"The NCAA makes its own rules and can do what it wants to do"

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James Paxton is a left-handed pitcher for the University of Kentucky. He was taken with the 37th overall pick by the Blue Jays in the draft last summer. He decided that he’d rather return for his senior year, however, and did so.

Beginning in October, the NCAA started contacting UK about Paxton. It’s still unclear what about, but they wanted to talk with him, and right now most signs point to something to do with the draft. Maybe he talked to an agent. Who knows? UK wouldn’t tell Paxton what it was about. All they’d do was to hint that (a) it was something involving Paxton’s eligibility; (b) that he couldn’t tell his parents or his lawyer about the interview, nor could they participate; and (c) if he didn’t participate, he was going to be suspended. Heck, maybe he’d be suspended even if he did participate.

Yeah, that’s a lawsuit. Right now it just involves UK, but it will likely involve the NCAA itself eventually, because it appears as though that august institution is once again acting as a law unto itself.

How so: Paxton’s lawyer — the one he was consulting with back in October, not the one who filed the lawsuit — says in an affidavit that the UK athletic director told him that “the NCAA made its own rules and could do whatever it wanted,” and that the NCAA investigator “had [Paxton’s] life in his hands.” The picture that is painted by the suit (which you can view here) is that the NCAA was putting the screws to UK, who in turn put the screws to Paxton. In a lot of ways UK was probably caught in the middle, being threatened by the NCAA with forfeited games and sanctions and stuff if they didn’t treat a student athlete like he was a character in a Kafka novel.

Looming over all of this is the now-settled Andrew Oliver lawsuit from earlier this year. You’ll recall that case as the one in which the Oklahoma State pitcher sued the
NCAA — and got a lot of favorable rulings before the NCAA paid him off — claiming that its rules against players consulting with agents and lawyers were, you know, super illegal.

But the most notable thing about that case was not the rule itself — which is technically back on the books, just waiting to be shot down again — but the NCAA’s utter arrogance throughout the case. They had contempt motions filed against them and, even when the rule was enjoined by the trial judge, they kept sending out letters to students threatening them with that very rule.  You know, acting like it made its own rules and could do whatever it wanted.

Know this much: for this lawsuit, Paxton has the same lawyer that Andy Oliver had. His email address has the word “Piranha” in it.  In other words: get ready to get creamed again, NCAA.

Chapman has trouble remembering convo with Cubs management about off-field behavior

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CHICAGO — Star closer Aroldis Chapman joined the Cubs on Tuesday, arriving to a mixed reaction in Chicago and saying he couldn’t remember what management told him about off-field expectations and behavior.

After Chapman’s awkward introductory news conference, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein insisted Chapman understands what the Cubs expect of him after an offseason domestic violence incident.

When the Cubs announced the trade with the New York Yankees on Monday, the team released a statement from Chairman Tom Ricketts saying they were aware of his 29-game suspension to begin the season under Major League Baseball’s new domestic violence policy.

Ricketts said he and Epstein talked by phone with Chapman before the deal was completed and “shared with him the high expectations we set for our players,” adding that Chapman was “comfortable” with them.

But when asked repeatedly about that phone conversation before Tuesday’s game against the crosstown White Sox, Chapman said through an interpreter that he couldn’t recall details because he was taking a nap at the time the call came in.

The question was asked several more times. A Cubs spokesman once asked the question himself to the interpreter, coach Henry Blanco.

“It’s been a long day,” Chapman said. “Trying to remember.”

Asked again several minutes later during the group interview if he could now remember what Ricketts said, Chapman shook his head.

“I still don’t remember,” he said in Spanish.

Epstein called it a misunderstanding and that Chapman was “pretty nervous” as he faced seven cameras and more than two dozen reporters.

“I was on the call, Tom was on the call, Aroldis was on the call and Barry Praver, his agent, was on the call. It happened and it was real,” Epstein said before the Cubs’ 3-0 loss to the White Sox.

Chapman was accused of choking his girlfriend and firing eight gunshots in the garage of a Florida home in October. The woman later changed her story and no charges were filed.

“You learn from the mistakes that you make,” Chapman said.

The case caused the Los Angeles Dodgers to back out of an offseason trade for Chapman. Cincinnati eventually traded him to the Yankees, and after his suspension, the 28-year-old Cuban converted 20 of 21 save chances for New York.

The Cubs have long boasted of stocking their roster with high-character players, helping earn the “lovable losers” label they’ve carried for decades since their last World Series title in 1908.

But the Cubs (59-40) have retooled their roster under Epstein and have the best record in the major leagues despite Tuesday’s loss in which Chapman didn’t pitch. Chapman, who threw a 105 mph fastball last week, fills perhaps the team’s largest hole as he replaces Hector Rondon as closer.

The Cubs sent four players to the Yankees, including shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, to get one of the game’s top relievers. Epstein said they wouldn’t have made the deal if not for the phone call he and Ricketts had with Chapman.

“Tom laid out the exact same standards that he lays out to everyone in spring training,” Epstein said. “He said, extremely clearly, `Look, Aroldis, I tell all the players this in spring training and it’s important you hear it and I need to hear from you on this. We expect our players to behave. We hold our players to a very high standard for their behavior off the field. And we need to know you can meet that standard.’

“Aroldis said `I understand. Absolutely, I can.'”

The Cubs activated Chapman before Tuesday’s game and designated left-hander Clayton Richard for assignment.

Reaction to Chapman’s acquisition in Chicago has been tepid. While there were supportive fans on talk radio, the Chicago Tribune carried a front-page column Tuesday criticizing the move. The back of the Chicago Sun-Times tabloid read “Spin City” over a picture of Epstein.

Chapman said he expected a “good reaction” from Cubs fans. He was also asked during the 20-minute meeting with reporters in the visiting dugout at U.S. Cellular Field if we would consider working with organizations looking to prevent domestic violence. Chapman said no.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon defended Chapman.

“He did do a suspension, he has talked about it, he’s shown remorse,” Maddon said. “Everybody else has the right to judge him as a good or bad person. That’s your right.

I want to get to know Aroldis. I think he could be a very significant member and he’s got the potential, yes, to throw the last out of the World Series. And if he does, I promise you I will embrace him.”

Report: Padres working on trading Andrew Cashner

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 21: Starter Derek Norris #3 of the San Diego Padres pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning at Busch Stadium on July 21, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and MLB Network reports that the Padres are working to trade starter Andrew Cashner. He notes that a deal may be consummated before he takes the hill for Tuesday’s start in Toronto against the Blue Jays. The Marlins, Orioles, and Rangers have had reported interest in Cashner.

Cashner is 4-7 with a 4.79 ERA and a 61/27 K/BB ratio in 73 1/3 innings. He missed over three weeks between June 11 and July 2 due to a strained neck.

The right-hander is earning $9.625 million this season and will be eligible for free agency after the season.