More on Jose Canseco's subpoena

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Canseco testifying.jpgThe New York Times has an article on the grand jury subpoena Jose Canseco tweeted about yesterday.  Three takeaways:

A lawyer for Canseco said Tuesday that he had been contacted three weeks
ago by a federal prosecutor in Washington who was seeking to serve
Canseco with a subpoena. The prosecutor wanted Canseco to testify before
a grand jury that is investigating whether Clemens committed perjury
when he testified before Congress in February 2008 and denied using
steroids and human growth hormone, the lawyer Greg Emerson said.

Since Canseco knew what this was about beforehand, it means that the shock and surprise in his tweets yesterday was phony, and no doubt calculated for publicity purposes. Should have known better given that he’s the kind of guy who likes to call press conferences every time another player is outed as a steroid user.  Someone remind of this the next time I play up Canseco’s tweets, OK?  Also:

Canseco has repeatedly spoken and written of his own drug use and has
linked several ballplayers to performance-enhancing drugs in two books.
However, he has not directly tied Clemens to the use of illegal
substances. In the book “Vindicated,” which was published in 2008, Canseco said that
he had concluded that Clemens did not use steroids or H.G.H.

I had forgotten that Canseco largely defended — or at least did not directly implicate — Roger Clemens with respect to steroid use in his book and in an affidavit connected to the Clemens congressional testimony. In the comments yesterday a lot of you referenced Canseco’s track record for apparent honesty when it comes to PED allegations.  But couldn’t Canseco’s grand jury testimony end up challenging what most of you think of Clemens and/or Canseco?

After all, if Jose sticks to what he said previously, Clemens’ story is bolstered somewhat, no? I mean, Jose has the goods on everyone, it seems, and given that Roger and Jose were closer that Jose and most of the other people he named, if Canseco says Clemens didn’t do PEDs, doesn’t that mean something?  At the same time, if Canseco ends up implicating Clemens before the grand jury — contradicting what he’s said on numerous occasions — does it not throw into question all of the other non-confirmed claims in the books he wrote and the interviews he gave?  Finally:

Emerson was present when Canseco met with federal agents in April 2008,
two months after the Congressional committee asked the Department of
Justice to investigate Clemens for perjury. At the meeting, Canseco was asked about Clemens’s use of
performance-enhancing drugs and reiterated that he had no knowledge,
Emerson said. Canseco was also asked about Alex Rodriguez’s ties to performance-enhancing drugs and that of other
high-profile baseball players, the lawyer said.

For those keeping score at home, Alex Rodriguez will be questioned by federal agents on Friday. Less than two weeks later, Jose Canseco will be in front of a grand jury where, presumably, he will once again be asked questions about Alex Rodriguez, just as he was in 2008 (and believe me, if a grand jury witness has ever been questioned about something by federal agents before, the prosecutor will ask him about it again).

Hey Mike Lupica! Still want to take shots at A-Rod for “lawyering up? Because from where I’m sitting, A-Rod’s decision to consult with counsel before heading up to Buffalo the day after tomorrow seems like a pretty savvy move if you ask me.

MLB execs go to bat in favor of shrinking minor leagues

Sarah Sachs/Arizona Diamondbacks/Getty Images
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Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports published an article this morning in which he quotes several executives of MLB teams, including Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen and Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro, defending the league’s proposal to cut 42 minor league baseball teams.

We first learned of the idea about a month ago. The proposal was widely panned, even drawing scorn from Congress as more than 100 members of Congress — including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — signed a letter condemning the league. In the time since, MLB has spent considerable time defending itself amid the public scrutiny. MLB also got into a bickering match with Minor League Baseball.

To generally sum up what was said in Brown’s column: the GMs echoed what MLB previously said in defensive of its proposal, which is that cutting 42 minor league teams (mostly in short-season and rookie ball) would free up more money to pay players more and improve their working conditions, including food and travel as well as facility conditions.

It is hypocritical for the league and team executives to express concern for the salaries and the quality of life for minor league players. After all, Major League Baseball spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress in order for language in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to be amended. Doing so allowed the league to classify minor leaguers as seasonal workers and thus not owed things like a minimum wage and overtime pay, among other worker protections. This all happened because MLB is the defendant in a class-action lawsuit, originated by Aaron Senne and several other former minor league players, alleging that the league violated state and federal minimum wage laws with minor league players.

Shapiro is not a fan of Sanders’ constant harping on the league’s proposal. Shapiro said, “I’m never going to go toe-to-toe with him on domestic policy. But I will go toe-to-toe with Bernie Sanders on professional baseball.” As Brown explains, Shapiro is among those who believes that having a smaller minor league system would allow his organization to offer greater focus to each player remaining within that system. With the increased focus, the team would be better able to develop major league-caliber prospects. As we know, teams love prospects because their salaries are artificially depressed for the first six years of their careers.

One anonymous GM harped on the fact that “minor league baseball is not a moneymaker.” It didn’t sound like he was complaining; rather, simply recognizing how their parent teams view the situation. Another anonymous GM, however, said that the 42 teams are on the chopping block “for a reason.” He added, “I’m guessing that reason isn’t because they had overwhelmingly positive gate turnouts or that their facilities were in good shape. I think that’s been the criteria.”

As I pointed out last month, there are two teams that, at minimum, disprove the shabby-facility talking point. The Lowell Spinners (short-season) have had multiple renovations done in recent years. Team owner Dave Heller called his team’s stadium “arguably the best facility in the New York-Penn League.” The Quad Cities River Bandits, as another example, have earned awards from BallparkDigest.com for “Best Ballpark Improvement” and finished in third place as recently as two seasons ago for “Best View in the Minors.”

As for attendance, BallparkDigest has the 2019 numbers for all 160 teams here. The four Double-A teams on the chopping block — the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Chattanooga Lookouts, Erie SeaWolves, and Jackson Generals — ranked 91st, 74th, 80th, and 130th, respectively. Only one of those teams is significantly below the 50th percentile. Furthermore, one of the High-A teams on the list, the Frederick Keys, ranked 57th in attendance this past season, close to being in the top one-third of the entire minor league system.

The arguments are obviously facile. We should expect nothing less, however, as these execs do the bidding of their team’s ownership. Their jobs necessitate developing players efficiently and thoroughly. Chopping 42 minor league teams would have the double benefit to them of helping reduce overhead so the owners can report higher profits, as well as making their system run more efficiently (or so they think). So be it if thousands of jobs in towns across the U.S. get slashed in the process. So be it if small towns lose a central focus of their local economies and cultures. So be it if baseball becomes significantly less accessible across the nation.