Monthly Archives: June 2008

IMAGINE IF THE METS DID NOT WANT TO TREAT WILLIE WITH RESPECT

                                            Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

The Willie Randolph saga just won’t go away.  Somebody (Omar Minaya? Fred Wilpon? Jeff Wilpon?) made a huge mistake in judgment in handling this very defensible firing.  But it’s only gotten worse in the last 48 hours.  Armed with a very easy schedule (Colorado and Seattle are a combined 35 games under .500), the Mets have been unable to get off to a good start under Jerry Manuel (2-2 against these awful teams, 3-3 overall).   Manuel, an intelligent guy, immediately got multiple cases of foot-in-mouth disease with his now-famous (misunderstood?) fertilizer comments and I’ll cut him comments and gangster (oops, I mean gangsta) comments.  He should know better.

    

Speaking of knowing better, let’s turn to Mets owner Fred Wilpon.  Another very intelligent guy, maybe he just gets a case of brain lock when the cameras start rolling.  How about this Monday comment from Wilpon:  “The intent here, clearly, was to respect Willie and to respect his feelings and to do it in person.”  Of course, this flies in the face of the multiple reports that state that Willie asked Minaya point-blank, before getting on a cross country flight, whether he was going to fire Willie and, if the answer to that was yes, “do it now.”  Minaya, who had already spoken to Wilpon once (twice?) about firing Willie, didn’t fire Willie then under the now-famous “I wanted to sleep on my decision” defense.  Instead, he showed his “respect” (I guess) by allowing Willie to fly out to Los Angeles, win a game against a very tough Angels team (third win in four games) and THEN fire him in person after midnight.

    

Which takes us back to the (alleged) respect factor.  Willie and everybody else would have had a lot more respect for Minaya and the Wilpons if they had fired him before the flight to California.  Once the “we wanted to do it in person” analysis took over, things went from bad to worse.  The final scenario (firing him at 3 a.m. Eastern, as if nobody would notice in the internet age), unless the Mets have an incredible turnaround, will be discussed for years to come.  While Wayne Gretzky once made the mistake of calling the New Jersey Devils a “Mickey Mouse” organization (although one could argue they were at the time), one can only wonder what he would have said about this situation.

    

As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, Fred Wilpon had to tell the media that their reports on the barren Mets farm system are simply wrong and that “it is obvious that they have played well” since Willie was fired.  Well, only time will tell about the first although, by objective reports, it certainly seems that the Mets don’t have much in the minors.  Besides, how would Fred Wilpon really know anyway?  He’s simply regurgitating what someone (Minaya?) told him about his farm system.  As for the Mets playing well, we’ve already stated (See Kallas Remarks, 6/17/08) that the timing of this change was partially  due to the weak schedule (three games v. Colorado and three games v. Seattle) the Mets had coming up (because it would have been impossible to fire Willie if he had done well in that six-game stretch).

    

At 2-2 against these weak teams, it’s hard to say that the Mets are “obviously” playing well.  In fact, it’s fair to say that the Mets are still stuck in the same rut they were in last week, last month and last season.  Will this change?  That remains to be seen.

    

But it’s hard to believe that Fred Wilpon believes that the “clear intent” in this firing was to “respect” Willie Randolph.  Imagine what would have happened if they didn’t respect him?  Unfathomable.

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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NOW THAT THE NBA DUST HAS SETTLED, DON’T BLAME KOBE

                              Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

Why the Lakers were supposedly the favorites over the Celtics is a bit of a mystery.  You know the old rule: when in doubt, go with the superstars (plural).  The Lakers, whatever you think of the superstar status of their coach, only had one.  But don’t blame Kobe for this failure.  And don’t blame Kobe for not being like Mike.  Remember, Mike wasn’t Mike until the emergence of Scottie Pippen (check your NBA Top 50 of All-Time list).  Kobe?  Like most superstars, he needed another – Shaq.  And even when Shaq won one without Kobe two years ago, he found his other superstar – Wade.

