|Mike Mussina: A Lesson in Basic Values
Newspapers write about what people are talking about, and last week a lot of folks - sporting men and women alike - were talking about the defection of Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina to the New York Yankees.
It's noteworthy to recall why people care about baseball. It's more than a great game; baseball is a ticket to tradition and to the rhythm of life before everything became a frenzied rush.
Baseball is a methodical, pokey pursuit where, if you stop and think about it, all but two or three people are taking it easy. Baseball reflects the values we hold dear. (More so, we hope, than football and its explosive violence.)
Baseball, like life, involves commitment, preparation and ritual. It takes teamwork, too. But, like life itself, so many episodes on the ball diamond are personal, like pitcher-and-catcher and pitcher-versus-batter. There are other values that come into play in both baseball and life, and one of those is respect, which is what this editorial is about.
Because the simple act of respect was forgotten, Mussina jumped to the Yankees, the Orioles are damaged and those of us in Chesapeake Country who chart the seasons by the baseball calendar will have their spring and summer diminished.
Mussina's defection is not about the play money that baseball owners and ballplayers throw around. It is about treating people with respect, which is what Mussina, a small-town fellow from Pennsylvania, needed. From what he told us afterward, the friendly phone calls from the Yankees and the owners along with a guided tour of scary New York's friendly country reaches made a difference. From the Orioles, one of Baltimore's finest players in history got the cold shoulder and a take-it-or-leave-it proposal.
Perhaps Orioles owner Peter Angelos never learned about respect. Or maybe he has forgotten its meaning in his high-octane life as the leader of a pack of junkyard-dog lawyers.
Whatever the case, Angelos' lack of decency toward Mussina is the reason we've lost the pleasure of watching a likely Hall of Fame pitcher, who also happens to be a first-rate citizen in an era of athletes with attitudes and rap sheets.
Mussina's departure is a lesson for all of us in the importance of treating people fairly and respectfully, and in the penalty of foul behavior.