Stan Musial to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

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Word to The Man:

Post-Dispatch sources in Washington confirmed that Musial will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the White House. Musial will join other baseball greats who have won the award like Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente and Ted Williams. The award recipients are selected by the sitting president.

And some of you hate Obama.

This is really cool.  It arises in large part due to a grassroots campaign, but even if no one had ever made a peep about it, Musial would be a worthy recipient. Not just because he was one of the most fantastic baseball players who has ever lived, but also because he, more than just about anyone, stands for the notion that a sports figure can be a role model, even if we are increasingly inclined to reject that notion. He has always been reported to be kind, decent, caring, hard working and all of the other things we wish athletes were, but usually aren’t due to their being, you know, human beings. He has given back to his community.  He may truly be the last untarnished icon in baseball history. We’re just not in that business anymore. Him. Aaron maybe.  Everyone else is either a bit tarnished or not an icon.

I had one brief interaction with Musial when I was a kid. It was at a memorabilia show where he was signing. My dad knew the guy running the show, so I got in early and was there when Musial showed up.  When he arrived — by himself, after having driven in, not with any handlers — someone asked him if he wanted anything. Nope, I’m good, he said, don’t trouble yourself. Then he set up the table and chair where he’d be signing himself, got himself a Pepsi from a vending machine and then hung around and talked to my brother and I for a bit while waiting for the autograph-seekers to arrive.  The guy was like your grandpa. The nice one.

I don’t know if that kind of thing earns you a Presidential Medal of Freedom, but it sure as hell can’t hurt.  Congratulations Stan the Man.

Dodgers owner Mark Walter is involved in a scandal

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The Dodgers last owner, Frank McCourt, was a mainstay of the gossip pages. The new administration has been pretty drama free since taking over five years ago. That is, until now.

Multiple outlets, ranging from the New York Post to the Wall Street Journal, have been reporting on a scandal brewing at Guggenheim Partners, the multi-billion investment firm led by Mark Walter, its CEO. Walter is also the head of Guggenheim Baseball Management, the offshoot of the firm which owns the Dodgers. Walter is the Dodgers’ named owner — the “control person” — as far as Major League Baseball is concerned.

The scandal does not directly relate to the baseball team. Rather, it involves allegations that Walter bought a $13 million Pacific Palisades home for a younger female executive named Alexandra Court:

In the past 24 hours, the company has pushed back on multiple reports that CEO Mark Walter will step down; its chief investment officer has claimed on CNBC that there’s “no tumult” at the company; and Guggenheim has denied reports on a real-estate blog and in the New York Post that Walter bought a California mansion for a younger female executive at the company.

The denial regarding who bought the mansion is a bit too cute, though, as the company only denies that Walter bought it or owns it. In fact, the mansion is owned by a holding company that also bought Walter’s personal residence in Malibu. Billionaires don’t go to closings at title company offices, of course. They buy houses through companies and LLCs and trusts and stuff. As such, the claim that Walter didn’t buy the house may be technically and legally true but entirely misleading all the same. For what it’s worth, The Wall Street Journal has reported that Walter and Court have a “personal relationship.” Walter, who is married, and the company deny this. Court is on an extended leave of absence.

Walter and Guggenheim are denying that Walter is going to step down as CEO. That remains to be seen. The question for our purposes is whether, if he steps down from Guggenheim Partners, he would necessarily have to step down from Guggenheim Baseball Management and thus relinquish control of the Dodgers. I suspect not — they’re distinct legal entities, and his departure from Partners would be unrelated to stuff having to do with the baseball team — but you never know. It’s not like he put up $2 billion of his personal dollars for the team. There are likely a lot of strings attached and contingencies involved to the arrangement.

Something to watch.

R.A. Dickey may retire

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Braves starter R.A. Dickey had a nice outing against the Nationals last night, allowing two runs over eight innings to pick up his 10th win on the year. After the game, however, he hinted pretty strongly that it was his last home start and, based on the schedule, one of the last couple of starts of his career. Dickey:

I’d be lying to say I didn’t have some emotions about it. This could be my last start ever at a home venue. But we’re going to make that decision at the end of the season and see how I feel and what goes on there.

The data points for the decision: though he’ll turn 43 next month, he’s still a useful major league pitcher. Last night’s win evened his record at 10-10 and pushed his ERA down to 4.32, which is around league average. He’s also subject to a team option for $8 million for 2018, which is eminently reasonable for a league average starter, especially one as durable as Dickey is. Last night was his 30th start and 2017 is the seventh straight season in which he’s pitched 30 games (he started 29 and came out of the pen once for Toronto last season). If he wanted to pitch, he’d certainly have a gig.

The data point against the decision. Family. Dickey:

If I did not continue to play, it would be because our family decided it wasn’t the best thing. I’ve dragged my kids all over the world playing baseball for 21 years. You know, there comes a time they deserve their dad to be around.

Dickey has four kids, aged 15, 14 and two who are younger. Based on my personal experience, once your kids are teenagers, you start to realize that your time with them is finite in ways you never really think about when they’re younger. It would be totally understandable, then, if he decided to walk away from $8 million and baseball in order to spend more time with them.

Part of me, though, selfishly wants to see Dickey keep going. He’s a knuckleballer, man. There aren’t many of them.