New York Yankees

New York Yankees

<p>Former New York Yankees outfielder and 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui has been elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame, <a href="https://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2018/01/15/baseball/japanese-baseball/matsui-elected-japanese-baseball-hall-fame/#.WlzMDmTwZbV" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:according" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">according</a> to The Japan Times. </p><p>Matsui received 91.3% (336 of 368 votes) of the vote to become the youngest player to be inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. In order to get elected into the Hall of Fame, a candidate needs to surpass 75% of the vote. Matsui is just one of six Japanese players to get inducted on their first year on the ballot.</p><p>Matsui won MVP honors in Japan&#39;s Central League in 1996, 2000 and 2002 before heading to the MLB before the 2003 season.</p><p>Matsui is also on the ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in the United States for the first time. He played seven seasons for the New York Yankees and hit .292 with 140 home runs and racked up four seasons with at least 100 RBIs. Matsui was the hero of the 2009 World Series, where he hit .615 with three home runs and eight RBIs against the Philadelphia Phillies. He finished his career by spending time with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2010, the Oakland Athletics in 2011 and the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012.</p><p>Matsui hit 507 home runs combined between his careers in Japan and the United States.</p><p>“I played as a professional baseball player for 20 years, but I only played in NPB for half of the time, 10 years,” Matsui said in a statement. “I was given the honor of being selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame, nevertheless. And I would like to express my appreciation to those concerned.”</p><p>Candidates must also receive 75% of the vote to be elected into the Hall of Fame. In order for Matsui to stay on the ballot, he must receive at least 5% of the vote. The results of the vote by the Baseball Writer&#39;s Association of America will be announced on Jan. 24.</p><p>Former Hanshin Tigers outfielder Tomoaki Kanemoto and former Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara will join Matsui in the next Hall of Fame class.</p>
Former Yankee Star Hideki Matsui Elected To Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame

Former New York Yankees outfielder and 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui has been elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame, according to The Japan Times.

Matsui received 91.3% (336 of 368 votes) of the vote to become the youngest player to be inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. In order to get elected into the Hall of Fame, a candidate needs to surpass 75% of the vote. Matsui is just one of six Japanese players to get inducted on their first year on the ballot.

Matsui won MVP honors in Japan's Central League in 1996, 2000 and 2002 before heading to the MLB before the 2003 season.

Matsui is also on the ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in the United States for the first time. He played seven seasons for the New York Yankees and hit .292 with 140 home runs and racked up four seasons with at least 100 RBIs. Matsui was the hero of the 2009 World Series, where he hit .615 with three home runs and eight RBIs against the Philadelphia Phillies. He finished his career by spending time with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2010, the Oakland Athletics in 2011 and the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012.

Matsui hit 507 home runs combined between his careers in Japan and the United States.

“I played as a professional baseball player for 20 years, but I only played in NPB for half of the time, 10 years,” Matsui said in a statement. “I was given the honor of being selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame, nevertheless. And I would like to express my appreciation to those concerned.”

Candidates must also receive 75% of the vote to be elected into the Hall of Fame. In order for Matsui to stay on the ballot, he must receive at least 5% of the vote. The results of the vote by the Baseball Writer's Association of America will be announced on Jan. 24.

Former Hanshin Tigers outfielder Tomoaki Kanemoto and former Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara will join Matsui in the next Hall of Fame class.

