Posted on: October 26, 2011 10:42 pm

McCourt, MLB discuss settlement to sell Dodgers

McCourtBy Evan Brunell

The bankruptcy trial that could determine whether or not Frank McCourt continues as owner of the Dodgers was postponed for a month on Wednesday, opening the door to the possibility McCourt might agree to sell the team.

The Los Angeles Times reports says the reason why the trial, slated to start on Monday, Oct. 31, was delayed to Nov. 29 is because McCourt and MLB are discussing a possible settlement in which McCourt would agree to sell the team. It is not clear what McCourt will demand in return for a sale, but if he gets rid of all the properties he owns -- the team, Dodger Stadium and surrounding land, he could fetch over a billion dollars. He might need that just to break even, owing millions to creditors, his ex-wife in a divorce settlement and tax liabilities. It's possible McCourt could try to hang onto part of the team, but at this point, commissioner Bud Selig likely wants nothing to do with McCourt.

Prior to the trial, Selig said McCourt should sell a minority share, but since the trial has begun, he has wanted McCourt out. The two sides have been at war for quite some time, and there is no love lost between McCourt and Selig. It would be a major surprise if McCourt held onto the majority of the team, or even a nominal part. Selig also does not want McCourt to sell the team but keep the surrounding land and stadium.

Can't get enough of the Dodger Divorce saga and the troubles surrounding Dodgers owner Frank McCourt? Click here.

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Posted on: October 25, 2011 2:32 pm

Torre: Up to teams to police beer

TorreBy Evan Brunell

Joe Torre, the executive vice president of baseball operations for MLB, joined ESPN Radio on Tuesday to touch on a wide range of topics, including beer in the clubhouse. Torre previously said baseball was looking into the extent of drinking beer in the Red Sox clubhouse and was considering a ban across baseball.

"I know is it’s an individual choice for the ball clubs," Torre said about allowing beer in the clubhouse. "We’re interested in [banning beer]. I probably should have stopped there. It’s basically individual clubs make those decisions, and it’s obvious when you have owners meetings, you certainly let your feelings be heard. But I’m sort of torn because it’s like anything else -- you’d like to have it available if people responded to it and did it in moderation. But you can’t always guarantee that, and then you’re responsible if something goes wrong. It’s even a matter of getting in your car and driving somewhere; that’s the scary part for me. But ... it is up to the individual club to police what they do and make the decisions about how they approach the beer in and beer out.”

Torre was also asked if baseball allows beer because of how long the season is and how the team needs to have an outlet to disengage after playing a game nearly every day.

“Baseball is a game of life," he said. "You eliminate the highs and lows. I think Michael [Kay, Yankees broadcaster] can tell you, he’s traveled with the club for years, you see the players and you see the people who travel more than you see your family. It’s one of those things that in other sports…maybe in the NFL they put players in hotels, they do something because it’s right before the game. This is more…I don’t want to say matter of fact, but the fact of the matter is you’ve got to do this like showing up to the office every day. So I think that’s probably what makes it different as opposed to telling guys they can’t drink beer for seven months, you know?”

Drink along with us and check out the beer-drinking saga.

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Posted on: October 25, 2011 11:58 am
Edited on: October 25, 2011 1:03 pm

MLB says McCourt 'looted' $190M from Dodgers


By Evan Brunell

In several filings by MLB on Monday, baseball has accused Dodgers owner Frank McCourt of "looting" the team for $190 million, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The exact price is $189.16 million, with $61.16 million in team revenue to pay off personal debts, $73 million sent to McCourt by way of Blue Land Co. for parking revenue, and $55 million for personal distributions. This is against baseball rules, but McCourt is no stranger to breaking rules as MLB alleges he has broken 10 rules.

"The Dodgers are in bankruptcy because McCourt has taken almost $190 million out of the club and has completely alienated the Dodgers' fan base," the filing reads. However, McCourt fired back by painting Selig as a "'furious' commissioner out to harm" McCourt, the MLB filing reads. McCourt's lawyers say that Selig is dealing in bad faith by refusing to consider any television deal for McCourt, believing that some of its funds would be diverted yet again to pay off personal obligations, such as $130 million to ex-wife Jamie in settling her contention she is co-owner of the Dodgers. (McCourt calls this claim "make-believe," but how can McCourt pay off his ex-wife without funds from the television deal?)

