Bud Selig

MLB needs to assure the players that the A-Rod case does not set a new precedent

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Everyone is squawking about MLB officials going on “60 Minutes” last night. I don’t think it’s the biggest thing in the world. It’s unseemly for MLB to basically take a victory lap like that, but I doubt they would have if A-Rod and his lawyers hadn’t been pulling those kinds of stunts themselves. Which, of course, followed many MLB leaks and things going back months. No one is covered with glory when it comes to the discretion angle of this nearly year-long affair.

That said, it’s possible to view MLB’s willingness to make a public case like this as an extension of their willingness to break with the automatic penalties of the Joint Drug Agreement that I described on Saturday. Dispensing with the clearly-delineated penalties of the JDA and grabbing a Commissioner’s discretion to suspend for hundreds of games in a first offense. Making P.R. cases in a drug testing program that is supposed to be automatic, zero-tolerance and, above all, confidential. Indeed, the entire character of Major League Baseball’s drug program has been changed as a result of the Biogenesis investigation and suspensions.

And as a result of that, it is incumbent upon Major League Baseball to tell the players and, to the extent they care, the fans, whether it intends to continue on in this fashion or if, alternatively, this was an odd, and unlikely-to-be-repeated case. And yes, this matters.

As I said on Saturday, Bud Selig, with the approval of baseball’s arbitrator, has created a new power to punish from whole cloth. When a player is suspected of drug use but there is no positive test — which, of course, represents a failure of the testing program — Major League Baseball now has the power to use discretion and to apply any penalty it wants, without reference to the 50-100-lifetime ban. It can justify it by claiming a lack of candor (justifying 15 extra games for Ryan Braun) or obstruction, justifying 112 additional games for Alex Rodriguez. The evidence of that lack of candor or obstruction is not for public consumption. It can publicize its investigation and punishment with impunity.

And, most importantly of all, unlike any other power to punish players in existence, Major League Baseball has claimed these powers without the assent of the Players Union.

While it is unlikely that some player is going to draw the ire in the same way Ryan Braun and A-Rod did, it is now possible for baseball to go after someone in the same way if it so chooses. If it hears a rumor of a player’s drug use, it can question the player and decide, on its own, whether that player is being truthful. It can file lawsuits against his friends and associates to coerce them into turning on him. It can buy stolen property and give six-figure sums to shady people as long as they cooperate with them. In the end, it can suspend the player for hundreds of games — maybe 200 or more — and only see the suspension reduced if the player has the means to mount a months-long legal challenge.

Perhaps it is unlikely that Major League Baseball would ever do this again. Perhaps A-Rod and Ryan Braun represent unique cases. But, tell me, when was the last time any governmental, quasi-governmental or administrative body willingly relinquished power for which it made a bold grab?

While the unpopularity of appearing to side with Alex Rodriguez or appearing to be anything less than tough on PEDs mitigates against most players and members of the media from criticizing the manner in which Major League Baseball obtained its discipline against A-Rod, the fact is, Bud Selig’s actions and assumption of new power in the drug game is troubling and potentially damaging. It could lead to abuses by Major League Baseball. More likely, it could lead to mistrust between the players and the league and could inject itself into labor negotiations in the future once people realize exactly what just happened here and why it’s so troublesome.

Major League Baseball could head that off, of course. After the dust from Saturday’s ruling settles, the league could issue a statement explaining — with reference to facts and perhaps the unsealing of the arbitrator’s ruling, not rhetoric like we’ve seen for months — exactly why A-Rod’s suspension was justified. It could assert where the power to issue a 211-game suspension (and then a 162-game suspension) flows from for a first offense.  It could explain why — if it truly believes so anyway — this isn’t a power grab by Commissioner Selig and why this decision does not create precedent beyond the highly-unique circumstances of Alex Rodriguez’s case.

I’m not holding my breath for that. Because, again, those who claim unprecedented power rarely voluntarily relinquish it and even more rarely adequately justify it. And they are especially loathe to do either if no one bothers to complain.

2016 postseason playoff shares announced

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OXON HILL, Md — There used to be a time when postseason money was bigger than most players’ actual salaries. Winning a pennant in baseball’s Golden Age was great for its own sake, but if you were one of the guys who hung around with, say, the Yankees for a long time like Frank Crosetti, the money was basically life-changing.

