A-Rod’s Reputation Contributed To The Harshness Of His Penalty

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If Alex Rodriguez had an off-field reputation like Joe Mauer, would he be suspended for such a draconian amount of time? There’s a sense of, “because it’s A-Rod” surrounding the 211 game suspension that Major League Baseball has handed down on him that it begs the question of whether it would have happened in a similar way if it was someone else.

This is the equivalent of the Rockefeller Drug Law in its undue and selective harshness. As many times as he’s been “caught,” A-Rod technically didn’t get caught by MLB prior to this and is being treated as if he did. He admitted his use, lied about his use, made a fool of baseball, embarrassed the Yankees and has repeatedly flouted any attempts to clean up the game, but the genesis of this suspension is to punish him and use him as an example. Essentially they’re saying to other, lesser players, “We’ll do this to the biggest names in the game, so we’ll definitely do it to you as well. Lay off the drugs.” It’s also a message to the fans, media, politicians and everyone else that MLB is “serious” about a cleanup even if it’s mostly for appearances.

A-Rod’s somewhat like a criminal mastermind to whom nothing would stick and the circle has closed in on him through design that MLB eventually “got” him by careful manipulation of the system to achieve that end. It was either talk and agree to a plea deal or get the toughest punishment MLB can muster and still get through the legal process without an overturn and extended period of time in court. MLB can use semantics such as “best interest of the game” and reference A-Rod stonewalling, lying, vacillating and refusing to cooperate to justify the eventual decision to toss the book at him, but they still have to look in the mirror and share a large segment of the blame for PED use.

If Bud Selig played ignorant to steroids from the time he became commissioner to the day he was humiliated and looked like a doddering figurehead in front of congress, it’s in the same semantics-laden ballpark as A-Rod’s logical defense. I’m hard-pressed to believe the Selig is anything more than a rubber stamp commissioner and just as clueless as to the actual goings on in the game even though he’s spearheading the “get tough” attitude on a culture whose proliferation he turned a blind eye to and even went so far as to tacitly encourage it until it no longer suited him and his bosses—the owners.

The argument could be made that Ryan Braun has been far more damaging to the game’s reputation than A-Rod. It was Braun who behaved as the innocent victim when A-Rod acted like A-Rod. Yet it’s Braun who gets the light sentence due to a plea agreement and A-Rod who’s refusing to back down and getting suspended for an entire season-plus.

211 games is a ridiculously long sentence and if there is still room for an agreement while winding through the appeals process, A-Rod should request something akin to a yearlong suspension that would put him out from now through next year’s All-Star break. He’d be eligible to return in July, get half his 2014 salary and the episode would be over. Regardless of any agreement or legal fight, A-Rod’s next few days as a Yankee are likely to another sordid chapter in the shotgun marriage that hit the rocks midway through and stayed there.

As much of a problem as A-Rod has been, his acts don’t warrant a suspension four times as long as most others are getting. The biggest star with the largest salary gets the worst punishment and had A-Rod acted like a classy professional throughout his career and not an ongoing freakshow, the penalties might have been more in line with the misdeeds. It’s only because it’s A-Rod that the penalties are so crushing and he should fight them because as much as he’s brought it on himself, he doesn’t deserve this devastating a penalty for doing something that a vast number of athletes have been doing under wink-and-nod approval from the game itself.

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John Rocker Tells A Truth No One Wants To Hear (Especially From Him)

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There’s no difference between what John Rocker said and what baseball as a whole did regarding performance enhancing drugs. Rocker’s recent comments elicited a rehashing of his behaviors when he was playing the wrestling bad guy. The entire genesis of “Rocker is an idiot” stems from his ill-advised interview in Sports Illustrated. Because Rocker said some offensive things then doesn’t automatically make everything he says meritless. If it were a former baseball owner, a respected player, a broadcaster, an agent, or a writer who came out and said the same things Rocker said, would it be seen as blatant honesty or Ann Coulter-style, absurd over-the-top salesmanship?

Rocker said the following while appearing on Cleveland’s 92.3 The Fan:

Honestly, and this may go against what some people think from an ethical standpoint, I think it was the better game.

At the end of the day when people are paying their $80, $120, whatever it may be, to buy their ticket and come watch that game, it’s almost like the circus is in town.

They are paid to be entertained. They wanna see some clown throw a fastball 101 mph and some other guy hit it 500 feet. That’s entertainment. You’re paying to be entertained.

Was there anything more entertaining than 1998—I don’t care how each man (Sosa and McGwire) got there—was there anything more entertaining than 1998?

Nowadays Rocker’s a guest on radio shows only because they realize that whatever he says will be twisted out of proportion because of the new politically correct sensibility against PEDs. Never mind that the owners, the players, the media and the fans were all holding hands denying the reality that the home run records set by Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa and the resurgences from pitchers long past their sell-by date like Roger Clemens came about due to drug use. Since Rocker said it, it has to be treated with revulsion. The only problem is that he’s right.

After the 1994 strike that wiped out the playoffs and World Series, blew away Tony Gwynn’s last chance at hitting .400, ruined Matt Williams’s run at the home run record and essentially demolished baseball in Montreal, the sport went into overdrive to replenish fan interest. Whether or not there was a tacit decision to ignore PED use or a whisper campaign to encourage it probably depends on whom you’re talking to or about. Commissioner Bud Selig acts as if he had no clue what was going on; the players were looking to get paid; the front office people had to sign players they knew were using to keep their jobs; the owners couldn’t care less; the media turned their heads; and the fans came back to the ballpark to watch the players hit dingers and shatter records. If no one’s innocent, everyone’s guilty.

It was only when the moral outrage started based on the self-aggrandizing investigation of Jeff Novitzky that got the ball rolling on exposure of PED use in sports. By then baseball had no choice but to put up a front of ignorance and take steps to “clean up” the game. It’s still ongoing with the current Biogenesis investigation threatening to be the newest in a string of baseball’s attempts to be dictatorial against one of the most powerful and committed unions on the planet. To meet their current ends they’re willing to run the risk of another collusion verdict in the inevitable lawsuits to be filed by Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez and all the other players named in the records.

