For Jackie Robinson night, Carl Crawford did just about everything right for the Dodgers. Crawford got 3 hits. Crawford scored a run. Crawford drove in a run. The Dodgers dropped the game 6-3, but Crawford did his share to try to put the team in the win column. Jackie would’ve been disappointed by the game’s result, but I’m sure he would have been proud of Crawford’s efforts. After all, a part of why Crawford is able to put on the Dodger uniform today is because Jackie put it on so many years ago.
Crawford also made a very unique gesture to support equality, wearing one white shoe and one blue shoe for the game.
My friend Ernie was at the ballgame with me and even from our perch high up in the reserve level Ernie spotted this. “Hey, Crawford’s shoes don’t match!” We looked. Sure enough, they didn’t. We were quickly learning through social media that Crawford had done this as a uniting gesture with a humous bit about blue and white living together in harmony. I chuckled. Carl Crawford’s hitting near .400, he’s soaking up the California sunshine, he’s playing the best ball he’s played in a while and the fans are quickly falling in love with how he plays the game. He’s having fun. He likes being here. And he’s got a sense of humor.
Apparently Major League Baseball lacks a sense of humor, however. Somewhere, I can picture Bud Selig seeing this on T.V. and saying “no, no, performance enhancing SHOES! Crawford wears the mis-match and goes 3-for-5! We can’t have this!” He instructs the office to call Crawford’s people and tell them to relay the message that Carl’s mis-matched shoes aren’t acceptable.
Bud, what are you worried about? That Carl might influence children to mis-match their shoes? That they might then also mis-match their socks? That in turn they might mis-match other articles of clothing? How dare we indicate to the viewing audience that it’s okay to have some innocent fun and to allow players to express themselves in ways that might be semi-distracting but are overall harmless.
Carl Crawford wearing mis-matched shoes did not give him a competitive advantage. It did not cause problems for opposing pitchers trying to pitch to him. It did not make him faster than he is on any given night. It did not make him add any questionable bulk or swing the bat any better than he has in numerous games already this season.
No. All Carl Crawford’s shoes did were add some fun to an already-festive night and drive home the point that it doesn’t matter if the shoe’s blue or white, it’s still a shoe, it’s just as good, and you know what, the color of our skin doesn’t make us any different from one another either. So why not have some fun at the ballpark and live in harmony? In an age where more often than not we hear about athletes complaining about their jobs despite multi-million dollar contracts or misbehaving in ways that seem to indicate that they are above the law, what’s the harm in an All Star ballplayer wearing mismatching shoes and sending a message of unity and harmony in the process?
But no. This atrocity cannot stand according to Major League Baseball! Carl Crawford must somehow be reprimanded! How dare a man have a sense of humor and a good message?
I’d like to remind Bud Selig of what an atrocity is.
Mr. Selig, if you’re reading this, brace yourself.
Bud Selig took the commissioners office in 1992, first as the acting commissioner and then-owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, then as the full-time commissioner.
Things started out not so hot for Bud. Remember 1994? That was the year that Bud Selig’s dislike for the Montreal Expos began to take its toll. Bud decided to let there be a strike. A strike that started in August and lasted so long that they cancelled the World Series. A strike that deprived the Montreal Expos, owners of the best record in baseball (and therefore unofficially the defacto champions of that season,) a chance to finally win their organization’s first World Title. Sure, they had to play the games, but now we’ll never know if that wrecking crew of a baseball team with its young core of mostly-home-built talent would have found success. Why? Because of money issues. Because owners needed whatever they needed. Clearly, it’s not like it saved the owners a ton of money, have you seen what’s happened to payrolls since the strike? They’ve absolutely skyrocketed. But let’s be realistic here. When you have an owner for a Commissioner, he’s going to have a lot of friends who are owners and look out for their best interest, not for the best interests of the integrity of the game, the fans, or the players.
