Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 Winners & Losers: Around Here, More the Latter

Winners and Losers in sports for 2007:

Winners: New England fans. Can't sugar-coat this. They wanted a World Series "just once in our lifetime." They now have two. And they got off scot-free in the Mitchell Report. They got an undefeated NFL regular season, and no real punishment for that team's cheating, either. They got "their Celtics" back. Boston College had a pretty good season. Harvard won the Ivy League. Even the Bruins look competent for the first time in about a dozen years.

Sickening.

Losers: New York Tri-State Area fans. Not one of the area's major league teams lived up to expectations. The Giants came closest, making the Playoffs. But the Yankees fell short. The Nets fell short. The Devils fell short. The Rangers probably got as far as their talent would let them, but with their big start, bigger things were expected from hockey's most overpriced and most overrated team.

At least those teams made the Playoffs. The Islanders missed. The Jets dissolved into injury. The Mets had the most calamitous collapse any local team ever had, blowing a seven-game division lead with 17 games to play and not even making the Playoffs -- when this was supposed to be THE YEAR.

The Knicks? Let's be honest here: If the problems that any of the other eight big-league teams in the area had were all that Knick fans had to worry about, it would be a vast improvement. The Knicks stunk on the basketball court, and they stunk in civil court. They stunk on the boards, and they stunk in the boardroom. Any Yankee Fan who wants to say the Mets are a "disgrace," or any Giant fan who wants to say the Jets are a "disgrace," Met or Jet fans can say, No, you want a true disgrace, look at the Knickerbockers.

Even the Tri-State Area's auxiliary teams disappointed. The Liberty made a quick exit from the WNBA Playoffs. The New York Cosmos... I mean, the New York Arrows... I mean, the New York-New Jersey MetroStars... I mean, Red Bull New York, also made their ridiculous league's playoffs but made a quick exit.

Local college sports? Rutgers, which thrilled so many with a run to the National Championship game in women's basketball, saw their men's basketball team tank, and their football team, which was supposed to make a run at the Big East title, finished the regular season 7-5. Seton Hall and St. John's didn't make the NCAA Tournament, either. The days when New York City (even including its suburbs) was the center of the basketball universe are long gone.

Winners: Rutgers University. It tells you how far Coach Greg Schiano has brought this team when they can win seven regular-season games, contend for the Big East title, and go to a bowl game played in January... and the season is considered a disappointment. Ray Rice, please: One more year! And the Lady Knights did go almost all the way, and there's no shame in losing to Pat Summitt's Tennessee juggernaut. The shame came afterward, but did not fall on Rutgers:

Loser: Don Imus. Like he has the right to joke about anyone's hair. Shame on WABC for letting Curtis Sliwa and Ron Kuby go and hiring the old bastard. (You'll notice I didn't use my usual euphemism "b@$+@rd" this time.) The real shame is that this bigoted bully wasn't fired decades ago for things much worse.

Winners: Roger Maris and Hank Aaron. They still hold the records, respectively for home runs in a single season and in a career. Anybody who says otherwise is lying. That includes Bud Selig.

Losers: Mark McGwire. Sammy Sosa. Barry Bonds. And, to a lesser extent, the other players named in the Mitchell Report -- to a lesser extent because they were confronted with allegations but not proof.

Yeah, I know, we don't have the proof on McGwire or Sosa, but we also didn't have Roger Clemens or anyone else named in the Report looking ridiculous or guilty (or outright making themselves guilty, like Rafael Palmeiro) under oath in front of Congress.

Winners: The University of Florida. Few schools have ever won National Championships in both football and basketball. By winning the 2007 title in football, the Gators are the first to do it in the same schoolyear. By winning the 2007 title in basketball, the Gators are the first to do it in the same calendar year. And the first basketball team to do it since Mike Shuhshefski and Duke did it in 1991-92.

I'll start spelling his name right when he starts pronouncing it right. If your name begins with a K, it's not pronounced with a "shuh."

Losers: The guys behind the Bowl Championship Series. Never mind that Louisiana State is probably still the best team in the country. Never mind that LSU's only two losses were in triple overtime. There are two teams in Division I-A (or whatever the college football equivalent of "major league" is being officially called now) who have one loss or less: One-loss THE... Ohio State University and undefeated Hawaii.

If the only two teams with less than two losses aren't facing each other in the National Championship game, then, at least this season, the BCS has failed.

