Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
2006-09-22 07:49
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Some thoughts on the baseball news of the moment:

The guys who wrote Game of Shadows are going to jail, pending appeal, for withholding the name of their source. I am of two minds about this. Have you seen the "South Park" episode where there is a debate over the racist town flag, and everyone interviewed keeps saying well, on one hand, it's historic, but on the other hand, they can see how it might be offensive? I feel like that. The government needs to be able to keep some things secret in order to try criminals, and they have a right to use the courts to try and track down the source of leaks. But you shouldn't have to go to prison for doing your job and not being a snitch. Unless this is like the episode of "Murphy Brown" where Murphy went to jail for protecting a source. I would have gone to that jail. It looked nicer than the place I live now. They had TV, and crossword puzzles, and knitting. I don't think that would be so bad. I might feel worse for the Game of Shadows guys had their book not been such a shallow, pedantic read. Jeff Pearlman's Barry book was much better. See, there's journalism, and then there's writing. With the latter, you can make up the dialogue, and you don't have to go to jail. That settles that. I'm a writer!

Peter Gammons is making the rounds on the ESPN family of networks. It's nice to hear his voice again, right in time for the postseason. He clearly hasn't missed a beat, either. He's back on the phones with his sources, doing his Gammons thing. I certainly hope he will continue to do so for many years to come. I also sincerely hope he will not record any more albums.

I think if you are a South Florida baseball fan the words "last straw" have lost all meaning. The team has conducted bald-faced post-championship teardowns not once but twice, erected an outfield fence ad that can be seen from outer space, and courted every city in North America without an MLB team with the grace and subtlety of a transvestite hooker. Now the word has come down than manager Joe Girardi, who first didn't quit when his entire major league roster was traded away weeks after his hire and then managed to guide a solid AA team to a major league .500 season, will not return for the 2007 season. The reason, I think it's widely known, is Girardi publicly asked the team's owner to stop acting like an ass in the stands at games. I would suggest Marlins fans organize a walkout like the one that just went off in Baltimore, but the sale of an extra thousand tickets to a Florida game would be a huge attendance spike and send the wrong message entirely.

2006-09-22 08:26:23
1.   Ali Nagib
I feel the same way about the whole "Game of Shadows" story. To me, the key question is, at the time that they got the illegally leaked testimony and decided to publish it, did they have a reasonable expectation under the law (not just under journalistic principles) that they could protect the source without suffering legal consequences. I don't know the answer to this, but the lack of a federal journalist shield law makes me think that it's likely that they KNEW that they had no legal basis for their principled stand, but thought they'd have a go at it anyway. On the other hand, I can certainly be sympathetic if the federal prosecutors are doing something that goes against decades of tradition, even if it is within the letter of the law. If the writers could honestly say that they had every reason to believe that it never would get to this point, and are legitimately being screwed over now, I can certainly understand where they're coming from.

A key point to keep in mind is that their source was committing a felony in disclosing the information that they got, and they knew this from the beginning. To use the commonly-drawn comparison, I'm pretty sure that Deep Throat wasn't breaking any laws in giving Woodward and Bernstein the information that they got, unless he was revealing classified information (since it all happened 5 years before I was born, I'm a little fuzzy on the details, so please correct me if I'm mistaken). Leaking grand jury testimony is a BIG deal, arguably even a bigger deal that leaking non-classified information that may be extremely damaging to the President. The Executive branch WANTS to try to keep things secret, but with the exception of things that are classified for specific reasons, I don't believe there are any laws prohibiting leaking information. Our government isn't based on the President being able to keep everything that happens secret, but our legal system IS based on keeping grand jury testimony secret, and it sets a dangerous precedent if any random courthouse worker can leak grand jury testimony to reporters at will, knowing that they'll be protected from prosecution.

There's no doubt that reporters need to be able to protect sources to do their jobs, and in any case where their sources are not breaking the law in giving information them, they should be protected. If the actual act of disclosing the information is a felony, however, I'm not sure that they should be protected in the same way. But I'm no legal scholar.

2006-09-22 08:32:49
2.   Chyll Will
Nonetheless, well said and well spoken.
2006-09-22 11:23:49
3.   dianagramr
I understand the authors' point of view, but it WAS leaked testimony was it not? I'm not saying whether it was right or wrong for the BALCO investigation to require a Grand Jury, and the accompanying non-publication of details around this, but this WAS part of an ACTIVE government investigation, wasn't it?

Did the publication of details of the testimony damage the government's case against Conte et al. ... probably not, but it COULD have, and I think we have to respect that, and balance it against the general public's "need to know".

Now .... if the testimony was "leaked" well after the government's investigation (and subsequent trials) had been completed, I don't think the authors should have/would have been brought up on charges.

Just my .02 ...

2006-09-22 11:31:10
4.   Kels
Who is this Barry Bonds fellow?

Anywho, Mark, any chance the Rockies go after Joe?

2006-09-22 13:45:06
6.   Mark T.R. Donohue
That's an interesting question. Peter Gammons was on the Mike & Mike show this morning and he said that Cubs management is far less interested in hiring Girardi than the Chicago media is. He also said that there may be a number of teams who would be willing to fire managers currently under contract if the chance to hire Girardi presented itself.

Dan O'Dowd says he's 100% committed to Clint Hurdle, but, well, you never know. Hurdle doesn't make so much money that he would be unfirable. Girardi has certainly demonstrated an ability to make the most out of young talent. Never say never, especially if Chicago really isn't interested. That would almost automatically put Girardi out of the Rockies' price range.

2006-09-22 23:39:03
7.   Linkmeister
Consider that Judy Miller went to jail for about 80 days for refusing to reveal her source(s) in the Plame investigation, and she didn't even write a story about the leak (other, bigger fish to fry, I suppose).

I thought there was a shield law in California. If I'm right, is it because it was a federal Grand Jury that the Ca. law doesn't apply? If I'm wrong, please advise.

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