Major League Baseball: The Forgettable Offseason
To say this has been an interesting offseason for Major League Baseball would be an understatement. Coming off a historic seven-game World Series that saw the road team win every game, the league was riding high. At no point in history has the league had so many young stars. There also has been talk of expanding by two teams. The sport is also growing internationally.
So what went wrong?
The Houston Astros Cheating Scandal
By now everyone knows about this. But as the weeks go by, new and more damaging information comes to light. Not only is this the biggest cheating scandal in the history of the sport, but it seems to be the most complex and well thought out. The range of Houston Astros employees involved in this scandal gets wider by the day. Not only were the players involved, but the manager, general manager, and other front-office employees all had a hand in this.
Commissioner Manfred handed out the harshest penalty he could within the laws of Major League Baseball and the MLBPA. But that is not nearly enough for many people who are not Astros fans. The fans want the players involved to be punished. But much like when the Mitchell Report came out about steroid use, this form of sign stealing was not banned. Stealing signs is very traditional in the game, but not by the methods the Astros used. It is a certainty that the next CBA will have specific language regarding sign stealing.
The fallout has seen Astros manager AJ Hinch and General Manager Jeff Luhnow get suspended for one year. Astros owner Jim Crane has since fired both. The Boston Red Sox have fired their manager Alex Cora. The New York Mets have also fired their manager Carlos Beltran who was just hired this past November. Former pitcher Jack McDowell has stated the Chicago White Sox were cheating back in late the 1980s. McDowell played for the Pale Hose from 1987-1994. Allegations like this one are sure to get fans wondering how many teams actually cheated.
While no player has been suspended they will forever have this cheating cloud hovering over their heads the rest of their careers. Major League Baseball offered the players immunity for their cooperation in finding out just how this scandal worked. Commissioner Manfred compared it to lawyers giving suspects immunity to weed out the worst offenders. Baseball fans are not buying this. The Astros are sure to have a rough time in every road game they have at least in the early part of the upcoming season.
The Mookie Betts Trade
It’s never easy to trade away star players, especially when there is a lot of money involved. What complicates this matter even more is that Betts is the best player on the Red Sox and is a fan favorite. But the events of the Mookie Betts trade made for another huge headache for the Commissioner. This was a three-team trade between the Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, and Los Angeles Dodgers.
In order to get Betts, the Dodgers needed to first make a trade with the Twins and send the player they just received to the Red Sox. Once that trade was completed the Dodgers were able to move on to the Betts trade. The Dodgers even made another trade with the Los Angeles Angels involving some players that needed to be moved after the completion of the Betts trade. What happened next was crazy.
The Red Sox discovered something on the medical report of pitcher Brusdar Graterol. Graterol was the pitcher from the Twins that the Dodgers were trading to the Red Sox. To be specific, the Red Sox claimed the medical report showed that Graterol would be a relief pitcher and not a starter. The Red Sox preferred a starting pitcher. While Graterol did not fail the physical, Commissioner Manfred allowed the trade to be rescinded.
The speculation around the Major League Baseball world was that the Red Sox were getting criticized for their end of the trade and wanted to rework it. New Red Sox General Manager Chaim Bloom is regarded as one of the best baseball minds in the game. How could he have made this mistake? When the Commissioner allowed this trade to be rescinded it created a domino effect.
Reworking the Trade
The Dodgers were not able to rework the three-team trade but instead were forced to deal exclusively with the Red Sox. The Dodgers wound up giving the Red Sox a better package for Betts. After that trade was completed, the Dodgers and Twins then made a separate trade involving Graterol. But the trade between the Angels and the Dodgers was also put on hold pending completion of the original three-team trade. The final completion of the Betts trade took too many days, and Angels owner Arte Moreno got tired of waiting and pulled the plug.
The Dodgers insisted that since the trades were reworked there was not a reason to make the trade with the Angels. Commissioner Manfred should not have allowed the Red Sox to rework the trade. He also should have not held up the Dodgers-Angels trade, especially since the Red Sox fan backlash was heard loud and clear when the Betts trade was initially announced.
The King of Queens
The next big mess surrounded the New York Mets. The Mets offseason had a rare feat. Not only did the Mets hire and fire their manager without ever seeing him manage one game, but they also announced the sale of the team only to call it off a couple of months later. Carlos Beltran was named the Mets new manager in November, but when his name was linked to Commissioner Manfred’s report, the Mets decided to part ways with Beltran. Just a couple of weeks later the Mets sale to Steve Cohen was called off. As always, there were conflicting reports on why this happened.