    

The reality of the NBA for the last ten or twelve years and, for the most part, in the history of the league, is that you need more than one guy.  You know the list going back to the late 90s:  Jordan and Pippen, Duncan and Robinson, Shaq and Kobe, Duncan, Ginobili and Parker (Finals MVP), Shaq and Wade, and this year’s trio of KG, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

    

The only exception, arguably, is the Detroit Piston team of 2004.  But what a talented team that was – Rasheed Wallace a superstar? No, but borderline when at his best.  Billups and Hamilton – All-Stars and arguably the best backcourt in the game. Prince? A difficult to guard guy who was a great defender in his own right.  Ben Wallace – a rebounding fool.  That’s a stunning team whose defense surpassed anyone’s in recent memory.

    

This Celtic team won because they could (and did) smother one guy with stunning defense.  It’s hard to quantify even with good defensive numbers.  It’s frustrating for a guy like Kobe and nobody really stepped up to help him.

    

Kobe’s a hard guy to like.  Whatever happened in that hotel room in Colorado was bad.  The only question was how bad?  An arrogant guy?  You betcha.  Trade me?  How stupid does he look now?  But it’s not his fault they lost.  It’s like defenses ganging up on Barry Sanders all those years with the Lions.  It’s not a one-man sport.  Similarly, in basketball, Michael could and did make the big shot but he also could and did make the big pass with confidence (Steve Kerr, John Paxson, even Bill Wennington – you get the point).

    

The Lakers have a nice supporting cast.  Pau Gasol – excellent in the regular season but it remains to be seen where he tops out in a big series (good, not great so far).  Lamar Odom – ultra-talented but only in bursts.  Is consistency in his future?  Andrew Bynum – missed the learning curve this post-season.  But none of these guys, it says here, will rise to Shaq and Kobe or Michael and Scottie or even Duncan and Parker.  They’re close, but they’re still far away.      

    

Kobe took a beating this week for “not being Michael.”  But is Michael really the greatest basketball player ever?  Not really.  The greatest basketball player ever is either Oscar Robertson (go look at the numbers) or Wilt.  The greatest basketball champion is, of course, Bill Russell.  The greatest athlete in a team sport is Babe Ruth.  And the greatest athlete ever is Jim Thorpe (did you know that, in 1950, a group of expert sportswriters voted Thorpe number one with over twice as many votes as Ruth – somehow, ESPN flipped that vote and had Jordan leapfrog both of them in their Top 50 of the 20th Century.  There’s no chance that those rankings are correct).

    

But give Michael credit because his greatness is that he’s high on all of those lists.  That’s his greatness and it shouldn’t be hard to understand.

    

But never forget:  Michael won nothing without Scottie and it says here that until Kobe gets superstar number two to play with him, he won’t get ring number four.

    

Kobe and his coach go back to the drawing board far ahead of where they were a year ago.  But it will be extremely difficult for them to get back to the NBA Finals (remember, next year is an odd-numbered year so it must be San Antonio’s turn), let alone beat the Celtics, who will probably be laying in wait for them this time, next year.  We’ll see.

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

AMATEUR HOUR IN QUEENS — WILLIE RANDOLPH FIRED AT MIDNIGHT

                     Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

It’s hard to argue with the fact that Willie Randolph was fired by Mets General Manager Omar Minaya Monday night.  The best you could come up with if you’re a Randolph guy is that the Mets have won three of their last four and four of their last six.  Maybe they’ve turned the corner.  But the stench of last year’s epic collapse (a seven-game lead with 17 to play and they didn’t even make the playoffs) never went away and the maddening inconsistencies of this season look like they might never go away. 

    

But the amateurish nature of the firing – around midnight out on the West Coast after a 9-6 Mets win over the Angels – won’t soon be forgotten by Mets fans and critics alike.  It’s hard to believe that Fred Wilpon, who seemed to have a clue and who went to high school in Brooklyn with the great Sandy Koufax, would allow this, let alone sanction it.  But it really is amateur hour in Queens – Jeff Wilpon is on his way to becoming James Dolan (that should make Mets fans quiver with fear), Omar Minaya often seems to have brain lock as he’s trying to sidestep legitimate questions about the Mets, and the whole team, with a $140 million payroll, seems to have forgotten how to play the game.