It's simple, really. First, tell every independent -- this means you, Notre Dame, you cowards -- that either they join one of the following eight leagues: Big East, ACC, SEC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-10, a merged Conference USA and MAC and a re-merged WAC and Mountain West, or they are automatically disqualified from the National Championship. Then split each league into two divisions.

There you go: The Division Champions are thus entered into a 16-team playoff. They play for the Conference Championships at neutral sites in their region, and then the Conference Champions move on to a round of eight. Then bring in the bowls. Big 10 vs. Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl, as God intended it. Big East vs. ACC in the Orange Bowl. SEC vs. C-USA/MAC in the Sugar Bowl. And Big 12 vs. WAC/MWC in the Cotton Bowl. (You do remember the Cotton Bowl, don't you?) Now you've got four teams.

Then you put the two easternmost remaining teams in one semifinal and the two westernmost in the other. Then you have a National Championship Game on the Saturday between the NFL Conference Championships and the Super Bowl. (This season, January 26.) Or, if you prefer, move the minor bowls to the week after the conference title games (December 8), then the major bowls the next week (December 15), the semis the next week (December 22), and the National Championship on New Year's Day as in days of old.

It's so simple, a caveman could do it. But the NCAA, the college presidents and the TV networks won't. Why? Because that would make sense, and they won't have that.

Winners: The San Antonio Spurs. It's not just that they won their 4th World Championship in the last 9 seasons. It's that they have definitively taken away from the Shaq/Kobe Lakers the title of best NBA team in the post-Jordan era.

Loser: Kobe Bryant. He has never been the best player in the NBA. In fact, when he's been the best player on his own team, his team has stunk. And with Shaquille O'Neal having excelled in Miami (when healthy), that argument is over, in Shaq's favor.

Winner: All those people who rooted against the Cheatriots this year.

Loser: Bill Belichick. Even if he does make it to 19-0*.

Winner: Craig Biggio, for joining the 3,000 Hit Club.

Loser: Pete Rose. Forever. Shut up about steroids, you lying, gambling, womanizing, tax-cheating schmuck.

Winner: Brett Favre. No, he isn't really, as Sports Illustrated said, the Sportsman of the Year. Once again, as they did for Stan Musial in 1957, John Wooden in '72, Jack Nicklaus in '78, Joe Paterno in '86, Arthur Ashe in '92, Don Shula in '93, Cal Ripken in '95 and Dean Smith in '97, SI gave that distinction as a lifetime achievement award, rather than for what he did in the calendar year. (At least Wooden and Paterno actually won National Championships in the seasons in question, but had previously won them, so why wait that long?)

But Favre now holds the NFL career records for completions, passing yards and touchdown passes. And, unlike the guy who held each of those records before him, Dan Marino, Favre has won a Super Bowl. Favre also broke John Elway's record for most wins by an NFL quarterback. And he did this when a lot of us thought he should've retired a year (or two) ago.

Loser: O.J. Simpson. Forever. I'll bet he likes to look in the mirror. Maybe "if he did it," he would find "the real killer."

Winners: Tony Romo and Eli Manning. They could've crumbled under various pressures. (Romo: The goof in last year's Playoffs, dealing with Terrell Owens, explaining to Jessica Simpson the difference between the silver screen and a screen pass. Eli: The New York media ripping him for being not as good a quarterback as brother Peyton, or even Walter Payton.) But both got teams that are only good, not great, into the Playoffs.

Loser: Michael Vick. It doesn't have to be forever.

Winner: Rich Rodriguez. No, he didn't get West Virginia to the National Championship, but he took a good program and made it a great one, and now he gets to go to Michigan, and try to take a once-great program and make it great again.

Losers: Bobby Petrino and Nick Saban. I could tell you why, but I got a better offer from a blog in the SEC.

Winners: New Jersey Devils fans. No more Meadowlands Arena/Brendan Byrne Arena/Continental Airlines Arena/Izod Center. No more changing buses at Port Authority, no more having to go from New Jersey to New York to New Jersey to see New Jersey's hockey team. No more vicious wind whipping off the Hackensack River across that treeless parking lot. No more of that creepy pedestrian overpass between the Giants Stadium and arena parking lots. No more one level of concourse for two levels of seats, clearly patterned after the Nassau Coliseum, which is not the model to choose. And no more sharing an arena with the lame-duck Nets.

And while we're at it...

