There was a big baseball scandal, sorta

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Ben Badler of Baseball America reports on an age/identity scandal involving one of the more notable buscones in the Dominican Republic, who actually falsified his own son’s age in order to induce the Mariners into signing him:

A son of Enrique Soto, one of the most powerful trainers in the Dominican Republic over the last two decades, used a false age when he signed with the Mariners in 2007, according to multiple sources familiar with the case.

George Soto signed with Seattle for $700,000 in February 2007, presenting himself as a 17-year-old shortstop with a birthdate of Nov. 19, 1989. According to George Soto’s new paperwork, he was born Nov. 17, 1985, which would have made him 21 when he signed.

That’s interesting as far as these things go and will likely be cited by MLB as one of the excesses of the current system as it continues to push for an international draft.  But that’s not why I’m posting this. I’m posting this because, man, I kinda feel let down.

Why? Because almost all of the baseball people on Twitter were watching this one closely for like a half hour thanks to Badler’s delicious tweet prior to posting the story:

Exciting! So exciting that it led to all kinds of fun and mostly ridiculous speculation as to what it might be.  Among my favorites:

 

 

My personal theory involved either (a) Aroldis Chapman being Keyser Soze; or (b) players actually taking them two or three games at a time instead of the alleged one game at a time they so often claim.

So, yeah, I’m let down. It’s not Badler’s fault. He’s a fine reporter and on his beat this stuff with Enrique Soto is big news and is, technically, scandalous.

But I really was hoping that we were aiming higher, or lower, on this sleepy Wednesday afternoon.

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

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We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.