Mopping up the Mookie Betts salary dump

Remember when I said I wouldn’t write another Mookie Betts piece? [Appropriate pause] I lied.

This baseball news just broke an hour ago.

DODGERS GET: OF Mookie Betts, LHP David Price, cash (all from BOS); RHP Brusdar Graterol, minor league outfielder Luke Raley, 67th pick in 2020 Draft (both from MIN)
RED SOX GET: OF Alex Verdugo, SS Jeter Downs, C Connor Wong (all from LA)
TWINS GET: RHP Kenta Maeda, a low-level minor league prospect, cash (all from LA)

Apparently, Mookie Betts & David Price are finally going to the Dodgers. According to anonymous sources (as always), the Red Sox have agreed to pay half of the $96 million left on Price’s deal. In a separate deal, Kenta Maeda, a low-level Minor League prospect & cash will go to Minnesota, with Brusdar Graterol, minor league outfielder Luke Raley & the 67th pick in the June amateur draft headed to Los Angeles.

The anticipated concurrent Angels-Dodgers deal will NOT be consummated, according to late night MLB reports. For now, Joc Pederson & Ross Stripling remain LA Dodgers. No word if Brusdar Graterol is eventually headed to Boston, but it’s presumed. Then again, a lot has been presumed, and nothing has gone according to script.

The piece I published yesterday, titled “Flushing the Mookie Betts salary dump” is now very much incorrect, but I leave it unedited because I have ethics. Plus, it’s time to move on, so here are my final thoughts on this seemingly never-ending drama.

I stand by everything I wrote about the Red Sox, MLB, and their media machinations, as well as all of the other medical/ethical issues I discussed. I don’t have a problem admitting I projected something wrong. I had excellent reasons to believe I was right.

The realities I laid out are chilling to any serious baseball fan that wasn’t aware of what was going on. This Betts deal was much bigger than just a swap of baseball players. This was political. Boston is most endeared to its Red Sox, as that franchise has the longest history, as compared to the Patriots, Celtics & Bruins.

Their beloved city franchise had to trade away their top stars to get under the luxury tax threshold, and this was very traumatic for them. Red Sox nation insisted that everyone else feel their pain. We did.

But a pearl of wisdom can be gleaned from all this. There are clearly deep divisions within the Red Sox organization, just as there is a factional war between liberal & centrist Democrats. In Boston, there are old-school diehards in the front office who wanted to keep Betts & Price, and they fought with the eggheads who were put in charge of dumping them, every inch of the way.

Sports is business, and business is politics. They all mirror each other, and what we saw this past week in the media, was complete dysfunction from an out-of-control Frankenstein known as the Boston Red Sox. They couldn’t make up their minds on what they wanted, because too many conflicting interests were in play.

The Red Sox leaked confidential medical records to the media, and mucked everything up. The Minnesota Twins, Brusdar Graterol, his agent Scott Boras, and the head of the MLBPA Tony Clark, all protested these despicable tactics by the Red Sox to manipulate trade negotiations. More than a few ESPN & MLB “reporters” deserve to have their press credentials pulled, for unethical statements to the media.

Twins GM Thad Levine played on this to get more on his end of the deal. It was all he could do, as he was under heavy pressure to capitulate. After all, these are the Red Sox, and they needed this deal to go through. Therefore, someone made Thad Levine an offer he couldn’t refuse. Expect no admission of wrong-doing or guilt from the Red Sox, it’s not their style. Either they: 1) win & gloat, 2) hate & whine, or 3) run & hide.

I intervened in this affair as a journalist by publishing an essay from the future– one possible future. I prophesied this deal would completely collapse, but it didn’t. But it was very, VERY close– and a lot of people came to know it.

Dodger’s GM Andrew Friedman deserves respect for dragging this son-of a-bitch through the mud and coming home with something worth smiling about. He had to dig deep, that’s for sure. But it should be noted that he played along as a silent partner when the Red Sox attempted to shakedown the Twins into kicking-in another prospect, after their being “spooked” by Brusdar’s Graterol’s medical records. Friedman knew (or should have known) that he was responsible for kicking-in something to satisfy the Red Sox, but instead hung a colleague (Thad Levine) out to dry, hoping it would be the Twins who would be forced to pay up. He knew.

