Report: Alex Rodriguez “played in an underground, illegal poker game where cocaine was openly used”

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RadarOnline.com and Star magazine have published a report claiming Alex Rodriguez “played in an underground, illegal poker game where cocaine was openly used.”

Tabloid reports should be taken with truck fulls of salt, obviously, but the story is a follow-up to the June crackdown of a Hollywood poker game in which big names like Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Rodriguez regularly played.

Rodriguez previously denied playing in the game in question, which dates back as far as 2007, but has been linked to other “underground” poker games in the past and RadarOnline.com speculates that he could be “facing potential fallout from Major League Baseball, which previously warned him to stay out of illegal poker clubs and now has two investigators looking into his activities.”

Dan Bilzerian, a professional poker player who was at the game, shared a few details:

That game was hosted at investor and record label owner Cody Leibel’s $16.5 million Beverly Hills mansion, and cocaine was openly used. Bilzerian revealed that a fight nearly broke out when Leibel refused to pay after losing more than a half million dollars. … With tempers at the table flaring, A-Rod tried to distance himself from the game, another insider told Star.

“He just shook his head, not knowing what the hell happened,’’ the whistle-blower revealed. “He didn’t want to deal with it at all. He was like, ‘OK, whatever. It’s your game.’ I would estimate A-Rod lost, like, a few thousand dollars that night. After everything that happened, he paid-up and left.”

There are other sordid details in the RadarOnline.com story, such as Rodriguez organizing his own game in Florida, claims of an affair with the event’s host, and the involvement of “thugs.” With that said, he reportedly stopped playing in the games and isn’t accused of using drugs himself, which means most of his involvement comes from having poor judgment and being a rich guy who likes to play high-stakes poker. Ho hum.

While the game included some professional poker players at various times, World Poker Tour champion, NBA analyst, and professional sports bettor Haralabos Voulgaris was recently a guest on the fantastic “Huff and Stapes” podcast and talked about once being turned away from the game at the door because players there–including specifically Tobey Maguire–recognized him. With millions on the table, they understandably didn’t want pros feasting on the game.

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UPDATE: Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York spoke to “an MLB executive” who said they’re taking the Rodriguez allegations “very seriously … because he’d been warned about this before, I would say a possible suspension would be very much in play.”

More from Matthews’ source:

Bud [Selig]’s totally fed up with him. It’s like there’s something new with him every day and it’s impossible to keep up with it. I could see us trying to pursue this a lot further. The truth is still out there somewhere. You get the feeling that Alex says what he thinks he needs to say to get by, and then goes out and does what he wants.

Rodriguez, who’s currently on the disabled list rehabbing a knee injury, hasn’t been reached for comment yet and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman replied “I don’t know anything about it” when asked about the situation today.

UPDATE #2: MLB released an official statement: “We take this very seriously and have been investigating this matter since the initial allegation. As part of the investigation, the commissioner’s office will interview Mr. Rodriguez.”

Report: MLB could fine the Angels $2 million for failure to report Tyler Skaggs’ drug use

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T.J. Quinn of ESPN is reporting that Major League Baseball could fine the Los Angeles Angels up to $2 million “if Major League Baseball determines that team employees were told of Tyler Skaggs’ opioid use prior to his July 1 death and didn’t inform the commissioner’s office.”

The fine would be pursuant to the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement which affirmatively requires any team employee who isn’t a player to inform the Commissioner’s Office of “any evidence or reason to believe that a Player … has used, possessed or distributed any substance prohibited” by MLB.

As was reported last weekend, Eric Kay, the Angels Director of Communications, told DEA agents that he and at least one other high-ranking Angels official knew of Skaggs’ opioid use. The Angels have denied any knowledge of Skaggs’ use, and the other then-Angels employee Kay named, current Hall of Fame President Tim Mead deny that he know as well, but Kay’s admission that he knew — he in fact claims he purchased drugs for and did drugs with Skaggs — would, if true, constitute team knowledge. Major League Baseball would, of course, want to make its own determination of whether or not Kay was being truthful when he told DEA agents what his lawyer says he told them.

Which raises the question of why, apart from a strong desire to get in criminal jeopardy for lying to DEA agents, Kay would admit through his lawyer that he lied to DEA agents. Still, the process is the process, so giving MLB a little time here is probably not harming anyone.

As for a $2 million fine? Well, it cuts a number of ways. On the one hand, that’s a lot of money. On the other hand, (a) a man is dead; and (b) $2 million is what the Angels’ DH or center fielder makes in about 11 minutes so how much would such a fine really sting?

On the third hand, my God, what else can be done here? No matter what happened in the case of Skaggs’ death, this is not a situation anyone in either the Commissioner’s Office nor the MLBPA truly contemplated when the JDA was drafted. We live in a world of horrors at times, and by their very nature, horrors involve that which it is not expected and for which there can be no adequate, pre-negotiated remedy. It’s a bad story all around, no matter what happens.

Still, it would be notable for Major League Baseball to fine any team under the “teams must report players they suspect used banned substances” rule. Because, based on what I have heard, knowledge of players who use banned substances — which includes marijuana, cocaine, opioids and other non-PED illegal drugs — and which have not been reported to MLB is both commonplace and considerable.

But that’s a topic for another day. Perhaps tomorrow.