Ronny Paulino of the New York Mets wears a FDNY cap during batting practice before the game against the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
On Sunday, New York Mets players wore caps with "NYPD" and "FDNY" on them to honor first responders in what turned out to be a moving pre-game ceremony nationally televised before their game against the Chicago Cubs on ESPN. The players also wanted to wear the caps during the game.
Not so fast, said the commissioner's office. There were official caps, you see, with American flags on them that all teams are supposed to wear, and oh by the way, we're selling them online with part of the proceeds going to various 9/11 charities. According to at least one report, the team was threatened with large fines if they wore them during the game, according to Mets player rep Josh Thole:
Thole was not aware of his predecessors' actions until Sunday afternoon. When he learned about the '01 Mets standing up to MLB, he discussed with deputy player rep Tim Byrdak whether to also violate the league stipulation. Current players had mixed opinions. And Thole said Mets brass instructed them not to violate the MLB policy.
"Evidently it's going to come down on the club," Thole said before the Mets lost to the Cubs 10-6 in 11 innings. "I guess they cracked down on it pretty hard. So it's just something we can't do. As a group, we think it's right, and it's the least we can do. We're going to wear them for a ceremony we're having, and then we're going to have to switch hats for the game."
Other reports indicated that large fines were threatened on both Mets players and the team if the players wore the caps, and that the caps were "confiscated" so the Mets couldn't wear them.
Only now, that appears not to have been the case, or so it's being reported today; now Bud Selig is "angry" that this whole thing became public:
Major League Baseball's commissioner called the Mets on Sunday night irate that the club had gone public that his office had prevented players from wearing the caps of Sept. 11 first responders for that night's game at Citi Field, the New York Post reported.
A Mets official told the newspaper that the commissioner said the team threw the league "under the bus."
"Selig got embarrassed by it," the official told the Post. "The game got moved into prime time (on ESPN) because of 9/11, and MLB ended up getting embarrassed."
Someone's not telling the truth here, it would seem. Either MLB gave the order -- in which case Selig's embarrassment should be due to making an embarrassing decision, nothing new for him -- or they didn't, in which case the whole thing was made up. And then there's this New York Post report which says the commissioner's office did make a threat. Sort of. But it wasn't "heavy-handed", and:
A person familiar with Selig's thinking said the commissioner never threatened the Mets with a fine. The source hinted the Mets' hierarchy perhaps used threat of a fine as a scare tactic in getting players to comply. The source also suggested the Mets perhaps fueled the fire by waiting until the last minute to inform players they couldn't wear the caps during the game. MLB had issued the memo several days in advance of the game.
But another source said Mets COO Jeff Wilpon was "back and forth" with the commissioner's office on the matter until the proverbial 11th hour, when it was decided the Mets, on the hook for a $25 million loan from MLB, shouldn't risk the wrath of Selig.
The report about the caps being confiscated apparently wasn't true either; the team signed all the caps they wore during batting practice and the ceremony and those will reportedly be auctioned for charity, one of the few good things to come out of all this.
In all, though, the whole thing is a giant mess, which isn't surprising given that Bud Selig is in charge. There seem to be two things at work here: first, MLB wanting to have iron-fisted control over everything any of its teams do, and second, marketing, since the caps that MLB was dictating the Mets should wear are being sold. Sure, some of the money is going to charity, but a lot of it is profit... and further, if the loan from MLB to the Mets had anything to do with this decision, both the Mets and MLB should be ashamed.
The bottom line here is that MLB, like the NFL, seems to be getting way too corporate for its own good. Mets players wanted to make a heartfelt gesture to people who were being honored at their game. Was there absolutely no one with any common sense in MLB's offices who could have said, "Hey, this is a nice thing, let's do it"?
I guess the answer to that is "No", and as a result everyone's mad at everyone else, no one seems to want to tell the truth, except to cover their own butt, and Bud Selig looks like an incompetent leader. Of course, that's not unusual.
Sometimes, the simplest thing to do turns out to be the right thing. Unfortunately, no one connected with MLB figured this out on Sunday. The resulting "embarrassment" Bud Selig feels is his own fault.