Author Archive

Did Bryce Harper Cheat in the Home Run Derby?

The 2018 Home Run Derby was an awesome spectacle despite what appeared, on paper, to be a lackluster field. Bryce Harper, who somehow has 173 career homers and is still just 25, won the event in a dramatic finale that saw him best fellow catcher-turned-outfield-slugger Kyle Schwarber.

Or did he?

Yes, that’s #Justice4Schwarber trending on Twitter. My personal favorite hashtag, though, was this:

In short, the Twitterverse (mostly, to be fair, Cubs Twitterverse) was abuzz with the sentiment that Bryce Harper won the Home Run Derby by cheating. Specifically, by doing this:

You can also see that video here. In terms of what it shows, it’s pretty obvious: during the last minute-plus of his final round, Ron Harper (who, by the way, has alarmingly immense limb musculature) didn’t wait for Bryce’s batted balls to hit the ground before tossing another pitch to his son. It’s also pretty clear that, absent those extra pitches, Bryce wouldn’t have been able to catch Schwarber. As Jay Jaffe explained yesterday (emphasis mine):

[T]he 25-year-old Nationals superstar did have his back to the wall in the final round against fifth-seeded Kyle Schwarber, but with nine homers in the final minute — on 10 swings by my count, though ESPN’s broadcast said nine in a row — he tied the Cubs slugger’s total of 18. On the second pitch of the 30-second bonus period, he lofted a 434-foot drive to center field, then did a two-handed bat flip as the crowd went wild, and quickly handed the trophy to his barrel-chested father, Ron, who had pitched to him[.]

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Why the Cubs and Yankees Should Swap Tyler Chatwood and Sonny Gray

I know what you’re thinking even before you complete the first paragraph of this post: Sheryl’s trade proposal probably sucks.

I don’t blame you. Most trade proposals suck. As we pass the All-Star week contemplating trade value, though, I thought I’d take an opportunity to indulge myself by imagining a deal that makes too much sense (in my head, at least) not to happen. I contend that, before this year’s July 31 trade deadline, the Chicago Cubs should trade Tyler Chatwood to the New York Yankees for Sonny Gray.

One flaw is immediately apparent: contending clubs rarely make trades with other contenders. Why would they? Teams bound for the postseason are typically looking to add present talent while surrendering players with future value. Both the Cubs and Yankees are contenders. Both Chatwood and Gray are major leaguers. So already this is improbable. Because of their struggles, though, Chatwood and Gray actually possess unlocked future value, though — future value that another club, in my opinion, is more likely to unlock.

I’ve written about both pitchers this year. Both have struggled. Let’s start with Chatwood. When I examined his season back on May 22, he had a 3.14 ERA despite an 18.3% walk rate and 102 FIP-, the latter figure mostly on the back of an unsustainable 3% HR/FB. Since then, his walk rate has actually increased; since May 22, he’s recorded an 18.8% walk rate. That’s bad. Not only has Chatwood produced the highest walk rate among pitchers with 30 or more innings this season, but his 18.6% mark would actually represent the second highest among qualifiers* since the integration of baseball.

*The highest mark since integration is 20.3%, produced by Tommy Byrne in 1949. Improbably, Byrne still managed to record a 92 ERA- that year — that is, he prevented runs 8% better than a league-average pitcher. Overall, Byrne made 170 starts in the majors and logged 1362.0 innings, posting a career walk rate of 16.8% but still managing a 103 ERA-.

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Brett Gardner, Fines, and Pace of Play

Brett Gardner’s posted a walk rate north of 10% six times in his 11-year big-league career, including each of the last four seasons. He’s racked up 2.5 WAR or better in every full season he’s played, on the back of sometimes elite defense, consistently above-average offense, and the ability to knock a few dingers into the short porch in Yankee Stadium III. In other words, Gardner is a Very Useful Player, the kind of complementary piece every contending roster needs.

