1970s Steinbrenner

George Steinbrenner blamed his criminal conviction on his lawyers

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I’m not a religious man, and even if I were, I would like to think that my conception of the Hereafter would allow for non-violent criminals to enter through the gates. Life is more interesting with scoundrels around and I presume death would be too.

That said, there would have to be some sort of vetting process, be it St. Peter or whatever it is you believe in.  If I ran the afterlife, my gatekeeper would probably be like Loni Anderson on WKRP: not particularly helpful, but you never really care all that much.

Wait. Where was I? Oh, the Hereafter. Here’s how I imagine George Steinbrenner’s entrance interview went when the subject of his criminal conviction came up:

Loni: Now, about that campaign contribution business …

Big Stein: Hey now, I was pardoned for that!

Loni: Of course you were. I believe it was Mr. Reagan, wasn’t it?  He’s still over there in the waiting room until we clear up all of this illegally arming rebels business. Hi Ronny!  Anyway, back to you …

Big Stein:  Look here, that was bad legal advice. It says so in today’s Associated Press!  They released the documents! Big Stein was trying to do the right thing but the lawyers, oh boy, those lawyers. They messed up everything!

Loni: You have a point about the lawyers, generally speaking. We have a whole annex for them. Their wait to get in is interminable. But I fail to see how that helps you, Georgie. Because it does seem fairly clear that you were trying to hide campaign contributions that were clearly illegal even back in the wild west pre-Watergate days.  Or are you saying that your lawyer told you to give your employees bogus bonus checks that directly corresponded with the amounts you intended to donate to the Nixon campaign?  And if so, that you thought such advice was on the up-and-up?

Big Stein: Look, honey, I’m tellin’ ya. I was innocent!

Loni:  George, you’re gonna fit right in. Everyone in here is innocent, you know that? Heywood, what you in here for?

Heywood: Didn’t do it. Lawyer screwed me!

Loni: See what I mean?

At that point I’d call out to Loni’s desk and tell her to let Steinbrenner in.  What would Heaven be without him around to make things fun?

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

Braves 2
Associated Press
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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.

Some Mets fans are not happy that Beyonce is playing at Citi Field

Beyoncé performs during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Associated Press
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The funny thing about that “stick to sports” stuff I was going on about the other day is that, in reality, a whole lot of the people who say “stick to sports” don’t really want to just stick to sports. They’re totally cool going on about political, social or cultural stuff as long as it fits their world view. It’s not “stick to sports.” It’s “don’t talk about the social implications of sports-related stuff in ways that upset me.” If sports and culture come together in other ways, however, they’re completely fine in grinding their axe.

For example, Beyonce is playing a concert a Citi Field this summer. The show is so popular that they added a second date. The Mets’ Twitter feed just announced that tickets will go on sale for the new show soon:

A while lotta Mets fans responded to that negatively. For political/social/cultural reasons that they are willingly bringing in to a conversation about a pop singer and a baseball stadium that will double as a concert venue:

And they go on and on.

How much do you want to bet that a whole lotta these respondents would tell you to “stick to baseball” if you wanted to bring up how race affects the sport or how, if instead of Beyonce, this was announcing a Kid Rock/Ted Nugent-headlined festival and you mused whether that was a case of the Mets somehow endorsing their messages?