To imply that Rocker is wrong in his assertion that it was a show MLB was putting on to entertain the fans and make a lot of money is contrary to the facts. His statements were not based on wringing the last vestiges of attention from his infamy.  He was telling a truth that no one wants to hear or admit.

It’s simple to dismiss Rocker as a bitter fool by pointing to an entirely separate incident that happened over thirteen years ago. What happens when someone who’s not perceived as a bitter fool says the exact same thing? Then will it be seen as someone bringing forth contentions that all of baseball, the media and the fans loathe to admit: they got a thrill out of seeing all the records falling and balls flying out of stadiums. In their statements, baseball acts indignant at the PED use. In their actions/inactions, they were in on it and, in fact, encouraged it.

Say what you want about Rocker as a person, but his statements are dead-on. Because no one wants to hear them, especially from him, doesn’t alter their accuracy.

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MLB Inches Closer Toward The Trading Of Draft Picks

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The trades that were completed yesterday were a distraction for a slow day. Righty pitcher Scott Feldman was traded from the Cubs along with catcher Steve Clevenger to the Orioles for righty pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop and cash. The cash in a trade is usually to offset contracts or provide a sweetener to complete a deal, but in this case the cash is international bonus money that the Cubs will use to accrue extra wiggleroom to sign free agents. They also acquired more bonus pool money from the Astros in exchange for minor leaguer Ronald Torreyes. They traded away some of that money in sending Carlos Marmol and cash to the Dodgers for veteran reliever Matt Guerrier.

The trades are secondary to the money exchanges. You can read about the ins-and-outs of why the Cubs, Dodgers and Astros did this here and the details of trading bonus slot money here. What the shifting around of money says to me is that MLB is experimenting with the concept of trading draft picks, something I’ve long advocated. That they’re trying to implement an international draft to shackle clubs’ hands even further from spending makes the trading of draft picks more likely.

With the increased interest in the MLB draft, one of the only ways to turn it into a spectacle that will function as a moon to the NFL draft’s sun and NBA’s Earth is to allow teams to trade their picks. Because amateur baseball pales in comparison to the attention college football and college basketball receive; because the game of baseball is so fundamentally different when making the transition from the amateurs to the pros, there is a finite number of people who watch it with any vested interest and a minimum percentage of those actually know what they’re looking at with enough erudition to accurately analyze it. It’s never going to be on a level with a Mel Kiper Jr. sitting in the ESPN draft headquarters knowing every player in the college ranks and being able to rattle off positives, negatives and why the player should or shouldn’t have been drafted where he was with it having a chance to be accurate. MLB tries to do that, but it’s transparent when John Hart, Harold Reynolds and whoever else are sitting around a table in an empty studio miraculously proclaiming X player of reminds them of Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Matt Harvey, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez or Dustin Pedroia when they’ve seen (or haven’t seen) a five second clip of him; when Bud Selig takes his mummified steps to the podium to announce the names of players he couldn’t recognize if they were playing in the big leagues now. And don’t get me started on the overall ludicrousness of Keith Law.

There’s no comparison between baseball and the other sports because in baseball, there’s a climb that has to be made after becoming a professional. In football and basketball, a drafted player automatically walks into the highest possible level of competition. With a top-tier pick, the football and basketball player isn’t just a member of the club, but he’s expected to be a significant contributor to that club.

With baseball, there’s no waste in a late-round draft pick because there’s nothing to waste. Some players are drafted to be organizational filler designed to complete the minor league rosters. If one happens to make it? Hey, look who the genius is for finding a diamond in the rough! Except it’s not true. A player from the 20th round onward (and that’s being generous) making it to the majors at all, let alone becoming a star, is a fluke. But with MLB putting such a focus on the draft, that’s the little secret they don’t want revealed to these newly minted baseball “experts” who started watching the game soon after they read Moneyball and thinks a fat kid who walks a lot for a division III college is going to be the next “star.” Trust me, the scouts saw that kid and didn’t think he could play. That’s why he was drafted late if he was drafted at all. There’s no reinventing of the wheel here in spite of Michael Lewis’s hackneyed and self-serving attempts to do so.  Yet MLB draft projecting has blossomed into a webhit accumulator and talking point. There’s a demand for it, so they’ll sell it regardless of how random and meaningless it truly is.

So what does all this have to do with the trading of the bonus slot money? MLB allowing the exchange of this money will give a gauge on the public reaction and interest level to such exchanges being made to provide market research as to the expanded reach the trading of draft picks would yield. If there’s a vast number of websearches that lead MLB to believe that it’s something that can spark fan fascination, then it’s something they can sell advertising for and make money. It’s a test case and once the results are in, you’ll see movement on the trading of draft picks. It’s a good idea no matter how it happens. Now if we can only do something to educate the masses on how little Keith Law knows, we’ll really be getting somewhere.

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From North Dallas Forty To Biogenesis

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Major League Baseball’s ham-handed investigation into the Biogenesis Clinic and the players who might have been involved in PEDs after being named as clinic clients is an attempt to appear as if they’re on top of the situation done in a way similar to how the National Football League would’ve done it. Except the way in which MLB is handling it is the way the NFL would’ve handled it in 1970, not 2013.

The tour-de-force account of how the NFL operated back then was the 1979 film North Dallas Forty as the protagonist, Phil Elliot is struggling through injuries and the refusal to “play the game” and the “game” isn’t football—it’s going along to get along, taking shots of painkillers, playing injured (different from playing hurt), being used and willing to be used to fill the masochistic need to play the actual on-field sport.

In the movie, the North Dallas Bulls with their megalomaniacal and exceedingly wealthy owner, iconic and cold-blooded coach, and hard-partying teammates (*wink wink* at the “similarities” to the Dallas Cowboys) prepare for the next week’s game. Early in the film, Elliot experiences a break-in at his home and catches the perpetrator in the act who threatens Elliot with a gun and flees. In the penultimate scene, the break-in was revealed to have actually executed by a private eye who had been hired by the club to get dirt on Elliot with the complicity of the league to catch disposable, independent-minded players like him smoking pot and using an excess of painkillers in order to exploit the violation of league rules not to pay their salaries when they’re dumped as Elliot eventually was. Left out of the equation was that Elliott was smoking pot with the team’s star quarterback, but the club couldn’t very well function without the star quarterback and cutting Elliott filled the dual function of sending a message to the rest of the team that they’d better behave or suffer the same fate of not only being cut, but also having their reputation sullied throughout the league and face a suspension for drug use if they didn’t do as they’re told.