That’s not Gardner’s reputation, though. Instead, Gardner is regarded more as a “pest.” Not because of his conduct as a person — I’ve never met him, though I’m sure he’s a lovely human and fine conversationalist — but rather as a leadoff hitter. And the numbers mostly bear this out: this year, he’s seeing 4.15 pitches per plate appearance, 10th best in the American League. Last year, it was 4.23 pitches per plate appearance, seventh best in the American League. In 2016, Gardner saw 4.09 pitches per plate appearance, 16th best in the Junior Circuit. You get the idea: Gardner is a tough out. Jeff Sullivan wrote about this last year during the playoffs.

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The Not-So-Triumphant Return of Jenrry Mejia

Before Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, before Steven Matz, the face of the New York Metropolitans’ pitching rebuild was a young fireballer named Jenrry Mejia. When he first arrived in the big leagues in 2010, Mejia had a mid-90s cutter that was compared to Mariano Rivera’s, but it was complemented by a collection of underdeveloped secondary pitches. Over the next couple of years, Mejia refined his arsenal and his command; he broke out in 2013, flashing four average or better pitches (cutter, sinker, changeup, slider) and a real ability to miss bats. In that 2013 season, Mejia struck out 24.1% of hitters while walking just 3.6%, en route to a 65 ERA- and identical 65 FIP-. Mejia quieted any small sample concerns the following year, striking out better than a batter per inning (23.5% overall) and posting a mid-3.00s ERA, FIP, and xFIP across 93.2 innings alternating between the rotation and bullpen — and even recorded 28 saves as the Mets’ closer.

And then it all fell apart. Twice in 2015, Mejia was suspended for the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Although he was his old dominant self between suspensions — recording a 25.9% K, 7.4% BB, 53 FIP-, and 0 ERA- in 7.1 innings — his absence opened the door for the next wave of Mets pitchers, including Jeurys Familia, who supplanted Mejia as the team’s closer in the Mets’ historic run to the World Series. Still, there seemed ample room for for the fireballing Mejia to rejoin the Mets in 2016, either in a setup role or as a starter.

And then, on February 12, 2016, just before spring training was scheduled to begin, Mejia tested positive again. Per MLBTradeRumors:

Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia has been banned permanently from the majors after his third positive PED test, according to a league announcement. Remarkably, Mejia tested positive for the banned substance boldenone after earning two suspensions just last year.

And with that, Mejia became the first player ever banned from the majors on the basis of repeated positive tests, per the terms of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Mejia did not take it well, accusing MLB of a “witch hunt,” saying the league had set him up, calling out the MLBPA for not defending him, and later threatening to sue MLB for his ban.

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Todd Keeling, SunTrust Park, and Workplace Safety

It wasn’t so long ago that building things was a pretty dangerous pastime. The most extreme example of this is probably the Panama Canal; over 5,000 people died in its construction. Five people died erecting the Empire State Building. It’s safer now to construct great buildings; such fatalities are significantly rarer than they used to be. But as we learned last week, the risk inherent to the construction and maintenance of any structure, especially large venues like stadia, will never be zero.

Enter SunTrust Park, the brand new, state-of-the-art venue for the first-place Atlanta Braves. The Braves’ surprising season took a tragic turn on June 26, when workers found a dead body inside a beer cooler at SunTrust. The body was later confirmed to be that of Todd Keeling, a 48-year-old inventor most famous for designing and patenting a technology which dispensed beer at several times the conventional rate. Keeling had already installed his technology in Guaranteed Rate Field and Target Field. Ben Brasch of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution described the technology, called “Draftwell taps,” this way:

The Braves said Monday that the new Draftwell taps installed throughout the ballpark cut down pour times from a 14-second average to five seconds.

Delaware North Sportservice, which manages food and beverage service at SunTrust Park, said the new boozy tech will also keep the beer colder and fresher with more “brewery-intended flavor.”

Target Field in Minneapolis, home of the Twins, installed Draftwell taps and increased its keg yield from 87 to 94 percent, said Delaware North spokesman Marc Heintzman.

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Would Chris Bosio Win a Wrongful Termination Suit?

