Thursday, July 28, 2016

Reader: It's time for the Blasters to go away

(A reader left the following comment on a recent post about the problems between the City of Joplin and the Joplin Blasters.)

A long list of names are responsible for this mess.

It started with Mark Rohr who ordered the parks and recreation director Chris Cotten to find an anchor tenant to Becker. Cotten went so far as to say either he had to find a tenant or the second option was the bulldozer.

Cotten sold a bill of goods to council going so far as comparing independent league baseball as equivalent to AA. He later admitted knowing nothing about baseball, just doing was he was told to do by his boss Rohr.

The debacle that is the 2016 Blasters is a combination of bad decisions made by the city finance director (who conspired behind the scenes to push through a bad agreement), the city attorney (who provided bad counsel to the city council) and the Mayor who wanted to push through an agreement and get the team back regardless. Only Bill Scearce had the backbone to stand up and oppose a new lease for 2016. The city manager and current parks director did not recommend to renew the agreement, but council would not consider their recommendations. Someone needs to do an open records request between Suarez, city finance and city attorney and see what those conversations yield. Perhaps emails from the mayor too.

The Blasters are to blame also. With them, it has been one poor excuse after another. From failing to pay players, failing to properly take care of its stadium, failing to honor commitments to vendors and partner organizations. The Suarez family has proven to be a failure at baseball ownership and it has been a bad deal for the entire city and region. They need to go away and I truly hope professional baseball does not return to Joplin because of them.


Steve Holmes said...

The Harvard Business Review should feature this as a case study of how *not* to run a ball club. I go to Blasters' games and have become acquainted with employees and fans who are regulars or host families. If half the dysfunctional, head-scratching, front-office behavior of which they've told me is true, it is a surprise this team still exists (a lot of it is hinted at in the KOAM report; because I have no proof of the rest, I'm not going into details, but I trust these people to know what's going on).

One monumental no-no which needs to be corrected now, as in tonight: There is no Blasters' employee watching the kids' bounce house down the right-field line. Aggressive play needs supervision. The team is leaving itself wide-open to a potential lawsuit (yes, I will say something to someone who can, I hope, fix the situation).

When this Titanic finally sinks, I hope KOAM will grill the city, the Chamber and the Suarezes on what made them believe a pro team could succeed in such a small market with little income to spare on fun.

Anonymous said...

Just before the Blasters came to town, several of us scoffed at the city's and the team's projections that each game would average 2,500 fans. Not for independent league baseball in a city of 50,000. Last year, in their first season, the Blasters averaged 1,500 fans per game, which I thought was pretty darn good. But this year, attendance is averaging only 500. There are several reasons for the 1,000-per-game drop in attendance: anger toward the Suarez family over their off-season shenanigans, the 14-game losing streak and overall losing record, the constant roster churn, and simply the fact that the buzz and excitement are gone this year. I went to five games last year but have yet to make it once this season.

Anonymous said...

I've gone to games as well and noticed a lot of potential liability, from beer sales after the 7th inning to the unsupervised play area to areas of the ballpark (such as the party deck and upper levels) that are not staffed.
I'm also truly surprised by the lack of common knowledge of local sports fans. By the comments read on local media Facebook pages, you would think they have never seen good baseball before.
This is not good baseball. No matter how you look at it, it's not good. They are 20 games below .500. Before the season began, you knew they were in financial trouble when the CEO decided to also name himself the general manager, the closer was also the pitching coach and they hired a local person to be the hitting coach, but he does not travel with the team. This screams financial trouble. I've been waiting for the CEO/GM to also suit up and play just in an effort to cut costs.
I was told the players are fined if they give away baseballs, I have seen Oscar himself out in the parking lot retrieving foul balls because they cannot afford to lose baseballs. This is a nickel and dime operation. A comedy of errors and one big joke. Unfortunately, our community decided to jump first before they looked. Bad decisions at every turn.

Anonymous said...

Spoke to Oscar recently and he openly admitted how much he misses working with Rohr and Cotten. He said how much different things would be had they both stayed. If you don't believe me go ask, he won't hide it.

Anonymous said...

Who the hell is Oscar?

Steve Holmes said...


Oscar Suarez, team owner.


You're right. The buzz and excitement are gone. In the off-season, the Blasters' defenders argued attendance would improve in the second year. They didn't realize a new team or new park draws its best crowds while it's new and shiny.

I've had the chance to talk with some of the players. They seem like decent folks. I feel bad that they're in the middle of all this crap.

Anonymous said...

I feel bad for the team. They got sold a bill of goods that didn't match reality. With that being said, they have hurt themselves by thinking their fans are "replaceable". They need every fan they can get but it is probably too late. The city is trying to be responsible and fill a revenue void if there will be one. Waiting until the day before spring training to try to schedule other tournaments into Becker would result in $0.

There are no winners in this deal but to beat up on the "current city management" or the baseball management is like beating up on the taxpayers for letting this happen. If you would have asked the city if they would support a team you would have found out pretty quickly that an unaffiliated just can't draw enough to support itself. (BTW Oscar is the owner of the Blasters, the one that is also losing money every day the team is still operational)

Anonymous said...

Oscar owns the team.

Steve Holmes said...

7:22, I feel bad for the players and for the front-office employees, but not so much for ownership. If they were sold a bill of goods, they allowed themselves to be sold a bill of goods. Was there an independent, unbiased feasibility study of the Joplin market? If there was, I am not aware of it. Due diligence is the name of this game.

People get too hung up on affiliated vs. independent. To the casual fan, it doesn't matter. The giveaways, the between-innings contests, the chance to socialize with friends, the fireworks, the souvenirs, the snacks, the cheap beer, the midget wrestling. That's what counts. I am sure the losing record hurts, but a minor-league team official once told me he thought winning added only about 15% to attendance. A fan in St. Paul said people are so distracted from the game by all the surrounding activities that you could change the teams in the fifth inning and no one would notice.

I had the great privilege of watching Mike Trout, Carlos Correa, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas in the low, affiliated minors and, despite any buzz about them, saw no evidence of an attendance bump when they were in town. At the end of the night, the main question to the owner is not, "Did the team win or lose?" but "Did the fans have fun?" If so, they're likely to come back even if the Bad News Bears were on the field.

Anonymous said...

Steve this is where you and I differ on the ballpark experience. Loud, annoying music, annoying announcers talking between every pitch, that crap is just that, crap. Who can enjoy a game when the PA announcer is trying to be THE show. I didn't pay to hear him talk. Announce the batter, give me the totals at the end of the inning, be done. As far as the fireworks, between inning contests and stupid promos, I understand that's part of the experience to get the dumb baseball fan (i.e., your casual fan) out to the ballpark. Fine, I get it. I can tolerate that. But when I've got my son at the same, and I cannot lean over and talk about the finer points of the game, the intricacies of the game and discuss strategy because the announcer and the music is too loud and always on, you've lost me and my family's entertainment dollar. I'm not the casual fan, I am THE baseball fan, and there are more of us in Joplin than not. And most of us refuse to support this organization.

Steve Holmes said...

2:47, you and I are in complete agreement on the ballpark experience. That's a big reason I stopped going to Blasters' games when the Outlaws were in town: The PA announcer, shouting at me to make some noise. I'm afraid this is the rule in minor-league sports. Being on track to go to 100 games in various places, I'm far from the casual fan and reluctantly tolerate their presence. I go to Blasters' games because the Outlaws, Nevada and Legion and high-school baseball are over and, well, I'm an addict.

The PA announcer also needs to announce pitching changes. It really annoys me when they get so wrapped up in the sideshow that they forget to cover the basics.

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