Elliott’s quote regarding his marijuana use, “If you nailed every guy in the league who smoked grass, you wouldn’t have enough players left to field the punt return team,” still resonates today in every sport and with every drug—performance enhancing and otherwise.

MLB is trying the same type of thing sans the illegalities (that we know of) with the Biogenesis case in their over-the-top show of trying to extract information from the head of the clinic Anthony Bosch to the degree that they’re paying him and, according to other potential witnesses, “bullying” with threats and empty promises of help in a legal case if they cooperate. The problem for MLB is this when thinking about the tactics similar to those used in North Dallas Forty: the movie was from 34 years ago and it was adapted from a book published 40 years ago about the way the game was run in the 1960s.

And that’s what MLB is doing. They’re using methods from the 1960s to garner information in 2013.

The problems with the way in which MLB is reportedly running this investigation is manifold and goes far beyond the Cold War-era strategies. Let’s just say, hypothetically, that this Biogenesis clinic was used by players in today’s NFL and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell who was at the top of the hill in this new scandal instead of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. Would the entire structure be handled differently? Better? More competently?

Selig is essentially seen as a doddering figurehead whose main job descriptions is that of a functionary. It’s not far from the truth. His performance as commissioner has been a byproduct of what is good for the owners’ pockets rather than what is promoted as good for the game. While the PEDs were rampant throughout baseball and were used with the tacit approval of everyone in an effort to draw fans, restore the game’s popularity following the 1994 strike, and accrue money for the owners and players alike, there was Selig with a faraway gaze either clueless as to the reality or willfully ignoring it. Perhaps it was a combination of the two.

Selig’s performance in front of Congress along with the players who showed up that fateful day was humiliating in a myriad of ways. From Rafael Palmeiro’s finger-wagging lies; to Sammy Sosa’s “me no speaka the Inglés”; to Mark McGwire not being there to talk about the past; to Curt Schilling clamming up after his yapping for days before and after the fact, baseball has never acquitted itself well when self-preservation came to the forefront at the expense of stating the facts.

Has baseball improved since then? Has Selig gotten the message? Let’s just compare Selig with his NFL counterpart Goodell. Only people inside baseball’s front office know how alert Selig is to the Biogenesis investigation or anything else. Perhaps it’s a matter of, “Don’t tell me what I don’t want to know so I don’t have to lie about it later.” But this is an indicator that MLB should’ve tossed someone overboard when the entire PED scandal initially broke to send the message that a new sheriff was in town and things weren’t going to be done the old way. And I use old in every conceivable context of the word when discussing Selig. That would’ve meant that Selig had to go a decade ago, and he probably should’ve.

Would Goodell be so disengaged to not know every aspect of what’s going on with an investigation of this magnitude? Would he not take steps to control the message and how it’s framed as politicians—like Goodell and Goodell’s father Charles, a former United States Senator from New York—do and did? This is the fundamental difference between MLB and the NFL. Goodell is smooth, smart, and cagey. He’s available yet insulated; touchable but unknowable; protected and in command. Selig on the other hand is cadaverous and scripted, but unable to follow the script; he’s anything but smooth and the disheveled clothes, $10 haircut and bewildered countenance that was once somewhat charming lost its luster as he had to get to work to restore the game’s validity. What makes it worse when having a figurehead as commissioner is that baseball doesn’t appear to have taken steps to place competent people behind the scenes to pull the levers to keep the machine greased and running well. It’s people charging headlong into each other and having the bruises to prove it.

If Goodell makes the implication that the witnesses will be assisted in a criminal investigation as was alluded to in the ESPN piece linked above, you can bet that the NFL and Goodell himself will have the connections to follow through on the promise.

MLB? What are they going to do about it? Are they even capable of helping anyone? Would they know who to call and would that person even take the call as he would if he heard, “Roger Goodell is on the phone,” instead of “Bud Selig is on the phone,”?

Not much thought was put into any of this going back to allowing of players to get away with PED use and then the about-face due to public outcry, the banning of substances and the potential fallout of doing so. They want to clean up the game, but keep it entertaining to the fans. Did it ever occur to them that the reason that so many man games are being lost due to injury stems from the tendons and ligaments becoming weakened from carrying the extra muscle built through chemical means? That players can’t play 150 games and toss 225 innings and maintain performance without chemicals? That they aren’t going to be able to beat out a dribbler on the infield in August by chugging cups of coffee and cans of Red Bull as they would from their trusted amphetamines (greenies)? That the risk/reward for players like Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera and anyone else whose name was caught up in Biogenesis was such that there was no reason not to do it?

What’s 100 games in comparison to the half a billion dollars in contracts—just for playing baseball alone and not counting endorsements—A-Rod will have made once his career is over? What’s 100 games in exchange for Braun’s MVP and the minute risk (Braun’s just unlucky, arrogant and somewhat stupid) of getting caught? What’s 100 games in exchange for a slightly above-average talent like Cabrera being given a contract for $16 million almost immediately after his humiliating suspension and public lambasting?

Until MLB does something about the laughable penalties, players will keep trying to navigate their way around the tests and punishments because it’s worth it for them to do it given the likelihood that they’ll get away with it.

Attendance and TV ratings are down all around baseball. In large part it’s because the fans who jumped on the bandwagon at the excitement of the home runs have little interest in watching Joe Maddon outmaneuver Joe Girardi with tactical skill. They want homers and if they’re not getting them, they won’t bother to watch. This new “get tough” policy is falling flat not just because of the maladroit manner in which it’s being implemented, but because there’s no integrity behind it. The owners are interested in one thing: the bottom line. Many are as blind as Selig was to the PED use and only came around when the evidence was plunked on their desks with the widespread demand to “do something” about it to “save the game.”

