Roger Clemens leaves the federal courthouse with attorney Rusty Hardin in Washington

Clemens’ lawyers wants a Congressman to take the stand

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Congressman Darrell Issa is now the chairman of the committee before which Roger Clemens appeared and allegedly perjured himself and which referred his testimony to prosecutors. Issa wasn’t the chairman at the time, however.  And at the time, he was highly critical of both the hearing itself and the referral for prosecution.

Indeed, he was extremely outspoken about it all, saying the following in newspaper articles at the time:

And then there is Issa, who ascended to chairman in 2011 after Republicans took control of the House. The California congressman had seemed perturbed that the committee was holding the hearing, saying it appeared too focused on alleged steroid use by an individual player.

“We’re not prosecutors, and we’re not supposed to worry about a former pusher and a former [alleged] user,” he said. “We’re supposed to be dealing with a whole industry that had a problem.”

He also described the hearings as a witch hunt. “We don’t really have a mandate to be looking at this,” he told New York’s Daily News. “To me, it smacks of the McCarthy era.” He later told the same newspaper that “this was all about entrapping Roger Clemens.”

There’s a battle on now to get Issa to take the stand in the Roger Clemens prosecution.  Clemens lawyers have subpoenaed him.  Issa is fighting the subpoena. The prosecutors are arguing it’s not relevant.  There will be a hearing on it all this week. How this cuts in my view:

  • It’s totally understandable why Clemens’ lawyers want Issa: they want to get him to slag on the prosecution like he did to the newspaper, to make jurors think this is all a waste of time;
  • That said, it’s hard to see how this is relevant. A congressional staffer already testified for the prosecution to establish whether or not the alleged perjury was “material.”  I suppose the defense has the right to offer its own evidence that the testimony was NOT “material,” but the stuff Issa said in that article doesn’t necessarily relate to that.  It relates to whether the hearing itself was useful or ill-advised.  If Issa is forced to testify, I could see a situation where he’d be barred from offering his opinions regarding the propriety of the hearing, even if he could talk about whether what Clemens said truly mattered;
  • As for Issa, he’s probably fighting the subpoena to avoid the awkward situation in which he’d risk calling his own committee’s work useless. I mean, he may think that particular hearing was, but the chairman of a committee likely doesn’t want to get into the business of doing this sort of thing. Not that it hasn’t happened before.  The linked article talks about past committee members testifying in referred prosecutions, sometimes on opposite sides of one another.

There are also some political overtones here in that Issa has been ripping Obama administration officials regarding responding to subpoenas while he’s trying to duck one of his own.  That kind of bores me, but the chatter surrounds it.  It’s made it juicy for the politicos anyway.

Fun times in the trial that will never end.

Mariners sign reliever Joel Peralta

Joel Peralta
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Right-hander Joel Peralta has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mariners that includes an invitation to spring training.

Peralta spent last season with the Dodgers and was limited to 29 innings by neck and back problems, posting a 4.34 ERA and 24/8 K/BB ratio. Los Angeles declined his $2.5 million option, making him a free agent.

He was one of the most underrated relievers in baseball from 2010-2014, logging a total of 318 innings with a 3.34 ERA and 342 strikeouts, but at age 40 he’s shown signs of decline. Still, for a minor-league deal and no real commitment Peralta has a chance to be a nice pickup for Seattle’s bullpen.

White Sox sign Mat Latos

Mat Latos
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Jerry Crasnick reports that the Chicago White Sox have signed Mat Latos.

Latos was pretty spiffy between 2010-2014, posting sub-3.50 ERAs each year.  Then the injuries came and he fell apart. He pitched for three teams in 2015 — the Dodgers, Angels, and Marlins — with a combined 4.95 ERA in 113 innings. And he didn’t make friends on those clubs either, with reports of clubhouse strife left in his wake.

In Chicago he gets a fresh start. It doesn’t come in a park that will do him any favors — Latos and U.S. Cellular Field don’t seem like a great match — but at this point beggars can’t be choosers.

 

Jason Castro loses arbitration hearing against Astros

Jason Castro
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Veteran catcher Jason Castro and the Astros went through with an arbitration hearing over a difference of $250,000 and the three-person panel ruled in favor of the team.

That means Castro will make $5 million this season rather than his requested amount of $5.25 million. This is his final year of arbitration eligibility, so the 29-year-old catcher will be a free agent after the season.

Castro showed a lot of promise early on, including making the All-Star team at age 26 in 2013, but since then he’s hit just .217 with a .650 OPS in 230 games. His power and pitch-framing skills are a valuable combination even within sub par overall production, so 2016 will be a key year for the former first-round draft pick.

Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Eminent Domain and the history of the Rangers Ballpark

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump addresses supporters at a campaign rally, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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Eminent Domain — the right of a government to take/buy private property for public use — and its implications has always been a controversial topic. It became far more controversial in the 1990s and early 2000s, however,  as the practice, which is intended for public projects like roads and stuff, was increasingly used in ways to help developers and businesses.

The controversy came to a head in the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London in which the Supreme Court held that general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth — not just direct public works — qualified as a “public use” under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The upshot: if someone had a good argument that a shopping mall would benefit the community, Mr. Developer and the government can force you to sell them their house.

This led to a HUGE backlash, with property rights people freaking out about what seemed like a pretty clear abuse of governmental power serving the interests of developers. Some 44 states have since passed laws outlawing the use of Eminent Domain for purely economic development. Some of that backlash has gone too far in the other direction, with some laws getting passed which not only required compensation to landowners if land was taken, but merely if land was diminished in value.  Like, if the government passes an environmental regulation which makes your private, for-profit toxic waste dump less lucrative than it was, the government has to pay you. It’s crazy stuff, really. And all of those laws notwithstanding, the topic continues to be a controversial one, with battles over what, exactly, is “public” what is a “public good” and all of that raging on. It’s rather fascinating. At least for boring nerfherders like me.

In the recent GOP presidential debate Donald Trump and Jeb Bush got into it on the topic, with Trump — a real estate developer, or course — defending the use of Eminent Domain to take land for economic development and Bush — a really desperate dude who at this point will take ANY position he can if it’ll give him traction — opposing it. In the days since they’ve continued to fight about it, with Trump charging Bush with hypocrisy since his brother, George W., was an owner of the Texas Rangers when they built their new ballpark with the help of Eminent Domain.

Ahh, yes. We finally get to baseball.

Today Nathaniel Rakich of Baseballot digs into that project and looks at how it all played out against the Eminent Domain debate. It touches on stuff we talk about a lot around here: are ballparks engines of economic development or merely for the enrichment of ballclubs? If they are built by a municipality, are they public goods? Wait, how can they be public goods if you can’t just walk into them for free? And the arguments go on.

It’s fascinating stuff showing, once again, that the real world and baseball intersect all the dang time and it’s handy to have a handle on just how, exactly, it does so.