Carl Crawford

Fan who allegedly yelled racial slur at Carl Crawford is a police officer, could lose his job


Remember last week when a fan allegedly yelled racist stuff at Carl Crawford during a rehab game in New Hampshire? Well, the next day the fan took to the Internet and called in to a radio station to defend himself. And in doing so, he seems to have outed himself.

Turns out he’s a Leominster, Massachusetts police officer. One who, as you’ll see below, has apparently had a tragic past year, and now, in light of the Crawford business, could lose his job:

Leominster authorities launched an internal investigation into whether one of the city’s police officers is the heckler responsible for shouting a racial slur at Red Sox left fielder Carl Crawford during a minor league game last week in Manchester, N.H. … Leominster officials opened the investigation earlier this week after receiving a number of tips and complaints.

The mayor of Leominster says in this NECN report that the officer could lose his job over this.

Reader BigLeagues passed those links along to me, as well as some stuff from last week I missed about who this police officer is.  When he called in to WEEI the day after the alleged incident to defend himself, he identified himself as “Thomas,” and said he didn’t yell any slurs at Crawford, only heckled him over being a big money, no production ballplayer. In the comments section to the WEEI story, he used the name “Thomas Johnson” and “Tom from NH.”  The comment name links to a Facebook page under the name “Thomas Johnson” with a police department patch as its avatar, but not a Leominster one.*

BigLeagues was curious about this story and did some Googling.  He tells me that on WEEI, Thomas/Tom from NH/Thomas Johnson said he was 32 years-old, raced cars in his spare time and, last fall, he and his wife suffered the loss of his baby son.  A search by BigLeagues reveals this story about a Thomas Johnson who is 32 years-old, lives in a New Hampshire town about 30 miles from Leominster, races cars and lost his son last fall. Sounds like the same dude.

What to make of all of this? I don’t know. It’s unclear if this guy yelled slurs at Crawford (the reports reveal this to be a Crawford’s word against Thomas Johnson’s word thing at the moment). If he did, he might get fired. And if it’s the same guy from that last story, I think it’s safe to say that he’s having an awful year and probably could use help from someone.

*A Twitter follower tells me that the police patch on Thomas Johnson’s Facebook page is from Greenland, New Hampshire. This spring four officers were shot, and the police chief killed, in a shootout in Greenland back in April, which presumably makes the Facebook pic a tribute. Gosh, this is all kinds of horrible.

(big thanks and props to BigLeagues for handing me all of this stuff)

Wait, what is the non-tender deadline again?

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For the next day and a half you’ll hear a lot about the non-tender deadline and/or players being tendered or not tendered a contract. Here, in case you’re unaware, is what that means.

By midnight on Wednesday teams have to decide whether to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. If they do, the team retains control over the player. Now, to be clear, the team is not simply “tendering” the player the actual contract specifying what he’ll be paid. Think of it as more of a token gesture — a placeholder contract — at that point the team and the player can negotiate salary for 2016 and, if they can’t come to an agreement over that (i.e. an agreement avoiding arbitration) they will proceed to submit proposed salaries to one another and have a salary arbitration early in the spring.

If the team non-tenders a player, however, that player immediately becomes a free agent, eligible to sign anywhere with no strings attached.

Basically, the calculus is whether or not the team thinks the player in question is worth the low end of what he might receive in arbitration. Or, put differently, if the guy isn’t worth what he made in 2015, he’s probably going to be non-tendered.

MLB Trade Rumors has a handy “Non-Tender Tracker” which lists the status of the couple hundred arbitration eligible players and whether or not they’ve been tendered a contract. We’ll, of course, make mention of notable non-tender guys as their status for 2016 becomes known over the next day or two.

Mariners interested in free agent outfielder Nori Aoki

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New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept pretty busy in his short time on the job and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that free agent outfielder Nori Aoki could be his next target. The club recently pursued a trade for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but the asking price has them looking at alternatives.

Aoki, who turns 34 in January, has hit .287 with a .353 on-base percentage over four seasons since coming over from Japan. He was having a fine season with the Giants this year prior to being shut down in September with lingering concussion symptoms.

The Giants decided against picking up Aoki’s $5.5 million club option for 2016 earlier this month, but he should still do pretty well for himself this winter assuming he’s feeling good.

Report: Johnny Cueto is believed to be looking for a $140-160 million deal

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It was reported Sunday that free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto had turned down a six-year, $120 million contract from the Diamondbacks. He’s hoping to land a bigger deal this winter and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has heard some chatter about what he’s looking for.

Jordan Zimmermann finalized a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers today, which works out to $22 million per season. Arizona’s offer to Cueto checked in at $20 million per season. A six-year offer to Cueto at the same AAV (average annual value) as Zimmermann would put him at $132 million, which is still a little shy of the figure stated by Crasnick. Of course, Cueto owns a 2.71 ERA (145 ERA+) over the last five seasons compared to a 3.14 ERA (123 ERA+) by Zimmermann during that same timespan, so there’s a case to be made that he should get more. Still, he’s the clear No. 3 starter on the market behind David Price and Zack Greinke.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, and Cubs are among the other teams who have interest in Cueto. One variable in his favor is that he is not attached to draft pick compensation, as he was traded from the Reds to the Royals during the 2015 season.

Report: Around 20 teams have contacted the Braves about Shelby Miller

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The rebuilding Braves have already been active on the trade market and they might not be done, as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that right-hander Shelby Miller has been a very popular name. In fact, around 20 teams have checked in.

Nothing is considered close and the Braves have set a very high asking price, mostly centered around offense. They asked for right-hander Luis Severino in talks with the Yankees and would expect outfielder Marcell Ozuna among other pieces from the Marlins. The Diamondbacks and Giants are among the other interested clubs.

Miller is under team control through 2018, so there’s not necessarily a sense of urgency to move him, but anything is possible with the way the Braves are doing things right now. The 25-year-old is coming off a year where he went 6-17, but that was about really rotten luck more than anything else, as he had a fine 3.02 ERA and 171/73 K/BB ratio over 205 1/3 innings. The Braves gave him the worst run support of any starter in the majors.