Dolan Proves He'll Never Be In Same Class As Late Giants Owner Wellington Mara

By Ernie Palladino
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The way owners and front office executives react to angry letters tells a lot about them as people.

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Whether they come from a fan base blasting an underachieving team or players irate over management’s perceived mistreatment, a measure of comportment in one’s answer always goes a long way in maintaining that organization’s image.

It separates class from trash, smart from idiotic.

Jim Dolan gave the whole corporate world a lesson in how not to answer criticism. As he sat down to write his e-mail response to Irving Bierman’s pointed-yet-measured letter of concern, the Knicks’ owner must have thought he was the first of his nationwide brethren to receive such a missive. Imagine, a lifelong fan voicing his displeasure with Dolan, whose team now stands 32 games under .500 at 10-42.

Where Phil Jackson’s triangle offense failed miserably, Dolan succeeded grandly in hitting the Triangle of Stupidity. Intimated that the 73-year-old letter-writer was an alcoholic, an assumption Bierman blew apart the next day claiming temperance. Hateful mess. Probably made his family miserable. You don’t like it, go root for the Nets.

This is not the way to make friends with the people who buy your merchandise, sit in your arena, and watch the telecasts despite the real mess your team has produced on game night.

Put Dolan in the idiot category, and with him the entire franchise. Guilt by association is a terrible thing.

Then we have the Yankees and the ever-present Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod sent the Steinbrenners and GM Brian Cashman several love letters over the past 18 months, and they weren’t anything near as tame as Bierman’s rants. Those mailings came in the form of lawsuits, as in “I’m suing everybody in sight over my suspension, including you.”

Only now the wayward third baseman(?)/designated hitter(?)/first-base fill-in(?) is orchestrating an apology tour. Just a nice sit-down with Cashman over an Arnold Palmer and a ham sandwich to put all the bad feelings aside.

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Cashman could have written him a hundred pages about how he and the franchise view A-Rod with the same warmth as a measles outbreak. He could have told his cheater to hold his tongue until after he apologized publicly for costing the Yanks a year of his services over Biogenesis.

Instead, he told the media he’d love to have a meeting to talk about whatever is on Ster-Rod’s mind. Timing of the apology, the nasty misunderstandings, his innocence, the gal who replaced Torrie Wilson; anything. And then both men followed through. Rodriguez apologized to Yankees brass in person on Tuesday.

So put Cashman and the Yanks in the smart category. Rodriguez is simply not going away anytime soon, even as the franchise continues its efforts to void the marketing contract that contains a $6 million payoff for reaching Willie Mays’ 660-home run milestone. Even though the Yanks say they’ll treat Rodriguez no differently than any other player in spring training, it’s just good business to come to some sort of detente with a man whose return will command the back pages all season.

Late Giants owner Wellington Mara set the standard for engagement. It was said that he responded to almost every letter that found its way onto his desk, good or bad, happy or irate. He even had a running correspondence with a few of them, all hand-written. Mara was a disciple of old-school communication.

He answered each of one fan’s draft, personnel and play suggestions over a 20-year span, 1,000 letters in all. But it was one response that illustrated the right way to answer someone who lacked a filter of decency.

A fan had written him one of the many critical letters he received, only this one went miles further than the Bierman’s. He basically called Mara every name in the book while sprinkling other colorful nouns and adjectives throughout.

Mara, who saw every fan as a customer worthy of his time, wrote a typically respectful response, thanking the fan for his passion and his suggestions. But he saved his real point for last.

“I wish you the best,” Mara wrote. “And it is my sincere hope that you never receive a letter like the one you just wrote me.”

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Classy.