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Volume 24 No. 236

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Royals brass said that they had only sold 14,000 seats for yesterday's game because of the weather
Photo: ROYALS

MLB postponed yesterday's Angels-Royals game at Kauffman Stadium after "initially rejecting" the Royals’ request, causing several players to wonder "whether they had to play simply because" Angels P Shohei Ohtani was scheduled to start in front of a national TV audience on Jackie Robinson Day, according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. The game was called 25 minutes "before Shohei Time." Nightengale asks, "Can you imagine MLB trying to explain itself if Ohtani had injured himself pitching in the 35-degree weather with a 21-degree wind-chill?" (USA TODAY, 4/16). In K.C., Pete Grathoff writes the late timing of the cancellation bothered fans "who trekked to Kauffman Stadium." Royals Senior VP/Baseball Operations & GM Dayton Moore said that both teams early in the day "felt it was too cold to play," but MLB "made it clear they wanted us to do all we could to play." Moore: "Then we got a call from (MLB), and the word was if you feel the weather is too cold, that it’s going to hinder play and put athletes at risk, we’ll find a mutual day to make up the game. I wish we could have made the call earlier" (K.C. STAR, 4/16). 

WHAT'S COLDER THAN BEING COLD? In Chicago, Brian Sandalow writes Cubs manager Joe Maddon had "no problems with the decision to postpone" yesterday's Braves-Cubs game due to frigid weather, one day after he voiced his displeasure with conditions in the team's Saturday game. Maddon said, "It’s just the right thing to do. It’s not about just getting games in. You want to be able to play the game on a major-league caliber, championship-caliber level" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/16). Maddon said after his team rallied Saturday for a 14-10 victory at Wrigley Field, “The game should really not have been played. ... Those were the worst elements I’ve ever participated in a baseball game in" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/16). In Chicago, Paul Sullivan writes the decision to play Saturday's game was "in the hands of the Cubs, meaning any finger-pointing should be directed at President of Business Operations Crane Kenney, who makes the final call after discussions with the baseball operations department." However, MLB officials also have to "approve all postponements and strongly encourage teams to play unless it’s impossible." Sullivan: "Save one finger for them as well. Plenty of finger-pointing to go around" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/16). ESPN's John Anderson noted the announced attendance for Saturday's game was 36,788, which is "as believable as saying there were a billion people at the game." Anderson: "Really, why was anybody there? Thirty-eight degrees, constant drizzle, 25-mile-an-hour wind. Sitting out in that weather doesn't make you a fan, it makes you a popsicle. When did baseball become penance?" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 4/15).

WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS: USA TODAY's Nightengale notes the cancellation of today's Angels-Red Sox Patriots Day game is the 22nd weather-related postponement this season, with six alone coming yesterday. That is the "second-most postponements MLB has ever had through April" since '00, and the month is "only half over." The Twins "had their entire weekend series" with the White Sox "wiped out from snow, already leaving them with five postponements in just the first two weeks." While "no one is blaming anyone for baseball’s cruel spring," if the CBA "already wasn’t badly flawed for the players, they now have to live with the fact that the union bargained for four extra days of rest during the season." In an effort to "avoid playing games in November," MLB started the season on March 29." Nightengale: "If nothing else in the next CBA, it’s time for the union and MLB to negotiate weather conditions in which games can be played. How about not starting games when the temperature is under 40 degrees?" (USA TODAY, 4/16). The AP's Jay Cohen noted the MLB season now "spans 187 days, instead of 183," but that extra room to maneuver is already "taking a hit." The Cubs' game against the Braves "was rescheduled for May 14, creating a stretch of 11 games in 10 days for the Cubs and 16 straight games for the Braves without an off day." The Indians play 18 games "in three cities over 17 days after its weekend against Toronto was rescheduled for a traditional doubleheader on May 3." The Yankees also "had a nine-game, three-city trip turn into 11 games and four cities when they were rescheduled for a doubleheader June 4" in Detroit against the Tigers (AP, 4/15).

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that the league will keep in place its revenue-sharing plan that was originally adopted in '11 and has been modified over the years. “The agreement was to keep this plan in place through the remainder of this CBA. So that takes us to the '22-23 season,” he said after Friday’s BOG meeting. “The changes we made were designed to better align incentives to ensure that the teams who are contributing to revenue sharing feel absolutely incentivized to generate every last dollar and to continue building their business, and incentives to ensure that the teams that receive revenue sharing are also appropriately incentivized.” The league is also discussing the possibility of creating a play-in game format around the playoffs. “There have been proposals that the league has been looking at in the last several weeks,” Silver said. “In fact, we reviewed a play-in-type proposal with the Competition Committee recently and we discussed it in the Board of Governors meeting. I'm sure we'll be discussing it again this summer at our next meeting.” Silver also said he expects an investigation into workplace issues within the Mavericks to be completed by early summer. Silver said, “It's been incredibly thorough. It includes interviewing every single employee of the Mavericks' organization plus every former employee who is willing to make themselves available to the investigators. From everything I've heard directly from the investigators, everyone has been completely cooperative" (John Lombardo, Staff Writer).

