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September 14, 2011

The BP Broadside

In Which the Commish is Eviscerated

by Steven Goldman

Note: I’m going to get political here. As Kevin says in his podcast posts, don’t say you weren’t warned.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by an ineffectual tantrum from the Commissioner after his pathetic, money-grubbing minions were called out by the Mets after they were banned from wearing caps honoring first-responders on the ten-year anniversary of 9/11.

In a story first reported in the New York Post, it was revealed that Selig was apoplectic that the Mets had told the truth:

A red-faced Bud Selig called the Mets on Sunday night, the commissioner of baseball irate that the organization had thrown his office "under the bus" in divulging MLB was responsible for the decision that banned players from wearing caps honoring emergency services workers during the 9/11 game at Citi Field.

"[Selig] got embarrassed by it," a Mets official said before last night's 3-2 loss to the Nationals. "The game got moved into prime time because of 9/11, and [MLB] ended up getting embarrassed."

It takes real chutzpah to cry foul over a self-inflicted wound. Meanwhile, MLB’s Grandfather of Discipline/Umpire-Coddling, Joe Torre, attempted to turn the Nuremberg defense on its head, claiming that he wasn’t just following orders:

"Nothing was ordered," Torre said. "I think they were sent a memo, but in no way was it heavy-handed. I don't think money was ever an issue or they were ever threatened with a heavy-fisted fine. If that's the case, I have no knowledge of it."

Someone in the MLB offices is a very limited thinker, and I don’t think that was Selig, at least not before the fact. His being outraged after shows limited thinking, but not of the kind that created this PR disaster. The MLB policy was perverse in that it was counter to MLB’s own interests and would inevitably lead to the League looking bad; Selig should not be angry at the Mets, but at whatever idiot in his own offices sanctioned a petty policy that made MLB look disrespectful of those emergency workers.

Many years ago, a colleague of my father’s became Johnny Carson’s financial manager. My father has often recalled how the colleague lost that job. You might recall that Carson was divorced three times, and the proceedings were often bitter. As one of the divorces was in progress, the soon-to-be ex-wife called the financial manager and said that she needed an insignificant amount of cash for some small purchase. Thinking he would please his boss, the financial manager sent her away without a dime. As it turned out, Carson was irate. “She’s suing me for millions of dollars and I’m groping for an amicable settlement,” he shouted, “and you’re giving her grief over a hundred bucks?” He fired the guy on the spot.

Whoever gave the Mets grief over wearing the caps should suffer the same fate, and for the same reasons.  

But let’s not dwell on that, because it’s obvious. I would instead like to focus on something else: the War against 9/11. As ESPN reported in its story on the hat fiasco, “Players on Sunday wore the official 9/11 Mets cap, with a small American flag adorning the side, during the game.” Let us just pause for a minute and admire the concept of an “official 9/11 Mets cap.”

Yes, a great national tragedy has been commoditized and made available at shop.mlb.com for $36.99. Baseball has wrapped itself in 9/11 as if it had something to do with closure or healing or anything else that came out of the Pearl Harbor of our time. Look: when the Yankees and Mets embraced the victims, the police, the firefighters, the EMTs, it was a nice thing. It was what any responsible member of the community should have done, particularly one as superfluous in a war as baseball. They helped with morale. It was a gesture, a good one. It was also wholly distinguishable from sainthood. Saints don’t spend nearly as much time patting themselves on the back for doing the least they could have done under the circumstances.

As for closure, ain’t nothing closed, and darned little has healed. Everything about politics and government has changed since then, the country having become ever more of a national security state. Even the economy has been debauched by the vast expenditures of treasure on two wars that resulted from the events of that terrible day, only one of which needed to be fought. If we still had the treasure we sank into the desert sands, we would have more flexibility to address our own economic problems here at home. We are living in the United States that 9/11 made, and the changes that have been wrought show no signs of receding. We now live in a country where one president condones torture and another doesn’t, but it’s a question of policy, not legality, in the same way one administration might support more environmental regulation and the next one less. In this matter alone, we are almost unrecognizable from who we were on 9/10/2001.