<p>When a professional athlete is injured in a game, hardly anyone asks whether the injury could lead to a lawsuit. And why should they. Injuries are part of every sport. Athletes, especially at the professional level, assume the risk of danger on every play.</p><p>But is that true of <em>all</em> injuries? Could some occur not because “that’s just the way the game is played” but rather because other people were negligent in designing how the game would be played?</p><p>Go back to <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/15/dustin-fowler-injury-white-sox-lawsuit" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:June 29, 2017" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">June 29, 2017</a>. It was an ordinary day for most but certainly not for Dustin Fowler. The Georgia native, who was 22 years old at the time, would make his Major League debut. It would take place on a rainy evening in Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago. And it would be for the New York Yankees. Fowler’s manager, Joe Giardi, started him in right field. He was slated to bat sixth—right behind Jacoby Ellsbury—in a lineup that would face White Sox starter James Shields.</p><p>Fowler was on-deck in the first inning when Ellsbury’s fly ball to left fielder Melky Cabrera produced the third out.</p><p>Yet Fowler didn’t lead off the second inning. In fact, he didn’t make it out of the first.</p><p>And he hasn’t played since.</p><p>With two outs in the bottom of the first, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu belted a line drive down the right-field line. Running at full speed, Fowler couldn’t quite catch up with the ball, which landed foul. Instead, he caught up with another object: an unpadded metal electrical box positioned between a railing and a half wall.</p><p>A <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/06/29/dustin-fowler-yankees-rookie-injury-video" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:devastating collision" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">devastating collision</a> then ensued. Fowler would nearly tumble head first into the stands while his right knee slammed into the wall. That knee slam triggered a rupture in the patella tendon. Grimacing in pain and unable to put weight on his right leg, Fowler hobbled for a few seconds before falling to the ground. Meanwhile, an umpire waved to the Yankees dugout that Fowler needed immediate medical assistance.</p><p>Fowler would be carried off the field on a stretcher and ambulanced to the emergency room of Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center. Doctors there would perform season-ending surgery. A month later the Yankees <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/08/01/ap-bba-athletics-fowlers-recovery" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:traded" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">traded</a> Fowler to the Oakland A’s in a package deal for pitcher Sonny Gray. </p><p>Reminiscent of <a href="https://www.si.com/vault/1982/05/10/628357/this-novel-involves-quotjd-salingerquot-but-the-catcher-is-behind-the-plate" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham</a>, a fellow right fielder whose big league career consisted of one inning without a plate appearance, Fowler is still waiting for his first big league at-bat.</p><p>Fowler’s path likely won’t follow that of Graham, who returned to school and became a doctor. In fact, it is because of doctors that Fowler should get the chance that Graham never got. Fowler knee surgery’s was successful and he appears to have recovered, at least in terms of resuming his baseball career. Two months ago, the A’s reinstated Fowler from the disabled list. He is expected to be in full strength by the time A’s spring training in Mesa, Arizona starts next month.</p><p>The fact that Fowler has seemingly recovered does not mean that his injury—and accompanying suffering—occurred without legal implications. In fact, the aftermath of the injury could alter the degree to which stadium operators and teams owe ballplayers a safe environment in which to play.</p><p>To that end, Fowler recently sued both the White Sox and the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA, the government entity that owns Guaranteed Rate Field) in a Cook County Circuit Court. SI.com has obtained a copy of the complaint.</p><p>Fowler, who is represented by <a href="http://bandmlaw.com/team.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:John Bailly" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">John Bailly</a> of Bailly &#38; McMillan and <a href="https://www.cavanaghlawgroup.com/our-team/michael-sorich/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Michael Sorich" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Michael Sorich</a> of the Cavanagh Law Group, contends that, “as a result of the negligent, grossly negligent, reckless, willful and wanton conduct of the Defendants,” he “missed the remainder of the 2017 baseball season.” Fowler says he suffered “severe and permanent” injuries, along with “great pain and anguish.” He also stresses the extensive harm caused to his nascent big league career. Indeed, Fowler describes how he has “undergone and continues to undergo rehabilitation for the injuries sustained” and endured “pain and suffering and medical expenses.” He also seeks compensation for “past lost earnings and potential future lost earnings.”</p><p><strong>The rarity of professional athletes suing over injuries</strong></p><p>Regardless of how it fares in court, Fowler’s lawsuit is unusual. The fact is, professional athletes who suffer serious injuries in the course of playing games seldom file lawsuits over those injuries.</p><p>There are a number of reasons for this dynamic. One is that these players tend to be financially protected in the event of serious injury.</p><p>Take MLB player contracts. They are, essentially, guaranteed and even the league’s minimum salary—$550,000 in 2018—places a player in the top half of the top one percent of earners in the United States. Fowler was paid while on the disabled list. He also earned service time towards arbitration and free agency eligibility. Indeed, despite not being able to play, players on the 15- and 60-day MLB disabled lists accrue service time.</p><p>Generous health care benefits also push against the need to sue. Players’ associations collectively bargain for high-quality health care and long-term disability policies. These policies insure that injured players—and to varying degrees retired players—do not pay for health care out-of-pocket. This is true even when injured players may be entitled to benefits through workers’ compensation insurance (Nathaniel Grow has an <a href="https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/major-league-baseball-and-workers-comp/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:excellent overview" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">excellent overview</a> of workers’ compensation in MLB on <em>FanGraphs</em>). With these points in mind, the Yankees and later the A’s presumably paid for health care costs related to Fowler’s knee injury.</p><p>Another reason for the dearth of this type of litigation is that professional athletes clearly assume substantial health risks as inherent in the game. Even though baseball is not as dangerous as football or hockey, ballplayers are still exposed to a variety of risks on every play. Usually when a player is injured while trying to make a play, there is an unstated understanding that the injury is “part of the game.” Fowler crashing into a wall in pursuit of a fly ball was not unforeseeable (whether the electrical box should have been there is a separate matter).</p><p>Still another reason for the lack of player injury lawsuits may concern reputation. Injured professional athletes might worry that filing a lawsuit over an on-field injury would stigmatize them. Would teammates and fans mock them as too litigious or annoyingly disruptive?</p><p>Finally, there is the element of finite time and diminishing tolerance. As anyone who has been in a lawsuit knows too well, litigation is time consuming and often stressful. It requires something of a “long game”: regular meetings and conversations with lawyers. It also demands answering questions, sometimes under oath. A pro athlete’s time is limited and expending it on a lawsuit can be a questionable choice.</p><p><strong>Rare isn’t never</strong></p><p>While they are few and far between, some pro athletes have sued after being injured in games. And they have succeeded when they are able to show that their injury occurred in a manner clearly outside the scope of the game.</p><p>Take Former Denver Broncos safety Dale Hackbart’s lawsuit against the Cincinnati Bengals for an incident that occurred in a 1973 game. While attempting to get up from the field, Hackbart was struck with an intentional blow to his neck by Bengals fullback Charles Clark. Clark’s strike—which was not a football move—caused Hackbart to suffer a neck fracture. Hackbart sued and received a <a href="https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F2/601/516/377615/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:favorable decision" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">favorable decision</a> by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The court reasoned that while football players assume risks of injuries inherent the game, they do not necessarily assume other types of risks while playing football.</p><p>Former Houston Rockets forward Rudy Tomjanovich proved a similar point when he successfully sued the Los Angeles Lakers for negligent supervision of one of its players. Tomjanovich suffered significant facial injuries when, as part of a skirmish during a game in 1977, he was punched by Lakers forward Kermit Washington. Prior to an appellate court reviewing Tomjanovich’s trial victory, Tomjanovich and the Lakers <a href="https://www.si.com/vault/1994/07/04/131577/hey-call-anytime-rudy-tomjanovich-coach-of-the-champion-houston-rockets-is-a-regular-guy-just-ask-the-president" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:agreed on a $2 million settlement" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">agreed on a $2 million settlement</a>. Years later, California Judge Thomas Crosby would <a href="https://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/3d/198/98.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:write" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">write</a>,</p><p><em>“A verdict for Tomjanovich was clearly proper. He did assume the risk of being hit in the face by a flying elbow in the course of defending against an opponent&#39;s jump shot, suffering a painful insult to his instep by a size-16 foot descending with a rebound, or even being knocked to the court by the sheer momentum of a seven-footer driving home a slam dunk. But the scope of his consent did not extend to an intentional blow considerably beyond the expected risks inherent in basketball. Intentional fouls are part of that game. But where the intent is to injure and the force used is far greater than necessary to accomplish a legitimate objective within the scope of play, a defendant may not prevail on an assumption of risk defense.</em>”</p><p>Former Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore brought a lawsuit with these same ideas in mind. He sued the Vancouver Canucks and forward Todd Bertuzzi in 2005 for $68 million over career-ending injuries caused by Bertuzzi pile-driving Moore face first into the ice. After nearly a decade of litigation, the parties <a href="https://www.si.com/nhl/2014/09/04/steve-moore-todd-bertuzzi-settlement" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:settled in 2014" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">settled in 2014</a>.</p><p>Not long thereafter, former NFL running back Reggie Bush sued over a safety risk he insists that he did not assume. While playing in the Edward Jones Dome in 2015, Bush was pushed out of bounds in the course of returning a punt. Unable to stop on the turf, he slipped onto an uncovered concrete surface and suffered a season-ending knee injury. Given a close proximity between the turf and the concrete, Bush believes that the stadium had been negligently maintained. His case against the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority remains in litigation.</p><p>Injured players also sometime sue as part of a class action, where a handful of current or retired players represent thousands of others. Most plaintiffs in a class action are thus passive and play no active role, but still stand to benefit if the action leads to a courtroom victory or a settlement. The class action model was used when thousands of retired NFL players were part of a class action against the NFL over long-term neurological problems associated with playing football. Over 99% of those players <a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2016/12/12/supreme-court-nfl-concussion-settlement-retired-players" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:settled claims" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">settled claims</a> with the NFL, though new findings on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) <a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2017/08/15/new-cte-study-effect-nfl-concussion-settlement" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:could undermine the settlement" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">could undermine the settlement</a>. Former NHL players are engaged in a <a href="https://www.si.com/nhl/2016/03/28/nhl-concussions-fighting-head-injuries-unsealed-emails" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:similar class action" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">similar class action</a> against the NHL.</p><p><strong>Placing Fowler’s initial comments to media in the appropriate context</strong></p><p>In the immediate aftermath of the collision, Fowler didn’t seem to blame the White Sox or stadium operators for his injury. Instead, he appeared to attribute the injury to an unfortunate circumstance.</p><p>For instance, he <a href="https://nypost.com/2017/06/30/dustin-fowler-hours-after-horrific-injury-how-ill-fight-back/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:told" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">told</a> Kevin Kernan of the <em>New York Post</em> that “I hit the wrong part of the fence, it was just kind of a freak accident that you can’t really do anything about.’’ Fowler also <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/dustin-fowler-doesn-regret-aggressive-pursuit-foul-ball-article-1.3303040" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:relayed" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">relayed</a> that point of view to the <em>New York Daily News</em>’ Daniel Popper. “I can’t say that I wouldn’t have been hurt if I didn’t hit it,” Fowler reflected. “I could have easily torn an ACL if I didn’t hit it. It’s easy to blame something like that, but right now, I think it’s just unfortunate . . . I’m not really blaming anyone or anything for it, how it happened or why it was there.” </p><p>The fact that Fowler did not immediately blame the White Sox or ISFA for his injury should not be regarded as a meaningful omission. For one, athletes are generally coached to take responsibility for their performance and to not direct blame elsewhere. Furthermore, Fowler may not have had a chance yet to speak with attorneys, who are educated about the law, as to whether he had been unlawfully wronged. Along those lines, Fowler not only lacks a legal education but he never attended college—he signed with the Yankees as an 18-year-old straight out of West Laurens High School (Dexter, Georgia) in 2013. To have expected him to describe the White Sox or ISFA as “negligent” in the hours and days following a devastating knee injury seems unrealistic and unfair.</p><p><strong>Understanding Fowler’s legal theory and what he needs to prove</strong></p><p>Fowler’s case centers on a key assertion: that the White Sox and ISFA negligently installed a metal electrical box to a portion of the half wall in right field and that their decision to do so caused Fowler’s injuries.</p><p>As Fowler asserts, the presence of the box allowed for his knee to come into contact with it. This box, Fowler contends, was a “hidden and undetectable hazard.” He was clearly not expecting the box to be there, especially given that the surrounding railing and wall featured protective padding. Fowler also argues that such a collision with a sprinting right fielder was, or should have been, foreseeable to the White Sox and ISFA. This dynamic, Fowler maintains, reveals the White Sox and ISFA as having “an utter indifference to or conscious disregard for the safety of the Plaintiff.”</p><p>To advance this claim, Fowler would benefit by convincing a jury that the box’s placement and other safety characteristics—such as its size, color contrast and hardness—was atypically dangerous for a big league ballpark. The more unusual the box seemed, the less Fowler would have been on notice of its presence. This is particular true given that it was Fowler’s first time playing in Guaranteed Rate Field. To that end, witnesses with expertise in ballpark design, such as stadium engineers and groundskeepers, could offer analysis on where other big league ballparks place electrical boxes and whether such placements poses similar or different health risks to the ones encountered by Fowler.</p><p>Other potential witnesses could include baseball managers and executives who are familiar with safety issues. It seems likely that one such witness will be Girardi, who in the aftermath of Fowler’s injury criticized MLB for allowing outfielders to experience unsafe conditions. <em>The New York Daily News</em> <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/dustin-fowler-avoidable-injury-left-joe-girardi-tears-article-1.3290498" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:quoted" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">quoted</a> Girardi as observing that Fowler’s injury was clearly influenced by the ballpark design. “I know it’s how the stadium was designed,” Girardi remarked, “but I think it’s something baseball needs to address. Maybe you put up Plexiglass so they can’t flip over and people can look through it . . . You say you want players to play hard. But sometimes this is what happens if the field doesn’t protect the players.”</p><p>Evidence of past injuries would also be important. This would be true of players injured by this particular box as well as other areas of Guaranteed Rate Field. The more evidence that the White Sox and ISFA were on notice of an unsafe feature, the less reasonable they would seem in failing to fix it.</p><p>Fowler’s potential damages are harder to assess. Assuming his health care costs were paid by his employer and assuming he is able to resume his career without a diminishment in skill, his damages would likely center on the considerable pain and suffering he endured as a result of the injury. Also, if Fowler’s comeback with the A’s is stalled due to ongoing knee problems, his potential damages would be higher. Similarly, since Fowler is a player who relies on speed as a key part of his game, a degeneration of his running ability could be compensable since it would hurt his chances for a big league career and lower his potential career earnings. Expert witnesses, including retired baseball executives and baseball agents, would likely testify on these topics.</p><p><strong>Potential legal defenses for the White Sox and ISFA</strong></p><p>The ideal argument for a defendant is one that convinces a judge that the judge has no grounds to hear the plaintiff’s case. The White Sox and ISFA could offer a couple of arguments along those lines.</p><p>First, Fowler’s lawsuit might be preempted by the collective bargaining agreement signed by MLB and MLBPA. The CBA contains detailed procedures for players to file “grievances.” Under Article XI of the CBA, a grievance is defined as a complaint involving agreements or provisions between a player and a club (among others). A grievance avoids court. It leads to arbitration and either a settlement or an arbitrator’s binding decision.</p><p>A number of MLB players, with help from the MLBPA, have filed grievances for injury-related matters. For example, a few years ago, pitcher Nick Hagadone grieved a dispute with the Cleveland Indians centering on the contractual impact of a self-inflicted forearm injury. The injury occurred after Hagadone was pulled from a game in which he struggled. In frustration, Hagadone, slammed a door while walking to the clubhouse. The Indians sent Hagadone to the minors and placed him on the disqualified list, transactions which had the effect of denying him service time. Through the grievance process, Hagadone and the Indians ultimately reached a settlement.</p><p>Had Hagadone sued the Indians, the Indians would have probably cited the federal Labor Management Relations Act as a core defense. The Act generally requires that unionized employees must exhaust their potential remedies under collectively bargained grievance procedures before turning to court.</p><p>While the White Sox might argue that Fowler, like Hagadone and other players, should use the grievance process instead of courts, Fowler’s attorneys would likely stress that the grievance process is not appropriate for Fowler’s injury or the claims that stem from it. For one, Fowler was never in contract with the White Sox; his employer at the time of the injury was the Yankees. For another, Fowler’s claims are not contractual in nature. They stem from a workplace injury that gave rise to claims in torts, an area of law that deals with personal and non-contractual harms. Further, Article XI of the CBA makes clear that the grievance process does not necessarily bar a lawsuit. “[N]othing,” according to Article VI, “herein shall alter or abridge the rights of the Parties, or any of them, to resort to a court of law for the resolution of such complaint or dispute.”</p><p>The ISFA might enjoy a separate defense that attempts to immunize it from Fowler’s claims. As a public entity, the ISFA may be able to take advantage of “sovereign immunity.” In its broadest form, sovereign immunity is a legal principle dictating that the government and its agencies (including public universities and public stadium authorities) can only be sued if they agree to be sued. Sovereign immunity has numerous exceptions, however, and some of those limits are expressed through the <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ChapterID=58&#38;ActID=2062" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Illinois Tort Immunity Act" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Illinois Tort Immunity Act</a>.</p><p>Assuming the White Sox and ISFA are required to defend the lawfulness of the playing conditions, they might argue the box was an “open and obvious” condition to right fielders. Such an argument would be bolstered if other players would be willing to testify that they saw the box and adjusted for it in how they played. It would also benefit if the box has been there a while and Fowler is the first and only player hurt by it.</p><p>A related argument may be that outfielders have a professional duty to inspect the conditions in which they play. Is it common or customary for MLB outfielders who have never before played in a particular ballpark to survey the fence and other conditions before the game? If it is, the White Sox and ISFA might contend that Fowler should have done more to acquaint himself with his conditions.</p><p>The defendants will also argue that Fowler’s damages are relatively modest. The Yankees and A’s (presumably) covered his healthcare costs and he has been off the disabled list for a couple of months. The defendants will also insist that any depiction of the injury as having a long-term impact on Fowler’s baseball career is speculative and not provable with certainty. While Fowler will retain expert witnesses who take his view, the White Sox and ISFA will retain their own.</p><p>If Fowler’s lawsuit advances past a motion to dismiss and pretrial discovery begins, Fowler, the White Sox and ISFA would probably reach a settlement where the defendants pay him to drop his lawsuit. None of the parties likely want to expend the considerable time and energy required of pretrial discovery or a trial. Insurance companies for the White Sox and ISFA would likely encourage a settlement in order to reduce the risk of a large jury award in Fowler’s favor.</p><p>Yet settlement talks can break down and agreements aren’t always reached. And if Fowler’s case advances to trial, you can be sure that the many stakeholders in ballpark safety would closely watch it.</p><p><a href="https://law.unh.edu/faculty/mccann" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Michael McCann" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>Michael McCann</em></a><em> is SI’s legal analyst. He is also an attorney and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, and co-author with Ed O&#39;Bannon of the forthcoming book </em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Court-Justice-Inside-Against-Basketball/dp/1635762626/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&#38;qid=1506713819&#38;sr=8-1&#38;keywords=Court+Justice%3A+The+Inside+Story+of+My+Battle+Against+the+NCAA+and+My+Life+in+Basketball" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Court Justice: The Inside Story of My Battle Against the NCAA" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Court Justice: The Inside Story of My Battle Against the NCAA</a><em>.</em><br> </p>
Analyzing Dustin Fowler's Lawsuit Against the Chicago White Sox

