In 2003, when he was playing for the Mets, Tony Clark wore 00 as his jersey number. Until June, that is.
Clark switched to No. 52 in the middle of the season because he was apparently overwhelmed by shame at having moved in on Mr. Met’s territory, after a class of middle schoolers asked why their favorite team’s backup first baseman had taken the beloved mascot’s number. No, really. Kids guilted Clark into changing his uniform number.
To be fair, the Mets should have been smart enough to avoid ever getting into that situation, as it’s not like 00 was a signature number for Clark, who had worn 17, 44, and 22 with the Tigers and Red Sox before arriving in New York. That said, it should be abundantly clear that we’re not dealing with a master negotiator here.
Newspaper reports from 14 years ago make no mention of any concessions received by Clark in exchange for his switch. That would be common practice if switching numbers for a fellow player – for the mascot, Clark could have at least gotten a batting practice session while wearing the giant baseball head. Something. Anything. Nope, he simply changed because he “felt bad” and “Mr. Met is a lot of people’s hero.”
True though that may be, how is this the guy who wound up as the head of the baseball players’ union? Yes, Clark was the deputy executive director of the MLBPA at the time of Michael Weiner’s tragic death, but giving him the top job on a permanent basis – rather than seeking out a labor professional in the mold of Weiner and his powerful predecessors, Donald Fehr and the ludicrously-not-in-the-Hall-of-Fame Marvin Miller – was a questionable decision that only grows more so with time.
The latest example of this was exploited by Rob Manfred this week. During a spring training news conference, the commissioner promised that rule changes are coming to baseball, changes that the players (and many fans) object to, in the name of pushing up the pace of play.
“Unfortunately it now appears that there really won’t be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA,” Manfred said. “I’ve tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested … (but) I believe it’s a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change.”
As if baseball is really going to draw in more young fans by making the strike zone a little bit smaller, when umpires call the zone however they see it anyway, in the absence of what should be attainable technology to remove human error from a process that anyone with a working Internet connection can see by calling up a live map of the zone.
It’s not a baseball issue, though. It’s a labor issue. The union has the right to object to rule changes, but the collective bargaining agreement allows management to unilaterally implement plans with a year’s notice. How is that a right the union gave to the owners? In what universe wouldn’t MLB take full advantage of its ability to do what it sees fit just by waiting?
Certainly not this one. It’s the kind of allowance that no labor organizer should make to management, free rein that requires only patience. The MLBPA used to have labor organizers. Now it has a former backup first baseman who once gave up his uniform number because he felt bad for kids who liked the mascot better.
As post-political jobs go, there might not ever be a better fit than Chris Christie replacing Mike Francesa as the afternoon host on New York’s sports talk radio station WFAN. Sure, it would be one egomaniacal blowhard Trump sycophant replacing another, but there’s more to it than that. And it’s not just that Francesa’s beloved Diet Coke would be swapped out in favor of the meatloaf that the president made Christie eat.
It’s not about the connections between Francesa and Christie, all easy enough to see. It’s the job itself and an aspect of it that would provide daily comfort in a world that needs it. If Christie isn’t leaving office next year in disgrace, he’s certainly leaving as a punchline, and a position as the afternoon voice of sports in New York would only serve to further the gag. Just imagine, every day, on his drive-time show, Chris Christie throwing it to the traffic report, and whatever delays might be present on the George Washington Bridge – and there always are – a daily reminder of the former governor’s dumbest, pettiest, and most avoidable scandal.
We don’t get a payoff when we root for figures like Christie to really get their comeuppance and slide into a post-government life of obscurity and squalor. The best we can hope for his karmic retribution. The world needs Chris Christie, his 1980s DJ name, and his self-assured bloviation on the radio every day, just for that one moment when, even if just internally, the guy has to squirm a little bit with thoughts of how thoroughly he blew it in national politics.