Winner: The City of Newark. Brick City is back, and the Prudential Center, modeled after the Bell Centre in Montreal and the Whatever Bank It Is This Season Center in Philly (it is still Wachovia, right?), is as good as any arena in the league. And the team... well, we'll see. One game, they look ready to have a Cup parade down Broad Street (the new Broad Street Bullies?); the next, they look like they're hoping for a lucky shot while Marty Brodeur holds everyone off. But at least we don't have to deal with the Meadowlands anymore. Unless we wanna go see the Nets. Or the Giants. Or the Jets.

Losers: The New York Rangers and their fans. They both suck, no matter how the team is doing.

Losers: The Yankees and their fans. How can a team that made the Playoffs be losers? Well, there was the most obvious loss: Phil Rizzuto. We lost other legends from the World Championship teams of the black-and-white era: Tommy Byrne, Hank Bauer, Clete Boyer. Then there's the loss that isn't here yet, but we can all see it coming: Yankee Stadium.

The whole year looked like a struggle just to make the Playoffs. And then the way we went out -- BUGS! -- no, as I said before, don't blame the bugs, the Yanks just didn't hit. Alex Rodriguez had one of the best years any hitter's ever had, but he's still a loser for how his personal life got splattered on the front pages, not just the back ones; and for how he failed in the Playoffs... again! And then screwed up the contract talks... How can a guy who got a $275 million contract be a loser? That's how.

Joe Torre gone in a dubious way. Hey, at least he took Don Mattingly with him, so the Curse of Donnie Baseball moves to a team that really does deserve to be cursed, the putrid progeny of Walter O'Malley. And Joe gets his pal Scott Proctor back.

But it got worse: Just this week, we learned the sad story of Jim Leyritz's drunken crash. Of course, on came the Mitchell Report, casting doubt on the 1996-2003 title era, giving Met fans, Red Sox fans, and all Yankee-haters the chance to say it's all illegitimate. Never mind that the Report also fingered some Mets, including Lenny Dykstra of the sainted sinners of 1986. And that it let the Red Sox off without so much as a tsk-tsk.

Did I mention the Red Sox? We now have to listen to their inebriated reprobate fans spew out foul-mouthed mentions of two World Championships since our last.

And finally...

Winners: The Yankees and their fans. Of course. And I'm not just talking about the 26 World Championships. I'm talking about hope for 2008. Joe Girardi in as a kick-starter of a manager. No more Mattingly. No more Proctor. No more Carl Pavano. Hank Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman decided to keep the young talent rather than roll the dice on the overrated Johan Santana. Said young talent has another year under its belt. The Red Sox are a year older, and Josh Beckett really doesn't do well in even-numbered years. So there is reason to hope.

Even if there are only 81 more games scheduled for the one and only Yankee Stadium we ever really wanted. (Or 82, if you count the All-Star Game.) Nothing left to do but see to it that a few more games are scheduled. For October.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

LEAVE ROGER ALONE!!!!


Because he began his career with the Boston Red Sox, I, as a Yankee Fan -- always, Capital Y, Capital F -- found it difficult to trust him in Pinstripes, or any other way. When he told the Yanks he was retiring, then he went to Houston, the New York Post (which I usually loathe) put up a classic headline: "WHAT AN ASS-TRO!"

Now, he's been accused of steroid use. With no proof put forward as of this writing. If proof is one day shown, fine, then we'll have to deal with it. As of right now, none.

Should his Cy Young Awards be taken away? I'm not sure. Should the Yankees' World Series titles with him be vacated? Be serious. The 1999 title was won with little help from him. The 2000 title was against the Mets, and they had accused steroid users as well. And that bat was not thrown AT Piazza. (If there's one thing Roger Clemens has proven, it's that if he wants to throw something at a guy and hit him with it, especially if it's Mike Piazza, he can do it.)

That said, I hope he never pitches for the Yankees again. They've got enough drama princes on their roster. In fact, if Alex Rodriguez was the only one, that would still be one too many.

It could be worse: I could treat him the way Suzyn Waldman treated him last spring, as if he were a Beatle and she were a 13-year-old girl sitting in the balcony at what's now the Ed Sullivan Theater.

*

In fact... If you'll indulge me, I'd like to get into character here...

What's the matter with you people? Roger didn't do anything wrong! He's just a good Southern boy who was looking to do something about an injury!

You people make me sick! All he wants to do is pitch! You're lucky he even performs for you at all!

Seven Cy Young Awards! Almost five thousand strikeouts! Two World Championships! Six Pennants! Over both Leagues! He's the greatest pitcher who ever lived! And all you people wanna do is smack him! Smack, smack, smack, smack, SMACK!

LEAVE ROGER ALONE!!!!


Boo hoo hoo hoo!