The war in Iraq probably wasn’t the first example of 9/11 being turned into a prop for someone’s unrelated agenda, but it is certainly the best. Saddam Hussein was a bad man, but he wasn’t in cahoots with Osama Bin Laden.  The two were calculatedly roped together so that a war of choice would sound like a war of necessity, with some non-existent weapons of mass destruction thrown in to sweeten the bait. The nearly 3,000 dead were victimized once more by those who used their tragedy for their own purposes.

However misbegotten the Iraq war, however dishonest its advocates, at least its planners were pursuing a policy they thought was a good one for the country. They were positively noble compared to those who would reduce the anniversary of 9/11 to an occasion to sell baseball caps. Sure, Baseball will claim that it can’t have a double-standard when it comes to uniform codes, but since there can be only three teams that can claim a first-hand connection to 9/11, a targeted exception for one more “least we could do” demonstration of cap-wearing hardly constitutes league-wide chapeau anarchy.

The Mets were correct to expose such a cynical—or at the very least anal—policy. At best, someone in the Commissioner’s office needs to learn something about flexibility. At worst, the whole rotten group needs to understand that a few $36.99 cap sales aren’t worth insulting people whose contributions on and around 9/11 vastly dwarf a little Derek Jeter glad-handing. Unfortunately, such thinking about 9/11 long ago became commonplace. It is no longer a tragedy but a symbol to be manipulated in service of any number of unrelated agendas—in this case, selling hats, but only the hats that MLB deemed the right hats, the ones that Baseball has for sale. As for caps that say, “NYPD” or “FDNY,” forget them—there is no profit in good feelings, or acknowledging that there are people and events that are bigger than your transient, petty concerns about the bottom line.

Steven Goldman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Steven's other articles. You can contact Steven by clicking here

Related Content:  Mlb The Show

41 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Well said, Steven. The profiteering off of 9/11 has been disgusting, and it's not just MLB that is guilty of that.

Sep 14, 2011 00:58 AM
rating: 15

Torre's quotes on WFAN with Francesa were even less forthright.

To paraphrase: "The Mets couldn't do it because every team else wasn't going to do it. They could only wear the hats if everyone was going to wear them."

Just like every team wears camouflage jerseys...oh wait, that is only the Padres. And, perhaps, NYC still feels 9/11 a bit more than, say, Kansas City, so the Mets may have more of a reason to do something.

Well done, Steve.

Sep 14, 2011 04:58 AM
rating: 9

/standing ovation

Sep 14, 2011 06:41 AM
rating: 6

If you go to the MLB shop site, and find that hat, skim down to the small print at the bottom, underneath the hat. You'll find that the "Country of Origin" is China.

Now THAT's insult to injury.

Sep 14, 2011 07:09 AM
rating: 15

Here's the link to the hat referenced above:


Sep 14, 2011 08:21 AM
rating: 0

EXACTLY. The irony of ironies.

Sep 14, 2011 12:14 PM
rating: 0

The words "flexibility" and "Bud Selig" dont really know how to exist in the same sentence.

The fact that his league is trying to capitalize on the 9/11 date with an official cap for $40 a pop shouldnt surprise anyone coming from the most successful used car salesman in history.

Sep 14, 2011 07:41 AM
rating: 5

Great article. It also reminds me why I am happy to pay $40 for BP, but not a comparable amount for a baseball hat.

Sep 14, 2011 08:10 AM
rating: 12

Great article Steve, couldn't agree more.

Sep 14, 2011 08:20 AM
rating: 3

I think some of your tangents into political opinion are irrelevant. The article would be more credible without them, despite your appropriate disclaimer at the top.

Meanwhile, I agree with your stance on Selig and the stupidity and arrogance in the handling of the situation.

Sep 14, 2011 08:49 AM
rating: -1
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Hah. Why am I not surprised I'm getting minused like crazy. Never go against the popular opinion, folks.

Sep 14, 2011 09:07 AM
rating: -6

-3 is not "like crazy". That's not even enough to hide your comment.

Try saying Derek Jeter is the best defensive SS then count your minuses.

Sep 14, 2011 10:17 AM
rating: 13

You mean, he's NOT??????? wtf.