The beating of Giants fan Bryan Stow is expected to be a central component of the bankruptcy trial, as filings by both MLB and McCourt on Monday referenced the brutal beating on Opening Day. Stow spent the season in the hospital and was only recently released to outpatient rehab, with medical bills that could surpass $50 million. In the wake of the beating, in which no security guards intervened and fans watched, the Dodgers added LAPD officers to games and hired ex-LAPD chief William Bratton to supervise a long-range plan. Despite having a record 197 sworn police officers on hand -- "the highest number ever at a Dodgers game," the team alleges, MLB contends that security at Dodger Stadium was so inadequate, and it speaks to McCourt's failings. To no surprise, he disagrees.

"[Commissioner Bud Selig] set about fabricating the public misimpression that security at Dodger Stadium was somehow inadequate," the team's filing says, also noting that McCourt was the first Dodgers owner to hire uniformed LAPD officers. "This is, by far, the most unforgivable action taken by the commissioner during this entire saga, and has caused enorrmous and irreparable harm to the Dodgers, Mr. McCourt and the game of baseball."

The filing says the Dodgers "were on top of the situation" and that Selig only announced a task force to review Dodger Stadium security until after McCourt had taken his own steps to address the security problem at the stadium. MLB, naturally, disagrees.

"McCourt, however, omits the fact that he removed uniformed officers before the 2011 season, including the opening game when Stow was so seriously injured," MLB says in its filing, also accusing McCourt of inadequate lighting in stadium parking lots, a lack of executives with knowledge of ballpark operations and security, as well as the ability to easily slip into the stadium without authorized access.

In April, when Selig appointed the task force to look at Dodger security and also appointed a trustee to review L.A.'s policies and finances, the team says that was a crushing blow for the club, who immediately saw a downtick in attendance and finished the season 18 percent under.

"Not surprisingly, the commissioner's one-two punch ... was followed by a dramatic reduction in attendance at Dodger games," the Dodgers' filing reads. "That drop in attendance reduced revenues and, of course, worsened [the Dodgers'] already difficult liquidity situation."

One thing's clear: each side really, really dislikes the other. It's still unclear when a resolution is pending, but the filings were a major step forward in the case and will be used during a hearing next week that could determine the outcome of the case. The Dodgers are asking for a delay until April 25 to present their reorganization plan, which could leave McCourt in charge of the club through the beginning of the 2012 season.

Can't get enough of the Dodger Divorce saga and the troubles surrounding Dodgers owner Frank McCourt? Click here.

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Posted on: October 23, 2011 7:24 pm

MLB to investigate Red Sox, possibly ban beer

TorreBy Evan Brunell

Major League Baseball plans to investigate the drinking that went on in the Red Sox clubhouse, and could use that as an impetus to ban alcohol throughout the game, the Boston Globe reports.

“It’s something we’re concerned about, just to make sure that we get all the facts and that’s my area,” MLB executive vice president of baseball operations Torre said. “I know I have plans just to talk to some people.”

It's unclear what the investigation would be, but it may simply have to do with checking into the situation to make sure that not only has all the information been divulged, but that it won't happen again. Given Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz both admitted to drinking beer in the clubhouse during games in which the starters didn't pitch and admitted to mistakes along with fellow starters Josh Beckett and John Lackey, that will probably be enough to satisfy Torre, especially with Boston president Larry Lucchino standing behind his starters.

Currently, the Red Sox are just one of 12 teams that allow alcohol in the clubhouse. Baseball doesn't regulate alcohol in the clubhouse, but with the latest revelations in Boston, that could change.

“If we do happen to bar alcohol from the clubhouses, you have to understand the intent of this thing and what it looks like,” Torre said. “We’re up there and we’re role models, or we should be role models for the youngsters and how they behave.

"Guys understand that if they want to do something, they’re going to do something. They’re grown-ups. It’s something where we implement rules that we feel would be best for the game and who we’re being watched by. We’ve got to look at it."

Here's the only problem with this. Why is the news of Red Sox starting pitchers drinking beer on their off-days so horrible as to merit a possible leaguewide ban... and yet DUIs are going unpunished? Through early May, there had been six DUIs by players and none missed a game for illegally drinking and driving.

The idea of investigating alcohol in the clubhouse and whether or not to ban it makes sense. The reason for it does not.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: September 10, 2011 7:49 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2011 7:51 pm

Gold Glove rules change outfield eligibility

FrancouerBy Evan Brunell

Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star writes that Gold Glove balloting will change this offseason in a long overdue move.

Instead of awarding a Gold Glove to three outfielders regardless of specific position, outfielders will now be broken down by which outfield spot a player plays in. That means a left fielder, center fielder and right fielder will all win the award, with candidates limited to those who play a specific amount of games at said position.

