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Agency moves to dismiss lawsuit of the guy who made the fake Melky Cabrera website

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The ACES sports agency has moved to dismiss a lawsuit filed against it in February by Juan Carlos Nunez, their disgraced former consultant.

You may recall that, back in 2012, Nunez admitted to attempting a cover up of Melky Cabrera’s positive test for testosterone by concocting a fake website purporting to advertise a non-existent product in an effort to show that Cabrera took the substance inadvertently. The ruse was quickly discovered, Cabrera served his suspension, Nunez was banned from baseball and the ACES agency was cleared of wrongdoing by the MLBPA. Nunez was later arrested for helping recruit ballplayers for the disgraced Biogenesis lab and served three months in prison as a result of his role in the PED ring.

Despite Nunez’ admission, despite his later criminal conviction for referring ballplayers to the Biogenesis lab, and despite ACES being cleared of wrongdoing, Nunez sued ACES back in February, alleging that ACES agency, among other things, encouraged him to help players get PEDs and encouraged him to make the fake Cabrera website, paying him off to take the fall. It’s not a criminal complaint, mind you: Nunez is looking to get paid for what he admits were illegal acts he carried out.

At the time the complaint was filed, ACES owners Sam and Seth Levinson called the lawsuit a “shakedown” and reminded observers of Nunez’s sketchy history. That was the public response. Today comes the legal response: a motion to dismiss the complaint, filed a few minutes ago.

ACES notes at the outset of its motion that, per his plea agreement in the criminal case several years ago, Nunez was required to make a full disclosure regarding his misconduct and that he then admitted to being the “organizer, leader, manager, or supervisor” of the scheme. He made similar statements to the press, disclaiming any involvement by ACES in the phony website plan. Given how the feds have worked in these PED cases, they very likely would’ve gone easier on Nunez if he could credibly point a finger at someone more significant. That he couldn’t do that then and, only now, years later, is claiming ACES’ involvement is suspect, the motion argues. Indeed, it goes much farther than that, arguing “Nunez’s motive is clear: to extort a settlement from ACES whose business depends on its reputation and client relationships.” The “shakedown” referred to in ACES’ statement in February.

I’ll go one farther than that: if Nunez is telling the truth in his complaint, he’s admitting that he lied to a sentencing judge back in 2015. Which is bold strategy, Cotton.

All of that being said, the current procedural posture of this case requires that all of the allegations stated in Nunez’s complaint be assumed, for the sake of argument, to be true. ACES’ argument is that even if everything Nunez said in his complaint was true, the claims are legally insufficient to hold ACES liable under the law.

It’s a pretty straightforward idea actually: under the law, a criminal cannot use the courts to collect damages which arise out of his own criminal conduct. There are a number of specific legal theories argued in the brief that get at that, but they all amount to the same basic idea: if criminals have some contract in which they agree and/or arrange to do crimes, they can’t use the courts to enforce them. Courts aren’t like the hotel in “John Wick,” designed to cater to a notorious clientele. Indeed, contracts that purport to bind parties to illegal acts are, by definition, illegal and unenforceable. The rest of the claims — Nunez asserted several — all either fail because of that basic idea or because of some subordinate idea that is encompassed by it, ACES argues.

I’ve been out of the legal game for a few years now, but my read on all of this is that it’s a pretty good motion to dismiss. That aside, in the event that the court disagrees with that and lets the case proceed, it strikes me that Nunez is gonna have a lot of trouble making his case. It presents the situation all defense lawyers dream of: being able to ask the plaintiff, under oath, “were you lying then or are you lying now?” That comes along once in a blue moon. I know ACES’ lawyers want this case to go away now, but on some level they have to be itching to ask Nunez that. I know I would be.

Anyway, look for the filing of this motion to get the New York Daily News types to regurgitate their old circa-2012 PED talking points. To dig up Jeff Novitzky and the other anti-PED crusaders of a decade ago and have them once again cast aspersions on agents for the misconduct of others. If and when they do that, take it all with a massive grain of salt. Appreciate what, exactly, Juan Carlos Nunez is actually suing for here and what he has to do to prove his case. If you do, you’ll hopefully see the absurdity of all of this.

 

Rays beat Mets 8-5, clinch 1st AL East title in 10 years

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Confetti instead of champagne. Silly string instead of beer.

The Tampa Bay Rays, long accustomed to doing more with less, figured out a way to maximize the division-clinching celebration they were allowed to enjoy during a 2020 season shortened by the coronavirus.

Randy Arozarena homered twice and the Rays clinched their first AL East title in 10 years Wednesday night with an 8-5 victory over the New York Mets.

“I’m completely dry right now, which I’m not a huge fan of,” center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, the longest-tenured Rays player, said with a grin. “But you have to adapt to what we’re asked of.”

With teams instructed to celebrate in a muted and socially distant style, the Rays went old school – or maybe elementary school – with their clinching party.

