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Report: Alex Rodriguez “played in an underground, illegal poker game where cocaine was openly used”

72 Comments and Star magazine have published a report claiming Alex Rodriguez “played in an underground, illegal poker game where cocaine was openly used.”

Tabloid reports should be taken with truck fulls of salt, obviously, but the story is a follow-up to the June crackdown of a Hollywood poker game in which big names like Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Rodriguez regularly played.

Rodriguez previously denied playing in the game in question, which dates back as far as 2007, but has been linked to other “underground” poker games in the past and speculates that he could be “facing potential fallout from Major League Baseball, which previously warned him to stay out of illegal poker clubs and now has two investigators looking into his activities.”

Dan Bilzerian, a professional poker player who was at the game, shared a few details:

That game was hosted at investor and record label owner Cody Leibel’s $16.5 million Beverly Hills mansion, and cocaine was openly used. Bilzerian revealed that a fight nearly broke out when Leibel refused to pay after losing more than a half million dollars. … With tempers at the table flaring, A-Rod tried to distance himself from the game, another insider told Star.

“He just shook his head, not knowing what the hell happened,’’ the whistle-blower revealed. “He didn’t want to deal with it at all. He was like, ‘OK, whatever. It’s your game.’ I would estimate A-Rod lost, like, a few thousand dollars that night. After everything that happened, he paid-up and left.”

There are other sordid details in the story, such as Rodriguez organizing his own game in Florida, claims of an affair with the event’s host, and the involvement of “thugs.” With that said, he reportedly stopped playing in the games and isn’t accused of using drugs himself, which means most of his involvement comes from having poor judgment and being a rich guy who likes to play high-stakes poker. Ho hum.

While the game included some professional poker players at various times, World Poker Tour champion, NBA analyst, and professional sports bettor Haralabos Voulgaris was recently a guest on the fantastic “Huff and Stapes” podcast and talked about once being turned away from the game at the door because players there–including specifically Tobey Maguire–recognized him. With millions on the table, they understandably didn’t want pros feasting on the game.


UPDATE: Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York spoke to “an MLB executive” who said they’re taking the Rodriguez allegations “very seriously … because he’d been warned about this before, I would say a possible suspension would be very much in play.”

More from Matthews’ source:

Bud [Selig]’s totally fed up with him. It’s like there’s something new with him every day and it’s impossible to keep up with it. I could see us trying to pursue this a lot further. The truth is still out there somewhere. You get the feeling that Alex says what he thinks he needs to say to get by, and then goes out and does what he wants.

Rodriguez, who’s currently on the disabled list rehabbing a knee injury, hasn’t been reached for comment yet and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman replied “I don’t know anything about it” when asked about the situation today.

UPDATE #2: MLB released an official statement: “We take this very seriously and have been investigating this matter since the initial allegation. As part of the investigation, the commissioner’s office will interview Mr. Rodriguez.”

Marc Anthony gets into the agent business, signs Aroldis Chapman

Aroldis Chapman

There is a somewhat mixed history of entertainers and musicians getting into the sports agent business. Sometimes it works out (Jay-Z has done OK). Sometimes it doesn’t (Master P says “Hi”).

Add another one to the list. A pretty big one. Ken Rosenthal reports that Marc Anthony’s Magnus Media is getting into sports. And the company, Magnus Sports, just signed a new client: Reds closer Aroldis Chapman. From Rosenthal:

The company said in a news release that it will team with a baseball agency, Praver Shapiro Sports Management — and that the group’s first major client will be Reds closer Aroldis Chapman.

Praver Shapiro represents a number of Latin players, including Marlinsshortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, Cubs right fielder Jorge Soler, Reds pitcherRaisel Iglesias and free-agent third baseman Juan Uribe.

Chapman is on the trading block right now but 2016 is his walk year, and barring injury he’ll due for perhaps the biggest payday a closer has ever seen. Whether he’ll actually get it depends on the negotiating skills of the biggest salsa artist the world has ever seen.

Gentlemen: you have a year to get some song title pun/headlines ready.

Orioles interested in Denard Span

Denard Span
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.

Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.

The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
AP Photo/Paul Beaty

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.