(Posted: 8/31/12; e-mail update 9/1)
The record book shows that in 1976 the Oakland A’s tried a salary dump similar to the recent Red Sox shocker, seeking to send three star players, including future Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, unhealthy to Red Sox and Yankees. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn stopped the deals as not being in baseball’s “best interest.” The effect on the sport of the Dodgers’ sudden player windfall should be an issue today. Why it isn’t, we believe, connects to political changes in the national bailiwick over the last three-plus decades.
While Bowie Kuhn was ruling against the A’s in ”76, the Supreme Court decided in a landmark case, Buckley v. Valeo, that the use of money to try to influence the result of elections was legitimate, a form of free speech. The impact in politics was felt as soon as the 1978 midterm election when stats show the upward spiral of lobbyists’ campaign dollars left the yard. The use of money to get things done, to get one’s way, gradually went from legitimate to unquestioned.
That became strikingly true in baseball as owners expected the commissioners they chose to endorse whatever player deals were made by members of the club. The policy became more pronounced in the ’90s when former owner Bud Selig took charge. We know from watching the off-field money game today – bank deals and bailouts, tax breaks for the wealthy, etc.- how dominant the dollar has become in every corner of the national grandstand.
The scorecard shows the 2010 high court victory of Citizens United as the ultimate triumph of money in American political life. It has already scored on the political field in California, the unlimited and effectively anonymous use of CU-approved money a game-changer for tobacco companies there. A $41 million-supported anti-tax rally helped the pro-smoking team overcome what had been a popular ballot pitch to impose an extra dollar-a-pack levy on the sale of cigarettes. That’s one example of what is happening in local races and issues around the country.
In the national presidential playoff, Team GOP has CU money reinforcing its offensive hit-to-right arsenal. Such a late Big Tobacco-like barrage can bring Mitt Romney home the way Dodger dollars – and the deals they made possible – could carry the now-blue/green team to the World Series.
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Starting Slowly: The beefed-up Dodgers have only managed to win two of seven games since their expensive infusion, taking only one of four from the last-place Rockies. Meanwhile, the Giants finished a four-game split with the Braves, then swept three from the Astros, leaving LA four-and-a-half behind in the NL West.
Difference-Maker: What does Evan Longoria mean to Tampa Bay? Well, the Rays were 25-10 before he went on the DL in May. They struggled to maintain a .500 pace during his absence. Since his return on August 7, the Rays have gone 15-8.
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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org are welcome, and only they can be addressed by the skipper. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)