Athletic Writer Throws Fit Over Rhode Island Not Giving Into Stadium Financing Scheme

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

A hot new sports media startup may not be the place you’d expect to find a braindead take lifted straight from a dead-tree columnist’s 1996 notebook, but then you remember that The Athletic, in its quest to destroy all print sports sections, did hire plenty of middle-aged white guys. One of those guys is Joe McDonald, and he’s got one hell of a column out this week.

McDonald is upset that the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, are all set to leave their current home in Pawtucket and relocate to Worcester, Mass. The team is abandoning its longtime home because the local government wasn’t willing to chip in enough public money to help build a new stadium, and this has made McDonald righteously angry at the greedy sports franc—no, wait, I’m sorry, he’s mad at the state politicians:

Owners of the​ Pawtucket​ Red​ Sox are on​ the​​ verge of moving the team to Worcester, according to people close to the negotiations. Let’s get this straight: Larry Lucchino & Co. wanted to stay. He wanted a new ballpark in Pawtucket. The PawSox were willing to take on the majority of the costs. However, Rhode Island politics screwed things up.

Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien was a major proponent and did nearly everything he could to keep the team in the city. Politicians at the state level, namely House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, are to blame. He forced the PawSox into a corner during an election year when he blocked the original Senate legislation, prolonging the process. In June, Mattiello put together a second deal in the 11th hour, which the Senate passed and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo then signed.

It was a terrible deal. It was a ploy by Rhode Island House leadership, one they knew the PawSox would reject — and that’s what appears to be happening. Now, the team will no longer call Pawtucket home after the 2020 season, instead heading north to Worcester.


Smart of McDonald to speak in vague terms here, so that he doesn’t have to mention that the the “terrible deal” the state legislator put together still offered the minor-league team $38 million of public financing—45 percent of the total cost of a new stadium. That wasn’t a big enough handout for the team, which has reportedly gotten a sweeter deal from Worcester.

McDonald is convinced that not giving away $38 million to keep a minor-league baseball team in town will in fact plunge Pawtucket into financial ruin, and he’s got every debunked amateur economist’s argument ready to prove his point:

The proposed site for the new ballpark in Pawtucket, at the former Apex department store, would have been the epicenter for the economic renewal and real estate development in downtown Pawtucket. Many real estate deals were waiting for an official announcement that the PawSox were staying. Now that won’t happen, putting other projects in jeopardy.


And just to make sure everyone understands how badly this column belongs in 2002, McDonald hits us with this zinger at the end:

The PawSox changed their name to the Pawtucket Hot Wieners for a promotional night on Thursday, which was a huge success. However, the Rhode Island politicians responsible for the PawSox exodus are the real wieners in this situation.


Be sure to support local sports journalism and subscribe to The Athletic!