A conversation about MLB, on the field, off the field.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

From the basement August 12

Been out of town for practically the past 2 weeks. We returned from camping, washed some clothes, went to a baseball game ( thanks a lot to Carl Kiffner for hosting us in his box ), packed up the plantation again and headed for a cottage. My baseball viewing was limited to a few Jays games on CBC the holiday weekend ( no cable at the cottage ) and I gave up listening to the radio broadcasts because the reception was crap. Thankfully there were boxscores in the daily paper and most notably I had the opportunity to read John Helyar's "Lords of the Realm ".


This book is and isn't what I had anticipated. I read this book because the eminence grise of the baseball economics world, Andrew Zimbalist, references it in his book " In the Best Interests of the Game? The Revolutionary Reign of Bud Selig ". If Mr. Zimbalist thinks it worthwhile I am automatically sold.

I assumed that due to Mr. Zimbalist's regard for this book that it would be heavy on the numbers but it isn't. Lords of the Realm is an exhaustive ( 600 + pgs ) look at the formation of the MLBPA and the subsequent labor battles with MLB up to the 94 strike. The focus is as much on the internecine battles amongst the owners during this era as it is on the aforementioned battles between the PA and MLB. Helyar is a former WSJ & Fortune reporter whose beat was pro sports, he knows the turf. He is slumming now at ESPN writing features. His piece on the diminishing number of African Americans in MLB was one of the most thorough I read on the subject and he also had an excellent piece on steroid abuse amongst players in the Dominican Republic this past winter.

The book does cover the changing economics of the industry over this time frame as well as the many legal battles that occurred during this era but it is primarily a detailed indictment of the owners or as Helyar refers to them, "The Lords". Helyar is an unabashed supporter of the players. In his estimation Marvin Miller is the great emancipator and the owners are the plantation owners. He gets a sympathetic ear from me, I have always been in the players' corner on labor matters but even I found his take excessively pro union. ( Zimbalist, Roger Noll & Helyar are all left wing, that's ok, they're exceedingly well informed but where are the dissenting opinions? I'd like to read them...I digress...)

The book also covers the reigns of the Commissioners of this era, Kuhn, Ueberroth, Giamatti, Vincent & Selig ( Selig was the de facto Commissioner post Vincent ), all are portrayed as incompetent and egotistical in varying degrees.

All in all the book is a very entertaining read. It is not a dense, numbers laden tome a la Zimbalist ( i.e. there is no mention of gini coefficients or regression analyses ) but simply an entertaining story populated with heros ( i.e. Miller, Dick Moss, Donald Fehr, Messersmith, Simmons, Hunter, Flood ) and villians ( too numerous but i.e. Walter O'Malley, Gussie Busch, George Steinbrenner) and zany characters ( i.e. Charlie Finley, Roy Hofheinz, Ted Turner, Jerry Kapstein, Howard Spira ).

Read it if you're a geek, you will be well entertained.


755 & 756 were hit while I was void of cable TV and Internet. I'm happy it happened when it did, I missed the great gobs of contrived outrage and moral rectitude that I'm certain spewed forth afterward. Yes he's dirty ( duh ) but get in line. Yes he's an asshole but again get in line. He is the greatest player of the past 20 years. Nonetheless he's gonna get his ass nailed to the wall. George Mitchell will soon be spinning for Bud Selig in every paper and on every TV News broadcast in the US and the Grand Jury investigating perjury charges against Bonds was extended. Radomski, Grimsley, the "anonymous" test results from 03, all this and more is forthcoming and only the proverbial pound of Bonds' flesh will satisfy the moralistic chattering classes...but don't get me started...the owners didn't know...my ass...but don't get me started...McGwire, the All American, caucasian in the extreme, & his "just happy to be here" flag waving, second banana, Garrett Morris like caricature of a black man, Sammy Sosa got free passes from the press and the fans in 98 because it represented a view of their country they enjoyed.....but an arrogant, ungrateful African American.....they don't like that...but don't get me started...I blogged it all this past winter...


I checked the schedule this AM and we're down to 2 homestands and it's over. 15 years of Triple A in my hometown comes to an end Sept 03. The chatter about the Can Am League coming to town has dissipated, more accurately disappeared, I thought all along that Miles Wolff was floating a trial balloon to gauge interest ( there was none amongst anybody I spoke to save for a few other geeks ). At this point I think the crux of the matter is what the city wants to do with the property. My money is on big box, I strongly hope I am wrong.


I read about Shysterball on Rob Neyer's ESPN blog and had some fun correspondence subsequently with the blogger, Craig Calcatterra. Craig's encouragement kick started me to post something during the All Star break and this AM I noticed that he was generous enough to add my blog to his list of links. Thanks Craig, this post is dedicated to you, I wouldn't have bothered had I not visited your blog today. How does a guy named Calcattera know from Yiddish? For that matter how does a guy named Toms? Oy!

1 comment:

Shyster said...

The Yiddish (and it's only a bit!) comes from my paternal grandmother's family, populated by Lazars and Sofferins and all manner of Romanian/Hungarian weirdness.

But be careful: I'm fluent in Canuck as well. Mom's family are Kniffens and Cadieuxs from Sudbury and points east.