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Doctor at the center of the Yankees-Jacoby Ellsbury beef speaks out

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Last week it was reported that the New York Yankees would attempt to withhold the $26 million they contractually owe Jacoby Ellsbury. The reported reason: the team claims that Ellsbury received unauthorized medical treatment from an Atlanta physician, thereby violating his contract.

Over the weekend Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic spoke to the doctor in question, Viktor Bouquette. Bouquette claims that he never treated Ellsbury for any sports-related injury and that, rather, his practice is a bit more wholistic, focusing on “inflammation in patients by identifying and treating its underlying causes.” Ellsbury was already injured when he began working with Bouquette, he says, and Bouquette’s treatments did not conflict with or impair Ellsbury’s injury rehabilitation.

Rosenthal reports that the Yankees were aware of Bouquette’s involvement back in May and sent him a letter seeking to confirm that Ellsbury was not being treated with any banned substances. Bouquette characterizes it as a condition for their granting permission for the treatment to continue, and says he has be believes the Yankees were both aware of and approved of the treatment. Bouquette says he responded promptly, so confirming. Rosenthal says that the heart of the dispute is whether or not the Yankees did, actually, approve said treatment which he reports commenced at some time in 2017.

In addition to that, there are two important passages in this story which seem to get to the heart of it all:

Some on the players’ side believe the Yankees’ motivation in seeking to recoup Ellsbury’s guaranteed money stems from their failure to insure his contract in 2020 . . .

and

Viktor Bouquette, the doctor at the center of the dispute between the team and player, says he never treated Ellsbury for a work-related injury – a statement that, if proven true, likely would mean Ellsbury did not violate his contract and baseball’s collective-bargaining agreement.

The Yankees’ big risk is that they said enough to Ellsbury and his doctor that they believed it was all OK and went forward. Ellsbury’s big risk is that the Yankees reserved their rights and never approved his treatment by Bouquette but that he went ahead anyway.

If I had to guess, neither side was willing to wager $26 million over some doctor’s visit and each of them thought that they had some sort of justification for their position, even if hindsight throws it all into a gray area. As such, my guess is that this ends with some sort of settlement.

Nationals’ major leaguers to continue offering financial assistance to minor leaguers

Sean Doolittle
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On Sunday, we learned that while the Nationals would continue to pay their minor leaguers throughout the month of June, their weekly stipend would be lowered by 25 percent, from $400 to $300. In an incredible act of solidarity, Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle and his teammates put out a statement, saying they would be covering the missing $100 from the stipends.

After receiving some criticism, the Nationals reversed course, agreeing to pay their minor leaguers their full $400 weekly stipend.

Doolittle and co. have not withdrawn their generosity. On Wednesday, Doolittle released another statement, saying that he and his major league teammates would continue to offer financial assistance to Nationals minor leaguers through the non-profit organization More Than Baseball.

The full statement:

Washington Nationals players were excited to learn that our minor leaguers will continue receiving their full stipends. We are grateful that efforts have been made to restore their pay during these challenging times.

We remain committed to supporting them. Nationals players are partnering with More Than Baseball to contribute funds that will offer further assistance and financial support to any minor leaguers who were in the Nationals organization as of March 1.

We’ll continue to stand with them as we look forward to resuming our 2020 MLB season.

Kudos to Doolittle and the other Nationals continuing to offer a helping hand in a trying time. The players shouldn’t have to subsidize their employers’ labor expenses, but that is the world we live in today.