Lou Whitaker, nachos, tiger paw carpet and other stuff I saw in Lakeland

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LAKELAND, FLORIDA — After clubhouses close I usually wander around and take pictures of people without asking. Then I eat ballpark food. It’s a totally healthy way to live life. Here’s some of the random things I saw while I was waiting for the game to start.

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Hey, it’s should-be-Hall-of-Famer Lou Whitaker! Where are you going, Lou?

“Gonna go beat up Jose Iglesias, take back my number 1 jersey and demand the Tigers retire it!”

“Wow, really, Lou?”

“No, Craig. That’s you projecting again and putting imaginary words in my mouth. Let it go, dude. You were, like, eight years old. You have kids for Christ’s sake. Grow up.”

“OK, Lou.” [winks, assuming that’s code from Whitaker for me to go beat up Iglesias and take the number. We will right all the wrongs, Lou. You and me together].

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Saw this kid on the berm during Tigers BP. Most of the people out there were 250 pound guys in their 30s or older, killing each other for baseballs. It was ugly. People were literally getting bloodied. Then this kid wades in. Forty-five pounds soaking wet, but wearing a beat-up Gibson jersey and not afraid of anything. I didn’t see him get a ball, but I wouldn’t bet against him out-fighting some of those lugs.

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During this game, I’ve seen a lot of changing, in the way you feel about me, and in the way I feel about you. In here, there were two guys killing each other, but I guess that’s better than twenty million. I guess what I’m trying to say, is that if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!

[loud applause, even by the Politburo]

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You all know my favorite thing to do is to take pictures of equipment bags on the field before games. Well, get this: no bags ANYWHERE on this field today. None. I had to settle for taking pictures of these balls, all by themselves. Really, this trip is NOT starting out well. Hoping I have better luck in Tampa tomorrow.

Oh, one pic I took before the clubhouses closed. But I’m risking my credential posting this.

You’re not technically allowed to take pictures in the clubhouse, but I have decided that the purpose of that rule is to not invade the privacy of players or to reveal the internal working of teams. Which makes total sense. I do not believe, however, that the rule should extend to taking pictures of the sweet, sweet tiger paw carpet in the Tigers clubhouse, which demands documenting or posterity:

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They should license this and sell it to Tigers fans for their man caves. They’d make a mint.

By the way: I’ll cop to the Adidas being mine. In order to protect them I won’t reveal who owns the other shoes, but the dude in the Sauconys is the one who told me it’d probably be OK to take the pic. If I get in trouble, I will throw him under the bus. Just sayin’.

After all of that I needed to replenish nutrients. So I got these:

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The nachos with the pulled pork and jalapeños on them are legit, y’all.

Anyway, that’s that. The game started a few minutes ago. Brian McCann took Max Scherzer out to right field to make it 1-0 Yankees. Torii Hunter acted like he caught the ball at the wall, and it was so successful a deke that McCann actually held up a second between first and second before realizing it was out and kept running. I wonder if McCann is going to get in anyone’s face about that. It’d be pretty cool if he did.

Unprecedented sanctions: MLB bans former Braves GM for life, makes 12 signees free agents

Associated Press
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Major League Baseball has slammed the hammer down on the Atlanta Braves as the result of their violations of rules on the international free agent market.

As reported earlier, 12 of their international signees are now free agents. Former Braves General Manager John Coppolella has been placed on the permanently ineligible list — the same list Pete Rose is on — banning him from a job in baseball forever. His assistant, Gordon Blakeley will be suspended for a period of one year. Other Braves’ International Baseball Operations employees who participated in the misconduct could still be suspended as the league finishes its investigation.

The Braves will lose the following players, signed during the 2015-17 international free agent signing periods:

Juan Contreras;
Yefri del Rosario;
Abrahan Gutierrez;
Kevin Maitan;
Juan Carlos Negret;
Yenci Peña;
Yunior Severino;
Livan Soto;
Guillermo Zuniga;
Brandol Mezquita;
Angel Rojas; and
Antonio Sucre

As reported earlier, Maitan was the number one overall international prospect in 2016.

The penalties are not limited to the loss of those players. Commissioner Manfred is imposing what amounts to punitive damages going forward:

“While the remedies discussed above will deprive the Braves of the benefits of their circumvention, I believe that additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the Club for the violations committed by its employees. Accordingly, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period, which is the first signing period in which the Braves are not subject to any signing restrictions under our rules; and the Braves’ international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.

There was also what appears to be an unrelated draft violation, imposing penalties along those lines as well:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves offered impermissible benefits, which were never provided, to a player they selected in the First-Year Player Draft in an attempt to convince him to sign for a lower bonus. As a penalty for the Club’s attempted circumvention involving a draft selection, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.

The gist of the violations against the Braves involves the bundling of signing bonuses, in which the Braves got players — through their representatives in Latin America — to take lower than the amount typically allotted in one year in order to use the money to sign other, highly rated players in subsequent years, with money they wouldn’t have otherwise had. MLB’s statement describes the scheme thusly:

“The investigation established that the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017. During the 2015-16 international signing period, the Braves signed five players subject to the Club’s signing bonus pool to contracts containing signing bonuses lower than the bonuses the Club had agreed to provide the players. The Club provided the additional bonus money to those players by inflating the signing bonus to another player who was exempt from their signing pool because he qualified as a ‘foreign professional’ under MLB rules. Consistent with the rules, the Braves could have signed all of the 2015-16 players for the full, actual signing bonus amounts. Had the Club signed the five players to contracts containing their actual bonuses, however, the Braves would have exceeded their signing bonus pool by more than five percent and would have been, under MLB rules, restricted from signing any players during the next two signing periods for contracts with bonuses greater than $300,000 . . . As a result of the 2015-16 circumvention, the Braves were able to sign nine high-value players during the 2016-17 signing period who would have been unavailable to them had the Club accurately accounted for its signings during the 2015-16 signing period.”

The scheme continued like this:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves: (i) agreed to sign six players to inflated signing bonuses pursuant to an agreement with prospect Robert Puason’s agent in exchange for a commitment that Puason would sign with the Club in the 2019-20 signing period; and (ii) offered prospect Ji-Hwan Bae extra-contractual compensation. In order to remedy these violations, I am prohibiting the Club from signing Robert Puason when he becomes eligible to sign, and disapproving the contract between Bae and the Braves, which has not yet become effective.”

Bae was expected to sign with the Braves and posted photos on social media with Braves gear.

This is, by far, the most serious set of scouting, drafting and signing penalties ever imposed by Major League Baseball. It speaks to the sheer audacity of the Braves’ scheme to circumvent signing rules. It also sends a loud and clear signal to other teams — many who have been rumored to have engaged in similar conduct on a smaller scale — that MLB will not tolerate it.

The Braves lower minor league system has been decimated. It stands, essentially, as the head on the pike outside of the castle.