Results tagged ‘ Bud Selig ’

We Shall Not Forget (Provided You Pay)

For four years, MLB has exploited all the in-season holidays – Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day – plus on many occasions 9/11, by having all players wear special caps. Today, caps with an American flag patch stitched on the back, to the left of the inviolable MLB logo, were worn by all clubs and all players.

So, in New York, where in 2001 first the Mets and then the Yankees honored the fallen members of – and the heroic and selfless acts of – the New York Police Department, the New York Fire Department, New York EMS, Port Authority Police, New York Sanitation, and several others by wearing their caps during the games of the weeks after the attacks, Major League Baseball denied the Mets the opportunity to wear those caps again, just for tonight’s anniversary game, the only one being played within a thirty minute ride to the World Trade Center.

According to team Player Representative Josh Thole, the Mets players debated violating the dictum and wearing them anyway. Thole told reporters shortly thereafter that the league was adamant and it was a “no-go.” It is meaningful to realize that only three current Mets were even in the majors a decade ago: Miguel Batista, Willie Harris, and Jason Isringhausen. Evidently the Commissioner’s representative reminded them that the punishment – a heavy fine – would be meted out on ownership, not them (and for all we know, a major fine might cause this team to go out of business before noon tomorrow). For his part, David Wright wore a Police cap on the bench, but even he resisted the temptation to wear it on the field and incur the wrath of the Bean Counters in the Commissioner’s Office.

Those bloodless MLB individuals have been down this path before. Ten years ago, Bud Selig’s initially ruled the Mets and Yankees could not wear the caps during games. The Mets ignored the threat, and MLB decided to give them a pass for a game or two, and then the Mets kept wearing them, and MLB wisely backed off their nonsensical decision. Tonight’s ruling reminded everybody that at the moment of the nation’s greatest grief, MLB’s money-making instinct was unhindered by the blood and destruction and fear.

At least in 2001 the sport was smart enough to shut up. Not this year. MLB first blocked the Washington Nationals from wearing military caps in tribute after a disaster in Afghanistan last month. Then came this decision, complete with in the kind of stupidity that would make a megalomaniac proud: they blamed it on MLB Vice President Joe Torre, the native New Yorker who wore these caps at the end of the 2001 season. So if it hadn’t been shameful already, pinning it on Torre made it doubly shameful.

As an aside, I should note that I actually got a tweet from an idiot who wondered why I thought wearing the NYPD/NYFD/PAPD/EMS caps was somehow “patriotic.” It never crossed my mind. It has nothing to do with patriotism. 343 firefighters and paramedics died that day. 23 New York policemen did. And 47 from the Port Authority Police. This is about remembering them – and acknowledging what all those who survived did for this city and the wounds they still have. For me, as the grandson of a New York fireman, and the descendant of several others, and many NYPD and regional PD, this is something deeper than patriotism.

CitiField is, of course, ringed with commemorations and in particular the “We Shall Not Forget” logo placed in the ad right behind the batter’s box. And it has all been rendered utterly hollow because of the crassness of the decision about the NYPD/FD/EMS caps. If you still haven’t figured out why MLB is permitting this public relations disaster to happen; why Commissioner Bud Selig didn’t get on the phone and tell the Mets they could wear those caps right away and damn the consequences, the answer is to be found here.

In case you don’t want to follow the link, here’s your answer: this is available as of tonight directly from MLB for just $36.99.

I guess we should be happy it has an American flag, and that MLB just didn’t sell the space to the highest bidder.

The Nightmare Of Perpetual Inter-League Play

Buster Olney of ESPN.Com has just posted a very good piece about a story I first heard a week ago, one that could shatter the concepts of the American and National Leagues as we know them.

As I heard it, the Bud Selig-driven committee investigating realignment was spending most of its time discussing moving one team from the National League into the American League to create two 15-team leagues. The obvious implication of those odd numbers is that from the first day of the season to the last, there would always be at least one inter-league game being played, every day – from the first celebratory week, to the final climactic days of the pennant race.

