AP Anthony Bosch

The wrong thing is OK as long as you get results, I guess

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Lester Munson, ESPN’s legal analyst, is a humdinger.

He was so monumentally and repeatedly wrong in analyzing the Barry Bonds case that people were embarrassed for him. He was wildly incorrect about evidentiary rulings. And he wasn’t merely mistaken about them. He was so awfully mistaken about them that it was clear to anyone who understood the issues that, the moment he wrote what he wrote, his take was simply incoherent. When Barry Bonds got off on three of the four charges against him, he called it a “triumph for the prosecution” — who he called “brilliant” despite their monumental screwups — and said Bonds went 0 for 4. Which makes me wonder if he knows less about baseball or the law. In the wake of his crazy ramblings about that case multiple legal experts weighed in on him and concluded that he was off his rocker. Indeed, he probably transcended wrongness at some point and went straight into Wonderland.

So it’s no surprise that when a new steroids case is in the news, Munson is going to crank up the crazy machine again. He has a Q&A over at ESPN about Biogenesis. One of the topics he handles is Major League Baseball’s gambit of (a) suing Anthony Bosch for tortious interference; and (b) leveraging that lawsuit into his cooperation in the league’s investigation.  He starts out thusly:

MLB filed a lawsuit against Bosch. Legal experts, including me, scoffed at the MLB action. The lawsuit was based on a legal theory known as “tortious interference” or wrongful obstruction of MLB’s efforts to rid baseball of steroids. Tortious interference is a legal theory of last resort. When you are stuck without a winning legal theory, you rely on the theory of tortious interference. It is rarely successful …

So far so good. But then:

Filing the tortious interference lawsuit demonstrated that MLB commissioner Bud Selig was committed to the elimination of PEDs in baseball. Stung by the embarrassing loss in the arbitration over the suspension of Ryan Braun, MLB could easily have ignored the Biogenesis issues and watched as the story slowly died. They could have enjoyed their record attendance and profits instead of taking action and prolonging the steroid era. Instead of taking an easier path, Selig pursued Bosch. The success of MLB’s lawyers in forcing Bosch into a cooperation agreement is nothing less than astonishing. It is a tribute to Selig and to the lawyers that they have succeeded in what appeared to be a hopeless situation.

And here I thought the whole problem with steroids in baseball is players getting desired results through shady means. I never realized that we should be paying “tribute” to them if it all worked out for them.

Pokes at Munson aside, why is the most reasonable assumption here that MLB’s legal strategy — which really should not have created leverage considering how ill-fated it was — is the reason Bosch is cooperating?  Do we really know enough right now to know for sure that his cooperation is because he was worried about that lawsuit? Or is it possible that MLB has offered him other things that induced it, rendering them less tribute-worthy? If Munson grants that the lawsuit was weak sauce, why is he not at all skeptical of the current arrangement? I mean, just this morning we learned that Bosch was looking to cash in prior to his getting in bed with MLB.

This is the real issue with Anthony Bosch. Why is he willing to change his story now? Was it the alleged brilliance of MLB in pursuing a misguided legal gambit, or is he simply being an opportunist?

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 excaption 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.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.