This all reads like the plot for a low-budget tech thriller movie. A bad, low-budget tech thriller.
According to Teri Thompson, Bill Madden, Christian Red, Michael O’Keefe and Nathaniel Vinton of the New York Daily News, outfielder Melky Cabrera “created a fictitious website and a nonexistent product designed to prove he inadvertently took the banned substance that caused a positive test under Major League Baseball’s drug program.”
The website, purchased by an associate of Cabrera’s from the Dominican Republic named Juan Nunez, cost a total of $10,000.
The product, advertised as a topical cream, was going to anchor Cabrera’s defense during his appeal.
But “baseball figured out the ruse pretty quickly,” a source familiar with the case told the Daily News.
Cabrera’s agents, Sam and Seth Levinson of ACES, have distanced themselves from Nunez and are claiming that the scheme was concocted without their knowledge. There’s no evidence that they’re lying, though Nunez has been hired directly by the agents in the past to obtain and deal with Dominican clients.
Federal investigators are now looking into the case, and it seems possible if not likely that Cabrera will be facing punishment beyond his 50-game ban from professional baseball. “If you engage in this type of activity,” concludes a well-informed source in the Daily News exclusive, “you do it at great risk to your livelihood.”
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.