MLB is NOT happy with that Braves spring training facility proposal

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The other day we learned that an investment group that included Gary Sheffield had a proposal on the table for a new spring training facility for the Atlanta Braves in St. Petersburg. And that the Braves were, apparently, on board.

In the wake of that, many of you who are well-versed on the politics of baseball facilities in the Tampa area chimed in to note that this probably wouldn’t be a great thing for the Rays for several reasons. It would put yet another team in their territory and that, even if it’s a spring training thing, it would soak up some bit of baseball demand that the Rays would prefer not to have soaked up. It would also limit the options and maybe the money available for a new Rays ballpark. Really, no upside for them at all.

Well, the Rays apparently got the ear of someone at Major League Baseball about it, because this most unusual statement from the league just hit the wire:

“Earlier this week, Major League Baseball and the Tampa Bay Rays learned of the St. Petersburg Sports Park proposal for the first time.  Major League Baseball appreciates the support that it has received for the construction of Spring Training facilities throughout the State of Florida. The most pressing need, however, is the construction of a Major League-quality facility for the Rays.

“Major League Baseball is committed to working with the Rays to secure a new ballpark in cooperation with the Tampa Bay region.  This can only happen with the support of local political and business leaders.”

This is clearly a shot across the bow of anyone in the Tampa Bay area who isn’t in the business of getting a new stadium for the Rays. And, assuming no stadium is forthcoming, some groundwork laying for the time when the Rays are moved to Montreal or someplace else and anyone complains. A “hey, we TOLD you we needed your help, but you were more interested in spring training baloney!” kind of thing.

Not that MLB isn’t actually mad here. They probably are. Because if they do start building more spring training places in the Bay Area, it gives the league a weaker hand to play one city off of another.

But let us look at the bright side here: Gary Sheffield is still able to piss everyone off, years after he retired. He’s one of the all-time greats, frankly.

Astros owner Jim Crane says MLB ‘explicitly exonerated’ him

Jim Crane
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Even during a pandemic, the Astros can’t seem to avoid putting their foot in their mouth. Per The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan, Astros owner Jim Crane claimed in a legal filing on Monday that Major League Baseball “explicitly exonerated” him in the club’s 2017 sign-stealing scandal that resulted in a now-tainted championship.

Crane is named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by former pitcher Mike Bolsinger, whose last appearance in the majors was on August 4, 2017 against the Astros. He faced eight batters, allowing four runs on four hits and three walks in one-third of an inning. Bolsinger accused the Astros of unfair business practices, negligence, and intentional interference with contractual and economic relations arising out of the sign-stealing scandal. Bolsinger is seeking damages for himself as well as for the Astros to forfeit the nearly $31 million in bonuses earned from winning the championship in 2017, asking for the money to be reallocated to children’s charities and retired players in need of financial assistance.

Commissioner Rob Manfred did not use the word “exonerated” in his report on the league’s investigation into the Astros’ cheating scheme. Manfred did, however, write, “At the outset, I also can say our investigation revealed absolutely no evidence that Jim Crane, the owner of the Astros, was aware of any of the conduct described in this report. Crane is extraordinarily troubled and upset by the conduct of members of his organization, fully supported my investigation, and provided unfettered access to any and all information requested.”

Saying that the league found “no evidence” that Crane was involved and patting Crane on the back for not obstructing the investigation is not the same was “explicitly exonerating” him. The Athletic asked MLB if it agreed with Crane’s characterization of the report. Rather than agreeing with Crane, the league simply said, “All of our comments about the investigation are included in the report.”

This isn’t the first legal filing in which the Astros made a questionable claim. Recently, Astros lawyers claimed the organization expressed “sincere apologies and remorse for the events described in the report by the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.”

In Monday’s filing, Astros lawyers swung at Bolsinger, citing his poor pitching performance overall in 2017. They wrote, “Plaintiff wants to have a California judge and jury literally call ball and strikes, and award him money damages based on rank conjecture about what might have happened to him in Houston on August 4, 2017 due to alleged rules violations he speculates may have occurred that day.”

Astros lawyers also questioned the frequency of the club’s cheating and its impact, writing, “Major League Baseball (‘MLB’) investigated alleged rule violations by the Astros related to sign-stealing, resulting in a January 13, 2020 report in which the Commissioner of Baseball expressly found that ‘it is impossible to determine whether the (Astros’) conduct actually impacted the results on the field. The MLB did not conclude that sign-stealing violations occurred in every game or even most at-bats in the 2017 season.”

Astros fan Tony Adams, who analyzed every home game during the 2017 regular season and posted the results on SignStealingScandal.com, found that there were 54 “bangs” on August 4 when Bolsinger pitched against the Astros. That was the highest total among all Astros home games that season. Bolsinger entered in the middle of the fourth inning, first facing Yuli Gurriel. Adams found three bangs — all on curve balls — in a plate appearance that ended in a walk. Adams found four more bangs — all on breaking balls — in a Brian McCann at-bat later that inning that also ended in a walk. Bolsinger then gave up a single to Tyler White, with trash can banging on a cut fastball and a curve. The next batter, Jake Marisnick, singled as well, hearing bangs on a cutter and a curve. Bolsinger finally got out of the inning when Bregman swung at a first-pitch curve (yes, there was a trash can bang for that) and flied out.

Importantly, Bolsinger’s lawyer notes that Crane’s motion makes MLB eligible for discovery. It is already eligible for discovery in New York federal court where the league is a defendant in a lawsuit brought by daily fantasy sports contestants. Bolsinger’s lawsuit is brought out of California state court. The Astros want Bolsinger’s lawsuit dismissed or at least moved to Texas.

Because the Astros can’t seem to stop making headlines for all the wrong reasons, this whole situation figures to get even more wild as time goes on. Due to discovery, we may end up learning even more about the Astros’ cheating ways than the league may have let on in their report on their investigation.