We never heard much from the Los Angeles Angels during this saga. They were the least-invested team involved, always on the outside looking in, hoping the two behemoths could get everything worked out, without blowing it all up. Their owner Arte Moreno expressed frustration at being held in trade limbo, but there was nothing the Halos could do. It was the Twins who were they key to the deal, so the Angels got left out when the Dodgers had to go “all in” on Sunday.

Fans want trades to happen, as they shake things up & make the game more interesting. But when an organization with all the clout in the world, can hold up a mega-blockbuster deal like this, over unfounded & unethical statements to the media meant to gain leverage, then that organization needs to be sanctioned. That’s the take-home message, but I’m betting it gets lost in the fake news headlines.

Not since the 1986 World Series, when Bill Buckner let a Mookie Betts [!] grounder go through his legs, has there been so much shame & ignominy with the Red Sox. They’ve gotten what they wanted, but how they did it will not be forgotten. To mark this event in history, all this sports drama happened in synchronicity with the Iowa caucus/DNC debacle. Both were very ugly, for many of the same reasons.

Eventually, Boston Red Sox fans forgave Bill Buckner, after they finally won a World Series in 2004. I’m hoping my fans can do the same for me, a bit quicker, about being wrong here. It’s all about the process. Acting with a pure heart is an important part of that. Getting the facts straight is another.

Notice that I’m not apologizing for publishing that essay. I don’t regret it. The circumstances were that for three days, from late-Wednesday to mid-Saturday, MLB had nothing to say about this trade hold-up. NOTHING.

Baseball fans at the climax of the Hot Stove season were starving for information, perspective, analysis (anything!) to help them get an idea on what was happening. The Red Sox had clearly ordered a media gag on the Betts trade situation, so it could strong-arm a backroom deal. The Red Sox just need time and opacity.

I saw all this going on, and when the Brusdar Graterol pull-back by the Twins was reported by MLB on Saturday during the mid-afternoon, I knew I was right. The deal was falling apart, and the Dodgers & Red Sox were desperate to get the Twins re-engaged. This deal doesn’t get done without the Twins, otherwise it would have.

My perspective was that the Red Sox were guilty of many serious transgressions, and that it was more important to publish my essay concentrating on that angle, even if my trade collapse prediction turned out to be wrong– which it did. It was more important to be influential to a targeted audience at a critical juncture, even if it meant the embarrassment of being proven wrong on something less important (but more hyped) a day later.

The impact of that essay was huge, as it answered a great many questions for Dodgers fans. I posted a link to that piece in a Dodgers blog, which was conversely linked in my essay, and it got traction. My intent there was to educate some die-hard baseball fans who were hurting. I’m a Padres fan, so I took a few shots at their GM, but it was all in good sporting spirit– because it’s just a game between us. But the Red Sox are another matter.

What I wrote helped many Dodgers fans come to the sober realization that the Boston Red Sox & MLB are a mafia, and that their team was being extorted. If the Dodgers really want Betts & Price, then sweeten the deal– otherwise it’s no deal. Friedman kicked in more. He almost had to, with all he had invested. That’s how the Red Sox, and any mafia, get you. This deal has great potential to be cursed, with all the bad juju surrounding it. I’m an atheist, but karma is real.

I honestly don’t care if I’m totally wrong about a trade prediction. Who cares? This is baseball, and no one who has any kind of career bats 1.000– or has an ERA of 0.00. I care much more about all the malfeasance & unethical actions of the Red Sox, MLB & ESPN. When is there going to be a hearing on that?





Flushing the Mookie Betts salary dump

Preface: This is my fourth & final piece with “Mookie Betts salary dump” in the title. My initial installment was published on February 1, a few days before the proposed deal hit the media. “Postscript on the Mookie Betts salary dump” was published on February 5, shortly after the deal was announced, and it looked like everything was over. “‘Adjusting’ the Mookie Betts salary dump” was published on February 7, as the fake media went silent on this mega-deal falling apart. These four essays will endure in sports literature as the best analysis of what happened here– in real time.