Leave Roger alone! Leave Roger alone!

*

Okay, back to normal. Well, normal by my standards, anyway.

We should leave Roger alone. That means, instead of going after him, just don't pay any attention to him at all.

That means you, Curt Schilling. You were as big a Clemens acolyte as Andy Pettitte, to the point where you're as big an ass as Clemens, as Pettitte never has been. How do we know you aren't juicing, Curt? Huh? We're supposed to just take your word for it? Ha!

Lee Thomas, the Phillies' GM while you were there, was right: "One day out of five, he's a horse; the other four, he's a horse's ass!"

And that means you, Pete Rose. Shut the bloody hell up. For a guy who's a known compulsive gambler, you should know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run. You damaged the game far more than Clemens did (if he did), and what you did was actually against the rules when you did it.

On second thought, I would like to see Roger pitch one more time. With Pete in the batter's box. Pete, you'll feel like Ray Fosse did. Or maybe like Bud Harrelson did. You'll be begging to face Gene Garber again.

Mike Piazza will probably play this season, and that might be it. Maybe the Baseball Writers' Association of America will "punish" Clemens by not electing him to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. That could mean... Clemens and Piazza going in together. Oh, boy.

But Clemens will still almost certainly get in. Rose will not go in during his lifetime. Maybe never.

Then again, if Walter O'Malley, a worse human being than any of them, can get in...

But you'll never see a "Leave O'Malley Alone!" video. Ever. I Broadway-Joe-Namath guarantee that.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mitchell Report: Slamming the Yanks, Whitewashing the Red Sox

The Mitchell Report is out. It was conducted by George J. Mitchell, former Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, Democrat of Maine -- and a member of the board of directors of the Boston Red Sox.

And Mitchell's report slams the Yankees.

In particular, it accuses two key cogs of the 1996 to 2003 Pennant and World Championship era: Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. One guy who was surely bound for the Hall of Fame, another who might have been. Both were surely headed for Monument Park at the new Yankee stadium. (Note the lower-case s in "stadium," but that’s a gripe for another time.)

So how many players on the Mitchell Report list played for the October 2004 to October 2007 Boston Red Sox?

Two. Eric Gagné, whose "contributions" to that team were almost enough to wreck it, including a 7.36 ERA in the 2007 postseason. And Brendan Donnelly, who didn’t even appear in the 2007 postseason for so much as one pitch.

The most prominent Red Sock on the list – current or former, aside from Clemens himself – is Mo Vaughn, who hasn't faced a pitch for them since September 1998. There was also Mike Lansing, who closed his career in Boston in 2000 and '01, but had his best years for the Montreal Expos and Colorado Rockies. (Much like Larry Walker -- and while Lansing was a decent player, he was no Larry Walker.)

That's pretty much it for Boston. Wow. What a big honkin' shock.

Why, no less a Boston sports booster than Bob Ryan, who celebrates 40 years with the Boston Globe (and occasionally appears on ESPN's Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption, whose producers are probably kicking themselves for taking the day off), said this in yesterday's Globe:

There will be howling from sea to shining sea if the Mitchell Report names lots of names and none of them is attached to the Red Sox, on whose masthead he has remained during the entire investigation.

And the man who popularized the phrase “The Curse of the Bambino,” the Globe’s Mr. Sox, Dan Shaughnessy, wrote in today’s edition:

It's astounding that a man as smart as Mitchell can so easily shrug off his compromised position. He either has a blind spot or he thinks his audience is stupid. The man is the official 'director' of the Red Sox and he just issued a report that trashes some Yankee gods while leaving the championship Red Sox unscathed (Mo Vaughn played here in the pre-Mitchell era, Eric Gagné was dirty as a Dodger, and who cares about Mike Lansing?). Mitchell's reputation is impeccable, but he had no business holding his Red Sox title while conducting this investigation.

*

So how can we take this report seriously? It was a slam job on the Yankees all the way, and can we really say that it hit the mark?

No, and here's why:

1. The only two names that really matter as far as the 1996-2003 dynasty is concerned are Clemens and Pettitte -- and Clemens wasn't even in The Bronx until 1999.

2. The claim against Pettitte is that he used something to help rehab from an injury. That's a whole different thing from using it to gain an unfair advantage: That's just getting back to where you were before the injury. Nothing unfair about that.

3. No positive tests. Mainly just the word of 2 guys who have reasons to lie. It's like waterboarding: What makes you think they'll tell the truth if the lies will get the torturers to stop just as easily?

