February: The Most Poignant Month

Whoops, looks like I skipped January entirely, and the first day of February as well. Actually, given what January was like, that might not have been a bad idea … but I digress.

The big news around these parts is that New York City’s plans for $1.8 billion worth of baseball stadiums (public cost: about $800 million) is lurching forward toward a city council vote in the spring, and I’ve been scribbling madly on the topic. First up was a report for the Village Voice on how the city’s own economic impact study shows that the HREF="http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0603,demause,71747,5.html">Yankees stadium would be a money loser; immediately following on the heels of that were reports for both the Voice (freebie) and HREF="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=4719">Baseball Prospectus (subscribers only) on how various tax breaks and bookkeeping shenanigans would leave the Mets paying almost nothing for
their new building; which in turn begat a BP mailbag (again subscribers-only) answering reader questions about the
previous article. Meanwhile, an offhand remark about a cracktastic New York Times op-ed by economist Andy Zimbalist prompted a rebuttal by Zimbalist, which is going to require a further rebuttal from me … Jane, stop this crazy thing!

The previous big news around these parts was the transit strike, which led to three days of massive traffic snarls and throngs of New Yorkers trudging to and from work across the Brooklyn Bridge. (Good thing the bridge was there, or they would have had to wait for a passing ice floe.) It also, according to city officials, cost the city more than a billion dollars in lost economic impact – though as I reported on the Voice website, the city comptroller’s office admitted these were “numbers we sort of made up.” Not that that stopped people from griping about those damn greedy unionized workers.

Rounding out the last two months were another pair of BP articles – I seem to be writing for them a lot these days, despite a pay rate in the high two figures – one on baseball’s likely revival of the “contraction” threat in 2006, the other about the ongoing stadium mess in Washington, D.C., which is just as entertaining as the
New York one, only with fewer angry economists. And more angry mayors.

Finally – and I hate to stick this last, since it’s by far the most exciting news of the bimonthly period – I’m very pleased to announce that the Baseball Prospectus book “Baseball Between the Numbers” will be out the first week in March, with my chapters “Do High Salaries Lead to High Ticket Prices?” “Are New Stadiums a Good Deal?” and “Does Baseball Need a Salary Cap?” (Others of my favorite chapters include essays on when
managers should bunt, whether clutch hitting really exists, and “Is Alex Rodriguez Overpaid?”, a stunning piece by Nate Silver that actually concocts a formula for determining a player’s monetary value to his team, to the dollar.) Think “Freakonomics” for baseball, only with more statistical rigor.

You can pre-order it now from Amazon.com or Powells.com or via your local bookstore; members of the press or potential reviewers can HREF="mailto:neild@fieldofschemes.com">e-mail me and I’ll get you on the freebie list.

This month’s bonus material (courtesy of the WFMU blog): HREF="http://blogfiles.wfmu.org/LG/Boney_M_-_Rasputin.mpg">Rasputin!

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