Nats Post-mortem: An Explosion of Implosion

September 30th, 2015 sendarama Posted in baseball | No Comments »

He may go down as the most reviled Nat ever, but you’ve got to give Jonathan Papelbon some credit. He did what a season’s worth of bad decisions, inept play, and bullpen mismanagement could not make certain.

He got Matt Williams fired.

Williams is general manager Mike Rizzo’s guy. They worked together in the Arizona organization and Rizzo developed a liking for the taciturn “Big Marine.” Williams was NL manager of the year in 2014 and despite his horrendous performance in last year’s playoffs against the Giants, the Nats in February executed their option on Williams’ services for 2016. And Rizzo didn’t sound like he wanted to fire Williams. Just three weeks ago, after yet another game blown by the relievers, Rizzo described Williams’ handling of the bullpen as “masterful.”

During August and September, the Nats played twelve games against the Mets (6), the Cardinals (3), and the Orioles (3) which were arguably significant. In ten of them, the Nats were either tied or leading entering the seventh inning. The Nats won one and lost eleven. In most of the losses, questionable decision-making by Williams figured prominently.

He could do nothing right. Against the Mets 7/31-8/2, in the series which cost the Nats first place, he failed to use either Papelbon or Drew Storen in three tight losses. Against St. Louis in early September, he brought woeful Casey Janssen back for consecutive poundings which cost two games. Against the Mets on September 7th, he left Max Scherzer in too long. The following night, he yanked J. Zimmerman too soon, after 5.2 innings of 3-hit ball and a manageable pitch count. His replacements promptly surrendered a 7-1 lead in an 8-7 loss.

With apologies to James Russell Lowell, what is so rare as a reliever who can pitch a clean seventh inning?

“Bullpen Implodes Again” became a standing headline in Washington Post game accounts

MacMillan defines “Implosion” as an inward explosion. The word is more aptly used to describe what goes on in Williams’ mind as he makes one bad decision after another. All year long, the Nats have failed to move runners, botched sacrifices, made critical fielding errors, and run themselves out of big innings. A manager must be held accountable when a team is deficient in fundamentals. Williams’ bungling has not been limited to the bullpen.

To make matters worse, Williams could not or would not explain his looney decision-making. “We’ve just got to win tomorrow,” was his robotic mantra to reporters after losses.

A baseball fan since the 50′s, I cannot recall a manager whose job was threatened because he made terrible in-game decisions. I guess it’s because most managers who reach the major leagues have managed at other levels and have learned game management. Not so Williams, who never managed prior to being hired by Rizzo.

When I broached the subject of Williams being fired to colleagues after the recent Mets series, at least half of them opined that he would hold on to his job. In the aftermath of the dugout brawl in the home half of the 8th inning Sunday between Papelbon and Bryce Harper, in which Papelbon choked Harper in full view of the cameras, the climate has changed. The fight evidently caught everyone’s attention but Williams, who sent Papelbon back to the mound to start the ninth inning. Papelbon was rocked for five runs.

Papelbon embraces Harper

There was prelude to the scuffle, and some irony. Papelbon would not have been playing had he not appealed his 3-game suspension for throwing at Manny Machado last week. And Harper had taken exception to Papelbon’s head-hunting. “They’ll probably hit me tomorrow,” he said. To the bombastic Papelbon, who has a well-earned reputation as a bad apple, these were fighting words. When Harper failed to run out a fly ball on Sunday, Papelbon imploded. The brawl ensued.

When Rizzo brought Papelbon in at the trade deadline to supplant Drew Storen as closer, there was speculation that Papelbon’s arrival would disrupt team unity. Storen was having a good year and was popular with teammates. But during Papelbon’s two months with the team, during which he performed poorly, he has been more than disruptive. He has shattered the careers of Rizzo, Storen, and Williams, as well as his own, and has contributed mightily to the perception of the Nats as choking dogs.

Rizzo will long be lampooned for acquiring Papelbon. Storen, who broke his hand against his locker in frustration after a string of failures following the trade, is discredited. Williams, as noted, will be fired at year’s end. Papelbon is under contract next year for 11 million, but after that, he’ll be lucky to find employment as a bouncer.

After the game, William advanced the incredible notion that he didn’t see the fight and hadn’t been aware of the severity of the struggle. Had he known the details, he said, he wouldn’t have sent Papelbon back out. More likely, Williams was overwhelmed by the confluence of events, lost his train of thought, and did what he usually does at crunch time – the wrong thing.

