What should Major League Baseball do to Larry Baer?

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Earlier today Larry Baer, CEO of the San Francisco Giants, was caught on video in an altercation with his wife, Pam Baer. In the video he was seen attempting to grab a phone out of her right hand. She held on to the phone, her chair tipped over and she was sent to toppling to the ground. She yelled for help during the altercation.

A witness told the San Francisco Chronicle that, “she seemed pretty terrified.” While Baer did not attempt to strike or otherwise harm his wife after she was forced to the ground, witnesses came to move him away said he only calmed down once they put their hands on him.

Soon after the incident Larry Baer said, “My wife and I had an unfortunate public argument related to a family member and she had an injured foot and she fell off her chair in the course of the argument. The matter is resolved. It was a squabble over a cell phone. Obviously it’s embarrassing.” Later in the day, the Baers issued a joint statement:

“Regrettably, today we had a heated argument in public over a family matter. We are deeply embarrassed by the situation and have resolved the issue.”

Just moments ago, Baer issued a followup statement:

“I am truly sorry for the pain that I have brought to my wife, children and to the organization. It is not reflective of the kind of a person that I aspire to be but it happened and I will do whatever it takes to make sure that I never behave in such an inappropriate manner again.”

The police were not called, but police did show up on the scene later to interview witnesses once they saw the story in the San Francisco Chronicle. Major League Baseball issued a terse statement, saying it was aware of the incident and it would gather the facts.

Now what?

Legally, it’s doubtful anything will happen at this point. The altercation was enough, in my view, to lead to charges — Baer was the cause of his wife being forced to the ground, and that’s battery — but unless Pam Baer was willing to cooperate with authorities, it’s not likely they would move forward and prosecute. The joint statement suggests that she would not do so. That may change, it may not. We’ll see.

Under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policies, however, charges are not necessary in order for someone to face discipline from the league. Aroldis Chapman, for example, was suspended for 30 games in 2016 despite not being charged with any crime. Assuming Major League Baseball does the right thing and treats an owner of a team the same way as a player, Baer should be subject to discipline here.

Disciplining a player is one thing — they play games, so you suspend him for a set number of games, docking his pay during that time. But what do you do with an owner who does not play games and who is not paid by the game?

Major League Baseball’s history can help us here, but only to some degree. Let’s look at the history.

In the very distant past, the league had forced the sale of at least one team upon a criminal conviction of the owner. That was the St. Louis Cardinals, whose owner, Fred Saigh, went to jail in 1953 for tax evasion after which Commissioner Ford Frick pressured him to sell his team, which was purchased by Anheuser-Busch. While the league would later force out Dodgers owner Frank McCourt for various perfidies and embarrassments, those were mostly financial matters. Beyond that, the league has no real history of forcing the sale of ownership interests for the bad acts of owners.

There have been owner suspensions, however.

In 1992, baseball’s executive council investigated Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott for using racial slurs toward players and employees and making anti-Semitic remarks. The investigation took a while, not because there was a question about Schott’s actions — she was as racist as the day was long and no one, her own attorney included, disputed that she had done what she was accused of — but because the league didn’t know how to discipline an owner for such things.

There was brief talk of forcing her to sell the Reds, which is what the NBA would later do with Donald Sterling’s Los Angeles Clippers, but ultimately it was decided that she would be suspended for a year from day-to-day operations of the Reds and leveled a fine of $25,000. It was considered a somewhat lenient sentence, with the counsel for the National League later telling the New York Times that the other owners did not consider her conduct to be “malicious” because the then-64-year-old Schott was a “creature of her times.” Her attorney called the outcome “favorable.” A few years later Schott would again step in it, making favorable remarks about Adolf Hitler. As the gears of baseball began to grind in an effort to punish her a second time she voluntarily stepped down as the team’s managing partner and later sold her shares.

Before Schott, Major League Baseball suspended Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Not once, but twice. The first time came in the mid-70s thanks to being convicted of making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon. Steinbrenner was deprived of day-to-day control of his team for two years at that time, but it was later commuted to 15 months. The second suspension came in the early 90s after Steinbrenner hired a gambler to follow Dave Winfield around in an effort to dig up dirt on his star outfielder. He was given a permanent ban from baseball at that time, but again, it was commuted and, in the event, Steinbrenner was suspended from management of the Yankees for three years.

On one level, Schott’s and Steinbrenner’s suspensions were instructive, in that it showed how Major League Baseball might discipline an owner, but neither case is a perfect fit for the situation with Larry Baer.