Sep 14, 2011 10:20 AM
rating: 3

I'm curious how you jibe your statement "never go against the popular opinion" with your later position that Goldman's statements are sure to "piss off half his readership."

Sep 15, 2011 10:55 AM
rating: 0

I'm going to avoid the overtly political part of this article, but one comment: Citi Field is the one and only ball park I've been to, and I've been to a lot of 'em, where I was physically patted down by a security weenie as I was coming into the game. As a result of that treatment, I will never, as long as I live, set foot in that stadium again. They can give me tickets if they want to; they can pay me to use them. I will not.

What does that have to do with this article? Mainly that I find the fact that this particular tempest in a teapot blew up with this particular franchise -- the franchise that condoned, indeed, enforced that behavior that I found outrageous (and note that I was NOT frisked while going to a game played by that other New York outfit) -- sufficiently ironic to have an "ask me if I care" reaction to the whole thing. If Selig had thus treated any other franchise in baseball, even the Yankees, I might join in the outrage. But not that one.

Sep 14, 2011 09:08 AM
rating: -2
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Some perspective is in order with regards to the way the 2 NY teams handled post 9/11 security.

As I've documented before (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=8108), the Yankees went totally over the wall when it came to the changes wrought by 9/11. They outlawed backpacks and briefcases, even umbrellas, incorporated "God Bless America" into every damn ballgame and even ordered their security to restrict movement during the song's playing, at least until someone went public with reports of harassment by NY police in 2008. They did frisk during the 2001 World Series - I know, I was there.

Meanwhile, the Mets were much more reasonable with their parks' security practices - one could bring in backpacks, briefcases, etc. There are times I've been frisked there, and times I haven't; I have no clear timeline as to when, but I've generally only gone 1-2 times a year since then. On the whole, their record on 9/11-related issues has been much less heavy-handed and condescending.

I'm sorry if you had a bad experience at Citi, but relative to what New Yorkers have put up with for the past 10 years, at their ballparks and elsewhere, I don't think it counts as remarkable.

Sep 14, 2011 11:30 AM

Fair enough, Jay, and I'd certainly agree the Yankees were off the deep end on security, etc., for too long. However, my infuriating experience wasn't at the 2001 World Series, when it was still unclear just what the US was facing; it was this June, ten years later, at an utterly pedestrian regular-season game, with exactly zero threats out there (at least in public) to justify the outrage. Entirely apples and oranges.

I will not get into the politics of homeland security, although I will say that I worked professionally in counterterrorism for years and certain things that I worked on are in fact in use in places like New York. None of that matters to baseball. What matters is for baseball to be a good and worthwhile and enjoyable -- fun -- thing for its fans. If the team is going to whine about Czar Bud's behavior when they were trying to play the 9/11 card for good PR, at the same time as they're treating the fans who come to their games as potential criminals, all I can say is "cry me a river." And I repeat: I'll never go to one of their home games again.

Sep 14, 2011 12:17 PM
rating: 0

That's one of the most absurd comments I've seen on here - and I myself have made plenty absurd comments.

Sep 14, 2011 12:11 PM
rating: 0

Darn, I just had to lower my opinion of Johnny Carson.

Sep 14, 2011 09:09 AM
rating: -1

I think the political opinions tied in well with the rest of the piece, and they were 100% accurate. Great stuff.

Sep 14, 2011 09:59 AM
rating: 13
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

I wish George Steinbrenner had been alive and coherent enough to comment on this hat flap. Had MLB tried to pull this stunt on the Yankees, he would have made Bud Selig sorry he was ever born.

Sep 14, 2011 11:33 AM

Thanks Steve. I was so irate that I took to a Facebook update to bash the hell out of MLB... LOL. I felt it was the best I could do.

Bud Selig is an outright plague upon baseball.

Sep 14, 2011 11:58 AM
rating: 3

I'm generally not a huge fan of Steven Goldman's NY centric writings. I also know that I'm not a fan of either NY team, nor a New Yorker. That said, I'm thrilled to see a New York centric writer acknowledge a few things about the relationship between 9/11 and all of baseball. I tend to agree with the political rant this time, although I'm with CRP13 and would love to see them disappear completely.