Last week, Detroit Tigers pitching coach Chris Bosio was fired by GM Al Avila for what was then described as “making an insensitive comment directed at a team employee.” Though he didn’t disclose the nature of the insensitive comment at the time, Avila said that the team has a “zero tolerance” policy for the conduct in question, adding that he holds team employees “to the highest standards of personal conduct on and off the field.”

Later, however, ESPN reported that Bosio was fired for calling someone a “spider monkey.”  The Tigers and Bosio differ, however, on the person to whom Bosio was referring. Bosio insists that “Spider Monkey” is a nickname for Tigers LOOGY Daniel Stumpf, currently on the disabled list. Per USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale:

Bosio insists he was not using the word in a racial and disparaging context, and that it was not directed toward the clubhouse attendant. He says he referring to injured pitcher Daniel Stumpf, a white pitcher from Humble, Texas.

“Someone in our coaches’ room asked me (Monday afternoon) about Stumpf,” Bosio said. “And I said, “Oh, you mean, ‘Spider Monkey.’ That’s his nickname. He’s a skinny little white kid who makes all of these funny faces when he works out.

“The kid thought we were talking about him. He got all upset. He assumed we were talking about him. I said, “No, no, no. We’re talking about Stumpf.’

“And that was it. I swear on my mom and dad’s graves, there was nothing else to it.”

But other witnesses relayed to Ken Rosenthal and Katie Strang of the Athletic a very different story:

Bosio called the attendant, who is African-American, a “monkey,” according to four team sources. The remark was directed toward the young man, who was collecting towels from the coaches’ room at the time, during a post-game gripe session in which Bosio was lamenting about a pitcher.

During this exchange, Bosio made a derogatory comment about one of the Tigers pitchers and then gestured toward the attendant before adding, “like this monkey here,” the sources said. The attendant pushed back at Bosio for the comment, and an additional team employee witnessed the exchange. Bosio was provided an opportunity to apologize to the attendant after his outburst but declined to do so, according to multiple sources.

And Stumpf himself didn’t back up Bosio, either.

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The Story of Hanley Ramirez, the Drug Kingpin Who Never Was

This is the weird story of how Hanley Ramirez, late of the Boston Red Sox, went from unemployed former star to supposed drug kingpin back to unemployed – and unjustly tarnished – former star all in one weekend.

And it’s also a warning about not to jump to conclusions, especially about legal matters.

Once upon a time, Hanley Ramirez was a dynamic shortstop for the then-Florida Marlins. He had power, speed, and youth. Later, he reinvented himself as a middle-of-the-order force for the Dodgers. His tenure with the Red Sox after signing a four-year, $88 million deal was less successful, including a disastrous experiment in left field and culminating in his release earlier this year. Still, he hit 88 homers in a BoSox uniform and remained useful against left-handed pitching. We all expected he would land somewhere in relatively short order, with the Orioles emerging as a frontrunner.

Then all fell silent for a while. At least, until this past weekend.

As with so many things, it all started with a tweet.

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The Other Side of a Roberto Osuna Trade

Friday night, Roberto Osuna became the latest player suspended under the Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy policy. Per ESPN:

Toronto Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna was suspended without pay for 75 games on Friday for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic-violence policy, the league announced.

Osuna, 23, has agreed not to appeal the suspension, which is retroactive to May 8 and extends through Aug. 4. He will wind up missing 89 days, which would cost him about $2.54 million of his $5.3 million salary.

Osuna receives the third-longest domestic-violence suspension in MLB history, behind Jose Torres (100 games) and Hector Olivera (82 games). The specific allegations which led to this suspension are still unclear, but we know Osuna was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend, that he has pleaded not guilty to those charges, and that he is presently awaiting trial. Jon Heyman reports that the severity of the penalty was related, in part, to the interview MLB had with Osuna’s girlfriend.

I’ve written before about the problems with MLB’s domestic-violence policy, both generally and in the context of specific players. Osuna’s suspension is yet more evidence of why this policy is flawed. It may seem odd to cite one of the league’s longer domestic-violence suspensions as evidence that the policy isn’t working. A look at the case in context reveals why such a claim makes sense, though.

