Indicting a Ham Sandwich

ARTHUR:
In law school, I was exposed to various iterations of the aphorism that "a good prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich." Most often, I heard the phrase with the prosecutor removed i.e. "[Regarding grand juries], if you get the right 16 people together, you can indict a ham sandwich."

Blogospheres calling out General Managers are so often an example of this idea. When I express disappointment in Bob Murray, or even support of the rise of David McNab, it is so often based on quotes I did not gather, situations much deeper than what was reported and transactions whose negotiations are not always colored with the emotions of the fan base.

I am not an insider, so I understand how it is, at the very least, inappropriate for me to act as a person who culls information from published articles in the press to present a case for or against an individual. That is, at best, the rationalization of a torch-toting mob's demand for redress of grievances, and the raison d'être with which most mainstream news sources paint blogs, while hoping to discredit them.

There was no significant blogosphere the last time Bob Murray was a General Manager. But that mattered very little in the ultimate estimation of his failures; he was crucified by the mainstream media as effectively as any blogger could eviscerate him today.

I'm not a regular reader of the Chicago Tribune, nor was I twelve years ago, when Bob Murray regularly haunted its pages, but I have to wonder when it became okay for insiders to call him out. Was it the 15 trades in one season? Was it missing the playoffs again, with no signs of a return? Was it the trade of Chelios, where Murray was probably just a triggerman, but the defenseman found the situation with his General Manager rather personal? Was it the signing, waiving and buyout of Wendel Clark, where Murray called out the legend (and, by extension, the general manager's own mistake in signing Clark as a free agent) after only 13 games?

Before there were bloggers, it was, at some point, 'okay' to question the competence of a General Manager without evoking the 'insider versus outsider' debate. And you can argue that the press themselves are outsiders, but on page 2 of that above-linked Tribune article, a definitive insider in Murray's situation, Bob Pulford, made sure to distance himself from Murray's actions.

Ten years later, most would hope-- you figure Murray, at the very least, hoped --that memories would fade. But memories can be refreshed.

During his press interviews after signing with the Maple Leafs, François Beauchemin was very vocal about waiting by a phone that never rang and how returning to the Ducks was his preferred option. Posturing, you could argue, as many did about an emotional Chelios. That notwithstanding, Murray admitted it. He reasoned that he didn't want to insult Beauchemin, a player the General Manager had fought to get while playing wingman to Brian Burke, and that the blueliner was operating in a price range outside of the Ducks' wheelhouse. So . . . no offer was made.

The desire to stay is as crippling a weakness as one can find in a free agency negotiation, and Beauchemin claims he had it. An insulting offer, had it been made, might have opened negotiations. But even if a 3.8M average was absolutely necessary to make him stay, you have to ask yourself what that money was saved to achieve. For all the Salary cap problems, Bob Murray did ultimately spend money on his blueline. What did he get?

Some combination of James Wisniewski and Steve Eminger or Nick Boynton-- the host of nickel and dime defensive question marks that came in to play Randy Carlyle's system and have since exited with little fanfare, most of them losing their jobs to Sheldon Brookbank?

He traded a player of certainty for two or more players of uncertainty. Then he had to trade (literally) to get him back.

Beauchemin doesn't seem to bear a grudge over the situation, showing understanding and implying all's forgiven. So maybe bygones should be bygones, and I should let this ham sandwich go on its way. The mistake was corrected after all, just like Whitney being traded for Visnovsky (if you conveniently forget that Eric Tangradi is good at hockey and that there was a period of time when the team actually had to rely on Ryan Whitney).

I guess I have a problem with stamping "WOOPS" on an entire season, or every game between the preseason and trading deadline. And I guess that's the same problem they had in Chicago. Too many deals, too many attempts to overhaul the team every year, only to get it right, if at all, when it was too late.

Maybe Murray's lucky this time out. No one's seemed to notice so far. A budget team in a small market offers too many excuses and not enough microscopes to produce well-publicized mistakes or beat writers terribly interested in eviscerating the General Manager of a hockey team. And if a blogger does it, well, he's a blogger. He, and anyone who joins 'Spartacus,' will probably be indicting a ham sandwich next week, so who cares what they have to say?

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