I think it is time for baseball as a whole to move on from 9/11. God Bless America at every game's 7th inning stretch (not just Yankees and Mets games) is like a rain delay at the Indy 500. It simply does not fit at non-New York venued games.

The Mets and Yankees should be able to do what they want surrounding 9/11. The Nationals didn't exist in 2001, so they shouldn't get special 9/11 consideration. So, 28 franchises should play baseball and do what they want for their regional recognition as well. 9/11 certainly wasn't regional, but when it comes to baseball, I think it should be a New York regional baseball event.

Good column, Steven.

Sep 14, 2011 12:18 PM
rating: 4

Please, please, please just stick to baseball from now on. However, at least you warned us that it would be political.

Sep 14, 2011 12:19 PM
rating: -3

You didn't have to read it. It's like people are ashamed of having the flaws in their politics pointed out. If you can't stand having a little light shined on your POV here, how are you going to defend it in a public sphere? By singing "God Bless America" at the top of your lungs and shouting naysayers down?

Sep 15, 2011 10:19 AM
rating: 1

I personally don't have a problem with politics being mentioned in an article as to me, the best writing is always honest and unafraid to speak out against something they feel strongly about.

To me expressing an educated opinion on a political issue where there is a real life baseball situation is entirely appropriate and not doing so because it might offend those whose politics lean towards the right of centre is just silly.

When BP writers start actively campaigning for political parties and person's I will be the first to complain but I don't believe this is the case here.

Writers that are expressing their opinions eloquently and from the heart is the very reason I subscribe to BP.

Well done Steven!

Sep 14, 2011 12:43 PM
rating: 13

For the record, I have no issue with the idea of Steven or anybody else pushing their political agenda in their articles. But please...please...tie it into the subject in a way that makes sense, even if some of us disagree.

I'm just not sure the comparison between "hatgate" and the widely-debated cause of the Iraq War was in good taste, nor was it sufficiently explained to make the point. Call me simple, but I read the last few paragraphs several times and still don't see the connection.

The connection between "hatgate" and the cost of a war Steven obviously disagrees with was not made either.

No matter the presentation format, complaints about the cost of a 10-year war fall on deaf ears for me when more has been spent in the past 2 years on an ineffectual government "bailout" of the banks that caused this economic mess and a health-care plan that has already had a major component ruled unconstitutional.

Just saying...the article would have been more effective without three of the last four paragraphs.

Sep 14, 2011 13:46 PM
rating: -1
Noel Steere

See, I thought comparing a deceitful regime interested in extracting every last bit of capital from a national tragedy with...a deceitful regime interested in extracting every last bit of capital from a national tragedy made perfect sense, and fit well within the bounds of the discussion.

Your second to last paragraph, on the other hand, reads like a spliced-on laundry list of talking points, with no real connection to the topic at hand.

Sep 14, 2011 22:51 PM
rating: 5

"a deceitful regime interested in extracting every last bit of capital from a national tragedy."

This is a perfect example of what I have a problem with. A gross exaggeration of opinion does not tie in well with an article about sports. An author of a site that revolves around a non-political topic needs to recognize that a sentence like the one I just quoted is going to piss off half of his readership. How is that in the best interest of anybody around here?

Sep 15, 2011 07:53 AM
rating: -1

To be frank, I don't think it will piss off half, or even nearly that. There are many people who will disagree with Steven's political views, but the only ones who would be pissed off are ones are ones who think this is anything but a completely irrelevant and non-sensical comparison:

"complaints about the cost of a 10-year war fall on deaf ears for me when more has been spent in the past 2 years on an ineffectual government "bailout" of the banks that caused this economic mess and a health-care plan that has already had a major component ruled unconstitutional."

The second half of that sentence is just completely irrelevant to the first. It may be more important, sure, but that doesn't make it relevant, and doesn't mean that the first part has no meaning.

Sep 15, 2011 10:22 AM
rating: 1

I would say that posting such a rant on ESPN would be pissing off half the readership, if not more. Just check how the the reader thumbs-up and thumbs-down are distributed on this article alone at Baseball Prospectus, a site that caters to a more sophisticated audience.