    

You know the old adage – you can’t fire all of the players so the manager has to go.  And you can bet that Minaya is looking over his shoulder because he’s next if Jerry Manuel (Willie Randolph II, maybe?) can’t turn things around.  Did Randolph elect to go down with the ship when Minaya wanted to fire a couple of his coaches?  Well, that could be what happened, although it remains to be seen if that info will get out.  Could Willie have stayed if he allowed the sacrifice of pitching coach Rick Peterson and first-base coach Tom Nieto (what exactly did he do wrong?) or did he say if they’re going I’m going, too?  That remains to be seen.

    

But what we never saw was Jose Reyes (have those comparisons to Derek Jeter stopped yet?) bust it on every play.  What we never saw was Carlos Delgado make much of an effort to field balls near him at first.  What we never saw was any consistency from the talented Oliver Perez (what happened there, Rick Peterson?).  What we never saw was the Human Disabled List, Moises Alou, stay off the disabled list.  Willie Randolph couldn’t go out and do these things for these players.  A star and multiple World Series champion as a player and coach, Willie was and is a classy guy who simply couldn’t get the message across to these guys.  How will Jerry Manuel be different?

    

Nobody said that Willie Randolph was Casey Stengel.  Nobody said that Willie Randolph was Billy Martin.  But you don’t have to be a brilliant X’s and O’s guy or a fiery (outwardly, to satisfy the fans and media?) manager to lead a team to a World Series.  Remember, nobody accused Joe Torre of either when he came to the Yankees in 1996.  And, frankly, everybody questioned Torre’s moves more and more after first, Don Zimmer, and then, Mel Stottlemyre, left the Yankees because of George Steinbrenner.  But Torre had the four rings in the bank as Yankee manager, something Willie never had as Met manager.

 

IT’S THE SCHEDULE, STUPID

 

     Take a good look at the timing of the firing – not the bush-league midnight (3 a.m. in New York – what, the Mets thought they wouldn’t get hammered as much if they did it at 3 a.m.? – Of course, they’ll get hammered more for that) firing but the timing of their schedule.  After two more against the Angels, the Mets play six as easy as you can get games: three each against woeful Colorado (28-42) and more woeful Seattle (24-46).  You can bet that Minaya considered this because it will be very hard for Manuel to get off to a bad start with this kind of schedule.  Conversely, if he let Willie manage the next eight games, there would be a good chance that he and the Mets would go on a “hot” streak, caused, of course, by the weak schedule.  After that, however, four against the Yankees, including one of those make-up day-night doubleheaders in New York.  Very interesting, no?  

    

Could the Mets have fired Willie after last year’s historical collapse?  You betcha.  Credit to them for giving Willie the chance to come back this year.  Could he have righted the ship this year?  Well, we’ll never know the answer to that now. 

    

It’s not so much that the Mets did it.  Of course, it’s the way they did it.  Amateur hour is alive and well in Queens and, with the departure of Willie Randolph, most of the class in the organization has left the building.

 

 

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

 

UMPIRE’S “SQUEEZING” LEADS TO OAKLAND LOSS AND YANKEE WIN

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

 

Thursday night in Oakland was no place to be if you were a pitcher looking for a close strike call.  Home plate umpire Paul Nauert had a postage stamp strike zone and it cost Oakland much more than it cost the Yankees.

    

Nauert was squeezing (tight strike zone) both Yankee starter Andy Pettitte and Oakland starter Joe Blanton and while, as Yankee announcer and former catcher John Flaherty pointed out early and often, both pitchers were getting squeezed, the situation for Blanton cost Oakland the game.

    

There were numerous examples.  In the bottom of the second, with Oakland’s catcher Kurt Suzuki up, both the 1-0 and, especially, the 2-1 pitch were called high.  Pettitte literally asked Nauert where the 2-1 pitch was and he indicated it was high.

