Arnold Palmer did it. Tom Brady did it. Dusty Baker came very close, the 67-year-old manager of the Houston Astros, who’s going to return home after being fired by the Washington Nationals at the end of last season.
Baker missed out because, even in his age bracket, there are those who believe that age has become a dirty word.
The rules of baseball do not call for asterisks. They’re written to provide consistency. Baker is an early victim of a creeping cultural shift – when it was revealed that Baker had presided over a ball-battery, how could anyone take him seriously?
Last May the former Brewers manager was dismissed by the Nationals after they were caught on an MLB video purportedly taking pictures of the ball during the game that day against the Phillies.
“Despite my many years of service to baseball, I wish the Nationals organization the best of luck moving forward,” he said, using the official statement of a relieved manager.
Baseball isn’t really set up for punishment anymore, so an underhanded way was used: a different ball had to be used in the second half of each game because the guys who video and canvas the game could no longer trust Baker and his crew to do what they saw as right.
Here’s what should have happened and why Baker shouldn’t be prosecuted, as both Andrew Romano and Ricciardi Kotchman, who blogged about the situation, note:
*Firing Baker was the first line of defense. His officials’ search for illegalities should have given the team cover.
*Baker’s team made a screwup, and that is the most detrimental thing that can happen to a team.
*Fans can point the finger in places, but it is generally a shame for somebody to be criticized for a mistake.
A bad league, that’s what Baker had.