The Chatter Class: With three strikes, Gordon is out

Monday, January 28, 2008 at 12:22am

The writing on the wall can’t get any clearer for the Nashville Sounds.

A change in mayors still won’t get the team a new ballpark downtown or anywhere in the city.

Mayor Karl Dean hasn’t just been hinting either. It’s been a flat ‘no.’ In a speech a week ago, Dean told an old-timers baseball group the team won’t get a new ballpark with the current ownership.

At this point, the Sounds should consider taking a page from the Nashville Predators playbook in how to get what you want out of the local government — sell to a local ownership group and move on to other pastures. The franchise started getting better treatment from the government, not to mention the better financial arrangement.

Of course, a different mayor helped.

Gaining local ownership is easier said than done. The team’s owner, Al Gordon, has to want to sell the team and that doesn't seem to be the case, seemingly harboring the illusion that he can get a ballpark to make the team more valuable for selling.

Talk around the community is that there is a group interested in buying the team if Gordon would sell.

Reese Smith III, who has had a long involvement with the team and still has a minority stake, is a logical starting point. He is days away from closing on the purchase of the Double-A team in Jackson. He's buying that team with David Freeman, the lead man in buying the Predators.

They won't confirm whether or not they've made an offer on the Sounds.

“We would like to see a new ballpark downtown,” Smith said. “We are supportive of the Sounds. We are glad to play any role we can to support keeping the team here.”

They sure got Sounds General Manager Glenn Yaeger’s attention. There was talk that Smith and Freeman were looking to move the team here. They aren’t, but Yaeger apparently went to Branch Rickey III, president of the Sounds' Pacific Coast League, to make sure.

There’s a certain protocol when it comes to territories. Other minor league baseball team owners, no matter the level, can’t tamper or tread on another’s turf. Pressure would have to come from the PCL to urge Gordon to sell.

Rickey couldn't be reached but it appears that he's not getting the full picture from Nashville regarding the state of affairs here.

So what may need to happen is that Dean, or one of his representatives, agrees to a meeting with Gordon only if Rickey is there. And then in that meeting, Gordon is told point blank that as long as he's the owner of the team, he's not getting a new downtown ballpark and that he may want to seriously consider finding a buyer.

That would mean some old-fashioned, Yankee political strong-arming from an unabashed Boston Red Sox fan.

Perhaps that would get the wheels turning. Nashville’s ballpark issue has been a thorn in the side of the teams in the league because the current place is a rat hole. The Milwaukee Brewers haven’t been happy with Greer’s condition either.

The Sounds’ Greer lease runs out at the end of the year and its deal with the Brewers ends in 2009 — not bad timing for a shake-up.

It's doubtful the relationship between Metro and the team can be repaired, ever. The attitude toward Gordon carries over from the pervious administration. After all, Dean was legal director and had more than one dealing with the team.

Yaeger didn’t help the team’s cause during the mayoral campaign when he apparently went to Dean’s camp and demanded that Metro pay the team money he thinks the city owes the team.

Investing more than $1 million in renovating Greer Stadium, supposedly to show the owner's commitment to Nashville, hasn’t eased the tension.

That prompted some wonderment among government officials and others who wanted a ballpark downtown. Their thinking is that the team could have had the ballpark if the Sounds would have spent that $1 million on completing the design plans.

If folks recall, former Mayor Bill Purcell held the Sounds in default of the memorandum of understanding to build the ballpark in part because the team hadn't paid its architect, HOK.

The team’s investment came after it flirted with Franklin, and the new mayor there summarily nixed the idea.

So now, the team is committed to Nashville because, at the moment, there really isn’t anywhere else to go.

Contact Lawson at rlawson@nashvillecitypaper.com

Filed under: City Business
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By: frank brown on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Minor League baseball is passe!College baseball is in! Major League baseball is in Chicago,New York and Boston! Elsewhere who cares!

By: producer2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Frank,Triple AAA baseball can be great. I grew up in Lousiville when they were the St. Louis farm club. I saw many a major leaguer come thru that organization. Done right it is the way to go....

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Vandy is going to expand let them do a deal with them or build their own ballpark.

By: producer2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

What does a private school have to do with this issue? We are talking about pro baseball. Can eithher of you even name 3 players who played in Nashville in the past two seasons who are at the major league level now?

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

They can lease the vandy field that is going to be modernized and expanded. If they do it now they can have input and it will benifit both of them and not need any TAXPAYER money.

By: producer2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

idgaf,What exactly are your thoughts on how the government can expand our tax revenues without adding more property taxation to the citizens of Davidson County? There has to be some sort of plan to increase the money coming in to match the money going out. thoughts?

By: BigPapa on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I've been against the idea of the ball park the entire time. However my biggest reason for that is the current ownership and management of The Sounds. The appear to be pretty inept at everything they do.If Nashville holds out maybe we could build the ball park over on the East side of the river near the Titans stadium AND get new ownership.

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

A ballpark on the east side of the river would be ideal, but Phillips doesn't want to sell their giant eyesore any more than Gordon wants to sell. Yeager really blew it on the downtown ballpark and I'm surprised he still has a job with the team.I enjoy Sounds games but the stadium is an embarrassment. I was at a rain-delayed game where the roof leaked badly at the concession level. And I miss the Soundettes. At least the ticket prices are reasonable.

By: BigPapa on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I'd be willing to bet that within the next 10 years the eyesore will be gone. I don't know what will be there, maybe just the beginnings of a new project, but it's days are numbered. Either through legit means of purchase or by "imminent domain" the city is going to get something worth while down there.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

producer2 tax revenue expands naturally when you make a city a desirable place to live and the government runs a balance budget and develops spending priorities according to what they can afford.We need a good school system and a low crime rate to keep the tax base here and make it a desirable place to live. Slurpass et al has turned the cops into revenue producers and that is never good, and neither is corporate welfare.