The reason for the collapse of the Brewers-Mets deal? Depends on who you ask.

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It’s becoming quite an interesting morning in the wake of the Carlos Gomez-to-the-Mets deal unraveling.

The initial report last night, which apparently came from the Mets, was that the deal fell apart because of Carlos Gomez’s medicals. The Mets, it seems, were worried about his hip.

This morning, however, the Brewers, as well as Scott Boras, Gomez’s agent, came out firing, claiming that there’s nothing wrong with Gomez:

This, on some level, is semantics. It was widely reported back in June that Gomez had hip problems. He even commented on it himself. This was from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Carlos Gomez came into Friday 0 for 12 with eight strikeouts against Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann. But the reason he’s out of the lineup for the third consecutive game was a troublesome right hip that’s been bothering him for the past couple weeks.

“I’ve been playing with a wrap around it for the last two weeks,” he said. “I don’t like to (complain) about it, but I haven’t been completely 100 percent. I’d be feeling it running to first base and it got worse, so we stepped back and I’m resting.

“I could play through it, but it’s better to play one or two less days (than make it worse).”

He even had an MRI on it!

Now, some have said the issue was more with his groin, not his hip. And Boras’ use of the term “hip doctor” is curious in that doctors who work on hips are not called “hip doctors,” they’re called “orthopedic surgeons.” If Gomez saw an orthopedist for whatever was ailing him — and something was ailing him — saying that he wasn’t a “hip doctor” may be technically true in some weird corner of the BorasVerse. But it’s also clear that Boras and the Brewers are trying to whitewash the notion of Gomez ever being unhealthy. Both those reports from June and his decreased speed and mobility as reflected in his stolen base and defensive numbers strongly suggest something amiss below his waist, be it his hip or something nearby.

Of course there is more pushback on this:

Plausible! [UPDATE: More details here]. It is the Mets we’re talking about. But it’s also worth noting that the Brewers — who are no doubt Haudricourt’s source here — have a strong incentive to have the deal fall apart for non-medical reasons. Given the Mets’ recent history the money thing is a believable alibi, but their own motivations can’t be discounted either.

What are we left with? Murk, mostly. And perhaps a new medical specialty known as “hip medicine.” Which I’m sure the doctor who saw Gomez was into way before it was cool. You probably never even heard of it.

 

Whitewash: Rob Manfred says he doesn’t think sign stealing extends beyond the Astros

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Rob Manfred said today that he believes the sign-stealing scandal which has taken over the news in the past week does not extend beyond the Houston Astros. His exact words, via Jeff Passan of ESPN:

“Right now, we are focused on the information that we have with respect to the Astros. I’m not going to speculate on whether other people are going to be involved. We’ll deal with that if it happens, but I’m not going to speculate about that. I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time.”

This is simply incredible. As in literally not credible.

It’s not credible because, just last week, in the original story in The Athletic, it was reported that the Astros system was set up by two players, one of whom was “a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources . . . they were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good. They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.”

The very next day Passan reported that Major League Baseball would not limit its focus to the Astros. Rather, the league’s probe was also include members of the 2019 Astros and would extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentioned 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.

Add into this the Red Sox’ pre-Cora sign-stealing with Apple Watches and widespread, informed speculation on the part of players and people around the game that many teams do this sort of thing, and one can’t reasonably suggest that only the Houston Astros are doing this.

Which, as I noted at the time, made perfect sense. These schemes cannot, logically, operate in isolation because players and coaches change teams constantly. In light of this, players have to know that their sign-stealing would be found out by other teams eventually. They continue to do it, however, because they know other teams do it too. As is the case with pitchers using pine tar or what have you, they don’t rat out the other team so they, themselves, will not be ratted out. It’s a mutually-assured destruction that only exists and only works if, in fact, other teams are also stealing signs.

So why is Major League Baseball content to only hang the Astros here? I can think of two reasons.

One is practical. They had the Astros fall in their lap via former Astro Mike Fiers — obviously not himself concerned with his current team being busted for whatever reason — going on the record with his accusation. That’s not likely to repeat itself across baseball and thus it’d be quite difficult for Major League Baseball to easily conduct a wide investigation. Who is going to talk? How can baseball make them talk? It’d be a pretty big undertaking.

But there’s also the optics. Major League Baseball has had a week to think about the report of the Astros sign-stealing and, I suspect, they’ve realized, like everyone else has realized, that this is a major scandal in the making. Do they really want to spend the entire offseason — and longer, I suspect, if they want a thorough investigation — digging up unflattering news about cheating in the sport? Do they really want to be in the bad news creation business? I doubt they do, so they decided to fence off the Astros, hit them hard with penalties, declare victory and move on.

Which is to say, it’s a whitewash.

It’s something the league has tried to do before. They did it with steroids and it didn’t work particularly well.

In 1998 Mark McGwire, that game’s biggest star at the time, was found to have the PED androstenedione in his locker. It was a big freakin’ deal. Except . . . nothing happened. Major League Baseball planned to “study” the drug but most of the fallout was visited upon the reporter who made it public. It was accompanied by some shameful conduct by both Major League Baseball and the baseball press corps who eagerly went after the messenger rather than cover the story properly.

Four years later Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco went public with their PED use and said drug use was widespread. MLB’s response was slow and, again, sought to isolated the known offenders, singling out Caminiti as a troubled figure — which he was — and Canseco as a kook — which he kind of is — but doing them and the story a disservice all the same.

The league eventually created a rather toothless testing and penalty regime. Congress and outside investigative reporters filled the void created by the league’s inaction, calling hearings and publishing damning stories about how wide PED use was in the game. Eventually Bud Selig commissioned the Mitchell Report. Some ten years after the McGwire incident baseball had at least the beginnings of a sane approach to PEDs and a more effective testing plan, but it was pulled to it kicking and screaming, mostly because doing anything about it was too hard and not very appetizing from a business and P.R. perspective.

And so here we are again. Baseball has a major scandal on its hands. After some initially promising words about how serious it planned to take it, the league seems content to cordon off the known crime scene and refuses to canvass the neighborhood. Sure, if someone gratuitously hands them evidence they’ll look into it, but it sure sounds like Rob Manfred plans to react rather than act here.

That should work. At least until the next time evidence of cheating comes up and they have to start this all over again.