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At least one person thinks San Jose has a strong case against Major League Baseball


Unfortunately that one person is ESPN’s legal analyst Lester Munson who, as we and many others have noted over the years, tends to get things pretty darn wrong pretty darn often. You won’t be shocked to hear that I feel like he’s off on this one too.

To be fair, he is half right. He analyzes Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption and notes just how anomalous it is. He also notes that, in the right case, the Supreme Court would probably overturn the old Federal Baseball Club vs. National League case which gave us the antitrust exemption in the first place. It’s really a piece or garbage precedent. Where he’s wrong is in thinking that this is the right case.

As I mentioned the other day, the biggest hurdle to San Jose’s suit is getting its arguments heard on the merits in the first place. That’s because, in my view and the view of many others, San Jose lacks legal standing to assert a claim against Major League Baseball and hasn’t alleged any actual damages, as opposed to speculative ones. San Jose claims it will lose money if the A’s are not relocated there. It has made no allegation, however, that it actually has been damaged by any act of Major League Baseball. Munson makes no mention of this whatsoever.

He does mention the American Needle vs. National Football League, case, however. This is one that should come up a lot in talking about the San Jose case, so here’s the quick and dirty: American Needle made NFL-logo merchandise for various teams. The NFL then said, nope, all merch will now be made by Reebok and Reebok only. American Needle sued, saying that the NFL’s anticompetitive act — 32 teams and the league conspiring to shut out competitors to Reebok — violated the law and caused its existing contracts to go bye-bye.  American Needle won that case, with the Supreme Court pounding the NFL’s claim to antitrust protection 9-0.

Here’s the difference, though: American Needle had a contract with NFL teams. It had a vested financial interest in doing business with these guys. Then the NFL came in and said “sorry, you’re shut out.” It had something then lost something by virtue of the NFL’s action.  San Jose has no similar interest or damage. It has a contract with the A’s that gives the A’s the option to purchase some land. The terms of that contract are entirely fulfillable without MLB doing anything. The A’s have paid San Jose the $50,000 the contract asks for. The A’s have not, by any report whatsoever, moved or attempted to move to actually buy land in San Jose, let alone move the team there. More importantly, the A’s are not a plaintiff in this suit. If they were I think it would be a totally different ballgame and MLB would be in big trouble. But that hasn’t happened.

There is always a chance a judge will go off the reservation and make a surprising ruling. As such, sure, there is a chance that San Jose’s suit goes farther than I think it will (and man, I hope it will).  But that’s pretty unlikely. And no matter the odds, Munson makes no mention of Major League Baseball’s possible defenses at all, let alone that they have some pretty stout defenses. There is not one passage in his column noting that, just maybe, the San Jose lawsuit isn’t a slam dunk. If a first year law student provided an analysis like Munson’s on a civil procedure exam he’d probably get a D, at best.

If you just read Munson’s analysis and nothing else — and given that he writes for the biggest sports media company on the planet, many probably have — you’d get a pretty skewed idea of what’s going on here. And the fact that ESPN continues to be cool with that sort of thing from him is frankly amazing.

Rob Manfred wants a new, unnecessary rule to protect middle infielders


Commissioner Rob Manfred is at the Cards-Cubs game this afternoon and the sporting press just spoke with him about the fallout from the Chase Utley/Ruben Tejada play from the other night. Not surprising.

Also not surprising? Manfred’s desire to implement a new rule in an effort to prevent such a play from happening again. Or, at the very least, to allow for clear-cut punishment for someone who breaks it:

Which is ridiculous, as we already have Rule 6.05(m) on the books. That rule — which is as clear as Crystal Pepsi — says a baserunner is out when . . .

(m)A preceding runner shall, in the umpire’s judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play:

Rule 6.05(m) Comment: The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Obviously this is an umpire’s judgment play.

That rule totally and completely covers the Utley-Tejada situation. The umpires were wrong for not enforcing it both then and in the past, but that’s the rule, just as good as any other rule in that book and in no way in need of replacement.

Why not just enforce that rule? What rule would “better protect” infielders than that one? What would do so in a more straightforward a manner? What could baseball possibly add to it which would make plays at second base less confusing rather than more so?