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Why Wade LeBlanc Might Make Sense

The Mariners currently possess nearly a 70% chance of making the postseason, are six games clear of the Shohei Ohtani-less Angels, and are firmly in control of the American League’s second Wild Card.

Back at the beginning of the season, this looked unlikely. Back at the beginning of the season, the Mariners had less than a 10% chance of making the postseason by our methodology. In the meantime, the club has not only lost Robinson Cano to injury but also to PED suspension. Their one-time ace, Felix Hernandez, is nearly a replacement-level player. The club is leaning heavily on Wade LeBlanc.

The absence of Cano and the decline of Felix both count as serious hurdles to the club’s postseason’s hopes. It’s looking less and less, however, like Wade LeBlanc is a liability. It’s looking more and more, rather, like he’s someone who can continue helping this team.

Just to give some context on what Wade LeBlanc is, here are some figures of note. LeBlanc made his major-league debut with the Friars in 2008, and was worth -0.6 WAR in 21 innings with more walks than strikeouts. The next year, he posted a FIP of nearly 5.00 in 46 innings and walked nearly four per nine. The year after that, he started 25 games for the Padres, threw 146 innings, and had a 4.80 FIP. Before this year, LeBlanc’s best season was — depending on what metric you chose — either 2012, where he was worth a half-win across 68 innings as a swingman (despite a FIP once again over 4.00), or 2011, where he accrued 0.8 WAR despite a 132 ERA- and 107 FIP-.

I could keep going, but you get the idea. LeBlanc, now 33, has spent the last few years as an up-and-down depth arm bouncing across the majors and Triple-A, passing through Miami, Anaheim, Pittsburgh, Houston, and Toronto, among others, before landing with Seattle.

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One Last Thing About Umpire Videos

It’s pretty rare that we’ll write about something two years after it happens. Baseball is a fickle mistress. Two years after Bryan LaHair was an All-Star, he was playing abroad. A year after Mets went to the World Series, they lost in the Wild Card game, and a year after that, they won 70 games. A lot can change in two years, is the point.

Nevertheless, I’m going to take you down memory lane. To May of 2016, to be precise. The setting is a game between the Mets and Dodgers. Chase Utley is the batter; Noah Syndergaard is the pitcher. And for added emphasis, there’s history here – Chase Utley, you will remember, famously broke Ruben Tejada’s leg during the 2015 National League Division Series.

The next time the Mets faced Utley, all hell broke loose.

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The Importance of Pride Month in MLB

June is Pride Month in the United States. By way of explanation:

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month (LGBT Pride Month) is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. The Stonewall riots were a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. In the United States the last Sunday in June was initially celebrated as “Gay Pride Day,” but the actual day was flexible. In major cities across the nation the “day” soon grew to encompass a month-long series of events. Today, celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts, and LGBT Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.

You can read more about the Stonewall riots here for greater context. Essentially, though, Pride Month is a time not just to celebrate gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in the United States, but also to highlight the current state of LGBTQ+ rights in the United States. For our purposes, it also represents an opportune moment to examine the current state of LGBTQ+ issues in baseball.

A couple of years ago, Gallup found that 4.1% of Americans overall, and 7.3% of millennials, identify as LGBT, although the demographer who published that data suspects that, after accounting for those respondents who are unwilling to disclose details regarding their sexuality, the overall figure is probably closer to 10%.

Britni de la Cretaz, who’s written a number of fascinating stories on the intersection of sport, gender, and sexuality, wrote an article last month exploring queer women in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, a facet ignored by A League of Their Own. And two major leaguers have come out as gay: Glenn Burke and Billy Bean.

But in another sense, baseball generally, and MLB specifically, has a lot of work to do when it comes to LGBT inclusion. Both Burke and Bean came out after their playing days were over. David Denson, the first openly gay player in affiliated ball to come out while still playing, has since retired. And while Denson said his retirement wasn’t related to his coming-out – and that his teammates were largely supportive – he nevertheless related to Bleacher Report some cringeworthy tales from his time in baseball clubhouses.

