Thursday, February 21, 2008

Our Man Elli: Israel baseball deadline near

This just in:

* The Israel Professional Baseball League has canceled
its scheduled February 24th tryouts in Florida.

* The IPBL has lined up playing fields and
player accommodations for a 2008 season.

* Governing body, The Israeli Association of Baseball,
has not decided if it will license the IPBL.

* March 1st is the "drop dead date" for a decision
that will allow professional baseball in Israel in 2008.

* The IAB's president says, “Tabloid Baby will not
determine when the process will be finished!”

We learned that and more when we debriefed Our Man Elli in Israel this afternoon:

Tabloid Baby: So. Bring us up to date.

Our Man Elli: No hello?

Hello. So, what's new with the Israel baseball? Will Robin’s boy Itai get to sit in the bleachers this summer?

I saw your item on the blog from the woman from Tel Aviv. It’s a nice site. The Internet brings the world together, doesn’t it?

What about all those IBL postings that showed up on various sites this past week—

And then the IBL puts out its first press release since the first week of January. Bizarre.

So who’s spinning it?

Everybody’s spinning. The spinning never ends. You know that better than anyone else.

What’s that supposed to mean?

It means I thought you wanted a status report.

Right. What’s new with baseball in Israel?



It’s on hold. We’re on hold. That's the official position. One source told me, and I quote, "We've heard that Jeff Rosen's group remains interested in proceeding for 2008 and is hoping the IAB”—that’s the Israel Association of Baseball—“relents in not requiring that 2007 obligations be settled as part of a licensing arrangement. I don't believe any final decisions have been made."

The IAB governs baseball in Israel and they want any new league to pay the debts left behind by the IBL.

Right. Another source said, quoting again, "I heard a rumour”—a rumour, mind you—

A fourth-hand rumour now.

“--a rumor that that IAB will sanction Jeff Rosen’s group."

That’s the Israel Professional Baseball League. The renegades.

I wouldn't say "renegades. "Upstarts," maybe. Anyway, I took the Rosen rumour to the IAB's president (Haim Katz) a couple of days ago, and I asked whether there would be baseball this summer, or whether he is planning on sanctioning the IPBL. And he wouldn’t give me a straight answer.

What did he say?

He hemmed. And then he hawed. I asked him when the IAB will decide if it will sanction the IPBL, and said, quote, "When the time is right, there will be an announcement. If there’s something to do, then we’ll say something. As of today we have not sanctioned anybody yet. There’s a whole process going on, and we’re continuing with this process. Nothing’s ripe enough to go public. We'll come out with a statement as soon as possible. As soon as we have some certainty as to what will be happening with baseball this summer, then we will come out with a statement. At this stage, I can’t come out with a statement as to what will be happening."

Hemming and hawing.

Right. There were a few more variations on that theme. My favorite was: "Tabloid Baby will not determine when the process will be finished."


He said that twice. And I’d never even mentioned Tabloid Baby. Which is a great compliment to your site. Tabloid Baby is recognized as the source for news on baseball in Israel.

Everyone thinks you’re Tabloid Baby.

That, unfortunately, is not a compliment.

Anything else with Katz?

I asked him about a rumor that Larry Baras and the IBL were going to sue the IAB if they didn't sanction them to play in the summer of ’08 because of the agreement they signed before last season. Katz said, "I know nothing of any lawsuit if we don’t sanction them."

I also asked about the IBL’s million dollar debt, including $420,000 in Israel, and whether the IAB would push the IPBL to pay off that debt before sanctioning them. No answer. But Katz did say that "The debts of the IBL are the IBL's, not the IAB's."

Bottom line. Any chance of a 2008 season?

It's February 21st. The summer draws near. It is nearly too late. But we will know for sure by the end of next week. March 1st. I do know that the IPBL has been working on the ground in Israel. They’ve found playing fields and housing for the players.

But if they get the sanction to play baseball, they can expect the supporters of the IBL to try and spread dirt about Rosen, as they’ve already done with comments on this site, like about the baby who who died after swallowing tiny magnets that fell out of toys made by a company once owned by Rosen.

Magnetix. We covered that back in November.

That's why this is the site of record.

The IPBL is set to hold tryouts at the end of this week. What do you know about that?

No one tells me anything, at least on the record. But I have found out that the tryouts scheduled for this Sunday have been canceled. One source says, quote, “It was too rushed.” As it now stands, they've pushed back the tryouts to April 6th. And truth be told, of all the details needed to get the league up and running, procuring players is the least problematic of them all. Players are to be found all over, even good ones.

But the IPBL did run into one hitch. Seems a lot of the IBL players from last summer want to return to Israel to play ball, but they don't want to try out.

That sounds fair, no?

Yeah. Frankly, for all what the players went through, there should be an automatic bye for all IBL alumni. Not that all of them were such great players, but when all is said and done, the players are the backbone, and those players deserve that gratuity.

Even the competitive eater Feingold, and "Mr. .097," Holtz.


You were off praying at the time when we posted the story about Henry Waxman and the possible Congressional hearings into the IBL.

Give me a break.


First of all, don't knock religion, you goy. I was praying for the truth about how much money Larry Baras took in, how much was paid off and where the difference went. As for the Waxman story, you guys in the home office have a good sense of humor.

We’re in his district.

Well we have something in common, then. We’re both represented by Jews.

We have sources, too.

Next question.

Back to those bloggers suddenly writing about the IBL, all of a sudden giving Baras the benefit of the doubt. What’s up with that?

