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MLB Investigating Joe Maddon Tampering Charge: Really?

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This seems like a tempest in a teapot, but MLB is stirring up the teapot.

David Banks

We've heard rumblings about the Cubs' hiring of Joe Maddon being investigated for tampering by Major League Baseball, and now, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, that's actually going to happen:

It is the Rays’ contention Maddon only opted out of his contract because he was made aware of what the Cubs were willing to offer him should he jump. If that indeed occurred, it would be an infraction of major league rules that forbid teams to talk to personnel under contract with another club.

Cubs officials, Maddon and Maddon’s agent, Alan Nero, all previously have denied the matter was discussed until Maddon officially opted out of his deal on Oct. 23. At the General Managers Meetings, both Nero and Rays general manager Matt Silverman refused comment.

Cubs president Theo Epstein, in a statement last month, detailed that the club found out about the opt-out on Oct. 23 and contacted the Commissioner’s Office to confirm the details.

Theo's statement is good enough for me. Here's what he said (WARNING: link plays audio and video without permission):

"It’s just wholly inaccurate," Epstein said. "There’s nothing to it. If we keep seeing stuff in print, then we’re going to respond at some point. For now, we’ll just take it day-by-day. But there was absolutely no tampering whatsoever."

The Dodgers announced the hiring of [Andrew] Friedman as their new president of baseball operations on Oct. 14. Maddon had a two-week window to activate an opt-out clause he wasn’t aware of or had forgotten about, ultimately cashing in with what sources described as a new five-year deal worth $25 million plus postseason incentives. (The Cubs didn’t give him an opt-out clause.)  

Epstein said he received e-mail notification from Alan Nero, Maddon’s Chicago-based agent, on Oct. 23, announcing the manager’s free agency. The news broke the next day, with Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer flying west to meet with manager Rick Renteria, who would be fired within the week.

"The first thing I did when I got the e-mail," Epstein said, "I reached out to Dan Halem – (Major League Baseball’s executive vice president of labor relations) – to confirm that it was a real clause and that he had really exercised it and he had opted out.

That quote contains specific details that ought to be able to be easily confirmed by email and/or phone records. I can understand the Rays being upset about all this, but really, their allegations don't appear to have any basis in, you know, actual facts. The Joel Sherman article notes:

If it is proven the Cubs tampered, they may have to give the Rays some form of compensation, such as a player, draft picks and/or money. It also is possible — especially if any Cubs official lied to MLB investigators — there could be suspensions. The same wing that investigated Alex Rodriguez in the Biogenesis matter is looking into these tampering allegations.

Suspensions? Really? On what basis? In my view, the Cubs don't owe the Rays anything. MLB's Dan Halem ought to be able to confirm Theo's statement, and that should be the end of this.

Sorry, Rays. You've lost this one, and instead of being sore losers, just regroup and rebuild. You know, the way you did under Friedman and Maddon.