Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Bounced paychecks! Elli's Israel ball scandal widens

In the words of a great Yogi, “It ain’t over til it’s over,” and in the case of Our Man Elli in Israel’s exposé on the Israel Baseball League’s tumultuous first season, the revelations and shockers just keep on coming.

While worldwide debate rages over the fallout from Elli’s article, and whether Elli is a “killjoy,” dream killer or just a putz who should have been happy to have any kind of baseball in the Promised Land, the latest issue is whether the players who left their home countries to play a season in Israel wil get paid for the effort.

Behind the scenes, there have been many grumble from players. One IBL star player who asked to remain anonymous writes:

”I saved every check that I got this summer from the league, my entire salary, and deposited them the day after I got back from the States. Well, a week later, the checks didn't cash because the league had insufficient funds, so every purchase that I have made since then has needed to come from a loan account which I now need to pay back, plus interest, plus overdraft fees. Can you fucking believe this? The league sent out an email with some bullshit excuse about why they don't have the money.

“Frankly, I don't care why they don't have it. That's not my problem. What is my problem is that I worked for a whole summer and have yet to get paid.”

The player said the league explained the fashla, "something to the effect that an old check from a vendor was wrongfully cashed and wiped out their account. Don't believe that for a second. Haven't they ever heard of accountants who keep track of their business bank accounts? I’m pretty sure that if a HUGE check wasn't cashed for several months someone would know about it. If not, this league is doomed.”

But one high-profile player did go on the record with his complaint.

All-Star infielder Nate Fish, the pride of the Tel Aviv Lightning, writes:

"My last paycheck from the league bounced, which pretty much sucks considering I'm effectively jobless and without a home in NYC right now."

Is this a case of Bialystock and baseball? Elli promises much more to come, as his investigation of the Israel Baseball League continues-- and all this should only add to the importance and drama of the best-selling book that the article will inspire.

And meanwhile, despite the controversy, the reaction to Elli’s article can be summed up by this fan who commented on the article as it appeared in Haaretz:

“Baseball in Israel was a joy to behold. However, all of the criticisms aired in this article are correct. The playing fields were not only poorly constructed, but they were dangerous. At Baptist Village, the children in the summer camp had to be kept far from the fence, because a well-hit ball could have flown over the fence and hurt a child. At Sportek, the fence was covered with spikes making it dangerous for a player to run into it. It is not enough to simply have bases and a pitcher`s mound to play professional ball on a field. The field has to be graded and leveled, it has to have apprioriate grass or artificial turf, and the running track has to be soft enough for cleats to engage the ground. Luckily, there was only one serious injury. BTW, Mr. Cruz could have a legit. lawsuit against the league for negligence resulting in the end of his baseball career. I saw him after his release from hospital, and he probably will have coordination problems for a long time to come.”

(Catch up with all our exclusive postings of Elli Wohlgelernter's Pulitzer-bound coverage of the Israel Baseball League here.)

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