Bud followed that up by looking the other way for YEARS as steroid use became more rampant throughout the game. That isn’t to say that steroid use wasn’t around before Bud Selig. Jose Canseco’s already blown the lid off that. We know what was going on in the Oakland Athletics locker room in the 80’s and early 90’s. But realistically, the problem didn’t really start becoming rampant until the mid-to-late 90’s. Ken Caminiti made a career out of steroid use, and while it led him to an MVP season and some impressive stats, he might still be alive today if Selig wasn’t looking for an increase in power numbers to bring back the fans he alienated after the ’94 strike. Mark McGwire? Sammy Sosa? You hear a lot of criticism of these guys and the talk of the “taint” that hangs over the “Summers of Swat” of the late ’90’s when McGwire and Sosa were frequently notching around 60 homers a season. Mike Piazza recently talked about some of the substances he used during his career.
People, when it comes to steroids, this isn’t an issue of a few players looking to gain a competitive advantage. This became a systemic part of the game and culture surrounding baseball. Few organizations were exempt. By the early 2000’s we now know that the Dodgers were even talking in internal memos about issues such as whether or not to keep Paul LoDuca based on whether or not he was juicing. The point here is not to blame the players or the organizations, all of which do share some of the burden but really are not the source of the problem. The point is to blame Major League Baseball, and the figurehead that presided over those days, who could not have possibly been ignorant of the substance abuse situation going on that was leading to ridiculous power numbers, careers going long past when they would normally go, pitchers not named Nolan Ryan throwing 90+ heat into their mid-40’s, hitters popping 30-40 out of the yard after their 40th birthday, and so much talk within organizations about what was really going on. There is no way that Bud Selig did not know there was a problem, and it took a congressional inquiry that effectively ruined the reputations of several ballplayers to out the problem.
Yet the man who could have put a stop to it, who could have pushed for testing, let it run rampant for years, and only came up with a solution when it became so obvious that there was a problem that continuing to put it off would result only in more fan backlash. That’s right Mr. Selig, I’m looking at you here.
Then there’s the debacle of ownership. Now, most Major League owners are passionate about their teams, passionate about their cities, and are looking to put a winning product on the field year in and year out. Some have visible financial restraints that prevent them from spending freely and retaining top talent after 7 seasons, but it’d be hard to argue that they’re not trying to put a winning product on the field or spending what they reasonably can to at least try to do so.
And some owners don’t.
Now, I’m not taking a shot at a guy like Lew Wolff. The guy’s got a raw deal in Oakland. He’s playing in a baseball stadium that’s been converted into a football monolith. He has to tarp over about half the seats in the joint to make for a reasonable baseball capacity. And he’s got to compete with the San Francisco Giants, who have greater financial resources. Even with his spendthrift ways, Wolff is always looking for ways to make the Athletics better. He has been making efforts for years to find a way to get the A’s into a new ballpark and has explored numerous potential stadium deals. The Giants have blocked his attempts to move to San Jose. The financing for the Fremont ballpark, Cisco Field (which looked amazing in preview renditions), never came through. And the City of Oakland has not historically done much to appease Wolff while virtually gifting Al Davis that mountain of a grandstand that serves as the A’s outfield seating section during baseball season. But Wolff continues to find ways to put a winning product on the field, and hopefully will eventually get the new ballpark he and his team deserve (and hopefully in Oakland as part of a revitalization effort, because the city and the team just go well together.)
I’m talking more about spendthrift owners who are using Major League Baseball much the way Donald T. Sterling has used the NBA to turn a profit with the Clippers for many, many years (though the last couple of years it looks like Sterling’s finally decided that winning might be important, too.) I’m talking about Jeffrey Loria. I’m talking about Frank McCourt.
On the topic of Loria…I am pretty sure that Selig just doesn’t like Montreal. First he cancels the season just as it looks like they’re about to break through and win a title. Then he lets Jeff Loria run them into the ground and, after decimating the team, say “hey, I want out.” Selig then approves a franchise swap. John Henry sells the Florida Marlins (who had a title and were about to win a second with a young core built on Henry’s watch) to Loria for about $140 million. He in turn buys the Boston Red Sox (who then win 2 titles in 4 years just a few years into Henry’s tenure.) Loria sells the Expos to Major League Baseball for $120 million, then secures a 0% interest loan from Major League Baseball for the difference between his selling price and the buying price of the Florida Marlins. Within 2 years, baseball in Montreal dies, and as if Selig is trying to keep the heat of Congress off of himself as they investigate the steroid scandal in baseball, he gives them the ultimate bribe: bringing back Major League Baseball to our nation’s capital.
