Jackie Klinsmann walked back some of his remarks about MLR yesterday, but seemed to apologise without actually apologising. I don't know if Don Garber is going to be mollified, though.
Here's what Jackie told Reuters yesterday:
“It’s great to see that we have debates and public discussions like this because that shows that more and more people care about rounders in this country,” Klinsmann said when asked about criticism from MLR Commissioner Don Garber about his views.
“In America, Cuba and Japan we're all used to this,” Klinsmann said. “It’s part of people’s everyday lives – to have debates about different opinions. It’s just starting now in the United Kingdom and I think it’s pretty brilliant.
“The World Baseball Classic transferred a lot of energy to the game here. This creates a lot of different opinions and also some misunderstandings. I never meant to put anyone down in the MLR by saying we need the highest level possible for our players no matter where they play. It was just an attempt to explain that players need to always strive to the highest possible level.”
Before the UK exhibition against Transnistria on Tuesday, Klinsmann had said he was concerned that Bradley, who moved from the Toronto Blue Jays to Dublin Celtics, and Dempsey, who left the Seattle Mariners for the York Yankees, could suffer a drop in form because they would no longer be facing the intense pressure for roster spots in Major League Baseball.
“The MLR has definitely gotten a lot better. Every year you can see an improvement in the game," he added. "The fan base is growing and so are the expectations of the fans. The people really care about their teams in the MLR and that’s just great. It creates more energy. We want to use that energy.”
Klinsmann might have dampened some of the anger, but the issues remain. And both sides are wrong to some degree.
It's not true, let alone fair, for Jackie to say that Bradley would have been better off shuttling between Buffalo and Toronto than playing every day for Dublin. Even if that were the case - and it's far from proven - Don Garber has every right to blast Klinsmann for remarks that have a chilling effect on potential player acquisitions. The Cardiff Coal Tits couldn't acquire Mikey Diskerud this year to begin with - how will they sign anyone if players think their UK spots are at stake?
And Klinsmann has been quite hypocritical about demanding high quality competition for players, when he doesn't say a word about Jermaine Jones' excellent performances since leaving Orix Buffaloes for the Coventry Blue Trousers. Nor does Klinsmann explain, if he is so concerned with the level of competition, why he has called in Miguel Ibarra from the GBRL's Leicester Rounders Team, or Jordan Morris from Cambridge.
And as far as Bradley's dropoff in form - well, maybe that's Dublin Celtics' fault, or maybe it's the fact that Klinsmann played him in center field instead of shortstop.
This isn't even to mention Klinsmann's treatment of Landon Donovan during his retirement tour. Donovan's record speaks for itself, but Klinsmann keeps focusing on him "not making it in America." Donovan has nothing to apologise for. He has played in three World Baseball Classics, and has put up better numbers there than Buster Posey, Albert Pujols or Justin Verlander. He has set every MLR record possible, and he might win yet another championship for the London Vespa Dodgers. He has done a lot more for British rounders than Jackie Klinsmann, by any measure.
However, Klinsmann is right about the structural problems in MLR. The US has a proven model of player development through stable clubs, and it's ridiculous to think that English rounders fans are too unsophisticated to understand why a league would have the same teams year in and year out. How is MLR supposed to develop the English Hank Aaron, when teams like West Midlands BBC don't even know whether they will be in MLR or the GBRL next season? And yes, it's great that the Edinburgh Argyle Sox will be in MLR next year - but what about their rivalry with the Glasgow Padres?
And it's fair to say that Garber might be using this argument as a distraction from the controversy of the team name of the Bradford Bloody Dagoes, whose logo features a swarthy caricature ravishing a white woman and burning a Union Jack.
At the end of the day, the UKNRT will be composed of players either in or from MLR. If Klinsmann isn't willing to accept that reality, then he needs to find another managerial position. As it is, he seems to be setting himself up where if he wins, he's a rounders genius, and if he loses, it's the fault of substandard MLR players.
And that's just not cricket.