Fay Vincent is a bitter man. Most baseball fans probably already knew that, but the former commissioner reached a new low this morning by using the occasion of George Steinbrenner’s death to justify his unscrupulous conduct during the investigation that eventually led to the Boss’ temporary lifetime ban from the game.
In both an OpEd piece for the New York Times and an article for Fox Sports, Vincent mixes a few complements with both nasty criticism and a revisionist defense of his own past transgressions. Instead of paying tribute to a former adversary, or saying nothing at all, Vincent took the low road, one he traveled often during his career.
For those unfamiliar with the background, George Steinbrenner paid “known gambler” Howie Spira $40,000 for information pertaining to a misappropriation of funds by Dave Winfield’s charitable foundation. Although the Winfield foundation was found to have improperly used its donations and Spira was eventually convicted of extorting Steinbrenner, the Boss’ actions were far from ethical. As a result, in 1990, then Commissioner Fay Vincent decided to conduct an investigation.
Unfortunately, Vincent’s conduct during the matter made Steinbrenner’s actions look admirable. Vincent and his investigator, the infamous John Dowd, broke every major league baseball rule pertaining to due process and effectively orchestrated a Kangaroo Court that helped the commissioner remove an adversary from the game.
Vincent can justify his actions until he is blue in the face, but the record his clear. Eventually, Vincent’s abuse of power (which included a unilateral abolition of due process as well as cowardly threats levied against Gene Michael and Buck Showalter during the Steve Howe suspension hearings) led to his being fired as commissioner.
In addition to rearguing his side to an old story, Vincent also engaged in a despicable revision of history. In both pieces, Vincent suggests that he “allowed” Steinbrenner back into the game out of some kindness in his heart, when the reality is he was forced to lift his lifetime ban because of pressure being placed upon him. Vincent’s decision to reinstate the Boss was more an attempt to alleviate some of the growing concern about his dictatorial behavior than to extend compassion. His suggestion to the contrary is deplorable.
Sadly, Vincent has not been able to come to grips with his own demons. Instead, he decided that the death of a monumental figure was worthy of throwing stones. When Vincent dies, there won’t be the same outpouring, but despite his own bitterness, one can only hope he won’t be treated with the same disrespect he displayed to Steinbrenner today.