Nats fans who have followed the team closely knew Williams had to go. For getting it done, Papelbon is entitled to a thank you note. But mail it soon. Because if one thing is certain other than Williams’ ouster, it’s that Papelbon, despite the 11 million, will be getting a new address.

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The Big Kaminsky

March 6th, 2015 sendarama Posted in college basketball | No Comments »

Frank Kaminsky, the do-it-all 7′, 242 lb. senior center on 6th ranked Wisconsin, averaged three ppg as a freshman and sophomore on 8.9 minutes of playing time. As a junior, Frank dramatically raised his game and averaged 14 points and six rebounds as the cornerstone of the Final Four bound Badgers. As a senior, “He’s the best player in the country,” said Tom Izzo after The Big Kaminsky torched Izzo’s Spartans for 31 points on senior day in Madison last Sunday.

If ever there was an argument for a young college player who’s a pro prospect to spend an extra year or two in school to refine/develop his skills, it is Frank Kaminsky. In the course of four years, Kaminsky transformed himself from an awkward, skinny bench player to a multi-faceted, dominating big man. His father referred to him as a “goof who had to find his own way.” Now, far removed from his goofy days, he’s a certain first team All-American at center and the likely Player of the Year. Kaminsky is the only major conference player to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, and FG percentage. He shoots 75% from the charity line and over 40% from afar. What’s left?

Jerian Grant of Notre Dame and Rakeem Christmas of Syracuse also broke out in their last year of eligibility. Grant was suspended for the second half of last season, and the Irish plunged to 15-17 without him. The episode left a bad taste, and Grant, a freshman redshirt, returned to ND for his fourth year on the roster and fifth year in college. The extra seasoning was helpful. Grant is the unquestioned leader of the 25-5 Irish, and will be a top five pick in the 2015 NBA draft.

Christmas’s senior year leap was even more pronounced. After averaging 2.8, 5.1, and 5.8 pts/game, respectively, in three years as a starter in a star-studded line-up, the 6’9″, 250 lb Christmas became the go-to guy on a Syracuse squad that was bedeviled by injuries (DaJuan Coleman, Chris McCullough) and the premature defections to the NBA of Tyler Ennis and Jerian Grant’s younger brother, Jeriam. With renewed confidence and a jump hook to die for, Christmas is among the ACC leaders in scoring and rebounding.

But for every Kaminsky, Grant or Christmas, there are ten knuckleheads who left college early and are now buried on an NBA bench, laboring in the D league, or playing abroad. Jeriam Grant and Ennis certainly would have benefited from another year of college, and whatever happened to Derrick Williams?

So it’s no surprise that today’s college game is bereft of household names. The average fan must scramble to name even five collegiate stars, let alone an all-american or all- conference team. Fan identification is one of the biggest casualties of the one-and-done rule, which should be changed to a two-year college commitment. Still, the basketball purist can find solace, and familiarity, in the ever-increasing number of squads who are relying on third and fourth year players to fuel championship runs. Kaminsky’s Wisconsin and veteran-studded Virginia are well-equipped to challenge Kentucky for this year’s NCAA crown.

Frank Kaminsky using the left hand against Michigan State Sunday

Kaminsky evokes a bygone age. His looks and skill set are remindful of some great white players out of the past. In facial appearance and with the push shot, he conjures up Dolph Schayes. His all-round game and ubiquitous presence are reminiscent of Rick Barry. As a passer from the high or low post, he looks like Bill Walton.

But there’s nothing old-fashioned in the multiple ways he fills up a stat sheet. Like Dirk Nowitzki, Kaminsky can shoot from mid-range or deep and can finish at the rim with either hand. As a slasher, he’s Keith Van Horn. Add it up, though, and the sum total of his moves is pure Frank Kaminsky.

Kaminsky is in constant motion on the court. At the beginning of a possession, he’ll set a pick, then he’ll slide to the top of the foul line where he can receive a pass and become the point center. From there, he can hit the cutter, shoot, or drive to the hoop for an awkward, but highly effective 5-footer. There is no wasted movement. Hardly a Wisconsin basket occurs without some involvement by Kaminsky.

And Kaminsky has a wonderful supporting cast. The Badgers lack the height and muscle of Kentucky, but they are big enough, smart enough, and deep enough to give the Wildcats a struggle. Wisconsin leads the nation in offensive efficiency (points/possession), in fewest fouls committed (12/game), in fewest turnovers, and in most foul shots made relative to their opponent. Defensively, they relinquish only 56 ppg and enjoy a margin of victory of 15 pts/game in the tough Big Ten. “We’ve got five guys that can score on the court, and we’re unselfish,” noted second-best player Sam Decker.

