Tony Bosch (60 Minutes - CBS)

So, about Alex Rodriguez’s friend who wanted Tony Bosch dead…

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Someone is going to put him in jail, right?

I mean, MLB’s chief operating officer Rob Manfred made it quite clear on 60 Minutes that the threat against Tony Bosch’s life, made by an associate of Alex Rodriguez, needed to be taken seriously, even if he couldn’t go into any details about it. It’s no secret that MLB had hired guards to protect Bosch after it was revealed that he’d cooperate with the investigation. He wouldn’t name the person behind the threat, other than to connect the person with Rodriguez.

It also seems Manfred wanted us to believe that this, along with the attempted bribing of Bosch, is part of why Rodriguez was suspended for 211 games, reduced now to 162, for his PED usage, when other players got only 50 games. Bug Selig, also interviewed, was so bothered by what Rodriguez did that he couldn’t seem to provide any detail at all. Perhaps it was unsuitable for a prime time network audience. But it was there and it was huge and it was worth an extra 161 games.

So, what about it?

Manfred said that it’s definite that Rodriguez is an associate of this individual, but he added that he couldn’t know if Rodriguez himself was aware of the threat.

Also unknown is whether MLB turned any evidence about said threat over to the proper authorities. Did Bosch want that? It doesn’t seem he ever went to the police himself about any threats. Of course, that probably would have presented some complications, given his various illegal activities.

Indeed, it seems MLB’s only real interest in the threat was as more leverage against Rodriguez. That was certainly how it was presented as tonight. Rather than talk about Bosch’s other clients or how easy MLB’s drug testing was to beat or maybe delve into how the league perhaps benefited from PEDs during the 1990s, we were treated to a segment on how a criminal no one in the audience cares about may have had to fear for his life because of undisclosed threats, even though since, obviously, he’s talking on TV right now, nothing ever came of them.

And that seems incredibly weak to me. There was no investigating on the part of 60 Minutes here: everything from tonight’s program was supplied by Bosch and documents owned by MLB. If the segment was going to spend time on this threat on Bosch’s life, it would have been nice had it dug up some facts on who actually made the threat. Bosch knows. Manfred knows. Selig knows. So, why don’t we?

MLB implements another player-unfriendly rule, this time targeting draftees

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 28:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks to the media before Game Three of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Jon Morosi of MLB Network and FOX Sports reports that the MLB draft has a new program in which the top-50 pitching prospects are asked to undergo a voluntary pre-draft MRI on their throwing arm. At first glance, it seems reasonable because, hey, pitchers are injury-prone and players sometimes hide injuries. It would feel bad if my favorite team drafted a lemon!

The reality is that this is just another player-unfriendly rule that shifts financial risk away from the owners and onto the players. The players, in this case, are often not wealthy and are about to begin life in the minor leagues where they earn less than $8,000 per year. Signing bonuses help alleviate some of the immediate financial discomfort of minor league life.

The pre-draft MRI is “voluntary” with quotes around it. Choosing not to undergo the MRI will only give prospective teams more reason to be skeptical of one’s durability. It’s a lot like those voluntary workouts in football that aren’t so voluntary due to superior and peer pressure. You don’t show up, you’re lazy, entitled, a bad teammate, etc. In this case, a pitching prospect refuses to undergo the MRI, it’s because he’s hiding an injury.

Ian Anderson was the first pitcher taken off the board in the 2016 draft, going to the Braves at No. 3. He got a $4 million signing bonus. Let’s say this new MRI program had already been instituted and Anderson refused, or something came up that caused the Braves to change their minds. Anderson’s draft stock falls, let’s say to 21 where the Blue Jays took T.J. Zeuch with a $2.175 million signing bonus. Falling 18 spots in this case costs Anderson about $2 million, perhaps more because he loses a lot of negotiating leverage. Maybe he falls further, even to the second round.

In a column for FanGraphs nearly two years ago, Nathaniel Grow showed that, as a percentage of total league revenues, player salaries have been declining since the early 2000’s. In 2002, player salaries made up 56 percent of league revenues. In 2014, it was only 38 percent.

In isolation, the MRI program isn’t a big deal. The injured player loses stock, but another player moves up to take his place and earns a bit more money. As part of the bigger picture, however, this is part of an ongoing trend in which owners abdicate financial risk and push it all onto the players. The new collective bargaining agreement, for example, capped international signings at $5-6 million per team per year. That removes any incentive for overseas stars like Shohei Otani from coming over to play Major League Baseball. If he wanted to anyway, he would make much less money than he otherwise would on an open market. The amateur draft itself is almost entirely risk-avoidant for owners and it’s terrible for the players because they, too, would earn much more on an open market. And let’s not forget how owners have fought tooth-and-nail to keep minor league salaries suppressed.

Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick once paid $2.8 million for the Honus Wagner T-206 baseball card. Let’s not act like these owners can’t afford to shoulder the risk on young pitchers.

EDIT (4:40 PM EST): As I’ve seen others mention it, it’s worth bringing up the Astros/Brady Aiken issue. The Astros took him first in the 2014 draft, but they took issue with his elbow health. The two sides had agreed to a $6.5 million signing bonus, but the Astros wanted to reduce it to $5 million as a result. Aiken didn’t end up signing with the Astros. He underwent Tommy John surgery and was later selected by the Indians 17th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft. He got a $2,513,280 signing bonus.

Your 2016 Winter Meetings Wrapup

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Gaylord National Resort
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OXON HILL, MD — The 2016 Winter Meetings are over.  As usual, there was still no shortage of excitement this year. More trades than we’ve seen in the past even if there are still a lot of free agents on the market. Whatever the case, it should make the rest of December a bit less sleepy than it normally is.

Let’s look back at what went down here at National Harbor this week:

Well, that certainly was a lot! I hope our coverage was useful for you as baseball buzzed through its most frantic week of the offseason. And I hope you continue coming back here to keep abreast of everything happening in Major League Baseball.

Now, get me to an airport and back home.