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Reggie Bush, Dustin Fowler, and When the Law Goes in a New Direction

Back in April, I examined current A’s center fielder Dustin Fowler’s pending lawsuit against the White Sox, arising from the injury he suffered when he ran into a concealed electrical box whilst running after a fly ball. Fowler filed a negligence suit, which requires that a plaintiff plead and prove the existence of a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff, a breach of that duty, an injury proximately caused by the breach, and damages.

On Tuesday, retired NFL running back Reggie Bush won a case that, as reader Sean Logue has anticipated, might be relevant to Fowler’s lawsuit. Here’s the pertinent information, per CBSSports’ Sean Wagner-McGough:

Midway through the 2015 NFL season, then-49ers running back Reggie Bush suffered a season-ending knee injury when he slipped on the concrete ring surrounding the field at the Edward Jones Dome, the Rams’ former home in St. Louis. More than two-and-a-half years later, the Rams were found liable for the injury.

On Tuesday, a St. Louis jury ordered the Rams, who now reside in Los Angeles, to pay Bush $4.95 million in compensatory damages and $7.5 million in punitive damages for a grand total of nearly $12.5 million, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Dan Allmayer, a lawyer for the team, said that they plan to file a motion for a new trial.

Like Fowler has, Bush also sued in negligence. Here’s his complaint. The factual allegations of their cases differ: Fowler ran into a hidden electrical box, while Bush tore his ACL on a “slippery concrete surface” surrounding the playing field. (Here’s video of the injury, for context.) From a legal perspective, however, the lawsuits are remarkably similar. Both allege that the respective defendants had exclusive control over the respective stadia, that the defendants knew about the existence of a hidden dangerous condition, and neither defendant took any steps to warn players.

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Is Major League Baseball’s Domestic Violence Policy Working?

Last week, San Diego Padres left-hander Jose Torres was suspended for 100 games for violating MLB’s Domestic Violence Policy. Torres represents the ninth major leaguer to be investigated under the policy and the seventh to be suspended since the policy took effect at the beginning of the 2016 season, joining Aroldis Chapman, Jose Reyes, Hector Olivera, Jeurys Familia, Derek Norris, and Steven Wright. And that list doesn’t include players like Addison Russell, who was accused of spousal abuse last year in divorce proceedings. Torres, currently on the restricted list, is awaiting trial on “[c]harges of assault with a deadly weapon and criminal damage” stemming from this incident:

According to the probable cause statement contained in the court report, Torres knocked a door off its hinges and punched a hole in another door. He also pointed the gun at the victim, according to the report.\

While MLB’s domestic-violence policy has served to punish offenders, it doesn’t seem to have had any effect on the number of domestic-violence incidents. After five investigations and four suspensions in 2016 – the first full year of the program – there was just one suspension issued in all of 2017. But this year, the numbers are back up, with three investigations and two suspensions already in 2018. And while those numbers may be relatively small, especially compared to PED suspensions, domestic violence is an entirely different animal because it is not, unlike PEDs, what might be termed a “victimless crime.” Domestic violence and domestic abuse have real victims who often suffer real — and often severe — physical and emotional injuries. And those injuries are inflicted on both women and children; children exposed to domestic violence are often scarred for the rest of their lives.

So the question is what, exactly, MLB’s policy is trying to accomplish here. Originally, the idea was that MLB would step into the gap in the criminal law that often protected professional athletes accused of domestic-violence incidents. From a piece by Ken Rosenthal:

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Are Performance-Enhancing Drugs Illegal?

The use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) is as old as baseball itself. Pud Galvin, a Hall of Famer no less, attempted to inject himself with testosterone extracted from animal testicles, which, eww. Specifically, Galvin’s 1889 cocktail consisted of this:

[S]ubcutaneous injections, of a liquid containing a very small quantity of water mixed with the three following parts: First, blood of the testicular veins; secondly, semen; and thirdly, juice extracted from a testicle, crushed immediately after it has been taken from a dog or a guinea-pig.

Notably, modern science suggests that Galvin’s “beverage” would have had no positive effect whatsoever.