Look, Larry Baras is a master spinmeister.

A bullshitter?

He's the Wizard of Iz. I gotta tell you, in the two years that I've been covering this story, what has surprised me most is that no matter what’s been said and written about Larry Baras, his ability to charm people and make them believe in him has overridden everything he's done, everything he's been accused of doing, every fact exposed about his operation, and every question about his business ethics and practices. He’s lied to people and there’s still been no accounting of any of the money he raised, and no accounting of where it was spent.

Even players who haven’t been paid parrot the line of, "It was a start-up league, people make mistakes, cut him some slack, I'm sure we'll get paid." The last pitch was thrown August 19th. It’s six months later, and not only the players but many, many others have not been paid. Yet the apologists continue to defend him. That, I find to be incredible.

The so-called “mainstream media” hasn’t exactly done its due diligence.

The media, like everyone else, got suckered in, waxing poetic about the dream of baseball in Israel for months and months before the IBL season began, and then dropping the story. Except That Putz Greenberg, who revisited it when he stole my translated story. But the media pack will be back in the spring, asking questions that have been answered here for the last six months. I already hear the strains of "Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?"

That’s because we’re singing it. “Do you, Mr. Chass? Do you, Mr. Greenberg?” Anything else?

One interesting story emerged today. Major League Baseball has announced the field for the 2009 World Baseball Classic. And it's the same 16-team field they had in 2005. In other words, Israel wasn't added on. And that raises the question of whether Larry Baras killed Israel's chances of making it into the WBC.

Wasn’t that one of the goals of the IBL?

That’s what he was talking about two years ago. But when MLB pulled out of the IBL in November, like the rest of The IBL 10, it pretty much put a kabosh on any possibility that Israel would field. How could Bud Selig take a chance of sullying his name, and that of the MLB, by tying in with the IBL?

Elli, before we hang up, we want to take this time to say this about all the work you’ve done.

Quite seriously, we just want to say-- Whoops. We cut off, just like the latest IBL press release.



(See all of Elli Wohlgelernter's groundbreaking reporting on the IBL and baseball in Israel, here, on our Baseball in Israel archive site.)


Seth said...

Everybody here is missing the point. Everyone wants to talk about how great the players were, and how amazing it is that they're getting exposure and new contracts in other professional baseball leagues. Mazel tov to them, whoopee.

The bottom line is: NOBODY IN ISRAEL CARES. For baseball to succeed in Israel, you don't need AAA players. You don't need players from 8 countries or whatever. You don't need 90-mph fastballs and knee-buckling curves.

What you DO need is good, solid baseball players who can relate to the fan base, and can promote the game. No kid from Tel Aviv can tell the difference between a single-A and a double-A quality player. He doesn't give a damn whether the pitch is going 92-mph or 82-mph, or probably even 72-mph. What he can do is tell the difference between someone who speaks his language (or makes an effort to communicate in some form or another) and a bunch of randoms who are trying to showcase their talents for leagues abroad.

As long as Duquette thinks the IBL "will be the league of choice for international players," this league is doomed. I hope Rosen realizes that he needs more Israelis and less foreigners. He needs more personality and less unpredictability. And most of all, he needs a freaking Marketing major to explain to him that Israel is not America, and that he should approach this league like a not-for-profit organization, at least for the first few years.

Best of luck. Sure hope somebody's reading this.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't disagree with you more. You don't think that you need high level talent to succeed? Why has there been a 30% increase in enrollment in youth baseball since last season. You think that kids won't notice the 41 year old center fielder who keeps dropping the ball and can't run anymore, or the 3rd baseman who throws every other ball into the bleachers and bats .097, or the pitcher that walks 10 and strikes out 1.

Having international players is important. The game is international, and the Israeli players need to see that there are options and opportunities in other contries. How many Israeli kids know that they play baseball in Canada, Australia, Korea, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, France... It's not just an American game. Did the kids cheer less loudly for the Dominicans, than the Americans? It's also a chance to meet players from a different culture, and get over the fear and distrust many of the children as well as the adults have of anything foreign.

Yeah, you do need good solid baseball players. Baseball games can take 4 hrs when you have pitchers who don't throw strikes, and hitters that can't hit a ball over a fence, and runners who trip over the bag, and 7 errors every game. Do you think any kid will stay and watch that?

I live in the US, and I sure know the difference between a good and a bad soccer team, and I hate soccer! I'd watch a National team, but sure as heck won't watch a DIII soccer game. Kids are a lot smarter than you think, and they watch ESPN even in Israel and have some understanding of the difference between good and bad baseball.

I'm not in total disagreement though. Having Israeli players is important, and there should be a minimum, which should be increased each year up to at least 50%, but more important is every team should have an Israeli assistant coach to really learn the game so they can teach the game properly when the season ends. We need players to help run clinics, and players who care enough to participate, and communicate with the children. We need Israeli coaches to take part in the clinics, as well as some of the local HS aged players. Most of all you need time and patience, becuase the game will catch on, just as basketball did, and soccer has in the US.

Anonymous said...

if larry barass runs it, it won't catch on, because the league won't succeed

Anonymous said...

Kudos to the last post. If Larry Baras does not open up his books , baseball will be finished for a long time in Israel. Thanks to Dan Kurtzer the great commish and the great board headed by the great Goldklang for letting this thief run a mock . You guys should tell everyone what you did to prevent this travesty.