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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #23: A.J. Preller suspended for hiding medical information

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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

On July 14, the Padres traded pitcher Drew Pomeranz to the Red Sox for a good prospect: pitcher Anderson Espinoza. Pomeranz was worth it, though. He had gone 8-7 for a poor Padres squad while posting an excellent 2.47 ERA and making the All-Star team. After acquiring Pomeranz, however, the Sox discovered that he was taking a medication that was not mentioned in the medical reports the Padres shared with Boston.

Later in the month the Padres traded pitchers Colin Rea, Andrew Cashner and Tayron Guerrero to the Marlins for Carter Capps and Jarred Cosart, along with minor leaguers Luis Castillo and Josh Naylor. The very next day, Rea left his first start with the Marlins in the fourth inning with elbow pain which ended up resulting in Tommy John surgery. The Marlins were livid, believing they were traded damaged goods. The Padres denied it.

Major League Baseball investigated the complaints of the Red Sox and Marlins. The Rea trade was partially undone, with Rea being sent back to San Diego and the Padres returning Castillo to Miami with no finding that the Padres did the Marlins dirty. The Pomeranz trade, however, resulted in Padres General Manager A.J. Preller being suspended for 30 games.

The reason for the suspension: MLB found that the Padres maintained two sets of medical records: one which they reported to the league’s central database upon which teams rely when making transactions, and a second, more detailed set for their own purposes. Preller was basically defrauding his trade partners, withholding information which was critical to any team’s decision making in an effort to give San Diego an unfair advantage.

This was not the first time Preller had been accused of and punished for transaction shenanigans. In 2010, when Preller was an assistant GM with the Rangers, MLB suspended him for three months and fined the Rangers for improper negotiations with pitcher Rafael De Paula, an amateur from the Dominican Republic. Preller’s 2010 suspension was reduced to one month without pay. De Paula, coincidentally, was acquired by the Padres before Preller became their GM and now pitches in their system.

The 2016 suspension cost Preller a bit of money and the club was fined as well. Beyond that, however, the discipline was not very severe. The time month in which he served the suspension– late September to late October — is the least-busy month of any team for transaction purposes. Preller was likewise not fined or disciplined by the club itself. For the previous year he had been embarking on a rebuilding process and, as far as the acquisition of minor league talent goes, it has been successful. Preller served his time, came back and continues on as the Padres’ GM to this day. Ethics are important, but baseball teams are in the business of acquiring the best players, and Preller has been pretty good at that.

The only additional fallout: at the November general manager meetings a proposal was made for a formal standard about what must be disclosed regarding a player’s health. At the time the new rule was reported, Preller himself gave quotes about how on-board he was with all of it and how critically important disclosure is.

There’s no enthusiasm like the enthusiasm of a new convert.

The Red Sox start is ridiculous

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The red-hot Red Sox completed a sweep of the previously red-hot Angels last night, outscoring them 27-3 in their three-game series. Last night’s game was, relatively speaking, a close one, with the Sox winning “only” by six runs. They did manage to strike out Shohei Ohtani three times, though, so some style points help make up for the “squeaker.” Also worth noting that they held Mike Trout of all people to a 3-for-11 line in their three-game series. He did not score a single time and drove in no runs.

That series win puts the Sox at 16-2 on the year. They dropped their Opening Day game to the Rays, but then won their next six games against Tampa Bay, which I’d say makes up for it. In between those two series they swept a two-game series from the Marlins and afterwards they took two of three from the Yankees and three in a row from the Orioles. The only thing that even threatened to slow this juggernaut down is the weather, resulting in a postponement of Monday morning’s Patriot’s Day game. Somewhere in here we should notice that they’re doing this with their starting shortstop and starting second baseman on the disabled list.

As we’ve noted many times, their 16-2 record is the best start in the Red Sox’ 118-year history. It’s also the best start for any team since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers began 17-1 (let us just forget, for the time being, that those Brewers lost 18 of 20 in May of that year). They are the fourth team since 1961 to win 16 of its first 18 games.

The Sox aren’t simply getting lucky here. They’ve scored 116 runs and have allowed only 50, which is a Pythagorean record of 15-3. They lead all of baseball in offense, scoring 6.44 runs a game, leading individually in average, on-base percentage and slugging. They are only three one hundredths of a run behind the Astros from leading all of baseball in pitching, allowing only 2.78 runs a game. They’re winning all of these games because, in the early going, they’ve simply been that dang much better than everyone they’ve played.

No, the Sox are not going to go 144-18, as they are currently on pace to do. Yes, they are going to find a lot more trouble in their schedule once they play the Orioles, Rays and Marlins less, play a healthier Yankees team more and face off against the Astros, the Blue Jays, the Indians, the Twins and some tougher interleague opponents. This is baseball, obviously, and no one makes it through a season without rough patches, long, short and numerous.

Still: this has been one whale of a start for Boston. Those wins are in the bank. It’s been quite the thing to see.