Jeff Passan reports that Major League Baseball is investigating allegations that the Los Angeles Dodgers discriminated against Nick Francona, a former baseball operations employee and son of Indians manager Terry Francona, for seeking assistance from a veterans organization which helps with PTSD, traumatic brain injury and other ailments. Francona is a combat veteran, having served with the Marines in Afghanistan.
Francona was the Dodgers assistant director of player development, reporting to Gabe Kapler. He claims he received exemplary employee evaluations in his first year on the job and, in December 2015, was offered a contract extension. Soon after that, at the prompting of his mother, he reached out to Home Base, a Boston-area organization dedicated to helping veterans dealing with PTSD and TBI. Francona says his reason for reaching out was due to concussions he suffered in combat. Home Base is partnered with the Boston Red Sox and is one of many veterans organizations which Major League Baseball helps support.
While Kapler expressed support, Francona says that, in practice, his seeking treatment led to discrimination. Specifically, he claims that Kapler insisted that Francona take a leave of absence, despite him not requesting one and despite Francona telling Kapler that such a thing would create a stigma and would actually be counterproductive to his treatment. Francona said Kapler insisted, however, and it led to increasing acrimony. Francona was eventually removed from his position and was offered a role at the same salary in a different department. Francona declined the job, believing it was a demotion. Soon after he was asked to resign or be fired. He was terminated in April of 2016.
Francona has not sued the Dodgers and has, instead, tried to resolve the matter internally, in negotiations with the Dodgers and, now, MLB’s Department of Investigations. Despite this, the Dodgers have offered him money to settle the dispute. As Passan notes, MLB’s investigation is proceeding and could take a week or two.
Updates as warranted.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.