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The BBWAA Vice President did essentially the same thing Dan LeBatard did. Why was he not punished?

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Go read USA Today’s FTW today, which details how BBWAA Vice President Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle has routinely crowd-sourced his Hall of Fame voting — which is essentially what LeBatard got suspended for — and has never received any sanction for it. Here’s an example of Ortiz’s means of filling it out.

I’m sure the BBWAA will try to make a distinction here, but look at what they specifically sanctioned LeBatard for:

The BBWAA Board of Directors has decided to remove Dan Le Batard’s membership for one year, for transferring his Hall of Fame ballot to an entity that has not earned voting status.

They’ll hang it all on the word “transferring” and claim that Ortiz merely sought “the help and guidance” of fans and others who had not “earned voting status.” Never mind that LeBatard has said since yesterday that he retained the option of vetoing the Deadspin reader choices if they were stupid. Maybe that was a self-serving, after-the-fact kind of thing, but as we’ve also noted, the BBWAA did not conduct any hearing about it, so they can’t know for sure.

If what LeBatard is saying is true, he did nothing functionally different than Ortiz did: he threw his vote open to fans, sought their “help and guidance” and then submitted a vote under his signature. A vote that was still counted as valid by the BBWAA this year, so it obviously wasn’t considered facially faulty.*

What we’re left with is LeBatard’s motive being punished, not his act. Not his actual vote. Which is kind of odd given that so many voters have admitted to having ulterior or even destructive motives in mind when they cast their votes, yet never receive sanction. Actually, they receive praise and often vehement defense.

So again, I go back to what I said yesterday: I believe the BBWAA’s sanction of LeBatard is emotionally-driven, with said emotion being stoked by the involvement of Deadspin and the negative publicity that attended it. That’s why it came so swiftly. That’s why it was considered differently than what Ortiz and others routinely do, even though it was functionally identical.

*This part is really getting me right now. The BBWAA knew beforehand that one of the votes would be “sold” or “transferred” or whatever. They now say doing so breaks their rules. Yet they count the vote? If the vote itself violates rules and — more importantly — came from people who don’t have voting privileges — why not throw it out? Some people may say they can’t go back after the announcement, but that’s silly. They can do what they want.

Thought experiment: Someone looks at all the photos of ballots writers have tweeted and faxes in a phony one (heck, we have the fax number too), forging a voter’s signature. The BBWAA finds out about it a day later. Of course they’ll take that vote out, right? They should! It’s an invalid vote from a person without voting rights. Just like LeBatard’s is, per the terms of his suspension. It’s crazy to me that they aren’t axing his vote if, as they say, it comes from a non-qualified voter.

Note: don’t forge a vote and fax it in to the BBWAA, kids. That’s probably wire fraud and you’ll go to jail. Don’t be an idiot. Even if such idiocy helps us in thought experiments.

Dallas Keuchel, Astros did talk long-term contract

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Dallas Keuchel‘s agent Darek Braunecker told MLB Network Radio in early January that he had not engaged in any long-term contract negotiations with the Astros’ front office. Two weeks later, the sides reached a one-year, $7.25 million agreement, avoiding a salary arbitration hearing. So was a bigger financial commitment ever discussed?

Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has the answer, writing in his offseason review that the “Astros and Keuchel have had substantial talks about extensions [this winter] … but to no avail.”

Keuchel carries all the leverage in the world after winning the 2015 American League Cy Young Award with a 2.48 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, and 216/51 K/BB ratio in 232 innings. He also made three appearances in the postseason to a 2.57 ERA in 14 frames.

Keuchel’s $7.25 million salary for 2016 will be a record for a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Locking up some of his free agent years (2019, 2020, 2021, etc.) would likely take a commitment of $120 million or more.

Houston has the 28-year-old left-hander under contractual control through 2018, and it sounds like the plan is to go season-to-season with his salaries.

He’ll remain a huge value to a good-looking Astros team.

Yadier Molina gets cast removed from surgically-repaired thumb

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Yadier Molina underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right thumb shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated from the NLDS by the Cubs, and then he needed a followup procedure two months later.

It’s been an offseason of rest and rehab for the seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, though he’s about ready to ramp up the intensity of workouts with the beginning of spring training approaching …

Brayan Pena was signed to a two-year, $5 million free agent contract this winter to provide more reliable depth behind the plate. He’ll be the Cardinals’ starter at catcher come Opening Day if Yadi isn’t quite ready.

Molina started a whopping 131 games behind the plate in 2015.

Jose Fernandez wants $30 million a year, Marlins don’t plan on paying

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You’ve heard the stories by now. Jose Fernandez does not get along with Marlins management and is doubtful to sign a long-term contract with the team.

There’s still time for those relationships to be repaired — Fernandez can’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season — but we also have a monetary issue at play.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Sunday that the Marlins are “under the impression” Fernandez and his representatives want $30 million per year on a long-term deal, a figure the Marlins “have no plans to meet.”

If the Marlins won’t pay, Fernandez and his reps will seek that number when the ace right-hander reaches free agency. That could be the same offseason Bryce Harper tries for $500 million.

A friend of Fernandez told Jackson that the 23-year-old native of Cuba was upset about some of the trades the Marlins made last summer and the removal of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. You probably heard talk of Miami shopping Fernandez this winter, but the asking price was predictably sky-high.

Fernandez has been limited to 19 starts over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery and a biceps injury, but he boasts a stellar 2.40 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9 in 289 career major league frames. He will make $2.8 million in 2016 and carries two more years of arbitration eligibility.

If he can put together a run of 30-start, 200-inning seasons, Fernandez will get that $30 million per year and probably much more.

Michael Brantley’s timetable off shoulder surgery is “hazy”

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Paul Hoynes at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has an in-depth look at how the Indians will manage their outfield during the early part of the 2016 season, in the absence of star Michael Brantley.

Brantley underwent labrum surgery on his right shoulder this past November and has not picked up a bat all winter. “In the off-season people know I love to hit,” Brantley acknowledged to Hoynes late last week. ”I hit a lot. It’s just been a change in my timetable.”

Hoynes says the projected date for Brantley’s 2016 debut is “hazy,” guessing that it might happen around late April or early May if everything continues to go smoothly. Shoulders can be tricky, for hitters and pitchers.

Rajai Davis, Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall figure to make up Cleveland’s primary starting outfield while Brantley is finishing his rehabilitation. Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler could also be in the mix. It’s a lacking group, tasked with replacing one of the most productive players in baseball.

Brantley, 28, has slashed .319/.382/.494 over the last two seasons, tallying 35 home runs, 90 doubles, 181 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in 293 games.

Could the talented Tribe be in for another slow start?

Shouldn’t this club be spending more money?