But despite the Badgers’ balance and Final Four experience, it all comes down to Kaminsky. In their one outing this year without him, when Kaminsky was sidelined with concussion symptoms, Wisconsin lost 62-67 to lowly Rutgers.

It’s not clear how well Kaminsky’s skills translate to the NBA, where he lacks the girth to play center and may not be quick enough to guard some of the mobile power 4′s. But as a college player, he’s the nuts.

He’s The Big Kaminsky.

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Dolan to Knicks Fans: You Dont Matter (SIC)

February 11th, 2015 sendarama Posted in pro basketball | No Comments »

For years, I’ve been preaching the benefits of good grammar to an unreceptive audience.

Linguistic markers, I call them, can brand you as a bright, communicative individual with an attention to detail or as a second-tier intellect who may be careless in other matters.

My obsession with grammar has won few converts, and a lot of negative feedback; but it came in handy recently when my e-mail was hacked. The hacker, in a grammatically flawed e-mail, requested that money be sent immediately to bail me out of a tight spot in the Philippines. My good friend Karen replied , “I was about to cut you a check, but when I noted the bad grammar, I knew it was bogus.”

But James N. Dolan, the embattled owner of the New York Knicks, has given new life to my position.

Dolan is universally regarded as the worst owner in the NBA, and is high on the list of most polls of the Worst Owner in Sports (move over, Dan Snyder). Since he was handed stewardship of the Knicks in 1999 by his father Charles P. Dolan, owner of Cablevision, the once-proud franchise has suffered a series of indignities, culminating in its current 10-42 win-loss record.

When 74 year old Irving Bierman, a Knicks fan since 1952, suggested in a recent e-mail that Dolan had done “a lot of utterly stupid business things with the franchise,” and should resign, Dolan responded with this typo-laden e-mail, which Bierman’s son made public:

“You are a sad person. Why would anybody write such a hateful letter. I am just guessing, but ill bet your life is a mess and you are a hateful mess. What have you done that anyone would consider positive or nice. I am betting nothing. In fact ill bet you are negative force in everyone who comes in contact with you. You most likely have made your family miserable. Alcoholic maybe. I just celebrated my 21 year anniversary of sobriety. You should try it. Maybe it will help you become a person that folks would like to have around. In the mean while, start rooting for the Nets because the Knicks don’t want you.”

Knicks owner James N. Dolan

My initial reactions were the following. First, where was Dolan when his third-grade teacher was discussing punctuation? Second, if Dolan is a model of sobriety, then please pass the tequila. And third, this is what happens when you don’t practice good grammar as a youth—you grow up to be a fat, mindless, ill-tempered ex-drunk who just happens to own one of sport’s most historic franchises.

Upon further reflection, I wondered whether NBA commissioner Adam Silver would sanction Dolan for his vituperative response to the legitimate complaint of a life-long fan. Even a liberal-leaning expert on the First Amendment, if a Knicks fan, would have taken no offense if Silver had handed down a suspension or at least a verbal reprimand. And why not? Silver booted Donald Sterling out of the league for private comments made to a self-promoting ex-lover, and recently fined Chris Paul for suggesting that female referee Lauren Holtkamp should consider a new career.

But Silver responded meekly, “Jim is a consummate New Yorker. Jim got an unkind e-mail and responded with an unkind e-mail.”

One possible explanation for Silver’s lame response is that he was mindful of Dolan’s lead role as host of the NBA all-star game, which will be played in New York this weekend. But in avoiding that embarrassment, he has exposed himself to the charge that he is administering uneven treatment, and is insensitive to the plight of long-suffering fans.

But that is the price you pay when you hold yourself out as an arbiter of people’s thoughts and words. Take it from a member of the grammar police.

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NFL Fumbles on Catch Rule

January 16th, 2015 sendarama Posted in pro football | 1 Comment »

Dez Bryant at the end of the play

Odell Beckham, Jr’s reign as maker of the Greatest Catch Ever was about seven weeks and two hours old when Dez Bryant threatened to usurp him.