TANKS FOR NOTHING: USA TODAY's Jeff Zillgitt noted Silver acknowledged that he "had discussions with 'several teams about what the product was they were putting on the floor.'" Silver said, "I’ll leave it at that. They were just direct conversations we had with teams." He said he finds tanking an "incredibly difficult issue." Silver: "We recognize that our goal is to put the best competition on the floor, and it’s balanced against legitimate rebuilding of some teams. I know we’re not there yet. I certainly wasn’t satisfied.” Zillgitt noted starting with the '18-19 season, the "three highest lottery seeds will each have a 14% chance of winning the top pick compared to 25% for the team with the worst record" in the current system. But Silver said the league will "continue to look at the issue."  Silver: “We'll see how much of an impact that has. But my sense is we're still going to have some work to do" (USATODAY.com, 4/13).

The NFL has “asked a federal judge to appoint a special investigator to probe what it describes as a widespread fraud that has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in false claims to a fund meant to compensate former players for head injuries,” according to Andrew Beaton of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The motion “alleges fraudulent schemes by doctors, lawyers and players to illicitly tap the uncapped fund, which is potentially valued” around $1B. The NFL has “so far funded” more than $227M in claims. The motion states that an independent administrator in the case has “recommended that more than 400 claims be rejected because of fraud.” That amounts to 23% of the total claims submitted and has a “potential value of hundreds of millions of dollars based on the claims already awarded.” The NFL has “faced accusations that it has dragged its feet in paying players," as attorneys repping former players last month accused the league of "shirking its responsibilities to play players and, in other instances, taking too long to review claims.” The league “argues that the long wait time for reviewing claims is the result of the growing need to closely evaluate all of the cases because of the crooked ones.” The NFL also asks that the special investigator be “given subpoena power and be allowed to assist with recommendations about which doctors and lawyers should be referred to disciplinary boards and federal authorities” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/14). In N.Y., Ken Belson noted that as of April 9, the settlement administrator had “received 1,753 claims from the more than 20,000 retired players who registered.” Of those claims, “233 have been approved” for more than $227M, “before appeals and deductions.” Most of the claims paid so far were for players with ALS, Parkinson’s disease and CTE (N.Y. TIMES, 4/14).

Reid and Kaepernick both remain unsigned as the NFL free agency period progresses
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Following the Seahawks and Bengals failing to offer a contract to either Colin Kaepernick or S Eric Reid -- who both have knelt during the national anthem -- local columnists are defending the teams' motives for the moves. In Seattle, Matt Calkins wrote the Seahawks "did nothing wrong" by cancelling a workout with Kaepernick, as it "mainly matters what your fans and players think" for NFL team owners. The NFL is "still a business, and given the enormous potential for blowback within a fan base and distractions within a locker room, you can understand why teams would think twice about bringing Kaepernick aboard." Calkins: "Can you fault them for worrying that a backup quarterback who hasn’t played since 2016 might alienate a huge chunk of their fan base? I certainly can't" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/14). Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, Paul Daugherty wrote, "As much as we've wanted to make this a political issue, it's not. It's a business issue." Bengals Owner Mike Brown is "in the business of selling tickets," and his is "south at the moment." Signing an "erstwhile kneeler would make things worse." Brown has "shown forever his sensitivity to all matters racial," but this "isn’t that." Brown is "doing what he thinks is best for his bottom line," and he has the "right to protect his product." Nothing is "wrong with asking an employee to adhere to his employer’s standard," even if that "goes against league policy." If NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has a "problem with what Brown did (and other owners do), he should work with teams to adopt a policy" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 4/15).

SEEING A TREND? In Boston, Ben Volin noted the Bengals are the only team to meet with Reid "since free agency began" last month. While he "hasn’t quite lived up to the hype since he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie," he is "good enough to play in the NFL." Free agent TE Julius Thomas, a "frequent protester during the anthem" while with the Dolphins, is "currently out of work, though it might be skill related." S Michael Thomas, who also knelt during the anthem, had "trouble finding offers but eventually landed a two-year deal with the Giants" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/15). 

SAME OLD STORY: In N.Y., Mike Lupica wrote Kaepernick's situation "continues to be the current climate of cowardly and small-minded and discriminatory group-think in pro football." Owners are using the "famous shield of theirs to shield them from the political beliefs of players." Kaepernick might not be "able to prove league-wide collusion in a court of law," but this continues to be a "shame on this league, which once took millions from the Pentagon for displays of patriotism before and during NFL games." The "hypocrisy of it all is rather thrilling" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 4/15).