Using the 1960s as a guideline for running the Biogenesis investigation in 2013 forgets that back then, there wasn’t the constant flow of available information with real time stories, opinions and criticisms appearing immediately and going viral. Back then, MLB would’ve been able to get in front of the story using friendly, like-minded reporters who were willing to do the Max Mercy thing from The Natural and “protect” the game. In other words, they would protect the people who owned the game against the ephemeral presence of the players who come and go and who were using drugs to undeservedly place themselves in the stratosphere of legends that was once rightfully limited to Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Bob Feller. Now there are bloggers, reporters and networks gathering information as it comes in. It can’t be controlled.

For MLB to put forth the pretense of being all-in for the Biogenesis investigation is the epitome of wasteful hypocrisy. They can pound on doors, stand on rooftops and proclaim their commitment to stopping PED use. They can threaten, cajole, demand and make empty promises, but that’s not going to alter the reality that the changes to the game have to be foundational and not a self-serving attempt to clean up a game that has been infested from the top to the bottom due in large part to the inaction of MLB itself.

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A Simple Solution to Cure the New York Times’ Implied Disease of Being a Mets Fan

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If it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, the end result was closer to finger-in-throat.

Combine pompous verbiage and inept analysis and you get thisthe New York Times article by Michael Powell about the New York Mets that has some calling it the “best” piece written about being a fan of the Mets they’ve ever read.

I suppose it is if you consider “good writing” to be maudlin whimpering masquerading as insightful poignancy.

Powell writes the Gotham column in the Times. That and his identification as a Mets fan somehow qualifies him to speak for the entire fanbase regarding how difficult life is rooting for a struggling, rebuilding team.

First, the writing is a study in attention-grabbing, overuse of horrific metaphors and ludicrous assertions. Some examples:

We step through the turnstiles to find 22 ticket scalpers, lost souls all, clustering around us.

We walk in, a beaut of a stadium with fans scattered in so many nomadic clumps amid acres of green seats.

22? Exactly 22? Did he stand there counting them for accuracy in his portrait? Or is it a nice round, ridiculous number to punctuate the absurdity of what the Mets have become—something similar to just about every other team that is playing out the days of a season in which their playoff hopes are gone?

“Nomadic clumps amid acres”? Good grief!!!

Ruben Tejada, our shortstop, steps to the plate. He’s a soft-bodied, sweet-fielding kid who is hitting .286, an average made up almost entirely of little tear-drop singles to all fields. He replaced Jose Reyes, our rangy and powerful All-Star shortstop whom the Mets, in their infinite wisdom, chose to let walk away without first trying to trade him.

Naturally, without context it sounds like a farce. Is Tejada supposed to imitate Reyes and be something he’s not? Try to steal bases, hit triples, pop 12 homers a year and, I suppose, spend a substantial amount of time on the disabled list?

The Mets didn’t trade Reyes when they had no intention of signing him unless he got hurt and/or his market crashed. This is true. But the Mets were still trying to attract fans to the ballpark in August and September and, misguided as it was, they had no chance of keeping him if they traded him. If they kept him, maybe he would’ve stayed. It was a retrospective mistake, but not a catastrophic one. In fact, it was understandable in a business sense.

The only team that did offer Reyes the $100+ million he wanted were the Marlins, and the Marlins are the team the Mets have beaten in the past two days; the team that spent the money the fans (and apparently Powell) wanted the Mets to spend, but didn’t because: A) they couldn’t; and B) they’ve tried that in the past and it didn’t work.

The Marlins are also the team that will keep the Mets out of the basement in the National League East. They are an organization in far worse shape on and off the field with a new, empty ballpark that has their ownership under investigation because of alleged financial chicanery that got the thing built.

But they have Reyes who, by now, must be growing comfortable playing for teams that are viewed as disappointing at the high end and disastrous on the low.

The most exhausted and cynical Mets fan looks at the Marlins and says, “I’d hate to be rooting for them.”

…[Jason] Bay might recover his stroke and Lucas Duda might stroke homer after homer deep into the periwinkle skies over Flushing Bay.

I’ve mistakenly used the same word twice in short order, but I’m not writing for the New York Times nor do I have an editor supposedly perusing what I’ve written and gently nudging me in a preferable direction. “Stroke” and “stroke” twice within six words? And periwinkle? Good grief!!!!!

Oh, and I looked up “periwinkle.” I had to because I didn’t know what it meant. It means a pale, bluish purple. If nothing else, I’ve learned a new word I’m never going to use.

What’s our choice? To root for the triumphalist Yankees is to describe an impossibility, like walking through Manhattan chanting: “Goldman Sachs! Goldman Sachs!” Instead, we adopt the mien of Scottish highlanders facing the English army — loss is assured, but let’s go out with panache and a touch of humor.

There’s an obsession that Yankees fans have of Lording (in keeping with the rancid English army allusion) their success over the Mets. 27 World Series, blah, blah, blah. Never mind that the Yankees have been in existence over 60 more years than the Mets; that the bulk of those championships were won long before anyone had even formulated the concept of the Mets, but this inferiority complex on the part of Mets fans when it comes to the Yankees and the Yankees superiority is based on absolutely nothing other than an inveterate desire to bully or supplicate. There’s no connection between the two other than what’s created by dueling fanbases and a biased media.

We’re just in time to watch the manager pull Dickey for a pinch-hitter. His chances of winning 20 games officially are on life support; you want to page Manager Terry Collins and point out that Dickey has a better chance to get a hit than any of the Ghandian hitters on the Mets’ bench.

Ghandian?!? GOOD GRIEF!!!!!!

“I have a lot of faith in the Wilpons,” Commissioner Bud Selig told Newsday’s Marc Carig on Wednesday. “I have a lot of faith in Sandy Alderson.” He went on: “I’m very confident about the Mets. Very confident.”

The Mets have, after a fashion, constructed a very 21st-century New York team. Crony capitalism by Flushing Bay, with Selig in the role of crony enabler.

