T.J. Simers sues the Los Angeles Times

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We followed the drama between T.J. Simers and the Los Angeles Times as it was going on over the summer. Now it’s reached a new level: Simers has sued the Times.

But Simers is not content to let this be about technical procedures followed (or not) in his termination. He says the Times told him to lay off then-Dodgers owner Frank McCourt:

Simers says his troubles began in 2011 after McCourt met with Times publisher Eddie Hartenstein. Simers claims he was told he might lose his job if he wrote about a charity close to his heart, the Mattel Children’s Charity. He says he learned he was warned to stay off the subject because of concerns that he was encouraging Dodgers players to donate to Mattel instead of to McCourt’s Dodgers charity. Simers says he and three other writers were told not to write pieces critical of McCourt.

I feel like there were a thousand good reasons to fire Simers, but if this is true the Times picked one pretty bad one. How can you have a reputation as a legitimate newspaper if you tell your staff not to cover the sports teams in your very own city?

That said: the accusation seems pretty hollow. I followed coverage of Frank McCourt closer than anyone out side of L.A. I bet and there were multiple writers at the Times who were absolutely brutal in covering McCourt. In a fair way, given the kind of ammo McCourt gave them. Bill Shaikin, for example, was all over McCourt for months and years on end, for example.

Of course there are other allegations as well, some relating to Simers’ health, so you have to figure that this is a “throw as much as one can at the suit and hope to settle well” kind of thing, as most wrongful termination cases, especially high-profile ones, don’t see a courtroom.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.