Justin Verlander loses no-hitter in eighth, Jered Weaver ejected

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3:45 p.m. EDT: It’s over, with the Tigers winning 3-2.  Jose Valverde replaced Verlander to start the ninth and walked leadoff man Bobby Abreu, but he bounced back to retire the next three batters.  Erick Aybar, who started the eighth-inning rally with his bunt, popped up foul to end it.

We’ll likely be hearing more about this one in a bit.  Mike Scioscia was tossed along with Weaver, and both manager press conferences could be tasty.

3:21 p.m. EDT: The no-hitter is gone and Detroit’s lead has been cut to 3-2 as the result of a Maicer Izturis two-out RBI single to left field.  Verlander may have lost his composure a bit, but much of the blame here needs to go third baseman Don Kelly, who didn’t take the easy out on Peter Bourjos’ grounder and who also contributed to botching the rundown.  Verlander should have been out of the inning.

3:17 p.m. EDT: After a groundout put Aybar on third, Peter Bourjos grounded to third baseman Don Kelly.  Rather than take the sure out, Kelly went home and put Aybar into a rundown.  Aybar, though, escaped what was a pretty ugly rundown from the Tigers when Verlander, who was definitely nudged by the baserunner, dropped the ball.  It’s 3-1 Tigers, but the no-hitter remains intact with one out in the eighth.  Verlander is now over 100 pitches.

3:12 p.m. EDT: Gotta love the drama.  Erick Aybar broke the unwritten rule by dropping down a bunt on the first pitch of the eighth.  It wasn’t a very good one, and Verlander had a play on him, but he threw wildly of first base for what was ruled, by Detroit’s official scorer, an error on the pitcher.

3:05 p.m. EDT: And this game has suddenly taken a dramatic turn.  Carlos Guillen decided to show Weaver up after a solo homer in the bottom of the seventh, and Weaver responded by throwing his very next pitch at Alex Avila’s head.  Fortunately, it sailed over Avila’s head.  Weaver was immediately tossed, as he knew he would be the moment he let the pitch go.

Now Verlander is going to have a much longer wait than anticipated headed into the eighth inning.

2:50 p.m. EDT: Verlander walked Abreu for a second time in the seventh inning, but he got through the frame without a hit.  He’s six outs away from another piece of history.

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Justin Verlander, who pitched his second career no-hitter back on May 7 against the Blue Jays, has held the Angels hitless through six innings Sunday.

Verlander walked Bobby Abreu in the fourth inning, but he’s retired the other 18 hitters he’s faced.  He struck out six and threw 76 pitches through the six innings.

Thanks to a Magglio Ordonez homer in the third, the Tigers are up 2-0.  Jered Weaver is on the mound for the Angels and has allowed just three hits himself.

If Verlander can do it again, he’d join Nolan Ryan (seven), Sandy Koufax, (four), Larry Corcoran (three), Bob Feller (three) and Cy Young (three) as the only pitchers with more than two no-hitters.

Unprecedented sanctions: MLB bans former Braves GM for life, makes 12 signees free agents

Associated Press
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Major League Baseball has slammed the hammer down on the Atlanta Braves as the result of their violations of rules on the international free agent market.

Former Braves General Manager John Coppolella has been placed on the permanently ineligible list — the same list Pete Rose is on — banning him from a job in baseball forever. His assistant, Gordon Blakeley, will be suspended for a period of one year. Each had already been dismissed by the Braves. Other Braves’ international baseball operations employees who participated in the misconduct could still be suspended as the league finishes its investigation.

As reported earlier, 12 of the clubs’ international signees are now free agents. The Braves will lose the following players, signed during the 2015-17 international free agent signing periods:

  • Juan Contreras;
  • Yefri del Rosario;
  • Abrahan Gutierrez;
  • Kevin Maitan;
  • Juan Carlos Negret;
  • Yenci Peña;
  • Yunior Severino;
  • Livan Soto;
  • Guillermo Zuniga;
  • Brandol Mezquita;
  • Angel Rojas; and
  • Antonio Sucre

As reported earlier, Maitan was the number one overall international prospect in 2016. The Braves have, for a few years now, had among the top international signee classes. Obviously that came by virtue of cheating the system, and obviously that will lead to a reevaluation of where the clubs’ minor league system stands, talent-wise.

The penalties are not limited to the loss of those players. Commissioner Manfred is imposing what amounts to punitive damages going forward. From Commissioner Manfred’s statement:

“While the remedies discussed above will deprive the Braves of the benefits of their circumvention, I believe that additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the Club for the violations committed by its employees. Accordingly, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period, which is the first signing period in which the Braves are not subject to any signing restrictions under our rules; and the Braves’ international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.”

There was also what appears to be an unrelated draft violation, imposing penalties along those lines as well:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves offered impermissible benefits, which were never provided, to a player they selected in the First-Year Player Draft in an attempt to convince him to sign for a lower bonus. As a penalty for the Club’s attempted circumvention involving a draft selection, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.

The gist of the violations against the Braves involves the bundling of signing bonuses, in which the Braves got players — through their representatives in Latin America — to take lower than the amount typically allotted in one year in order to use the money to sign other, highly rated players in subsequent years, with money they wouldn’t have otherwise had. MLB’s statement describes the scheme thusly:

“The investigation established that the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017. During the 2015-16 international signing period, the Braves signed five players subject to the Club’s signing bonus pool to contracts containing signing bonuses lower than the bonuses the Club had agreed to provide the players. The Club provided the additional bonus money to those players by inflating the signing bonus to another player who was exempt from their signing pool because he qualified as a ‘foreign professional’ under MLB rules.

“Consistent with the rules, the Braves could have signed all of the 2015-16 players for the full, actual signing bonus amounts. Had the Club signed the five players to contracts containing their actual bonuses, however, the Braves would have exceeded their signing bonus pool by more than five percent and would have been, under MLB rules, restricted from signing any players during the next two signing periods for contracts with bonuses greater than $300,000.

“As a result of the 2015-16 circumvention, the Braves were able to sign nine high-value players during the 2016-17 signing period who would have been unavailable to them had the Club accurately accounted for its signings during the 2015-16 signing period.”

The scheme continued like this:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves: (i) agreed to sign six players to inflated signing bonuses pursuant to an agreement with prospect Robert Puason’s agent in exchange for a commitment that Puason would sign with the Club in the 2019-20 signing period; and (ii) offered prospect Ji-Hwan Bae extra-contractual compensation. In order to remedy these violations, I am prohibiting the Club from signing Robert Puason when he becomes eligible to sign, and disapproving the contract between Bae and the Braves, which has not yet become effective.”

This is, by far, the most serious set of scouting, drafting and signing penalties ever imposed by Major League Baseball. It speaks to the sheer audacity of the Braves’ scheme to circumvent signing rules. It also sends a loud and clear signal to other teams — many which have been rumored to have engaged in similar conduct on a smaller scale — that MLB will not tolerate it.

The Braves lower minor league system has been decimated. It stands, essentially, as the head on the pike outside of Major League Baseball’s castle.