I suspect what Manfred is interested in here is some means to change this from a judgment call to a clear-cut rule. It was that impulse that led to the implementation of clocks for pitchers and batters and innings breaks rather than giving umpires the discretion to enforce existing pace-of-play rules. It was that impulse which led to a tripartite (or is it quadpartite?) means of determining whether a catcher impermissibly blocks the plate or a runner barrels him over rather than simply enforce existing base-blocking rules.

But taking rules out of the subjective realm and into the objective is difficult or downright impossible in many cases, both in law and in baseball. It’s almost totally impossible when intent is an element of the thing, as it is here. It’s likewise the case that, were there a clear and easy bright line to be established in service of a judgment-free rule on this matter, someone may have stumbled upon it once in the past, oh, 150 years. And maybe even tried to implement it. They haven’t, of course. Probably because there was no need, what with Rule 6.05(m) sitting up there all nice and tidy and an army of judgment-armed umpires standing ready to enforce it should they be asked to.

Unfortunately, Major League Baseball has decided that eschewing set rules in favor of new ones is better. Rules about the time batters and pitchers should take. Rules about blocking bases. Rules about how long someone should be suspended for a first time drug offense. Late Selig and Manfred-era Major League Baseball has decided, it seems, that anything 150 years of baseball can do, it can do better. Or at least newer and without the input of people in the judgment-passing business like umpires and arbitrators and the like.

Why can’t baseball send a memo to the umpires and the players over the winter saying the following:

Listen up:

That rule about running into fielders that you all have already agreed to abide by in your respective Collective Bargaining Agreements? We’re serious about it now and WILL be enforcing it. If you break it, players, you’re going to be in trouble. If you refuse to enforce it, umpires, you’re going to be in trouble. Understood? Good.


Bobby M.

If players complain, they complain. They don’t have a say about established rules. If, on the other hand, your process of making new rules is easier than your process of simply enforcing rules you already have, your system is messed up and we should be having a whole other conversation.

Anti-Chase Utley signs at Citi Field were brutal and hilarious

Chase Utley sign

Obviously Chase Utley was not the most popular figure in Citi Field last night. The fans booed him like crazy and chanted for him to make an appearance after the game got underway.

They made signs too. Lots and lots of signs. The one at the top of this article is the only one the Associated Press saw fit to grab a photo of, it seems. But there were more and, unlike that one, they were less than tame.

My favorite one was this one, held by a girl about my daughter’s age. It’s direct. It’s totally unequivocal. It gets the point across:

There’s no arguing with that. Utley could show up with a team of lawyers and after five minutes in front of this girl he’d be forced to admit, both orally and in writing, that, yes, he Buttley.

The New York Post categorizes many more of them here. Including one that didn’t make it into the park which said “Chase Utley [hearts] ISIS.” It was confiscated by Citi Field personnel. Why?

The sign, which actually used a “heart” drawing for loves, was confiscated by Citi Field security after she got inside Monday night. Culpepper was annoyed but gave a frank explanation.

“My guess is Isis doesn’t want to be associated with Chase Utley,” she said, calling him, “my least favorite player ever.”

Somebody call the burn unit.

NLDS, Game 4: Dodgers vs. Mets lineups

Clayton Kershaw

Here are the Dodgers and Mets lineups for Game 4 of the NLDS in New York:

CF Kike Hernandez
2B Howie Kendrick
1B Adrian Gonzalez
3B Justin Turner
SS Corey Seager
RF Yasiel Puig
C A.J. Ellis
LF Justin Ruggiano
SP Clayton Kershaw

With a left-hander on the mound for New York the Dodgers are stacking the lineup with right-handed bats, using an outfield of Yasiel Puig, Justin Ruggiano, and Kike Hernandez rather than Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and Joc Pederson. Adrian Gonzalez and Corey Seager are the only lefty bats in the lineup. A.J. Ellis gets the start over Yasmani Grandal by virtue of being the personal catcher for Clayton Kershaw, who’s pitching on short rest.

RF Curtis Granderson
3B David Wright
2B Daniel Murphy
LF Yoenis Cespedes
C Travis d'Arnaud
1B Lucas Duda
SS Wilmer Flores
CF Juan Lagares
SP Steven Matz

Obviously facing Clayton Kershaw is much different than facing Brett Anderson, but they’re both lefties and manager Terry Collins is using the same lineup as Game 3 with one slight change: Travis d’Arnaud and Lucas Duda flipped in the batting order.