2005 NEWS

2005 News > 5/13/05


By David Lennon, NY Newsday

So what if the guy meting out the punishment looks ridiculous dressed in a powdered white wig, flowing robes and brandishing a gavel. Fining millionaires a couple of hundred bucks isn't much of a deterrent, either.

But when the Mets decided Tuesday to institute a kangaroo court for this year's club, it was more significant than simply adopting one of baseball's time-honored traditions. And more than just a gag, too.

After a decade of clubhouse factions, divided loyalties and too much losing, the Mets finally have the self-esteem to start policing themselves, and are comfortable enough with each other to do it in a joking manner.

"If guys want to get lazy, or do their own thing or get on their own plan, so to speak, we have guys watching and they know they're going to get fined," said Tom Glavine, who was appointed judge based on his 18-year seniority. "It kind of keeps everyone in line in a fun way. It speaks to the camaraderie of the team that guys are willing to sit down for a while, bust on each other and have fun."

The details may differ from club to club, from college teams to the major leagues, but the premise is the same for every kangaroo court. During the season, anyone who sees an infraction writes it down on a slip of paper and stuffs it into the court-specified box. When the box is full, Glavine calls the court into session, and the crimes are read aloud to the entire clubhouse.

The accuser must have at least one witness, and the defendant can fight the charges rather than immediately pay up. But if he loses the case, Glavine can then increase the dollar amount for wasting the court's time. Everyone is included - the medical staff, the coaches, even Randolph - but a person's salary is taken into account when the fine is determined.

Glavine participated in the Braves' kangaroo court, though never as the judge, but it was utility man Marlon Anderson who first suggested one for this year's Mets. Anderson believed the court system fostered camaraderie last season for the Cardinals on their march to the National League crown, and he saw the same forces at work in this clubhouse.

"The No. 1 rule is not to be sensitive," Anderson said. "This team jokes around a lot, anyway, and this is another way for us to be able to do that. People do enough silly, stupid things in baseball, and some guys get mad when they get singled out. On this team, we don't have that problem."

That sensitivity is what usually shuts down a kangaroo court, as Glavine said it did in Atlanta, and is probably a reason the Mets have not had one since outfielder Daryl Boston was the judge in the early 1990s. Boston played from 1990-92, which included a second-place finish (91-71) that first year, followed by a 77-84 record the next and 72-90 in 1992.

"If you're having a God-awful year, it's a little bit harder to do that kind of stuff because the perception is not a good one," Glavine said. "But it's the fact that we're playing well, we're going in the right direction, and we have a good mix of guys who enjoy being around each other.

"I think a lot of people look at our team and see a lot of Latin guys, a lot of American guys, Korean guys, and say, 'Golly, who hangs around with who?' But I think most of us feel like we have pretty good chemistry, and being able to do this certainly speaks to that."

Randolph, as a rookie manager, is pleased to see his players bonding outside the foul lines. He was a vocal part of many courts with the Yankees of the early '80s, and Randolph knows that, in some ways, it makes his job a little easier.

"It doesn't translate to wins and losses," Randolph said, "but the good teams that I've been on over the years always held each other accountable, whether it's playing the game right or not being tardy or just having fun poking fun at each other.

"You don't see a lot of that nowadays because to me, guys are too sensitive, and too full of themselves. So it gives a way to say if you look shabby, or you mess up, we're going to get on you."