When a professional athlete is injured in a game, hardly anyone asks whether the injury could lead to a lawsuit. And why should they. Injuries are part of every sport. Athletes, especially at the professional level, assume the risk of danger on every play.

But is that true of all injuries? Could some occur not because “that’s just the way the game is played” but rather because other people were negligent in designing how the game would be played?

Go back to June 29, 2017. It was an ordinary day for most but certainly not for Dustin Fowler. The Georgia native, who was 22 years old at the time, would make his Major League debut. It would take place on a rainy evening in Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago. And it would be for the New York Yankees. Fowler’s manager, Joe Giardi, started him in right field. He was slated to bat sixth—right behind Jacoby Ellsbury—in a lineup that would face White Sox starter James Shields.

Fowler was on-deck in the first inning when Ellsbury’s fly ball to left fielder Melky Cabrera produced the third out.

Yet Fowler didn’t lead off the second inning. In fact, he didn’t make it out of the first.

And he hasn’t played since.

With two outs in the bottom of the first, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu belted a line drive down the right-field line. Running at full speed, Fowler couldn’t quite catch up with the ball, which landed foul. Instead, he caught up with another object: an unpadded metal electrical box positioned between a railing and a half wall.

A devastating collision then ensued. Fowler would nearly tumble head first into the stands while his right knee slammed into the wall. That knee slam triggered a rupture in the patella tendon. Grimacing in pain and unable to put weight on his right leg, Fowler hobbled for a few seconds before falling to the ground. Meanwhile, an umpire waved to the Yankees dugout that Fowler needed immediate medical assistance.

Fowler would be carried off the field on a stretcher and ambulanced to the emergency room of Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center. Doctors there would perform season-ending surgery. A month later the Yankees traded Fowler to the Oakland A’s in a package deal for pitcher Sonny Gray.

Reminiscent of Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham, a fellow right fielder whose big league career consisted of one inning without a plate appearance, Fowler is still waiting for his first big league at-bat.

Fowler’s path likely won’t follow that of Graham, who returned to school and became a doctor. In fact, it is because of doctors that Fowler should get the chance that Graham never got. Fowler knee surgery’s was successful and he appears to have recovered, at least in terms of resuming his baseball career. Two months ago, the A’s reinstated Fowler from the disabled list. He is expected to be in full strength by the time A’s spring training in Mesa, Arizona starts next month.

The fact that Fowler has seemingly recovered does not mean that his injury—and accompanying suffering—occurred without legal implications. In fact, the aftermath of the injury could alter the degree to which stadium operators and teams owe ballplayers a safe environment in which to play.

To that end, Fowler recently sued both the White Sox and the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA, the government entity that owns Guaranteed Rate Field) in a Cook County Circuit Court. SI.com has obtained a copy of the complaint.