    

Announcer John Flaherty mentioned the tight strike zone on the first pitch to Derek Jeter in the top of the third.  It was a strike (called a ball) and Flaherty had his theme for the game.  In the top of the fourth, Blanton’s first pitch to A-Rod certainly looked like a strike but was called a ball.  Blanton had to come in with a 2-0 pitch that A-Rod singled to center.  In the same inning, Blanton’s 0-2 pitch to Hideki Matsui was such a strike (called a ball) that announcer Ken Singleton said maybe that was Matsui’s birthday gift.

While Blanton escaped that inning, the end was near.

    

Why is this important?  Because many think this stuff “evens out.”  But it really doesn’t.  Some pitchers get squeezed in an unimportant situation.  Others get squeezed with the game on the line.  The latter eventually would happen to Joe Blanton.

    

Back to the game.  In the top of the fourth, Andy Pettitte threw his own 0-2 strike to Mark Ellis, called a ball by Nauert.  It’s interesting that many umpires, including this one, will call the 0-2 strike a ball because, for decades, pitchers were conditioned to “waste one” and umpires were conditioned to understand that.  With pitch counts more important than ever before, we’re starting to see more and more pitchers NOT waste the 0-2 pitch.  The umps, hopefully, will eventually adapt to this change.  In any event, Ellis would wind up singling off Pettitte.  Then the first pitch to Emil Brown, called a ball, sure looked like a strike to this writer and, more importantly, to John Flaherty.  But Pettitte bore down and got out of the inning, now trailing 1-0 after five innings.

    

The roof caved in on Blanton in the sixth.  With Jeter on first, both the 2-1 and 3-2 pitches to Bobby Abreu looked like strikes but were called balls.  With Jeter running on the 3-2, former catcher Flaherty pointed out that Oakland catcher Suzuki came up throwing because he thought it was strike three.  But it was ball four, setting up first and second for A-Rod.

    

The first pitch to A-Rod looked like a strike, called a ball, prompting announcer Flaherty to again comment on the “small strike zone tonight.”  The 1-1 pitch was also very close, called a ball, prompting Flaherty to say that, at least, the strike zone was “tight both ways.”  True, but soon to be irrelevant.  The 3-1 pitch to A-Rod was very close, ruled low, causing A’s manager Bob Geren to berate the ump from the dugout.

    

With Hideki Matsui up (after the pitching coach visited Blanton), bases loaded, nobody out and with a one-run lead, Blanton obviously had no place to put Matsui.  Maybe tired of nibbling and not getting the calls or maybe just afraid (given the small strike zone) to walk across the tying run, Blanton threw the 1-1 pitch down the middle and Matsui hit a grand slam to make it 4-1.  Game over (final score Yankees 4, A’s 1).

    

Never doubt that an umpire’s strike zone can greatly determine the outcome of a game.  While many will say “that’s baseball” and there’s an element of truth in that, be aware of situations where the tight zone, even though it’s called that way for both teams, greatly dictates the outcome of the game.  That’s what happened to Joe Blanton and the Oakland A’s in their loss to the New York Yankees on Thursday night, June 12, 2008.          

 

 

 

 

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

WHAT HAPPENED TO BIG BROWN AND WHAT TO DO NEXT?

                                                             Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas    

It’s the forever question in horse racing:  What happened?  And, with horses who can’t talk and with tens of millions (if not hundreds of millions) of dollars at stake in stud fees, even the most experienced jockeys and trainers often seem to be at a loss for an explanation.

Here are a few possibilities:

1)      Jockey Kent Desormeaux shut off Big Brown’s air in the beginning of the race:  While most experts said post one wouldn’t be a problem, the reality was that, even in a short field, Big Brown could and did have some traffic problems early in the race.  Clearly the horse was rank (hard to handle because he wanted to go on early).  The result of that can be briefly shutting a horse’s wind off, where he’s unable to catch his breath briefly, which results in his not racing well.  And even if the horse “scoped clean,” as was reported, when a horse has his wind shut off briefly, that doesn’t necessarily show up on a scope (vet sticks a tube down the horse’s throat after the race to look at the area for signs of bleeding or mucus or redness, etc.).

