clearing the joints of those brown bastards so the good, salt of the earth Americans in this good ole Southern state can pick those crops themselves! To hell with those immigrants, right? If you can’t take your green card with you to the grocery store, maybe you should stop buying groceries!

At best, I’d call that dereliction of duty to the state whose interests these people are sworn to defend. At worst, it’s political and moral cowardice of the first order.

The only question left is, knowing what’s at stake, do rank and file Floridians still want to walk down the Arizona road?

[Sidebar: Oh, and one more thing: a lot of straight-up American citizens don’t have papers proving they were born here, either. What’s the smoke monster’s remedy for them? Or for Cuban migrants who immigrate via “wet foot, dry foot,” rather than normal immigration channels?]

Your turn:

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One Response to A glimpse of Florida’s future? MLB All-Star boycott brewing

  1. Richard says:

    Well done. And Rick Scott claims to be a smart businessman??? I guess in the hospital business you don’t have to worry about such things as boycotts, eh? Let’s secure our borders– with Alabama and Georgia.

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