That’s not the case any longer, but the money is still pretty good, as evidenced by the postseason shares handed out for this past postseason, which were just announced and are set forth below.

Shares come from the “players’ pool,” which calculated by taking 50 percent of the gate receipts from the Wild Card Games; 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first three games of the Division Series; 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first four games of the League Championship Series; and 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first four games of the World Series.  The players’ pool is divided among the 10 Postseason Clubs. The 2016 players’ pool was a record total of $76,627,827.09. Last year it was $69,882,149.26.

The clubs themselves decide how many shares to allocate, with the players making decisions regarding which part timers, cup-of-coffee callups, staffers, etc. get. They also have the ability to hand out straight cash awards in whatever amount they want as opposed to a percentage cut of the postseason money.

The breakdown:

  • Chicago Cubs (Share of Players’ Pool: $27,586,017.75; value of each of full share: $368,871.59) – The Cubs issued 66 full shares, a total of 8.7 partial shares and four cash awards;
  • Cleveland Indians (Share of Players’ Pool: $18,390,678.50; value of each of full share: $261,804.65) – The Indians issued 60 full shares, a total of 8.75 partial shares and 16 cash awards.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers (Share of Players’ Pool: $9,195,339.25; value of each of full share: $123,741.24) – The Dodgers issued 65 full shares, a total of 8.285 partial shares and 20 cash awards.
  • Toronto Blue Jays (Share of Players’ Pool: $9,195,339.25; value of each of full share: $123,045.09) – The Blue Jays issued 66 full shares, a total of 7.75 partial shares and 15 cash awards.
  • Boston Red Sox (Share of Players’ Pool: $2,490,404.38; value of each of full share: $33,761.22) – The Red Sox issued 61 full shares, a total of 10.686 partial shares and 14 cash awards.
  • San Francisco Giants (Share of Players’ Pool: $2,490,404.38; value of each of full share: $36,443.03) – The Giants issued 57 full shares, a total of 10.5 partial shares and nine cash awards.
  • Texas Rangers (Share of Players’ Pool: $2,490,404.38; value of each of full share: $38,422.69) – The Rangers issued 54 full shares, a total of 10.19 partial shares and seven cash awards.
  • Washington Nationals (Share of Players’ Pool: $2,490,404.38; value of each of full share: $35,442.68) – The Nationals issued 60 full shares, a total of 10.209 partial shares and one cash award.
  • Baltimore Orioles (Share of Players’ Pool: $1,149,417.41; value of each of full share: $18,351.02) – The Orioles issued 52 full shares, a total of 8.36 partial shares and 30 cash awards.
  • New York Mets (Share of Players’ Pool: $1,149,417.41; value of each of full share: $17,951.65) – The Mets issued 51 full shares, a total of 12.75 partial shares and five cash awards.

 

Cubs-Royals reportedly agree to the Wade Davis-Jorge Soler deal

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 3:  Wade Davis #17 of the Kansas City Royals throws against the New York Mets at Kauffman Stadium on April 3, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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It was rumored to be close last night but now Bob Nightengale of USA Today is reporting that the Cubs and Royals have agreed to the Wade Davis for Jorge Soler deal. Jeff Passan of Yahoo first reported that the deal was close last night. It’s not a completely done deal as the official announcement is pending physicals, but an announcement could come this morning.

Davis has been one of the most dominant relievers in baseball over the past three seasons, posting a 1.18 ERA with 47 saves and a 234/59 K/BB ratio in 182.2 innings. He did, however, miss a lot of time in 2016 — basically the month of August — due to arm trouble and expecting him to be the circa 2014 Wade Davis is probably unrealistic. He’s owed $10 million for 2017 and can become a free agent after the 2017 season. He’ll fill the void left by the departing Aroldis Chapman as Joe Maddon and the World Series champs’ closer.

Soler, who will be 25 when the 2017 season begins, hit .238/.333/.436 with 12 homers and 36 RBI in 86 games last season. He strikes out a lot but takes walks t00 and has shown some good power in short bursts. He’s the sort of player who one could easilsy see putting things together to become a solid regular, which makes him a decent return for giving up a closer in his walk year.