Going back to the Wilpons’ $25 million loan taken from MLB nearly a year ago to meet operating costs, it’s been expected that the financial circumstances surrounding the club due to the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme would sink them once and for all. Based on speculation and extrapolation, but not fact, it was taken for granted that the Mets would be unable to pay all their debts.

Well, to the disappointment of many, the Mets paid back the MLB loan when they settled the case with the government’s trustee of the case, Irving Picard, and still own the team.

Selig is the commissioner of baseball, a position of considerable power, but still an employee of MLB owners. He is not in a position to force an ownership to sell anything. Selig is the crony enabler? Of what? He’s the commissioner, not the King.

Getting past the words and scouring the content of the article itself, I’m having trouble seeing the point.

What was the purpose of this other than to add to the attempted embarrassment lavished on the Mets and to make the fans feel as if they should be ashamed to support their team?

There is a segment in Mets fandom, propped and promoted by the media—Mets haters and not—that takes joy in attacking the organization no matter what they do. It’s a story with a secondary benefit. “Oh, we’re Mets fans. Poor us. We’re destined to suffer.” But is there a team anywhere, including the Yankees, that has a gaudy enough record in recent vintage that would make it a hopelessly losing endeavor to be a Mets fan that a non-self-loathing fan, as the article implies, should abandon the club or accept the lot in life of loser?

The Dodgers were recently a financial nightmare due to the alleged misuse and abuse of the financial coffers on the part of former owner Frank McCourt and are now again one of the high-end destinations in baseball and spending insanely with Magic Johnson as the frontman of the new regime.

The Orioles have launched themselves back into the playoff picture for the first time in 15 years after their reviled owner Peter Angelos ran off one baseball man after another and treated the club as if it was an underachieving, poorly managed offshoot of his law firm.

The Phillies, the losingest baseball franchise ever, became a champion and turned into an incarnation of the Yankees, spending, trading, signing amid fan-booing their way to a $170 million payroll and a .500 record in 2012 with an entire roster laden with stars in their early-to-mid 30s and rolling over the hill.

The Yankees, whose main metric is based on winning a World Series otherwise the entire season is a failure, have achieved their goal once on the past decade with a payroll that dwarfs every other team in baseball.

The Red Sox, the totem of how to rebuild a dysfunctional mess and rejuvenate it to become a contender on an annual basis has come apart with worse infighting and dysfunction that the hard-partying, drugged out, underachieving Mets of the late 1980s never could’ve fathomed.

Being a fan guarantees nothing. Because you like Tom Cruise doesn’t mean you’re going to love every movie he appears in. If you enjoy the writing of John Grisham doesn’t promise the endless enjoyment of every book he writes. And being a fan of whichever team in any sport doesn’t mean you’ll wind up being able to gloat—and that’s the main idea—about “your” team.

The meme transferred from one entity to the other is rife with a egomaniacal narcissism. “We predicted the team would be this bad.” This comes from Mets haters like Michael Kay; from Mets antagonists like Mike Francesa; and self-proclaimed Mets supporters, openly despondent at the state of the franchise, Bob Klapisch and Howard Megdal.

I didn’t hear anyone in June saying the trash they’re saying now because it would’ve made them look foolish and, in a strange way, honest had they so baldly betrayed their poorly hidden agendas by ripping the Mets while they were playing well. Instead, they waited until things came apart. Now, they were “right.” Their “predictions” of doom and gloom came to pass.

Except they weren’t right; their predictions didn’t come to pass in the spirit of honesty.

The theme in the Times article appears to be one of imprisonment. “Woe is me, I’m a Mets fan.” But there’s a solution for Powell and for anyone involved with the club in any fashion as a player, beat writer, a front office employee, or any individual whose life is somehow diminished by being a Mets fan or chronicler. I’ve said on multiple occasions, the Mets have to stand up and tell those who revile the club and themselves to this degree that they’re compelled to write it in so histrionic a manner. It’s simple.

Leave.

Go root for another team. Go play for another team. Go cover another team. Go work for another team. We’ll get someone else. If you have become so jaded that the current situation of your baseball team is infecting your being so you can’t be a professional and need to project that hurt in multiple, self-destructive ways, then say goodbye. Move on. It was this one act that the Rays of 2007-2008 began their rise into annual contender while they were a laughingstock for their entire existence, running into one another like a slapstick comedy with an empty park and no hope. They said, with their actions, that they didn’t want people who didn’t want to support them and be happy to be members of the Rays organization and fanbase. This is what the Mets have to do.

Leave.

Go elsewhere. But you can’t come back. And you can’t whine. And you can’t cry. And you can’t derive the clear supplementary boost you get from identifying yourself as a Mets fan with a shrug and an eyeroll as if it’s a terminal disease for which there’s no cure.

But there is a cure. A simple one. Excise the disease.

Leave.

We’ll start a registry and track you so you can’t come back. But you can go. You’ll be free. With such burdens in everyday life, the last thing I would want is my diversion of a baseball team making it worse.

It’s tragic, it’s horrible, it’s depressing. So end it.

Leave.

In a way, writing is like a mathematical formula without numbers. It’s artistic; it doesn’t have limits; there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to do it, but either it works or it doesn’t. When there’s a forced shoehorning of bad use of language and rotten word choices in an effort to anoint oneself the representative of a large group of people who didn’t nominate you, didn’t elect you, don’t agree with you, and don’t want you, you get the New York Times piece on the Mets by Michael Powell. It’s poorly written, pretentious, self-indulgent pabulum.

And my solution to Mr. Powell is simple. So simple that I’ll say it again.

Leave.

Trust me. We’ll be fine.

The article is entitled “Turn Out the Lights.”

Fine. I’ll turn them out. After you leave.

And don’t come back.

Ever.

//

Jimenez vs Tulo

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Did Troy Tulowitzki deserve to get hit by Ubaldo Jimenez yesterday?

Whether he did or didn’t, spring training and the first pitch Jimenez threw to him were completely inappropriate circumstances in which to do it.

What if the ball had broken Tulowitzki’s hand or wrist? Or worse, hit him in the head or face?

