Sammy Sosa was crazy like a fox

15 Comments

There’s an article up at the New York Times about the 2005 steroid hearings before Congress. Good stuff that attempts to put it all in perspective at the end of the decade. But I still gotta take issue with one often-repeated sentiment about those hearings:

Sosa said he had never taken steroids and suggested that he was not all
too familiar with speaking English, lending some comedy to the
proceedings.

Take it for what it’s worth, but it’s not true that Sosa denied taking steroids before Congress. He said “To be clear, I have never taken illegal
performance-enhancing drugs.” He said “I have not broken the laws of
the United States or the laws of the Dominican Republic.” He said “I have been
tested as recently as 2004, and I am clean.”

Those statements — and
many others he made during his testimony — allow for the possibility
that he used substances that were legal in the Dominican Republic that
would have been illegal to use in the United States. Those substances could have been steroids of various stripes. We don’t know for sure because no one on that Congressional committee asked the basic sorts of followup questions that even junior lawyers are trained to ask. It was a big show to them, not a serious legal proceeding.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Sosa wasn’t trying to give the impression that he hadn’t taken steroids. Clearly he was trying to walk a very, very thin line between admitting using PEDs and committing perjury. It won’t get him any popularity votes, but he did, technically speaking, pull it off, and by doing so he was able to avoid any sort of perjury beef when his name popped up on the list last summer.

And though it is now characterized as “comedy,” the reason he was likely able to pull it off: his Spanish testimony.  Those distinctions — I didn’t take illegal PEDs; I didn’t break the laws of the D.R. or the U.S. — were fairly subtle.  They could have been easily messed up if he spoke in his second language instead of his native tongue. No matter how funny you found it, Sosa’s decision to testify in Spanish was pretty smart from a legal perspective.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

Braves
5 Comments

Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.