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Bernstein: Jackie Robinson West Officials Just Making It Worse

By Dan Bernstein-- senior columnist

(CBS) Thrashing around in the rubble of their crumbled fraud, the purported adults behind the Jackie Robinson West baseball fiasco don't seem to know when to stop.

First came last week's public grandstanding by team leader Bill Haley and his attorney, a laughable spectacle that ignored the facts at hand to paint their organization as some kind of victim, unfairly treated and exploited by Little League International and secretly undermined by evil conspirators out to get them for some reason.

They demanded the names of the people who had the audacity to point out that their boundary map was phony and at no time approved by officials from sister leagues as was required. Never addressed was the actual fact that they not only sent in the fake map in the first place, but that they later failed in an attempt to have it legitimized retroactively -- a desperate, futile effort to cover their tracks that only further exposed the wrongdoing.

That kind of behavior is a theme with JRW, apparently, still playing out now in a circus that's adding rings by the day.

To boil down the legal argument from JRW's perspective -- if I have this right -- Little League didn't catch the cheating soon enough, so the cheating should count and JRW's national title should stand. JRW won't answer direct questions about why and how they broke the rules to create a team of suburban ringers, but they want to be rewarded for a temporarily successful fraud. And they are now clamoring for "due process," despite specific language in their charter agreement that prevents them from disputing the decisions of the governing body.

Then, ousted district administrator Michael Kelly held his own press conference with his own lawyers, making outlandish statements about his knowledge of maps and boundaries that were easily and immediately contradicted by facts already well known to anybody following this bizarre saga. It's unclear what he's trying to accomplish but notable that one side of this dead-end conflict is already factionalized.

What both affairs had in common, too, was the decision to ban reporters from Chicago, which has done all the real work in breaking this unfortunate story. Mark Konkol was escorted out of the proceedings by security Thursday before he could dare to ask any pesky questions, and Kelly similarly barred David Matthews from attending his statement-recitation on Friday.

JRW needs to understand that this is a very bad look, trying to pretend that they can create their own reality. The only tangible result is more negative attention, more questions and further review of what's already well-known and undisputed, due specifically to DNAinfo's detailed reporting.

We know the entire timeline of the false map and the bumbling cover-up after the fact, the multiple meetings and phone calls and the names of other league administrators who called them out.

Do they really want more focus on the money, the more than $200,000 that poured in at the height of the excitement? We and the government are still waiting on tax returns from JRW for 2013 and 2014, and the same lawyers now billing hours for this useless PR work could soon be busy with much more serious concerns.

Banning reporters is a tactic doomed to fail, and the same can be said for this entirely needless expenditure of energy and resources by a now-splintering collection of disgraced officials choosing to embody the very worst aspects of youth sports.

It's nice to think that there are others in some communities in Chicago and elsewhere who think that their time and effort are better served working just as hard to help kids learn and enjoy baseball.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score's "Boers and Bernstein Show" in afternoon drive. Follow him on Twitter  @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here.

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