What a bunch of crap.

Olney’s sources apparently divined this scheme after the Commissioner’s group began preliminary discussions about it with the union. I had merely heard about it during its owners-only stage. His additional details include the suggestion that the 16th NL team switching to the AL might be the Astros (to give them an all-Texas rivalry with the Rangers; in fact the Marlins and Rays could probably better use this benefit), the  possibility that divisions would be eliminated altogether and each league’s 15 teams would simply vie for five playoff spots (hey, great, more crap – your opportunity to buy tickets to see a 13th-place team, or, if you’re really lucky – a battle between both 13th-place teams!).

The divisional system introduced in 1969 is troublesome enough – it broke the tradition that the pennant race really determined the best team, because each team played every other team the same number of times. But it became necessary once the leagues got beyond 10 teams, for the reasons hinted at above. In the 1890’s, when the National League stomped out both the upstart Players’ League, and then its former rival the American Association, major league baseball became one league of 12 teams. Hope dies early in a 12-team league. On this date in 1899 – June 11 – ten of the twelve teams were 8-and-a-half games out or more. Last place Cleveland was already 26 games out of first place and would end the year a whopping 84 games behind the pennant winner.

The divisions are a necessary evil, but inter-league play is an unnecessary one, and making it a virtually daily part of the menu would make a joke out of the pennant races. As it is now, how you do in inter-league pretty much determines whether or not you’ll win anything. And how you do in inter-league pretty much depends on who you play in inter-league. And who you play in inter-league pretty much is determined by which match-up will draw the most fans or the most tv viewers.

When Selig rammed inter-league play through in 1997, it still wore a fig-leaf that at least within divisions, each team would have the same inter-league opponents. The A.L. East would play the N.L. East one year, then the N.L. Central the next, then the N.L. West the third. This was abandoned as soon as the fervor swelled around Mets-Yankees, Giants-A’s, White Sox-Cubs, Dodgers-Angels, etc.

Right now inter-league opponents are selected for marketing reasons, and give some teams decided advantages over rivals in their own divisions. This new proposed system could make that disparity even greater. Unless there is some intention to reduce or scatter the current twice-yearly Festivuses of inter-league (and when has baseball ever reduced anything?) in a roughly 26-week schedule with approximately 52 “series” a year, each team in a 15-team league would probably go from playing six inter-league series a year to as many as eight or nine. By definition, some teams would get an easier schedule than others. By definition, the likelihood that the World Series teams would’ve met during the regular season increases – further flattening the bubbles in that champagne.

Inter-league has been interesting and novel in some cases (Yankees-Mets was thrilling, then interesting, and is now routine) but it has adversely affected what the pennant races mean, and it has been a nightmare for National League teams used to defending against eight-man batting orders. Just as it’s time for the concept to be discontinued or reduced, MLB is – naturally – looking to increase it.

Why not just give the teams with the top national tv ratings a first-round playoff bye?

Abner Doubleday Did Not Invent Baseball

I’ll just repeat that:

Abner Doubleday Did Not Invent Baseball.
If you’ve somehow missed it, Commissioner Bud Selig thinks otherwise. There is a chance that’s not actually a letter from him, since the man with whom he was corresponding was principally interested in the recent faked iconography problem at the Hall of Fame – so, who knows, maybe this is a faked Selig letter.
There is in fact no actual evidence that baseball was “invented” or that if it somehow was, Doubleday had any involvement in it – certainly not in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839, insomuch as Doubleday conclusively wasn’t in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839. The story was latched on to in 1905 when, with anti-British attitudes in this country at a relative height, a Commission was created to disprove the theory that the sport evolved from the British games of cricket and rounders (which, if you have eyes, you already know it obviously does).

