Howard and the Schmuck: Phillies Sued for 200th HR Ball

October 12, 2009

On July 16th, Ryan Howard hit the 200th homerun of his young career.  He became the quickest player to reach the milestone, doing so in just 658 games.  It took Alex Rodriguez 826 games to reach the same mark (ARod was 25 when he hit his, though, Howard is 29).  As has been the case in recent years where milestone homeruns are hit seemingly every night, not a whole lot was made of the round tripper, but more than a month later the story lingered for more selfish reasons.

Howard will have many more Homeruns, but if he wants to keep them, he better slim down and keep them in the park.

Howard will have many more Homeruns, but if he wants to keep them, he better slim down and keep them in the park.

It was a packed house in Miami that day, 39% full.  About 15,000 fans showed up to watch a division rivalry.  The ball was “caught” by 12-year-old Jennifer Valdivia.  She was sitting in one of the quarter-full sections of LandShark (A crappy beer, a crappier stadium) Stadium, and when the ball ended up under a seat a couple to the left of her own, Valdivia moved briskly, but did not face much competition in her quest to procure the ball.  Then she simply went back to her seat.

A Phillies representative was sent out to get Jennifer and her 16 year old brother.  They were brought down to the clubhouse and given cotton candy and a different ball signed by Ryan Howard in exchange for the historic homerun ball.  They took the exchange, and all parties seemed to be content.

Now I do not know if Miami area attorney Norm Kent approached them or they approached Kent, but this guy was born for this case.  Kent is a Brooklyn-born former talk show host and political advocate whose office is riddled with Brooklyn Dodgers memorabilia (Read up on Norm Kent here).  Kent seems like the type of guy who loves to be in the spotlight, and was waiting for an opportunity to attach himself to baseball somehow.

Norm Kent as Dodgers Fantasy Camp.  Click to read his fantasy baseball blog.

Norm Kent at Dodger's Fantasy Camp. Click to read his fantasy baseball blog.

The famous Valdivia vs. The Philadelphia Phillies case will be known for giving fans the ultimate right to a baseball caught in the stands.  That’s right, Kent sued the Phillies so Jennifer could get her baseball back.

The practice of returning milestone homerun balls to the player that hit them became very prevalent around the time of Mark McGwire’s run.  At that time, people were excited to catch one and get driven down to the clubhouse to meet with the Larger than Life slugger.  Things seem to have changed since McGwire’s 70th sold for a cool million.

The market has slowed to a halt since then, and Norm Kent’s appraisal of the ball as being worth $1,000 is probably correct.  Someone would pay that much for the ball right now.  This is a ball that could be worth a lot of money in maybe 50 years, or the week that Ryan Howard gets enshrined in the Hall of Fame.   It all depends on the first basemen’s consistency over the rest of his career.

Maybe Kent is trying to drive the price of the ball up with all of this publicity.  I do not know, but I do know that there is something wrong with this whole thing.  The fans at the games are looking for payouts.

The price was a bit steep for Matt Carson, but he will treasure the bat instead.

The price was a bit steep for Matt Carson, but he will treasure the bat instead.

Earlier this season, Matt Carson, a 28-year old career minor leaguer playing for Oakland, hit his first career Major League homerun.  When the team inquired about the ball, the fan said he could have it, for $10,000.  Just another sign that people do not know how much Minor League baseball players make.  Carson said no, and got his bat authenticated instead.

Part of me does not blame the girl.  She is just a kid at a game.  She probably is barely paying attention, dragged there by her older brother.  She most likely had no idea who Ryan Howard was before she grabbed the ball.  So for her to feel swindled is normal because she was told by Norm Kent that she was swindled.

I am disappointed in Norm Kent.  This is a baseball fan claiming to be an advocate of baseball fans, but for a real fan, going into the Phillies’ clubhouse after the game, and getting a signed ball would be better than having that homerun ball.

Seth McFarlane, creator of the Comic book character, Spawn, paid 3 million bucks for the Mark McGwire 70th homerun ball.  I think its worth $9 now.

