Legal fun with Uecker, Steinbrenner and the Mets!

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Craig is our resident ex-lawyer, so normally I’d let him handle something like a baseball legal roundup. But since he isn’t on duty at this very moment, I’ll have to be the one to throw out these goodies for your consumption.

Don’t like it? Then tell NBC to rule out occasional sleeping, eating and pajama laundering in Craig’s next contract. Now that I’m done with my disclaimer, let’s examine an unusual amount of legal action to come down the line today. (I’m not touching the Dodgers stuff for fear of being called “irresponsible.”)

Item one: Uecker off the hook

Remember when Bob Uecker accused that woman (Mr. Belvedere fanatic?) of stalking him back in 2006? Well after Uecker’s suit was dropped (though the ex-player was granted a four-year restraining order) the woman, a Ms. Ann Ladd, decided to fight back, suing Uecker and the Milwaukee Brewers for defamation of character.

While you would think following Bob Uecker around against his wishes would do enough damage to one’s reputation, her suit was not rejected for that reason, but because she had waited past the two-year statute of limitations to file suit. She appealed based on the fact that “stalker” and “Ann Ladd” still appear together all over the Internet to this day. The appeals panel, however, ruled that Uecker was not to be blamed for the Internet.

Lesson: Clue Haywood probably could have sued Uecker for the “nose hair” comment.

Steinbrenner and the Mets after the jump.

Item 2: Steinbrenner stole my idea!

The New York Times reports that a federal judge has rejected a lawsuit by a former president of Madison Square Garden that claims Yankees owner George Steinbrenner stole his idea for the YES Network.

Bob Gutkowski, the executive who filed the suit in August, said that in meetings held over the course of several years, he suggested that Steinbrenner start his own television network and that Steinbrenner promised Gutkowski he would run the network or be part of it.

Gutkowski sought at least $23 million, or in baseball terms, two years of Javier Vazquez. Unfortunately for Gutkowski, he never got anything in writing, and according to the judge, his argument “alleges no plausible facts” to support his claim. That can’t be good.

Lesson: Steinbrenner is about as trustworthy as that Calvin Klein fellow.

Item 3: The Mets can’t even hire good security

The New York Daily News reports that a Mets security guard has pleaded guilty to stealing bases and seats from Shea Stadium and then selling them on eBay. At the time, the employee, a Mr. Gerald Tacopino, was doing something very important: Looking for looters.

Tacopino agreed to pay back the $842.50 he made selling the stolen items, and can’t enter Citi Field for a year.

Tacopino’s lawyer, Michael McClellan, said his client mistakenly believed the Mets had no use for the memorabilia.

“It was in a pile of junk,” McClellan said.

Lesson: Maybe he could have gotten away with selling Omar Minaya on eBay.

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The Giants are winning but they’re still gonna sell

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The state of baseball in general, the state of the National League in particular and the state of the San Francisco Giants as a competitor are conspiring to create what seems like at least a mildly absurd situation.

The Giants, a veteran-laden team that, as recently as this past offseason but definitely within the past couple of years, were at least talking about being on a win-now footing, just swept a four-game series, have won five straight games and have won 12 of 14 to pull themselves to within two and a half games of a playoff spot.

Yet, that’s all for temporary show, because they’re about to sell off. At least according to Jeff Passan at ESPN. Giants president Farhan Zaidi tried to push back on that in a radio interview yesterday, denying that the club has foreclosed the possibility of a postseason push, but I’m not really buying that and I don’t think most people are.

On one level it makes sense to ignore the recent surge and forge on with a rebuild. Sure, the Giants are winning but they’re not exactly good. They’re two and a half out of the Wild Card, but there are many teams ahead of them. There’s a lot of reason to think that they’re playing in good fortune right now and that that, rather than finding some extra gear of sustainable better play, is what’s to credit. Hot streaks can happen at any time but the trade deadline only comes once a year. When you have the best starter available in Madison Bumgarner and the best reliever available in Will Smith, you gotta make those deals. That’s what I’d probably do if I ran the Giants and I think that that’s, wisely, what Zaidi will do.

Still, it’s an odd look, less for the Giants specifically than for baseball as a whole. We may in an era of cheap front offices who don’t like to contend if it means spending money, but it’s unfair to paint the Giants with that brush. They’ve spent money and acquired talent and have done whatever they can to extend their 2010-2014 mini-dynasty a few more years and in doing so they’ve made a lot of fans happy. That team has pretty much reached the end and, even in an earlier, more competitive era, they’d not be properly criticized for starting in on a rebuild. Heck, they’d be excused if they had done it a year or two earlier, frankly.

But, because so many teams have punted on improving themselves, these aging Giants are at least superficially competitive. As such, when they do sell off in the coming days, it’ll look to some like they’re waving a white flag or something when they’re not really doing that. I mean, the Rockies and the Pirates, among other teams, should be much better than they are but didn’t seem all that interested in improving, thereby helping the Giants look better, right? It’s less a knock on the Giants for rebuilding when they’re within striking distance of the playoffs than it is on the rest of the league for allowing a team like the Giants to be within striking distance of a playoff spot.

But that’s where we are right now. An insanely competitive Wild Card race from teams that, on the whole, are rather unconcerned with being competitive. What a time to be a baseball fan.