Players tried to kick A-Rod out of the union, threaten him with beaning when he returns

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I don’t know if the union did everything it could in defending Alex Rodriguez in his arbitration, but it is apparently doing a piss-poor job of explaining to its players that threatening other union members for exercising their legal rights in appealing discipline from the league is a pretty dumb precedent for a union to set.

That’s what, according to this report from Jeff Passan and Tim Brown of Yahoo!, MLBPA players reps attempted to do when Alex Rodriguez filed his lawsuit against the MLBPA following the arbitrator’s decision handing him a 162-game suspension. Player reps voted to have him expelled, only to be told it wasn’t legally possible. Then one of them told Passan and Brown that, if A-Rod plays again, he should be hit “and hit hard” He then compared A-Rod unfavorably to Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta because, unlike A-Rod, “they took their medicine.” Moreover:

“[Rodriguez] needs to be scared of coming back and facing people he sued. If he can’t fear the wrath of getting kicked out or not being included, he’s going to be forced out.”

This is crazy. As I noted two weeks ago, suing the MLBPA is a legal prerequisite for having his suspension overturned pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act. Rodriguez has an exceedingly small chance of success, of course, but if he or any other player who ever wishes to appeal an adverse arbitration result to federal court has any shot of winning, he has to name the union in the lawsuit.

Is A-Rod being a jerk? Yeah, probably. Do players have a right to hate him? Sure, who doesn’t hate him at this point? But there’s a big difference between hating a guy and actually attempting to blackball a guy from the union and then suggesting he’ll be physically harmed simply because he is exercising his legal rights in a labor fight with management. That’s the kind of thing that, no matter how good it feels to do when someone like A-Rod is involved, seriously undermines a union’s power and legitimacy and hampers its efforts to help less unpopular players who find themselves wanting to exercise their rights in the future.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.