Robinson Cano, Scott Boras shoot down PED test rumor

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Yesterday afternoon rumors began popping up all over Twitter that Robinson Cano had tested positive for PEDs and had a suspension looming.  Cano and his agent Scott Boras forcefully shot that down yesterday:

“Not at all,” Cano told The News. “There’s no test or anything.”

Cano’s agent, Scott Boras, also told The News that the rumors were baseless. He said his office had traced the allegation to a rumor that originated in the Dominican Republic, a reporter in the U.S. and a rival agent who has been saying that a prominent Latin player has been mired in baseball’s appeals process.

I have no idea what rival agent he’s referring to, but the reporter in question was Dan Tordjman of WSOC TV in Charlotte, North Carolina.  He took to Twitter yesterday and reported that Cano had tested positive and that Major League Baseball was going to make an announcement to that effect later in the day.  The catch: he didn’t actually have any information about it besides that rumor Boras mentioned and, indeed, said in his tweets that the information was “unconfirmed.” Several reporters who do cover the Yankees immediately spoke with the team or the player and found it to be baseless.

Which makes one wonder why in the hell Tordjman was reporting it.  I realize this territory is sort of tricky and the line between news and gossip is often blurry. But it strikes me as one thing to note an explosive rumor is floating around (i.e. “there are rumors that a big star has a PED test and may be suspended soon”) and another thing altogether to hear the rumor, make a specific report on it — “Cano to be suspended later today”– and all the while claiming “hey, maybe it’s not true!”  I think that when the rumor in question is about something serious and something which can impact someone’s reputation like a drug test — as opposed to say some random trade rumor — far more caution and at least some sort of confirmation from a source in question is essential.

As it was, Tordjman was actually on Twitter asking random people with no connection to the Yankees or Cano if they had heard anything more specific about it.  I’d show you the tweets now, but between yesterday and today Tordjman locked his Twitter feed.  Probably a good move on his part.

The kicker about all of this is that, given the nature of the process — a player who tests positive has an appeals process during which a few people know about it but the rest of the public does not — the ground for rumors like this is terribly fertile. Indeed, we saw a hint of this with the Melky Cabrera suspension when word of it circulated prior to the announcement.  So it’s entirely possible that, in the future, word of a positive PED test will come out like this.

If it does, however, one would hope that the people who hear it are at least trying to see if it checks out beforehand with someone in a position to know and reports it with the skepticism and caution such matters deserve.

CC Sabathia won’t visit the White House if the Yankees win the World Series

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Over the past couple of days the subject of athlete activism, always present to some degree in American sports, but recently revived by Colin Kaepernick and a few other football players in the form of silent protests during the National Anthem, exploded into a headline dominating news story. Lighting the fuse: President Trump directly inserting himself into the controversy.

He did so during a speech on Friday night and during a series of tweets Saturday and continuing into this morning in which he urged NFL owners to “fire” or suspend players who do not stand for the national anthem. He also attempted to disinvite the NBA champion Golden State Warriors from their traditional White House visit because of their star player Stephen Curry’s public opposition to him, though Curry had already said he wouldn’t go.

As Ashley wrote last night, the silent anthem protests have now come to baseball, with A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell becoming the fist player to kneel during the National Anthem. Before that, at least one baseball executive, Orioles Vice President John P. Angelos, came out strongly on the side of players and against Trump. Joe Maddon said some less-than-enlightened words on the matter. Major League Baseball issued a statement on the matter. It was, not surprisingly, somewhat empty, taking something of a both-sides-have-good-points tack. It’s understandable, I suppose. I suspect Major League Baseball and its owners would prefer to not have to comment on this at all. The league does not do this sort of controversy well.

Ballplayers, however, will likely continue to speak up. The latest: Yankees starter CC Sabathia, who was asked yesterday whether he would visit the White House if the playoff-bound Yankees won the World Series. From the Daily News:

“Never. I just don’t believe in anything that is Trump. So there wouldn’t be any reason for me to go at all. I just think it’s stupid. I just think it’s dumb that he’s addressing players and stuff that he shouldn’t be. But it is what it is, and that’s the country we live in these days . . . I’m proud of the way that everybody has Steph’s back and just athletes in general these days, the way everybody has been stepping up has been great.”

Baseball players, as we’ve noted many times over the years, tend to be a more conservative bunch than football or basketball players. There are a lot more white players and a lot more players from southern, suburban and exurban areas. A significant number of racial-ethnic minority players were not born in the United States, so U.S. politics may not necessarily preoccupy them the way it may players from the United States. As such, political protest like we’ve seen in the NFL and NBA was never going to start in baseball in 2017.

But that does not mean that it was not going to come to baseball. Contrary to what so many fans seem to think, sports do not exist inside some bubble into which the real world does not intrude. Athletes are citizens just like you and me with social, political and personal concerns just like you and me. And, at the moment, a government official is demanding that they lose their jobs because he does not agree with their political views and the manner in which they are expressed. I suspect most of us would get upset by that if it happened to us. Certainly a lot of people I know on the conservative side of the political expression worried about government overreach and freedom of speech. At least before January of this year.

So I am not at all surprised that baseball players like Sabathia are beginning to speak out. He will not be the last. Others will join him. Others, as is their right, will push back and say they disagree with him. If and when people feel inspired to tell them to “stick to sports,” or “stay in their lane,” perhaps they should ask why the President of the United States decided not to do so himself. And ask why he thinks it’s appropriate for athletes to lose their jobs for their political views and why private entities like the NFL should be patriotic institutions rather than businesses which put on sporting events.

 

Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.