Fowler, who is represented by John Bailly of Bailly & McMillan and Michael Sorich of the Cavanagh Law Group, contends that, “as a result of the negligent, grossly negligent, reckless, willful and wanton conduct of the Defendants,” he “missed the remainder of the 2017 baseball season.” Fowler says he suffered “severe and permanent” injuries, along with “great pain and anguish.” He also stresses the extensive harm caused to his nascent big league career. Indeed, Fowler describes how he has “undergone and continues to undergo rehabilitation for the injuries sustained” and endured “pain and suffering and medical expenses.” He also seeks compensation for “past lost earnings and potential future lost earnings.”

The rarity of professional athletes suing over injuries

Regardless of how it fares in court, Fowler’s lawsuit is unusual. The fact is, professional athletes who suffer serious injuries in the course of playing games seldom file lawsuits over those injuries.

There are a number of reasons for this dynamic. One is that these players tend to be financially protected in the event of serious injury.

Take MLB player contracts. They are, essentially, guaranteed and even the league’s minimum salary—$550,000 in 2018—places a player in the top half of the top one percent of earners in the United States. Fowler was paid while on the disabled list. He also earned service time towards arbitration and free agency eligibility. Indeed, despite not being able to play, players on the 15- and 60-day MLB disabled lists accrue service time.

Generous health care benefits also push against the need to sue. Players’ associations collectively bargain for high-quality health care and long-term disability policies. These policies insure that injured players—and to varying degrees retired players—do not pay for health care out-of-pocket. This is true even when injured players may be entitled to benefits through workers’ compensation insurance (Nathaniel Grow has an excellent overview of workers’ compensation in MLB on FanGraphs). With these points in mind, the Yankees and later the A’s presumably paid for health care costs related to Fowler’s knee injury.

Another reason for the dearth of this type of litigation is that professional athletes clearly assume substantial health risks as inherent in the game. Even though baseball is not as dangerous as football or hockey, ballplayers are still exposed to a variety of risks on every play. Usually when a player is injured while trying to make a play, there is an unstated understanding that the injury is “part of the game.” Fowler crashing into a wall in pursuit of a fly ball was not unforeseeable (whether the electrical box should have been there is a separate matter).

Still another reason for the lack of player injury lawsuits may concern reputation. Injured professional athletes might worry that filing a lawsuit over an on-field injury would stigmatize them. Would teammates and fans mock them as too litigious or annoyingly disruptive?

Finally, there is the element of finite time and diminishing tolerance. As anyone who has been in a lawsuit knows too well, litigation is time consuming and often stressful. It requires something of a “long game”: regular meetings and conversations with lawyers. It also demands answering questions, sometimes under oath. A pro athlete’s time is limited and expending it on a lawsuit can be a questionable choice.

Rare isn’t never

While they are few and far between, some pro athletes have sued after being injured in games. And they have succeeded when they are able to show that their injury occurred in a manner clearly outside the scope of the game.

Take Former Denver Broncos safety Dale Hackbart’s lawsuit against the Cincinnati Bengals for an incident that occurred in a 1973 game. While attempting to get up from the field, Hackbart was struck with an intentional blow to his neck by Bengals fullback Charles Clark. Clark’s strike—which was not a football move—caused Hackbart to suffer a neck fracture. Hackbart sued and received a favorable decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The court reasoned that while football players assume risks of injuries inherent the game, they do not necessarily assume other types of risks while playing football.

Former Houston Rockets forward Rudy Tomjanovich proved a similar point when he successfully sued the Los Angeles Lakers for negligent supervision of one of its players. Tomjanovich suffered significant facial injuries when, as part of a skirmish during a game in 1977, he was punched by Lakers forward Kermit Washington. Prior to an appellate court reviewing Tomjanovich’s trial victory, Tomjanovich and the Lakers agreed on a $2 million settlement. Years later, California Judge Thomas Crosby would write,

“A verdict for Tomjanovich was clearly proper. He did assume the risk of being hit in the face by a flying elbow in the course of defending against an opponent's jump shot, suffering a painful insult to his instep by a size-16 foot descending with a rebound, or even being knocked to the court by the sheer momentum of a seven-footer driving home a slam dunk. But the scope of his consent did not extend to an intentional blow considerably beyond the expected risks inherent in basketball. Intentional fouls are part of that game. But where the intent is to injure and the force used is far greater than necessary to accomplish a legitimate objective within the scope of play, a defendant may not prevail on an assumption of risk defense.

Former Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore brought a lawsuit with these same ideas in mind. He sued the Vancouver Canucks and forward Todd Bertuzzi in 2005 for $68 million over career-ending injuries caused by Bertuzzi pile-driving Moore face first into the ice. After nearly a decade of litigation, the parties settled in 2014.

Not long thereafter, former NFL running back Reggie Bush sued over a safety risk he insists that he did not assume. While playing in the Edward Jones Dome in 2015, Bush was pushed out of bounds in the course of returning a punt. Unable to stop on the turf, he slipped onto an uncovered concrete surface and suffered a season-ending knee injury. Given a close proximity between the turf and the concrete, Bush believes that the stadium had been negligently maintained. His case against the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority remains in litigation.

Injured players also sometime sue as part of a class action, where a handful of current or retired players represent thousands of others. Most plaintiffs in a class action are thus passive and play no active role, but still stand to benefit if the action leads to a courtroom victory or a settlement. The class action model was used when thousands of retired NFL players were part of a class action against the NFL over long-term neurological problems associated with playing football. Over 99% of those players settled claims with the NFL, though new findings on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) could undermine the settlement. Former NHL players are engaged in a similar class action against the NHL.

Placing Fowler’s initial comments to media in the appropriate context

In the immediate aftermath of the collision, Fowler didn’t seem to blame the White Sox or stadium operators for his injury. Instead, he appeared to attribute the injury to an unfortunate circumstance.

For instance, he told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that “I hit the wrong part of the fence, it was just kind of a freak accident that you can’t really do anything about.’’ Fowler also relayed that point of view to the New York Daily News’ Daniel Popper. “I can’t say that I wouldn’t have been hurt if I didn’t hit it,” Fowler reflected. “I could have easily torn an ACL if I didn’t hit it. It’s easy to blame something like that, but right now, I think it’s just unfortunate . . . I’m not really blaming anyone or anything for it, how it happened or why it was there.”

The fact that Fowler did not immediately blame the White Sox or ISFA for his injury should not be regarded as a meaningful omission. For one, athletes are generally coached to take responsibility for their performance and to not direct blame elsewhere. Furthermore, Fowler may not have had a chance yet to speak with attorneys, who are educated about the law, as to whether he had been unlawfully wronged. Along those lines, Fowler not only lacks a legal education but he never attended college—he signed with the Yankees as an 18-year-old straight out of West Laurens High School (Dexter, Georgia) in 2013. To have expected him to describe the White Sox or ISFA as “negligent” in the hours and days following a devastating knee injury seems unrealistic and unfair.

Understanding Fowler’s legal theory and what he needs to prove

Fowler’s case centers on a key assertion: that the White Sox and ISFA negligently installed a metal electrical box to a portion of the half wall in right field and that their decision to do so caused Fowler’s injuries.

As Fowler asserts, the presence of the box allowed for his knee to come into contact with it. This box, Fowler contends, was a “hidden and undetectable hazard.” He was clearly not expecting the box to be there, especially given that the surrounding railing and wall featured protective padding. Fowler also argues that such a collision with a sprinting right fielder was, or should have been, foreseeable to the White Sox and ISFA. This dynamic, Fowler maintains, reveals the White Sox and ISFA as having “an utter indifference to or conscious disregard for the safety of the Plaintiff.”

To advance this claim, Fowler would benefit by convincing a jury that the box’s placement and other safety characteristics—such as its size, color contrast and hardness—was atypically dangerous for a big league ballpark. The more unusual the box seemed, the less Fowler would have been on notice of its presence. This is particular true given that it was Fowler’s first time playing in Guaranteed Rate Field. To that end, witnesses with expertise in ballpark design, such as stadium engineers and groundskeepers, could offer analysis on where other big league ballparks place electrical boxes and whether such placements poses similar or different health risks to the ones encountered by Fowler.

Other potential witnesses could include baseball managers and executives who are familiar with safety issues. It seems likely that one such witness will be Girardi, who in the aftermath of Fowler’s injury criticized MLB for allowing outfielders to experience unsafe conditions. The New York Daily News quoted Girardi as observing that Fowler’s injury was clearly influenced by the ballpark design. “I know it’s how the stadium was designed,” Girardi remarked, “but I think it’s something baseball needs to address. Maybe you put up Plexiglass so they can’t flip over and people can look through it . . . You say you want players to play hard. But sometimes this is what happens if the field doesn’t protect the players.”

Evidence of past injuries would also be important. This would be true of players injured by this particular box as well as other areas of Guaranteed Rate Field. The more evidence that the White Sox and ISFA were on notice of an unsafe feature, the less reasonable they would seem in failing to fix it.