It looked so clean & elegant when it was first reported in the sports media on Tuesday evening, February 4, 2020:

DODGERS GET: OF Mookie Betts, LHP David Price & ~$48M [!] cash (all from BOS)
RED SOX GET: OF Alex Verdugo (from LAD), RHP Brusdar Graterol (MLB Pipeline’s No. 83 prospect, from MIN)
TWINS GET: RHP Kenta Maeda (from LAD)

…and then the clincher for Dodgers GM Andrew Friedman…

ANGELS GET: OF Joc Pederson, RHP Ross Stripling, OF prospect Andy Pages
DODGERS GET: IF Luis Rengifo

Joc Pederson was to be Andrew Friedman’s salary dump, to keep the Dodgers under the CBT. Pederson is a free agent in November. With Mookie Betts apparently in RF, the Dodgers were ready for a championship run in 2020. For Angels GM Billy Eppler, this was an opportunity to upgrade his outfield, and possibly extend Joc Pederson if it worked out well.

Instead, Joc Pederson had the distinction of going through an arbitration hearing with the Dodgers (which he lost), while believing he was being traded to the Angels. If MLB had any ethics, it would have: 1) suspended the Pederson arbitration hearing until after the proposed trade deal was resolved– one way or another; and 2) set a hard deadline for the deal’s resolution.

MLB did neither.Why? Because it was acting as an agent of the Red Sox to get the deal done on Boston’s terms. The Red Sox kept pushing for more time, but time eventually ran out.

A lot of really diligent & talented front offices worked very hard this winter to make their teams better, only to have it destroyed by Red Sox pettiness, arrogance & greed. What a colossal waste of time! This is now officially, “The greatest baseball trade that never happened.”

The Dodgers were always motivated to get this deal done. In the end it was on them to deal more prospects to Boston. They didn’t, as they felt they had given up enough already, and were probably correct. Here’s a good analysis from their perspective.

In short, the Joc Pederson arbitration hearing was a disaster for the Dodgers, even though the team won the case. They will pay Pederson $7.75M in 2020, but the Dodgers & MLB look really bad. It resembled a Julian Assange hearing in many respects. Kenta Maeda wants to be a starter so he can earn contract bonuses, but is being used as a reliever, especially down the stretch. The Twins would have put Maeda in their rotation. It would have been a great deal for the Twins.

The third Dodgers piece was Alex Verdugo, a high-end young talent in RF. I’ve been wondering why Andrew Friedman had been so willing to part with him. I had speculated in an earlier piece that it could be a core injury which was lowering his value.

But due diligence & sticking with a story eventually brought me here. It’s been alleged that Alex Verdugo was witness to his minor-league teammate, James Baldwin, sexually assaulting an underage girl at a team party in Rancho Cucamunga. There was a police report filed. This is an ugly organizational story. Dealing Alex Verdugo moves a big part of it to Boston. Apparently MLB is aware of all this, but hasn’t taken action. Very murky.

At ~3:15 PM EST, on Saturday, February 8, it was reported by MLB that Brusdar Graterol had been pulled back by the Minnesota Twins from the proposed Mookie Betts blockbuster. This announcement all but killed the deal, along with the concurrent proposed Dodgers-Angels swap.

An hour later, and the news is reverberating through the baseball world. It will soon be announced by MLB that the whole deal(s) is off. So I’m now finally able to publish this piece (which I had already written) at ~4:20 PM EST. This story actually wrote itself is how I look at it. So what the bleep happened?!

Once the Twins pulled back Brusdar Graterol, the Dodgers took back Kenta Maeda. This probably happened on late Wednesday or early Thursday, looking at the fake media reporting, but was kept quiet to try to get the Twins management to change their minds. They rightfully didn’t. This means the Red Sox take back David Price and all of his 3/$96 remaining. That leaves only Alex Verdugo for Mookie Betts at $27M.

All that puts the Dodgers-Angels proposal in jeopardy. You can see how quickly this unraveled. The money the Red Sox were going to eat on Price was never nailed down. It was reported to be “around half” of his remaining deal, but this was still being hotly negotiated after the deal was announced.

This means money, between the Red Sox & Dodgers, was an issue in killing this deal. Once it’s down to Betts-for-Verdugo, the $27M for one season becomes a problem, because this one season is all there is for the Dodgers. Especially when they are giving up a promising, cost-controlled young player to the Red Sox.

That’s why David Price had to be in the deal, for GM Andrew Friedman to part with Alex Verdugo. That’s why Verdugo-for-Betts straight-up doesn’t work. From the Dodgers GM perspective, the Red Sox needed to eat salary on Mookie Betts. The Red Sox wouldn’t (and couldn’t) do this, because this was supposed to be a salary dump in order to get under the CBT. The problem is Red Sox dysfunction, all down the line.