Look, I don’t have supporting documenting evidence, but the timing of it all. Think about it. Congress is starting to raise an eyebrow about what’s going on in baseball and looks into the matter, starts taking testimony. The Mitchell Report would, of course, go on to outline several absolute atrocities (at least what I consider to be absolute atrocities) that were being committed by players throughout baseball that left few organizations untouched and many super stars careers tainted with speculation and asterixes. Yet nearly-unblemished through the entire thing, Bud Selig brought baseball back to the Nation’s Capital and emerged virtually unscathed.
Anyway, Jeff Loria nearly ran the Expos into the ground and left the fanbase so decimated that moving the team to Washington, D.C. hardly seemed like a matter. Selig also discussed contraction in that era around 2000-2003. That’s right, Selig actively pursued the contraction of two major league baseball teams! Which teams? The Expos were on a short list. The Minnesota Twins. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays (yes, back then they were still the Devil Rays,) who had existed maybe 10 years at the time, were on the list. The Anaheim Angels. That’s right. The Angels were considered for either contraction or merger with the Oakland Athletics. It’s true. Read the linked article. A few other teams are mentioned. The Padres. The Royals. The Marlins. As if depriving Montreal of a World Series was bad enough, Selig had them on a list to be taken out of existence! Failing this, he effectively used them as a bribe to placate the powers that be in Washington, D.C.
Then, of course, came the Frank McCourt fiasco. Fox wanted out. McCourt, who had been rejected for ownership bids before, somehow managed to convince Selig that leveraging a $430 million purchase with loans and parking lots in Boston was a good idea. It only took about 7 years for it to become obvious that McCourt was using the team as leverage to buy expensive homes, take expensive trips, and live a lavish lifestyle well beyond his means when his wife decided to leave him and the couples’ debts became public knowledge. Bud Selig made Frank McCourt a billionaire. Dodger fans applauded when Selig announced that Major League Baseball was taking over day-to-day observations of the team in 2011, but had Selig either questioned McCourt’s leverage in the purchase phase or stepped in when McCourt defaulted on some early repayments and had to surrender some of his Boston properties to Fox in lieu of payment, it’s possible that the problems McCourt presented years down the road could have been avoided.
Of course, if you look to Florida, Jeffrey Loria’s again making a mockery of a franchise. After briefly appearing to want to win a title and spending money on some significant transations (signing Jose Reyes, bringing in Carlos Zambrano, getting Ozzie Guillen to manage the team,) Loria’s cut costs and seen a huge drop in attendance in the year-old Miami Ballpark that was supposed to bring new revenues and renewed life to the now-Miami Marlins. Given the historical trend, it would appear that Loria is about to drive his second franchise into the ground. And based on that lawsuit, a few people are beginning to suspect something’s up with Selig and his hands-off approach to this one. One has to wonder why Selig continues to allow such behavior on his watch, but one should also remember that Selig was an owner at one point himself, and guys like Loria who’ve been around for a while are likely personal friends.
Not to say that McCourt didn’t deserve to have Selig turn on him, and I have little doubt that Selig had some personal issues with McCourt that ran deeper than baseball, the two men clearly had a lot of animosity toward each other, but Selig came down on him while helping Loria with the franchise swap that landed him the Marlins and did nothing to stop Loria from purging payroll last offseason, leaving the Marlins a poor team playing in a brand new ballpark with a deteriorating fan base. Selig also was in no rush to take action against the Wilpons in New York when they had problems as a result of the Madoff scandal, allowing them to dictate their ownership plans and handle any sell-offs of any percentage of the franchise to help recoup losses on their own.
The list of Selig’s atrocities against baseball are much longer. The All Star Game. The slowness in actually implementing a banned substances policy. Letting players take the reputation hits for the steroid era while not taking an ounce of blame himself. How this man has remained the Commissioner of Baseball for 20 years now is beyond me.
Carl Crawford did in one night something that Bud Selig has failed to do for 20 years: preach a message of harmony amongst people and show passion and pride in displaying his love for the game. It’s time for Bud Selig to step down and for Major League Baseball to be represented by someone who loves the spirit and integrity of the game and not simply the power that the office confers on them.