Fowler’s potential damages are harder to assess. Assuming his health care costs were paid by his employer and assuming he is able to resume his career without a diminishment in skill, his damages would likely center on the considerable pain and suffering he endured as a result of the injury. Also, if Fowler’s comeback with the A’s is stalled due to ongoing knee problems, his potential damages would be higher. Similarly, since Fowler is a player who relies on speed as a key part of his game, a degeneration of his running ability could be compensable since it would hurt his chances for a big league career and lower his potential career earnings. Expert witnesses, including retired baseball executives and baseball agents, would likely testify on these topics.

Potential legal defenses for the White Sox and ISFA

The ideal argument for a defendant is one that convinces a judge that the judge has no grounds to hear the plaintiff’s case. The White Sox and ISFA could offer a couple of arguments along those lines.

First, Fowler’s lawsuit might be preempted by the collective bargaining agreement signed by MLB and MLBPA. The CBA contains detailed procedures for players to file “grievances.” Under Article XI of the CBA, a grievance is defined as a complaint involving agreements or provisions between a player and a club (among others). A grievance avoids court. It leads to arbitration and either a settlement or an arbitrator’s binding decision.

A number of MLB players, with help from the MLBPA, have filed grievances for injury-related matters. For example, a few years ago, pitcher Nick Hagadone grieved a dispute with the Cleveland Indians centering on the contractual impact of a self-inflicted forearm injury. The injury occurred after Hagadone was pulled from a game in which he struggled. In frustration, Hagadone, slammed a door while walking to the clubhouse. The Indians sent Hagadone to the minors and placed him on the disqualified list, transactions which had the effect of denying him service time. Through the grievance process, Hagadone and the Indians ultimately reached a settlement.

Had Hagadone sued the Indians, the Indians would have probably cited the federal Labor Management Relations Act as a core defense. The Act generally requires that unionized employees must exhaust their potential remedies under collectively bargained grievance procedures before turning to court.

While the White Sox might argue that Fowler, like Hagadone and other players, should use the grievance process instead of courts, Fowler’s attorneys would likely stress that the grievance process is not appropriate for Fowler’s injury or the claims that stem from it. For one, Fowler was never in contract with the White Sox; his employer at the time of the injury was the Yankees. For another, Fowler’s claims are not contractual in nature. They stem from a workplace injury that gave rise to claims in torts, an area of law that deals with personal and non-contractual harms. Further, Article XI of the CBA makes clear that the grievance process does not necessarily bar a lawsuit. “[N]othing,” according to Article VI, “herein shall alter or abridge the rights of the Parties, or any of them, to resort to a court of law for the resolution of such complaint or dispute.”

The ISFA might enjoy a separate defense that attempts to immunize it from Fowler’s claims. As a public entity, the ISFA may be able to take advantage of “sovereign immunity.” In its broadest form, sovereign immunity is a legal principle dictating that the government and its agencies (including public universities and public stadium authorities) can only be sued if they agree to be sued. Sovereign immunity has numerous exceptions, however, and some of those limits are expressed through the Illinois Tort Immunity Act.

Assuming the White Sox and ISFA are required to defend the lawfulness of the playing conditions, they might argue the box was an “open and obvious” condition to right fielders. Such an argument would be bolstered if other players would be willing to testify that they saw the box and adjusted for it in how they played. It would also benefit if the box has been there a while and Fowler is the first and only player hurt by it.

A related argument may be that outfielders have a professional duty to inspect the conditions in which they play. Is it common or customary for MLB outfielders who have never before played in a particular ballpark to survey the fence and other conditions before the game? If it is, the White Sox and ISFA might contend that Fowler should have done more to acquaint himself with his conditions.

The defendants will also argue that Fowler’s damages are relatively modest. The Yankees and A’s (presumably) covered his healthcare costs and he has been off the disabled list for a couple of months. The defendants will also insist that any depiction of the injury as having a long-term impact on Fowler’s baseball career is speculative and not provable with certainty. While Fowler will retain expert witnesses who take his view, the White Sox and ISFA will retain their own.

If Fowler’s lawsuit advances past a motion to dismiss and pretrial discovery begins, Fowler, the White Sox and ISFA would probably reach a settlement where the defendants pay him to drop his lawsuit. None of the parties likely want to expend the considerable time and energy required of pretrial discovery or a trial. Insurance companies for the White Sox and ISFA would likely encourage a settlement in order to reduce the risk of a large jury award in Fowler’s favor.

Yet settlement talks can break down and agreements aren’t always reached. And if Fowler’s case advances to trial, you can be sure that the many stakeholders in ballpark safety would closely watch it.

Michael McCann is SI’s legal analyst. He is also an attorney and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, and co-author with Ed O'Bannon of the forthcoming book Court Justice: The Inside Story of My Battle Against the NCAA.

