1970s Steinbrenner

Watergate investigators had “extreme interest” in going after George Steinbrenner

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Anyone who has read a bit about George Steinbrenner knows that, in the 70s, he pleaded guilty to making illegal campaign contributions to the Dick Nixon and got a little slap on the wrist and a 15-month suspension from baseball because of it.  Some documents were just released, however, that elaborates on just how hot Watergate investigators were to investigate Big Stein:

Newly released documents show Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox expressed “extreme interest” in a 1970s criminal investigation of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner for illegal campaign contributions.

Then-FBI Director Clarence M. Kelley echoed Cox’s concern in an Aug. 16, 1973 memo to the bureau’s Cleveland office, saying agents needed to make sure the probe received “the same, immediate and preferred handling” as other criminal cases then growing from the Watergate scandal.

If Steinbrenner hadn’t pleaded guilty to the counts he pleaded guilty to and, instead, tried to fight the case hard, he could have faced six years in prison. I had a client get two years in federal prison (well, a minimum security camp) for similar charges a couple of years ago.

But one thing I learned in that case: the election law charges are relatively simple. The ugly part of that is that, while the feds are trying to make their campaign finance case, they’re looking at all of the target’s financials, talking to friends, enemies and all of that.  And if you’re the kind of guy who will engage in easy-to-catch campaign violations, you’re probably up to your neck in other bad stuff too.  Just ask my client. As the feds were investigating him for the small potatoes finance case, they stumbled upon a $50 million theft of public funds!  He’s doing 18-20 in state prison for that now. Oops.

Anyway, good move pleading out on that election law charge, George. Saved you a lot of hassle.  Oh, and you were pure money in the 70s, man. Love the collar.

Report: Barry Bonds under consideration to be the Marlins hitting coach

Barry Bonds

This shouldn’t cause any controversy, lead to a lot of people saying dumb things or provide fodder for jokes at all. Nope, none whatsoever:

In what promises to be a bombshell move, if executed, all-time great slugger Barry Bonds is under consideration to become Marlins hitting coach.

Team higherups have quietly been discussing this possibility for weeks.

That’s Jon Heyman, who reminds us that Bonds has worked with the Giants in the spring in recent years. And who, no matter what else you can say about him, was one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. Also worth remembering that despite his controversial past, that greatness came not just from physical gifts, naturally or artificially bestowed. It came from his approach, preparation and strategy at the plate. No one can teach a hitter to hit like Barry Bonds, but you’d think that hitters could be taught to try to approach an at bat the way Barry Bonds would. And who better to do it than Barry Bonds?

That is, if Bonds is willing to drop his seemingly ideal retired life in San Francisco, move to Miami and work for Jeff Loria for nine months a year. Which, eh, who knows? But the possibility of it is pretty fascinating to think about.

Yadier Molina’s new backup: Cardinals sign Brayan Pena to two-year deal

Brayan Pena Reds
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Veteran catcher Brayan Pena has agreed to a two-year, $5 million contract with the Cardinals, who’re investing much more than usual in their backup for Yadier Molina.

After bouncing around for a decade without getting even 250 plate appearances in a season Pena signed with the Reds and topped 350 plate appearances in both 2014 and 2015. His production didn’t improve any, as Pena hit .263 with five homers and a .652 OPS in 223 games as a regular.

Pena’s best skill is rarely striking out, which enables him to hit for a decent batting average, but he has very little power and swings at everything. He struggled to control the running game this season at age 33, but has a decent throw-out rate for his career.

Making a multi-year commitment to Pena suggests the Cardinals are no longer counting on Molina being the same type of workhorse behind the plate, which certainly makes sense given his age and injury history. Pena will replace Tony Cruz, who’s been Molina’s understudy since 2011 while hitting just .220 with five homers and a .572 OPS in 259 games.

While we wait for free agent signings: Andrew McCutchen stars in a one-act play

Andrew McCutchen
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It’s a pretty slow offseason so far. We’ve had a couple of minor signings. I guess Jordan Zimmermann is sort of a big deal. But it’s a lot more quiet so far this year than it was this time last year. I suppose there’s no real rhyme nor reason for it. Baseball offseason is long, there is no salary cap and thus there’s no rush to do things too quickly.

So, while we wait, here’s Andrew McCutchen doing his best to kill time until spring training starts:

Red Sox sign outfielder Chris Young

Chris Young Getty

Veteran outfielder Chris Young thrived in a platoon role for the Yankees this past season and now he’s headed to the rival Red Sox to fill a similar role, signing a multi-year deal with Boston according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com.

Young was once an everyday center fielder for the Diamondbacks, making the All-Star team in 2010 at age 26, but for the past 3-4 years he’s gotten 300-350 plate appearances in a part-time role facing mostly left-handed pitching. He hit .252 with 14 homers and a .773 OPS for the Yankees, but prior to that failed to top a .700 OPS in 2013 or 2014.

Given the Red Sox’s outfield depth–Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Brock Holt even with Hanley Ramirez back in the infield–Young is unlikely to work his way into everyday playing time at age 32, but he should get another 300 or so plate appearances while also providing a veteran fallback option. And it’s possible his arrival clears the way for a trade.