The final story is about the Minnesota Twins [!] taking a stand on medical/player ethics. This is a case of an “unethical medical records leak” in professional sports by the Boston Red Sox, used to gain leverage in trade negotiations. This is now a union grievance with the MLBPA. For the players involved it’s a privacy issue, just like for patients in any doctor’s office or hospital setting.

By today (Saturday), noon EST, Brusdar Graterol’s agent, Scott Boras finally responded to these unethical Red Sox assertions. “To suggest that this player is not healthy going forward, or has any form of substantive medical defect that would in any way damage his career, all of that is false,” Boras told The Boston Globe.

“This is a scant supposition created by medical review, by someone who has never seen him physically. I don’t know Boston’s position on this. I know that people are suggesting that Graterol has some malady about him medically, which is inaccurate. That supposition is false. He is in spring training. He’s ready to throw without limitations going forward through the season. And there’s no suggestion that there’s anything at issue with this player in the current or immediate aspects of his career.”

The medical rule is: don’t discuss patient/player data with outside parties, without their recorded consent. It’s a serious breach of doctor-patient ethics to do so. The same ethics exist for team-player relationships in professional sports.

As a practicing dentist for over 25 years, I know the professional lines in discussing patient information. Basically, you don’t do it. Patients don’t want it leaked, because once it’s out there, it’s public domain. The Red Sox blatantly breached a player’s right-to-privacy in their leaking the confidential medical records of RHP Brusdar Graterol. The Twins fairly deserve some form of compensation from the Red Sox.

Hypothetical question: How would you like another company interested in your services, leaking private medical & personal information to the media, in order to de-value you? This was done by the Red Sox in order to gain advantage in grabbing more assets in the already-agreed-upon Mookie Betts deal.

How do you think Brusdar Graderol felt about being traded to the Red Sox after hearing all this uproar? Terrified, possibly? I think that’s a reasonable assumption. A responsible GM can’t trade a top young prospect under the toxic circumstances created by the Red Sox. It would be unprofessional. What kind of message would it send to all the players in the Twins organization?

Patients (players) don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. That’s the golden rule in dealing with human beings. GM’s running their organizations are like doctors running a practice, in that they are responsible for a lot of people. If you throw someone under the bus like that, everyone sees it, and it kills morale.

The Red Sox have no such ethics on this, they only care about winning & whining– in debatable order. They are again about to be sanctioned by MLB, this time over using iPhone watches to stream live center-field camera video of the opposing catcher’s signs to the pitcher. A bench coach under manager Alex Cora would relay it to Red Sox runners-on-base. That’s quite a Fenway advantage, and it puts an asterisk on their 2018 World Series season. Just like the Houston Astros in 2017.

I believe the best deterrence for illegal video usage is fan disgust with this type of cheating. That, and serious MLB investigations & sanctions for proven offenders. Live video used to steal signs totally sucks, because it’s completely unfair to the opposing team. When fans start losing respect for the players & the game, changes must be made. That’s perhaps the biggest storyline in baseball this past winter.

Since the Yankees were also involved in this, and likely originated it, expect the sanctions for the Red Sox to be less severe than they were for the Houston Astros. It’s Carlos Beltran signing with the Astros as a free agent on December 5, 2016, after nearly three years with the Yankees, that helped Houston perfect its system of video cheating. Beltran brought it from the Bronx to Houston.

That’s why Beltran was fired by the New York Mets this winter, after being hired weeks earlier. Carlos Beltran’s career MLB managing record will forever be 0-0. The Yankees don’t want an investigation into their original 2014-16 sign-stealing schemes, so they’ll make a deal with Red Sox wheels in the MLB commissioner’s office to go lightly on Boston, as a quid pro quo for no New York Yankees investigation. That’s east coast bias in action. Watch for it.

Coincidentally, ESPN just published an article implicating an Astros intern as the source of MLB video sign stealing. That’s been the top headlines on MLB & ESPN for the past two days, while the silence on the Betts deal in limbo is deafening. All this immediately confirms my conspiracy theory that the impending Red Sox punishment will be less severe than it was for the Astros. The AJ Hinch apology videos (& Astros players defiance) can all be seen as pro-Red Sox propaganda, to deflect attention from their sins. We’ll see who is correct here, soon enough.

