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.

Report: Rangers interested in Royals’ Edinson Volquez

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 29: Starter Edinson Volquez #36 of the Kansas City Royals pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning at Busch Stadium on June 29, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
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Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that the entire Rangers “inner circle of front office personnel” was on hand to watch Edinson Volquez start for the Royals against the Rangers on Sunday. Volquez went six innings, giving up a lone run on seven hits and three walks with three strikeouts.

Volquez, 33, is earning $9.5 million this season and can become a free agent after the season if his team chooses to buy him out for $3 million instead of picking up their end of his $10 million mutual option for 2017. GM Jon Daniels said he was hoping the club would be able to avoid considering rentals, but as the club has dealt with injuries, the strength of the starting rotation has become a concern. Colby Lewis and Derek Holland are both on the disabled list. Yu Darvish has made only five starts since making his season debut in late May. Meanwhile, Kyle Lohse — who has given up 13 runs in two starts — has occupied the back of the rotation. A reliable starter would go along way towards helping the 57-42 Rangers fight to keep first place in the AL West.

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports also reports that the Rangers have shown interest in young Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez, but they would pay a much higher price for him than for Volquez. Velasquez has a 3.34 ERA with a 103/34 K/BB ratio in 91 2/3 innings for the Phillies this season.

Report: Cubs, Yankees agree on Aroldis Chapman trade

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 17:  Aroldis Chapman #54 of the New York Yankees delivers a pitch in the ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on July 17, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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Update (12:28 PM EDT): CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports that 22-year-old outfielder Rashad Crawford is also headed to the Yankees. Crawford is not ranked among the Cubs’ best prospects. This season, at Single-A Myrtle Beach, he has hit .255/.327/.386 with 29 extra-base hits, 30 RBI, and 59 runs scored in 370 plate appearances.

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The deal between the Cubs and Yankees involving closer Aroldis Chapman, first reported on Sunday, is complete according to Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball. The Cubs will get Chapman while the Yankees will receive infield prospect Gleyber Torres, outfield prospect Billy McKinney, pitcher Adam Warren, and one more as yet unnamed player. Despite what yesterday’s report indicated, there is no contract extension for Chapman, so he can become a free agent after the season.

Torres, 19, is rated the Cubs’ #1 prospect and #24 overall in baseball by MLB Pipeline. The shortstop has spent the season with Single-A Myrtle Beach, batting .275/.359/.433 with nine home runs, 47 RBI, 62 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 409 plate appearances. The Cubs, however, already have Addison Russell at shortstop and have middle infield prospect Ian Happ.

McKinney, 21, is the Cubs’ #5 prospect and #75 overall in baseball. This season, with Double-A Tennessee, he has put up a .252/.355/.322 triple-slash line with 16 extra-base hits, 31 RBI and 37 runs scored in 349 PA. He suffered a hairline fracture in his right knee last year, which might explain why he’s been a bit lackluster with the bat this season.

Warren, 28, is a former Yankee as the club sent him to the Cubs in the Starlin Castro trade over the winter. He’s been unremarkable in one start and 28 relief appearances for the Cubs, posting a 5.91 ERA with a 27/19 K/BB ratio in 35 innings. Warren, earning $1.7 million this season, has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining.

Since returning to the Yankees, Chapman has recorded 20 saves in 21 chances with a 2.01 ERA and a 44/8 K/BB ratio in 31 1/3 innings. Andrew Miller will likely move into the closer’s role with Dellin Betances setting up the eighth inning for the Yankees.

[Content note: The following will contain descriptions of an incident during which Chapman allegedly assaulted his girlfriend.]

Chapman, 28, served a 30-game suspension beginning at the start of the regular season due to an offseason incident during which he allegedly choked his girlfriend and fired off eight gunshots in his garage. The police didn’t file official charges.