Saturday, June 28, 2008

Israel Baseball League update: Our Man Elli finds big obstacles to a second, four-team, 20-game, three-week, "momentum-keeping" mini-season

Well, we’re a month away from the promised opening of the four-team, 20-game, three-week “momentum-keeping” second season of the Israel Baseball League—or first season of the new improved, based-on-the-Broadway-musical version of the Israel Baseball League, and just as it was when we picked up the story in earnest last August, we have a bunch of US-based businessmen throwing around big promises and unequivocal statements while hiding from questions (and behind a feelgood documentary film) and pretending the elephant in the room is the size of a creamcheese-filled bagel. On the plus side, this little tabloid news and media watchdog site has proven its worth as a clearinghouse for opinion on both sides, as the lively exchange of views in our comments section can attest.

Anyway, we checked in with Our Man Elli in Israel before the Sabbath.

Tabloid Baby: Give us some news.

Our Man Elli in Israel: I wish I could give you all the answers. But I can’t. Everyone’s playing it close to the vest. They made their big announcement and now in a holding pattern.

What are they waiting for?

What else? Money. It’s not there today. Everyone’s waiting for tomorrow.

No money? Opening Day’s in four weeks. No money?

Stop pretending to be so naïve. They announced the league is still alive because of their agreement from the first season.

With the Israel Association of Baseball.


But the IBL removed the certification in January (January 9th—as we reported exclusively). How can they have the balls to announce with no money?

They HAD to announce it. And they have to make it happen. Otherwise they’d have been in breach of last summer’s contract, which says they have to have a second season. Someone close to the IAB board told me that the IAB board hasn’t even had a formal meeting on the subject. Here’s a quote. I’m reading: “It’s been a lot of emails and phone calls so far. But they can’t keep going like this, there’s going to have to be a formal board meeting, and soon.”

How soon?

Probably next week. I’m reading from the source again. Hold on. Here: “The board will have to sit and look at exactly the commitments they-- that’s the IBL-- are giving, what they say, then ask for clarifications, then send them a response on the clarifications, and then prepare a position among themselves on each contingency, depending on what they—again, the IBL-- say.” They may not to be able to get the full board together on such short notice, but they have to call the meeting. My source said he’s not convinced the IBL can pull it off, and that the IBL is-- quoting again-- “grabbing at straws in order not to be in breach of contract. It’s a dubious proposition. However, if they can pull it off, okay. Let’s see.”

A lot of people commenting in the site are saying the same thing.

I like the debate.

Yeah. It’s a good month. And the story’s going to get bigger. Anyway, is it going to happen or not?

We simply don’t know.

Great. Not. So what do you know? What about the players?

It’s never hard to get guys to play baseball, if you pay them, but how good is the quality going to be? That’s one of the questions the IAB is wrestling with. They don’t want to be embarrassed in their own backyard.

So who’ll play?

Well, every professional league has started play already, even short season Single-A, so the better players are already committed. That leaves the bottom half of the league. The players from last year were sent invitations in the past couple of months. They had until today to make the commitment.

Anyone bite?

Mostly it’ll be the American players who played last summer – we know Leon Feingold is coming.

The competitive eater.

Yeah, the pitcher.

What a (redacted by editor). Why does that guy hate us?

Eh. Comes with the territory. Plus there are supposed to be three Israelis on each of the four teams.

How much will they be paid. Or owed?

Ha. The players will be paid $750 for the three weeks. That's the pro-rated salary they made last year-- $2,000 for eight weeks. But of course the dollar has dropped, so for the Israeli players it’s a lot less. And speaking of Israeli players-– the American players are supposed to stay at Neve Ilan. It used to be a kibbutz and now it’s a moshav, just outside of Jerusalem, with guest houses and hotels.

The catch is that the IBL is asking the Israeli players not to stay there, so they can save that expense. Some of them are upset, because a large part of the experience last summer was having them all stay together-– remember, there were no bean-ball wars and no fights among the players, in part because of the camaraderie from living together.

One father of a pissed-off Israel player told me-- here’s a quote, you'll love this one:

“It’s like being at summer camp and participating in the activities, and then told you can’t sleep in the bunk with the other campers.”

What are they? Babies?

It’s a boy’s game. Sure. Even the older ones are being kids.

Sheesh. How about managers?

No word yet, except for Ami Baran. He was manager of the Netanya Tigers last season, and he’s back. They list him as” director of Israeli operations.”


They’re supposed to play at Kibbutz Gezer. But the kibbutz won’t give permission unless they pay up from last season, and pay for this season in advance. The kibbutz residents are very leery—

I can imagine.

There was a rumor going around the kibbutz this week that they were told the IBL wired the money to the IAB last Friday. But apparently, as of Wednesday, it wasn’t in the bank.

We don’t print rumours.


“The check’s in the mail.”


So where’s Larry Baras fit in? Or does he?

All we have is what they say on the IBL website. Here’s the lineup:

Dan Rootenberg
In-Coming President

Gary Woolf
Martin I. Berger
Director of U.S. Operations
Ami Baran
Director of Israeli Operations

Dan Duquette
Director of Baseball Operations
Geller Sport, Inc.
Field Engineering

I’m not sure what “In-Coming President” means. Is he president, or isn’t he? How long is he “in-coming”? When does he come in?

Incoming! (explosion sound)

Anyway, the real story is the financials, a certain Mr. Solomont from Boston, and a Boston investment banking firm that was hired to sell equity in the league.

Great! Finally, we get to the good part. David Solomont! What is up with this guy? He’s got quite a background—and family—

Right. But as much as I’d like to continue with the details, I have to answer to a higher authority. Shabbat is coming in. And here we know exactly when Shabbat is “in-coming”: 7:11 in Jerusalem. So I’ve got to say “Shabbat shalom" to you and yours.

Wait a minute-- are you (redacted by editor) serious??!!

Catch you on the other side.


Click. Brrrrrr...


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