Selig’s biggest danger now: overreach

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Buster Olney makes a good point in his column today.

Bud Selig is at the brink of near total victory in the PED war. He will soon have suspended all the Biogenesis players and will have presided over a sea change in which most players in the game have shifted from silence or tacit acceptance of PED use to where they are publicly decrying such use.  Some of this was natural evolution, some of it happenstance, some of it skillful maneuvering, but Selig is poised to get almost all the credit.

But one way in which he could risk these gains is by overreaching. Specifically, by taking the tack outlined by the Daily News the other day and insisting that his suspension of Alex Rodriguez be done under his “best interests” powers rather than under the Joint Drug Agreement, thereby cutting off A-Rod’s appeal rights.  Such a move would certainly be tough, but it also might be counterproductive:

If Selig uses his best-interest powers and suspends Rodriguez under the CBA rather than the joint drug agreement, he will basically be taking him off the field before he can appeal — before the due process — and place himself in a position of being the judge and jury for Rodriguez, leading up to protracted arbitration.

From the players’ perspective, that is not ideal due process. The union, whether led by Weiner or somebody else, may decide to fight for that principle, which could lead to a messy labor battle, with new faces at the table.

I don’t think there’s any “may” about it. Such a move would be seen by the union as a power grab. Rank and file players could very easily see A-Rod as a different type of offender than they might be and be fine with harsh discipline, but I believe they’d feel threatened if Selig changes the procedures in place so radically in midstream. That could lead to the union joining in with any fight A-Rod mounts, which could involve a run to federal court for an injunction and litigation that has nothing to do with A-Rod’s drug use and everything to do with the Commissioner’s power.

The alternative: suspend him under the JDA, let the Yankees deal with the awkwardness of A-Rod still being around pending appeal, but declare total victory as Commissioner with the union giving you almost unprecedented backing.

Olney says Selig could use that as a basis for then demanding tougher penalties for first time offenders. Maybe that works, maybe it doesn’t. But it certainly puts him and baseball in the catbird seat, with A-Rod’s appeal being a relatively minor distraction rather than having Selig on the defensive with a big court battle in which arguments are made that Bud went too far.

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.