I have pretty much gotten all the what’s-the-deal-with-owners ranting out of my system by this point, but the Texas Rangers’ voluntary declaration of bankruptcy today is a nice reminder that hijink-intensive ownership issues are not unique to the NBA. The bankruptcy deal was made necessary by the hilariously thorough mismanagement of former Rangers owner Tom Hicks (above) and his Hicks Sports Group, and is aimed at making easier the team’s planned sale by separating the Rangers’ team debt (roughly $75 million) from that of the Hicks Sports Group (a stunning $250 million); once the Rangers’ debtors are paid off, the sale becomes a snap. (The Hicks Sports Group debt promises to be another, more contentious story) The dramatis personae include all the characters we’ve come to know and loathe over the last couple of years of economic awfulness, from feckless millionaires to avaricious hedge funds to bailout-begging plutocrats, but the ending already seems clear: the Nolan Ryan-headed Ryan Baseball Express Group will likely assume ownership of the Rangers sometime in the next month or so.
At first glance, the Texas Rangers are a highly dysfunctional albatross to Major League Baseball. However, once you can get past the predatory hedge funds and voluntary bankruptcy filing, the Rangers are an attractive commodity. According to Baseball America, the franchise currently ranks second in all of Major League Baseball in organizational talent and are in the midst of modernizing the œMoneyball theory for pitchers. While franchises have become enamored with limiting pitch counts and innings pitched, Nolan Ryan and pitching coach Mike Maddux subscribe to an aggressive philosophy of pitching with its origins deeply rooted in an era dominated by the likes of Koufax, Gibson, Drysdale and Marichal.
Yes, once you get past the hedge funds, the new pitching metrics do look pretty good? Anyway, weird though that graf might be, it’s not necessarily wrong. The Rangers will clearly be in better hands with Ryan than they were with Hicks, who leaves an oil slick of a legacy that may reach its apotheosis in this listing of the Rangers’ creditors. Hicks owes over $24 million to Alex Rodriguez, still, and is $28k in debt to the New Era hat company, but he also owes millions to Mickey Tettleton (who last played for Texas in 1997) and Mark McLemore (who left in 1999), among other ex-players. Incompetence this multifaceted isn’t quite enough to make you pine for the cool competence of a jet-ski obsessed oligarch, but… well, I’m not a Rangers fan. Maybe it is.
It’s not necessarily surprising, the combination of gawking curiosity and giddy suck-uppery with which not-so-faintly sketchy oligarch and new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has been greeted in the United States. Business cycles turn and markets crash and our own indigenous plutocrat class dedicates itself to keeping the kobe beef and helicopter industries afloat and discovering new ways to express their disdain for the multitudes below, but the business pages and opinion columnists just keep on with the Capitalist As Hero/Markets As Democracy stuff, seemingly as much out of force of habit as anything else. It’s not just them, either: our mass culture and politics, left and right, reflects this weird consensus this right back at the opinion makers. There’s a sour churning underneath all plutocrat-positive consensus, and I guess the heightened demands for abasement and schadenfreude in the culture reflect that consensus’ tenuousness. But to look at its bright and unified surface, you’d think that we’ve finally found something everyone can agree on when it comes to sticking up for and sucking up to millionaires.
This the result of years of tireless messaging and cheerleading, of course, with a national sense of history so opportunistic and piss-poor that it allows people to turn Thomas Jefferson into John Galt. But wealth-worship, while a product of all that, also seems simpler than that: it’s a reflex, a distinctly American cultural tic, and while it sometimes seems like we’re in the middle of some cosmic beta-test of just how egregiously our plutocrats can screw things up before we turn on them, the plutocrats have to be encouraged by the fact that we apparently haven’t found the bottom yet. So all the things that are disturbing about Prokhorov — the business dealings with brutal nation-destroying autocrat Robert Mugabe head a longer-than-average list — are naturally subsumed by the soft and fawning stuff; it’s easier that way for all involved.
And Prokhorov is indeed interesting, and can be charming — and he’s kind to freelancers, which I obviously appreciate — but there’s a reason why no one knows much more about him than that, and it’s not just because he has so controlled his media availability. It’s because even when he goes in front of microphones and reporters, no one is really keen on asking him questions with unpleasant answers. That’s left to Internet media-critic cranks and spoilsport congressmen. The rest of us, the assumption seems to be, just want to know what it’s like in Monaco, whether he’s sizing up a new boat purchase, and where he gets those suits, because they look just excellent.
