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Rounding the bases with an occasional digression and stray wisecrack. Foremost being the question; “Does the Bonds indictment guarantee the Mitchell Report will be loaded with live grenades?” A lot of people who have both good judgment and serious connections in the game think the answer is “Yes.”
Still, a wider question remains. “Does the game of baseball -- the antics of stray wise guys not withstanding -- really deserve to be singled out and hammered in this way?” My answer remains, “No.”
Although there will be few tears shed for the duplicitous Mr. Bonds. Pride goeth before the fall and it takes arrogance with it.
And yet this fact should give his critics pause (present company very much included). It’s amazing how many baseball men with whom the tainted home run king has been associated willingly rush to his defense and with seeming sincerity. We’re talking about high quality chaps here like Dusty Baker, Jimmie Leyland, Ellis Burks, Bob Brenly, J.T Snow, Omar Vizquel. There are legions of them. You can’t find a manager, coach, GM, or owner, for whom Bonds has worked, who is bad-mouthing him. It needs to be considered. Maybe!
But it needs even more to be realized that Bonds faces the music not for doing the bad stuff. After all, until very recently steroid prescription laws had about as much currency as the ban on drinking beer during Prohibition; just a joke. It’s the dumb and needless cover-up that nailed him. “Tis ever thus.” We might also keep in mind that he hasn’t been convicted of anything. Yet.
The czar’s bucks
Bud Selig who sat on the chemical enhancements scandal for about 20 years both as an owner and a commissioner, is strutting about like the cock of the walk. Seems the books on the 2007 season show that Major League Baseball produced total revenues slightly in excess of 6 billion bucks, a record. That’s roughly four-and-a-half times MLB’s annual harvest back when Bud took over in the early ’90s. With Bud, it’s all about the money and only about the money and he is pleased to take the credit. All the credit.
Which doesn’t mean he’s anxious to see the wealth shared boundlessly. He’s reported to have been greatly aggravated last week when first the Yankees vastly overpaid aging catcher Jorge Posada, then allowed A-Rod to break his own record for breaking the bank, then sought to appease a whining Mariano Rivera with yet another ridiculous contract. It may be all about the money but Bud doesn’t like to see mere players making more of it per season than he does. Very few do. Bud, you see, also thinks that it’s all about ... him.
The czar’s pets
Meanwhile, the czar’s favorite owners -- the cartel that runs the Red Sox -- were jacking their record breaking ticket prices up to new, ever more record-breaking levels. It now costs the average fan almost 50 percent more to see a Red sox game than a Yankee game. For a couple, that amounts to about 100 bucks a pop. In the race to be the most obscenely overpriced baseball experience in the civilized world -- the Red Sox are miles in front.
It’s no problem while you’re riding high and for those who are keeping score it took them only 15 days after the magic duck boat ride to give the ticket prices a nine percent goose. But if the Dark Ages return -- and they will, some day -- watch out below.
Hey, it’s a free country and a free market system and if the pigeons from the Nation are willing to swallow such egregious profiteering we have little grounds for complaint. Still, once upon a time it was the local media’s divine right to do just that -- excoriate such obvious high handedness. Tom Yawkey gave away lavish free meals and rivers of booze while providing a comfortable and leisurely work environment. In return, he regularly got cuffed about like a rag doll, derided as “Uncle Tom,” and scorned for running a country club by the very folks who reveled in its membership. For owners back then, it was the price of doing business.
But no more. The Globe led the local media’s rush to defend the historic rise in prices. Their main story on the caper amounted to a round of applause and could have been written by Red Sox PR guru, Doctor Steinberg himself. The bandwagon rolls on merrily, right through the hot-stove season. After all, who wants to take a chance on getting shut out of the road trip to Japan? It’s at times like this that you wonder if having the local newspaper of record as one of the part owners of the local ball club is really such a good idea.
Hall’s ‘revised’ voting
Hold your breath, fans. The newly revised Hall of Fame Veteran’s Committee is about to be tested. Indignation over the rigid attitudes of the former “newly revised committee” -- which produced exactly zero new Hall of Fame vet selections in six years of not trying -- finally boiled over this summer. So very quietly the process was reformed. Again! On Sunday the 2nd of December, we’ll see if it works.
Once again, living Hall of Famers along with a few special delegates will be doing the voting. But they have been divided into smaller subcommittees and given very definite categories and specific nominees to consider. Two categories will be voted upon this time with one restricted to builders and executives, including owners and commissioners, while the other lists only managers and umpires. No former players, other than those who were also managers, are eligible this time. Their turn comes next year. So the opportunities have been increased too. It’s an interesting approach.
Frankly, I hope the two committees go nuts and elevate at least two nominees from each group. This will infuriate hardliners, who have schemed mightily to thwart the process in order to keep the Hall from becoming, in their opinion, ‘‘too watered down.’’ Which in my opinion, is a lot of poppycock. This could all change on the 2nd.
On the other hand, they could again succeed in electing no one, which would probably mean that the Veteran’s Committee -- which has planted more immortals in Cooperstown than the Baseball Writers -- is effectively finished and might as well be disbanded. And that would be a bloody shame.
Whatever, there’s at least the chance that common sense will prevail this time. Not being a member of the Hall of Fame, I don’t have a vote. But if I did I would choose Bowie Kuhn and Marvin Miller in the builder’s category, Dick Williams and Billy Martin from the ranks of the managers. All four would be controversial picks.
The arguments over Kuhn are fascinating. I strongly suspect one of his actual successors -- the estimable Fay Vincent who would be in the Hall himself if he’d been willing to capitulate to the owners -- would not be pleased. I sense Mr. Vincent was not impressed with Mr. Kuhn. But a colossal amount of baseball history churned for better or worse under Kuhn’s watch and he made a staggering amount of tough calls, not all of them dumb. More to the point, if that mountebank Judge Landis -- whose most notable achievement in office was to perpetuate segregation in baseball -- belongs in the Hall, then Kuhn should be a landslide selection.
The choice of Miller is a no-brainer too long denied given his immense impact on the history of the game, which is the ultimate yardstick. If Marvin keeps his mouth shut, he’ll make it at long last.
Williams and Martin were both difficult persons with angry edges and messy personal lives but they were the two best managers of their era; better, in my opinion, than their contemporaries who have already been anointed, Sparky Anderson and Earl Weaver.
As long as they elect someone. Anyone!