How about order in (Astros) court

Baseball must now understand:?It has become a punch line

Rob Manfred’s actions regarding baseball’s latest scandal mirrored the country’s attempts to quarantine the coronavirus, a pathetic attempt to prevent the spread of his sport’s contagion from infecting spring training games where fans lather themselves in SPF-50 then fork over top dollar to watch Yasiel Puig re-tie his shoelaces before exiting around the third inning.

What if loyal season ticketholders convened in the court of public opinion and put the national pastime on trial to ridicule Manfred’s decision?

Here is a partial transcript of that trial. Let it serve to shed appropriate hypocritical light on this fiasco.

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Courtroom officer: All rise. This is case 123456789 “The People v. Major League Baseball,” the honorable Houston U. Gottaproblem presiding.

Judge: Are The People prepared to make an opening statement?

Prosecution: Your honor, baseball fans seek justice regarding Robert Manfred’s abject handling of the sign-stealing scheme. Sworn testimony will bring to light the true impact of this scandal.

Judge: Proceed with your first witness.

Prosecution: I call Joseph Girardi to the stand.

Prosecution: Mr. Girardi, you began managing the New York Yankees in 2007. As recently as 2013 you signed a four-year contract extension worth $16 million to continue doing so, correct?

Girardi: Correct.

Prosecution: An average salary of $4 million per year.

Girardi: That’s what my agent tells me.

Prosecution: 2017 was your final year managing the Yankees. That year your team was eliminated by the Astros four games to three in the American League Championship Series. Where did the Yankees lose those four games?

Girardi: We lost all four games on the road. In Houston.

Prosecution: How many runs did the Astros score in the three games played at Yankee Stadium?

Girardi: A total of five runs.

Prosecution: And how many runs did they score in the games played in Houston?

Girardi: Fifteen.

Prosecution: What would have happened had your team had won any of the games played in Houston?

Girardi: We would have advanced to play in the World Series.

Prosecution: Had your team advanced to the World Series, would you have been offered another contract extension say, a three-year deal, for around $15 million?

Girardi: No doubt in my mind.

Prosecution: No further questions.

Judge: Call your next witness.

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Prosecution: We call Yankees’ owner Hal Steinbrenner to the stand.

Prosecution: Mr. Steinbrenner can you approximate how much additional money your organization would have generated had it advanced to the 2017 World Series?

Steinbrenner: Well, we would have sold about 50,000 tickets for each of the three home games at an average price of around $400 per ticket so that would have generated $60 million. We always jack up our parking rates for the playoffs to an average of $50 per car so, assuming 20,000 cars per game, that’s an additional $30 million.

Prosecution: So, the combined revenue of ticket sales and parking for three World Series games in New York would be around $90 million?

Steinbrenner: And that doesn’t include concessions, souvenirs, cable television and advertising.

Prosecution: The fines assessed by Commissioner Manfred total $5 million. Based on the witness testimony we have heard the true figure is far more substantial. The league owes Joe Girardi $15 million and Hal Steinbrenner around $90 million. No further questions.

Judge: The witness is excused.

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Prosecution: We now call two members of the Astros who are the prime benefactors of this scheme. We call outfielder George Springer to the stand. (Springer, swinging a weighted bat in on-deck circle near the jurors, puts down the bat and is sworn in).

Prosecution: Mr. Springer, you have been with the Houston Astros’ since 2015.

Springer: Affirmative.

Prosecution: During the 2016 season, you hit 29 home runs and batted .261.

Springer: That’s what my baseball card says.

Prosecution: However, the following season you set a personal career high with 34 home runs and a .283 average despite 96 fewer plate appearances. How is this possible?

Springer: Clean living?

Judge: Overruled.

Prosecution: No further questions.

Judge: Call your next witness.

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Prosecution: The People call Marwin Gonzalez to the stand (Gonzalez stands, removes batting gloves and elbow brace and is sworn in).

Prosecution: Mr. Gonzalez, you never hit more than 13 home runs or drove in more than 51 runs in any of your 12 previous seasons in baseball prior to 2017.

Gonzalez: That sounds about right.

Prosecution: But in 2017, you hit 23 home runs, drove in 90 runs and hit .300 despite 29 fewer at bats than in 2016. Why the dramatic improvement?

Gonzalez: Well, I do like making the choo-choo go around the top of the stadium.

Prosecution: No further questions.

Judge: The witness is excused. In the best interest of time, specifically my afternoon tee time, I will allow one final witness.

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Prosecution: Your honor, we call Astros manager A.J. Hinch to the stand.

Prosecution: Mr. Hinch, during your time with the Astros, do you feel your players followed your orders?

Hinch: Always.

Prosecution: Then why did the sign-stealing occur?

Hinch: Sometimes men take matters into their own hands.

Prosecution: No, sir. You made it clear your players never do. Your men follow orders or the Astros lose.

Hinch: You snotty little bastard.

Astros’ Jeff Luhnow: Your Honor, I ask for a recess.

Judge: The court will wait for an answer.

Prosecution: If Beltran banged the garbage can to indicate Sabathia was throwing a curve then why did Altuve wear a wire? Beltran stole signs because that’s what you told him to do.

Luhnow: Object!

Prosecution: And when it went bad, you signed a phony lineup card and doctored your scorebook.

Prosecution: Why did you order the sign stealing?

Judge: You don’t have to answer that question!

Hinch: I’ll answer the question. You want answers?

Prosecution: I think fans are entitled.

Hinch: You want answers?

Prosecution: Fans want the truth!

Hinch: They can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has outfield fences and those fences have to be guarded by men with gloves. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Mr. Luhnow? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. And my existence, while grotesque, wins games. You don’t want the truth, because deep down in places you don’t talk about at the winter meetings you want me in that dugout, you need me in that dugout. We use words like “sacrifice,” bunt, squeeze play.” We use these words as the backbone of a life spent playing baseball. You use them on your scorecard. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who sleeps under the blanket of the entertainment that I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said “thank you,” and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a rosin bag and toe the rubber. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think fans are entitled to.

Prosecution: Did you order the sign stealing?

Hinch: You’re goddamn right I did!

Prosecution: I suggest the ballplayers be dismissed. The witness has rights.

Judge: The members of the jury will retire until further instructed.

Hinch: What the hell is this? Judge, what’s going on? I did my job; I’d do it again. I’m going back to Minute Maid Park.

Judge: You’re not going anywhere. Umpires guard the witness.

Hinch: What the hell is this? I’m being charged with a crime? This is funny, that’s what this is?

Judge: Manager Hinch, do you understand your rights?

Hinch: You frigging people. You have no idea how to manage a ballclub. All you did was weaken a division. You put players’ livelihoods in danger. Sweet dreams, son.

Prosecution: Don’t call me son. I’m a fan who pays outrageous prices for box seats, and you’re out of a job.

Bill Contz was a starting offensive tackle on Penn State’s first national championship football team in 1982 and went on to play six seasons in the NFL with New Orleans and Cleveland. Contz published a book in 2017, “When the Lions Roared: Joe Paterno and One of College Football’s Greatest Teams.” He resides in Pittsburgh.


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