No one’s going to confuse Bill Simmons with Greg Palast, obviously — Simmons is way richer, for one thing, and also has a much higher voice and knows more about the Real World/Road Rules Challenge. But it seems meaningful that Simmons made common cause with the keep-the-Sonics-in-Seattle movement but recently anointed Prokhorov — the guy who’s going to uproot another NBA team, and one of a very few humans more outwardly sketchy than Sonics-stealer Clay Bennett — the most interesting guy in the NBA. Simmons did mention the bribery and sketchiness that define Prokhorov’s early business career, but he tucked it all in down around the 5,000-word mark, well after the fun stuff about “cavorting” with Russian models and how much money Prokhorov blows on the regular and Prokhorov’s jet-ski fetish. The Sports Bro knows, as he must, that while you can ice a bro, you should not bum out a bro with depressing, negative libtard stuff like that.
So, yeah: half the commentariat is sucking Prokhorov for his outlandish wealth and the rest is doing it because he’s got more personality than the average billionaire, and we get… the same article, over and over. Everyone’s who’s supposed to be asking questions is just so charisma-drunk and moony-eyed over Prokhorov’s money that they forgot why they were even at the press conference and hey are they bringing out more hors d’oeuvres? But let me belatedly disengage the Dave Zirin Lock on my keyboard here and pose a practical question about Prokhorov that I hadn’t read until today: does this guy know or care anything about basketball, or the NBA? The Newark Star-Ledger’s resident American hero, Dave D’Alessandro actually bothered both to ask the question and answer it. Thusly: “To put it politely, with the possible exception of Sean Williams, the Russian gentleman is as ignorant as anyone we™ve ever encountered that had some connection “ big or small “ to the NBA,” D’Alessandro writes.
When it comes to the NBA “ the game itself, its culture, its people, its place in the American soul “ this guy had about as much knowledge as one can fit in an average thimble. And nobody else seems to give a damn about this, which we find a bit strange.
Put it this way: If we gave him a pop quiz the other day during that media brunch, he would have smiled and charmed and changed the subject, which is understandable.
We did, in fact, ask him how many playoff games he™s watched on TV this spring, he said (reluctantly) œtwo or three. We asked him how many regular season games he watched, he guessed 10. We asked him if he™s ever met any NBA player, he honestly admitted, “No.” He casually mentioned the names of five Nets “ including some guys named œTerry Williams and œYi Player “ and seemed proud of his ability to do that…
Look, we™re not saying he has to master the seven ways to defend screen/roll by training camp. But he™s had nine months to learn the last name of his starting center, and somebody really needs to tell him that it is not œLupus.
The whole article is worth reading, if only for D’Alessandro’s priceless transcription of Prokhorov’s grandiose, filibustering answer to a simple basketball question. Overall, though, it’s so good as to be difficult to excerpt. I give it two Trembling Angry Left-Wing Sports Blogger thumbs-up, and thank commenter JC for the link.
Between now and June 24, the NBA prospects of everyone from Kentucky PG John Wall to Serbian C Boban Marjanovic (above) will be hotly debated and dissected. It’s a fun process — especially when small fractions of signing bonuses are already committed to the planet’s ugliest suits for draft night — but there are bigger questions raised than, say, “can Donatas Montijuana develop as a perimeter shooter?” Ben Polk of A Wolf Among Wolves calls the draft, “(one of) the most uniquely un-free labor practices imaginable in a free-market democracy” (“when it comes to the NBA draft, the dictates of employer need, inter-league parity and the chance movements of ping-pong balls trump freedom of employment every time.”)
Players are essentially consenting to become commodities. They are referred to as œassets and œpieces, and are bought, sold and traded as such. The movements and labors of their bodies are known as œthe product, and their inner lives deemed valuable only in the extent that they can a) foster their teams™ production or b) be packaged into digestible, televisable bits. And if the life of ease and comfort that all that money promises turns out to be a little more elusive than originally imagined (spying Mo Williams™s acrostic œNBA: Never Broke Again tattoo, one can only cross one™s fingers), it™s partially because the league™s investment ends when the player is finally physically unable to perform (it could be worse, though“just check out the NFL).
In many ways, the draft is a young fella™s initiation into this rather unpalatable system of exchange. Bodies are examined, categorized and bisected. Actions are dissolved into statistics and compartmentalized into video montages. Psychologies are expertly analyzed based on a precise algorithm of hearsay and casual TV watching.
“We allow them (NBA rookies) to become consumer items in order to feed our dreams of a better tomorrow,” writes Polk, and while it seems very difficult to envision there was once a moment where Bryant Reeves was a consumer item, I assure you, it really happened.
In 1996, we were playing in Toledo. He and I were starters and it was our day to chart in the stands. He was on the radar gun and I had the pitcher’s chart. When we reached our seats, he popped open the radar gun case. There was no gun. Just a jar of mayonnaise, a loaf of bread, a butter knife and a note that said, “In case you get hungry”. He was so angry. He refused to go back to the clubhouse to get the radar gun. He sat there for two innings fuming until he finally broke down and went and got it. Of course, he filled out the entire chart, he just made up the velocity of the pitches for the first two innings.