Beckham’s back flipping, one-handed grab of an Eli Manning aerial on 11/23 against the Cowboys was widely hailed as the greatest catch of all time. Nobody had ever seen that kind of catch before. But the impact of the stunning grab was to the senses only. Beckham’s second quarter touchdown did not avoid the Giants’ 28-31 loss, their sixth straight, which Bryant sealed for the Cowboys with his second touchdown catch of the day with 1:01 remaining.

The stakes were a lot higher last Sunday in the NFC playoffs when on fourth and two from the Packers 34 with 4:42 to go, trailing 21-26, Cowboy quarterback Romo launched a 30-yard spiral towards the left sideline to Bryant, who was closely guarded by Sam Shields. Bryant made a terrific leaping catch at the eight yard line, turned in mid air, planted his left, then right foot, and then drove off his left leg to the end zone while switching the ball from his right to left hand. When Bryant’s left hand hit the ground just short of the goal line, the ball came loose momentarily, and Bryant secured it. The ruling on the field was a completed catch, and a Dallas first down at the one.

When the catch occurred, few questioned it, least of all the announcers, who were dumbfounded by Bryant’s athleticism and made no mention of the ball coming loose. Perhaps they were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the play, which was described by Sally Jenkins in Tuesday’s Washington Post: “Bryant’s catch was such an act of vaulting physical genius that for a moment it shook off all earthbound anxieties.”

So much had occurred between the catch and the ball’s dislodgment: Bryant had landed both feet in bounds, taken an additional step, switched the ball into his left hand, and then dove to the end zone. At worst, we had a catch, and maybe a fumble, recovered by Bryant. Beckham tweeted his agreement. “I thought Bryant made the catch, then went towards the end zone for a touchdown, lost the ball, and then recovered it.”

It was a surprise when perspicacious Packer Coach Mike McCarthy requested a review of the play, and an absolute shock when the referees reversed the catch. The reason offered was that Bryant had not maintained possession of the football “through the entire process of the catch.”

The ruling stems from Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3 of the NFL Rule book, which states, “If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass, he must maintain control of the ball through the process of contacting the ground.” But the same section provides: “ A catch occurs when a player secured control of the ball in his hands, and has maintained control of the ball long enough to enable him to perform any act common to the game.”

Bryant took three steps after making the catch and lunged to the end zone. Later, Referee Gene Steratore said, “ Bryant’s actions after the catch were all done while falling, and he never had another act common to the game.” NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino said, “We need control with both feet and then (the receiver) do something with it.”

I can’t define “an act common to the game,” but I do know that when a receiver takes a step, switches the ball into another hand, and dives to the end zone, then he is “doing something.”

The rule was introduced a few years ago to eliminate the need to determine whether a player had full possession before reaching the ground. But when a player continues to push forward after making a catch, without breaking clear of his tackler, the referee must be able to draw a line between the catch and the fall. To the dismay of everyone but Packers fans, the officiating crew on Sunday did not do so.

Bryant had trumped Beckham‘s great catch, on November 23, and now the referees had trumped Bryant.

Bryant could not believe it. For a very long moment, he plaintively extended his hands face up to the sky, and asked the world for justice. But he wasn’t getting it from the 80,000 Lambeau Field attendants, who could not believe their good fortune.

Bryant has had a troubled past – born to a 14 year old crack addict, arrested for domestic abuse, and branded as a hothead for most of his early career – but it’s doubtful that he’s ever felt more abused by the system than when his magnificent moment was snuffed out on a technicality.

The call, of course, was outcome-determinative. The Packers took over at the 34 , and ran out the clock.

The official Cowboys reaction was surprisingly accepting . ‘Boy fans were slitting their throats, but owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett stayed composed. “I do think he made it (the catch), but we’ve had a lot of re-looks at things around here. Sometimes they go for you and sometimes they don’t,” he said. Jones view was tempered by the knowledge that the Cowboys had beaten Detroit the week before with the aid of an egregious no call on an obvious pass interference; and he is a member of NFL royalty. Garrett was about to sign a five year contract to continue as coach. Neither was in a position to cry bloody murder.

Not so for the millions of fans who know a catch when they see one and are fed up with games being decided by the application of obtuse rules which run contrary to the mainstream of judgment. One writer noted,”I could go into a bar right now, and ask 50 drunks whether it was a catch, and all 50 would say it was a catch.”

The NFL has had a very bad year off the field. Only by the sheer magnificence of its on-field product has it managed to thrive ratings-wise and revenue-wise. But when games are decided on the basis of technicalities rather than the quality of performance, it’s high time for another rule change.

Or maybe they should hire drunks as referees.