<p>When a professional athlete is injured in a game, hardly anyone asks whether the injury could lead to a lawsuit. And why should they. Injuries are part of every sport. Athletes, especially at the professional level, assume the risk of danger on every play.</p><p>But is that true of <em>all</em> injuries? Could some occur not because “that’s just the way the game is played” but rather because other people were negligent in designing how the game would be played?</p><p>Go back to <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/15/dustin-fowler-injury-white-sox-lawsuit" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:June 29, 2017" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">June 29, 2017</a>. It was an ordinary day for most but certainly not for Dustin Fowler. The Georgia native, who was 22 years old at the time, would make his Major League debut. It would take place on a rainy evening in Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago. And it would be for the New York Yankees. Fowler’s manager, Joe Giardi, started him in right field. He was slated to bat sixth—right behind Jacoby Ellsbury—in a lineup that would face White Sox starter James Shields.</p><p>Fowler was on-deck in the first inning when Ellsbury’s fly ball to left fielder Melky Cabrera produced the third out.</p><p>Yet Fowler didn’t lead off the second inning. In fact, he didn’t make it out of the first.</p><p>And he hasn’t played since.</p><p>With two outs in the bottom of the first, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu belted a line drive down the right-field line. Running at full speed, Fowler couldn’t quite catch up with the ball, which landed foul. Instead, he caught up with another object: an unpadded metal electrical box positioned between a railing and a half wall.</p><p>A <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/06/29/dustin-fowler-yankees-rookie-injury-video" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:devastating collision" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">devastating collision</a> then ensued. Fowler would nearly tumble head first into the stands while his right knee slammed into the wall. That knee slam triggered a rupture in the patella tendon. Grimacing in pain and unable to put weight on his right leg, Fowler hobbled for a few seconds before falling to the ground. Meanwhile, an umpire waved to the Yankees dugout that Fowler needed immediate medical assistance.</p><p>Fowler would be carried off the field on a stretcher and ambulanced to the emergency room of Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center. Doctors there would perform season-ending surgery. A month later the Yankees <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/08/01/ap-bba-athletics-fowlers-recovery" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:traded" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">traded</a> Fowler to the Oakland A’s in a package deal for pitcher Sonny Gray. </p><p>Reminiscent of <a href="https://www.si.com/vault/1982/05/10/628357/this-novel-involves-quotjd-salingerquot-but-the-catcher-is-behind-the-plate" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham</a>, a fellow right fielder whose big league career consisted of one inning without a plate appearance, Fowler is still waiting for his first big league at-bat.</p><p>Fowler’s path likely won’t follow that of Graham, who returned to school and became a doctor. In fact, it is because of doctors that Fowler should get the chance that Graham never got. Fowler knee surgery’s was successful and he appears to have recovered, at least in terms of resuming his baseball career. Two months ago, the A’s reinstated Fowler from the disabled list. He is expected to be in full strength by the time A’s spring training in Mesa, Arizona starts next month.</p><p>The fact that Fowler has seemingly recovered does not mean that his injury—and accompanying suffering—occurred without legal implications. In fact, the aftermath of the injury could alter the degree to which stadium operators and teams owe ballplayers a safe environment in which to play.</p><p>To that end, Fowler recently sued both the White Sox and the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA, the government entity that owns Guaranteed Rate Field) in a Cook County Circuit Court. SI.com has obtained a copy of the complaint.</p><p>Fowler, who is represented by <a href="http://bandmlaw.com/team.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:John Bailly" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">John Bailly</a> of Bailly &#38; McMillan and <a href="https://www.cavanaghlawgroup.com/our-team/michael-sorich/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Michael Sorich" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Michael Sorich</a> of the Cavanagh Law Group, contends that, “as a result of the negligent, grossly negligent, reckless, willful and wanton conduct of the Defendants,” he “missed the remainder of the 2017 baseball season.” Fowler says he suffered “severe and permanent” injuries, along with “great pain and anguish.” He also stresses the extensive harm caused to his nascent big league career. Indeed, Fowler describes how he has “undergone and continues to undergo rehabilitation for the injuries sustained” and endured “pain and suffering and medical expenses.” He also seeks compensation for “past lost earnings and potential future lost earnings.”</p><p><strong>The rarity of professional athletes suing over injuries</strong></p><p>Regardless of how it fares in court, Fowler’s lawsuit is unusual. The fact is, professional athletes who suffer serious injuries in the course of playing games seldom file lawsuits over those injuries.</p><p>There are a number of reasons for this dynamic. One is that these players tend to be financially protected in the event of serious injury.</p><p>Take MLB player contracts. They are, essentially, guaranteed and even the league’s minimum salary—$550,000 in 2018—places a player in the top half of the top one percent of earners in the United States. Fowler was paid while on the disabled list. He also earned service time towards arbitration and free agency eligibility. Indeed, despite not being able to play, players on the 15- and 60-day MLB disabled lists accrue service time.</p><p>Generous health care benefits also push against the need to sue. Players’ associations collectively bargain for high-quality health care and long-term disability policies. These policies insure that injured players—and to varying degrees retired players—do not pay for health care out-of-pocket. This is true even when injured players may be entitled to benefits through workers’ compensation insurance (Nathaniel Grow has an <a href="https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/major-league-baseball-and-workers-comp/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:excellent overview" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">excellent overview</a> of workers’ compensation in MLB on <em>FanGraphs</em>). With these points in mind, the Yankees and later the A’s presumably paid for health care costs related to Fowler’s knee injury.</p><p>Another reason for the dearth of this type of litigation is that professional athletes clearly assume substantial health risks as inherent in the game. Even though baseball is not as dangerous as football or hockey, ballplayers are still exposed to a variety of risks on every play. Usually when a player is injured while trying to make a play, there is an unstated understanding that the injury is “part of the game.” Fowler crashing into a wall in pursuit of a fly ball was not unforeseeable (whether the electrical box should have been there is a separate matter).</p><p>Still another reason for the lack of player injury lawsuits may concern reputation. Injured professional athletes might worry that filing a lawsuit over an on-field injury would stigmatize them. Would teammates and fans mock them as too litigious or annoyingly disruptive?</p><p>Finally, there is the element of finite time and diminishing tolerance. As anyone who has been in a lawsuit knows too well, litigation is time consuming and often stressful. It requires something of a “long game”: regular meetings and conversations with lawyers. It also demands answering questions, sometimes under oath. A pro athlete’s time is limited and expending it on a lawsuit can be a questionable choice.</p><p><strong>Rare isn’t never</strong></p><p>While they are few and far between, some pro athletes have sued after being injured in games. And they have succeeded when they are able to show that their injury occurred in a manner clearly outside the scope of the game.</p><p>Take Former Denver Broncos safety Dale Hackbart’s lawsuit against the Cincinnati Bengals for an incident that occurred in a 1973 game. While attempting to get up from the field, Hackbart was struck with an intentional blow to his neck by Bengals fullback Charles Clark. Clark’s strike—which was not a football move—caused Hackbart to suffer a neck fracture. Hackbart sued and received a <a href="https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F2/601/516/377615/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:favorable decision" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">favorable decision</a> by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The court reasoned that while football players assume risks of injuries inherent the game, they do not necessarily assume other types of risks while playing football.</p><p>Former Houston Rockets forward Rudy Tomjanovich proved a similar point when he successfully sued the Los Angeles Lakers for negligent supervision of one of its players. Tomjanovich suffered significant facial injuries when, as part of a skirmish during a game in 1977, he was punched by Lakers forward Kermit Washington. Prior to an appellate court reviewing Tomjanovich’s trial victory, Tomjanovich and the Lakers <a href="https://www.si.com/vault/1994/07/04/131577/hey-call-anytime-rudy-tomjanovich-coach-of-the-champion-houston-rockets-is-a-regular-guy-just-ask-the-president" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:agreed on a $2 million settlement" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">agreed on a $2 million settlement</a>. Years later, California Judge Thomas Crosby would <a href="https://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/3d/198/98.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:write" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">write</a>,</p><p><em>“A verdict for Tomjanovich was clearly proper. He did assume the risk of being hit in the face by a flying elbow in the course of defending against an opponent&#39;s jump shot, suffering a painful insult to his instep by a size-16 foot descending with a rebound, or even being knocked to the court by the sheer momentum of a seven-footer driving home a slam dunk. But the scope of his consent did not extend to an intentional blow considerably beyond the expected risks inherent in basketball. Intentional fouls are part of that game. But where the intent is to injure and the force used is far greater than necessary to accomplish a legitimate objective within the scope of play, a defendant may not prevail on an assumption of risk defense.</em>”</p><p>Former Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore brought a lawsuit with these same ideas in mind. He sued the Vancouver Canucks and forward Todd Bertuzzi in 2005 for $68 million over career-ending injuries caused by Bertuzzi pile-driving Moore face first into the ice. After nearly a decade of litigation, the parties <a href="https://www.si.com/nhl/2014/09/04/steve-moore-todd-bertuzzi-settlement" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:settled in 2014" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">settled in 2014</a>.</p><p>Not long thereafter, former NFL running back Reggie Bush sued over a safety risk he insists that he did not assume. While playing in the Edward Jones Dome in 2015, Bush was pushed out of bounds in the course of returning a punt. Unable to stop on the turf, he slipped onto an uncovered concrete surface and suffered a season-ending knee injury. Given a close proximity between the turf and the concrete, Bush believes that the stadium had been negligently maintained. His case against the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority remains in litigation.</p><p>Injured players also sometime sue as part of a class action, where a handful of current or retired players represent thousands of others. Most plaintiffs in a class action are thus passive and play no active role, but still stand to benefit if the action leads to a courtroom victory or a settlement. The class action model was used when thousands of retired NFL players were part of a class action against the NFL over long-term neurological problems associated with playing football. Over 99% of those players <a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2016/12/12/supreme-court-nfl-concussion-settlement-retired-players" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:settled claims" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">settled claims</a> with the NFL, though new findings on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) <a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2017/08/15/new-cte-study-effect-nfl-concussion-settlement" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:could undermine the settlement" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">could undermine the settlement</a>. Former NHL players are engaged in a <a href="https://www.si.com/nhl/2016/03/28/nhl-concussions-fighting-head-injuries-unsealed-emails" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:similar class action" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">similar class action</a> against the NHL.</p><p><strong>Placing Fowler’s initial comments to media in the appropriate context</strong></p><p>In the immediate aftermath of the collision, Fowler didn’t seem to blame the White Sox or stadium operators for his injury. Instead, he appeared to attribute the injury to an unfortunate circumstance.</p><p>For instance, he <a href="https://nypost.com/2017/06/30/dustin-fowler-hours-after-horrific-injury-how-ill-fight-back/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:told" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">told</a> Kevin Kernan of the <em>New York Post</em> that “I hit the wrong part of the fence, it was just kind of a freak accident that you can’t really do anything about.’’ Fowler also <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/dustin-fowler-doesn-regret-aggressive-pursuit-foul-ball-article-1.3303040" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:relayed" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">relayed</a> that point of view to the <em>New York Daily News</em>’ Daniel Popper. “I can’t say that I wouldn’t have been hurt if I didn’t hit it,” Fowler reflected. “I could have easily torn an ACL if I didn’t hit it. It’s easy to blame something like that, but right now, I think it’s just unfortunate . . . I’m not really blaming anyone or anything for it, how it happened or why it was there.” </p><p>The fact that Fowler did not immediately blame the White Sox or ISFA for his injury should not be regarded as a meaningful omission. For one, athletes are generally coached to take responsibility for their performance and to not direct blame elsewhere. Furthermore, Fowler may not have had a chance yet to speak with attorneys, who are educated about the law, as to whether he had been unlawfully wronged. Along those lines, Fowler not only lacks a legal education but he never attended college—he signed with the Yankees as an 18-year-old straight out of West Laurens High School (Dexter, Georgia) in 2013. To have expected him to describe the White Sox or ISFA as “negligent” in the hours and days following a devastating knee injury seems unrealistic and unfair.</p><p><strong>Understanding Fowler’s legal theory and what he needs to prove</strong></p><p>Fowler’s case centers on a key assertion: that the White Sox and ISFA negligently installed a metal electrical box to a portion of the half wall in right field and that their decision to do so caused Fowler’s injuries.</p><p>As Fowler asserts, the presence of the box allowed for his knee to come into contact with it. This box, Fowler contends, was a “hidden and undetectable hazard.” He was clearly not expecting the box to be there, especially given that the surrounding railing and wall featured protective padding. Fowler also argues that such a collision with a sprinting right fielder was, or should have been, foreseeable to the White Sox and ISFA. This dynamic, Fowler maintains, reveals the White Sox and ISFA as having “an utter indifference to or conscious disregard for the safety of the Plaintiff.”</p><p>To advance this claim, Fowler would benefit by convincing a jury that the box’s placement and other safety characteristics—such as its size, color contrast and hardness—was atypically dangerous for a big league ballpark. The more unusual the box seemed, the less Fowler would have been on notice of its presence. This is particular true given that it was Fowler’s first time playing in Guaranteed Rate Field. To that end, witnesses with expertise in ballpark design, such as stadium engineers and groundskeepers, could offer analysis on where other big league ballparks place electrical boxes and whether such placements poses similar or different health risks to the ones encountered by Fowler.</p><p>Other potential witnesses could include baseball managers and executives who are familiar with safety issues. It seems likely that one such witness will be Girardi, who in the aftermath of Fowler’s injury criticized MLB for allowing outfielders to experience unsafe conditions. <em>The New York Daily News</em> <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/dustin-fowler-avoidable-injury-left-joe-girardi-tears-article-1.3290498" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:quoted" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">quoted</a> Girardi as observing that Fowler’s injury was clearly influenced by the ballpark design. “I know it’s how the stadium was designed,” Girardi remarked, “but I think it’s something baseball needs to address. Maybe you put up Plexiglass so they can’t flip over and people can look through it . . . You say you want players to play hard. But sometimes this is what happens if the field doesn’t protect the players.”</p><p>Evidence of past injuries would also be important. This would be true of players injured by this particular box as well as other areas of Guaranteed Rate Field. The more evidence that the White Sox and ISFA were on notice of an unsafe feature, the less reasonable they would seem in failing to fix it.</p><p>Fowler’s potential damages are harder to assess. Assuming his health care costs were paid by his employer and assuming he is able to resume his career without a diminishment in skill, his damages would likely center on the considerable pain and suffering he endured as a result of the injury. Also, if Fowler’s comeback with the A’s is stalled due to ongoing knee problems, his potential damages would be higher. Similarly, since Fowler is a player who relies on speed as a key part of his game, a degeneration of his running ability could be compensable since it would hurt his chances for a big league career and lower his potential career earnings. Expert witnesses, including retired baseball executives and baseball agents, would likely testify on these topics.</p><p><strong>Potential legal defenses for the White Sox and ISFA</strong></p><p>The ideal argument for a defendant is one that convinces a judge that the judge has no grounds to hear the plaintiff’s case. The White Sox and ISFA could offer a couple of arguments along those lines.</p><p>First, Fowler’s lawsuit might be preempted by the collective bargaining agreement signed by MLB and MLBPA. The CBA contains detailed procedures for players to file “grievances.” Under Article XI of the CBA, a grievance is defined as a complaint involving agreements or provisions between a player and a club (among others). A grievance avoids court. It leads to arbitration and either a settlement or an arbitrator’s binding decision.</p><p>A number of MLB players, with help from the MLBPA, have filed grievances for injury-related matters. For example, a few years ago, pitcher Nick Hagadone grieved a dispute with the Cleveland Indians centering on the contractual impact of a self-inflicted forearm injury. The injury occurred after Hagadone was pulled from a game in which he struggled. In frustration, Hagadone, slammed a door while walking to the clubhouse. The Indians sent Hagadone to the minors and placed him on the disqualified list, transactions which had the effect of denying him service time. Through the grievance process, Hagadone and the Indians ultimately reached a settlement.</p><p>Had Hagadone sued the Indians, the Indians would have probably cited the federal Labor Management Relations Act as a core defense. The Act generally requires that unionized employees must exhaust their potential remedies under collectively bargained grievance procedures before turning to court.</p><p>While the White Sox might argue that Fowler, like Hagadone and other players, should use the grievance process instead of courts, Fowler’s attorneys would likely stress that the grievance process is not appropriate for Fowler’s injury or the claims that stem from it. For one, Fowler was never in contract with the White Sox; his employer at the time of the injury was the Yankees. For another, Fowler’s claims are not contractual in nature. They stem from a workplace injury that gave rise to claims in torts, an area of law that deals with personal and non-contractual harms. Further, Article XI of the CBA makes clear that the grievance process does not necessarily bar a lawsuit. “[N]othing,” according to Article VI, “herein shall alter or abridge the rights of the Parties, or any of them, to resort to a court of law for the resolution of such complaint or dispute.”</p><p>The ISFA might enjoy a separate defense that attempts to immunize it from Fowler’s claims. As a public entity, the ISFA may be able to take advantage of “sovereign immunity.” In its broadest form, sovereign immunity is a legal principle dictating that the government and its agencies (including public universities and public stadium authorities) can only be sued if they agree to be sued. Sovereign immunity has numerous exceptions, however, and some of those limits are expressed through the <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ChapterID=58&#38;ActID=2062" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Illinois Tort Immunity Act" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Illinois Tort Immunity Act</a>.</p><p>Assuming the White Sox and ISFA are required to defend the lawfulness of the playing conditions, they might argue the box was an “open and obvious” condition to right fielders. Such an argument would be bolstered if other players would be willing to testify that they saw the box and adjusted for it in how they played. It would also benefit if the box has been there a while and Fowler is the first and only player hurt by it.</p><p>A related argument may be that outfielders have a professional duty to inspect the conditions in which they play. Is it common or customary for MLB outfielders who have never before played in a particular ballpark to survey the fence and other conditions before the game? If it is, the White Sox and ISFA might contend that Fowler should have done more to acquaint himself with his conditions.</p><p>The defendants will also argue that Fowler’s damages are relatively modest. The Yankees and A’s (presumably) covered his healthcare costs and he has been off the disabled list for a couple of months. The defendants will also insist that any depiction of the injury as having a long-term impact on Fowler’s baseball career is speculative and not provable with certainty. While Fowler will retain expert witnesses who take his view, the White Sox and ISFA will retain their own.</p><p>If Fowler’s lawsuit advances past a motion to dismiss and pretrial discovery begins, Fowler, the White Sox and ISFA would probably reach a settlement where the defendants pay him to drop his lawsuit. None of the parties likely want to expend the considerable time and energy required of pretrial discovery or a trial. Insurance companies for the White Sox and ISFA would likely encourage a settlement in order to reduce the risk of a large jury award in Fowler’s favor.</p><p>Yet settlement talks can break down and agreements aren’t always reached. And if Fowler’s case advances to trial, you can be sure that the many stakeholders in ballpark safety would closely watch it.</p><p><a href="https://law.unh.edu/faculty/mccann" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Michael McCann" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>Michael McCann</em></a><em> is SI’s legal analyst. He is also an attorney and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, and co-author with Ed O&#39;Bannon of the forthcoming book </em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Court-Justice-Inside-Against-Basketball/dp/1635762626/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&#38;qid=1506713819&#38;sr=8-1&#38;keywords=Court+Justice%3A+The+Inside+Story+of+My+Battle+Against+the+NCAA+and+My+Life+in+Basketball" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Court Justice: The Inside Story of My Battle Against the NCAA" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Court Justice: The Inside Story of My Battle Against the NCAA</a><em>.</em><br> </p>
Analyzing Dustin Fowler's Lawsuit Against the Chicago White Sox