The one tangible piece of supposed evidence upon which the “Mills Commission” finding rests is shown below:
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This is the Abner Graves baseball, submitted to the Mills Commission by an octogenarian of the same name, who claims he and his buddy Abner Doubleday used it in 1839 while Doubleday was inventing the game (fortunate he had this ball ready in advance, huh?). That the baseball seems professionally – possibly even mechanically – stitched, and more reminiscent of the ones used in the 1850’s or 1860’s, didn’t deter the Mills brothers. It was evidence and it wasn’t English.
The Graves ball is of course so central to the history of the game that when I was a kid it used to sit in that little wooden throne near the Hall of Fame entrance. It was so important that the then-curators apparently were overzealous in securing it to the base and there has now been a molecular exchange between the ball and the wood and it’s now a damn freakish Baseball/Wooden Pedestal Hybrid, and they have to keep it in the refrigerated archives, and wish it into the cornfield son, wish it into the cornfield!
Bud Selig, whom I have come to like very much, is not the only person who still believes in this absurd bit of creationism (but nearly). I can name you a dozen things he still believes in about which I’m far more worried, like the idea that making some teams play tough inter-league opponents while others play easy ones, doesn’t completely eat away at the authenticity and legitimacy of the pennant races exactly the way soft schedules eat away at the authenticity and legitimacy of the BCS.
So if Bud believes, great. Maybe he’d like to buy the above depicted Wood-e-Ball. I’m sure the Hall would be happy to off-load the thing.

After No Further Review

My baseball sources now confirm that despite the meandering nature of Commissioner Bud Selig’s statement today about the Armando Galarraga game, Jim Joyce, Replay, and Zen And The Art Of Mistake Repair, you can take that statement as an indication that the matter of correcting Joyce’s mistake is closed.

It is conceivable that the Commissioner might revisit intervening at some later date, but the further we march away from the hour of the blown call, the less likely any change is – and the chances right now are almost nil.

It should be noted again, of course, that from 1917 until late in the 1991, Ernie Shore and his family and friends were under the impression that he had thrown a Perfect Game – admittedly with an asterisk – until a special committee serving under the previous commissioner decided otherwise. Similarly, Harvey Haddix went from 1959 to ’91 thinking he’d thrown one, too.

The Commissioner’s lovely words about Mr. Joyce’s honesty, and Mr. Galarraga’s graciousness, sound filling and satisfying right now. I suspect history will be a lot tougher on the umpire – and the Commissioner.

Sources: Commissioner Selig Reviews Galarraga Game

Major League Baseball sources with direct knowledge of the meeting confirm that key members of baseball’s hierarchy were to convene this morning in New York to review the circumstances of Umpire Jim Joyce’s erroneous “safe” call at first base in Detroit, which last night denied the Tigers’ Armando Galarraga what would have been the 21st Perfect Game in baseball history and the third in just 25 days.

There was considerable doubt that Commissioner Bud Selig felt he could or should intervene in overturning the results of an umpire’s on-the-field ruling. The Detroit News reported that the Tigers might be contacting MLB in hopes of remedying what umpire Joyce later admitted, clearly and emotionally, was a wildly incorrect call. The News quoted Tigers’ General Manager Dave Dombrowski as saying “I wouldn’t get into telling you what I would do. That’s a private matter. He shouldn’t have missed it. It’s a shame for the kid…”
Baseball sources said that as of late morning, the Tigers’ opponents, the Cleveland Indians, had not contacted the Commissioner’s office. Their support of any change to last night’s call might be a key factor.
“This isn’t a call,” Joyce said afterwards, “this is a history call. And I kicked the **** out of it, and nobody feels worse than I do…I took a perfect game away from that kid.”
Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated and MLB Network tweeted that Commissioner Selig was “involved” and his office would have a statement at some point today.

