Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s baseball bonafides are beyond reproach. A big Yankees fan from youth. The judge who effectively ended the strike in 1995. She knows her stuff.
So she was the perfect choice to sit in on a mock oral re-argument of the famous Curt Flood case, which sought to end the reserve clause and grant the players free agency. Flood lost that round, of course, but it paved the way for the institution of free agency a few years later.
NPR has the story about it here. This exchange made me chuckle. Remember: they’re pretending it’s 1972 and the consequences of free agency are yet unknown:
Sotomayor, in mock horror, said that if the antitrust exemption were abolished and owners could no longer collude to set player salaries at will, the Yankees might have to pay Reggie Jackson $1 million a year!
Worse, replied Karlan, would be if the Yanks paid Alex Rodriguez a quarter of a billion dollars not to play.
“I can’t imagine such a thing!” answered a shocked Sotomayor.
She also gets a dig in at the Red Sox’ World Series drought, which was probably fun for her. It’s also clear that if Sotomayor was on the court in 1972 she would not have joined the majority in upholding the reserve clause. Too bad she wasn’t.
The first truly big free agent signing of the offseason has gone down: the Chicago White Sox just announced that they have signed catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million deal.
Grandal, 31, was the best catcher available in free agency. He is coming off a fine year with the Milwaukee Brewers, with whom he had to settle for a one-year pact in 2019. He hit .246/.380/.468 with 28 homers and 77 driven in. It was his fourth straight season with 20+ homers. While his catching has been criticized due to some high-profile mistakes in the postseason, the two-time All-Star once again proved himself to be one of the best pitch-framers in the game if not the best. Between the bat and the glove he has a claim to being one of the best all-around catchers in baseball.
The signing leaves open the question of what happens to James McCann, who was himself an All-Star this year. It’s not that hard a question, of course, as Grandal is a far superior catcher to McCann in every respect. The Sox could make McCann a backup. Alternatively, they could try to trade him to fill other holes on the roster.
The White Sox finished 72-89 in 2019 but are showing signs of coming out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode. This signing pushes them a big step into that direction.