It's a great move to make, as the previous system was antiquated. Perhaps it made more sense in the olden days, when it was believed the best defenders in the outfield were always center fielders. In addition, defense was not as heavily prioritized as it has become the last few seasons due to a downturn of offense. Also helping matters is an increased understanding of the impact on defense each specific outfielder can have on the game. With multiple advanced defensive metrics easily available -- to varying degrees of effectiveness -- it's easier to figure out which defenders truly shone through as opposed to just handing the award to those who looked good in center.

The change in the award could potentially help Kansas City sweep the AL outfield Gold Gloves, as the three outfielders -- Alex Gordon in left, Melky Cabrera in center and Jeff Francouer (pictured) in right -- are currently on pace to be the first outfield trio since 1978 to rank first or second at his position in assists. (The Expos had their outfielders all finish first: Warren Cromartie, Andre Dawson and Ellis Valentine.) Unsurprisingly, K.C. leads the majors in outfield assists with 48, including an impressive 25 at home. Credit is being given to first-base coach Doug Sisson, who is in his first year on the coaching staff after previously serving as minor-league field coordinator for three seasons for K.C.

“We throw every three days to the bases,” Francoeur, the only Royal with a previous Gold Glove award (Braves, 2007), said. “And if we don’t do it right, Siss will hit another one. I give him a lot of credit for that. Siss has been a huge part of this team this year. He’s put us in position to make plays.”

Sisson believes throws should arrive on one hop, which helps outfielders not overthrow cutoff men, and passes credit onto the outfielders.

“It’s a product of putting in the time,” Sisson said, “making it important and throwing to the bases without cut-off men. That way, in their minds, they’re thinking about throwing guys out. Not hitting cutoff men.

“I’ve always believed the cutoff man’s job is to get in the way of the throw. It’s not an outfielder’s job to hit a cutoff man. If you’re trying to throw guys out, but your mind-set is to hit the cutoff man, then you’re not really trying to throw guys out.”

Clearly, that approach has worked to date. Combined with the rule changes, it could lead to the Royals being the first-ever team to sweep the outfield Gold Gloves. Two outfielders on the same team winning the award has happened multiple times, most recently in 2010 when Seattle's Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro Suzuki achieved the honor. Seattle has accomplished the feat four times (1996, 2001, 2003, 2010), tops in the majors.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: September 2, 2011 11:50 am
Edited on: September 2, 2011 12:25 pm

Baseball needs to improve pace of game


By Evan Brunell

Baseball needs to speed up its games.

This is nothing new you're hearing. There are plenty of articles penned each season about this, especially every time the Yankees and Red Sox meet, doing their best to finish their games only after the West Coast completes theirs. With far too much regularity, you can bank on a Sox-Yanks game going four hours or more, which was the case Thursday night. Despite just six runs crossing the plate, it took 4:21 for New York to defeat Boston. And Josh Beckett wasn't even pitching, a man who took as much as 45 seconds to throw a pitch on Wednesday against New York.

Pace of game is a topic that has long bedeviled those in the game, and Sandy Alderson worked on the issue for years when he worked for MLB. And yet, the answer is staring everyone in the face. It's right there in the rule book. Prior to the 2007 season, MLB introduced a series of rule changes, which included:

Time between pitches: The allotment for delivering the ball with no one on base has been reduced, from 20 seconds to 12. The price for each violation is a ball.

Why the heck does baseball refuse to enforce this? It's not an issue of the players' association being unhappy. It's already in the rulebook, so the MLBPA doesn't have a valid complaint. And yet, it's a rule in name only -- umpires don't even bother to attempt to enforce it, except for isolated incidents every now and then that draw startled glances.

Rob Neyer at SB Nation thinks he knows why.

But umpires have to choose their battles. Sure, you can yell at your teenager every time she spends more than 15 minutes in the shower ... but is that really how you want to live? That's not how most umpires want to live. The great majority of umpires actually prefer to get along with everyone, because it makes life a lot easier.

What they should do is issue warnings, and call balls only if those warnings are repeatedly ignored. But even then, the pitchers and managers would scream bloody murder. Ejections, suspensions, appeals ... Even if the tactic "worked" in the long term, there would be a whole lotta pain in the short term. And we're programmed to avoid pain.

It's a valid point, as anyone whose ever had a teenage child can tell you. (And if you haven't, well... just think back to how you made your father lose his hair early.)

But why does it have to be up to the umpires to monitor how many seconds it takes a pitcher? Why can't baseball install a clock?