Some in the Commissoner’s office were to urge Selig to declare that with Joyce’s admission, the 27th out of the game was recorded when Cleveland’s Jason Donald grounded out, first baseman Miguel Cabrera to pitcher Galarraga, covering first. The base hit credited to Donald, and the following at bat, by Cleveland’s Trevor Crowe, would be wiped off the books and thus Galarraga would be credited with a perfect game.
There is precedent for the Commissioner’s Office to decide what is, and isn’t, a perfect game. On September 4, 1991, a so-called “Statistical Accuracy Committee” ruled that the game would only official recognize as perfect games, ones in which pitchers retired 27 (or more) consecutive batters and completed the game without a batter reaching first base. The ruling wiped off the books the 1959 game in which Harvey Haddix of Pittsburgh pitched 12 perfect innings, only to lose the game to Milwaukee on a base hit. It also erased the 1917 game in which then-pitcher Babe Ruth of the Boston Red Sox had walked the lead off batter, then been ejected by the umpire for arguing the call. Reliever Ernie Shore entered the game with none out and that runner on first, who was promptly caught stealing. Shore then retired the 26 batters he faced, and had, at the time of the Commissioner’s Office ruling, been credited with a perfect game for more than 74 years. 48 more no-hit games were also erased by the re-definition of the rules.
There are also countless instances of umpires’ on-field decisions being reviewed and even overruled by the now dormant offices of the Presidents of the American and National League. One such review confirmed a controversial “out” ruling that ultimately decided the 1908 NL pennant. More recently, in 1983, after Kansas City’s George Brett had hit a two-out, 9th inning home run to bring his team from behind to ahead in a game in New York, umpire Tim McClelland determined that Brett had broken the rules by having the gripping substance “pine tar” further up his bat than rules permitted. McClelland nullified Brett’s home run and called him out for the final out of the game. Within days, American League President Lee MacPhail had overruled McClelland, declared the home run valid, and ordered the game replayed, more than a month later, from the point directly after Brett’s home run.

    The Rocket Gets To Cooperstown

    This town isn’t often surprised by celebrities. It has, after all, hosted every Hall of Famer not posthumously elected, and until a few years ago it used to be visited by two major league teams a year in an annual exhibition game.

    That was until Roger Clemens showed up in front of the CVS.
    Just as the post-induction crowds were thinning out, Clemens suddenly showed up here, walking down Main Street unescorted at dusk, signing autographs for most of a clot of 100 or so people that came out of the shops and restaurants as the buzz spread that it really was him. He didn’t stop to chat, and he wasn’t sightseeing. The explanation was simple, and provided by other Dads in from out of town, with their twelve-year olds in tow. Clemens was merely escorting, and watching as, his youngest son Kody competed in a Cooperstown Dreams game – the little league-ish competition that has re-loaded the kid supply around here.
    So, if like me, you thought you’d never see Clemens in Cooperstown, you’d be wrong – I just saw him. Thus, after three days of Pete Rose and now The Jettisoned Rocket: Cooperstown, Village of The Damned?
    MARK BUEHRLE IN COOPERSTOWN?

    The caretakers of history here were already promised Dewayne Wise’s glove and several other artifacts from Mark Buehrle’s perfect game. Lord knows what they’ll want now that Buehrle has taken a prospective second consecutive perfecto longer than anybody else, and retired a record 45 in a row. Did he wear anything in both games with which he could part? Would you give up your glove, your cap, your spikes?
    I watched Yu Darvish’s spikes from The World Baseball Classic get unpacked in the processing room here today, and got to play in the secret vaults some more between another day of research.
    You ever heard of The Temple Cup?
    IMG_0952.jpg

