Read the letter Major League Baseball shouldn’t have sent to A-Rod’s attorney

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This morning on the Today Show, Alex Rodriguez’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, reiterated his stance that he would “love nothing more” than to discuss the case against Alex Rodriguez, but can’t do so due to the confidentiality provisions of the Joint Drug Agreement. He was then presented with a letter from Major League Baseball which offered to waive the confidentiality provisions. It made for some awkward moments for Tacopina and some fun TV at least.

The Wall Street Journal has a copy of the letter and reproduces it here. It’s from MLB’s Rob Manfred and it’s just as confrontational in prose as it was in its use on the Today Show. And having read it, I am even more of the view that Major League Baseball is being roped into a P.R. battle that it doesn’t need and probably shouldn’t want.

The only purpose of Manfred’s letter is to try to score some points on Tacopina and, by extension, Rodriguez, in the wake of Tacopina’s media offensive. That it came from Manfred and not legal counsel — which MLB should be using in its case against Rodriguez — is evidence of that.  It strikes me as a letter Manfred himself dashed off or dictated with a cackle. And he certainly got his intended response on TV today.

But what does this get the league? For as loud as it has been, A-Rod and Tacopina’s offensive hasn’t changed many minds. And it doesn’t change the evidence. And by delving into the fray like this, putting the Confidentiality provision in play, one wonders if it doesn’t potentially weaken claims MLB may have against A-Rod in the arbitration about his own efforts to publicize or leak information that should otherwise be confidential. Might Tacopina use this letter to argue that MLB doesn’t care about those rights? That it has waived them or is, at the very least, selective as to when it believes they are relevant?

It’s not much, but it’s more than a fighter like Tacopina needs to grab onto and start punching. And it’s just going to add to the circus and the mess which MLB seemed to so want to avoid when it set out to discipline the Biogenesis players.

Most lawyers would counsel their clients to avoid this sort of bomb-throwing. Is anyone counseling Major League Baseball to do that?

Nationals’ sell-off a vindication for Dusty Baker

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The Nationals threw in the towel on Tuesday, trading second baseman Daniel Murphy to the Cubs and 1B/OF Matt Adams to the Cardinals. The club also placed outfielder and soon-to-be free agent Bryce Harper on revocable waivers but took him back. The Nats’ sell-off is a vindication for former manager Dusty Baker, let go after the Nationals failed to advance past the NLDS for a second straight year.

Baker had roughly the same team current manager Dave Martinez did. It was arguably worse, considering he never wrote Juan Soto‘s name on the lineup card. The 2018 squad, sans Baker, has been marked by mutiny and underachievement. While failing to reach the NLCS in Baker’s two years was disappointing, he took them to Game 5 in the NLDS both years as well as 95 and 97 regular season wins. Right now, Martinez’s squad has a winning percentage more than 100 points lower than Baker’s last year. They’re on pace to go 80-82, which would be their first sub-.500 season since 2011.

Baker has always had an undeserved bad rap. He was, correctly, blamed for the Cubs’ demise, due somewhat to Kerry Wood and Mark Prior falling apart, ostensibly from overuse. However, after his stint in Chicago, Baker took the lowly Reds from the bottom of the NL Central to the top in two years between 2008-10. Then he took the Nationals, which had won a meager 83 games in 2015 and had made the playoffs just twice since moving from Montreal, to two consecutive NLDS Game 5’s.

Not much changed from 2017 to ’18. Martinez inherited Ryan Zimmerman, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Michael Taylor, Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton, Daniel Murphy, Matt Wieters, Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler, Shawn Kelley, and Koda Glover, among others. But for one reason or another — injuries, admittedly, make up one reason — almost all of these players are having worse years under Martinez than under Baker. Describing the 2018 team to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Baker said, “They’re together, but they’re separate.”

Is it strictly Baker that would make the difference? No, of course not. But the Nationals organization seems unwilling or unable to address issues that may extend into the front office. The Nats seem happy to go through a new manager every couple of years and hope that fixes all that ails them. Since Frank Robinson’s five years at the helm from 2002-06, Manny Acta managed two and a half years, Jim Riggleman one and a half, Davey Johnson two, Matt Williams two, Baker two. Maybe the problem was never the manager. Perhaps the problem is the Lerner family and Mike Rizzo.