Before you start complaining about becoming more like the NBA instead of being baseball, did adding instant replay make baseball more like football? No. What adding replay did was add another facet to the game to help the right decisions be made, and required a whole new set of rules to be written. That's not the case with the clock for pitches. Again, it already exists. Adding a clock, which could easily be integrated without significant infrastructure upgrades by putting it on video scoreboards at stadiums, would be to improve the game of baseball and speed it up.

In my completely anecdotal surveying of sports fans over the years, improving the pace of the game would dramatically increase the interest of fans who otherwise avoid watching baseball. Heck, it would increase my own interest.

Here I am, having lived and breathed baseball for much of my life, having forgotten far more than I remember about the game and with a position writing about baseball. And yet, Thursday night's Sox-Yanks game made me want to stab an ice pick in my eye. It's just not fun to watch a game drag like that. But a two-hour, four-minute game? Sign me up. Those games are fun. Thursday night's Sox-Yanks game wasn't fun, it was a chore. This coming from someone who loves baseball.

Would there be pushback by players? Yeah, probably. No one adapts to change well, especially those who would feel severely crimped by the new rule -- the Becketts, the Rafael Betancourts of the world. But it's hard for these players to raise a stink when you have other players -- an entire team, actually -- trying to speed up games. The Diamondbacks have the NL West firmly in hand, but still struggle with attendance problems, as the Arizona Republic reports.

Pitcher Joe Saunders says the team has tried to make games more attractive to attend by playing "quick, intense games," finishing up a six-game homestand by completing every game in less than three hours. Even players know what it will take to attract fans to the game, and that's speeding up play.

It doesn't even have to be 12 seconds for a dramatic increase to be felt in the game. The average time it takes a pitcher to deliver a pitch after the prior one is 21.6 seconds (pickoffs excluded), a pace that has essentially remained unchanged back through at least 2007. Perhaps instead of requiring 12 seconds to deliver a pitch, you require 16 seconds. Or 18 seconds. Whatever number, as long as it's 20 seconds or less, will go a long way toward speeding games up.

In 2010, Baseball Reference found that an average of 292 pitches are thrown per game, up 22 pitches from 20 years ago. By dint of the increase alone, an additional eight minutes or so is needed to complete the game. That may not seem like a lot, but it's not small potatoes. If you average out 292 pitches per game by the 21.6 average seconds needed for each pitch, you're looking at an hour and 45 minutes per game. Add in warmups in between each inning, batted balls, reliever changes and so on and so forth, and you can start seeing why it takes about three hours to complete a game. But if you reduce the average time to 12 seconds between pitches, that comes out to just under an hour. So now you're looking at about two hours to complete a game, which is all Mark Buehrle needed on Monday to shut out the Twins. His average pace this season is 15.8 seconds, and is considered one of the fastest pitchers in the game. And even he doesn't reach the 12-second mark.

For whatever reason, baseball hasn't opted to enforce the rule. There are many brilliant minds working for MLB, and you can bet that the idea of enforcing the 12-second rule has been discussed. And discarded. With pace of the game always a hot-button topic, baseball needs to explain to everyone why enforcing the rule won't work. And they can't use the excuse of not wanting to burden umpires, because that's what clocks are for.

Baseball is the only major sport that's played without a clock, and that's one of the most endearing traits of the game. But a pitch-count clock doesn't count, not when it's (this is getting repetitive by now, isn't it?) already in the rules, and not when the overall game still would not be governed by a clock.

It's time for baseball to lay out why exactly a pitch-count clock can't be enforced, or to come up with an alternative.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. Photo: Brett Gardner of the Yankees.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 15, 2011 3:55 pm

Approval of Crane as new Astros owner delayed

CraneBy Evan Brunell

Jim Crane's ownership of the Astros has been delayed, as MLB owners will not vote on Crane's takeover this week as planned, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Commissioner Bud Selig still isn't comfortable with recommending Crane to the rest of the owners for approval despite three months of research.

“The standard due diligence that must be completed before any transaction of this magnitude can close remains ongoing,” MLB said in a statement. “Because that procedure is continuing, it is not expected that the proposed sale of the Astros will go to the approval process at this week’s owners meetings. Major League Baseball will continue to work as expeditiously as possible to complete the process.”

A source said he believed that Crane would eventually be approved, but "just [doesn't] know" if he will in actuality be approved, which has to be sobering news for current owner Drayton McLane, who has been trying to sell the 'Stros for some time now. The source did caution that the delay has nothing to do with a possible rejection of Crane; simply that the process has been delayed.

