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: Diamondbacks acquire Steven Souza from Rays; Yankees land Brandon Drury

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Update (6:35 PM ET): This is a three-team deal also involving the Diamondbacks, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The Diamondbacks will receive outfielder Steven Souza from the Rays and second baseman Brandon Drury will head to the Yankees. Lefty reliever Anthony Banda will go to the Rays, Piecoro adds. The Diamondbacks will also receive prospect Taylor Widener from the Yankees, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post. MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert adds that the Rays will get two players to be named later from the D-Backs.

Souza, 28, is earning $3.55 million in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility, so the Rays are presumably saving money in moving him. Last season, Souza hit a productive .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs, 78 RBI, 78 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases in 617 plate appearances. Souza’s arrival almost certainly pushes Yasmany Tomas out of a starting gig.

Drury, 25, has played a handful of positions in his brief major league career. Last year, he played second base in Arizona, batting .267/.317/.447 with 13 home runs and 63 RBI in 480 PA.

Banda, 24, made his major league debut last season, posting an ugly 5.96 ERA with a 25/10 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings. The peripherals suggest he pitched better than his ERA indicated.

Widener, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the 12th round of the 2016 draft. This past season with High-A Tampa, he pitched 119 1/3 innings and posted a 3.39 ERA with a 129/50 K/BB ratio. MLB Pipeline rated Widener as the 14th-best prospect in the Yankees’ system.

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Robert Murray of FanRag Sports reports that the Rays will acquire second base prospect Nick Solak from the Yankees. The Yankees’ return is presently not known.

Solak, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the second round of the 2016 draft. He spent last season between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, hitting a combined .297/.384/.452 with 12 home runs, 53 RBI, 72 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases.

MLB Pipeline ranked Solak as the eighth-best prospect in the Yankees’ system and the fifth-best second base prospect in baseball, praising him for his ability to hit line drives as well as his speed.