Sources close to the Mets state that Cohen, who already owns eight percent of the team, wanted to change the terms of the sale that was agreed on. Cohen accused the Mets of the exact same thing. Cohen’s contention was that the Wilpon family wanted to sell a big chunk of their controlling interest of the Mets, making Cohen the majority owner at 80 percent. But the Wilpons would have remained in control for five more years, during which time Jeff Wilpon would get raises periodically. Additionally, the Wilpons — despite being minority owners — still would have had a say in the direction of the team. Cohen, who is reportedly worth over $10 billion, made a $2.6 billion offer.
SNY, which was created by the Wilpon family, was not part of the sale. SNY is the network the Mets currently have all of their games televised on. Currently, SNY has three owners, with the Wilpon family-owned Sterling Equities the majority owner with a 65 percent stake.
Mets Still for Sale
Despite the deal with Cohen falling through, the Mets are still for sale, and the terms have changed. There will no longer be a five-year waiting period. The new owner will assume control once the deal is finalized. SNY will still not be a part of the sale. This is the second time the Mets have had a potential sale fall through. Predictably, Commissioner Manfred has sided with the Mets. After all, he works for all 30 teams in the league.
Commissioner Manfred is no stranger to the Mets ownership issues. He was the right-hand man of former Commissioner Bud Selig when Major League Baseball loaned the Mets money after the infamous Bernard Madoff scandal lost the Wilpons hundreds of millions of dollars.
There are other smaller issues that, in the grand scheme of things, normally would be just a blip on the radar. But in the midst of these three major issues, Commissioner Manfred would just rather not have to deal with them.
Peter Edward Rose
Pete Rose was permanently banned from having any association with Major League Baseball for betting on baseball. This was a rule put in place during the Black Sox scandal in 1919 by then-Commissioner Judge Landis. That rule has never been changed and is posted in every Major League clubhouse. The Hall of Fame formally voted in 1991 to exclude any individuals who are permanently banned from the game.
Rose has sent the Commissioner a 20-page write up on why he should have his ban lifted. This has not been the first time Rose has tried to get his ban lifted. But with the Astros cheating scandal so hot right now, Rose actually has more people on his side than ever before. Still, Rose is an extreme long shot from having his ban lifted.
Former pitcher Mike Bolsinger is suing the Astros in the aftermath of the cheating scandal. Bolsinger was pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017. He pitched against the Astros on July 7th in Houston and pitched poorly. To be fair, Bolsinger’s 2017 season as a whole was not a good one. In fact, that start in Houston was not the worst one of his season.
Bolsinger’s lawsuit is accusing the Astros of unfair business practices, negligence, and intentional interference with contractual and economic relations. He is seeking $31 million in bonuses the Astros received from winning the World Series. Bolsinger has stated he wants the bonus money to go to charities focusing on bettering kid’s lives and retired baseball players who need financial assistance.
While both are noble causes, this lawsuit has very little chance of victory. But Bolsinger could be onto something. The Astros players should consider doing what Bolsinger is suggesting and give back some of that bonus money to charities. Major League Baseball should also match each charitable donation.
It is worth mentioning that Commissioner Manfred has a proposal to eliminate 42 minor league teams. This proposal was very unpopular for the baseball purists who follow minor league teams and enjoy attending those games.
Commissioner Manfred’s contention is that this will save Major League owners money. This issue is not even talked about in the aftermath of the cheating scandal but will certainly come to the forefront once the season begins.
It has been a rough few months for Commissioner Manfred. Some will say a lot of this was brought on himself. The Commissioner seems to pick and choose when he wants to intervene and solve a problem. By allowing the Red Sox their request to have the Betts trade reworked, it had a big impact on three other teams. It is no one’s fault but the Red Sox organization for making the initial Betts trade.
Additionally, the Commissioner could have gotten more involved in the sale of the Mets, especially knowing a potential sale in 2011 was not able to be completed. The commissioner also knew about the financial issues the Mets had in the aftermath of the Bernie Madoff issue.
But the biggest one was the alleged non-involvement in the Astros cheating scandal. Reports are that 10-12 teams knew about the cheating, and surely MLB was aware of this. Much like when PEDs came to light, MLB turned a blind eye until the issue exploded and was exposed. This issue is sure to bleed into the season.
It has certainly been a trying time for MLB, but we can all hope once the season starts the focus turns to the games and not the other incidents.