Colin Cowherd makes a lukewarm apology, ESPN releases a lukewarm statement about his comments

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This morning Colin Cowherd opened his show with what, for him anyway, probably passes for an apology in response to his comments about Dominican baseball players yesterday:

“I could’ve made the point without using one country, and there’s all sorts of smart people from the Dominican Republic. I could’ve said a third of baseball’s talent is being furnished from countries with economic hardships, therefore educational hurdles. For the record, I used the Dominican Republic because they’ve furnished baseball with so many great players . . . It wasn’t a shot at them. It was data. Five, seven years ago I talked about the same subject. Was I clunky? Perhaps. Did people not like my tone? I get it. Sometimes my tone stinks.”

He went on to cite reports and statistics about the country’s ranking in primary education. Then added:

“I get it. I do. And for that, I feel bad. I do. But I have four reports in front of me … where there are discussions of major deficiencies in the education sector at all levels . . . I’m not saying there’s not intelligent, educated people from the Dominican Republic. I cringe at the data too.”

Which misses the point, of course. He didn’t say that Dominican people lacked formal education yesterday. He said they did well at baseball as an argument that baseball is not complex — even Dominicans can do it! — which is to say that Dominican people can’t understand complex things. That’s not a statement on poverty or the state of the Dominican Republic education system. That’s a statement about capacity and intelligence, which is a totally different thing.

For its part, ESPN issued a brief statement about it all:

“Some of Colin’s comments yesterday referencing the Dominican Republic were inappropriate and do not reflect ESPN’s values of respect for all communities. Colin’s on-air response today addressed the importance of making sure his opinions are fact-based and responsible for all people.”

Which, again, is dumb. But I guess he’s an ESPN lame duck and the less they say about him the better in their mind.

I eagerly await Jose Bautista’s response.

Sign-stealing penalties could be ‘unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history’

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Early this morning we learned that Major League Baseball was planning to talk to former Astros Carlos Beltrán and Alex Cora as part of the sign-stealing investigation. Late this morning Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the investigation is, actually, going to go much wider than that.

Passan reports that Major League Baseball will not limit its focus to the 2017 Astros, who were the subject of the report in The Athletic on Tuesday. Rather, it will also include members of the 2019 Astros and will extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentions the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Oh, it also includes recently-fired Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman, who the league plans to interview but who, Passan says, has hired a lawyer. Which is sort of interesting in its own right, but let’s stay on topic.

Passan:

The league is attempting to cull tangible evidence from the widespread paranoia of front offices and teams around the game about others cheating and has indicated it will consider levying long suspensions against interviewees who are found to have lied, sources said . . . The penalties for illegal activity are determined by commissioner Rob Manfred, though if the league can prove wrongdoing, the severity could be unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history, sources said.

The Cardinals were fined $2 million when an employee, Chris Correa, hacked the Astros computer system. Correa, of course, was permanently banned from baseball and served prison time. Former Braves GM John Coppolella was likewise given a permanent ban for lying about the team’s circumvention of international signing rules. If Passan’s source is right and the league is going to level heavy penalties here, that’s where you have to start, I imagine.

To me, the stuff about Coppolella’s lying and the bit about interviewees lying mentioned in the block quote is key.

Will anyone have the hammer brought down upon them for being responsible for stealing signs? Hard to say. But they likely will if they are not forthcoming with league investigators. Which is actually a pretty decent way to handle things when one is conducting an internal investigation. Maybe you don’t give amnesty to wrongdoers in the name of information-gathering, but you do signal to them that cooperation is incentivized and lack of cooperation will be punished.

It’s an approach, by the way, that Major League Baseball notably did not take in the course of its PED investigations a decade ago. That led to a final report that had massive gaps in information and caused the league to focus on and publicize only the lowest-hanging fruit. As I argued at the time, if information-gathering, as opposed to P.R. considerations was its true aim, MLB would’ve handled it differently.

In the early stages here, in contrast, it does sound like baseball is taking this seriously. That’s a good thing.