Novitzky

The Feds won’t give info to Major League Baseball in the Biogenesis investigation. Good.

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Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times writes this morning about the relationship between the Drug Enforcement Agency and Major League Baseball in the Biogenesis clinic investigation. They are not working hand-in-hand:

While the league’s investigators are attempting to learn as much as they can about the report, they are hamstrung by players’ longstanding refusals to speak to them and by the federal government’s reluctance to provide baseball with information it has uncovered in its own investigations.

The lack of player cooperation Schmidt refers to is the refusal of players to talk about other players’ drug use which he contrasts with the cooperation cyclists have given the Unites States Anti-Doping Agency. Ratting out each other in exchange for reduced suspensions and the like. Which should be pretty understandable at this point given that Joint Drug Agreement entered into between the league and the union provides no basis for leniency in punishment. It’s, by design, a zero-tolerance program. If you start letting guys off for ratting out other guys, you don’t have a zero-tolerance program.

Indeed, what you have is a breeding ground for mistrust and a strong incentive for those players for whom a 50-game suspension is extremely financially harmful to throw their teammates under the bus based on either real or fabricated information.  The players obviously wouldn’t want that. But the owners — and their employee, Bud Selig — wouldn’t want that either in all likelihood because in addition to violating baseball’s longstanding rule of “what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse,” such a setup could serve to destabilize teams and create problems for managers, GMs and owners.

As for the lack of government cooperation with Major League Baseball: well, good.  Major League Baseball is a private business, not an arm of the government and I have never been comfortable with the idea of the government doing special favors for private business, especially in a law enforcement context. If they want to do their own investigation, let them (and they are).

As Buster Olney noted on Twitter this morning, the fact that federal investigators gave drug dealers like Kirk Radomski and Brian McNamee leniency for cooperating with the Mitchell Report investigators was ridiculous.  George Mitchell did not represent the government. His interviewers worked for DLA Piper. We think of baseball as some greater institution, but that setup was no different than a cop compelling someone to talk to McDonalds or Microsoft or Wal-Mart. If law enforcement is to give leniency to criminals in exchange for cooperation, that cooperation should be to the benefit of the public good, not to the benefit of the corporate good.

This all goes back to what I was talking about on Tuesday: what are the priorities here? Is the priority to get headlines with famous names being hung out to dry or is the priority to break up what may very well be an illegal drug distribution network? Back in 2007 the feds, led by the overzealous-in-the-extreme Jeff Novitzky, decided that it was more important to prosecute famous people to get their names in the paper. That didn’t really work out too well, so it’s understandable now that the feds might not have all that great an interest in putting the squeeze to A-Rod — which is what would be the purpose of cooperation with MLB — and a much greater interest in taking down a drug operation. That would be benefited by NOT talking to folks outside of law enforcement.  Folks who, you know, like to do things like leak information to the New York Daily News I-Team.

So good for the feds for treating this like any other law enforcement operation. The folks who are mad that government power isn’t being used to either make headlines or make a billion dollar corproation’s p.r. operation smoother probably need to ask why those things are important to them in the first place.

The Marlins have made a “monster offer” for Kenley Jansen

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch against the Chicago Cubs in the eighth inning of game three of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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OXON HILL, MD — The morning after Aroldis Chapman signed for a record $86 million, the Miami Marlins are reported to have made similarly lucrative offer to the other top free agent closer, Kenley Jansen.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo says that the Marlins have made “a monster offer” of five years and more than $80 million to Jansen. This despite the fact that the club is coming off of a 79-win season and, tragically, lost their top pitcher Jose Fernandez in a fatal boating accident, which will substantially harm their competitive prospects. While it seems like a stretch to say that the Yankees will compete for a playoff spot, thereby making such an historically large investment in a closer a bit suspect, the Marlins doing so is even more questionable.

Meanwhile, the Nationals are said to be interested in Jansen as well, though Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post says the Nats are “uncomfortable” with the financial commitment signing him would require.

Jansen most recently pitched for the Dodgers and there have been no reports that they’re totally out on him, but there has been nothing to suggest that they are pushing hard for him either.

Jansen, 29, finished this past season with 47 saves, a 1.83 ERA, and a 104/11 K/BB ratio in 68.2 innings. That’s not quite Aroldis Chapman good, but he seems poised to collect something close to Aroldis Chapman money.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.