By Murray Chass

February 23, 2012

News Item: Cubs, Red Sox agree; Selig still has no San Jose decision

Now that the Cubs and the Red Sox have relieved Bud Selig of the burden they placed on him by asking him to determine appropriate compensation for Theo Epstein, maybe the commissioner can decide a weightier matter – the dispute between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants over the status of San Jose.selig4-225

Just about three years have passed since Selig appointed a committee to study the San Jose situation, which should be more than enough time for any man who wants to make a decision to decide what his decision is.

Selig, however, is at his best when he is avoiding decisions, hoping that others will resolve the issues, as the Cubs and the Red Sox did months after asking him to decide whom the Cubs should give the Red Sox for allowing Epstein to leave Boston with a year left on his contract to became president of baseball operations for Chicago’s North Side team.

Following the announcement that the Red Sox would receive a relief pitcher, Chris Carpenter, the commissioner issued a statement, saying, “I am pleased that the Cubs and the Red Sox have resolved this matter.  It has always been my preference that Clubs resolve matters like this amongst themselves, as they understand their unique circumstances better than anyone else could. Though the matter required time, both Clubs demonstrated professionalism throughout their discussions, and I appreciate their persistence in finding common ground.”

Is Selig demonstrating professionalism by letting the Athletics twist in the wind? I would say he’s demonstrating irresponsible and amateur avoidance. Selig always says he’d rather take his time and get it right than rush into a decision. Three years, however, doesn’t constitute rushing.

Voters are asked to choose a president every four years. Surely, the commissioner can choose the A’s or the Giants after three years. Selig hasn’t made a decision because he doesn’t want to make a decision. He wants the A’s and the Giants to work it out between them so he doesn’t have to decide and alienate one of them.

The teams, however, can’t reach an agreement if they don’t talk to each other, and for a long time now the Giants haven’t returned the A’s calls. It’s an arrogance that should be enough for the commissioner to show the A’s the way to San Jose and tell the Giants “you blew your opportunity to keep that area in your territory.”

Commissioners often talk about and make decisions based on the best interests of baseball. Allowing the A’s to move to San Jose would clearly be in the best interests of baseball. The team is dying in Oakland.

Last season the Athletics had the smallest attendance in the majors, failing to reach 1.5 million. The Giants, third in the majors, drew more than twice that many fans. In 2007, the Giants finished last in their division and drew 3.2 million. The Athletics have the most meager revenue in the majors; the Giants rank fifth.

Would taking San Jose and its entire county, Santa Clara, from the Giants undermine those numbers? That’s what the Giants claim, but it’s an empty argument. The Giants don’t talk about the additional fans and revenue they would inherit from the Athletics’ absence in the Bay area.

I don’t know what the commissioner’s three-man committee has found about the Oakland effect on the Giants in its three-year study, but I would guess the loss of Santa Clara County would be offset by the gain of Oakland.

But then, that’s probably something the committee is still studying and accounts for the continued delay in the commissioner’s decision. At the owners’ meeting last month Selig said he was close to making a decision.

Years ago a writer friend wrote that the Yankees were on the verge of making a particular trade. As it turned out, they didn’t make it for many months. Ah ha, my friend proclaimed, defending his report, they have created a new definition of “on the verge.”

The commissioner has created a new definition of “close.”

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News Item: Athletics sign Manny

Manny Ramirez7 150Manny who? Oh, that Manny.

There is, course only one Manny. Sure, we had Manny Sanguillen, Manny Trillo, Manny Mota, Manny Alexander, Manny Sarmiento, Manny Acosta, Manny Aybar and the manager Manny Acta. But if you say Manny, no one will think you mean anyone but that Manny.

Ramirez is back, or will be back once he serves a 50-game suspension, and the Athletics have him. Why would they want him? People have asked that question. But I ask another one. Why not?

Ramirez comes to the A’s cost effective. His gross salary is $500,000, but subtracting the pay from his 50-game suspension he winds up with a net of about $345,000. Even the cash-strapped A’s can afford that.

If Ramirez shows he can still hit productively, he will be worth the gamble. If he can no longer hit, it will be no loss because there are plenty of aging players who can no longer hit. Ramirez would just be one more at little cost.

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News Item:  War of Twits Erupts

Somehow I can’t see Red Smith demeaning himself by engaging in a childish Internet spat the way Richard Sandomir did recently. Smith, in my opinion, was the best sports columnist who ever put pen or typewriter key to paper. Sandomir is a mediocre, at best, television and sports business writer for The New York Times, the newspaper with which Smith finished his career.Richard Sandomir

As reported by, Sandomir last week engaged in a debate of twits – maybe that should be a Twitter debate—with Darren Rovell of CNBC about a report of an agreement between MSG and Time Warner. This is what passes for news – and exclusive news at that – in the world of television sports reporting.

Sandomir and Rovell spent more time than anyone could care tweeting at each other about the report, which Sandomir apparently had first.

These were some of the tweets as reported by

Rovell: “Confirmed @RichSandomir’s report on MSG-TWC deal.”

Sandomir: “@darrenrovell Gee, thanks! You confirmed a solid story that didn’t need your confirming. You’re so keen.”

Rovell: “@RichSandomir how much credit are u looking for? I was driving in my car and Francesa didn’t have the courtesy to credit u.”

Sandomir: “@darrenrovell When you say ‘confirmed,’ it sounds as if it’s not official until you say it. Can’t you just RT?”

Rovell: “Thats what I have to do if I don’t report it.”

Sandomir: “@darrenrovell I don’t want ur credit if it means you ‘confirmed’ it; that’s gauche; means my work needs your imprimatur.It doesn’t.”

Rovell: “Noted. Wont credit you anytime you report something before me.”

This silliness has nothing to do with baseball, but I mention it because the Times’ twit is the reporter who last July created his own – fictional – version of baseball history, crediting Curt Flood’s lawsuit and Catfish Hunter’s breach-of-contract grievance for the creation of free agency. That’s the sort of things twits do.

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