The team filed slowly onto the field after Nick Anderson fanned Andres Gimenez for the final out. A couple of players shot off canisters filled with confetti that eventually dotted the grass and dirt at Citi Field. Hugs and handshakes were exchanged before the Rays doused one another with silly string and lit some cigars in the visiting clubhouse.

Later, hooting and hollering could be heard from the visitors’ dugout.

“We’re little kids trapped in grown men’s bodies,” Kiermaier said.

Joey Wendle and Brandon Lowe also went deep for the Rays to back Tyler Glasnow‘s six solid innings. Tampa Bay will be home at quirky Tropicana Field for a best-of-three first-round playoff series beginning next Tuesday.

It is the third division crown for the thrifty Rays, whose payroll this season is just over $28 million – more than only the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles. Tampa Bay, which began play in 1998, also won the AL East, home of two big-spending powers in the Yankees and Red Sox, in 2008 and 2010.

“It feels great to win the division, no matter what division you’re in,” Kiermaier said. “But especially the American League East – it’s just a different animal.”

After missing a chance to clinch Tuesday, the Rays went into Wednesday again needing just a win or a Yankees loss against Toronto to lock up the division championship.

The Rays (37-20) broke a 2-all tie in the sixth on Arozarena’s two-run homer off Michael Wacha and pulled away, taking care of business themselves while New York was routed 14-1 by the Blue Jays.

“At the end of the day, a clinch is a clinch,” said Wendle, who homered in the second. “But to do it on a win – everybody’s kind of riding the high of winning the game along with the division. We didn’t want to see it come down to them losing a game.”

Tampa Bay also is closing in on wrapping up the top record in the AL and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

Lowe, who had an RBI fielder’s choice in the third, hit a two-run homer in the eighth. Willy Adames added an RBI single later in the inning and Arozarena homered again in the ninth.

The insurance came in handy for the Rays when the Mets scored three times off Oliver Drake in the ninth – via an RBI groundout by Robinson Cano and a two-run homer by Todd Frazier – before Anderson closed the door.

“I think we had the game pretty much in control (and) certainly recognized what was going on in Buffalo, but I don’t know if you can ever prepare for a moment like that – it’s pretty special,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Glasnow (5-1) allowed two runs on three hits and one walk with eight strikeouts.

Gimenez and Dominic Smith homered off Glasnow in the final home game of the season for the Mets, whose long-shot playoff hopes were further damaged with the loss. New York began the day 2 1/2 games out of an NL wild-card spot.

“We still have a shot with the four games left and we’re competing,” manager Luis Rojas said. “We’ve just got to do what we do – just keep fighting like we did in the ninth.”

Wacha allowed four runs on six hits and struck out four in six innings.

STABLE SHIRT

Rays pitcher Charlie Morton sported a T-shirt picturing a stable of horses as he spoke with reporters during a pregame Zoom call. Morton did little to discourage the notion the shirt was inspired by Cash’s viral rant earlier this month, when he declared the Rays have “a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 mph” after Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman threw near Mike Brousseau’s head in the ninth inning Sept. 4.

“The stable shirt?” Morton said. “It was in my locker last week and I like horses.”

With a grin obviously growing even behind his Rays mask, Morton said he rode horses as a kid.

“So I was ecstatic to see this shirt in my locker and I wore it,” he said.

As for the fireballers on the Rays’ pitching staff?

“We’ve got some guys that throw really hard,” Morton said.

ANOTHER LOSING SEASON

The loss guaranteed the Mets (25-31) will finish with a sub-.500 record for the ninth time in the last 12 seasons – a total matched or exceeded only by the Chicago White Sox (nine), Miami Marlins (10) and San Diego Padres (10). The White Sox and Padres have already clinched playoff spots and a winning record, while the Marlins are in second place in the NL East.

New York made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016 and went 86-76 last year.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: LHP Jose Alvarado (shoulder, lat) is scheduled to throw batting practice to 3B Yandy Diaz (hamstring) and 1B Ji-Man Choi (hamstring) at Tropicana Field on Thursday. Cash said all three players are progressing and he hopes they are available for the playoffs. . Brousseau (oblique) missed a fourth consecutive game. Cash said he would have been available off the bench if needed

Mets: RF Michael Conforto (hamstring) returned to the lineup as the designated hitter after missing two games and went 0 for 4. . The Mets activated RHP Dellin Betances (lat), who last pitched Aug. 29, and optioned RHP Corey Oswalt to the alternate site.

UP NEXT

Rays: After a day off Thursday, Morton (2-2, 4.64 ERA) is scheduled to get his postseason tuneup in the opener of a series against the Phillies on Friday.

Mets: Rookie LHP David Peterson (5-2, 3.80 ERA) opens a four-game road series against the Nationals. Peterson struck out a career-high 10 against the Braves last Saturday.