Report: MLB to seize Rangers, complete sale, get sued

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That’s the logical conclusion if what Sports Business Journal’s Daniel Kaplan is reporting is true:

MLB as soon as this week plans to dramatically alter the
course of the standoff between creditors and the owner of the Texas
Rangers,
multiple sources said last week, a development that could include the
league
seizing the franchise.

Were the league to seize the team under its “best interests of
baseball”rule, MLB could sell the club to the group led by Chuck
Greenberg and
Nolan Ryan without, the league believes, the creditors blocking the
deal, these
sources said. But were MLB to choose that course — and late last week,
the
situation was still fluid — financial sources predicted a furious
legal
response from the creditors that could involve an involuntary
bankruptcy petition
on behalf of the baseball team.

I get the reasoning: the creditors are owed money by Hicks Sports Group, the debt is not secured with a lien on the baseball team itself (MLB does not allow this) and Major League Baseball can kick Hicks Sports Group out of the ownership club if it wants to, leaving the creditors to fight with Hicks after the sale is done.

But such a move is almost certain to throw the whole matter into court, with the creditors almost certainly filing to get an injunction stopping the sale, because without the sale of the team at issue, the creditors lose all their leverage. Maybe they don’t get an injunction — if your beef is ultimately over money, you’re not supposed to be able to enjoin a business deal; rather, you’re supposed to let it all play out and get your money later — but depending on the court and the way the complaint is written and a bunch of other factors, it could happen. If so, and the Rangers are placed in legal limbo during the pendency of the lawsuit, the nightmare scenario that was described last week — indefinite MLB stewardship, no money for the draft, etc. — comes to pass.

But even if the sale is not enjoined, Major League Baseball is still stuck in a multimillion dollar lawsuit (and even if the sale is not held up over it all, you can bet that MLB will be named a party in the suit).  The calculation, one presumes, is that baseball is better off having the Rangers in Greenberg’s hands while fighting a lawsuit than it is to remain in the current stalemate.

If so, it tells you how ugly the stalemate is, because lawsuits like this are never fun, especially if they have the potential to have outsiders probe specific-team finances, which Major League Baseball is historically loathe to allow.

Popcorn anyone?

Astros fan logs trash can bangs from 2017

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A fascinating and no doubt time consuming research project was released this morning. An Astros fan by the name of Tony Adams went through every Astros home game in the 2017 season and logged trash can bangs. Which, as you know, was the mechanism via which Astros players in the clubhouse signaled to hitters which pitch was coming.

Adams listened to every pitch from the Astros’ 2017 home games and made a note of any banging noise he could detect. There were 20 home games for which he did not have access to video. There were three “home” games which took place at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida due to the team being displaced by hurricane Harvey and for which, obviously, the Astros’ camera setup from Minute Maid Park would not have been applicable.

Adams logged over 8,200 pitches and found banging before over 1,100 of those pitches. He graphed which players got the most bangs during their at batsMarwin Gonzalez got the most, with bangs coming before 147 of 776 pitches seen, followed by George Springer, who got bangs on 139 of 933. José Altuve had the least among regulars, with only 24 bangs in 866 pitches. One gets the sense that, perhaps, he felt that the banging would interfere with his normal pitch recognition process or something. Either way it’s worth noting that a lack of banging was also signal. Specifically, for a fastball. As such, Astros hitters were helped on a much higher percentage of pitches than what is depicted in the graphs themselves.

Adams reminds us that Commissioner Manfred’s report stated that the Astros also used hand-clapping, whistling, and yelling early in the season before settling on trash can banging. Those things were impossible to detect simply by watching video. As it is, Adams’ graphs of bangs-per-game shows that the can-banging plan dramatically ramped-up on May 28.

It’s hard to say anything definitive about the scope and effectiveness of the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme based on this study alone. Adams may or may not have been hearing everything and, as he notes, there may have been a lot more pitches relayed thought means other than trash can banging than we know. Alternatively it’s possible that Adams was marking some sounds as bangs that were not, in fact, Astros players sending signals to the batter. It’s probably an inexact science.

Still, this is an impressive undertaking that no doubt took a ton of time. And it at least begins to provide a glimpse into the Astros’ sign-stealing operation.