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Former Oriole, Angel Doug Decinces gets off easy in insider trading case

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Several years ago former Orioles and Angels third baseman Doug DeCinces was charged with insider trading arising out of a tip he received regarding the buyout of a medical devices company by Abbott Labs. It took years for the case to go to trial, but in May of 2017 he was convicted on 13 counts. Many of the counts carried a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Each. It seemed the retired ballplayer was looking at some heavy prison time.

Nope. After his conviction he entered into a cooperation agreement with prosecutors to go after a co-conspirator. That case is all over now — the co-conspirator was tried twice, the jury deadlocked both times and prosecutors dropped the case — so yesterday it was time for DeCinces to be sentenced. He was given one day in prison, but credit for time served, and ended up with eight months of home detention and a fine. DeCinces, who lives in lovely Newport Beach, California, will likely have a pretty nice cell.

A lot of white collar crime cases play out like that, so it’s not really remarkable. What tickles me about this case is that part of what swayed the judge to not give DeCinces serious time was a character witness in DeCinces’ favor. Get this character witness:

The federal judge admitted that, as a baseball fan himself, he spent a lot of time determining a fair sentence to the Angels star. But a letter of support for DeCinces, drafted by former Major League Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, helped with his decision making.

“He doesn’t carry arrogance as other (professional athletes) do,” Guilford read from the Ueberroth’s letter.

This is the same Peter Ueberroth, as we wrote about yesterday, who orchestrated a collusion scheme that screwed workers out of like $300 million. And one of the players screwed in collusion was . . . Doug DeCinces!

From his Society for American Baseball Research bio:

Collusion stirred the air in Major League Baseball during the mid-1980s. During this time a suspicious number of free agents failed to receive competing offers to leave their clubs. Doug DeCinces was one of them. After the 1986 season, he was due to test free agency for the first time. Instead he had no choice but to return to the Angels for $850,000 guaranteed for 1987 and $850,000 nonguaranteed for 1988. “It was strictly a take-it-or-leave-it offer,” DeCinces said. “The Angels would not even talk to me about it.

I guess they don’t make character witnesses like they used to.

DeCinces played 15 years in the bigs, famously taking over as Brooks Robinson’s replacement at third base. He broke into the majors in 1973 and started at the hot corner from 1976 through 1981. In 1982 he was traded to the California Angels. He played four games for the St. Louis Cardinals before hanging it up at the end of the 1987 season. Over the course of his career he won a Sliver Slugger award and made the All-Star team in 1983. He finished his career with a line of .259/.329/.445 with 237 homers and 879 RBI.

He now has plenty of time stuck in the house to play baseball video games. Maybe he can create himself as a playable character and see if he can’t top his real world stats.

MLB execs go to bat in favor of shrinking minor leagues

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Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports published an article this morning in which he quotes several executives of MLB teams, including Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen and Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro, defending the league’s proposal to cut 42 minor league baseball teams.

We first learned of the idea about a month ago. The proposal was widely panned, even drawing scorn from Congress as more than 100 members of Congress — including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — signed a letter condemning the league. In the time since, MLB has spent considerable time defending itself amid the public scrutiny. MLB also got into a bickering match with Minor League Baseball.

To generally sum up what was said in Brown’s column: the GMs echoed what MLB previously said in defensive of its proposal, which is that cutting 42 minor league teams (mostly in short-season and rookie ball) would free up more money to pay players more and improve their working conditions, including food and travel as well as facility conditions.

It is hypocritical for the league and team executives to express concern for the salaries and the quality of life for minor league players. After all, Major League Baseball spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress in order for language in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to be amended. Doing so allowed the league to classify minor leaguers as seasonal workers and thus not owed things like a minimum wage and overtime pay, among other worker protections. This all happened because MLB is the defendant in a class-action lawsuit, originated by Aaron Senne and several other former minor league players, alleging that the league violated state and federal minimum wage laws with minor league players.

Shapiro is not a fan of Sanders’ constant harping on the league’s proposal. Shapiro said, “I’m never going to go toe-to-toe with him on domestic policy. But I will go toe-to-toe with Bernie Sanders on professional baseball.” As Brown explains, Shapiro is among those who believes that having a smaller minor league system would allow his organization to offer greater focus to each player remaining within that system. With the increased focus, the team would be better able to develop major league-caliber prospects. As we know, teams love prospects because their salaries are artificially depressed for the first six years of their careers.

One anonymous GM harped on the fact that “minor league baseball is not a moneymaker.” It didn’t sound like he was complaining; rather, simply recognizing how their parent teams view the situation. Another anonymous GM, however, said that the 42 teams are on the chopping block “for a reason.” He added, “I’m guessing that reason isn’t because they had overwhelmingly positive gate turnouts or that their facilities were in good shape. I think that’s been the criteria.”

As I pointed out last month, there are two teams that, at minimum, disprove the shabby-facility talking point. The Lowell Spinners (short-season) have had multiple renovations done in recent years. Team owner Dave Heller called his team’s stadium “arguably the best facility in the New York-Penn League.” The Quad Cities River Bandits, as another example, have earned awards from BallparkDigest.com for “Best Ballpark Improvement” and finished in third place as recently as two seasons ago for “Best View in the Minors.”

As for attendance, BallparkDigest has the 2019 numbers for all 160 teams here. The four Double-A teams on the chopping block — the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Chattanooga Lookouts, Erie SeaWolves, and Jackson Generals — ranked 91st, 74th, 80th, and 130th, respectively. Only one of those teams is significantly below the 50th percentile. Furthermore, one of the High-A teams on the list, the Frederick Keys, ranked 57th in attendance this past season, close to being in the top one-third of the entire minor league system.

The arguments are obviously facile. We should expect nothing less, however, as these execs do the bidding of their team’s ownership. Their jobs necessitate developing players efficiently and thoroughly. Chopping 42 minor league teams would have the double benefit to them of helping reduce overhead so the owners can report higher profits, as well as making their system run more efficiently (or so they think). So be it if thousands of jobs in towns across the U.S. get slashed in the process. So be it if small towns lose a central focus of their local economies and cultures. So be it if baseball becomes significantly less accessible across the nation.