Back in 2003, MLB conducted a series of tests to determine whether players were using PEDs — and, if so, how great the problem was. What happened is now a matter of record: David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez were among a group of over 100 players who tested positive and the purportedly confidential list got leaked. But as the debate over Ortiz’s Hall of Fame candidacy accelerates in earnest, it’s created a secondary debate over how much that 2003 test should count. As Joe Posnanski notes, the test was supposed to be secret. 

I’m not going to weigh in one way or another on Ortiz’s Hall candidacy; that’s Jay Jaffe’s job, and he does it well. What I am going to do, however, is shed some light on a slightly different but related question: as to those players who used anabolic steroids and other PEDs prior to the current testing and discipline scheme, was doing so illegal?

Let’s start by clarifying one point: MLB banned the use of anabolic steroids back in 1991, so technically anyone using anabolic steroids after that was violating those rules. But as we discussed in the context of footwear, MLB as an organization has to enforce its own rules, or it waives violations. And between 1991 and 2003, MLB didn’t really even test for steroids, so from a legal perspective, its ban probably wasn’t really worth more than the paper it was written on.

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The Mariners Are Bucking a Trend

We’ve talked a lot in these pages about stadium deals. We’ve talked about the Marlins and how Miami’s deal with the team deteriorated into a lawsuit. We’ve talked about the Diamondbacks and how their search for a stadium deal resulted in a lawsuit. And in recent years, teams like the Braves and Rangers have decided to construct new stadiums even where the existing buildings were relatively young. Leave it to the Mariners, of all teams, to buck the increasing trend. Per the Associated Press:

The Washington State Major League Baseball Public Facilities District has approved terms of a new 25-year lease with the Seattle Mariners for Safeco Field.

Combined with options for two three-year extensions as part of the agreement approved Wednesday, the new lease could keep the Mariners at the stadium through the 2049 season.

As part of the lease terms, the Mariners agreed to pay 100 percent of maintenance and operations costs at the stadium and “contribute to ongoing capital improvements that will be needed in the decades to come.”

The new lease is five years longer than the original 20-year agreement when the ballpark was constructed and opened in 1999. The current lease was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2018 season.

There are a couple of interesting facets to this deal. Remember when we talked about the Diamondbacks’ lawsuit? That was about stadium maintenance costs, with the team arguing that Maricopa County was responsible for maintaining the facility. But here, the Mariners voluntarily agreed to assume all of the maintenance costs and 80% of required capital expenditures. On one hand, it seems like a great deal for the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District (PFD), which owns the ballpark. On the other hand, it’s worth remembering that Safeco Field cost about $520 million, of which $390 million was paid by taxpayers. Unlike some teams, however, the Mariners are making a legitimate effort to repay taxpayers for their initial investment, as Ryan Divish explains:

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Luke Heimlich and Relitigating the Past

The 2018 Draft is unusual. Not in terms of talent, mind you. No, the 2018 Draft is unusual because we have a genuinely unprecedented situation: a potential high-round draft pick with perhaps the most serious baggage a person can possibly have. From THE BOARD, courtesy of Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel:

**Luke Heimlich

Heimlich is a Level 1 sex offender in Oregon… Heimlich was projected to go in round two last year, when he was a junior. Shortly before the draft, The Oregonian reported court documents that showed Heimlich plead guilty to sexually assaulting his niece. Court records showed the victim reported multiple incidents of molestation between 2009 and 2011, when Heimlich was 14-15 years old and the victim was 4-6. He plead guilty to one count which included a handwritten admission and the other count was dismissed as part of a plea bargain.

After this information surface[d], Heimlich spent the rest of the spring of 2017 away from Oregon State and went undrafted. He returned for his senior season and has pitched well while, amid intermediate media attention, he and his family (except for the immediate family of the victim) denied he committed the crime and say Heimlich plead guilty so the legal proceedings would end more quickly. This situation is abnormal, there’s no precedent for it and it’s unclear why/how a team would go about clearing Heimlich for employment, though ownership would certainly have to be involved.

Let’s take a look at what this means.

