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.

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.