Tonight’s reading assignment

Terrific column by ESPN.com’s Howard Bryant — so good he almost makes up for Rick Reilly — on this year’s Hall of Fame balloting. Much to recommend here, particularly this excerpt:

[B]ecause of the steroid era, the baseball writers are going to guess who deserves enshrinement based on who had big muscles or who had a suspicious career year. Thus, goes the thinking, the system must change. It is a disdainful mindset that doesn’t just miss the bull’s-eye, but the entire target altogether. It is the great MacGuffin of the game, and reveals a complete lack of respect for voters who for years have done the work, covered the games, and taken the privilege seriously.

The truth is that the writers are reduced to being a mop, left with cleaning up a colossal mess created by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association for enormous profit. The fans also must take their share of responsibility simply because professional sports franchises respond only to loss of revenue. To the people watching, steroids were always someone else’s problem, not an issue to get in the way of the fun and games — until their guy was accused or their team wronged. The journalists whose job it was to hold the institution accountable failed, too, for too little reporting allowed a corrupt culture to flourish. The emerging Generation M, influenced by its Godfather, Bill James, and his capo, Billy Beane, is also deeply culpable for allowing their calculations to blissfully ignore steroids and, through that omission, attempting to legitimize the whole dishonest era (and themselves) by attempting to make the game revolve around only numbers. It is no surprise, then, that two of the Gen M standard bearers, power and on-base percentage kings Manny Ramirez and Jason Giambi (directly linked to Beane and James) were both disgraced by steroids.

What galls me about the stat geeks, outside of the smug uniformity, is their willingness to rationalize away fraud. The game deserves better than that.

The Used Car Salesman shirks culpability in selling Miami $645 million lemon

Jeffrey Loria is a worthy villain, no doubt, but the 145 remaining Marlins fans should direct their venom towards Bud Selig. Unfortunately, the media continues  to give the commissioner a pass; instead, they laud Selig’s stewardship. George F. Will doing his best Dick Morris, actually wrote this three years ago;

(S)erious baseball fans argue about everything–the best hitter, the best World Series, the best left-handed catcher from northeast South Dakota. But they do not argue about who has been the best commissioner. That title goes to the ninth commissioner–Selig.

Bud reinforces the dumb blond stereotype

Guess he forgot about the canceled World Series, the Steroids Era, the attempted contraction of the Twins at the behest of billionaire Bud-dy Carl Pohlad, Frank McCourt, The Baseball Network (which regionalized playoff coverage), the All-Star tie …

And there’s this: In ’92, when Bud became commissioner — thus setting the stage for George W. Bush’s political career — more than 30 million people watched the World Series. This year, only 12.7 million tuned in to the Fall Classic. Yet Bud boasts of a Golden Age. A supplicant media barely questions the commish’s clueless bravado. Baseball is swimming in cash, they opine, giving Bud the credit even though the sport’s largesse is due largely to the value advertisers now place on live events. Even Atlanta Spirit couldn’t fuck that up.

Fortunately, there a few scribes who refuse to swallow Bud’s tripe — notably Yahoo! Sports columnist Jeff Passan. His latest column, on Selig’s culpability in the Marlins fiasco, is a must-read.

Passan’s well-researched piece includes these telling excerpts from a 2002 lawsuit filed by the former owners of the Expos.

Selig, the complaint stated, “had secretly determined that major league baseball in Montreal should be eliminated” and went along with Loria’s plan to stop televising games and broadcasting them on radio in English. [Team president and Loria stooge David) Samson ended complimentary tickets for sponsors. And through a variety of cash calls, on which the minority owners refused to act because they disagreed with the franchise’s direction, Loria nearly quadrupled his stake in the franchise, allowing him to pull off the deal that eventually netted him the Marlins.

MLB bought the Expos for $120 million and gave Loria a $38.5 million interest-free loan. Loria, in turn, purchased the Marlins for $158.5 million. And the Marlins’ owner, John Henry, led a consortium to obtain the Boston Red Sox. It was good-ol’-boys glad-handing at its finest, and the consequences for the Expos were dire.

While Loria inherited a Marlins team that would win the 2003 World Series, MLB was sabotaging the Expos worse than the lawsuit imagined. The league sent the Expos to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for 22 “home” games. Nonetheless, they were tied for the wild-card lead on Aug. 28. MLB then refused to allow the Expos any September call-ups, leaving them wildly short-handed compared to their opponents and exacerbating their fade.

In November 2004, an arbitration panel ruled in favor of Loria, Samson and Selig, saying the plaintiffs’ “sense of betrayal, even if justified, doesn’t amount to fraud.” That, of course, did nothing to allay their greatest fear coming true six weeks earlier.

On the final day of the 2004 season, Selig announced the Expos would move to Washington, D.C.

Passan concludes:

How, after 13 years of desecrating two franchises, Loria and Samson continue to exist as owners rests squarely on Selig. He is supposed to be the gatekeeper, the protector, the guardian. And instead, he chooses to be the co-conspirator in the biggest fraud baseball knows.

Serious baseball fans argue about everything, but they do not argue about who has been the worst commissioner. That title goes to the ninth commissioner — the aptly monikered Used Car Salesman.

garcia

The 20 worst A-Braves players: #19 Damaso Garcia

What is it about shitty ex-Braves and uniform burning? Frank LaCorte, one of the worst hurlers in Braves history, torched his Astros uni. Talk about your fashion statements, heeeeey!

When Damaso Garcia burned his Blue Jays togs in the summer of ’86 the Braves pounced, acquiring the two-time All Star with a .293 BA and an average of 34 SB over five seasons for Craig McMurtry, was was 10-26 over his last three years in Atlanta. The late Jesse Outlar of the Atlanta Constitution called the deal “almost too good to be true.”

It was true, but there was nothing good about it. Garcia missed the entire ’87 season with knee problems, returning the following year a shell of his former self. Garcia totaled just seven hits as a Brave — three of which came in the ’88 opener. After that, he managed but four hits in 53 AB. That’s an .075 BA. His .117 BA that year was lower than pitchers Rick Mahler, Zane Smith and Charlie Puleo.

While his talent dissipated, Garcia was as big an asshole as ever. He was released in May after twice pulling himself from the line-up and refusing to play third base.

The Braves celebrated Garcia’s departure by burning his uniform.

The Braves new back-up backstop won’t make anyone forget David Ross

UPDATE: It’s a two-year deal. So Laird deserves two years but Ross doesn’t? Financial terms not yet disclosed, but at best the Braves save $2 mil over two years. Penny saved, Braves fucking foolish!

According to Bowman, the Braves are near an agreement with Gerald Laird, late of the Tigers.

He’s a career .244/.303/.359 hitter in the big leagues and has thrown out approximately 27% of attempted basestealers over the last three years.

In other words, he’s Charlie O’Brien without the power.