20 February 2020

NOTE FROM NORM: Say It A’int So Rob

The year was 1957 and few could have foreseen the devastation that would be brought upon a community by a man named Walter O’Malley.

So much so that 63 years later it pains me to write his name.

I was 8 years old and Walter O’Malley was moving my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles!

Say it ain’t so, Joe!

Alas, it was!  The storied team of my neighborhood, The Dodgers – so named for the practice of pedestrians attempting to dodge streetcars, –would move to Los Angeles because of a dispute between O’Malley and the nearly omnipotent Robert Moses.

Moses, a man whose massive footprint over the growth and development of New York City is as powerful today as it was back then, refused to agree to terms that O’Malley had for buying land to build a new ballpark for the Dodgers.

Lured by the promise of developing land that suited his vision of a ballpark development, O’Malley abandoned the confines of Brooklyn for the warm welcoming weather, and pliant community leaders, of Los Angeles.

Even today the bitterness that fellow Brooklynites have towards O’Malley is palpable.

Yet, this post is not about the Brooklyn (aka Los Angeles) Dodgers.

It is about the ongoing controversy involving the cheating scandal with the Houston Astros and its existential threat to the credibility of Major League Baseball.

A game that has, in so many ways, defined the best of what America has been for generations.

A game that brought to the stadium thousands of American boys from the biggest cities, to America’s tiniest, and made them heroes larger than life.

A game that, at its most noble, helped to break barriers in American life and society and, when the nation needed it most after 9/11, to help America’s national healing during a time of mourning.

The flagrant violation of the rules of baseball by the Houston Astros – creating a sophisticated and ubiquitous system of stealing pitcher’s signs – isn’t the act of a couple of ragtag kids playing stickball in the streets of an urban city.

It was the deliberate and conscious act of deceit that very likely allowed the Houston Astros to run to the top of their Division and ultimately to win the World Series in 2017.

And, many who were on that team in 2017 and participated in this act of betrayal of the rules of Major League Baseball, were on the team that nearly won the World Series again in 2019 against the Washington Nationals.

Exposed for their act of thievery, the Houston Astros fired their manager and have subsequently had one player after another come forward in a clearly well-rehearsed and tightly choreographed act of contrition – apologizing on one hand, while on the other hand denying that anything they did gave them an upper hand in their ascent to the top of standings in baseball.

Foul!  Strikes! I call the Astros out!

Or, at the very least, they should be.

Unfortunately, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has done a remarkably bad job in addressing the crisis.

While promising to get to the bottom of the matter Manfred lived up to the promise of rooting out the accusations, publicly exposing them and condemning them.

But now, when baseball needs it most, Manfred and baseball are failing to hold players accountable for their actions.

Manfred diminished their ignominious act that led to a tainted World Series win in 2017 with the Commissioner’s bizarre retort when asked if the Astros should have their World Series win taken away from them.

Calling the Commissioners Trophy, that which is awarded to the team that wins the most cherished prize in all of Major League Baseball for winning the World Series, a “piece of metal,” is outrageous.

In doing so one has to wonder if Commissioner Manfred truly grasps the crisis before him.

While the Brooklyn Dodgers hold an indelible mark in my heart, I have adopted and grown to love the Minnesota Twins.  The same Twins that currently hold the MLB record for the most number of homeruns in a single season and won 101 games in 2019.

The Twins with legendary players with names like Oliva, Hrbek, Puckett, Killebrew, Carew, Viola, Kaat, Blyleven, Molitor and Mauer may not have the same rich history and tradition of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

After all, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball with the Dodgers when he started first base in 1947, and names like Campanella, Reese, Hodges, Snider, Newcombe, Furillo, Padres and Koufax(who was a rookie on the fabulous 1955 World Champion team!)still roll off the tongue 63 years after Walter O’Malley made so many of us bite our tongues

Baseball may no longer hold the prestige it once did.  The game’s pace of play in a world in which instant gratification surrounds nearly everything we do challenges our time and attention.

The once epic battles between players and teams struggle for attention amidst a backdrop in which there are more sports, more channels reporting on them, and politics and celebrity drama occupying far too much of our life.

Baseball remains an important part of our national life and what happens to it, and how the game treats the crisis it finds itself in today, is important, too.

It’s time Commissioner Manfred does more than trip on his own words about the serious nature of the misdeeds of the Houston Astros.

Banishing Pete Rose from baseball for betting against the game was the right thing to do, as was punishing the infamous “Black Sox” and putting asterisks on the records of those players who used banned substances to enhance their game.

Each time those punishments were meted out in an effort by Major League Baseball to ensure fans, and the public, that the game which meant so much to so many still possessed not just the aura of greatness, but the inherent goodness of fair play and sportsmanship.

Karma may have visited itself upon the Los Angeles (aka Brooklyn Dodgers) nearly 60 years after Walter O’Malley ripped them from the ground, and the heart, of Brooklyn in their defeat to the Houston Astros in 2017.

However, the game doesn’t deserve the disgrace brought upon it by the Houston Astros and its players who have sullied its reputation.

Restore the shine to the “piece of metal” that is the World Series and invalidate the 2017 World Series victory by the Astros or, at the very least, place upon it the asterisk it so assuredly deserves!