March 5, 2004

The Sports Corner Weighs in on Bush

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It seems as if every opinion columnist and news writer at The Sun has had the opportunity to sound off about Bush, Kerry, and the upcoming election. The Sun is, after all, a newsgathering organization and the politics of the election are the national hot topic. There are certainly plenty of platforms to stand on, from military service records to views on gay marriage and foreign policy. The editors have even gone so far as to physically jump into the political mucky-muck by publicly endorsing Kerry. We’ve had experts (like Matt Streib and Joe Sabia) debate back and forth the most contentious issues, showing that all sides of an argument have merit. This fact — that there is rarely a clear-cut right or wrong — is the essence of politics and the reason we have elections in the first place. That’s what make elections so hard; there’s always a feasible counter-argument.

Until now.

As I said before, the News and Opinion departments of The Sun have done a wonderful job of covering and debating the issues of this electoral year. However, there has been one voice not heard in this debate — The Sports section. Yes, nary a political peep has been heard out of those of us who wake up with ESPN rather than CNN. Aside from the random, “hey, at least Kerry’s a Red Sox fan,” we in sports rightly defer to the opinions of those in the know.

Until now.

We denizens of the Alex Fineman ’03 Memorial Sports Corner are inherently apolitical; we did not endorse a particular Democratic candidate, as consensus would have been nearly impossible. I believe that Scott Jones would rather eat his own Yankee-loving middle finger than see a member of Red Sox Nation ascend to the Presidency. But what we can agree on is that Bush must go, and fast. We’ve been saying it since the last election, but as usual, no one listens.

Until now.

There is an aspect of Bush’s past that is so undeniably damning that I cannot believe it has not been illuminated by his electoral opponents, both in 2000 and in 2004. It is a fact that not even Karl Rove could spin away; it is an issue that I challenge the Cornell Review to defend.

In the 1980s, when Bush owned the Texas Rangers, he traded away Sammy Sosa for Harold Baines. HAROLD BAINES!!!!! How boneheaded was this trade, you ask? Pop quiz: do you know who Harold Baines is? No. Do you know who Sammy Sosa is? Of course you do. The Rangers were 10 (10!!!) games behind the pennant-leading Oakland A’s and Bush thought they were just a big bat away from making up that ground (gonna take a lot more than one bat there, Georgie). The man with his finger on the nuclear trigger thought that this trade was a good idea (feel free to panic and move to Canada). So he traded Sosa for Harold Freaking Baines.

Now, Harold Baines was a pretty decent major league baseball player for the first seven years of his career (1980-87), highlighted by his 1985 season (160 G, 198 H, 22 HR, 113 RBI, .309 avg). Unfortunately, injuries and age began to take their toll. By ’87, Baines had become the quintessential DH, playing only 25 games in the outfield before he was traded to the Rangers for Sosa in 1989.

Baines played in 50 games for Texas , but only once as any position but the DH. He hit nearly 40 points lower than he did in Chicago and had only 16 RBIs.

How does it make sense to trade a young, healthy, five-tool prospect for a DH? It doesn’t, it just doesn’t. A DH? NO ONE trades for a DH! Especially not at the trading deadline, and especially not when the team is 10 games out of the playoffs. If Bush was so displeased with the development of Sosa (who had shown tremendous power and field speed, along with terrible yet coachable plate discipline), then why didn’t he try to trade for actual help? How about a pitcher? Or, hell, at least a guy who played in the field and had more than 16 RBIs in his bat.

Granted, Sammy in 1989 wasn’t exactly his Slammin’ self of 2004, but Baines himself wasn’t exactly the second coming of Hank Aaron; he was barely the second coming of Marty Barrett (who is Marty Barrett? Exactly). And what did Bush do with his prized player at the end of the season? He let him go. That’s right, he released Baines after the Rangers missed the playoffs by about 372 games. To recap: Bush traded away Sammy Sosa to rent a washed up DH for 50 games, thinking that the move would put the Rangers over the top. Seriously, why did you idiots vote for this guy?

The Rangers never came close to catching the A’s and Sosa is on his way to Cooperstown. Texas is in the running for the title of Most Mismanaged Team in Sports History, right alongside the Milwaukee Brewers, the New York Rangers, and the LA Clippers. This makes the U.S. of A. the second organization that Bush has drilled into the ground like a railroad spike. But again, this is our fault for “electing” him. If he couldn’t run a successful baseball team with lots of money in a state with no income tax, how the hell could we have expected him to manage an entire country? Are we sportswriters the only ones who saw this coming?

Maybe you think that the administration of something as trivial and absurd as a baseball team and the administration of the United States are two vastly different things that have no bearing on each other whatsoever. After all, owning a baseball team involves massive amounts of research, gathering information in order to make critical decisions with far-reaching consequences, coordinating teams of individuals in order to achieve success, the management of a budget … yeah, the President doesn’t have to do any of those things.

The bottom line here is that this trade, not to mention the mismanagement of the entire Rangers organization, is the overlooked blemish on Bush’s history that should have had him impeached years ago. This was, simply, a terrible and uninformed decision that would only foreshadow the pitfalls of his administration.

You can defend Bush’s little war, you can fudge his Air Guard service record, you can camp him as a compassionate conservative, you can even come up with a reason to accept his unacceptance of homosexuals. But trading away Sosa? Not even Clinton would have been that dumb.

Archived article by Per Ostman