Sheriff Joe Arpaio to use the All-Star Game to draw attention to himself

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For those of you who are unaware, Joe Arpaio is the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona.  He’s famous for being a shameless self-promoter, having branded himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” doing things like putting prisoners in tents, demagoging the illegal immigration issue and all manner of other stuff.

This stuff isn’t mere harmless grandstanding, however, inasmuch as he has been investigated on numerous occasions for violating prisoners’ civil rights, abusing his power and being a general race-baiting jagoff.

Well, he wasn’t investigated for that last one. He is a suspect in that regard, however.

His latest gambit? Putting prisoner chain gangs out at the All-Star Game in Phoenix next week:

A group of inmates from the sheriff’s holding area for undocumented immigrants, all of whom were convicted of DUI, will join American male and female chains of DUI offenders to send a message about the perils of drunken driving when they pick up trash outside Chase Field next week, Arpaio said.

If someone draws another message about the legal pitfalls of undocumented immigration, all the better.

To the extent this is an anti-illegal immigrant thing it’s pretty weak sauce for Sheriff Joe. When he wants to go after illegals, he does it in a way more straightforward way. This is mostly just an attention whore doing what he does best. And he’s done it before, including at the Super Bowl in Glendale a few years ago.

But whatever the motivation is, I’m sure Bud Selig and all of the other dignitaries at the game are glad that the Midsummer Classic is being used in this way.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.