When a professional athlete is injured in a game, hardly anyone asks whether the injury could lead to a lawsuit. And why should they. Injuries are part of every sport. Athletes, especially at the professional level, assume the risk of danger on every play.

But is that true of all injuries? Could some occur not because “that’s just the way the game is played” but rather because other people were negligent in designing how the game would be played?

Go back to June 29, 2017. It was an ordinary day for most but certainly not for Dustin Fowler. The Georgia native, who was 22 years old at the time, would make his Major League debut. It would take place on a rainy evening in Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago. And it would be for the New York Yankees. Fowler’s manager, Joe Giardi, started him in right field. He was slated to bat sixth—right behind Jacoby Ellsbury—in a lineup that would face White Sox starter James Shields.

Fowler was on-deck in the first inning when Ellsbury’s fly ball to left fielder Melky Cabrera produced the third out.

Yet Fowler didn’t lead off the second inning. In fact, he didn’t make it out of the first.

And he hasn’t played since.

With two outs in the bottom of the first, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu belted a line drive down the right-field line. Running at full speed, Fowler couldn’t quite catch up with the ball, which landed foul. Instead, he caught up with another object: an unpadded metal electrical box positioned between a railing and a half wall.

A devastating collision then ensued. Fowler would nearly tumble head first into the stands while his right knee slammed into the wall. That knee slam triggered a rupture in the patella tendon. Grimacing in pain and unable to put weight on his right leg, Fowler hobbled for a few seconds before falling to the ground. Meanwhile, an umpire waved to the Yankees dugout that Fowler needed immediate medical assistance.