McLane was caught by surprise at the news, it has been said, as he was so certain Crane would be approved that McLane sought the hopeful owner's opinion on recent moves the Astros made, such as dealing outfielders Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn as well as firing pitching coach Brad Arnsberg.

The holdup doesn't appear to be due to financing the sale, but rather Crane's history of discriminatory practices with one of his companies in 1997, with thousands of complaints against Eagle USA Airfreight dealing with minority and female hiring practices. A judge found 203 of 2,073 claims to have merit, and Eagle was also sued 11 times in federal employment discrimination cases. Crane dismissed the issue back in May, but clearly MLB is taking it seriously. Commissioner Bud Selig is especially sensitive to the issues of minority and female hiring. Crane is also linked to war profiteering, with Eagle Global Logistics alleged to have inflated the cost of military shipments to Iraq. Eagle Global Logistics paid $4 million to settle the issue.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 11, 2011 3:41 pm
Edited on: August 11, 2011 3:47 pm

Deer antler spray manufacturer defends product


By Evan Brunell

Last week, Major League Baseball warned players of the possibility of testing positive for a steroid if they used deer antler spray, an increasingly popular method by athletes to boost performance.

In an interview with CBSSports.com, Ricardo Lentini, CEO of Nutronics Labs, spoke about just what deer antler spray is and why ballplayers and fans alike should not consider it in the same class as steroids. Neutronics Labs has been in business for over 15 years and is the largest manufacturer or deer antler spray. Lentini entered the business when his cousin was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. The family was seeking a natural product to help and a doctor, Dr. Alex Duarte, referred Lentini to deer antler velvet.

"Deer antler, although known to ancient Chinese medicine, has only recently been in the public eye due to the increasing body of evidence of its effectiveness to maximize the body's potential," Lentini said, comparing deer antler spray to human growth hormone in that it provides "all the benefits of having growth hormone without actually taking growth hormone."

Deer antler velvet, taken from deer before they fully mature and their antlers turn to bone, holds IGF-1, an extract of the antler that closely matches naturally-occurring growth factors when HGH is released into the body. IGF-1 allows muscle to use fat for energy, moderates the immune system, reduces fat and promotes muscle-building. Naturally-occurring IGF-1 is made in the liver.

"The IGF-1 Plus product allows you to be the best that you can be, without the dangerous side effects of anabolic steroids," Lentini said. "The compound is composed of factors that allow for natural growth of your tissues and does not try to go beyond these natural parameters. Anabolic steroids, on the other hand, often try to do this and frequently results in disastrous consequences including ease of injury and possible damage to the heart and other organs."

Deer antler extract is applied under the tongue with a spray or a dropper and holds no harmful side effects, Lentini added. The gains prevalent by using IGF-1 is limited to using substances which occur in the body in proper proportions, providing a check and balance to eliminate harmful side effects and "will not allow for gains beyond what a body is naturally capable of," Lentini noted.

MLB's warning included a specific brand of deer spray and not necessarily IGF-1 in general, with the league warning that those who take deer antler spray could potentially test positive for a steroid called methyltestosterone which is not an ingredient in deer antler spray. Nutronics Labs is not the company in question, but it sent a letter to commissioner Bud Selig in response to the ban, defending its product and assuring that no steroid is present in deer antler spray.

"There is absolutely no methyltestosterone in our product," Lentini told CBSSports.com. "Our product has been lab verified by a leading drug-testing lab and certified to be free of methyltestosterone  and steroids.

"There is no way that this product should be able to trigger even a false positive test," Lentini continued. "There are no significant similarities in the chemical composition of these compounds."

The PGA Tour has also come out against deer antler spray, ThePostGame.com reported Thursday morning, warning against its use, especially the product titled "The Ultimate Spray," sold by Sports With Alternatives To Steroids. None of the athletes who have admitted using the spray to ThePostGame.com have tested positive for either IGF-1 or methyltestosterone, as there is no accurate drug test to measure IGF-1 in the body, which is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

"The issue regarding the methyltestosterone is that it is an artificial compound designed to bolster a person's strength and performance above and beyond what that person's body was meant for," Lentini said. "We agree with MLB's and the NFL's continued vigilance in screening out this dangerous compound as it creates an unfair advantage, while potentially threatening that person's long term health and life. Since Nutronics Labs IGF-1 Plus Products contain no methyltestosterone, it would be a travesty to have this product and its wondrous and natural benefits to be banned or restricted in any way."

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com