On second thought, Frank McCourt may be ready to fight Bud Selig like there’s no tomorrow

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“We need more people like Frank McCourt.”

You will not be at all surprised to learn that that is the assessment of Frank McCourt’s newest employee, Steve Soboroff, who was hired as the Dodgers’ Vice Chairman on Tuesday. Soboroff was hired in order to help the Dodgers get their security situation in order, but based on his comments to the L.A. Times today, he’s making protecting Frank McCourt his top priority.

His beef: McCourt has a deal in place for a $3 billion television rights package that he alleged would solve all of the Dodgers’ problems and put them in a position in which they’re as financially secure as almost any team in baseball.  Major League Baseball, however, is being unfair he claims:

“This is like having money in the bank and having somebody hold your ATM card,” Soboroff said. “The money is in the bank. The Fox deal is done. These actions are not allowing him to access money. That’s a lot different than saying he’s got financial problems.”

If you’re thinking that this is a warning shot from McCourt to Bud Selig, you’re right. That kind of claim — baseball is interfering with our right to make money! — is the stuff of a tort action.  And while I was somewhat dismissive of the prospects of a lawsuit in my posts earlier this morning — and on a straight “does baseball have the right to do this” basis, I still think McCourt has no legitimate claim —  these comments (and some more research into Frank McCourt’s more-litigious-than-I-remembered history) make me wonder if we’re not ready for Armageddon.

On baseball’s side are the contractual provisions McCourt and every other owner signs in which he pledged not to sue Major League Baseball. Which is great in theory, but when your new right-hand man starts claiming that baseball is acting in bad faith, all bets are off.  As I’ve written in the past with respect to team relocation and ownership approval rules, baseball has a whole series of regulations and procedures it makes owners agree to that only exist because no one is willing to challenge them. If someone — especially someone with nothing to lose — decides to fight, a lot of those rules may simply fall away as, like, totally illegal.

Then there’s the fact that McCourt has already been embarrassed publicly by virtue of years of litigation while Major League Baseball still, presumably, does not want to have its business opened up in litigation. Even if baseball’s right to push McCourt out and take over the team is vindicated, it will only come after a lot of the dirty business of baseball ownership is revealed, and again, McCourt has little to lose in this regard.

So, if McCourt makes it clear that he’s willing to scorch the Earth over this, how does baseball respond?  Does Bud Selig really want this fight?  And, on the very safe assumption that he has already anticipated it, what is his end game?

Just a wild guess: a sale of the team which McCourt agrees not to fight in exchange for him walking away with more money than he otherwise would have given his current debt level. In other words, baseball eating some of McCourt’s debt in the name of making him simply go away.

Whatever the case, while Bud Selig’s actions yesterday were audacious, it is starting to look like Frank McCourt’s response to them may be even more audacious.

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.