Josh Leuke — one of the pitchers acquired by the Mariners in the Cliff Lee deal — faced rape and sodomy charges in California last summer. He later pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of false imprisonment with
violence. Lueke was sentenced to 40 days in prison but was released immediately thereafter for time served.
That’s bad. Also bad: not everyone on the Mariners seemed to realize this at the time of the trade. The Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker:
Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said he was “not aware” beforehand
that a Class AA pitcher obtained in the Cliff Lee deal pleaded no
contest last year to a charge of false imprisonment with violence
against a woman.
“I was not aware of that before we acquired him,” Armstrong said.
“And it is going to be addressed.”
Team CEO Howard Lincoln didn’t know either. General Manager Jack Zduriencik said he did know about it, but on Friday mistakenly said that Leuke had been “cleared,” which is not true, meaning that Jack Z either didn’t really know everything or else he was trying to gloss it over. Either way, he said he asked the Rangers if they thought Lueke was anything to be concerned about moving forward and was satisfied with their answer.
Still, how you don’t bring higher ups into the loop on this kind of thing beforehand is a mystery to me. It’s just as much a mystery to me why — regardless of Zduriencik’s responsibility to keep his bosses informed — they didn’t know it independently. Google Lueke and the case turns up pretty prominently (there are even pics of him in prison scrubs out there for crying out loud). Look at his stats from last year and you see that he pitched only four games. Even if you didn’t know about the criminal charges, don’t you look at that and ask if the guy had Tommy John surgery or something?
Geoff Baker is going to town on this. And rightfully so, in my mind. As he notes today, the Mariners have been out front in the community supporting groups and initiatives aimed at putting a stop to violence against women. This has led to a zero-tolerance policy on the part of the team which has in turn led to players being sent out of town on a rail before. Now the team trades for a guy who pleaded guilty to a charge which involved violence against a woman.
Reasonable people can disagree how much Lueke should be punished within his profession for his criminal transgressions. Reasonable people can’t disagree, however, that the Mariners either didn’t do their homework or simply didn’t care about Lueke’s background when they made the deal. My guess is that Zduriencik is in some hot water with his
bosses over all of this, and as I sit here right now, I think it’s pretty justified.
Veteran hurler Jake Peavy has not signed with a team. It’s not because he’s not still capable of being a useful pitcher — he’s well-regarded and someone would likely take a late-career chance on him — and it’s not because he no longer wishes to play. Rather, it’s because a bunch of bad things have happened in his personal life lately.
As Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports, last year Peavy lost millions in an investment scam and spent much of the 2016 season distracted, dealing with investigations and depositions and all of the awfulness that accompanied it. Then, when the season ended, Peavy went home and was greeted with divorce papers. He has spent the offseason trying to find a new normal for himself and for his four sons.
Pitching is taking a backseat now, but Peavy plans to pitch again. Here’s hoping that things get sorted to the point where he can carry through with those plans.
This is fun: The San Francisco Giants recently made their last payment on the $170 million, 20-year loan they obtained to finance the construction of AT&T Park. The joint is now officially paid for.
The Giants, unlike most other teams which moved into new stadiums in the past 25 years or so, did not rely on direct public financing. They tried to get it for years, of course, but when the voters, the city of San Francisco and the State of California said no, they decided to pay for it themselves. They ended up with one of baseball’s best-loved and most beautiful parks and, contrary to what the owners who desperately seek public funds will have you believe, they were not harmed competitively speaking. Indeed, rumor has it that they have won three World Series, four pennants and have made the playoffs seven times since moving into the place in 2000. They sell out routinely now too and the Giants are one of the richest teams in the sport.
Now, to be clear, the Giants are not — contrary to what some people will tell you — some Randian example of self-reliance. They did not receive direct public money to build the park, but they did get a lot of breaks. The park sits on city-owned property in what has become some of the most valuable real estate in the country. If the city had held on to that land and realized its appreciation, they could flip it to developers for far more than the revenue generated by baseball. Or, heaven forfend, use it for some other public good. The Giants likewise received some heavy tax abatements, got some extraordinarily beneficial infrastructure upgrades and require some heavy city services to operate their business. All sports stadiums, even the ones privately constructed, represent tradeoffs for the public.
Still, AT&T Park represents a better model than most sports facilities do. I mean, ask how St. Louis feels about still paying for the place the Rams used to call home before taking off for California. Ask how taxpayers in Atlanta and Arlington, Texas feel about paying for their second stadium in roughly the same time the Giants have paid off their first.