Steinbrenner sued over the YES Network; Plaintiff has no chance

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Bob Gutkowski, who used to be the president of the MSG Network is suing George Steibrenner, claiming that Big Stein stole his idea for the YES Network and reneged on promises that Gutkowski would be given a job and all of the kind of stuff that goes along with those kinds of claims.  YES is now supposed to be worth $3 billion, so it’s a pretty significant claim.

So too was a lawsuit I once defended when I was in private practice.  The claim — and I am not making this up — was filed by an inmate in a prison in southern Ohio who claimed that he invented the idea of the Happy Meal and the Value Meal when he worked at McDonalds when he was a teenager.  The complaint, which was written in pencil, sought $100 billion.  My client, McDonalds, paid my firm to defend the claim, but it’s not like they were too worried about it.  And yes, I won.

I suppose Mr. Gutkowski’s claims have a bit more factual basis than the inmate’s, but I question whether he’ll have any more success.

For one thing, he seems like he’d have a statute of limitations problem. The YES Network debuted in 2002.  I’m guessing Mr. Gutkowski knew well before then that he wasn’t getting a piece of it or a job with it.  But even if he didn’t, the statute of limitations for contract and fraud claims in New York is six years. Most other torts are three years.  All of those dates have run, even if we started the running from the network’s March 19, 2002 debut.  I’m assuming he has some novel theory as to why he didn’t have to file his lawsuit before now, but those kinds of theories tend not to work too well when they’re asserted by wealthy, grown-up businessmen who should know better.

There’s also a tactical problem.  I haven’t seen the complaint, but the allegations seem to hinge on conversations Gutkowski had with George Steinbrenner.  The same George Steinbrenner who is basically a recluse these days, most likely because he is suffering from dementia of some sort.  Maybe Gutkowski was banking on winning because Steinbrenner couldn’t really defend himself. Maybe he’s thinking the Yankees might buy him off so they don’t have to file papers in a lawsuit explaining Steinbrenner’s incompetence to testify.

The problem, though, is that (a) courts tend to protect the incompetent, not punish them; and (b) the Yankees are a business, not some 18th century monarchy, so they’re not going to pay off this guy simply to avoid revealing to the masses that the king isn’t well.  If this turns into a P.R. war over George’s health, the Yankees are going to win it.

So I guess I’ll give this guy an E for effort and a T for nice try, but this lawsuit smells like a loser.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.