4. The Yankee names were leaked before the report was revealed.

5. No significant 2004-07 Red Sox were accused. Gagné doesn't count, although his record of 84 straight save opportunities converted should get tossed. Donnelly doesn’t count, either.

If Clemens and Pettitte were hauled into court, a jury would have to say that Mitchell and his crew have not proven their case, and the defendants must be found "Not Guilty."

Granted, that's not an exoneration – as O.J. Simpson now knows, and as Barry Bonds may find out. But the two Texans are up to their necks in reasonable doubt.

Therefore, by any rational measure, the Yankee titles of the 1996-2003 seasons stand.

Sorry, Met fans, you lose again. Now, if Luis Sojo or Jose Vizcaino had been on the list...

Come to think of it... Matt Franco is on the list? Uh, Met fans, we'd like that 1999 regular season 9-8 game back.

*

Speaking of Boston, you know who looks a lot better now that this has come out? Dan Duquette. The general manager who wouldn't re-sign Clemens after 1996, saying the 33-year-old fireballer who had just gone 10-13 was "in the twilight of his career."

He also managed to bring to Boston Pedro (the Punk) Martinez, Jason (the Man in the Chicken-Wire Mask) Varitek, Derek (On the Down) Lowe, Manny (Being Manny) Ramirez and Johnny (We Like Him Much Better Now) Damon.

Duquette sure looked fooled from 1997 through 2005; how ya like him now?

Randy Velarde's name was on the list. This proves that steroids are no guarantee of enhanced ability. It reminds me of what former Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton said about amphetamines in Ball Four: "In my case, greenies raised my performance about 5 percent. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough." (He later admitted that he took a greenie just once, and it made him so jumpy he didn't want to take another.)

Two names I expected to see on the list, but weren't there: Brady Anderson (then how do you explain 1996?) and Jay Buhner (come on, people).

Juan Gonzalez is on the list? Not surprised. Luis Gonzalez isn't? A little surprised.

John Rocker's name was on the list. If he was a steroid user, that would explain why he always seemed to be going nuts, and why he got really good really fast, and then his performance collapsed just as fast. And all along, Met fans thought they'd gotten into his head. Ha! (Well, there may have been that, too.)

*

Yes, we Yankee Fans have to face the accusations associated with cheating. And we have the right to defend against them.

Mitchell should be beyond reproach. But he is not. Not in this case. He was a great Senator and a great diplomat. But he is not a great baseball fan.

Many fans are a fan only of their own team, and not of the game as a whole. Many New York Tri-State Area residents, be they Pinstriped or Blue & Orange, are also guilty of this. I’ve never been accused of it, but there’s plenty of times when I could have been.

But Red Sox fans, who never cease to remind us of how they’re the most knowledgeable fans of all, take the cake and burn down the bakery. As if people aren’t going to figure out that the Impossible Dream really did turn out to be impossible (they won the 1967 Pennant but lost the World Series), and as if we can’t figure out that Carlton Fisk’s 1975 home run won Game 6, not Game 7 – or else why the additional 29 years of Curse? Blaming Bill Buckner for the 1986 disaster absolves multiple Red Sox players and manager John McNamara: Why blame the whole team for losing Game 6 (and, again, there was a Game 7 that they also lost) when you can blame one guy who was soon gone? Sox fans act as if other teams only exist to give them somebody to play when they’re not fighting their New England jihad against the Yankees.

Can George Mitchell, a man of the world who is respected by so many, really be that myopic? Sure he can. It doesn’t make him a bad person, but it sure made him the wrong person to head this investigation.

It’s ironic: Mitchell, who was already out of office during the witch hunt that resulted in the acquittal of President Bill Clinton in his impeachment trial (and don’t forget that: He was found Not Guilty), has become baseball’s Ken Starr, an investigator who was supposed to be impartial but was hopelessly biased. In Mitchell’s case, in two ways: For the Red Sox, and for Selig.

Yankee players have been accused of using steroids. Where’s the positive test, which the federal prosecutors have on Barry Bonds? Where’s the positive test that was found from Rafael Palmeiro? Where’s the proof? Where’s the beef? Until you’ve got a positive test, all you’ve got are accusations, and that won’t hold up in court, and in America, it’s “Innocent Until Proven Guilty.”

I was sure David Ortiz would never show up on the list, because guys that fat generally don’t use steroids. But Mo Vaughn was on the list. He was the original Big Papi: Even his swing was similar to Ortiz'. It’s easy to pick on Mo because he’s long-gone.