Schott’s case may involve some odious behavior, but it was also the sort of behavior which didn’t, technically, violate any league rules or even strongly held values of league ownership. Sure, everyone agreed her racism was horrible and an embarrassment, but as Schott’s attorney famously argued, she didn’t say anything publicly that many other owners hadn’t said privately many, many times. Heck, other owners even said racist stuff publicly and didn’t get in trouble, so why should Schott, the argument went.

In light of that — and in light of the fact that now Major League Baseball has a very strong anti-domestic violence policy and that no one can reasonably excuse Baer the way they excused Schott as lacking malice — can’t one argue that Baer should be punished more harshly than Schott? Maybe given a suspension of more than a year or, for that matter, to step down from his role as team CEO permanently?

Steinbrenner got more than a year each time he was suspended, but the behavior is hard to analogize with Baer’s. Before the first suspension he tried and convicted federal crime. Before the second he was involved in what can only be seen as a shocking violation of norms that threatened the integrity of the game. While the current domestic violence policy does not require charges or a conviction, even the players who had been convicted of crimes since the policy has been in place haven’t received two-year suspensions. While Baer’s behavior is, at least in my mind, odious, it feels different than what Steinbrenner did to Winfield and a lifetime ban, even if later reduced, seems rather harsh.

All of which is to say that this is a hard case for Rob Manfred. If I were in his shoes, I’d probably think about the precedents for owner discipline — a year? two years? — and try to incorporate some of the elements of player discipline we’ve seen under the domestic violence rule, which have run from 15 games to 100 games. Since an owner’s day-to-day duties can be easily delegated or moved to a time before or after a suspension takes effect, I’d think that anything less than a year would be insufficient to send a message. At the same time, since an owner does not get paid by the game, that year away may be relatively meaningless, financially, so I’d consider a large fine, perhaps on par with what a player might expect to lose in pay over the typical 15-100 game suspension in play. A few million bucks?

It may also be something that the Giants handle, in at least in part, for Major League Baseball. After all, Baer is just the CEO of a large ownership group. He does not possess a controlling share in the business. He could simply be removed and relegated to silent partner status if the other co-owners deem it so. Depending on how this story plays out in the coming days, they may deem it so. At that point all baseball will have to do, practically, is level a hefty fine.

It’s certainly messy, but again, it’s something for which we have no precedent at the moment. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

New bill to build Athletics stadium on Las Vegas Strip caps Nevada’s cost at $380 million

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CARSON CITY, Nev. — A bill introduced in the Nevada Legislature would give the Oakland Athletics up to $380 million for a potential 30,000 seat, $1.5 billion retractable roof stadium on the Las Vegas Strip.

The bulk of the public funding would come from $180 million in transferable tax credits from the state and $120 million in county bonds, which can vary based on interest rate returns. Clark County also would contribute $25 million in credit toward infrastructure costs.

The A’s have been looking for a home to replace Oakland Coliseum, where the team has played since arriving from Kansas City for the 1968 season. The team had sought to build a stadium in Fremont, San Jose and finally the Oakland waterfront, all ideas that never materialized.

The plan in the Nevada Legislature won’t directly raise taxes. It can move forward with a simply majority vote in the Senate and Assembly. Lawmakers have a little more than a week to consider the proposal before they adjourn June 5, though it could be voted on if a special session is called.

The Athletics have agreed to use land on the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip, where the Tropicana Las Vegas casino resort sits. Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao has said he is disappointed the team didn’t negotiate with Oakland as a “true partner.”

Las Vegas would be the fourth home for a franchise that started as the Philadelphia Athletics from 1901-54. It would become the smallest TV market in Major League Baseball and the smallest market to be home to three major professional sports franchises.

The team and Las Vegas are hoping to draw from the nearly 40 million tourists who visit the city annually to help fill the stadium. The 30,000-seat capacity would make it the smallest MLB stadium.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said a vote on the Oakland Athletics’ prospective move to Las Vegas could take place when owners meet June 13-15 in New York.

The plan faces an uncertain path in the Nevada Legislature. Democratic leaders said financing bills, including for the A’s, may not go through if Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoes the five budget bills, which he has threatened to do as many of his priorities have stalled or faded in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Under the bill, the Clark County Board of Commissioners would create a homelessness prevention and assistance fund along the stadium’s area in coordination with MLB and the Nevada Resort Association. There, they would manage funds for services, including emergency rental and utility assistance, job training, rehabilitation and counseling services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

The lease agreement with the Las Vegas Stadium Authority would be up for renewal after 30 years.

Nevada’s legislative leadership is reviewing the proposal, Democratic state Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager said in a statement.

“No commitment will be made until we have both evaluated the official proposal and received input from interested parties, including impacted community members,” Yeager said.