2)      What about that quarter crack?  While Desormeaux said the horse wasn’t lame, he was drifting out from the moment the gate opened, through the first turn and frankly, for a large part of the race.  Any vet will tell you that one cause of a horse running out (to his right) could be soreness on the left side (the now-famous quarter crack was on the left side).  Conversely, if a horse is running in (towards the rail), that can often be a sign of right side injury or soreness.  Remember, just because a horse isn’t limping, that doesn’t mean he’s not sore.  Something could have just been “pinching” Big Brown and that could have been enough to cause him to run poorly.   

3)      Big Brown got dirt in his face early:  You’ll recall that much was made in the Derby and Preakness about Desormeaux taking Big Brown to the outside to avoid having dirt hit him in the face, something that apparently had never happened to Big Brown before.  Well, again from post one, some dirt had to hit him in the face until either Desormeaux pulled him to the outside or Big Brown pulled Desormeaux to the outside (it’s not clear which happened).  When dirt hits some horses in the face and they’re not use to it, it can cause them to not try as hard as they normally would.

4)      The mile-and-a-half was just too much for Big Brown:  This will be the weakest of possible explanations.  Big Brown was in trouble going into the final turn.  He was done long before the extra quarter-mile that is the (stupid) distance for the Belmont.  Remember, horses don’t race that distance on dirt before the Belmont and horses don’t race that distance on dirt after the Belmont.  It’s something that should be looked at, but that’s for another time.

5)      The 95 degree heat:  Some horses don’t like the heat.  This is probably the hottest it’s ever been in Big Brown’s limited racing career on race day.  It certainly could have hurt him on Belmont day.

BUT HERE’S THE BEST REASON OF ALL:

6)      THREE RACES IN FIVE WEEKS:  Kent Desormeaux said it best: “He was just out of gas.”  This wasn’t a horse who got beat in the final strides like Smarty Jones did in 2004 (and congratulations to the giant-killer, trainer Nick Zito, who beat Smarty Jones with Birdstone in 2004 and beat Big Brown on Saturday with outsider Da’ Tara).  This was a horse who was done around the final turn.  While this was a topic of a recent article in this space (see Kallas Remarks, 5/16/08), it seems to be gaining support in the racing mainstream.  Just last week, legendary trainer D. Wayne Lukas called for the Triple Crown races to be more spread apart, with the Travers being the “fourth leg” of the Triple Crown (called the “Grand Slam” by some).  Horses today simply are not bred or trained to race three times in five weeks.  And this year’s Belmont may be the best proof of all of that.

  

WHAT DO THE OWNERS DO NOW?

    

Because of the arrogance of the trainer, many people are happy that Big Brown got beat.  But don’t penalize the horse for the arrogance of the trainer, even though I agree with trainer David Carroll’s statement (he finished second with Denis of Cork): “I’ve always thought you should win with class and you should lose with class” (as reported by Mike Vaccaro in the New York Post).  Amen to that, although we live in a different world today.

    

The owners have a tough call now.  If they race Big Brown again, and he loses, then his value plummets.  However, if it was three races in five weeks (as I and others suspect), and he rests up and returns for, say, the Travers in late August at Saratoga and wins, then we may have the answer to what happened. 

    

But that’s a gazillion dollar gamble.  Like many before him, Big Brown is just another in the long list of horses who failed to get it done.  Between him and Smarty Jones, it now seems impossible to do, for whatever reason.

    

WHAT SHOULD THE INDUSTRY DO NOW? 

    

Here’s hoping that the powers-that-be in thoroughbred racing see the obvious and change the timing (and review the distances as well) of the Triple Crown races.  As suggested previously, the first Saturday in May (Derby), the first Saturday in June (Preakness) and the first Saturday in July (Belmont) is the ideal schedule in the 21sr Century.  Thoroughbred racing should enter this century sooner rather than later.     

    

 

 

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved. 

WHAT EFFECT, IF ANY, WILL A BIG BROWN TRIPLE CROWN WIN HAVE ON HORSE RACING?

