Let’s spend today examining the issues that are keeping baseball a burbling cauldron of controversy in the midst of this offseason:
- Johnson Blows It in New York
Much ado was made about Randy Johnson getting in the face of a television cameraman who got in the pitcher’s face on his first day in New York. The local press got all self-righteous, putting on the outraged act like they were a London tabloid reacting to Prince Harry dressing like a Nazi.
Johnson then went so far as to issue an apology. Randy, that was your real first mistake–not getting into it with the guy, but saying you were sorry about it. You don’t apologize for being confrontational in New York! The next thing you know, you’ll be apologizing to Pedro Martinez for zinging one past his Jheri-curl when the Yankees play the Mets on May 21. Get acclimatized, Randy.
- Roger Maris for the Hall
Apparently, the North Dakota state legislature is pushing hard to get semi-native son Roger Maris elected to the Hall of Fame. For reasons too numerous to list, I’m not a big fan of Maris’ candidacy, but there are two things that can be done here. The first is to just tell the North Dakota legislature he was elected without actually electing him. Chances are, they’ll never know the difference. There are so few people in North Dakota that the odds of even one of them ever going to Cooperstown to check to see if there’s a plaque there in Maris’ honor are extremely remote.
The other thing they could do is build a roof over the small portions of the state that are populated. In this way, they could play baseball more than three months of the year and, eventually, develop some bona fide Hall of Fame candidates. Cruel? Perhaps. Or is it just jealousy of all the elbow room they have there after having grown up in the most-densely populated state of the union. Who am I to say what’s going on in my own mind?
- Brewers Sold
Remember when you were a kid and you had a lemonade stand and the ingredients ended up costing much more than what you took in but you didn’t care because your parents supplied the water, lemons, sugar, cups, building materials and land on which the business sat? Not only that, but they bought everything you had left over at the end of the day, giving you a sense of accomplishment?
If that’s your business background, then maybe Major League Baseball is the place for you. What other businesses follow the Lemonade Stand Model? Don’t believe me? How’s this for proof? The Brewers were just sold for $223 million. Let that swish around in the moister parts of your brain for a moment: $223 million for a team that last saw a winning season in 1992. It’s enough to make me want to burn my M.B.A. from Wharton. Well, if I had one.
- The Final Out Ball
There’s some controversy roiling on the matter of the ball that was used to record the final out of the 2004 World Series. Doug Mientkiewicz has possession of the sphere and will not give it up in spite of entreaties from the Boston Red Sox. Who is the rightful owner here? I wrote to the Tough Questions Group, a think tank outside of Washington, D.C., to see if they could help resolve this. Instead of giving a solution, they provided me with a list of what they called “comparable questions.” These included:
- After a date, a woman leaves her panties at your house. You want to keep them as a souvenir. She wants them back because they are her only pair. Who owns them?
- You break into a house to steal the television. The homeowner catches you and, upon seeing that you are quite hairy, mistakes you for a werewolf and shoots you in the calf with a silver bullet. You manage to limp away and pry the bullet out with a butter knife, but are caught when the police follow the bloody trail to your hiding place. Who gets to keep the bullet?
- You’re about to marry your cousin when she reveals to you that it’s your other cousin she loves and she’s going to marry him instead. Her dowry consists of a Sam’s Club card, the front clip of a ’78 Trans Am, a Rottweiler breeder’s license for the state of Kentucky, two porch couches and a time share at the I-40 Interchange Motel 6 in Dickson, Tennessee. Are you under any obligation to return these items?
- You hijack a truckload of hobo cadavers on their way to Potter’s Field for purposes of selling them to a dog food company. On the way to their processing plant, the airbrakes go on the fritz and you crash into a barn. The farmer wants you to pay for the damages using the cadavers but you wanted that money for an iron lung for your poor old daddy who smoked four packs of Chesterfields a day for 40 years. Who is at fault here: the air brake manufacturer? The highway department for not having proper guardrails? Big tobacco?
Well, it’s something to ponder, anyway.
- Steroid Rules
I regret that I cannot come down hard on those who would use steroids to improve their performances because it would be the epitome of hypocrisy. Why so? Because it is one of the great secrets of the industry that most baseball writers (and by “most” I mean upwards of 90%) are on the juice. To condemn players for something we all do is just plain wrong and I won’t be a party to it. If you’ve ever seen pictures of writers and analysts you’ll know exactly what I mean: oversized skulls resting on top of necks that slope in one continuous angle to mountainous shoulders; arms bursting with well-pronounced vascularity and rock-like biceps bash away at keyboards made to look tiny in contrast to ham-sized hands. This is what confronts the visitor at any major league press box or gathering of BP personnel: a shameless showing of artificially-enhanced manflesh.
So, if I don’t seem excited about the new, harsher policies being discussed by baseball you’ll know why. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go inject some orangutan testosterone into my eyelids.