I usually try to be more delicate about this subject, but the latest stories of the audience at the Florida debate ("let him die!") and Rick Perry proudly proclaiming himself to be the anti-intellectual candidate tell me that, to put it not so delicately, intelligence corresponds with a more nuanced view of the way the world works, and a lack of intelligence (or perhaps just a brain chemistry that embraces fear before compassion) corresponds with conservatism. You can dislike it, you can thumbs down me, you can look me up and send me nasty notes. I don't care. The reader response to this article alone and its comments is proof enough to me that "half of his readership" being conservative, at this site, anyway, is an enormous lie. Perhaps you should ask yourself why this is, and why people like you cling so desperately to that illusion.

Sep 15, 2011 10:27 AM
rating: 0

I think I can summarize what you're saying.

"Baseball Prospectus readers are smarter than average baseball fans. Liberals are smarter than average people. Therefore, most Baseball Prospectus readers are liberals."

I'm glad you cited the "thumbs-up, thumbs-down" rating system, because we all know that to be an infallible system of public perception.

Excuse my sarcasm, but I found your first paragraph to be hopelessly ignorant and self-aggrandizing.

For your second paragraph, I'm going to break my cardinal rule of posting here and be blunt with my criticism: That's just stupid. Equating intelligence with a particular political leaning and backing that up with an asinine +/- ranking system on a comment board. Are you serious?

Sep 15, 2011 10:34 AM
rating: -1

P.S. That's my last post on the subject. I can tell when the argument is getting ridiculous.

Sep 15, 2011 10:37 AM
rating: 0
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Take away the thumbs-down then, and just count the way the comments are distributed. But you won't do that, because it's another shot in your bow, and you can't stand what that tells you. Because your illusion is your reality. Have a good weekend.

Sep 15, 2011 10:43 AM
rating: -4

I completely endorse everything you said here.
If I was in charge of the Mets situation, I would have told them to wear the first responders hats on the field and if anyone protested it, come off the field, change the hats, and on national TV call out the person responsible for it.

Sep 14, 2011 13:34 PM
rating: 10

I doubt we often vote the same way, but all I have to say to this is 'amen.'

Sep 14, 2011 18:49 PM
rating: 2
Noel Steere

It always amuses me how much unexamined luxury is in the lives of people who insist that discussion of some topic or other be devoid of politics. Here's the thing: If you examine any endeavor by human beings at anything more than the shallowest depth, you will eventually run into politics. More importantly, declaring a topic off limits means that only the current assumptions that exist on that topic get heard, which is the antithesis of what BP has been about, stretching all the way back to it's Usenet origins, where the essential question was "is it true?", and its corollary, "if it's not true, why do people believe that it is?"

The original unifier may have been baseball, but its influence in society and its parallels with larger social issues (I await a demand to keep commemorations of Jackie Robinson "politics free") made it inevitable that intelligent people who are used to asking questions would also ask themselves about larger systems than Major League Baseball, again with the catalytic "is it true?"

I *expect* political discussions to break out on Baseball Prospectus. It would be shocking to me if they didn't, given the curiosity that compels most of its readership, and the level of thoughtfulness that most of them bring to bear. And by no means do I expect BP to agree with me when politics comes up: If you search last year's Jackie Robinson articles, you'll find a pretty lively debate where I and others opposed what a BP writer said. Looking back, a hallmark of this site that informed that debate was a closer adherence to logic and facts than you see in most other corners of the Internet, which is why I'm completely unconcerned about politics cropping up in discussions here.

Sep 14, 2011 22:41 PM
rating: 13

Could not agree more, with a single, simple caveat - politics should remain about issues and not delve into the murky backwash of political parties.

Sep 15, 2011 07:04 AM
rating: 3
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Stick to baseball, Goldman. Mark Steyn's a lot better at this stuff than you'll ever be.

Sep 15, 2011 14:07 PM
rating: -6
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

Because my degree is in baseball, not history and political science. Right.

Sep 15, 2011 15:46 PM

It's because you're being uppity, Steven. You should know your place, according to how some people think.

Sep 15, 2011 17:04 PM
rating: 0
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