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Nats, Bums Skippers Too Good For Their Own Good/ Commish Justice Runs Amok

October 8th, 2014 sendarama Posted in baseball | No Comments »

Stacked with superior every day players, armed with the best starting pitchers, and compilers of the best regular season records in the National League, the Nats and the Dodgers were better than their NLDS opponents at virtually every position but the one that mattered most – in the dugout.

Of the twenty three managers elected to the Hall of Fame, all but one is either a former catcher or journeyman or never played in the majors. The exception, Leo Durocher, a slick-fielding but weak-hitting shortstop who made three all-star teams, was described by Babe Ruth as “the All-American out.” It will come as no surprise to witnesses of the just concluded NLDS series that the victorious Giants and Cardinals are managed by non-descript ex-catchers Bruce Bochy and Mike Matheny,respectively, while the losing Nats and Bums are piloted by former star players Matt Williams and Don Mattingly.

It’s hard to describe the “Je ne sais quoi” quality which Bochy and Matheny bring to the table, but it’s safe to say that neither Williams nor Mattingly has it. Call it touch, call it feel, call it an ability to think outside of the box; but when it came to the crucial pitching choices which determine tight playoff games, both Williams and Mattingly were thoroughly outclassed by their counterparts across the diamond. Maybe all those years of thinking about ways to get an edge have sharpened the minds of less-talented players who became managers to the detriment of managers to whom playing the game came easy.

Much has been made of Williams’ unfathomable decision to remove Jordan Zimmerman with two outs in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game 2; but he may have exceeded that extraordinary level of ineptitude in Tuesday’s decisive fourth game. First, in a move which smacked of desperation, he pinch hit for starter Gio Gonzalez with two outs in the top half of the fifth inning and a runner on first. Despite successive bone-head plays in the field by Gonzalez which handed the Giants two unearned runs in the second inning, Gonzalez was pitching well, the Nats trailed by only a run, and the move heralded a parade of relievers who were not up to the task.

Having spent Tanner Roark and Jerry Blevins to get through the sixth, Williams made his next mistake by starting the seventh with situational left-hander Matt Thornton. Thornton is most effective facing a left-handed hitter late in the game with men on base. Upcoming later in the inning were dangerous right-handed hitters Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. To save Thornton, his last remaining lefty pitcher, and to best deal with the threat posed by Posey and Pence, the situation called for a right-hander.

Then, when Thornton got into trouble, Williams summmoned Aaron Barrett, a rookie who walks more than five runners per nine innings of work, ahead of reliable veterans Craig Stammen or Tyler Clippard, or even Steven Strasburg, who was available in the bullpen. In his only previous appearance in the series, Barrett relinquished a double to Pence to lead off the twelfth inning of Saturday’s marathon. Barrett was bailed out by Blevins on that occasion, but there was no damage control this time.

Barrett walked Pence to load the bases, and then bounced a pitch to Pedro Sandoval, allowing the lead run to score. Then, to cap one of the worst relief performances ever, Barrett overthrew his catcher while attempting to intentionally walk Sandoval. Posey, who had singled earlier and gone to third on the passed ball, broke for home and was thrown out on a bang-bang play at the plate. The Nats escaped this most bizarre inning only one run down, but the Giants held on. The Nats’ best bullpen arms remained glued to their seats while Barrett, enabled by Williams, sabotaged the season.

Mattingly’s mistakes were less visible, but no less damaging to the Dodgers. In game one, he dissipated a 6-2 seventh inning lead by allowing Clayton Kershaw to stay in too long, and then replaced him with untested rookie Pedro Baez, who promptly relinquished a three-run homer to Matt Holliday. In game four, he benched the team’s best hitter, Yasiel Puig, for light-hitting Andre Ethier, and then inserted Puig into the game in the ninth inning, as a pinch runner, Mattingly was lambasted a year ago for questionable game management during the playoffs, and he did nothing to help his cause in this go-round.

The Giants led the Dodgers by nine games in the National League West on June 8th, and then proceeded to lose 19 of their next 26. They finished six games behind the Dodgers and struggled to make the wild card. During the course of the season, three-fifths of their original starting rotation was either disabled (Matt Cain, Yusmiero Petit) or discredited (Tim Lincecum), and three regulars – centerfielder Angel Pagan, second baseman Marco Scutaro, and first baseman Michael Morse – missed the NLDS due to injury. But for Giant catcher Posey, who may finish his career as the greatest catcher in history, every Giant position player was inferior statistically to the corresponding Nat.

