Is A-Rod being investigated for obstruction of justice? What about Major League Baseball?

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This from the Daily News over the weekend is interesting. There’s a grand jury convened in Florida arising out of the whole Biogenesis thing. And it may bring A-Rod back into the headlines:

The grand jury is primarily interested in determining the source of the drugs Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch supplied to Rodriguez and other players, one of the sources told The News. But other law-enforcement officials are trying to determine if Rodriguez, currently serving a season-long suspension for violating MLB’s drug policy, attempted to obstruct investigations into the defunct Coral Gables anti-aging clinic.

I find this a little rich. A-Rod may or may not have tried to obstruct MLB investigators — the evidence on that was rather thin, as the small portion of his suspension related to obstruction showed — but last I checked Major League Baseball is not law enforcement. I know they act like it all the time, what with the Mitchell Report and the Biogenesis thing, but they really are just a private business with revenues somewhere between the largest law firms and mid-sized regional supermarket chains.

Also, last I checked, it was Major League Baseball, not Alex Rodriguez, who paid off the very man who distributed the drugs that are subject to this grand jury investigation and purchased stolen documents in the course of its own investigation. Who provided him with counsel in the event anyone comes investigating him and indemnified him from any bad things that may come his way as a result. I don’t know if that’s obstruction of justice, but it’s way closer to the kind of things that get charged as such than the stuff A-Rod is said to have done.

So, sure, investigate Alex Rodriguez. But explain why Major League Baseball shouldn’t be investigated too.

Mark Lerner says Nationals can’t afford both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg

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The defending champion Washington Nationals may have to replace two star players in third baseman Anthony Rendon and starter Stephen Strasburg as both are free agents. Both are represented by agent Scott Boras and both are expected to command lucrative contracts. As a result, Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner said the club can’t afford to bring back both players, Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington reports.

Lerner told Donald Dell in an interview, “We really can only afford to have one of those two guys. They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”

As Dybas notes, there are myriad reasons why Lerner would say this publicly. If Lerner had instead said, “Yeah, we’re filthy stinking rich, especially coming off of a World Series win. We could afford to get every free agent if we wanted to,” then the Nationals would have no leverage in negotiations. Creating artificial scarcity increases the Nationals’ leverage when negotiating with Boras and his clients. And as Dybas also points out, Lerner’s statement also prepares fans for an unsatisfactory outcome not unlike when the club took itself out of the running to bring back outfielder Bryce Harper earlier this year. This not to say Lerner’s statement is justified; it’s just how things work in the current system.

Lerner also defended the Nationals’ approach to free agency. He said, “They think you’re really back there printing money and it’s whoever goes to the highest bidder. It’s not that way at all. You give these fellas — there’s a negotiation that goes on, but…We’ve been pretty successful in free agency over time. You’re not going to get everybody. Certain players may want to go home, closer to where their home is. You never know the reason why people move on. But, we’ve been very successful. Probably one of the most successful teams in free agency the last 10 years. We’re very proud of our record. But, again, I think people have to realize, it’s not all up to us.”

It is true that the Nationals have been one of the most active teams in free agency in recent years. In a league that has otherwise done the opposite, they deserve some credit for that. But the Nationals are also keenly aware of the competitive balance tax threshold, which teams use as a de facto salary cap. They don’t have to, but they choose to because it’s a convenient structure that allows them to limit expenditures.

At the end of the day, it’s baseball’s financial structure that is rotten. It forces constant misinformation out of everyone’s mouths so as to protect their financial interests and leverage, and incentivizes teams to value profits above all. In a perfect world, MLB team owners wouldn’t need to cry poor every offseason, but we don’t live in such a world.