Was Jimenez’s form of field justice worth the punishment of threatening Tulowitzki’s and the Rockies’ season? Possibly his career?

There are times when a pitcher has to throw at a hitter and if he happens to get hurt and miss a few games, so be it.

Whether it’s to send a message and retaliate or for any other viable reason, it has to be done.

Like it or not, it’s a necessary part of the game.

But Jimenez’s actions with Tulowitzki did little more than validate the implication by Tulowitzki and other Rockies’ players that Jimenez has immature tendencies and is still harboring bitterness toward his erstwhile club—so much bitterness that he decided to overtly throw at their best player without pretense or a half-hearted attempt to mask what he was doing. That he charged Tulowitzki, went into over the top chest thumping and challenged him to a fight only adds to the evidence of Jimenez’s intent.

You can read about the incident here in a story from the Denver Post.

Tulowitzki and Jimenez had gone back and forth in the media this spring. The case can be made that the Indians should’ve thought twice about pitching Jimenez against the Rockies. Since Bud Selig was in attendance, Jimenez is going to get suspended.

If Jimenez was so offended by the way the Rockies treated him and was unhappy about the comments made by former teammates, the Indians had to know about it, so the Indians are also at fault.

Jimenez let the macho, “I’m a man” nonsense cloud his judgment and perception of what was an appropriate response to the Rockies.

If Jimenez was out to prove a point, he managed to do it, but it wasn’t the point he wanted to prove.

All he did was tear down the ambiguity as to which side was right and which was wrong in the sniping that has been aired since Jimenez was traded. The maturity issues and selfishness exemplified in yesterday’s planning, acting and aftermath are large factors in the Jimenez trade and why the perceived “offensive” comments were stated by the Rockies’ players in the first place.

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Yoenis Cespedes To Play Center Field; Coco Crisp To Play Left

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Athletics’ manager Bob Melvin announced his intention of playing Cuban defector and inexplicable Athletics’ free agent signing Yoenis Cespedes in center field and Coco Crisp in left.

In a baseball discussion, I defy you to justify this decision.

Crisp was signed because he’s a top-notch defensive center fielder. We don’t know if Cespedes can play center in the big leagues and it’s absurd to think he can be even 75% of what Crisp is defensively.

But this is what they’re doing.

Why?

Because they have nothing else to bank their 2012 season on apart from the development and hope that Cespedes can draw interest and fans to a team that promises to be an absolute eyesore on the field.

They didn’t draw well when they were winning 100 games a year at the apex of Billy Beane’s mythical “genius” in the heady days of Moneyball before the rest of baseball caught on to what he was doing and began paying big money for players who got on base and hit the ball out of the park, doing little else.

So where’s the “genius”?

It’s gone.

Genius is not fleeting and judged on the results in and of themselves.

Genius is innovation. Genius is creativity. Genius is having a plan, following through on it and finding a way to make it work.

Is Beane doing any of that with this current Athletics’ configuration? With a series of desperate trades to deal away young, cost-controlled arms for packages of prospects in the “someday” hope that they’ll develop and be playing in a brand new ballpark in San Jose and the A’s will have the cash influx to compete with the big boys of baseball? That at some point during the contract extension that Beane signed to keep him with the A’s through 2019 that they’ll once again be good and his brilliance will again be validated by the subjectivity of the won/lost column?

He’s banking on Bud Selig and MLB finding a way to get the new A’s ballpark approved with the Giants letting the A’s infringe on their territorial rights; they want to sell the idea of the young players they acquired being part of the A’s renaissance in…I don’t know when! Is it 2015? 2016? 2017?

They re-signed Crisp even though he’s not going to do them much good on the field. They’d lose 95 games with him; they’ll lose 95 games without him. He’s still an Athletics’ player because of his speed and defense in center field. Now he’s not going to play center field. He’s going to play left.

No one knows what Cespedes is going to be and he’s the epitome of the type of player that Moneyball specifically said Beane wanted his scouts to avoid: he looks good with no verifiable results.

Maybe they can use his shredded physique in the tradition of Bo Jackson to sell jeans.

There’s no blueprint and Beane isn’t “smarter than the average bear”.

Don’t claim that this is a baseball move.

Don’t say it’s necessary.

Don’t imply some vague, unseen notion of a plan that’s known only to the evil genius Billy Beane.

And do not reference Moneyball as if the book and movie “prove” Beane’s aptitude in running a major league baseball team as if one thing feeds into the other without reality backing up the assertion.

He’s a baseball GM whose reputation became something that no one could live up to based on creative non-fiction and the sale of a story that doesn’t exist. He’s flinging things at the wall in a similar fashion to the reviled “non-analytical” GMs who were the bane of the existence of those who were promulgating the concept of a so-called revolution that would turn every baseball front office into something resembling a Star Trek convention and take over the world rendering the old-schoolers obsolete.

He’s in a war of attrition and running a dying franchise with nowhere to go and nothing to do to turn things around, so he’s reduced to gimmicks.

And he’s losing.

Badly.

Cespedes to center field is more evidence of idiocy and/or desperation.

Don’t dare say it’s anything else.

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Joke Or Not, If Alderson’s Unhappy, He Should Leave

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To the best of my knowledge the Mets aren’t paying Sandy Alderson with IOUs from one ply peeled from two-ply pieces of toilet paper.

Nor are the checks written in the penmanship of someone right-handed trying to write left-handed and signed, “Jeff’s Dad” as if Jeff Wilpon were trying to pay Alderson with whatever’s left of his dad’s teetering financial empire.

Alderson’s being paid in real money and he’s being paid a lot of it.

Alderson has decided, as he’s making his way to spring training, to start a Twitter account. The first tweet was either a badly worded or misunderstood joke or a shot at the Mets’ paucity of funds.

Under the handle MetsGM, Alderson said:

Getting ready for Spring Training-Driving to FL but haven’t left yet. Big fundraiser tonight for gas money. Also exploring PAC contribution.

Whether it was an attempt at comedy or a legitimate kick at the fact that he doesn’t have any money to spend, he’s oblivious if he didn’t realize that saying that would be construed as a negative toward his employer.

