NEW YORK — Something still bothers Barry Larkin about his Most Valuable Player award.
The other name engraved on the trophy: Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
“Why is it on there?” said Larkin, the Black shortstop voted National League MVP in 1995 with the Cincinnati Reds.
“I was always aware of his name and what that meant to slowing the color line in Major League Baseball, of the racial injustice and inequality that Black players had to go through,” the Hall of Famer said this week.
Hired in 1920 as the sport’s first commissioner to help clean up rampant gambling, Landis and his legacy are “always a complicated story” that includes “documented racism,” official MLB historian John Thorn said.
This much is true, in black and white, about the son of a Union Army doctor wounded at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia during the Civil War: No Blacks played in the majors during his quarter-century tenure; Jackie Robinson broke the barrier in April 1947, about 2 1/2 years after Landis died.
“Landis is a part of history, even though it was a dark history,” Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
Fact is, few fans realize Landis’ name is plastered all over the Most Valuable Player trophies. Most people just call it the MVP.
But there it is, prominently displayed on every American League and NL MVP plaque since 1944 — Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award, in shiny, gold letters literally twice as big as those of the winner.
With a sizable imprint of Landis’ face, too.
To some MVPs, it’s time for that 75-year run to end.
“If you’re looking to expose individuals in baseball’s history who promoted racism by continuing to close baseball’s doors to men of color, Kenesaw Landis would be a candidate,” three-time NL MVP Mike Schmidt of Philadelphia said.
“Looking back to baseball in the early 1900s, this was the norm. It doesn’t make it right, though,” the Hall of Famer said. “Removing his name from the MVP trophy would expose the injustice of that era. I’d gladly replace the engraving on my trophies.”
Added 1991 NL MVP Terry Pendleton of Atlanta, who is Black: “This is 2020 now and things have changed all around the world. It can change for the better.
“Statues are coming down, people are looking at monuments and memorials,” he said. “We need to get to the bottom of things, to do what’s right. Yes, maybe it is time to change the name.
“I’ve always thought about that, why is that still on there?” Pendleton said. “No doubt, MVP stands on its own. It doesn’t need a name.”
Many hallowed baseball trophies are graced by the names of the greats: Robinson, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Cy Young, Willie Mays, Ted Williams and more.
How Landis got etched into the list is easy to trace.
A federal judge in Chicago, Landis quickly established his powerful authority as commissioner, banning Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Black Sox for throwing the 1919 World Series.
In 1931, Landis decided members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America would pick and present the MVP awards. Before that, the leagues had their own mishmash system.
Then during the 1944 World Series, the BBWAA voted to add Landis’ name to the plaque as “an acknowledgement of his relationship with the writers,” longtime BBWAA secretary-treasuer Jack O’Connell said.
A month later, Landis died at 78. He soon was elected to the Hall of Fame.
“Landis is who he is. He was who he was,” Thorn said. “I absolutely support the movement to remove Confederate monuments, and Landis was pretty damn near Confederate.”
His precise role in racial issues has been debated for decades.
Landis broke up exhibitions between Black and white All-Star teams. He invited a group of Black newspaper publishers to address owners in what became a cordial but totally fruitless presentation.
Toward the end of his tenure, he told owners they were free to sign Black players. But there is no evidence he pushed for baseball integration, either, as the status quo of segregation remained.
“If you have the Jackie Robinson Award and the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Award, you are at diametrically opposed poles,” Thorn said. “And it does represent a conundrum.”
O’Connell said no MVP had voiced a complaint to him about Landis since taking his post in 1994. He said Landis’ name on the plaque wasn’t pledged or part of the BBWAA constitution.
Any BBWAA member could raise an objection to Landis’ presence. Normally, that would be discussed at the organization’s next gathering, currently scheduled for December at the winter meetings in Dallas. The coronavirus pandemic has put the event in peril.
O’Connell said that if someone raised the issue now, it could be brought up to the board and opened to discussion and a vote. To pull Landis’ name “would be a simple matter of redesigning the plaque,” he said.
To Larkin, that would remove the tarnish from the trophy.
Larkin recalled that shortly after he was voted MVP, he got a call from two-time NL MVP Joe Morgan. The star Black second baseman of the Big Red Machine talked about Landis’ legacy and “he said it never sat well with him, having that name on there,” Larkin recalled.
“His name should not be represented on a plaque or award of honor, especially at this day and time,” he said. “If his name was taken off, I would not be opposed to it at all.”
MLBPA doubles investments to $160M ahead of bargaining
NEW YORK — The Major League Baseball Players Association nearly doubled its liquid investments over two years as the sport heads toward collective bargaining that could lead to a spring training lockout in 2022.
The union had $159.5 million in cash, U.S. Treasury securities and investments on Dec. 31, according to a financial disclosure form filed Tuesday with the U.S. Department of Labor. That was up from $102.4 million at the end of 2018 and $80.1 million at the end of 2017.
According to the filing, the union had $24.5 million in cash, $75.4 million in Treasury securities and $59.6 million investments with the entities such as the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., known as Freddie Mac; Federal Home Loan Banks; and Federal Farm Credit Banks.
The union typically prepares for bargaining by withholding licensing money due to players and keeping it available to disburse during or after a stoppage. Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95 but has not had one since.
Baseball’s labor contract expires on Dec. 1, 2021. The union has threatened to file a grievance accusing Major League Baseball of bad faith in bargaining during contentious talks to start the pandemic-delayed season, an accusation MLB had denied. The sides failed to reach an agreement during talks in May and June, leaving baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred to unilaterally announce a 60-game schedule.
Union head Tony Clark earned a $2.25 million base salary, an increase of $100,000, according to the disclose form.
Bruce Meyer earned $1 million in his first full year as senior director of collective bargaining and legal.
No. 3 overall draft pick Max Meyer gets $6.7M signing bonus from Marlins
MIAMI — Right-hander Max Meyer has agreed to a $6.7 million signing bonus as part of a minor league contract to join the Miami Marlins, and he’ll take part in training camp starting Friday.
The deal was for less than his slot value of $7,221,200 as the No. 3 overall pick in last month’s amateur draft.
Meyer had a 2.07 career ERA with 187 strikeouts in 148 innings at the University of Minnesota. He’s in the Marlins’ 60-man player pool and could crack their rotation at some point this year.
everything the light touches is our kingdom, Simba pic.twitter.com/0Ep0dqzpYy
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) July 2, 2020
He will receive up to $100,000 of the signing bonus within 30 days of the deal’s approval by the commissioner’s office and half of the remainder on July 1 in 2021 and 2022.
Baseball is back — and we have the video to prove it
The crack of the bat. The snap of a ball hitting a mitt. The sounds (and sights) of baseball finally are back as players are taking part in workouts at their home stadiums in preparation for the 2020 MLB season, abbreviated as it will be.
For the first time since spring training camps closed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, players are gathering to work out together at team facilities. That means Gerrit Cole throwing batting practice to new teammate Aaron Judge at Yankee Stadium. Or Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto taking BP at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
Take a look for yourself, as we’ve compiled some scenes of the boys of summer back in action.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) July 2, 2020
We sure missed that swing.
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) July 2, 2020
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) July 2, 2020
My favorite kind of social distancing. pic.twitter.com/V3GdNoJIGE
— Alex Wood (@Awood45) July 2, 2020
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) July 2, 2020
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