After all this, the Red Sox deserve yet another investigation, this time in breaching player medical privacy ethics for gain in trade talks. There’s lots of corporate media complicity here, so I don’t see this going anywhere. The Red Sox & MLB are a mafia, and they’ve both had difficult winters. More & more fans outside of these inner MLB circles are now understanding the depth of this corruption. I’ve used The Office (2005-13) as a pictorial metaphor for all this corporate dysfunction.

The Los Angeles Dodgers can still get Mookie Betts in free agency, next winter, if that’s what they want. You can be sure that Andrew Friedman & the rest of his GM colleagues don’t want to deal with the Red Sox again anytime soon.

For me as a sportswriter with an outsider’s perspective, it’s been a fascinating story which I’ve been enthusiastic to cover. I understand that I’m strictly censored, but I’ve learned that the truth (when well phrased) quickly gets out to enough of the right people in time to make a difference.

This Mookie Betts deal was so tense, emotional, & tightly wound, that the excess strain from Red Sox meddling caused it to burst apart. Once the Twins pulled back Brusdar Graterol, out of respect for their valued young player & themselves, this mega-deal fell apart. When that happened, all the king’s mouthpieces, and all the Red Sox yes-men, couldn’t put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. The dominoes all tumbled, and the Dodgers, Twins & Angels are left with nothing for all their weeks of time & energy spent.

They, all probably deserve some compensation from MLB over this despicable dealing in bad faith by the Boston Red Sox. All the Red Sox had to do was sign on the bottom line, and it was over. They had a great deal. Their real fans knew it. Just sign it, you bleeping bleep-holes!!

But no, it was unacceptable in its tiniest detail, so management had to insist on more. And now the Red Sox have Mookie Betts & David Price back, and they’re still well above the CBT, which ownership mandated they get below back in November.

Question: Who wants to deal with the Boston Red Sox now? Answer: Nobody. Would you? It’s pitchers & catchers starting next week, so now nothing is possible until July at the earliest, if at all, after especially so much bad blood. By then Mookie Betts will have already earned approximately two-thirds of his 2020 salary. That makes it too late for Boston to dump him, and get below the CBT.

The Red Sox & Dodgers desperately tried all the way to the end to find another trade partner to make this deal go through. If I was Padres GM AJ Preller, I would have gotten both these teams together on a three-way call to pitch a final offer. Something like, “So you both need another player to make this deal work, huh? Wil Myers is available.” Click. Click. LOL!! Call it payback for being suspended by MLB over “undisclosed anti-inflammatories” in the Drew Pomeranz deal. No love lost for the Dodgers either.

How can the GM (& a lot of other people in upper management, medical, legal, media, etc) keep their privileged Red Sox jobs, after blowing the biggest deal this organization had to make, since they traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees? Roughly 100 years after that infamous baseball disaster deal, the Red Sox again grasped defeat, this time after victory had been painstakingly negotiated, They wouldn’t claim it.

Losing sight of one’s primary objective, as badly as Red Sox management has bungled it here, is astoundingly incompetent. In Taipan they would all grade out as shipwrecked galley hands. But I don’t expect any high-level firings in Boston management for this fiasco, because the Red Sox (above all else) take care of their own. They will use their media clout to blame the Twins for not “playing ball,” or the Dodgers for not giving up enough, or some other hateful nonsense meant to acquit themselves.

There were obviously forces within the Red Sox organization, and their rabid fan base, that didn’t want this trade to happen. They did everything to sabotage it. Those are their haters, and they won– again. Any kind of respectable ownership would ruthlessly purge this self-defeating filth from its organization, but not the Boston Red Sox.

And finally, let’s be clear on the role of the corporate media in this sordid, manipulative affair. Every time Buster Olney, Ken Rosenthal, et al, speculated on Brusdar Graterol’s “shoulder injury” over the past few days, they were acting not as baseball journalists, but tools of the Boston Red Sox. These willful & repeated violations of privacy prove these “reporters” have no ethics, and thus no credibility. They are all backed by an east coast mafia, so unfortunately they aren’t going to go away, despite their shameful actions in plain sight.

This is a classic case of the Red Sox being their own worst enemy. Anyone following along, could see it, and did. I commend Twins management & ownership for sticking it to the Red Sox. No one deserves it more than Red Sox Nation, and they’ve have had it a-coming for a long time. It’s the only satisfaction the Twins & all other baseball fans will get here. There was no other reasonable option.