(Posted: 4/29/11; update 4/30)
The pressbox verdict is in: Bud Selig scored with his benching of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, best sovaldi the commissioner’s taking control of the LA team “in the best interest of baseball” was
the “right thing to do.” McCourt, ask enmeshed in a costly divorce battle with wife Jamie, deserved his sidelining, said the media scorekeepers; the owner received almost as little space as he did sympathy.
McCourt says he’s abided by baseball’s guidelines, implying bewilderment at what’s happening. He’s also suggested that Selig is showing “prejudice”, hitting him hard while giving friend Fred Wilpon, owner of the red-ink-engulfed Mets, a pass. McCourt may have a point, especially since Selig also took a supportive stance when the Texas Rangers were in trouble last spring, helping to arrange a sale to a group headed by friends Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg. Selig does appear to have differing and flexible standards. In the words of Fox Sports-man Mark Kriegel: “The strictest scrutiny has to apply to all teams, all the time.”
Nevertheless, McCourt is guilty by consensus for hurting the image of his storied team. Never mind that the Dodgers have made the playoffs four times since he bought the team seven years ago, have a highly regarded farm system, an upper-tier payroll and are doing well this season. The owner himself has not played an MLB-acceptable game.
President Obama, our national commissioner as well as skipper, has a McCourt-like problem with a minor league player causing major embarrassment. Obama hasn’t left it to the media to convict Pvt. Bradley Manning of doing harm to country’s war-on-terror effort. He has denounced Manning for his alleged WikiLeaks connection for “breaking the law.” Here is what he said about Manning last week in San Francisco: “We’re a nation of laws. We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.”
Salon’s slugging lawyer-columnist Glenn Greenwald hit back at the skipper’s incautious swing:
“How can Manning possibly expect to receive a fair hearing from military officers when their Commander-in-Chief has already decreed his guilt?…As a self-proclaimed Constitutional Law professor, he ought to have an instinctive aversion when speaking as a public official to assuming someone’s guilt who has been convicted of nothing. It’s little wonder that he’s so comfortable with Manning’s punitive detention since he already perceives Manning as a convicted criminal.”
The White House’s tepid reply to such criticism: The skipper was “making a general statement,” not one meant to be “specific.”
McCourt’s follow-up reply to his benching: retaining a formidable NY law firm to prepare a court challenge to Selig for interference in his business.
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It’s Early, But…A month into the season, Larry Bowa’s prejudgements (on MLB-TV) are fairly prescient. Bowa said the Rockies would win the NL West, where they are leading and looking strong, that the Marlins would win the NL East, where they’re almost neck-and-neck with the Phillies, and that the A’s would take the AL West, where they’ve confirmed a pitching depth that should keep them in the mix all the way to the playoffs.
April Extremes: While the Rockies had taken a four-and-a-half game division lead as of early yesterday, the Padres slipped eight games behind in the NL West, a negatively impressive number (along with seven shutouts) at this stage of the season. The bunched divisions are the AL East and NL Central, where first-and-last division teams – the Yankees/Orioles and Cardinals/Astros are either fewer than, or exactly five games of each other.
Catch This: The Yanks have their Phil Hughes problem, the Red Sox worry is more generic: they’re afraid the J-and-J boys Jared Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek aren’t the answer to their catching need. Salty may shape up; if he doesn’t, Peter Gammons put it this way on WEEI the other night: “Th(e) whole medical staff declaring Russell Martin unsignable will raise its head the way it did with Jason Bay two years ago.”
Come to Think of it: Buck Showalter spoke for fans of smaller-market teams when he took this verbal shot at the Red Sox and, by implication, all big-spending teams: “I’d like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay payroll. You got Carl Crawford because you paid more than anyone else, and that’s what makes you smarter? That’s why I like whipping their butt.’’ Asked this week if he thought his comment, published in a magazine during spring training, was a dead issue, Showalter would not duck away. “I can address it again,” he said, to a reporter who brought up the flap. The “whipping their butt” part got lost the first time around. It became relevant when the O’s took two out of three in their just-completed series with the Sox.
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