George Steinbrenner blamed his criminal conviction on his lawyers

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I’m not a religious man, and even if I were, I would like to think that my conception of the Hereafter would allow for non-violent criminals to enter through the gates. Life is more interesting with scoundrels around and I presume death would be too.

That said, there would have to be some sort of vetting process, be it St. Peter or whatever it is you believe in.  If I ran the afterlife, my gatekeeper would probably be like Loni Anderson on WKRP: not particularly helpful, but you never really care all that much.

Wait. Where was I? Oh, the Hereafter. Here’s how I imagine George Steinbrenner’s entrance interview went when the subject of his criminal conviction came up:

Loni: Now, about that campaign contribution business …

Big Stein: Hey now, I was pardoned for that!

Loni: Of course you were. I believe it was Mr. Reagan, wasn’t it?  He’s still over there in the waiting room until we clear up all of this illegally arming rebels business. Hi Ronny!  Anyway, back to you …

Big Stein:  Look here, that was bad legal advice. It says so in today’s Associated Press!  They released the documents! Big Stein was trying to do the right thing but the lawyers, oh boy, those lawyers. They messed up everything!

Loni: You have a point about the lawyers, generally speaking. We have a whole annex for them. Their wait to get in is interminable. But I fail to see how that helps you, Georgie. Because it does seem fairly clear that you were trying to hide campaign contributions that were clearly illegal even back in the wild west pre-Watergate days.  Or are you saying that your lawyer told you to give your employees bogus bonus checks that directly corresponded with the amounts you intended to donate to the Nixon campaign?  And if so, that you thought such advice was on the up-and-up?

Big Stein: Look, honey, I’m tellin’ ya. I was innocent!

Loni:  George, you’re gonna fit right in. Everyone in here is innocent, you know that? Heywood, what you in here for?

Heywood: Didn’t do it. Lawyer screwed me!

Loni: See what I mean?

At that point I’d call out to Loni’s desk and tell her to let Steinbrenner in.  What would Heaven be without him around to make things fun?

Noah Syndergaard on Mets extending Jacob deGrom: ‘Pay the man already.’

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March has marked contract extension season across Major League Baseball. Just in the last week, we have seen Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Brandon Lowe, Alex Bregman, Ryan Pressly, Mike Trout, Eloy Jiménez, Blake Snell, and Paul Goldschmidt sign extensions. Nolan Arenado, Luis Severino, and Aaron Nola also notably signed extensions during the offseason.

One name strikingly absent from that list: Mets ace Jacob deGrom. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is coming off of a season in which he posted a 1.70 ERA with 269 strikeouts and 46 walks across 217 innings. It’s the lowest ERA by a qualified starter since Zack Greinke‘s 1.66 in 2015. Prior to Greinke, no pitcher had posted an ERA of 1.70 or lower since Greg Maddux in 1994-95 (1.56, 1.63).

deGrom is earning $17 million this season and will enter his fourth and final year of arbitration eligibility going into the 2020 season. He will turn 31 years old in June, but is an obvious extension candidate for the Mets, who have built arguably their most competitive team since 2015, when the club lost the World Series in five games to the Royals. Thus far, though, the Mets and deGrom haven’t been able to get anywhere in extension talks.

deGrom’s rotation mate Noah Syndergaard is watching. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, Syndergaard said, “I think Jake’s the best pitcher in baseball right now. I think he deserves whatever amount he’s worth. I want them to keep him happy so when it does come time for him to reach free agency, he stays on our side pitching for the Mets. I just think they should quit all the fuss and pay the man already.”

Syndergaard added that the recent extension trend around baseball — and deGrom’s lack of an extension to date — sends a message. He said, “I think so, yes, because of what you see in what’s going on in baseball right now. If there wasn’t a trend of other guys getting contract extensions, then I don’t know what the circumstance would be. But you see Chris Sale, Verlander getting extensions. I think it’s time Jacob gets one too.”

Part of the equation behind the recent rash of extensions is the stagnation of free agency. Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel — two of baseball’s better pitchers — have gone through almost an entire spring training without being signed. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado didn’t find new homes until late February. Free agents in their 30’s are largely being underpaid or otherwise forgotten about. Extensions represent financial security for young and old players alike. Syndergaard himself can become a free agent after the 2021 season, so if deGrom’s prospects improve, then so too will his, at least without knowing the details of the next collective bargaining agreement which will be put into place ahead of the 2022 season.