Joe Torre is not going to be a great witness in the Angel Hernandez case

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As we posted earlier this week, umpire Angel Hernandez filed a discrimination lawsuit against Major League Baseball.  His primary claim: that there is racial discrimination in baseball’s umpire promotion and post-season assignment policies.

Adding to that and coloring it is Hernandez’ claim that MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre — the man in charge of evaluating and supervising umpires — has held a grudge against him going back to his managing days.

The facts and evidence in the case will shed light on or rebut the alleged discrimination, depending on how it all plays out, so I don’t have any insight on that. I am rather fascinated with Hernandez’s claim of personal animus on Torre’s part, however.

Out of hand, it may be something most would dismiss. Hernandez doesn’t necessarily have a great reputation outside of the umpiring fraternity and Joe Torre is a baseball legend. It would be easy for one to assume that Hernandez just threw that allegation out there and that Major League Baseball will quite easily portray Torre as a respected steward of the game who is above such pettiness. And, of course, that all may be true.

But lawsuits are not the same as public debate and discussion in the media and the parties’ mutual reputation does not determine the outcome. Sometimes, lawsuits turn on seemingly insignificant things. Such as, you know, the man in question going on national television and joking about how he uses his position to “get even” with umpires he dislikes.

Watch both of these, from Torre’s appearance on Joe Buck’s TV show from August of last year:

Again: Torre is joking here. His chuckle and the offhand way in which he says it makes that clear to you, me and anyone watching it. But in a deposition, that’s not gonna play well. Torre will be asked about why he’d say such a thing. About the nature of that humor behind that joke. He’ll be asked, in detail, about his run-ins with Angel Hernandez over the years as well.

If the case goes to trial, Hernandez’s lawyer will make a big deal out of this, and he will be right to do so. He will not characterize it as a baseball man telling an age-old joke about how no one likes umpires. He’ll characterize it as someone’s boss in an employment discrimination suit “joking” about the very thing the lawsuit claims he did: get even with Angel Hernandez due to personal animus. And he’ll ask every member of the jury to ask themselves how they’d feel if their boss went on national TV and “joked” about how they liked to “get even” with them.

I presume most of you will say I’m being silly about all of this and that no one could possibly take this seriously as a problem for MLB in Hernandez’s lawsuit. I can assure you, however, that it is a problem. Maybe a manageable one. Maybe one that does not, ultimately, impact the outcome of Hernandez’s suit. But it is certainly one Major League Baseball’s lawyers will take seriously. It’s one that will cause them to exhale deeply and mark off far more time on their calendar to prep Joe Torre for his eventual, acrimonious deposition. It’s one that could, if presented just so by plaintiff’s counsel, give Hernandez a much better chance at success than he might otherwise have in a tough suit.

Joke or not, it’s something that, I predict, Joe Torre will soon regret that he ever said.

Bogaerts reportedly heading to the Padres for 11 years, $280 million

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SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Padres and Xander Bogaerts agreed to a blockbuster $280 million, 11-year contract Wednesday night, adding the All-Star slugger to an already deep lineup.

A person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the contract to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because it was pending a physical.

The Padres already had Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop, but he missed the entire season because of injuries and an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

San Diego also met with Aaron Judge and Trea Turner before the big stars opted for different teams. The Padres reached the NL Championship Series this year before losing to the Phillies.

“From our standpoint, you want to explore and make sure we’re looking at every possible opportunity to get better,” general manager A.J. Preller said before the Bogaerts deal surfaced. “We’ve got a real desire to win and do it for a long time.”

The 30-year-old Bogaerts was one of the headliners in a stellar group of free-agent shortstops that also included Turner, Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson.

Bogaerts, who’s from Aruba, terminated his $120 million, six-year contract with Boston after the season. The four-time All-Star forfeited salaries of $20 million for each of the next three years after hitting .307 with 15 homers and 73 RBIs in 150 games.

Bogaerts is a .292 hitter with 156 homers and 683 RBIs in 10 big league seasons – all with Boston. He helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 2013 and 2018.

Bogaerts becomes the latest veteran hitter to depart Boston after the Red Sox traded Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers in February 2020. Rafael Devers has one more year of arbitration eligibility before he can hit the market.

Bogaerts had his best big league season in 2019, batting .309 with a career-best 33 homers and 117 RBIs. He had 23 homers and 103 RBIs in 2018.

In 44 postseason games, Bogaerts is a .231 hitter with five homers and 16 RBIs.