Can you imagine one of George Steinbrenner’s GMs saying something like this and still being the GM the following day?

Or Vince Lombardi so openly disparaging a team that he tried to craft into the epitome of professionalism and year-round proper representation of the Green Bay Packers?

It wouldn’t happen because there was a baseline, known code of conduct of what would and wouldn’t be acceptable from any and all employees of their teams.

Alderson was a Marine and should understand that even if the Secretary of the Navy is from a different party as the President or disagrees with policy, he’s not going to publicly say something so negative—even in a joking context—about his bosses or his branch.

Alderson was a lawyer and a respected GM for the first decade of his career with the Athletics. Then, when he moved to the forefront, his own personality came to light.

Along with the resume of being Vietnam veteran and well-spoken military man and adaptive, intuitive corporate lawyer, there’s another side to Alderson—a snarky, credit-seeking and obnoxious side that has reared its head repeatedly.

As GM of the Athletics, Alderson’s success was tied to two things: money and Tony LaRussa. When the A’s spent money under Alderson and were managed by the Hall of Famer LaRussa, they won. When the money dried up, they slowly declined; then LaRussa left and the team came apart.

Alderson went to the Padres, behaved like a capricious tyrant and created factions that were beholden to him to craft an aura of dysfunction where everyone was looking over their shoulders for someone holding a knife.

It’s been this way in every job he’s undertaken since and is now happening again with the Mets.

Whether he wanted the Mets job (and it certainly appeared he did when he was interviewing for it) or took it as a favor to Bud Selig is irrelevant. He took the job and is being compensated heavily for it. He’s gotten everything he wanted including the high-priced hirings of his lieutenants Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi. He hired the manager he wanted in Terry Collins. If he had a load of money at his disposal, there’s no guarantee he would’ve wanted to spend it on Jose Reyes because it’s never been his modus operandi to invest so much money in a player who relies on speed and doesn’t get on base.

But that’s neither here nor there.

The circumstances with the team are what they are, financially and practically.

Financially, ownership is under siege from a lawsuit that they claim is doling out blame and holding them accountable for transgressions that they are not guilty of committing.

That will be settled in time and the Wilpons will either find a way to maintain control of the team or sell it.

Alderson may or may not be the GM of the new owner; he may or may not remain as the GM if the Wilpons retain control.

Practically, even if there was a ton of money available, the free agent market was such that the Mets were unlikely to dive deeply into it to bring in enough talent to compete in a loaded division. The farm system needed to be rebuilt and the big league club overhauled. In actuality, the Madoff trial is giving them the built-in excuse to refurbish the club correctly—something I would think Alderson would embrace to put a club together devoid of the $200 million superstar since those contracts almost inevitably become onerous by year four or five.

That too is secondary to the perception of the team.

On the one hand, okay, it’s a joke; on the other, he’s the GM and shouldn’t be openly attacking his club even in jest. If you’re the GM of the team and there’s even a split-second hesitation as to how a joke is going to be interpreted, then it shouldn’t be said. Once it has to be explained, it was a bad joke.

If it was a subtle attempt to say publicly what he says in starker terms privately; if Alderson is unhappy with the money at his disposal; if he doesn’t like working for the Wilpons; if he took the Mets job only as a favor to Selig; if he wants out and is being passive aggressive to get that information into the public sphere, then he should resign and stop taking the Wilpons’ money to be the GM of the club.

This type of stuff is why they’re the “Mets”. I don’t mean the Mets organization. I mean an adjective for a punchline of whatever can go wrong, will go wrong and that the employees—even in the upper reaches of the hierarchy—are willing to make negative and embarrassing comments to highlight that fact.

Done with appropriately hideous timing befitting the “Mets”, while the team across town is enduring their own humiliating scandals involving their GM Brian Cashman and his bevy of girlfriends and divorce, one of whom was apparently stalking him, Alderson decided—as seems to be the Mets wont—to make the Mets the butt of evening gossip and laughter. For the titular head of the baseball operations, someone whose conduct and skills in dealing with the media and manipulating the language to prevent such a thing from happening, it was a stupid and inappropriate comment to make. Former GM Omar Minaya’s biggest fault was crisis control and a lack of skill with the language, but I have no recollection of him saying something like this about his employers.

The Mets are not going to stop being a joke until they cease treating themselves as a joke. It comes from a clear set of rules that are adhered to from the simplicity of wearing a coat and tie when traveling on the road to not criticizing the organization.

From the time of Alderson’s hiring, I said that the Mets have to cease the practice of acting as if any star player who joins the organization is doing them a favor; that any and every player they currently have is here out of desperate necessity rather than out of a business agreement between parties. Until the Mets make the conscious decision to stop laughing at themselves, why should anyone else hesitate to laugh at them?

If there are people within the current organizational structure who don’t want to be part of the Mets, then they should leave. When I said it 15 months ago, I was referring to the players. But it also applies to the GM.

If Sandy Alderson doesn’t want to be part of the Mets, then he should go. They’ll get someone else.

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Baseball is a Frustration Enhancer

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Since he tested positive for five PEDs, does Dustin Richardson’s suspension wind up being 52?

You can read the details here on NYTimes.com.

Those who are ridiculing Richardson aren’t looking at it from the point-of-view of someone whose career has stagnated just below the highest level of employment. He’s a Triple-A pitcher and he took steps to rectify that situation, but they were the wrong steps mostly because they didn’t work.

Say you’re Richardson. You’re 27-years-old and left-handed; you’ve bounced from one organization to another—the Red Sox, Marlins and Braves—and haven’t gotten a long-term shot in the big league while other pitchers who may not have stuff as good as you are in the big leagues functioning as lefty specialists, long men or spot starters. Still trapped in the minors and knowing the consequences, you say, “forget this” and take not one, not two, not three, not four, but five different banned substances to try and find a way to succeed and make it to the big leagues to stay.

Naturally you got caught and naturally you’ve become the butt of jokes for the somewhat ludicrous number of PEDs that were found in your system.

