In all the gnashing of teeth and recriminations (and warnings about recriminations) following the PawSox announcement of their plan to move the team to Worcester, Massachusetts, in two years, the single most important point is nowhere to be found. Two of the many, many related articles on the topic that have run through my various information feeds show where a critically important observation is not being observed.
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.
Second is a passing detail in Tom Mooney’s folks-on-the-street article in the Providence Journal:
Elaine Palagi sat in a booth at the Right Spot Diner — a cozy eatery outside McCoy Stadium with what suddenly seemed an ironic name Friday — and explained how she often returns to her childhood neighborhood for lunch.
“We’ll come and see friends and stand on our roots a little bit,” said Palagi, 68, who now lives in Seekonk. Her husband runs an ice cream business down the street. Her son is a firefighter stationed next to the PawSox ballpark. But “we moved out 13 years ago when we saw the decline in the neighborhoods.”
Like her mother, Palagi worked her whole career at Memorial Hospital up the street until it closed last year. She’s heard nearby Hasbro, the international toy company, is considering relocating. And she still recalls the destruction of the Leroy Theatre, 21 years ago.
Here’s the question: Why isn’t anybody lamenting the fact that Elaine Palagi wanted to stay in Pawtucket, but Rhode Island politics screwed things up? Why do we never seem accurately to assign blame when a theater or hospital finds that their fading communities can no longer support their services?
Yeah, it’s easy to look at a crony capitalist deal on the table for a minor league baseball team and blame the skeptics of that particular proposal, but we should be focusing on the thousand new ways, every single year, Rhode Islander’s insider system makes it more difficult to thrive here while simultaneously making it a less attractive place to be, thanks to the inability to provide basic government services well.
Frankly, preventing taxpayers from falling on the hook for a giant investment in a sport that isn’t what it used to be is one of the few things politics in our state have gotten right in a long, long time.