                                                                            Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas   

It’s hard to believe that I’m writing this, given the recent history of Triple Crown losers (Smarty Jones being the latest in a long list), but it seems that Big Brown winning the Triple Crown is almost a foregone conclusion.  With a trainer who is hard to root for and ownership that, one would hope, would be a little cooler on the precipice of fame (because of the horse, of course), lots of people are actually rooting against Big Brown in the Belmont on Saturday.

    

But coming off one of the greatest Derby wins ever (four or five wide around both turns and then winning for fun) and a Preakness that turned out to be almost a training mile once jockey Kent Desormeaux flipped the switch at the top of the stretch, it’s hard to see who can beat Big Brown.  Frankly, as of right now, this is a pretty bad group of three-year-olds (other than Big Brown). 

    

Casino Drive, you say?  Unlikely, even though his dam is the mother of the last two Belmont winners, one of the most stunning feats in the history of breeding.  But his win in the Peter Pan was just OK and he would have to step up plenty (while Big Brown has to bounce tremendously) for Casino Drive to win.  Speed horse Tale of Ekati, loose on the lead, you say?  Unlikely, since, to cut a mile-and-a-half race, even loose on the lead, is a tremendously difficult thing to do, especially with a horse of Big Brown’s ability near you.  My personal favorite for second, Denis of Cork, you say?  Unlikely, because you’re   talking about a nice horse against a star.

      

Understand this:  there’s simply no Alydar to 1978’s Triple Crown winner Affirmed.  Frankly, there doesn’t even seem to be a Sham to 1973’s Secretariat, still the greatest horse ever (just check his Triple Crown times) (and remember, the reason Secretariat won the Belmont by 31 lengths was because Sham’s jockey was told to run with Secretariat early to try and break his heart – of course, the only heart broken in that race was Sham’s).

    

Now, assuming what seems to be almost inevitable (unless maybe his quarter crack acts up during the race, a possible but unlikely scenario) actually happens, the bigger question for the sport of horse racing is this:  will a Triple Crown winner really jump start horse racing as a sport in the 21st Century?  Unfortunately, the answer here is no.

    

You’ve heard it a number of times over the last decade: the sport “really needs” a Triple Crown winner.  But, if it happens, that’s going to be just a temporary boost to the game.  Horse racing has always been a great sport but a very tough business.  For every great Derby winner story, there are thousands and thousands of tales of heartbreak.

    

Like it or not, for the general public, horse racing has really been reduced to the Triple Crown races (and the Belmont is huge, unfortunately, only if there’s a chance at a Triple Crown winner) and the Breeders Cup.  There’s really not that much else for the casual fan. 

    

The temporary boost (other than a one or two day Triple Crown-winning boost) will occur if the connections of Big Brown decide to race him once or twice more.  If he’s an undefeated Triple Crown winner, they will be under enormous pressure to stop with him immediately (his value as a sire will be already through the roof if he wins the Belmont).  There’s very little upside to racing him again (although beating Curlin in a proposed $5 million Massachusetts Handicap or Breeders Cup race would increase his astronomical value even more).

    

But that’s an awful big gamble for a horse who has raced three times in five weeks and has a foot problem to boot.  The wise decision will be to retire him after the Triple Crown, but maybe ego (of his connections, not him) or belief that he’s the greatest horse ever (not possible) will change that decision.  We’ll see.

    

The gambling landscape has changed so drastically in the last three decades that horse racing, once the only (legal) game in town, is now an afterthought for most people with a little money to spend.  You know the other competitors:  the lottery (it seems like 500 different games from state to state) and the casinos (sprouting up everywhere, including slots all over New York and Pennsylvania with enormous pressure on New Jersey to do the same) and even OTB, still apparently, losing money in New York (hard to believe, but apparently true).

    

Frankly, it’s more important for racetracks to get slot machines (oops, I mean video gaming machines, slot machines (I think) are still illegal – ha-ha) than to have a Triple Crown winner.  At Yonkers Raceway in the harness racing game, the installation of 5,300 video gaming machines has totally revamped the purse structure so better horses and top trainers and drivers are somewhat lured to a place that most avoided for many years due to a poor purse structure (purses have climbed through the roof at Yonkers). 