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Robinson Cano, Carlos Gomez, and the Illusion of Certainty

Words matter. In the context of the law, they can make all the difference.

They can also matter quite a bit in the context of PEDs and baseball.

Recently, Robinson Cano tested positive not for a steroid but rather for furosemide, a masking agent. This is how it was covered in the media.

ESPN:

A source familiar with the case told ESPN’s T.J. Quinn that Cano tested positive before the season and appealed. During the appeal, MLB apparently was able to determine his intent, which resulted in Cano dropping his appeal, the source said.

TJ Quinn himself:

Robinson Cano suspended for taking furosemide, a diuretic commonly used to mask PED use. It’s the kind of drug a player is likely to say he took by accident and didn’t help his performance. Eager to hear his explanation, because he has access to certified, clean supplements.

USA Today:

The IPA needed proof that Cano was using the drug as a masking agent.

The investigation revealed that Cano had clear intent to mask another illegal drug.

Cano was charged with a positive test, no different than if he were taking anabolic steroids.

That’s a loaded word, “proof.”

I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means The Princess Bride GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

The trouble is that different kinds of proof exist. First, there’s the burden of proof. In other words, whose responsibility is it to prove their case? In civil law, it’s the plaintiff who has the burden of proving its case, and the defense has the burden of proving defenses. But even that is a bit misleading; the defense doesn’t have to prove anything. If the plaintiff doesn’t prove every legally required part of its case, the defense wins even if the defense provides no evidence at all.

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The Impact of the NFL’s Anthem Rule on Baseball

On Wednesday, one of the top stories across the sports world was the National Football League’s institution of a new policy banning players from kneeling in protest during the national anthem.

From ESPN’s Kevin Seifert and Dan Graziano:

 NFL owners have unanimously approved a new national anthem policy that requires players to stand if they are on the field during the performance but gives them the option to remain in the locker room if they prefer, it was announced Wednesday.

The policy subjects teams to a fine if a player or any other team personnel do not show respect for the anthem. That includes any attempt to sit or kneel, as dozens of players have done during the past two seasons to protest racial inequality and police brutality. Those teams also will have the option to fine any team personnel, including players, for the infraction.

A couple of notes here: the policy was unanimous among owners who voted; the San Francisco 49ers abstained from the vote. Also, this policy was evidently something of a compromise; the league was previously throwing around ideas like a 15-yard penalty for kneeling.

The previous policy required players to be on the field for the anthem but said only that they “should” stand. When then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in 2016, the league had no rule it could use to prevent it. The movement drew increasing criticism from President Donald Trump, as well as many fans, who believed it was a sign of disrespect toward the flag and country.

Owners, however, had been divided on how to extricate the league from that criticism. Some owners, including the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones and the Houston Texans’ Bob McNair, wanted all players to stand. Others, such as the New York Jets’ Christopher Johnson, wanted to avoid any appearance of muzzling players.

Even the seemingly simple option of clearing the field prior to the anthem was rejected by some owners who thought it would be interpreted as a mass protest or at least a sign of disrespect.

But it wasn’t a compromise with the union; the NFLPA said it wasn’t even consulted.

So how does this impact Major League Baseball? More than you might think. There’s actually no rule on the national anthem in MLB right now — there’s not even a rule requiring that it be played at all — which makes baseball unique among the major North American sports. Both the NBA and WNBA require players to stand for the anthem. When asked by Seifert, an MLB spokesman said this:

While this is not a league rule, the playing of the national anthems of the United States and Canada remains an important tradition that has great meaning to our fans. The playing of ‘God Bless America’ at designated games is a club choice.

But the absence of a rule doesn’t mean this isn’t an issue. Orioles center fielder Adam Jones had told USA Today last year that he didn’t expect such a protest to occur — and then, two weeks later, A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell knelt during the national anthem before a game last year.

Maxwell’s decision to kneel came after President Donald Trump — speaking on Friday in Huntsville, Ala., where Maxwell grew up — made reference to NFL players not standing for the anthem as employees who, as he put it, should be fired by their teams. Maxwell, an African-American raised in a military family, joins Colin Kaepernick and other athletes in attempting to raise awareness about brutality and injustice at the hands of authorities by kneeling during the anthem.

