The Cardinals hacking scandal is a major early test for Rob Manfred

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The Deflategate/St. Louis Cardinals hacking scandal comps are fun, so let’s add another fun wrinkle to all of that. By, say, comparing Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt to Patriots owner Robert Kraft and talking about the challenges their clubs’ alleged perfidies present to Rob Manfred to Roger Goodell, respectively.

DeWitt, like Kraft, is one of the most influential owners in the game. And, like Kraft vis-a-via Goodell, he was one of Rob Manfred’s strongest supporters. Before Deflategate, Kraft had gone to great lengths to support Goodell in any number of scandals and scrapes. For his part, DeWitt led the committee which selected the new commissioner and no doubt helped beat back the challenge to Manfred’s candidacy from Tom Werner. A challenge which was backed by an equally strong owner in the White Sox’ Jerry Reinsdorf. He is also one of only two holdovers from Bud Selig’s former executive council to serve on Manfred’s. His power and insight are clearly respected.

And now, like Goodell had to do with Kraft, Manfred will have to investigate and possibly penalize the club owned by the guy who forms a big part of his base of power. Maybe not soon — he can wait out the federal investigation for a while — but eventually.

New commissioners, especially ones who follow legends, often have some sort of early test of their authority. Adam Silver had the Donald Sterling stuff. Goodell had Spygate — also involving Kraft’s club — and a number of personal conduct policy violations to deal with, all of which represented either new territory for the commissioner or new levels of punishment for old territory. Some tests like Silver’s are, politically speaking, pretty easy. Others are tougher.

Manfred’s, if the allegations are borne out, could be extraordinarily tough. Partially because of the unique and serious nature of the allegations (we’re really in uncharted waters here and people could go to jail over this). But also because, recently, there has been at least some indication that Manfred is still mindful and possibly unsure of his support among the owners.

When Josh Hamilton’s relapse and disciplinary proceedings were leaked in violation of Major League Baseball’s rules, Manfred did nothing to investigate the Angels, who were the clear suspects behind the leak. Indeed, they were the only credible suspects. Manfred said it was because it was hard to prove such things. Others suggested privately that it was because Moreno was one of Manfred’s opponents in the search for a commissioner and that antagonizing Moreno was nothing he was interested in doing a couple of months into his tenure.

Now, depending on how this all shakes out, Manfred may have to lay down the law against a team owned by one of baseball’s most powerful men. And one of the men to whom Manfred owes quite a bit. It’ll be a tough situation for him, one presumes. Especially because so many people inside the game will be watching it closely.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.