What outsiders are failing to understand is the mindset of an athlete is such that while he may have reached his ceiling and knows the consequences of failing the test, he doesn’t want to do anything other than play baseball, so he’s willing to listen to the whispers of PED “experts” and try skirt the testing by using “foolproof” blockers or some other chicanery to get away with it.

Richardson got busted.

It’s easily explainable.

Is Richardson good enough to be a big league reliever? If he can get the ball over the plate, why not? That’s the issue and that was his mistake. PEDs weren’t going to assist him in getting the ball over the plate. He might’ve been better off working on his control (he doesn’t know where the ball is going) and try to do a better job of getting out lefties (they hammer him) than taking a copious amount of banned substances to find the magic potion to transport him to the majors to stay.

He might have been better served to shun the quick fix of the drugs and hone his repertoire or approach to something that might beget a big league job.

Richardson throws nearly over the top and has a violent motion that doesn’t lend itself to consistent command; he has a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball and a slider. If he can’t get the slider over the plate, then big league hitters are going to maul him—and they have.

Maybe he should start throwing sidearm and market himself as a situational lefty. They’re always in demand and if he tried that and it worked, no one would care about a drug suspension.

MLB can act as indignantly as they want and impose heavy suspensions on those that test positive, but it’s easily glossed over that MLB fostered the PED culture by letting it go on for so long; now they’re acting in a holier-than-thou fashion to try and eradicate the drugs and punish the offenders. What makes it worse is that they treat the public like idiots by expressing regret and shouldering blame—but no punishment accompanies that blame, so what good is it?

Those in MLB’s front office and the owners’ boxes were complicit in the whole PED show. Why do they get a pass?

Bud Selig just signed a contract extension to stay on as Commissioner and no one’s ever called him to task for his willful and feigned ignorance of what was going on right in front of his face.

Selig plays the role of the somewhat rumpled and befuddled everyman, but if he’s so oblivious to reality, why does anyone want him in the position of Commissioner of Baseball in the first place?

It’s selective enforcement and low-level people being sanctioned while the real perpetrators walk away scot-free.

Desperate times and the frustration of being a fringe big leaguer/Triple A filler might have led to Richardson taking the desperate measures of using an array of PEDs that are more likely to be on the shopping list of a Mr. Olympia competitor than a baseball player. He probably should’ve taken a different path because this one was a dead end and it didn’t even work. He’s not blameless, but it’s no secret why he did it. He just happened to get caught.

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Damage Control and Billy Beane

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Athletics manager Bob Melvin convinced his friend Chili Davis to take the job as hitting coach—ESPN Story.

Melvin’s a good manager.

Davis is a respected hitting coach and man.

But, but…doesn’t this render obsolete a sacrosanct tenet of the Moneyball story?

In what world does the manager have any say whatsoever about anything?

Perhaps this is Billy Beane‘s attempt—in a geniusy sort of way—to prop his manager’s credibility and put forth the concept that he’s letting Melvin influence a hire to make it appear as if he’s not a middle-managing functionary and faceless automaton whose mandate is to carry out orders from the front office.

It could be a brilliantly devised diversionary tactic.

Or Moneyball could be a fantasy filled with exaggerations and outright lies designed to come to the conclusion that Beane is something other than what he is.

And what that is is an overhyped and slightly above-average GM who took great advantage of the onrush of fame that came his way for allowing Michael Lewis to document his strategies when they were working and for Lewis having the motivation and writing skill to frame them in such a way that they were salable to the masses.

It’s laughable how the media uses Beane’s supposed cleverness as a shield for everything; as the basis for a story that will accrue them webhits for the simple reason that Beane’s name is mentioned.

Just this past week it was said that Beane accompanied Athletics owner Lew Wolff to the meeting with Bud Selig regarding a potential A’s move to San Jose.

Yeah?

So?

What does Beane’s presence imply? Was the power of his big brain going to hypnotize Selig to ignore the viability of the Giants territorial rights just because Beane was there?

Peter Gammons later suggested that Beane might end up as the GM of the Dodgers once the sale of the team is completed.

Never mind that the Dodgers already have a competent GM in Ned Colletti and that MLB needs an industrial machete to hack through the jungle vines of legalities in selling the franchise and divvying up the bounty between everyone who has a claim on Frank McCourt’s litigious massacre—no one knows who’s going to own the team!! So how is it possible to speculate on whom the GM is going to be? If the great and powerful “Hollywood” buys the Dodgers, I guess Brad Pitt playing Beane is a possibility as GM, but not Beane himself.

There’s always an excuse with this guy and the media is more than willing to lap it up as if it’s gospel.

He fired Bob Geren because the attention being paid to his situation was a distraction to the team.

He accompanied Wolff because the stadium issue is influencing the team’s off-season planning.

He has options like the Dodgers.

Blah, blah, blah.

It’s the stuff of a damage control-centric public relations firm hired specifically to put their clients in the best possible light regardless of reality and circumstances.

Geren did a bad job as manager; had he been treated as Beane callously and subjectively did his prior managers, he would’ve been fired after his second year on the job.

Beane’s name falsely lends credence to any kind of endeavor for those who still believe the Moneyball myth, but his attendance at the meeting with Selig was window dressing to garner attention to the story. The Giants are fools if they relinquish their territorial rights.

Beane has no options. He wanted the Cubs job and his mininons were tossing his name into the ring with such paraphrased, between-the-lines inanities as, “Billy would listen and Lew wouldn’t stand in his way.”

But the Cubs didn’t want him. They wanted Theo Epstein.

He’s trapped with the Athletics. Because of the stadium problems, the foundation is laid for another housecleaning and rebuilding phase due to finances, thereby absolving Beane of all responsibility again. Before, when he dealt away his stars, it was because of some grand scheme he’d concocted along with the Ivy League-educated acolytes of his revolution; now he doesn’t have any money so he has to listen to offers on his stars.

It’s garbage.

The team is terrible; his genius was never genius at all; and the informercial-style opacity of his tale is coming clearer and clearer as an increasing number of observers open up the box and see that the gadgets don’t work.

Return the gadgets.

Ask for a refund.

Or stop purchasing them to begin with.

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