Maxwell received relatively little pushback, but then, he was also the first MLB player to kneel during the anthem, at least in the 21st century. He also knelt for just two games, and said himself that his anthem protest wouldn’t continue this season.

So clearly the idea of anthem protests — and a policy banning them — is a controversial one, and the incidents which athletes are protesting continue to occur. It’s also one on which the MLBPA has thus far declined comment. If MLB wanted to create a Rule, like the NFL and NBA, requiring players to stand for the national anthem, could it?

Let’s start by examining some of the more popular tweets from Wednesday.

This is a smattering of the prevailing back-and-forth on Twitter, which seems to focus on whether and how this policy impacts players’ First Amendment rights. However…

Before I continue, please note: I am not saying the NFL is correct or incorrect. What I am saying, however, is that just about every non-lawyer in the twitterverse invoking the First Amendment on this issue — on both sides — is absolutely wrong.

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Checking in on Tyler Chatwood

One of the more interesting deals of the most recent offseason was the Cubs’ three-year, $38 million pact with former Rockies swingman Tyler Chatwood. On the one hand, Chatwood had some virtues as a pitcher. On the other, in an offseason during which nearly every free agent received less than expected, Chatwood got $8 million more than Dave Cameron projected in his examination of the 2017-18 class.

Back in December, Eno Sarris wrote for this site that Chatwood, despite his apparent flaws, might be an adjustment or two away from a Rich Hill-type breakout.

You’ve heard of “spin-rate guys,” right? Well, Chatwood is absolutely a spin-rate guy. What’s interesting, though, is that he hasn’t converted that high spin into plus movement. Why? Well, it might have something to do with useful spin. Over time, Chatwood has dropped his arm slot to get more movement on his sinker and more ground balls, probably because he pitched in Coors. That robs his fastball of ride, though, and his curveball of downward movement.

An easy fix might be to just throw the curveball more. He only threw it 11% of the time in 2017. It got over 70% ground balls and above-average whiffs. Batters had a .164 slugging percentage against it last year. And that fits with the spin and movement on the pitch.

With about a quarter of the season in the books, now seems like a good time to check whether that adjustment has come and how the Cubs have fared on their investment.

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Diamondbacks Get Permission for New Stadium

Judges love it when litigants reach a settlement. Some judges love it so much that they give each side’s lawyer a token of appreciation for finalizing a deal. I’ve been in front of judges who handed out everything from stickers to candy bars. Last week, the Arizona Diamondbacks settled a lawsuit with Maricopa County. They got themselves a baseball stadium for their efforts.

But first, let’s back up a bit. The Diamondbacks have long wanted a new ballpark. Maricopa County, which owns the current park, wouldn’t let the team leave. So the team sued the county last year.

From Rebekah Sanders of the Arizona Republic:

The Diamondbacks’ lease with the county, which owns the stadium, prevents the team from talking with outside groups until 2024, and requires the team to play in its current home until 2028.

The Maricopa County Superior Court lawsuit is the latest twist in a long-running conflict over which party is responsible for as much as $187 million in repairs and upgrades to Chase Field. The team threatened to sue last year after negotiations with the county broke down.

The county argues that a portion of the upgrades are cosmetic and the team’s financial responsibility, and that the county will have enough money over the long term to meet its share of the obligations. The Diamondbacks counter that the county-run stadium district has not set aside enough money for needed upgrades and is risking safety.

The idea of a new stadium for the Snakes might seem, on the surface, to be ridiculous. After all, Chase Field was only just built in 1998. It’s younger than both Ronald Acuna and Gleyber Torres. That being said, the Team and County have been involved in a protracted legal battle, predating even that lawsuit, over the maintenance of the stadium. That’s because the stadium has had its share of maintenance misadventures in recent history, from burst pipes to failed HVAC systems. And each side blamed the other, with the team saying MLB would require them to move unless the county agreed to pay for repairs, while Maricopa County’s attorney, Cameron Artigue, had a more colorful response.

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