Mike Lupica seems to think the Braun arbitration was rigged

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Mike Lupica has a pretty Mike Lupica column up about the Ryan Braun arbitration today.  The upshot: who cares what some arbitrator says, we all know Braun is dirty and blah, blah, blah.  Lots of people are actually writing that column today, of course. I’m sure it makes them feel good.

But more notable to me is that Lupica has two passages in his piece — as well as the sub-headline to the story that someone else likely wrote — which suggest that he thinks this is more than a lucky ballplayer gaming the system. Rather, it suggests that he thinks the system was rigged to begin with.

The sub-headline reads: “Commissioner’s connection to Brewers raises questions.”  Which is interesting, because the only people I’ve seen raising that as a question are conspiracy theorists on message boards. MLB’s official statement, which comes from the Commissioner’s Office, is very clear in voicing the league’s and thus Bud Selig’s dissatisfaction with the ruling, and if you’re going to take that at less than face value you should probably offer some evidence up to substantiate what is a very serious charge.

But here’s Lupica:

And by the way? Nobody was looking to get Ryan Braun here from the start, get him good or pin a drug rap on him, or take down one of the sport’s golden boys. Braun does play for the Milwaukee Brewers, a team once owned by the current commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, a commissioner who still has his office in Milwaukee and a statue outside Miller Park.  You better believe Braun has been part of a wonderful baseball resurgence in Milwaukee, one that had the Brewers in the playoffs last October against the Cardinals, eventual World Series champs.

So Selig is apparently in on the fix.  As is, it seems, the arbitrator:

A three-man panel heard Braun’s appeal. Rob Manfred, baseball’s executive vice president was on that panel, so was Michael Weiner, head of the Major League Baseball Players Association. The third man was arbitrator Shyam Das, the tiebreaker who saved Braun the way Braun saves the Brewers with big hits in the late innings … But you know what, however you weigh in on this? Floyd Landis probably wishes he could have found a legal loophole like this through which to ride his bike. Or found himself an arbitrator like Das.

That suggests to me that Lupica thinks that Das was in the bag for Braun somehow and that no other arbitrator — like the one Floyd Landis got — would have ruled the same way.  I’d love to see Lupica’s reasoning for this and whether it extends beyond “I didn’t like the outcome, so the arbitrator must have been out to save Braun’s bacon.”

Das, of course, is a well-respected arbitrator with decades of experience who was chosen by and serves at the pleasure of Major League Baseball and the MLBPA. Jointly.  If MLB thought Das was somehow less-than-qualified and able to handle baseball arbitration cases fairly, he wouldn’t be handling baseball arbitration cases. Someone else would.

Lupica can dislike the ruling here. He’s probably in the majority in that regard.  But his suggestion that Selig’s history with the Brewers or Das’ ruling meant that the deck was somehow stacked in Braun’s favor is preposterous and irresponsible.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.