Seth McFarlane, creator of the Comic book character, Spawn, paid 3 million bucks for the Mark McGwire 70th homerun ball. I think its worth $9 now.

Obviously, the Phillies could have handled this better.  Ryan Howard should have reached out more and given the fan more than just a signed baseball.  Maybe sent a personal letter and memorabilia.  I doubt this would appease Norm Kent, but it may have made the fan’s experience better.  Also, giving cotton candy to a kid to get something away from them makes the whole situation sketchy.

This is just a sad representation of what sports have come to.  In an interview, an NPR journalist asked Norm Kent if he were Ryan Howard, wouldn’t he want the ball back?  His response:

“There was a time, and day, and era, when that argument might have had some merit…, but this is an age when that ball has more than just historic significance.  There’s nothing to say that Ryan Howard, would not, years from now, auction off that ball as other professional athletes auction off their rings and jewelry to generate money for themselves.”

I’d say, “Go to hell,” but I think you’re well on your way.  Just do me a favor, and don’t take baseball with you.

Norm Kent’s Interview with NPR
Video of the Homerun

Advertisements

Bye-bye Dre Bly

October 12, 2009
Hey Dre, come here!  Cannot play with them. Cannot win with them. Cannot coach with them. Cant do it. I want winners. I want people that want to win.

"Hey Dre, come here! Cannot play with them. Cannot win with them. Cannot coach with them. Can't do it. I want winners. I want people that want to win."

There is no way that Dre Bly is allowed to walk out of practice on Tuesday without an extra orifice in his backside and an article of footwear lodged in his existing one.  Not as long as Mike Singletary is the coach in San Francisco.  The interception/showboat/fumble was embarrassing and completely unacceptable.  For those unfamiliar with the play, let me take you back:

Third quarter, Falcons driving downfield at the start of the half.  Niners losing 35-10 at the time.  Bly picked a Matt Ryan pass intended for Roddy White at his own 10 yard line.  He then proceeded to sprint up field with the ball.  But that’s when things went awry.  By the time he reached his own 20 yard line (only 10 yards after making the pick) he puts a hand behind his head and high steps, all while carrying the football like a loaf of bread.  He was instantly caught from behind by Roddy White, who stripped him of the ball and allowed the Falcons to recover in San Francisco territory. 

Dre Bly mightve showboated himself out of a job in San Francisco.

Dre Bly might've showboated himself out of a job in San Francisco.

There’s no way that Singletary saw that play as it happened, because there is no way on Earth that Bly would’ve been able to make it to the locker room under his own power after his coach was done with him.  This is the coach that will get in anyone’s face, sent Vernon Davis to the locker room last year for not contesting an overthrown pass, and will openly jaw with any opposing player near his sideline.  He’s not going to stand for a play like this.  Nobody should and it certainly won’t be Samurai Mike. 

The worst part is that the team was down 25 points at the time and needed a momentum swing badly.  The pick would’ve helped.  A veteran player, like Dre Bly, would’ve realized this and used some of the wisdom he’s gathered in 11 years in the NFL and tucked the ball while running straight up field.  Instead, the cocky and selfish Bly went Primetime nowhere near the end zone and cost his team a shot at rallying.  His gaffe allowed the Falcons to recover and convert a field goal, extending their lead to four touchdowns in the third quarter.

As if the play itself isn’t bad enough, Bly cockily replied after the game, “Like I say, I’m going to be me.  That’s who I’ve been my whole life, that’s who I was in college. I have fun. Dre’s going to be Dre.”  Mike Singletary certainly won’t stand for selfish players who put themselves ahead of the team.  Not only did he make the mistake, he showed no remorse for his misdoing.  Reverend Mike isn’t going to be very forgiving of that.  It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Bly, whose on his third team in four years, get benched or even cut for his transgressions.  They are completely counterproductive to the mission that the Niners are on.  Playoff teams don’t make those careless mistakes.  Most rookies wouldn’t make those careless mistakes.  Veteran players absolutely shouldn’t make those mistakes.  It could be time for bye-bye for Dre Bly.