    OK, here is the real star of the show, a little more clearly:
    IMG_0950.jpg
    If the teams had taken it more seriously, today, this surprisingly light trophy might be “Baseball’s Holy Grail.” It was competed for by the teams finishing first and second in the National League after the 1894, 1895, 1896, and 1897 seasons, in a bid to re-create some of the post-season excitement created by the early World Series before the wars of 1890 and 1891 and the subsequent absorption of the American Association by the N.L. In three of the four years, the runners-up won, but the regular season champs claimed the title anyway. There were two sweeps of the best-of-sevens, and the other two ended 4-to-1, and after the ’97 Temple Cup, they called Pirates’ owner William Temple and gave him his Cup back.
    For now it rests in cold storage at the Hall, though will soon be back on display in the 19th Century section. I’m sorry it didn’t get taken seriously; it is a cross between the Stanley Cup and the fictional cup presented to Charles Foster Kane by his newspaper staff in “Citizen Kane,” later found after Kane’s death in an endless storage area. “Welcome home Mr. Kane, From 467 Employees of the New York Inquirer.”
    ROSE POST-SCRIPT:

    Bud Selig has now made his point clear: he’s not budging on Pete Rose.
    That wasn’t the point of my reporting on it, nor Bill Madden’s, nor anybody else’s.
    The point is, there is now pressure, from at least three key Hall of Famers whom Selig respects, on Bud to reverse course. Repeating from last night: Joe Morgan, Hank Aaron, and Frank Robinson could be the only three Hall of Famers who would actual vote to admit Rose. The issue is whether or not Rose is made eligible for election by the Veterans’ Committee. And the reporting of this new pressure is not advocacy, it is informational.
    And it’s true.

     

    The Pete And The President And The Hall of Famer Shortage

    It wasn’t the first time, and it doesn’t mean they said anything more than ‘howdy,’ but Pete Rose met with MLB President and Chief Operating Officer Bob DuPuy here in Cooperstown over the weekend.

    Perhaps just importantly, when Rose said his former teammate (and Hall of Fame Vice Chairman) Joe Morgan was “here,” he was slightly underselling reality. Morgan’s visit to Rose, in the same venue as DuPuy’s, lasted closer to an hour.
    While the rest of us were all distracted by the official big doings down Main Street, the action at the memorabilia shop where Rose hawked his autographs all weekend, must have felt heavy enough to merit a revolving door. Besides the emotional visit from (and fractional forgiveness by) Rose’s old manager Sparky Anderson, witnesses say DuPuy also stopped by the shop, and Morgan did not spend his hour there just reminiscing.
    All of this continues to feed the extrapolation that MLB is seriously considering reinstating Rose – at least for eligibility for the Hall – and that Commissioner Bud Selig is being heavily lobbied by people he greatly respects, to pardon Rose, or give him clemency of some sort. As Bill Madden of The New York Daily News reported, Hank Aaron told a couple of reporters (ironically including one who works for the Hall of Fame) “I would like to see Pete in. He belongs there.”
    Madden has since updated the story with a detail that really turns up the volume:

    It was also learned by the Daily News that in a meeting of the Hall of Fame’s board of directors at the Otesaga later on Saturday, two of Rose’s former teammates on the board, vice chairman Joe Morgan and Frank Robinson, also expressed their hope that Selig would see fit to reinstate Rose.

    At roughly the same hour, as I first reported late Saturday night, Sparky Anderson marched into the “Safe At Home” shop as if he were going to the mound at Riverfront to pull Jack Billingham, and, tears welling in his eyes, told Rose, “You made some mistakes 20 years ago, Pete, but that shouldn’t detract from your contributions to the game.”


    There was a rather petulant piece at ESPN pooh-poohing the story, and another less dyspeptic one from the solid reporter Phil Rogers of The Chicago Tribune claiming Selig was angry enough about the Daily News report that he nearly issued a rare formal denial.

    But the Commissioner did not do that, and the reasons are not hard to gather. Aaron is not only his close friend but someone whom Bud has always held on a pedestal. Morgan’s power within baseball, and particularly the Hall, has been steadily growing. Frank Robinson is perhaps the game’s elder statesman. Rogers’ conclusion that “there has been no movement by Rose’s peers to have him take a seat among the greats in Cooperstown” might be numerically correct, but it does not take into account the relative influence of these three larger-than-life figures.

