(Posted: 1/30/12; e-mail update 1/31)
At least one baseball fan thought right away of Bud Selig when a turnover led to the dramatic overtime victory of the football Giants a week ago. Selig, best defender of the “human element” in umpiring calls, had just gotten a two-year contract extension that all but rules out baseball soon using the latest technology on a sensible, football-like basis.
The limited “challenge” system, whereby controversial calls can be double-checked via video slo-mo, insured that the game’s outcome would not be skewed by faulty refereeing. The fourth-quarter loose ball that grazed the would-be punt-returner could not have been detected by the naked eye. Similar situations, we know, can – and do – happen in baseball.
Press box challenges on the political field are rare when the game involves foreign policy. The corporate media tend to accept calls made from the home side of the diamond. Those same plays are seen from a different perspective abroad, where umpires and press box observers are less influenced by partisanship. One challenging observer, the International Herald Trib’s William Pfaff, questions the decisions designed to provoke or punish Team Iran:
“The military victor of the (Iraq) war, but politico-strategic loser, was the United States, which destroyed a country in no position to harm the United States, at a trillion-dollar cost, enormous human suffering and waste, and the effective transfer of Iraq to Iran’s zone of military and strategic influence. The present debate over Iran’s nuclear program, like the pre-2003 debate concerning Iraq’s non-existent WMD program, has never extended to the most important question in the matter. What difference would it make if Iran did have nuclear weapons? What could it do with them, considering the nuclear deterrent force possessed by Israel, generally thought the fifth or sixth largest and most sophisticated nuclear power in the world? “
Pfaff offers an obvious answer to his “important question”: nuclear weaponry would give Iran a deterrent to attack by enemies. (“Impermissible,” say those enemies, who already field such a deterrent.) Staying with the question, compare Pfaff’s published challenge to the unquestioned, aggression-rallying report from Jerusalem on the front page of the NY Times last week. The article’s main pitch is delivered by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak: “If Israel feels itself forced into action, the retaliation (from Iran) would be bearable. There will not be 100,000 dead…The state of Israel will not be destroyed.”
Back on the baseball beat, Selig’s extended contract all but destroys the hopes of Mets fans that the Wilpons will be forced to sell the team to someone – anyone – who could instill in them confidence the team has taken on savvy ownership. Selig talks often of his close relationship with Fred Wilpon, something he didn’t have with ex-Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. Selig pressured McCourt, in financial straits similar to Wilpon’s, to sell his team. It’s hard to conceive of Bud doing the same to his friend Fred.
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Bud the Believer: Selig usually gets what he wants; we know he wants an additional wild card team in each league. Now, he says he “believes” the arrangement will be in place this season and not have to be deferred to next year. The inclination here is to put it down as a done deal.
Doing What It Takes: The White Sox only nailed 28 percent of would-be base-stealers last season. New bench coach Mark Parent, a former catcher, told fans at a team seminar that he would work to improve the mechanics of A.J Pierzynski and speed up the deliveries of pitchers like Gavin Floyd. Announcer Steve Stone suggested an alternate plan: pouring “10 gallons of water near first base.” “We can try that,” said Parent, interrupting fan laughter. “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”
Traditionalist: New Yankee Hiroki Kuroda told the LA Times he received better-paying offers than the ($10 million) one from the Yanks for the coming season. He chose the pinstripers for their “incredible tradition…I will be proud to be part of such a team.” Whom will the ex-Dodger miss in LA? Among his former teammates, fellow pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who played catch with him on most days. “He was really nice to me.”
Terrific: Baseball Prospectus, on the prospect of Prince Fielder, mediocre defensively, at first, and poor-fielding Miguel Cabrera a third, comprising half the Detroit infield: “Paired with Ryan Rayburn at second base and Johnny Peralta at shortstop—two players moved to less demanding defensive positions years ago, only to shift back to harder ones—the Tigers are threatening to field one of the more terrifying infields in recent memory.”
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