MLB appoints a new head for its Department of Investigations

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Baseball established its Department of Investigations back in 2008 following a recommendation in the Mitchell Report that it actually, you know, investigate PED use and other violations of MLB’s rules. While it was seen as somewhat toothless for a while, last year’s investigation and suspension of Alex Rodriguez and the other Biogenesis players showed that, when it wants to, MLB can go after its own with the best of ’em.

Maybe too zealously, actually. The bad behavior by the DOI has been well-reported. And, really, it was ultimately a legal and tactical strategy — not an investigative one — that helped MLB turn the corner in its investigation. Specifically, getting Anthony Bosch to flip when the league sued him and then paying his astronomical legal fees is what won the day.

All of which led to a house-cleaning at DOI. Back in May it fired several of the DOI people involved in the investigation and gave the Department a general shakeup. Now it has named a new leader of its investigative team:

Major League Baseball has hired Bryan Seeley to lead its Department of Investigations, Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig announced today. Seeley will be MLB’s Vice President, Investigations & Deputy General Counsel.

Since 2006, Seeley has served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. Beginning in 2010, he prosecuted federal white-collar cases as a Senior Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Fraud and Public Corruption Section. In that capacity, Seeley led fraud investigations involving government procurement fraud, bank fraud, health care fraud, securities fraud and embezzlement, along with public corruption investigations involving bribery and kickbacks. From 2006-2010, Seeley prosecuted cases in D.C. Superior Court and U.S. District Court involving violent crime, illegal narcotics and property-related crime, a role in which he interviewed hundreds of witnesses and tried more than 30 cases.

A guy with that kind of background — and presumably the sorts of strong ethics possessed by most AUSAs — is a welcome addition.

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”