NBA recklessly gives LeBron James another pass

From the Desk of Dooley Noted:

Rules are rules. They’re meant to be observed and enforced — except by those who make them and the exceptionally entitled.

Thus, U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi broke her COVID-19 restrictions when she went to have her hair done, and then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, after declaring N.J. beaches closed in 2017, had a family day — his family — on a N.J. beach.

Last week, two NBA players, Kristaps Porzingis and LeBron James, broke the league’s COVID-19 protocols. Porzingis went to a strip club, James to a celebrities-thick promotional launch of a tequila.

Only Porzingis, fined $50,000, was punished. James, an often reckless advocate for social and racial equality, was given a pass. Another pass. The NBA says James escaped a fine because the promotional party’s organizers required all in attendance to be vaccinated or tested negative. Yet, other than by blind faith, how could the NBA possibly know everyone who attended was kosher?

Most sports fans couldn’t help but notice this, which the NBA no doubt hoped they wouldn’t. The media, naturally, out of mortal fright, mostly gave it a low-away pass. That’s one of those unwritten rules rarely broken.

Meanwhile, we eagerly await James’ next lecture on what’s wrong with the world — with the exception of his and the NBA’s Nike factory workforces in Communist China. Say, do the profits from his overpriced signature sneakers help fund those Chinese prisons that house pro-democracy activists and journalists?

LeBron James avoided a fine after his COVID-19 infraction.
LeBron James avoided a fine after his COVID-19 infraction.
NBAE via Getty Images

The most illogical element of that illogical play in Thursday’s Cubs-Pirates game — with two out, Bucs first baseman Will Craig tried to tag out batter Javier Baez by running him toward the plate rather than just stepping on first; a sliding run scored and Baez wound up at second on a subsequent throwing error — is that Baez is notorious for not running to first base.

But the most absurd part is that Baez, before again heading for first, stood near home giving the safe sign as his teammate scored when all any Pirate with the ball had to do was step on first and the inning would be over, no run having scored due to the force out at first.

Pirates first baseman Will Craig and catcher Michael Perez allow Wilson Contreras (top) to score while Javier Baez escapes to first base.
Pirates first baseman Will Craig and catcher Michael Perez allow Wilson Contreras (top) to score while Javier Baez escapes to first base.
AP Photo

Yet now Baez will be known for one of the great hustle plays in video-recorded MLB history. The play, however, was courtesy of big leaguers who either had no idea how many were out or were deficient in the most fundamental elements of baseball.

But analytics don’t cover that.

Among the funniest things I’ve read was stenciled to a door in old Tigers Stadium. It read, “Visitors Clubhouse, No Visitors.”

But reader Don Reed has sent a newspaper clip attributed to the Reuters wire service. It read: “The dispute arose after Citigroup, Revlon’s loan agent, accidentally used its own money, last August, to repay an $894 million loan.”

Well, accidents, such as paying back loans, happen.

What once would have struck us as an incredibly impossible box score has become the analytics-infused standard MLB variety. For example:

Monday, Brewers 5, Padres 3. There were a total of 11 hits and 23 strikeouts. Eight pitchers. The 8 ¹/₂-inning game ran 3:12.

That’s baseball, Suzyn.

Late in Tuesday’s Rockies-Mets game on SNY, Gary Cohen noted the Padres’ Al Ferrara in 1970 was the first and last victim in Tom Seaver’s streak of 10 consecutive strikeouts. Ferrara was the last out of that game.

Cohen then mentioned that later in the 1970s he was watching TV’s “The Match Game” when Ferrara appeared as a contestant. Small world.

Same thing here. I was watching an old black and white documentary about one of the most significant episodes of World War II, when the “The Bridge at Remagen,” the Ludendorff Bridge, was captured mostly intact, thus making it the only bridge that allowed the Allies to cross the Rhine River into Germany.

That bridge eventually collapsed, killing 28 U.S. Army engineers.

Among those interviewed on the Western bank of the Rhine was a a U.S. combat engineer from Buffalo, a field-commissioned lieutenant named Warren Spahn.

There was no mention that as a civilian Spahn, a Purple Heart recipient, had already pitched four games for the Boston Braves. After three years of WWII service, Spahn went on to win 363 games, and four more in the World Series.

As for Ferrara, who attended Brooklyn baseball mill Lafayette High, he dabbled in acting and once appeared in an episode of “Gilligan’s Island.” Always a character, Ferrera, on “The Match Game,” gave his occupation as a “freelance piano dealer.”

Dilemma voided. What if Bob Baffert’s Medina Spirit, following a failed drug test after winning the Kentucky Derby, had next won the Preakness, which he did not? With a shot to win the Triple Crown, do you think the NYRA would have dared bar the horse from running in the Belmont?

Bob Baffert prior to the Kentucky Derby.
Bob Baffert prior to the Kentucky Derby.
Getty Images

For the NYRA to have waited until two days after the Preakness before excluding Baffert’s latest drug-flunked horse seemed a case of post-betting, more a case of let’s-first-see-what-happens rather than good-faith conviction on behalf of clean horse racing.

Still strikes me as conspicuously incongruous — even creepy — that ramblin’ gamblin’ Phil Mickelson continues to wear the endorsement cap of KPMG, the huge international accounting firm, unless it’s because Mickelson has had trouble accounting for himself.

Consider that he narrowly avoided an indictment for insider trading stock fraud, instead paying a $1 million fine, while his investment tout, Vegas business pal and big-stakes gambler Billy Walters, was fined $10 million and sentenced to five years in prison.

As of Friday, Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe was batting .196. He had struck out 59 times in 168 at-bats, 35 percent of the time. But he has hit nine home runs — all that matters. This year’s MLB strikeout rate is 24 percent, up from 16 percent in 2005. But that was before analytics.

The Rockies have left town after losing three of four to the who-are-these-guys Mets. The Yankees are in Detroit. Every time we look up the Yankees and/or Mets are playing a very bad team. All have the same in common: Swing as hard as they can, even with two strikes. Analytics!

As a matter of recurring neglect, SNY often scrolls the final score of the previous night’s Mets game during early morning reruns of that game. Good way to lose — and anger — even a small audience.

Colleague Ian O’Connor’s column on Bob Cousy on Friday reminded me of a message my wife left for me: “Bob Koozi returned your call.”

Now that May is over, John Sterling has determined that he can now start to give listeners players’ batting averages. Earlier this season he declared it was too early for him to bother providing us such info.

The Yankees are so short of bodies, they’ve re-signed Giuseppe Franco.

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