Author: Craig Calcaterra

Rob Manfred

Florida health investigator: “Major League Baseball hindered my investigation”


We’ve known for a long time that Major League Baseball purchased stolen documents in its effort to build its case against Alex Rodriguez. We have also heard allegations that MLB’s purchase of those documents hindered a Florida Department of Health investigation into Biogenesis specifically and anti-aging clinics at large. For the first time, however, we now have heard from the lead investigator from that Department of Health investigation and, boy, is he pissed.

His name is Jerome Hill, and he is on public record for the first time via this story at the Miami New Times, the same publication which broke the Biogenesis story. And, to be clear, he is not himself any sort of saint. He’s a rather difficult character, actually — isn’t everyone in this story? — who had a sketchy, violent past as a police officer and who, according to Major League Baseball’s spokesman, has an axe to grind against the league.

Hill, however, insists that not only did MLB buy stolen documents, but that they knew the documents were stolen, contrary to Rob Manfred’s denial during the A-Rod hearing. He says they disregarded his warnings and says flat-out that “Major League Baseball hindered my investigation.”

To be further clear, it’s possible that Hill’s investigation would’ve been hindered one way or another anyway, inasmuch as there is serious resistance on the part of state government to go after shady clinics in Florida, both for business reasons (i.e. the state really likes old people to think they can come there and find the fountain of youth) and because the current state administration’s biggest claim to fame is running against medical regulation of any kind. If you’re a DoH investigator in Florida, you likely have a built-in siege mentality.

Which doesn’t make any of this less interesting reading, of course. It does make one wonder how someone like Rob Manfred could not have been aware of what his underlings pretty clearly were. Indeed, it makes you wonder if he and Roger Goodell went to the same “Not learning the damning things your underlings know” seminar at the Radisson last year.

Andrew Friedman leaving the Rays to take over as Dodgers President of Baseball Operations

Andrew Friedman AP

The Dodgers have a new President of Baseball Operations:

Ken Rosenthal reports that Ned Colletti has not been fired but, rather, will stay with the Dodgers as a senior advisor.

UPDATE: The Dodgers have made it official:

This is a major move for the Dodgers and a big, big move for Friedman himself. Long considered one of the game’s better general managers for his ability to do so much with such a low payroll with Tampa Bay, he now goes to the team with the highest payroll in baseball. He will presumably serve the same role for the Dodgers that Theo Epstein serves in Chicago, and will thus hire a general manager beneath him to be Jed Hoyer-west.

Also of note, at least potentially: Friedman’s background is not as a baseball lifer. Rather, he was an analyst for Bear Stearns before joining the Rays and is known for having a sharp analytical perspective. The last time the Dodgers had a young head of baseball ops with an analytical bent it was Paul DePodesta, who the local press decided they hated almost immediately, criticizing him in the dumbest, most stereotypical ways possible. It’ll be interesting to see if they take that tack once again. Or if, alternatively, the combination of the passage of time and the fact that Colletti staying around will cause them to actually give Friedman a chance.

Quit making a big deal out of anomalies. Most of what happens is meaningless.

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This comes from an article that is more about the JFK assassination and attendant conspiracy theories than anything else, and no, there isn’t anything about sports in it at all. But it’s still really, really useful for sports fans because it reminds us of something really important: weird things happen sometimes, but they don’t usually mean anything.

The author, Steven Novella, is talking about anomalies, which is a more scientific term for “weird things,” but you know what I mean. And the point he makes, via examples like the dude with the umbrella at Dealey Plaza when Kennedy was shot and people who win the lottery twice, is that it’s a bad idea to try to assign meaning to stuff that is probably just random and ultimately meaningless, statistical noise.

He boils it down to a pithy quote that I am considering putting on a motivational poster, perhaps featuring a breaching whale or a guy climbing a rock in Yosemite or something:

The assumption that anomalies must be significant rather than random is an error in the understanding of statistics, a form of innumeracy.

This relates to baseball quite a bit, especially during the playoffs.

We have this habit — among some it’s practically a need — to assign significance to random or anomalous events. Ned Yost has a few ill-advised bunts work out for him? SMALL BALL IS THE NEW HOTNESS! Dominant players like Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout struggle in the space of 2-3 games? THEY DON’T HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO WIN IN OCTOBER! A scrappy middle infielder hits an improbable home run? EVERYONE UNDERESTIMATES SCRAPPY McSCRAPPERSTEIN, and HOW DARE YOU DISMISS HIM! We’ve seen this stuff time and time again.

Which isn’t to say that the anomalies aren’t worth talking about. Man, they are! They’re fun! When Ryan Vogelsong turns into Orel Hershiser in the playoffs or when Scrapy McScrapperstein turns into a one man wrecking crew it’s exciting. We should talk about that a lot because it shows you how amazing and cool sports can be and that no matter how much you read and consume, you’re never really going to be able to predict what happens. At least not everything.

But what we shouldn’t do is assign some deeper meaning to these anomalies. To not be content to say that the squeeze play was exciting, but that everyone who ever criticized such strategies is wrong. To not just marvel at how cool Scrappy McScrapperstein’s surprising homer was, but to claim it evidence that he’s way, way better than eight years worth of performance suggests. To not just shake our heads when a beast like Clayton Kershaw gets lit up, but to suggest that it’s some defect in his guts or character than led to it.

That kind of thing is baloney. That’s a function of that innumeracy Novella is talking about. Of our brains trying to find meaning when there really isn’t any. Sometimes — most of the time, I’d argue — the meaningless of it all is what makes baseball so great.