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Derek Norris suspended for the rest of 2017 for domestic violence

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Major League Baseball just announced that free agent catcher Derek Norris, most recently with the Tampa Bay Rays, has been placed on the Restricted List and will be ineligible for the remainder of the 2017 season, including the postseason. The discipline is being imposed based on the results of the league’s investigation into domestic violence allegations leveled at Norris by his ex-fiancee earlier this year. Norris has agreed not to appeal the discipline.

Back in June Norris’ ex-fiancee, Kristen Eck, implied in an Instagram post that Norris assaulted her two years ago. Then, a few days later, she expounded on the incident in a personal blog post, claiming that on the night of October 20, 2015, she woke up to find Norris on the phone with another woman. Eck said she took the phone away from Norris to try to confront the other woman over the phone. Norris, she says, approached her from behind and put her in a choke hold. When she tried to get away, he grabbed her by the back of her hair to pull her back to him and then held her by her upper arms as “he tried to drunkenly explain that he wasn’t talking to another female.” Norris denied the allegations soon after Eck’s story went public.

Based on the league’s statement, Major League Baseball didn’t buy that denial, which Norris continues to stand by. Rob Manfred:

“My office has completed its investigation into the allegation that Derek Norris violated Major League Baseball’s Joint Domestic Violence Policy on October 21, 2015. Mr. Norris cooperated throughout the investigation, including submitting to an in-person interview with MLB’s Department of Investigations. After reviewing the evidence, I determined that Mr. Norris’s conduct warranted discipline under the Joint Domestic Violence Policy. While Mr. Norris denies the allegation against him, he and I have agreed that he will spend the remainder of the 2017 season away from the game and that he will forfeit $100,000 of his remaining termination pay from the Tampa Bay Rays, which will be donated by the Rays to one or more charitable organizations focused on preventing and treating survivors of domestic violence. The charitable organizations will be selected by the Commissioner’s Office and the Players Association.”

Norris, who was released by the Rays at the end of June, will be unable to play either major league or minor league baseball, nor will he be able to sign a contract with a Major League organization until after the World Series. And of course, he’s out $100,000. Given that he has not signed with a team before now and, as of today, would not have been eligible to participate in the playoffs even if he had, the suspension itself is really more symbolic than substantive. The league takes its offenders as it finds them, however.

Aaron Judge ties the rookie home run record with his 49th blast

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Monday afternoon baseball that isn’t either (a) part of a doubleheader; or (b) on a holiday is always a bit unsettling, but today’s rare Monday tilt gave us a gift in the form of history: Aaron Judge hit his 49th home run, tying the rookie record.

The dinger came in the third inning of this afternoon’s Royals-Yankees tilt. It was the sixth pitch from Jake Junis and left via right field. Mark McGwire also hit 49 with the Athletics in 1987. Judge has the rest of today’s game and five more games after it to hit number 50 and claim the record for himself.

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Major League Baseball wants you to look at a screen while you’re at the ballpark

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During the debate last week involving expanded netting at major league ballparks, the familiar refrain from the anti-netting crowd rung out: “hey, netting wouldn’t be necessary if you simply paid attention!” These folks get particularly upset at the idea of people looking at their phones or other electronic devices during the game, implying — or sometimes explicitly stating — that if you do that you almost deserve to be hit with a 100 mph foul ball.

The problem with that, though, is that Major League Baseball increasingly encourages fans to use their phones during games. You can order your concessions through them now. Fans are encouraged to use the MLB.com Ballpark app for an increasing number of in-game features. And, of course, the video boards — always in the opposite direction of the hitter — are getting larger and larger and contain more and more information that the clubs and the league want you to see.

But it goes farther than that. Or at least it will soon. As this article from TechCrunch makes clear, in the future, Major League Baseball wants you actually watching the game action through your phone or your iPad. It’s an augmented reality feature in which you hold up your tablet and . . .

In essence, it’s a bit like watching TV broadcast in person, with information overlaid on the action as it happens in real-time. The data is gathered from Statcast, MLB’s in-house analytics tool . . . Players on the field, meanwhile, get small, square popups featuring their faces that can be tapped open to offer up personalized player information

Which is kind of cool, actually. Personally I am fascinated with the possibilities of augmented reality. For me it usually comes to mind when I’m out hiking and I want to know what a certain kind of tree is or something (my natural education was sorely lacking as a child), but there are tons of other applications. Even though I probably know more about the players and what’s going on on the field than your average American, I’d still probably use such a product, at least a little bit at a game.

But, of course, there is that safety tradeoff. How can Major League Baseball continue to be hands-off about a netting policy and maintain that fans assume the risk of foul ball injuries while simultaneously encouraging the use of electronic devices that will, necessarily, distract them from directly observing on-field action? Indeed, if they do continue to maintain that paradoxical approach, I’d expect this quote from the article to be used at a trial of an injured fan suing for damages:

“People are already using their phones, and we don’t think this is all that different,” MLB Product VP Chad Evans told us at the event. Of course, in a sport where small spherical objects are regularly projected into the stands at high speeds, it’s a good idea to keep your eye on the field. Perhaps popping up an alert on screen when a ball approaches would be a good start.

That last bit — not the quote, but the article’s suggestion of a warning — is comical given how quickly a ball can make it into the stands. Even fans paying rapt attention can get hurt by fast foul balls. Expecting them to process a warning and then act based on it when instinct often isn’t fast enough is ridiculous.

Cool product, for sure. Like I said, I’d probably even use it on occasion. But the more technology and the more distractions Major League Baseball pours into the game, the more responsibility it will have when those distractions contribute to fan injuries. In light of that, they simply cannot continue to be hands-off with respect to the matter.