But I have my suspicions that other members of the 2003-07 Sox have juiced, and these suspicions have been voiced by others. The suspects include: Jason Varitek, Kevin Millar, Trot Nixon, Kevin Youkilis, Josh Beckett, and, of course, Curt Schilling, an even bigger Clemens acolyte than Pettitte. If Pettitte “copied Clemens’ steroid use,” then is it so hard to believe Crybaby Curt didn’t, as well? Test the blood on that sock!

My grandfather grew up in The Bronx, could walk down the street and watch them build Yankee Stadium, saw Ruth play before Gehrig, and at age 74 could still spot a phony and did not fear to say so.

If he were alive today, he’d know who the phonies were, and he’d start with Bud Selig and George Mitchell.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Walter O'Malley Does NOT Belong In the Baseball Hall of Fame

Electing Dick Williams, Billy Southworth and Barney Dreyfuss to the Baseball Hall of Fame was long overdue.

Electing Bowie Kuhn falls into the category of "What were you thinking?" As the French say, "It is worse than a crime, it is a blunder!"

No, for a crime, you have to see electing Walter O'Malley. Lord Waltemort, owner of the Dodgers in part from 1942 and in whole from 1950 until his death in 1979, was not, definitively, the most evil man in baseball history, but he's a finalist for that title.

*

This man became a part-owner of the Dodgers because he was a lawyer for the Brooklyn Trust Company, which owned a one-third interest in the team, and they appointed him trustee of that share. They chose him over another lawyer with their firm, named William A. Shea. The same Bill Shea who would one day try to undo the damage O'Malley did by bringing a new National League team to New York in what was then considered a modern stadium, which, as you may have guessed, was named for Shea.

This man, in his role with Brooklyn Trust, foreclosed on many a house in what we would now call the New York Tri-State Area during the Great Depression of the 1930s. And, apparently, he liked his job. So, even then, he was sticking it to poor people on behalf of rich people.

This man drove team president (and owner of one of the other one-third interests) Branch Rickey away from the team in 1950.

This man fined anyone who mentioned Rickey's name in his presence.

This man drove Red Barber, one of the most honored broadcasters ever, away from the team in 1953 -- not just away from the Dodgers, but across town to the Yankees, a team Dodger fans may have hated even more than they hated the Giants.

This man traded away Jackie Robinson after the 1956 season, not because Jackie's skills were declining (though they were, he was 37 years old), not because Jackie wanted more money (though he did, O'Malley was always a cheapskate), but because Jackie was a "troublemaker." This man defined "troublemaker" as anyone who disagreed with him.

This man later claimed to have been the man truly responsible for bringing Jackie to the team and reintegrating baseball, not Rickey. This man had absolutely nothing to do with it.

These are some awful acts, including driving away from the team Rickey, Barber and Robinson, three of the most honorable men, and three of the most significant men, in the history of the game.

All this was done before he began making public statements about moving the Dodgers.

*

It is true that Robert Moses, who controlled several agencies in the governments of the City of New York and the State of New York, prevented O'Malley from building his domed stadium in Downtown Brooklyn, the "Atlantic Yards" site on top of the old Long Island Rail Road Terminal, where Bruce Ratner now wants to build, among other things, an arena he can move the New Jersey Nets into. Moses did that damage and far more. He was scum.

But here's the argument for O'Malley: He had to leave, because Moses wouldn't listen to his pleas to build a stadium to keep the team in Brooklyn; and he was a visionary who brought Major League Baseball to the Pacific Coast, and that's why he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Like hell he does.

Think about it:

* If O'Malley was such a "visionary" for bringing big-league ball to the Pacific Coast, then he should have been visionary enough to find a way around Moses. Talk to Mayor Robert Wagner. Talk to Governor Averell Harriman. Talk to somebody with a lot of money, who might have more pull with the Mayor and the Governor. (At one point, it was rumored that Nelson Rockefeller, preparing his campaign to oppose Harriman the next year, which he won, was interested in buying the Dodgers and doing something to keep them in Brooklyn, but O'Malley wouldn't sell the team.)

O'Malley was visionary enough to finagle all kinds of concessions from the City of Los Angeles; he should have been visionary enough to work with, or through, or around Moses.

* If O'Malley was such a visionary for bringing big-league ball to the Pacific Coast, then he wasn't the first. As early as 1941, the St. Louis Browns had reached an agreement to move to L.A. The move was expected to be approved at the baseball winter meetings.

