Weiner: the 50-100-lifetime suspension rules don’t apply to Biogenesis

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We were really thrown a curveball earlier today when MLBPA head Michael Weiner, addressing the media, said that the penalties facing Biogenesis-implicated players are not ruled by the Joint Drug Agreement’s 50-game, 100-game, lifetime ban specifications.  When asked about why that was, Weiner pointed to the Commissioner’s “just cause” powers under the JDA.

Which seems odd to me because, as Wendy Thurm pointed out earlier today, the JDA says this about discipline:

A player who tests positive for a Performance Enhancing Substance, or otherwise violates the Program through the possession or use of a Performance Enhancing Substance, will be subject to the discipline set forth below. (emphasis mine) 1. First violation: 50-game suspension; 2. Second violation: 100-game suspension; 3. Third violation: Permanent suspension from Major League and Minor League Baseball.

That italicized language seems to say that the discipline regime applies whether it’s a testing positive or, as will be the case with Biogenesis, non-analytical positives, circumstantial evidence-based violations, etc. There’s nowhere else in the agreement which speaks to Commissioner discretion with respect to discipline beyond the mere words “just cause,” which again, seems to speak to the violation, not the discipline.

Could this be a negotiated thing? The union and the league having an understanding, either now or having had it always, about what might happen if they’re dealing with a non-testing-based violation? And no matter when it was decided that any amount of discipline could apply for such violations, could it not mean that some guys get less than 50 games? Some way more.

As an example: say a Biogenesis Player — let’s call him Theo Blonzalez — has very weak evidence against him in the documents and testimony, but that the league wants to discipline him anyway. Might they take this discretion and give him, say, a five game suspension? That might be a nice break for someone like Blonzalez who, otherwise, might be subject to an automatic 50, which would seem overly harsh. At the same time, might another player with stronger evidence against him — say Schmalex Rodriguez — be slapped with unlimited discipline even if it’s a first offense?

I don’t know what it means, frankly. But I find it fascinating. And it further underscores my suspicion that a lot more conversations are happening between the union and the league than we know about. And that, just maybe, it’s nowhere near as adversarial as we might think.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.