Former Mets/Twins P Jerry Koosman is currently serving a 5 month sentence for tax evasion in a Duluth, MN federal prison. As you might expect, he’s in no rush to chat about the glamorous inmate lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean he can’t look forward to vists from his close friend and orthopedist Bob Meisterling…who is all too quick to spill the beans to the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Charley Walters :
Koosman, who won two World Series games for the 1969 champion New York “Miracle Mets” and another for the Mets in the 1973 World Series, arises each day about 6 a.m., plays some bridge, goes to breakfast, then begins his prison job as a sweeper.
Koosman’s first job at the prison was as a regular sweeper. Pay: $5.50 per month. Then he was promoted to chief sweeper and received a $2.75 per month increase.
Of the sweeper promotion, Meisterling said Koosman told him that’s when he knew he had become more important because it was then that he had been assigned an assistant sweeper, a trainee.
Koosman has lost 10 pounds during his prison stay. He coaches a softball team there and jokes that he volunteers to retrieve foul balls that sail over the fences.
During his visit, Koosman told Meisterling, “The experience you get up here is worth a million dollars. But you couldn’t pay me a million dollars to come and do it again.”
(WS’ Glanville. He’ll be watching the World Cup on TV, thanks)
We’re less than 3 weeks away from the launch of the 2010 World Cup and while the decision to hold the tournament in South Africa was made more than 6 years ago, it’s a hotly debated topic to this day. Especially, it seems, in the hallways of the London-based World Soccer, whose 164 page tournament preview issue includes the following bon mots from a pair of the magazine’s better known columnists :
“It is the first time Africa has hosted anything of this magnitude, with South Africa having to overcome deep skepticism from many quarters — including some venerable, veteran observers of the game — and an unfair hostility that is based on little evidence but geography.” — Mark Gleeson, page 4
“Good luck to all media people and fans who are going to risk being there, doubtless heeding the advice never to stop at red lights if driving —would you prefer to be mugged or pranged — never to take the train and not to go on buses. The murder rate at the moment is a mere one every half hour, so you may well be one of the lucky ones.” — Brian Glanville, page 12
Most recently on the roster of the Golden League’s Edmonton Capitals, Lima’s journey had taken him thru the Dominican, Mexican and Korean baseball circuits. Reliably quotable, Lima’s disastrous 4 starts during two tenures with the Mets in 2006 come to mind almost every time a Mets starter hits the DL. For perhaps the first time, I am truly sorry Lima Time will not be available.
“First of all, there’s nobody that plays harder than Nyjer Morgan in the big leagues,” said Josh Willingham, whose two-run homer in the third tied the game at 2. “The only thing from my perspective that he did was he assumed that the ball went over the fence, obviously. But it was pretty helpless from my situation because I saw the ball on the ground and was pointing and yelling, but he didn’t see me or couldn’t see me. I just continued to run and picked it up.”
Said first baseman Adam Dunn, whose two-run single in the sixth put Washington ahead to stay. “He’s an emotional guy. I don’t think that’s anything but that. I think his emotions took over. He doesn’t make very many mistakes. I wouldn’t call it a mistake. He’s just an emotional guy, and you take the good with the bad.”
Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman said his initial reaction was to remove Morgan from the game following the misplay but he reconsidered for several reasons, including a thinning roster after starting catcher Ivan Rodriguez left in the third inning with stiffness in his lower back.
“My first instinct was to take him out of the ballgame,” Riggleman said, “and then I realized, you know what, he thinks the ball went over the fence. He thought that he knocked it over the fence, and it’s a home run, and he’s showing frustration. That doesn’t excuse it, and I don’t want it perceived as an excuse, but it explains it…”
They are tired of him. I don’t know any other way to put it. His body language on the mound had been terrible in recent weeks. When he thought a defensive play hadn’t been made, he let that player know.
When Brad Mills called a team meeting to address team unity several weeks ago, I’m pretty sure Oswalt was at least one of the reasons. He appeared to have shown up a teammate on the field. Even if he didn’t, some of his teammates thought he did.
This baseball team is filled with professionals. They are people easy to root for. Lance Berkman. Geoff Blum. Jeff Keppinger. Hunter Pence. There’s something good going on in terms of chemistry and leadership and all of that. They pull for one another.
For whatever reason, Oswalt had decided he doesn’t want to be part of this group any longer. And if you’re one of his teammates, if you’ve busted your butt to get him victories, Oswalt’s I-want-out attitude will not sit well with some. He doesn’t want to be here? To hell with him then.