    Perhaps just as importantly is the upcoming trauma of the 20th anniversary of Rose’s banishment, and, a week later, the 20th anniversary of Commissioner Bart Giamatti’s stunning, and to so many of us, heartbreaking, death. Selig and baseball can completely co-opt the story and turn it into one of redemption (whether or not it really is). The Veterans’ Committee vote on Rose can finish with only Aaron, Morgan, and Robinson voting “aye” and everybody else shouting obscenities, and Selig will have still redirected the coverage at the end of next month. It’s the scene from “Catch-22″ where the General, Orson Welles, wants to court-martial the Captain, Alan Arkin, for dropping his bombs in the Mediterranean. “We thought of that,” says the Major, played by Martin Balsam, “but then we considered the inevitable publicity.” Welles sighs. “You don’t have to say another word, Major.”

    And lastly there is the drum beat growing louder and louder about the Hall of Fame and steroids – and Rose. It’s not just the issue of relative immorality. There is a looming Hall of Famer shortage. Exactly who are we to think are the lead-pipe, no-controversy, no-rumor, no-speculation first-ballot cinches among the recently-retired? Fred McGriff next winter? Larry Walker for the ceremonies of July, 2011? Bernie Williams of the class of 2012? Craig Biggio the year after that? There are, to me, literally two certainties out there and only one of them is certainly retired – Greg Maddux will be here five summers hence, and, if he doesn’t try to pitch again, so will Tom Glavine.

    And in the interim? Robby Alomar? 

    I mean – and I intend to go into this in depth in a future blog – I think this is great news for Andre Dawson, Dale Murphy, and maybe even Roger Maris, Gil Hodges, and Ron Santo. But the next few years are not going to be remembered for serene and joyous election revelations and inductions. It ain’t gonna be Jim-Ed fans buying out the postcards of their Red Sox hero by late on the day of the ceremony, as they just did this weekend.

    Good grief, the Hall might – gasp – need Pete Rose for his star power.

    MEANWHILE, IN THE BASEMENT:

    I am spending two extra days here researching the obscure stuff I can’t find out about anywhere other than the Hall’s incredible library. The entire staff (particularly librarian Jim Gates and Collections Senior Director Erik Strohl) has already passed several camels through the eyes of needles and before you say they’re just sucking up to a guy with a tv show, their long-ago predecessors Cliff Kachline and the late Jack Redding treated me with the exact same level of respect the last time I darkened the library’s doors – when I was fourteen years old.

    Anyway, the research later. For now, here is one of the things we stumbled over, buried in a box in the Scorebooks and Scorecards Collections, while – of course – looking for something else:

    IMG_0925.jpg

    This is a nondescript, hand-drawn scorebook – in an otherwise ordinary composition notebook – with no markings or identification. Maybe the same name will jump out at you, that jumped out at me.

    Batting second and playing centerfield for Shelbyville, Kentucky, of the Blue Grass States League, is Stengel. Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel. It’s July, 1910, and he’s just been saved from having to go back to dental school in Kansas City after his first professional season as a player came to an abrupt halt when the Kankakee team went out of business! Stengel latched on with Shelbyville (the franchise moved in mid-season so some records show him with Maysville), opened up with a 1-for-3 day in a 3-2 win, and would remain in baseball until his death in 1975.

    And this is a scorebook, apparently belonging to a fan, who saw him play 20 or so times, in the lowest of the minors, 99 years ago. And the Hall of Fame has so much stuff that this not only isn’t on display, but nobody had yet had the time to look long enough at the book to figure out that that’s what it was.

    And finally I have some ideas of what I want my house to look like!

    Since you’ve read so long, just to say thanks, I give you something you never see – what the non-baseball part of Cooperstown looks like – here’s Lake Otsego, which is about a four-minute walk from the Hall’s front door:

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