It's hard to believe the dispute over The Doubleheader That Never Was could get any more heated. But on Wednesday, it did.
Major League Baseball's COO, Bob DuPuy, told ESPN.com Wednesday that the Yankees were misrepresenting their side of the events leading up to their forfeit "demand."
"They got crucified (for demanding a forfeit)," DuPuy said. "And now they're looking for a scapegoat."
But the Yankees reacted just as angrily to that accusation. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told ESPN.com that DuPuy was "100 percent full of (baloney)."
"All we're doing," Cashman said, his voice rising, "is accurately trying to expose the reality of what took place. They're the ones hiding behind the scapegoat -- the Yankees -- because it's easy to do."
DuPuy claimed the Yankees told him Sunday afternoon that their plan Monday was "to take the field at 1 o'clock and declare a forfeit. I told them angrily they didn't have that right, that Tampa Bay was making an effort to get there." DuPuy said the Yankees' contention now that they never demanded a forfeit was "preposterous."
He also insisted that MLB offered Sunday to postpone Monday's doubleheader, or to change it to a single night game -- but that it was the Yankees who refused.
Cashman, however, said that the Yankees were repeatedly told all weekend by a number of MLB officials -- including DuPuy and Bud Selig -- that Tampa Bay had been "ordered" to make it to New York on time. Or else. He said Selig told George Steinbrenner personally, during a Sunday conference call, that the Rays "would be punished severely" for ignoring that order.
But at the same time MLB was telling the Yankees that the Rays were "doing everything they can to get out," assorted Yankees were hearing all weekend -- from Tampa Bay GM Chuck LaMar, from Don Zimmer and from other Devil Rays coaches -- that the Rays had no plans to leave for New York until the storm had passed.
"I understand why Tampa Bay wanted to be home," Cashman said. "The only decision is whether the commissioner's office was going to allow that or not. And we were told they were not going to allow it. If (MLB) had just told the Yankees at any time -- Friday, Saturday or Sunday -- that they weren't going to get out, we wouldn't be dealing with this now."
One reason the Yankees are so worked up about this issue is that last September, they were ordered to try to play a game in Baltimore during the aftermath of Hurricane Isabel, even though people in Maryland had been told it wasn't safe to leave home. When the Yankees asked MLB to postpone that game out of concern for their own safety, they were ordered to play and threatened with a forfeit if they refused.
So the only reason they brought up a forfeit in this case, Cashman said, was because "if you have rules here, then the rules apply. And they don't just apply to the Yankees."
"No one was looking for a forfeit," he said. "That was just raised to point out the obvious inconsistency between how we were treated last year in Baltimore and how Tampa Bay was being treated now."
Yankees president Randy Levine said DuPuy and Selig had both told the Yankees privately "that Tampa Bay lied to us and created this entire situation, and that (the Yankees) were the innocent victims." The Yankees, Levine said, had even been asked by MLB to submit an estimate of how much money they'd lost, "because we're going to compensate you for your loss."
"So it's obvious now," Levine said, "that one of two things happened. Either the Devil Rays misrepresented their position to baseball, or baseball knew the Devil Rays weren't coming and didn't want to take a position. And now, conveniently, after telling us they would be there, (the people at MLB) are trying to hide from their previous position. ... For them now to have amnesia about that is absurd."
Lies ... amnesia ... scapegoats ... and a plate of baloney. Can the Yankees and MLB find any more names to call each other? Uh, stay tuned.
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.