Sports Nut

Go Steinbrenner!


I noticed that Boston manager Grady Little is about the only baseball luminary who didn’t make it to New York for the first two games of the Series. (His counterpart in historic futility, Dusty Baker of the Cubs, made the trip, granting a memorably grumpy interview to the Fox folks last night.) Of course, I don’t imagine that Captain Joe Hazelwood vacations much in Alaska, either. Boston remains undecided on Little—the team, on whether it should offer the man another contract, and its fans, on whether they want his head on a plate or a stick. It really is a be-careful-what-you-wish-for situation, though. If they defenestrate manager Boomhauer—Little is a dead sound-alike for Hank Hill’s almost unintelligible neighbor—after he’s won almost 190 games in two seasons and come to the 11th inning of the ALCS, nobody worth the money is going to want the Boston job. Which may leave them with (Lord, no) Bobby Valentine. There’s someone temperamentally suited to handling the volatile self-indulgence of the Red Sox fan base. He’d be gibbering along the banks of the Charles by Memorial Day.

And, yes, people up here in Boston do believe they’re the center of the baseball world, thank you for asking. Watch how the Sox come up again in a minute.

There’s no question—at least to me—about for whom to pull in the actual Series. The Florida Marlins—a toy franchise founded 11 minutes ago—are the perfect example of everything that’s gone wrong with baseball under that bratwurst Machiavelli, Bud Selig, and the kabuki “fiscal crisis” that has been the presiding dynamic of his tenure at the head of the game. Consider: The Marlins actually won the World Series in 1997, whereupon owner Wayne Huizenga opened a chop shop. He sold off a championship team piecemeal, and Selig let him do it because Huizenga made all the right noises about how he couldn’t make any money in a “small market” unless Miami ponied up and gave him a new ballpark. Of course, Huizenga owned both the team and the stadium, and he simply assigned revenue from Marlins games to the latter. Which meant that anything Huizenga said about the financial health of the Marlins possessed all the credibility of Kenny Lay’s expense accounts.

Meanwhile, up in Montreal, Jeffrey Loria was in the process of ruining the Montreal Expos. (My favorite move was leaving les Expos without an English-language broadcast outlet for an entire season. Quel dommage! Quelle merde, n’est-ce pas?) He also made demands for a downtown ballpark when he knew he might as well have been asking for a snow-white unicorn to ride to work, and he blamed the Montreal fans for not showing up to watch him run the franchise into the ground.

Based on his track record in Montreal, Loria wouldn’t have gotten past the vetting process to run a Gas ‘n’ Sip in Dothan, Ala. Nevertheless, this grifter somehow managed to remain in such good standing with Commissioner Bud that, in 2001, as part of the three-rail shot by which Selig’s office rigged the sale of the Red Sox (see?), Loria sold the Expos to Major League Baseball itself for $120 million, plus a $38.5 million loan so he could buy the Marlins from their presiding dilettante, John Henry. Henry then used that money to buy his piece of the Red Sox. (This enabled Selig to sign off on the sale of the Boston club to Henry et al. in the face of a higher bid by another prospective ownership group.) Loria departed la belle province in a hail of writs. Fourteen of his minority partners—including the Bronfman family—filed a racketeering suit against him.

And now, his new team’s in the Series. (The truly lunatic part of the story is that Huizenga still owns Pro Player Stadium, and he’s squeezing the Marlins on their lease.) On Saturday, before Game 1, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, Selig told the Palm Beach newspaper: a) that he doesn’t expect another fire sale this time around, despite the fact that the Marlins have 15 players eligible for arbitration and 10 pending free agents; b) that it was “obvious” the team needed a new ballpark; and c) that the success of the Marlins is attributable to the piddling revenue-sharing he put in place after he temporarily abandoned his grand design to bring back a de facto reserve clause two years ago, back when he was talking about chloroforming as many as three existing franchises as a response to the looming fiscal apocalypse. You remember, the one over which Selig found himself on the receiving end of a question that you never want to hear from a member of a congressional committee: “Are you aware, sir, that you’re under oath?”


Go, George.