MLB Commissioner Bud Selig speaks during a news conference in New York

Major League Baseball’s lawsuit against Biogenesis should be laughed out of court

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And should probably cause the lawyers who file it to be slapped with sanctions, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

In case you missed it, the backstory here is that Major League Baseball plans to sue Biogenesis today in an effort to obtain the documents it has thus far been unable to obtain and which it needs to punish ballplayers like Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez for taking performance enhancing drugs.

There are, however, a few slight problems with this strategy. The largest being that this is a transparent and cynical attempt by Major League Baseball to obtain documents to discipline its employees, not an attempt to vindicate an actual legal injury, and courts do not like to be used in such a fashion.

Baseball has loudly lamented that it (a) has no way of getting the Biogenesis documents; and thus (b) has no way of punishing the ballplayers named in the documents. For them to now, suddenly, tell a judge that this is really about redressing some legal injury it suffered at the hands of this little clinic is laughable in the extreme. If someone had handed them a box of documents last week they would have never considered suing Biogenesis. They are now suing with the sole intent of getting documents. Which is problematic because the purpose of the legal system is to redress legal injury, not to be used as a cudgel in some employment dispute involving non-parties to the lawsuit or to help sports leagues with their public relations problems.

Baseball’s lawyers probably realize this, so they will not be so dumb as to put the real purpose of the lawsuit in the complaint. They will assert some legal claim in the suit — maybe tortious interference with a business relationship? — and claim they were damaged. Indeed, an expert cited in the New York Times story about all of this lays out how that might look:

“If I sold drugs to a baseball player, the league might say it damaged the good will of the league and its ability to make money and prosper,” Eckhaus said. “That’s probably a good claim.”

This would be a fun deposition:

Defense lawyer: Mr. Selig, your claim asserts that baseball has not been able to make money and prosper as a result of performance enhancing drugs like those alleged to have been given to your players by my client, yes?

Selig: Yes sir!

Defense lawyer: Can you tell me, Mr. Selig, how baseball’s revenues, profits, attendance, TV ratings and popularity have been negatively impacted as performance enhancing drugs?

Selig: …

Defense lawyer: Mr. Selig, you’d agree with me, wouldn’t you, that since the mid-1990s through the present day, baseball has had unprecedented financial success, yes?

Selig: …

Defense lawyer: And that this period, often called The Steroid Era, is when performance enhancing drugs proliferated?

Selig: …

Defense lawyer: And that now baseball is experiencing a mind-boggling windfall due to television dollars and exploding franchise values?

Selig: … well, um, that may be true. But Mr. Lupica is really, really upset.

It’s total nonsense to suggest financial damage here. If baseball asserts in its complaint that it has suffered financial damage due to the actions of Biogenesis it is lying. If it does not assert financial damage the complaint will be thrown out for failing to state a legal claim.

And it may be total nonsense for Major League Baseball to articulate a theory of recovery even if some damages claim can be cobbled together. I no longer have access to my magic legal research resources, but I’d be rather surprised if there is any kind of rich case history in which companies have been allowed to sue drug dealers for selling to its employees.  Employees are not the company’s property. They have no standing to assert such claims. Baseball would have a better claim against the NFL for damaging its brand than it would have against Anthony Bosch.  The Beatles would have just as good a claim against Yoko Ono for breaking them up than Selig would have against Biogenesis.

Baseball is having a highly-publicized, real time temper tantrum. It has been impotent in its attempts to obtain the Biogenesis documents and it casting about for any way to obtain them. That it is now looking to waste scarce legal resources in an ill-conceived lawsuit to do what it has been unable to do otherwise is every bit as shameful as it is unlikely to succeed. If they get a bored judge who doesn’t care about such things maybe this has some legs for a while. If they get a judge like most judges I’ve ever known — ones who do not abide nonsense like this — they could very well find their lawsuit dismissed with a quickness and their lawyers sanctioned as a result of the frivolity of the claims they are about to assert.

But hey, there’s part of me which actually wants this thing to go forward. Because if baseball is going to disingenuously claim that it has suffered financial damages as a result of all of this, it will have to turn over financial documents to prove that such damages exist. Tell me: when was the last time baseball was eager to do that?

