The recent announcement of the new management team of the Pawtucket Red Sox, with Dr. Charles Steinberg as president, Dan Rea III as senior vice president/general manager, and Jeff White as treasurer, struck all the activists who spent the summer stirring up a protest about the proposed construction of a new stadium in Providence as team owner Larry Lucchino doubling down on his proposal to help gentrify Providence. The three are veteran spokesmen for Lucchino and all made cameos this summer on the listening tour circuit, refusing to actually listen to the public and instead telling we poor stupid Rhode Islanders from on high how they planned to save us from ourselves.
In a recent article for the Providence Journal, Steinberg, whose training as a dentist just screams professional sports business acumen, said he wants to see ‘passion again’ in Pawtucket. Yet only four months ago he and the other two, along with Cyd ‘Vicious’ McKenna, were publicly insulting and antagonizing the very community they now claim they want to nurture.
Meanwhile, Jorge Elorza and Gina Raimondo continue to jump back and forth between appealing to the vast majority of sanely cynical citizens, who see this as a bail-out for a business model Lucchino’s type likes to impose on America’s past time, not to mention a Baltimore-styled gentrification move for Providence, and appeasing big-name Democratic Party donors who are getting cranky over not getting their way. The great political writer Paul Street has coined the phrase ‘Dismal Dollar Drenched Democrats’, one that is totally fitting herein.
If we look at the new leadership, we see a group of individuals who are more dedicated to the bottom line than the community. Steinberg is a long-time hanger-on of Lucchino’s coattails, having followed him to San Diego, Baltimore, and Boston, where they left less-than-desirable legacies. Rea is a year younger than me and does not remember when Bill Buckner let the ball roll through his legs during the World Series while White is obviously a number-crunching middleman with no interest in sports.
Leaving aside these surface observations, there is something much more important to note. Rea is a history baccalaureate graduate of Harvard, a finishing school of neoliberal public relations, and White comes from a long career of neoliberal financial restructuring deals. This school of thought, as fantastically described by Dr. Michael Hudson in a recent CounterPunch podcast with Eric Draitser, is a get-rich-quick ideology that stuffs the pockets of the few while defenestrating the taxpayers and treasuries. It is true that urbanized stadiums are quickly becoming the norm of baseball. Yet it is also true that baseball is functioning as a major lever of gentrification. During the summertime listening tour, McKenna reused as a talking point the idea that she as a Providence resident wished she could feel safe walking along the waterfront location on the old I-195 land corridor. The underlying implication, that those darned brown people make it unsafe, is a profoundly disparaging race- and class-based remark. Her invocation of the notion that a new baseball park would promote pro-active policing is certifiable lunacy when one recognizes the negative impact such policies have on people of color. Considering how Lucchino’s previous hosts in Baltimore were not exploding into demonstrations of celebratory glee for the police department last spring, only a member of the Chicago Cubs could miss how insidious this whole thing truly is.
Anyone who has followed this story in even a passing fashion this year can plainly see how truly desperate the ownership is now. Without any psychic abilities, it seems like they are ruing the day the late James Skeffington talked them into this because he thought he could pull a fast one and get his way due to the fact he had long-time connections going back to when his buddy Gov. J. Joseph Garrahy handed him a sweetheart real estate attorney deal. If one refers back to the original pitch at the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation he made with Lucchino, he looked genuinely stunned that people reacted in such a fashion to what he thought was an open-and-shut hustle. Now that Skeffington has passed on, the team is being led by a bunch of non-Rhode Islanders, which means they have absolutely zero connections and are left with a franchise whose reputation they destroyed and that they thought they could flip at a profit within five years. Why exactly are Rhode Island tax payers supposed to aid and abet such a scam?
At this point, with Lucchino threatening to pack up and leave town unless we pay his bills, I would offer a simple single word: SEYA!