UPDATE: The Indians replacing Mark Shapiro as GM

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UPDATE: OK, so it wasn’t Manny Acta’s hat. The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting — albeit a bit speculatively — that the presser is to announce that Indians’ assistant GM Chris Antonetti is going to replace Mark Shapiro as GM, who will get kicked upstairs to be the team’s president.  The change, however, would not take place until after the 2010 season.

This is odd. Not the choice — Antonetti is well-regarded by almost everyone who knows his work — but the timing.  If the Indians really wanted to can promote Shapiro, they would have or at least should have done it at the end of 2009. As it was they had a lame duck making all the moves this winter. Another possibility: The team wants to lock in Antonetti — who has been a candidate for a handful of other openings in the past couple of years — before any vacancies open up elsewhere this year and the chatter starts again.

Either way, it puts just about everything the Indians have done this winter — and everything they will do this season — in a new light. 

8:32 A.M.:  OK, that was quick. Castrovince now tweetsNo way it’s Russell Branyan-related.” So Acta-hats it is. 

8:28 A.M.: MLB.com’s Indians beat guy Anthony Castrovince tweets that the Tribe has called a press conference for 1:30 PM Eastern.  I’m assuming this is regarding Russell Branyan — who the Indians have offered a minor league deal — if for no other reason than because the Indians haven’t been rumored to be courting anyone else. 

I suppose there are other potential reasons for a press conference — maybe Manny Acta got a new hat or something — but until I hear otherwise I’m going to assume it’s Branyan.

The international draft is all about MLB making money and the union selling out non-members

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - MARCH 13:  A fan flies the Dominican Republic flag during the game against Cuba during Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic on March 13, 2006 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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On Monday we passed along a report that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are negotiating over an international draft. That report — from ESPN’s Buster Olney — cited competitive balance and the well-being of international free agents as the reasons why they’re pushing for the draft.

We have long doubted those stated motivations and said so again in our post on Monday. But we’re just armchair skeptics when it comes to this. Ben Badler of Baseball America is an expert. Perhaps the foremost expert on international baseball, international signings and the like. Today he writes about a would-be international draft and he tears MLB, the MLBPA and their surrogates in the media to shreds with respect to their talking points.

Of course Badler is a nice guy so “tearing to shreds” is probably putting it too harshly. Maybe it’s better to say that he systematically dismantles the stated rationale for the international draft and makes plan what’s really going on: MLB is looking to save money and the players are looking to sell out non-union members to further their own bargaining position:

Major League Baseball has long wanted an international draft. The driving force behind implementing an international draft is for owners to control their labor costs by paying less money to international amateur players, allowing owners to keep more of that money . . . the players’ association doesn’t care about international amateur players as anything more than a bargaining chip. It’s nothing discriminatory against foreign players, it’s just that the union looks out for players on 40-man rosters. So international players, draft picks in the United States and minor leaguers who make less than $10,000 in annual salary get their rights sold out by the union, which in exchange can negotiate items like a higher major league minimum salary, adjustments to the Super 2 rules or modifying draft pick compensation attached to free agent signings.

Badler then walks through the process of how players are discovered, scouted and signed in Latin America and explains, quite convincingly, how MLB’s international draft and, indeed, its fundamental approach to amateurs in Latin America is lacking.

Read this. Then, every time a U.S.-based writer with MLB sources talks about the international draft, ask whether they know something Ben Badler doesn’t or, alternatively, whether they’re carrying water for either the league or the union.

President Bill Murray speaks about the Cubs from the White House

CHICAGO - APRIL 12:  Celebrity Bill Murray clowns around with Chicago media before the opening day game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 12, 2004 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Pirates defeated the Cubs 13-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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I don’t know why Bill Murray is in Washington today. I don’t know why he’s at the White House. But I do know that he was there in Chicago Cubs gear, standing at the lectern in the press briefing room, voicing his full confidence in the Cubs prevailing in the NLCS, despite the fact that Clayton Kershaw is going for the Dodgers tomorrow night.

“Too many sticks,” president Murray said of the Cubs lineup. And something about better trees in Illinois.

Four. More. Years.