Judges agree that, yes, the Yankees are the “Evil Empire”

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Here’s the weirdest story you’ll read today. And I promise you it’s not from the Onion.

According to Ashby Jones and Dan Barbarisi of the Wall Street Journal, a panel of trademark judges denied a request for a private entrepreneur, Evil Enterprises, Inc., to register the phrase “Baseballs Evil Empire” after the Yankees objected.

The phrase, at least in the baseball world, was coined by Red Sox president Larry Lucchino in 2002 after the Yankees signed Cuban right-hander Jose Contreras. The Yankees have come to embrace the identity of being the “Evil Empire” over the years, even playing the Imperial March from “Star Wars” during their home games. This was actually part of the Yankees’ argument in the case, as well as numerous articles mentioning them in connection with the phrase.

The best part of this whole thing might be the judges’ explanation of their ruling.

“In short, the record shows that there is only one Evil Empire in baseball and it is the New York Yankees,” wrote the judges. “Accordingly, we find that [the Yankees] have a protectable trademark right in the term . . . as used in connection with baseball.”

Classic stuff. Of course, in the opinion of some Yankees fans, they haven’t been nearly evil enough recently.

Tigers release Francisco Rodriguez

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Tigers’ right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez was released on Friday, per a team announcement. The club recalled fellow right-hander Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo in a corresponding move.

The former closer got the boot after losing his closing role in early May, giving left-hander Justin Wilson a chance to impress at the back end of the bullpen. It’s been a rough year for Rodriguez, who manufactured six blown saves and a 7.82 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 25 1/3 innings for the Tigers. The final straw, it seemed, came with Robinson Cano‘s grand slam in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 6-9 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.

While the demotion to a clean-up role and an apparent lack of communication caused Rodriguez considerable frustration, he’s two years removed from his last dominant performance as a major league closer and has shown few signs of returning to form. His recent slump doesn’t diminish the impressive totals he’s racked up over his 16-year career — 437 saves and six All-Star nominations among them — but if he can’t break out of it soon, he may not receive the kind of high leverage role he’s seeking with another big league team, either.

The Red Sox sign Jhonny Peralta

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The Red Sox have signed third baseman Jhonny Peralta to a minor-league deal. He’ll report to Pawtucket.

Peralta, 35, hit a paltry .204/.259/.204 in 58 plate appearances for the Cardinals this year. But with Pablo Sandoval on the disabled list — and ineffective when he hasn’t been — the Sox could use some infield depth.

This is the second former Tiger that former Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has picked up today, after signing Doug Fister. No word if he’s kicking the tires on Andy Dirks or Brennan Boesch.