    

If it’s all about the money (and for your everyday horseman, with rare exceptions, it is) higher purses (through, for example, video gaming machines at Aqueduct and/or Belmont) is the biggest boost horse racing can receive in the near future.

    

But remember, as you’re cheering (for or against) Big Brown on Saturday, the problems of a once dominant industry don’t disappear when the 150,000 in the crowd at Belmont go home.  Come Monday, the problems will still be there and everywhere that horsemen go to work.  Here’s hoping a revival can take place sooner rather than later.

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved. 

 

 

 

THE REALITIES OF THE PETE ROSE CASE

                                Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas

    

 We don’t get many pronouncements from the mountaintop anymore about Pete Rose and his insidious crimes against humanity.  But, since Fay Vincent has a new book out and the “Mike and the Mad Dog” (is Mad Dog one word or two? – I can’t tell on the YES Network) show is a good place to pop your latest book, we had to hear it again on Monday on WFAN in New York City.

Before getting to the book, Fay Vincent had to explain to us (people who think Rose should be in the Hall of Fame) what a terrible thing Pete did and how we don’t “grasp” how bad betting on baseball is.

    

The joke, of course, is that we are now looking at NINETEEN YEARS for Pete Rose.  No chance for the Hall of Fame, no ability to get back into baseball, no (correct) sympathy for a bad guy like Rose.

    

But now, 19 years later, that totally misses the point.  What Fay Vincent and everyone else on the keep-your-foot-on-Pete-Rose’s-throat-forever bandwagon can’t “grasp” is this basic tenet:  The punishment has to fit the crime.  Do people who kill other people get less than nineteen years?  You betcha (pun intended).

    

MAJOR LEAGUE RULE 21(d)    

    

So let’s start with Major League Rule 21(d) which, in pertinent part, states:  “Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.”  Many of you know that if the same person bets on a game in which he had no duty to perform, that suspension is for one year.

     

Understand the stupidity of this rule on its face.  If an outfielder on one team sees his buddy on the other team right before the game and says “I’ll bet you fifty bucks we win tonight” and the other guy says “OK,” they can both be banned for life.  Stupid, no?  Suppose that afternoon, an outfielder on one team says to his friend on the other team, “We’re dumping tonight. We’re not going to try to win.”  Do you see a difference?  Even an idiot could “grasp” the difference.

    

Understand that Rule 21(d) was made in the wake of the 1919 Black Sox scandal (did you know that Shoeless Joe Jackson was hitting .382 in September of 1920 (seriously) when he had to stop playing due to the scandal? – but that’s for another time).  We don’t even know if betting on your team to win, not something the Black Sox were involved in, was considered by Commissioner Landis when Rule 21(d) was implemented in the early 1920s.    

     

Unfortunately for Pete Rose, no differentiation was ever made between betting on your team to win and betting on your team to lose.  Anyone remotely objective has to see the difference.  If you’re betting on your team to win, obviously you’re going to make every effort to win.  If you’re betting on your team to lose, well, you can figure out the rest of this sentence.  And while Vincent tells us how insidious betting on your team to win is, has there ever been ANY evidence that Rose hurt one of his pitchers or hurt his team’s ability to win the next game by blowing out a relief pitcher.  Did that ever happen with Rose?

     

So the best argument, aside from the stupidity of the same punishment under present Rule 21(d) if you bet $20 once or $2,000 a thousand times, is this:  If you bet on your team to lose, you should be banned for life.  If you bet on a team in a game you’re not involved in, you should get a year.  BUT IF YOU BET ON YOUR TEAM TO WIN, YOU SHOULD GET SOMEWHERE BETWEEN A YEAR AND A LIFETIME BAN.  You pick the number: two years eight years, 15 years, it doesn’t matter because Pete Rose has already been banned for 19 years.  When does the “punishment fitting the crime” come into play?  Never?  Why can’t these guys “grasp” that?

     

WHAT ABOUT THE DRUGGIES?