The Nats, of course, coasted to the National League East title, emasculating Atlanta by seventeen games.
They entered the NLDS as a 9:5 favorite over the Giants. But for the second time in three years, the Nats faithful were blindsided by an unexpected result. Season ticket holders can wallpaper their dens with unused playoff and world series tickets for 2012 and 2014. This time, they can’t blame inexperience.

At first blush, the Nats post-mortem will focus on the Giants’ shutdown of Span, Werth, La Roche, Desmond, and Ramos, who collectively batted .111 in the four games. La Roche’s performance will make his imminent departure from the team less painful. The only positive takeaway was the brilliant play of Bryce Harper, who after a disappointing regular season, shone in the field and at bat. When Harper’s maturity grows to match his talent, he will be a transcendent superstar.

But it’s too easy to blame the dormant bats. Everybody knows good pitching stops good hitting, even more so in the playoffs. Power outages are common in October. In the regular season, talent wins out. But in the playoffs, talent takes a back seat to the intangibles. And the most tangible intangible of them all was Bruce Bochy’s superiority over Matt Williams.

Commissioner Justice Runs Amok

What has more hang time than Michael Jordan, more legs than a caterpillar, more curves than Mamie Van Doren, and more twists and turns than a large box of Snyder Hanover pretzels?

If your answer is the Ray Rice saga, you are correct.

Four weeks after release of the video of Rice cold-cocking his girlfriend in an Atlantic City Casino elevator, three weeks after NFL commisioner Goodell called a news conference to explain his too-lenient punishment of Rice, two weeks after Ravens owner Steve Bischotti called a news conference to defend himself against an allegation by ESPN that Bischotti had lobbied Goodell to reduce Rice’s punishment, one week after an unnamed Atlantic City law enforcement official claimed that he sent a tape of the elevator incident to the NFL office in April belying Goodell’s statement that noone in the office saw the tape before its release by TMZ on September 8th, and just one day after NFL owners convened to discuss modifying the commissioner’s currently unfettered power to punish players for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, the Rice affair continues to bedevil, bewilder and befuddle the NFL.

In our politically correct – charged climate, a cottage industry of complainers has arisen as a result of the NFL’s handling of the matter and its history of indifference towards domestic violence. Women’s groups have been quick to point out the contrast between the NFL’s punishment of drug offenders and drunk drivers and its kid gloves treatment of domestic henchmen. Before the Rice video went viral, Rice was nursing a mere 2-game suspension and girlfriend pounders Ray McDonald and Greg Hardy were unpunished. Since release of the video, Rice has been suspended indefinitely by Goodell, Hardy has been placed on an “exempt” list, Cardinal running back Jonathan Dwyer has been suspended from play for the entire season by the Cardinals for an incident occurring last July, and there has occurred a crackdown throughout the college ranks against players arrested, but not convicted, for crimes involving violence.

What’s going on here? Has the NFL or its executives intentionally disregarded the rights of women or other innocent victims of violence? Is Steve Bischotti a bad guy for intervening in behalf of his star player, who until he bashed his wife, had been a spokesman for the Ravens at community events and a so-called model citizen? Has the NFL all of a sudden become a sanctuary for felons and wife beaters? Or is this simply the latest instance of social media taking over an issue and whipping it out of proportion?

Rather than point the finger at Goodell, who was certainly trying to do the right thing, we should focus instead on the sports leagues’ systems for administering punishment for off-field conduct, which concentrate too much power in the hands of the respective commissioners and in the case of the NFL, are entirely unregulated. Unlike the NBA, Major League Baseball, and the NHL, where the commissioner’s actions are subject to review by an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators, Goodell’s decisions are appealable only to Goodell. The source of his power is the league constitution and the collective bargaining agreement between the players union and the league.

The result of concentrating non-reviewable power in one person without reasonable standards for imposing punishment is public outrage when the commissioner’s decision offends the public’s notions of fairness. And these days that outrage spreads like wildfire. The solution is to curb commissioner power and to establish rules and regulations for how and when extra-judicial punishment is to be imposed. When Goodell’s sanctions in the New Orleans Saints bounty case became the subject of a lawsuit, he quickly relented by agreeing to let the case be reviewed by an independent arbitrator, ex-commissioner Paul Tagliabue. When the NFL announces its new policy for handling allegations of misconduct, we can expect the commissioner to play a less dominant role in the disciplinary process.

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