Getty Images

Yankees are attempting to withhold the money they owe Jacoby Ellsbury

31 Comments

The other night the Yankees cut ties with Jacoby Ellsbury. He won’t play for them again but, since he is still under contract for 2020 and because he still has an option buy-out for 2021, the club is still on the hook to him for $26 million.

Or are they? George King III of the New York Post reports that the Yankees may try to withhold some of that via the filing of a grievance:

The Post has learned, according to several people with knowledge of the situation, the Yankees are attempting to recoup some of the money by filing a grievance because Ellsbury used an outside facility to rehab injuries that kept him off the field for the past two seasons.

And there were a lot of injuries, including an oblique strain, a bad back and then a torn labrum in his hip that required surgery. Ellsbury’s unusually long absence — and the fact that months would pass without updates from the Yankees or without him appearing in the public eye — often led to jokes about what, actually, was going on with his rehab. If the Yankees’ grievance goes forward, however, we’ll likely learn exactly what was happening. The team, apparently, thinks Ellsbury went rogue with his rehab. One suspects that Ellsbury has a very different story.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Jon Heyman reports that, rather than file a grievance, the Yankees plan to simply not pay Ellsbury in 2020 and basically force him to pay:

That seems . . . aggressive.

UPDATE: Now the New York Daily News is reporting that the Yankees and Major League Baseball are investigating an Atlanta physician Ellsbury consulted during his injury rehab, and that his use of said physician is part of the basis the Yankees are basing their withholding of money.

The article describes the physician’s history as “checkered,” but there is not sufficient detail in the article to suggest how any of that would relate to Ellsbury or his treatment. Specifically, He allegedly misdiagnosed a patient in 2011 and she died but there is no suggestion those things were related or that the treatment or diagnosis of that patient has anything to do with Ellsbury’s treatment. The doctor also allegedly failed to carry proper insurance, but that happened, according to the article, some 23 years ago. Again, what that has to do with Ellsbury is unclear.

The Yankees could very well have a legal basis for withholding money from Ellsbury if he acted improperly or impermissibly sought medical care from non-Yankees physicians, but at the moment there are not enough facts out there to give any sort of sense of what actually occurred.

As I said earlier today when this first came up: stay tuned.

MLB report blames seam height, not juiced balls, for 2019 home run surge

Getty Images
2 Comments

SAN DIEGO — This morning Major League Baseball released a report from a committee of scientists tasked with studying baseballs and the home run surge from 2019. Their verdict: that manufacturing variation leading to inconsistent seam height — not any intentional act taken to “juice” baseballs — is the reason for last year’s power explosion.

There were 6,776 home runs hit during the regular season, which shattered the previous record, set in 2017, by nearly 11 percent. Numerous players around the league suspected or assumed that the league, which owns the ball manufacturer, Rawlings, had intentionally juiced the baseball to promote offense. The committee concluded in the report that “no evidence was found that changes in baseball performance were due to anything intentional on the part of Rawlings or MLB and were likely due to manufacturing variability.”

That conclusion would appear to only be partially accurate.

Dr. Meredith Wills, an astrophysicist who has been conducting her own research on baseballs and the home run explosion, published her own work on all of this in The Athletic last June. Wills concluded that, based on her examination of baseball seams and seam height, a key part of the manufacturing process — the drying of damp, finished baseballs after assembly is complete — likely did change.

Specifically, she concluded that seam height and decreased bulging of baseballs which led to less aerodynamic drag and farther ball flight was likely the result of Rawlings using heaters to dry balls, as opposed to the traditional air-drying, allowing them to produce more balls in a shorter period of time. Wills told NBC Sports this morning that she suspects Rawlings did this because many more balls were needed due to Major League Baseball mandating that Triple-A adopt the major league ball for the 2019 season.

As such, the key word in this morning’s report is “intentional.” Wills:

“The decrease in drag was very likely unintentional, but the change in the drying process would be intentional. No, they didn’t intend to juice the ball, but yes, they did make an intentional change to the manufacturing process. It was not ‘manufacturing variability’ it was deliberate process improvement to accommodate higher demand. ‘Variability’ makes it sound like it’s random or a mistake. It was not.”

There is also the matter of the decrease in ball flight and home runs observed — and confirmed by today’s report — in the 2019 postseason.

MLB’s expert panel basically punts on any explanations for the variation, noting small sample size and no other apparent explanation. As such, the matter for the immediate change in the home run rate and fly ball distance the moment we moved from September to October baseball is not clear. Wills is continuing her research on 2019 postseason game balls — a matter about which there has already been no small amount of controversy of late — and expects to publish her results soon.

There will be a press conference regarding the study here at the Winter Meetings at 1PM Eastern time today. NBC Sports will be at that press conference. NBC Sports has a good number of followup questions.