Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves

Neither the timeline for nor the severity of Biogenesis discipline has been determined

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Michael Weiner condemned the leaks in the Biogenesis case earlier today. Specifically, it seemed, he was condemning the reports from ESPN in recent days that (a) Major League Baseball is poised to announce suspensions as early as next week; and (b) that it is determined to apply 100-game suspensions to some of the players involved, most often assumed to be Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez.

I spoke with a source familiar with the Biogenesis investigation today, however, and I’m told that, despite what most people are assuming based on the ESPN reports, neither of those things have yet been decided upon.

With respect to timeline, my source tells me that a discipline announcement as early as ESPN’s report suggested, while theoretically possible, is unlikely, as Major League Baseball is still talking to players and gathering information. My source tells me that if you were treating this like an over/under — or maybe a sooner-or-later after the All-Star Break — that the better bet would be later. Baseball has likewise not made any firm decisions regarding the extent of discipline. Specifically, whether any player is subject to a 100-game suspension.

About the 100-game suspension possibility: I’m told that, yes, it’s still on the table and being discussed. I was also told that my argument of the past two days — that the Melky Cabrera fake website example more or less precludes the league from leveling double discipline here — is not particularly persuasive to Major League Baseball and that they still think they can do it regardless of what happened with Melky. A second source — also familiar with the Biogenesis investigation and the Melky Cabrera investigation — backs the first source up, telling me that Melky had double discipline staring him in the face and essentially plea bargained his way out of it by agreeing to drop his appeal. As such, his case does not have precedential value.  They could have popped him for the deception as well, my sources say.

One question that has arisen is that if MLB is really trying to go after Braun or Rodriguez for two offenses, why is it 100 games instead of 150 games that is being discussed? After all, first offense = 50, second offense = 100, and we can certainly do the math. The answer, according to my source, is that the league likely views the 100 games as some sort of happy medium or, perhaps leniency of some kind with the acknowledgment that we’re in uncharted waters here (all of those are my words, not my source’s). But again, all of this is still being considered by the league, it’s still a very fluid discussion and no firm decisions have been made.

A final note about timeline: there have been many people wondering about the impact of suspensions. Would it interfere with a playoff race if 20 guys disappeared in the middle of September or something? Would it be worse to let them all play only to later find out that a World Series champ had a PED guy on it who maybe should have been suspended? All interesting questions, but not ones that are at the forefront of Major League Baseball’s decision making process, my source tells me. The league is going to issue discipline once its investigation is completed. The chips will fall were they may and it is the investigative process — not the potential competitive fallout of it — that will determine timing. I don’t know how else one could proceed with respect to that issue, as there are no good answers to the question.

So that’s the state of the world. I still have several issues with the Biogenesis matter. I don’t like the sorts of people MLB appears to be getting in bed with in order to get its evidence. I don’t like the reports we’ve heard that some players are more in the crosshairs than others due to past transgressions, perceived or otherwise. I still think it’s anything but a slam dunk that an arbitrator will side with MLB once this is all said and done and that because of that risk, MLB’s decision to proceed as it has presents long term risks to the drug program as a whole (i.e. if they shoot and miss on non-clinical suspensions now, they’ll have a hard time shooting again in the future).

But all of that said, if my sources are correct, it seems to me that MLB is doing this about as well as it can under the circumstances. And we will all be watching it unfold over a much longer timeframe than many people are suggesting.

Mariners sign reliever Joel Peralta

Joel Peralta
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Right-hander Joel Peralta has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mariners that includes an invitation to spring training.

Peralta spent last season with the Dodgers and was limited to 29 innings by neck and back problems, posting a 4.34 ERA and 24/8 K/BB ratio. Los Angeles declined his $2.5 million option, making him a free agent.

He was one of the most underrated relievers in baseball from 2010-2014, logging a total of 318 innings with a 3.34 ERA and 342 strikeouts, but at age 40 he’s shown signs of decline. Still, for a minor-league deal and no real commitment Peralta has a chance to be a nice pickup for Seattle’s bullpen.

White Sox sign Mat Latos

Mat Latos
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Jerry Crasnick reports that the Chicago White Sox have signed Mat Latos.

Latos was pretty spiffy between 2010-2014, posting sub-3.50 ERAs each year.  Then the injuries came and he fell apart. He pitched for three teams in 2015 — the Dodgers, Angels, and Marlins — with a combined 4.95 ERA in 113 innings. And he didn’t make friends on those clubs either, with reports of clubhouse strife left in his wake.

In Chicago he gets a fresh start. It doesn’t come in a park that will do him any favors — Latos and U.S. Cellular Field don’t seem like a great match — but at this point beggars can’t be choosers.

 

Jason Castro loses arbitration hearing against Astros

Jason Castro
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Veteran catcher Jason Castro and the Astros went through with an arbitration hearing over a difference of $250,000 and the three-person panel ruled in favor of the team.

That means Castro will make $5 million this season rather than his requested amount of $5.25 million. This is his final year of arbitration eligibility, so the 29-year-old catcher will be a free agent after the season.

Castro showed a lot of promise early on, including making the All-Star team at age 26 in 2013, but since then he’s hit just .217 with a .650 OPS in 230 games. His power and pitch-framing skills are a valuable combination even within sub par overall production, so 2016 will be a key year for the former first-round draft pick.

Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Eminent Domain and the history of the Rangers Ballpark

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump addresses supporters at a campaign rally, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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Eminent Domain — the right of a government to take/buy private property for public use — and its implications has always been a controversial topic. It became far more controversial in the 1990s and early 2000s, however,  as the practice, which is intended for public projects like roads and stuff, was increasingly used in ways to help developers and businesses.

The controversy came to a head in the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London in which the Supreme Court held that general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth — not just direct public works — qualified as a “public use” under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The upshot: if someone had a good argument that a shopping mall would benefit the community, Mr. Developer and the government can force you to sell them their house.

This led to a HUGE backlash, with property rights people freaking out about what seemed like a pretty clear abuse of governmental power serving the interests of developers. Some 44 states have since passed laws outlawing the use of Eminent Domain for purely economic development. Some of that backlash has gone too far in the other direction, with some laws getting passed which not only required compensation to landowners if land was taken, but merely if land was diminished in value.  Like, if the government passes an environmental regulation which makes your private, for-profit toxic waste dump less lucrative than it was, the government has to pay you. It’s crazy stuff, really. And all of those laws notwithstanding, the topic continues to be a controversial one, with battles over what, exactly, is “public” what is a “public good” and all of that raging on. It’s rather fascinating. At least for boring nerfherders like me.

In the recent GOP presidential debate Donald Trump and Jeb Bush got into it on the topic, with Trump — a real estate developer, or course — defending the use of Eminent Domain to take land for economic development and Bush — a really desperate dude who at this point will take ANY position he can if it’ll give him traction — opposing it. In the days since they’ve continued to fight about it, with Trump charging Bush with hypocrisy since his brother, George W., was an owner of the Texas Rangers when they built their new ballpark with the help of Eminent Domain.

Ahh, yes. We finally get to baseball.

Today Nathaniel Rakich of Baseballot digs into that project and looks at how it all played out against the Eminent Domain debate. It touches on stuff we talk about a lot around here: are ballparks engines of economic development or merely for the enrichment of ballclubs? If they are built by a municipality, are they public goods? Wait, how can they be public goods if you can’t just walk into them for free? And the arguments go on.

It’s fascinating stuff showing, once again, that the real world and baseball intersect all the dang time and it’s handy to have a handle on just how, exactly, it does so.