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.
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?
I’ll just repeat that:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”