Throughout the Biogenesis investigation there were reports of MLB investigators skirting and often crossing the lines of propriety as they tried to get the goods on Alex Rodriguez. Paid-off witnesses, stolen documents purchased and, in one case, an investigator entering into a sexual relationship with a witness. It was all a little sketchy, even if MLB defended its conduct and, ultimately, the investigators’ work paid off in the form of a long suspension for A-Rod.
Now that the suspension is in and the dust settled, however, here comes a suggestion that, no, MLB was not happy with the way its investigative team performed. From the New York Times, which reports that the head of MLB’s Investigations unit, his top deputy and a top agent have all been dismissed. Here’s the statement from Rob Manfred:
“After the Biogenesis investigation, we made a decision that certain structural changes were necessary in order to have a more efficient and effective investigative unit,” Robert Manfred, the M.L.B. executive who oversaw the case, said Tuesday. “Once we made structural changes, it resulted in the elimination of some positions.”
As the article notes, MLB had to call in a whole second team of investigators after its own team started messing up and/or not getting the desired results. Ultimately it was a legal strategy — suing Tony Bosch in order to get him to flip on A-Rod — that proved the most effective in their case, not the stuff their boots on the ground in Florida provided.
It’s probably worth reminding ourselves that, but for a court’s decision allowing MLB’s case against Bosch to proceed — a decision that most legal commentators do not think represents what the majority of courts would’ve done in that situation — Major League Baseball wouldn’t have had a heck of a lot of evidence against Alex Rodriguez. There are a lot of potential takeaways of the restructuring of the investigative unit, but one most certainly is that, in the future, Major League Baseball would like to find a way to better obtain evidence itself rather than rely on legal Hail Marys to get it done.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.