White Sox ballpark to be renamed “Guaranteed Rate Field”

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 10:  General view as members of the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins stand for the National Anthem before the White Sox home opener at U.S. Cellular Field on April 10, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Stadium naming rights have long been with us. They’re just a part of the sports landscape now. Some are pretty spiffy despite their corporate underwriting: “Great American Ballpark” could be the name of a sports facility even if it wasn’t also the name of an insurance company. “Progressive Field” could be the name of a field even an anti-corporate dude like Bernie Sanders could appreciate, at least if he’s sloppy with capitalization.

Others are clunky: “Globe Life Park in Arlington” seems to have both adjective and preposition problems, as if it were run through a foreign language translator and then back again to English. The joint in Oakland went by the name O.co Coliseum for a spell. That was for Overstock.com, but it didn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

At the risk of being snobbish, I think it’s fair to say that there are also higher and lower rent names as well. Banks, airlines and beer companies, however crassly commercial they are, seem a bit more respectable and venerable than, say, the fly-by-night dot com companies which named sports facilities for several years. “Chase” and “Coors” aren’t going anyplace. Those places are named after American institutions, even if they’re still corporate institutions. I’m pretty sure that circa 2001 half the stadiums and arenas in the country were named after businesses still being run out of tech incubators in nondescript office parks, their first biggest investment being the naming rights, their second biggest investment being the ping pong table in the break room.

The White Sox have long played in “U.S. Cellular Field.” This is pretty dicey as it is, given that that company is only a regional wireless provider. Fifth largest in the country. Certainly not A-list, and likely far more identifiable to more Americans as the name of a ballpark than the name of a going telecommunications concern, thereby sort of defeating the purpose of naming rights. Which must be why U.S. Cellular is getting out of the naming rights business, leaving the White Sox to find a different naming rights partner:

As the tenth largest mortgage company in the country, is there even any guarantee that Guaranteed Rate will be in business in 2030? If the choices are “it goes under,” “it gets purchased by a larger lender” and “it’s still there,” I am not putting money on the latter choice.

That aside, it’s just a goofy name for a ballpark. It’ll better lend itself to columnist jokes about bad guaranteed contracts for bust veterans than it will to spreading awareness of a financial services company. And don’t even get me started on the dissonance between the ballpark name and its tenant’s ticket price policies:

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Best work on that, guys.

UPDATE: LOL

 

Phillies’ Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz cleared waivers

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 10:  Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies follows through on a 3 RBI double in the ninth inning off of Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on August 10,  2016 in Los Angeles, California. Phillies won 6-2.  (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and catcher Carlos Ruiz have both cleared waivers, which means the club can attempt to trade either player unimpeded. Stark adds that two teams are mulling a pursuit of Ruiz, but Howard is “virtually certain” to stay with the Phillies.

Howard, 36, has unimpressive overall stats, as he’s carrying a .198/.252/.445 triple-slash line with 19 home runs and 43 RBI in 286 plate appearances. The Phillies have limited Howard to right-handed pitching by platooning him with Tommy Joseph.

Shockingly, Howard has been one of the best hitters of the second half, as Corinne Landrey explains at FanGraphs. Using wRC+, an all encompassing offensive statistic that sets 100 at average, only Joey Votto has been a more productive hitter since the All-Star break, owning a 226 wRC+ to Howard’s 191. Howard is trailed by Freddie Freeman (179), Adrian Gonzalez (149), and Paul Goldschmidt (140).

Howard is owed the remainder of his $25 million salary for the 2016 season as well as a $10 million buyout for ’17. Despite Howard’s productive second half and even if the Phillies were to cover all of the remaining money owed, there won’t be much of a market for an inconsistent 1B/DH in his mid-30’s who can’t field, can’t run, and can’t hit left-handed pitching.

Ruiz, 37, has had a solid season, batting .261/.368/.352 in 193 plate appearances. Like Howard, Ruiz has lost playing time at his primary position to a younger player — Cameron Rupp, in this case. Ruiz is owed the remainder of his $8.5 million salary and is under contract next season if his controlling club picks up his $4.5 million option. That option may make him even more attractive to interested clubs, as Ruiz is still a valuable catcher. He has accrued 1.3 Wins Above Replacement despite limited playing time and has a reputation for working well with his pitchers. A playoff-bound club could do a lot worse.