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Since when were “counterfeit tickets” a problem at Yankee Stadium?

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The Yankees have had a long battle with StubHub, the team’s former secondary market reseller. They were mad that StubHub was selling tickets below the cost of the Yankees’ box office, thereby — in the Yankees’ view — undermining box office ticket sales as people waited for cheaper seats to come onto the secondary market.

Shorter version: the Yankees didn’t like that StubHub was doing what it had contracted with the team to do.

Now, I can’t recall any time when the Yankees, faced with this clear market issue brought on by its own ticket prices, actually considered dropping its own prices to lure customers, but that’s neither here nor there. We can’t expect for-profit businesses to understand and adhere to the rules of supply and demand. In such things lie madness!

Anyway, over the winter the Yankees cut ties with StubHub and started a new resale partnership with Ticketmaster, called the Yankees Ticket Exchange. It has price floors and things that the Yankees feel will help them out financially. Good for them.

Except yesterday, in officially announcing the Exchange, Hal Steinbrenner said this:

Hal Steinbrenner, the team’s managing general partner, said the new marketplace would use exclusive bar-code technology to guarantee that tickets were authentic. Steinbrenner also said the new exchange would dovetail with the online accounts that season-ticket holders use.

“It is unfortunate that unscrupulous resellers utilize deceptive practices and tactics and employ unofficial Web sites, all of which give rise to counterfeit tickets,” Steinbrenner said in a statement.

I spent a decent time on the Google machine this morning and I can’t find any reports of “counterfeit tickets” being an issue at Yankee Stadium. I can find lots of team complaints about StubHub. I can find lots of fan complaints about the Yankees’ ticket prices being too damn high. But while I’m sure someone, somewhere, has been taken in by a scammer printing up fake tickets, I can’t find one example of a significant counterfeit Yankees ticket operation. Certainly not one attributable to loose security protocols connected with the Yankees’ deal with StubHub.

All of which makes this sound a lot like politicians who go on about “voter fraud.” It sounds scary and if it’s really happening in any significant way it truly is a bad thing. But in reality it’s not anything approaching a significant problem and the fearmongering about it is a cover for efforts to change election rules in a way that they believe will benefit them.

Same with the Yankees. They’re clearly doing something that is designed to make them more money and which will serve to anger fans who used to like to go to StubHub for el cheapo tickets. Rather than just leave it at that, however, Hal throws up the counterfeit ticket bogeyman to make it seem like what the Yankees are doing is more noble and fan-friendly than it really is.

You’re trying to make more money, Hal. It’s OK that you are. It’s your business. But just admit it, OK? Don’t treat your fans like idiots.

Report: Koji Uehara close to signing with the Cubs

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 10:  Koji Uehara #19 of the Boston Red Sox pitches in the eighth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game three of the American League Divison Series at Fenway Park on October 10, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald reports, citing a source as well as Nikkan Sports, that reliever Koji Uehara is close to signing a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Cubs.

Uehara, 41, finished the 2016 season with a 3.45 ERA and a 63/11 K/BB ratio over 47 innings. He missed some time in the second half with a strained right pectoral muscle. When Uehara returned from the disabled list on September 7, he tossed 11 scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts and two walks through the end of the regular season. So there’s at least some evidence, albeit in a very small sample size, that Uehara has stuff left in the tank.

The Cubs recently acquired closer Wade Davis from the Royals. Uehara would join Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards, Jr., Justin Grimm, and Mike Montgomery in what is once again a very deep bullpen.

MLB implements another player-unfriendly rule, this time targeting draftees

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 28:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks to the media before Game Three of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Jon Morosi of MLB Network and FOX Sports reports that the MLB draft has a new program in which the top-50 pitching prospects are asked to undergo a voluntary pre-draft MRI on their throwing arm. At first glance, it seems reasonable because, hey, pitchers are injury-prone and players sometimes hide injuries. It would feel bad if my favorite team drafted a lemon!

The reality is that this is just another player-unfriendly rule that shifts financial risk away from the owners and onto the players. The players, in this case, are often not wealthy and are about to begin life in the minor leagues where they earn less than $8,000 per year. Signing bonuses help alleviate some of the immediate financial discomfort of minor league life.

The pre-draft MRI is “voluntary” with quotes around it. Choosing not to undergo the MRI will only give prospective teams more reason to be skeptical of one’s durability. It’s a lot like those voluntary workouts in football that aren’t so voluntary due to superior and peer pressure. You don’t show up, you’re lazy, entitled, a bad teammate, etc. In this case, a pitching prospect refuses to undergo the MRI, it’s because he’s hiding an injury.

Ian Anderson was the first pitcher taken off the board in the 2016 draft, going to the Braves at No. 3. He got a $4 million signing bonus. Let’s say this new MRI program had already been instituted and Anderson refused, or something came up that caused the Braves to change their minds. Anderson’s draft stock falls, let’s say to 21 where the Blue Jays took T.J. Zeuch with a $2.175 million signing bonus. Falling 18 spots in this case costs Anderson about $2 million, perhaps more because he loses a lot of negotiating leverage. Maybe he falls further, even to the second round.

In a column for FanGraphs nearly two years ago, Nathaniel Grow showed that, as a percentage of total league revenues, player salaries have been declining since the early 2000’s. In 2002, player salaries made up 56 percent of league revenues. In 2014, it was only 38 percent.

In isolation, the MRI program isn’t a big deal. The injured player loses stock, but another player moves up to take his place and earns a bit more money. As part of the bigger picture, however, this is part of an ongoing trend in which owners abdicate financial risk and push it all onto the players. The new collective bargaining agreement, for example, capped international signings at $5-6 million per team per year. That removes any incentive for overseas stars like Shohei Otani from coming over to play Major League Baseball. If he wanted to anyway, he would make much less money than he otherwise would on an open market. The amateur draft itself is almost entirely risk-avoidant for owners and it’s terrible for the players because they, too, would earn much more on an open market. And let’s not forget how owners have fought tooth-and-nail to keep minor league salaries suppressed.

Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick once paid $2.8 million for the Honus Wagner T-206 baseball card. Let’s not act like these owners can’t afford to shoulder the risk on young pitchers.

EDIT (4:40 PM EST): As I’ve seen others mention it, it’s worth bringing up the Astros/Brady Aiken issue. The Astros took him first in the 2014 draft, but they took issue with his elbow health. The two sides had agreed to a $6.5 million signing bonus, but the Astros wanted to reduce it to $5 million as a result. Aiken didn’t end up signing with the Astros. He underwent Tommy John surgery and was later selected by the Indians 17th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft. He got a $2,513,280 signing bonus.