But Pearl Harbor was bombed before those meetings could be held, and baseball had to worry about being played at all in 1942 before President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote his "Green Light Letter" to Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. The move never happened due to travel restrictions, and the Browns moved for the 1954 season, becoming the Baltimore Orioles.

And the Pacific Coast League had been thinking for a few years before 1957 about simply declaring themselves a major league. Since the expansion of 1961-62 brought a new team, adopting the name "Los Angeles Angels" from the former PCL team, it is logical to presume that big-league ball would have reached the Pacific Coast anyway around that time, even without O'Malley's move.

Therefore, if O'Malley wasn't the first to consider big-league ball on the Coast, he wasn't a "visionary."

* If O'Malley was a visionary for moving the team, then he really is responsible for moving the team, and then you have to admit why he moved the team. Sure, Ebbets Field was small, with just 31,497 seats, but it wasn't the smallest ballpark in the majors. (Washington, Cincinnati and St. Louis then had smaller parks, and those in Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Kansas City weren't much bigger.) And it wasn't falling apart, like the Polo Grounds was across town. Granted, parking was a problem, only 750 spaces. Contrast that with the 10,000 spaces the Milwaukee Braves had for County Stadium, which then seated about 44,000 people; and with the 12,000 spaces that would be lined up for both 55,601-seat Shea Stadium and 56,000-seat Dodger Stadium. That's why O'Malley wanted the LIRR site: Both subway and commuter-rail access, eliminating the need for a lot of parking.

And it wasn't that the Dodgers weren't making enough money. They were making more money than any team in the majors, with the possible exception of the Yankees. This was a result of having the best attendance in the League until, and then except for, the Braves in their new city and stadium. That was why O'Malley wanted the new stadium, somewhere, anywhere: The money.

If he thought he could make more money in London, in Tokyo, in Antarctica or on the freakin' Moon, that's where he would've moved the team. And if he's all about the money, then that's what fueled his "vision," not an idea of how to improve baseball.

* And, finally, if the move of the Dodgers really can be blamed on Moses, not O'Malley -- or not just O'Malley -- if O'Malley really didn't have a choice but to move the Dodgers, which is a defensible position, if not a palatable one, then there goes the whole "visionary" argument: You're not a visionary if you're forced into position to see the vision.

*

So while ESPN did a "Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Walter O'Malley for Moving the Brooklyn Ddogers," we can do a Top 5 Reasons Why Walter O'Malley Doesn't Belong in the Hall of Fame:

5. He was a filthy piece of scum who drove men who truly did belong in the Hall (and are in) away.

4. His "vision" failed him when it still could've saved the team for Brooklyn.

3. His "vision" was not his own: It had been "seen" before.

2. He was no visionary: He was forced into his choice.

1. His "vision" was evil, driven solely by greed, and did nothing to improve baseball.

*

Many years ago, Brooklyn natives and then New York Post teammates Jack Newfield and Pete Hamill met for lunch, and talked about doing a column called "The Ten Worst Human Beings Who Ever Lived." They agreed to start by each writing their three worst on their napkins, and then comparing.

Each man had the same three names, in the same order:

1. Adolf Hitler.
2. Josef Stalin.
3. Walter O'Malley.

The column was never written, but the story turned out to be worth more to them than the column would've been.

No, O'Malley wasn't on the same level as Hitler or Stalin. Nor, to cite evil contemporaries, was he Senator Joseph McCarthy or American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell. Or mob boss Albert Anastasia, rubbed out mere days after the Dodgers' move was announced; or Charlie Starkweather, a Nebraska teenager who went on a killing spree a year later.

And he was no more of a cheapskate than his hated partner Branch Rickey, or his crosstown competitors George Weiss (who ran the Yankees for Del Webb and Dan Topping) and Horace Stoneham (owner of the Giants).

But if you're familiar with Keith Olbermann's MSNBC show Countdown, and you take into account all the harm O'Malley did before he was in baseball, all the rotten things he did in Brooklyn, and all the crap he pulled in Los Angeles, then you'd have to agree that he fits Olbermann's criteria for his routine, which matches the parlor game Newfield and Hamill began on their napkins at that Manhattan coffee shop lo those many years ago: "The Worst Person in the World."

At Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in London, Hitler's statue, uniquely among the statues there, can only be displayed in a glass case, because people constantly defaced it, even decades after the Allies won World War II. There is one bust at the Pro Football Hall of Fame that cannot be displayed in the honorees' gallery, for the same reason: O.J. Simpson's.

