Alex Rodriguez

UPDATE: A-Rod denies that he’s using the “I had no idea what I was taking” defense


UPDATE: A-Rod’s team is denying the Daily News’ report:


11:03 AM: Or: Great Moments in Unoriginal and Implausible Excuses. From the Daily News:

According to a source with knowledge of Rodriguez’s ongoing arbitration hearings, the embattled Yankee and his lawyers have presented a case based partly on the idea that Rodriguez believed the substances he procured from the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic were innocent legal supplements.

Given that Major League Baseball is still presenting its affirmative case it’s unclear whether this is actually a pillar of Rodriguez’s defense or if it was merely mentioned in passing by one of his lawyers. Regardless, it will not likely do much for him in the court of public opinion. We’ve heard this with Barry Bonds and Rogers Clemens and it rings pretty hollow, especially given that the suppliers of these allegedly legal supplements were shady dudes who gave injections in hotel rooms and private homes in the dark of night.

That said, there could be a reason to offer up such an argument, even if it’s weakly offered. With no blood or urine testing evidence against A-Rod around, MLB has to establish that he actually and knowingly took something illegal. They’ll do it with Anthony Bosch’s word. Combatting that with an “I was duped” argument may seem weak, but so too is Bosch’s word compared to, say, a positive drug test. In other words, it’s weak, but it’s something.

Moreover, a big part of A-Rod’s defense is that Bosch is a liar, and it would be consistent for him to say that everything that comes out of Bosch’s mouth is a lie. If you say he lied about ten things but then admit, well, yes, the stuff he gave me was illegal and I knew it, you pretty much have no defense on that point and you’re helping out his credibility, even if it’s in only a small way.

Will this persuade the arbitrator that A-Rod actually was duped? I seriously doubt it. But it could prevent the arbitrator from concluding that A-Rod’s knowing culpability was certain — a 100% lock — and for every little sliver of doubt inserted into the record, the basis for hitting A-Rod with the most severe penalty possible is undermined in some way.

Oh, and one other thing: it could cause Major League Baseball to alter its case a bit to counter such a claim. To spend time on the “knowingly taking” part of the case that could be spent doing something else. To, even for a few moments, put them on defense. It’s a tactic as old as the legal system itself. And it still exists because it works sometimes. Just ask the L.A. County prosecutors who spent months defending the forensic procedures in the O.J Simpson case. Go ask the MLB officials who were unable to make Ryan Braun’s first suspension stick last year. Was it plausible that the crime lab and a drug test collector tainted samples? Nope. But it put people on their heels for a bit.

Upshot: crappy P.R. move, cynical tactical move but understandable legal move.

In baseball, if you lose the World Series you still get a ring

ST. LOUIS - APRIL 3:  Detail view of the St. Louis Cardinals 2006 World Series Ring at Busch Stadium on April 3, 2007 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Scott Rovak/Getty Images)
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“Second place is first loser” — some jerk, probably.

The funny thing about “winning is everything” culture in sports is that it’s revered, primarily, by people with the least amount of skin in the game. Self-proclaimed “Super Fans” and talk radio hosts and guys like that. People who may claim to live and breathe sports but who, for the most part, have other things in their lives. Jobs and families and hobbies and stuff. Winning is everything for them on the weekend at, like, Buffalo Wild Wings or in their man cave.

Athletes — whose actual job is to play sports — like to win too. They’re certainly more focused and committed to winning than Joe Super Fan is, what with it being their actual lives and such. But you see far less “winning is everything” sentiment from them. In interviews they talk about how they hate to lose but, with a little bit of distance, they almost always talk about appreciating efforts in a well-played loss. They rarely talk about big losses — even championship losses — as failures or choke jobs or disgraces of one stripe or another.

All of which makes this story by Tim Rohan in the New York Times fun and interesting. It’s about championship rings for the non-championship winners. The 2014 Royals — winners of the A.L. pennant but losers of the World Series — are featured, and the story of rings for World Series losers is told. Mike Stanton, who played on a ton of pennant and World Series-winning teams with the Yankees and Braves, talks about his various rings and how, even though the Braves lost in the World Series that year, 1991 is his favorite.

Also mentioned: George Steinbrenner’s thoughts about rings for World Series losers. You will likely not be surprised about his sentiments on the matter.

Wait, what is the non-tender deadline again?

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For the next day and a half you’ll hear a lot about the non-tender deadline and/or players being tendered or not tendered a contract. Here, in case you’re unaware, is what that means.

By midnight on Wednesday teams have to decide whether to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. If they do, the team retains control over the player. Now, to be clear, the team is not simply “tendering” the player the actual contract specifying what he’ll be paid. Think of it as more of a token gesture — a placeholder contract — at that point the team and the player can negotiate salary for 2016 and, if they can’t come to an agreement over that (i.e. an agreement avoiding arbitration) they will proceed to submit proposed salaries to one another and have a salary arbitration early in the spring.

If the team non-tenders a player, however, that player immediately becomes a free agent, eligible to sign anywhere with no strings attached.

Basically, the calculus is whether or not the team thinks the player in question is worth the low end of what he might receive in arbitration. Or, put differently, if the guy isn’t worth what he made in 2015, he’s probably going to be non-tendered.

MLB Trade Rumors has a handy “Non-Tender Tracker” which lists the status of the couple hundred arbitration eligible players and whether or not they’ve been tendered a contract. We’ll, of course, make mention of notable non-tender guys as their status for 2016 becomes known over the next day or two.

Mariners interested in free agent outfielder Nori Aoki

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New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept pretty busy in his short time on the job and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that free agent outfielder Nori Aoki could be his next target. The club recently pursued a trade for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but the asking price has them looking at alternatives.

Aoki, who turns 34 in January, has hit .287 with a .353 on-base percentage over four seasons since coming over from Japan. He was having a fine season with the Giants this year prior to being shut down in September with lingering concussion symptoms.

The Giants decided against picking up Aoki’s $5.5 million club option for 2016 earlier this month, but he should still do pretty well for himself this winter assuming he’s feeling good.

Report: Johnny Cueto is believed to be looking for a $140-160 million deal

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It was reported Sunday that free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto had turned down a six-year, $120 million contract from the Diamondbacks. He’s hoping to land a bigger deal this winter and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has heard some chatter about what he’s looking for.

Jordan Zimmermann finalized a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers today, which works out to $22 million per season. Arizona’s offer to Cueto checked in at $20 million per season. A six-year offer to Cueto at the same AAV (average annual value) as Zimmermann would put him at $132 million, which is still a little shy of the figure stated by Crasnick. Of course, Cueto owns a 2.71 ERA (145 ERA+) over the last five seasons compared to a 3.14 ERA (123 ERA+) by Zimmermann during that same timespan, so there’s a case to be made that he should get more. Still, he’s the clear No. 3 starter on the market behind David Price and Zack Greinke.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, and Cubs are among the other teams who have interest in Cueto. One variable in his favor is that he is not attached to draft pick compensation, as he was traded from the Reds to the Royals during the 2015 season.