     

Fay Vincent was happy to tell us about the difference between the druggies who were banned for “life” (in some cases again and again and again – I won’t write again seven times) and could (and did) seek reinstatement after one year.  How (Howe) could this be?  Well, the rules state that if you’re banned for “life,” you can apply for reinstatement after one year.

     

So, when Pete Rose was banned for life, don’t you think he thought it was for a year?  Of course he did.  Was that stupid on his part?  Of course it was.

     

But make no mistake – the general feeling at the time was Rose would eventually get back in the game.  So, as the druggies came, were banned for life and were reinstated after a year, Pete Rose twisted in the wind for, for, for, forever, apparently.  Again this is just wrong.

     

WHAT IF PETE ROSE HAD “COME CLEAN”?

    

Perhaps the funniest/saddest thing of all is Vincent’s pronouncement that, if Rose had told the truth earlier, he would have eventually been reinstated.  This is really scary, because it confirms what many of us think:  Pete Rose isn’t being banned for life for gambling.  He’s being banned for life for gambling and then lying about gambling.  So, the “deterrence” that Vincent talks about isn’t based on people being punished for life for gambling.  It’s based on people being punished for life for gambling and then, however weakly, trying to cover it up.  See the difference?

     

The “deterrent” effect that Vincent talks about as being all-important is undercut by his own analysis.  Again, when he admits that Rose would have been treated differently and probably reinstated after a few years had he admitted his gambling right away, any notion of long-term deterrence disappears by Vincent’s own words.  That’s not too hard to understand, is it?

     

WHAT ABOUT GAYLORD PERRY?

     

While there are many Hall of Famers to put in this headline, Gaylord Perry takes the cake.  While still in the majors, Perry wrote a book entitled “Me and the Spitter” (you can’t make this stuff up).  In it, he explained how he started throwing a spit ball, Vaseline ball, etc.  Of course, he stated that he had stopped and then pitched ten more years after the book was published.  Who did more to hurt the game of baseball: a great player who bet on his team to win as a manager or, a 3-7 pitcher who experimented with a spitter (by his own admission) to stay in the majors and became a Hall of Famer?  If you’re remotely objective, it’s not even a conversation.  Put that on Gaylord Perry’s plaque.

     

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

     

Well, nowhere.  Bud Selig won’t make a decision (who hurt baseball more: a manager who bet on his team to win or (fill in the blank with the name of your choice), a steroid-user who did what he had to do to stay ahead of the pack?  Again, not even a conversation).

     

Pete Rose has served his time out of baseball and out of the Hall of Fame He should, at a minimum, be allowed to be voted into the Hall of Fame (he probably wouldn’t get there, but he deserves the opportunity).  He should also, with strict conditions imposed by Bud Selig, be allowed to return to the game in some capacity.

      

FINALLY, WHAT ABOUT VINCENT’S BOOK?

    

The book is called “We Would Have Played for Nothing” and purports, according to Chris Russo, to talk about baseball in the 1950s and 1960s.  Of course, the notion that these guys would have played for nothing is, essentially, a crock.          

 

 

Go ask Sandy Koufax why he and Don Drysdale held out as a tandem in the 1960s.  Look up the Mickey Mantle story when, the year after he won the Triple Crown in 1956, he “only’ hit .365 and the Yankees wanted to cut his salary.  Go ask Ralph Kiner about the Branch Rickey story he tells when Kiner, looking for a raise after leading the NL in home runs (again) for the lowly Pirates, was told “We came in last with you and we can come in last without you.”

    

This false notion of playing for nothing was never true – in the last 100 years, numerous players jumped to rival leagues for more money.  In the early 20th century, the owners had a salary cap of $2400 per player.  The Chicago White Sox threw the 1919 World Series because their owner was so cheap.  Sal Maglie and others jumped to the Mexican League.  And on and on and on. 

    

It’s a quaint notion that, in the ‘50s and ‘60s, players who had to get jobs in the off-season to support their families would have played for nothing.  But it’s simply untrue.

      

What these people need to understand is that there are other baseball fans with a clue who follow this stuff.  Whether it’s talking about the “good old days” or talking about the absurdity of the Pete Rose situation, a better grasp of the situation is necessary. 

     

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.