MLB beats the hell out of Upper Deck

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Major League Baseball sued the Upper Deck baseball card company about a month ago for releasing baseball cards with team logos and stuff without having a license to do so. The case settled yesterday.  All that’s missing from the settlement terms is a provision which requires Upper Deck’s CEO to be Bud Selig’s butler for the next ten years:

  • Upper Deck pays MLB more than $2.4
    million it owed on back debts.  The suit was for $2.4 million. If you’re settling for the requested amount a month after the complaint was filed you have been pwned.
  • Upper Deck pays MLB “a substantial
    sum of monies” for the unlicensed cards it sold in 2010.  The amount is confidential, but based on the other terms, it was probably a lot.
  • Upper Deck agrees not to make any new sets of cards using “MLB logos, uniforms, trade dress, or Club color combinations.”  Color combinations? I’ve got very little intellectual property law experience, but if someone has the rights to use his photo and everything, can they really get sued for putting out a card of, say, Nick Swisher with a simple navy and white border?  If so, is MLB going to go after every blog, magazine, sports bar, advertisement and everything else that uses a team’s colors? Seems a bit much.
  • Upper Deck agrees it will not airbrush, alter or block MLB marks in future products.  Which is really sad, because I kinda miss cards like this one. And this one, on which people always miss the airbrushing for some strange reason. The last place were we get that kind of craftsmanship is when ESPN or Yahoo! change the players’ hats and jerseys in their little player-page headshots after they’re traded.
  • Upper Deck must receive approval from MLB for the use of baseball
    jerseys, pants, jackets, caps, helmets or catcher’s equipment in future
    products featuring players. This too is harsh. So much so that I get the feeling MLB just put this one in the demand letter to see if Upper Deck would agree to it. They’re probably laughing now. If I was Upper Deck, however, I’d use this term to my advantage. Next year: baseball’s first all-nude card set.  Now that Antonio Alfonseca is retired it’s probably safe enough to dip a toe into those waters.

Oh, and one last thing.  The statement released by MLB:

“Our settlement in the case against Upper Deck is a clear and decisive
victory for Major League Baseball. Upper Deck will be unable to release baseball trading cards that
incorporate Major League Baseball’s intellectual property in the
future.  The real winners today are the millions of fans who collect
baseball cards.  They will be able to clearly identify official Major
League Baseball trading cards without any confusion.”

Last rule of a settlement: if you can’t get the other guy to agree to some sort of neutral joint statement that doesn’t have someone declaring victory, it is less a settlement than it is a total reaming.  Come to think of it, Upper Deck should have just offered the butler thing and taken their chances with a jury if it didn’t work out.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.