Walter O'Malley never killed anybody (as far as we know), but if the Baseball Hall of Fame puts his plaque in their gallery, I'll guarantee you that someone will attempt to damage it. And it might not be some 70-year-old Met fan who once rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers. It might be someone who just cares about baseball.

I would not condone defacing the plaque. Simply giving it the finger will do. And doing that would prove that you care more about baseball than Walter Francis O'Malley ever did.

He wasn't a dictator. He wasn't a mass murderer. He wasn't someone who ruined people's professional or personal lives just to get re-elected or to get his name in the paper or his face on TV.

He was just a greedy bastard. And for that, he was, by the Newfield/Hamill or Olbermann definition, a completely fair nominee for The Worst Person in the World.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Do Not Fear Santana in Red Sox


So far, it looks like the Yankees are done talking with the Minnesota Twins about Johan Santana. The fear now is that the Red Sox will get him.

Baloney. As that great New Yorker Franklin Roosevelt put it, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Fear a rotation of Santana, Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, and Jon Lester or Clay Buchholz?

Uh, no. Santana's 2007 performance suggests he may already be in decline, having thrown too many innings too soon in his career. His record in the postseason (1-3, 3.97 ERA) and his performances against the American League's current top teams (Yanks, Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Anaheim Angels) suggests he's not that big an upgrade.

Schilling is 41 and injury-prone, and if he pitches beyond 2008 I'll be very surprised.

Wakefield is also old, knuckleball or no knuckleball.

Beckett is this generation's Bret Saberhagen: Great in odd-numbered years (as the Yankees found out in 2003 and 2007), not so good in even-numbered years (as the Yankees showed in that five-game sweep in Fenway in 2006). And 2008 will be an even-numbered year.

And either Lester or Buchholz, or both, would have to go to Minnesota in that trade. Besides, how do we know Buchholz isn't another Juan Nieves, another Steve Busby, another Bo Belinsky, another Bobo Holloman? Somebody who threw a no-hitter when very young and then, for whatever reason (injuries, poor handling by his team, substance abuse, whatever) practically disappeared?

The Yankees will be fine. Their current projected rotation of Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, Chien-Ming Wang, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy is one I can very easily live with.

They are the New York Yankees. They are not supposed to be afraid of any team. Other teams are supposed to be afraid of them.

I know, it sounds like V for Vendetta. And, at the rate Bud Selig is tinkering with the schedule, one of these years, a World Series may indeed end on the 5th of November.

*

UPDATE: While Mussina retired after 2008, Wang fizzled out in 2009, and Kennedy did nothing for the Yankees and got traded away anyway, the Yankees won the 2009 World Series with Hughes, but without Santana. The Red Sox won the 2013 World Series with Lester and Buchholz, but without Santana. The Mets let Santana go after the 2013 season, after he appeared in 109 games for them -- none of them in the postseason.

Would Santana have made a difference for the Red Sox? They got within 1 game of the 2008 Pennant, got swept in the 2009 ALDS, and choked away a sure Playoff berth by 1 game in 2011. But with his injuries, there's no guarantee he would have been any better in Kenmore Square than he was in Flushing Meadow.

Monday, December 3, 2007

This Trade Idea Makes Me Sick


I'm sick. Major cold. From the nose up my head feels like a rock.

Not a word, Met fans! At least I still root for the right team!

Anyway... or should that be "Andyway"... Pettitte coming back for one more year? Good!

Trading prospects for a pitcher who may already be on the way down due to too many innings too soon, and whom we've already beaten in the Playoffs, when we faced Minnesota? Bad!

Keep Phil Hughes. Keep Melky Cabrera. Keep everyone else. Keep the team we closed 2007 with, with a bad smell but still considerable hope, intact. Tell Carl Pohlad, the Minnesota Twins' parsimonious centenarian billionaire, what he can go do with himself.

Let the Red Sox trade their future for Johan Santana. They'll end up with a rotation of a declining Santana, a finished, injury-prone Crybaby Curt Schilling, an inconsistent Josh Beckett (great in odd-numbered years, not so much in even-numbered years, which next year is), an ancient Tim Wakefield, and... not Jon Lester, he's supposedly part of the package... Clay Buchholz, who might be yet another no-hitter-throwing flash-in-the-pan? From what I hear, he's gonna have to be part of the package, too.

Let the Sox make that trade. Anybody who's afraid of anybody in that rotation is too timid to be a fan of any New York team.

Trading Hughes, Melky and someone else for Santana... I need that like I need a hole in the head.

Actually, I need 2 new holes in my head, to drain these sinuses...