[What Does a Guy in That Hat Know About Baseball Anyway?]

While I don’t have much of an opinion yet on SCOTUS nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor (outside of my knee-jerk rubber stamp approval for Obama), of note to baseball fans is the Obama Administration touting her as the judge who “saved baseball.” In 1995, Sotomayor ruled in the baseball strike that stymied everyone from MLB, the players union, and President Clinton.  Given Obama’s South Side sympathies, he’s always on thin ice when talking baseball.  However, there’s a long list of baseball observers who think she did save that season.  The National Review’s Ted Frank quickly tried to shoot down that notion here:

That’s nonsense.  Judge Sotomayor ruled on a NLRB petition seeking an injunction against the owner’s 1995 lockout of the players.  As I noted at the time, the court hearing the matter would be making a straightforward ruling on labor law: and the owners were plainly in the wrong legally by their conduct in the labor negotiations.  Any judge randomly assigned to the case would have made the same ruling.  Indeed, a three judge panel of the Second Circuit, in an opinion by conservative Judge Ralph Winter, unanimously upheld Sotomayor’s grant of the injunction.

To say that the judge in the case saved baseball (or expressed sympathy for highly paid baseball players, as Kathryn snarks below) is making the very mistake that separates conservative viewpoints on the role of the judiciary from Obama’s view of the judiciary as activist.  A judge acts as an umpire, making the calls of balls and strikes: neither the judge nor the umpire is supposed to decide that one party is more sympathetic than the other and deserves the benefit of the ruling.

Presidential hyperbole or not, 90% of life is showing up, and she made a competent ruling “ not to be taken lightly in post-Bush America “ so, yeah, she gets credit for moving the season forward.

I quote Frank, though, as yet another conservative making that tired umpires = Supreme Court Justice equation.  They apparently have no idea what umpires do for a living.   It’s the Court’s job to rule on the Constitutionality of laws — they invalidate or uphold them via decisions of lower courts.  Umpires don’t invalidate or validate baseball rules “ they are the lower court.   Umpires don’t strike down the infield fly rule or shift the score in a game to help a team disadvantaged by a smaller payroll over a big city team (except in the case of the Pirates and Cubs last night “ WTF!?!?!?).  It wasn’t the umpires who invalidated “seperate but equal” in baseball and let Jackie Robinson play.  It was the Court, in Brown v Board of Education, that desegregated schools. Umpires didn’t even decide the recent Milton Bradley 1-game suspension dispute.  Disputed decisions are settled by MLB, a higher authority, that also determines which rules go into effect each season.  Whatever you think of the “activist judge” debate, Justices are not umpires.  It’s an intellectually dishonest argument, if politcally savvy, in the bumper sticker mentality of talk radio.  Feh.