Today, I had the opportunity to observe two hours of oral argument at the Supreme Court. Although the opportunity was work-related, I considered it purely pleasure---aside from sitting in place on a stiff bench for over two hours, of course. I won't belabor things, but, even though I've observed a fair amount of oral argument in other contexts in my short span on Planet Earth, this is something else entirely. It's really an out-of-this-world thing, not just for an abject nerd like me but for the scattered boys and girls among the gallery. They might not have understood the issues at stake, but they understood the gravity and magnitude of the setting.
Anyway, I returned to Richmond earlier this evening and scanned this article over dinner. It seems Dmitri Young expressed displeasure over the manner in which the Detroit Tigers terminated his employment last season---the Tigers released Young during the team's stretch drive---and Detroit manager Jim Leyland essentially replied that Young would be better off flying a kite. According to Leyland, Young was ""totally out of line" in accusing the Tigers of unfairness.
Essentially, Young contends his release was sort of pretextual. General manager Dave Dombrowski claimed the Tigers made "strictly a baseball-related decision." Young contends this explanation is insufficient and diversionary, obscuring the Tigers' motivation to get rid of Young while he was having a tough year, which, the Associated Press reports, "includ[ed] an assault charge, treatment for alcoholism and depression, a divorce and hospitalization for diabetes." Young has the real story, claiming the Tigers "were probably saving their own tail, because they thought that the whole court thing there was going to be a distraction for a team that was winning."
Young's response reminds me of a moment during one of this morning's Supreme Court arguments. An attorney and Justice Scalia engaged in an extended give-and-take---a colloquy, if you will---that lasted for probably ninety seconds. (It only seems longer in real life, especially when you're sitting on a stiff bench.) Say what you will about Justice Scalia---and I want to be clear I am making no political or jurisprudential statement in any way---but the man is highly intelligent and, what is more, thinks very quickly on his feet (or bobbing his reclining, cushioned chair up and down). Scalia wrapped this attorney around his chubby little ring finger, and a moment later the attorney was left with an inevitable logical tangle, featuring only two choices, neither of which particularly assisted his client's cause. Scalia capped the exchange by essentially asking, "What's the point?"
And what's the point here with Young? I don't claim any inside information with what the Tigers did to him---how could I, as I am merely a blogger?---but what is the point of this? If the Tigers released him for performance, what's the point of contesting that? It might have been a poor on-field position, but it's an on-field position nonetheless, and that's within Dombrowski's and Leyland's areas of expertise. If he was released because the team didn't need him, then the team felt it didn't need him. On the other hand, if it was for something other than Young's on-field performance, well, what's the point of Young complaining about that? It might hurt, but even Young himself acknowledges there's a rational basis to it. The Tigers were in a pennant race---the first in nearly two decades, mind you---and they didn't need distractions.
Ah, but why would Dombrowski then lie about why the Tigers got rid of him? I don't know, but one guess would be because he didn't want to sully Young's name. It's easier to deny a move had something to do with personal problems than to announce, yes, we released the guy because he was in legal trouble and we thought he'd be a troublemaker to team chemistry. The latter tact seems . . . well, sort of tactless. Jerky. Damaging to the guy's reputation.
While it may be instructive to note Jim Bowden has brought in yet another former Red in the form of Bowden, it is also instructive to note Dmitri Young still has an opportunity in this game. Whatever the Tigers' reason for letting him go, Young still has some sort of credible reputation in this game. He's still employable. Hopefully, he'll let this go.
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I certainly hope Young will let it go, because the Nationals hardly need this distraction. Despite the team's desultory on-field prospects, the tone emanating from the Viera camp seems to be positive, upbeat, and laced with a fun amount of on-the-fly intrigue. The team has an energetic new manager and approximately a thousand guys searching for a chance, whether it be a first chance or a last chance.
It is far easier to view this team in the tradition of the Ball Four Pilots and the "Major League" Indians. (Recently, I suggested "Wild Thing" Hanrahan, though I doubt that will catch on.) The team's a curiosity, and its staying power in our memories years from now will be in playful caricatures: Tall Jon Rauch, Fat Ray King, Who the Heck is Colby Lewis, etc. If we remember the '07 Nats fondly, chances are it will be because of attachment to likeable personalities, rather than appreciation of baseball skill.
Following such a team can be a fun experience regardless of wins and losses, but only if the players allow it to be fun. I think one reason why the fanbase has taken to Acta, for instance, is because he looks like he's having fun out on the practice fields. He scoots around from player to player, developing collegial relationships and building advice; he is savoring his opportunity to manage a big league club, and so far the players seem to have taken to him. Obviously, that's a lot of players to take to him, but you get the point. The Post's video blogs, seem a tad bit susceptible to image control, but I do believe Acta is genuinely a positive figure.
Out here in the fanbase, we believe he's the right man for the man; similarly, closer in, the players seem to realize he is indeed the man with the job. Acta is setting the tone.
This is precisely why Dmitri Young needs to let go of his grudge right now. The Nats don't need a distraction in camp; they don't need a player on minor league contract to swipe the headlines and alter the mood. I recognize it more than a bit discordant to see a blogger, especially a sort of statsy one, hinting at team chemistry issues; however, a distraction is a distraction, and distractions come in all walks of life. And, if Young proves too significant a distraction, the Nats will have their own reason to let him go.
In the meantime, Young is the one who needs to do some letting go.