Fowler would be carried off the field on a stretcher and ambulanced to the emergency room of Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center. Doctors there would perform season-ending surgery. A month later the Yankees traded Fowler to the Oakland A’s in a package deal for pitcher Sonny Gray.

Reminiscent of Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham, a fellow right fielder whose big league career consisted of one inning without a plate appearance, Fowler is still waiting for his first big league at-bat.

Fowler’s path likely won’t follow that of Graham, who returned to school and became a doctor. In fact, it is because of doctors that Fowler should get the chance that Graham never got. Fowler knee surgery’s was successful and he appears to have recovered, at least in terms of resuming his baseball career. Two months ago, the A’s reinstated Fowler from the disabled list. He is expected to be in full strength by the time A’s spring training in Mesa, Arizona starts next month.

The fact that Fowler has seemingly recovered does not mean that his injury—and accompanying suffering—occurred without legal implications. In fact, the aftermath of the injury could alter the degree to which stadium operators and teams owe ballplayers a safe environment in which to play.

To that end, Fowler recently sued both the White Sox and the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA, the government entity that owns Guaranteed Rate Field) in a Cook County Circuit Court. SI.com has obtained a copy of the complaint.

Fowler, who is represented by John Bailly of Bailly & McMillan and Michael Sorich of the Cavanagh Law Group, contends that, “as a result of the negligent, grossly negligent, reckless, willful and wanton conduct of the Defendants,” he “missed the remainder of the 2017 baseball season.” Fowler says he suffered “severe and permanent” injuries, along with “great pain and anguish.” He also stresses the extensive harm caused to his nascent big league career. Indeed, Fowler describes how he has “undergone and continues to undergo rehabilitation for the injuries sustained” and endured “pain and suffering and medical expenses.” He also seeks compensation for “past lost earnings and potential future lost earnings.”

The rarity of professional athletes suing over injuries

Regardless of how it fares in court, Fowler’s lawsuit is unusual. The fact is, professional athletes who suffer serious injuries in the course of playing games seldom file lawsuits over those injuries.

There are a number of reasons for this dynamic. One is that these players tend to be financially protected in the event of serious injury.

Take MLB player contracts. They are, essentially, guaranteed and even the league’s minimum salary—$550,000 in 2018—places a player in the top half of the top one percent of earners in the United States. Fowler was paid while on the disabled list. He also earned service time towards arbitration and free agency eligibility. Indeed, despite not being able to play, players on the 15- and 60-day MLB disabled lists accrue service time.

Generous health care benefits also push against the need to sue. Players’ associations collectively bargain for high-quality health care and long-term disability policies. These policies insure that injured players—and to varying degrees retired players—do not pay for health care out-of-pocket. This is true even when injured players may be entitled to benefits through workers’ compensation insurance (Nathaniel Grow has an excellent overview of workers’ compensation in MLB on FanGraphs). With these points in mind, the Yankees and later the A’s presumably paid for health care costs related to Fowler’s knee injury.

Another reason for the dearth of this type of litigation is that professional athletes clearly assume substantial health risks as inherent in the game. Even though baseball is not as dangerous as football or hockey, ballplayers are still exposed to a variety of risks on every play. Usually when a player is injured while trying to make a play, there is an unstated understanding that the injury is “part of the game.” Fowler crashing into a wall in pursuit of a fly ball was not unforeseeable (whether the electrical box should have been there is a separate matter).

Still another reason for the lack of player injury lawsuits may concern reputation. Injured professional athletes might worry that filing a lawsuit over an on-field injury would stigmatize them. Would teammates and fans mock them as too litigious or annoyingly disruptive?

Finally, there is the element of finite time and diminishing tolerance. As anyone who has been in a lawsuit knows too well, litigation is time consuming and often stressful. It requires something of a “long game”: regular meetings and conversations with lawyers. It also demands answering questions, sometimes under oath. A pro athlete’s time is limited and expending it on a lawsuit can be a questionable choice.

Rare isn’t never

While they are few and far between, some pro athletes have sued after being injured in games. And they have succeeded when they are able to show that their injury occurred in a manner clearly outside the scope of the game.

Take Former Denver Broncos safety Dale Hackbart’s lawsuit against the Cincinnati Bengals for an incident that occurred in a 1973 game. While attempting to get up from the field, Hackbart was struck with an intentional blow to his neck by Bengals fullback Charles Clark. Clark’s strike—which was not a football move—caused Hackbart to suffer a neck fracture. Hackbart sued and received a favorable decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The court reasoned that while football players assume risks of injuries inherent the game, they do not necessarily assume other types of risks while playing football.

Former Houston Rockets forward Rudy Tomjanovich proved a similar point when he successfully sued the Los Angeles Lakers for negligent supervision of one of its players. Tomjanovich suffered significant facial injuries when, as part of a skirmish during a game in 1977, he was punched by Lakers forward Kermit Washington. Prior to an appellate court reviewing Tomjanovich’s trial victory, Tomjanovich and the Lakers agreed on a $2 million settlement. Years later, California Judge Thomas Crosby would write,

“A verdict for Tomjanovich was clearly proper. He did assume the risk of being hit in the face by a flying elbow in the course of defending against an opponent's jump shot, suffering a painful insult to his instep by a size-16 foot descending with a rebound, or even being knocked to the court by the sheer momentum of a seven-footer driving home a slam dunk. But the scope of his consent did not extend to an intentional blow considerably beyond the expected risks inherent in basketball. Intentional fouls are part of that game. But where the intent is to injure and the force used is far greater than necessary to accomplish a legitimate objective within the scope of play, a defendant may not prevail on an assumption of risk defense.

Former Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore brought a lawsuit with these same ideas in mind. He sued the Vancouver Canucks and forward Todd Bertuzzi in 2005 for $68 million over career-ending injuries caused by Bertuzzi pile-driving Moore face first into the ice. After nearly a decade of litigation, the parties settled in 2014.

Not long thereafter, former NFL running back Reggie Bush sued over a safety risk he insists that he did not assume. While playing in the Edward Jones Dome in 2015, Bush was pushed out of bounds in the course of returning a punt. Unable to stop on the turf, he slipped onto an uncovered concrete surface and suffered a season-ending knee injury. Given a close proximity between the turf and the concrete, Bush believes that the stadium had been negligently maintained. His case against the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority remains in litigation.

Injured players also sometime sue as part of a class action, where a handful of current or retired players represent thousands of others. Most plaintiffs in a class action are thus passive and play no active role, but still stand to benefit if the action leads to a courtroom victory or a settlement. The class action model was used when thousands of retired NFL players were part of a class action against the NFL over long-term neurological problems associated with playing football. Over 99% of those players settled claims with the NFL, though new findings on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) could undermine the settlement. Former NHL players are engaged in a similar class action against the NHL.

Placing Fowler’s initial comments to media in the appropriate context

In the immediate aftermath of the collision, Fowler didn’t seem to blame the White Sox or stadium operators for his injury. Instead, he appeared to attribute the injury to an unfortunate circumstance.

For instance, he told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that “I hit the wrong part of the fence, it was just kind of a freak accident that you can’t really do anything about.’’ Fowler also relayed that point of view to the New York Daily News’ Daniel Popper. “I can’t say that I wouldn’t have been hurt if I didn’t hit it,” Fowler reflected. “I could have easily torn an ACL if I didn’t hit it. It’s easy to blame something like that, but right now, I think it’s just unfortunate . . . I’m not really blaming anyone or anything for it, how it happened or why it was there.”

The fact that Fowler did not immediately blame the White Sox or ISFA for his injury should not be regarded as a meaningful omission. For one, athletes are generally coached to take responsibility for their performance and to not direct blame elsewhere. Furthermore, Fowler may not have had a chance yet to speak with attorneys, who are educated about the law, as to whether he had been unlawfully wronged. Along those lines, Fowler not only lacks a legal education but he never attended college—he signed with the Yankees as an 18-year-old straight out of West Laurens High School (Dexter, Georgia) in 2013. To have expected him to describe the White Sox or ISFA as “negligent” in the hours and days following a devastating knee injury seems unrealistic and unfair.

Understanding Fowler’s legal theory and what he needs to prove

Fowler’s case centers on a key assertion: that the White Sox and ISFA negligently installed a metal electrical box to a portion of the half wall in right field and that their decision to do so caused Fowler’s injuries.

As Fowler asserts, the presence of the box allowed for his knee to come into contact with it. This box, Fowler contends, was a “hidden and undetectable hazard.” He was clearly not expecting the box to be there, especially given that the surrounding railing and wall featured protective padding. Fowler also argues that such a collision with a sprinting right fielder was, or should have been, foreseeable to the White Sox and ISFA. This dynamic, Fowler maintains, reveals the White Sox and ISFA as having “an utter indifference to or conscious disregard for the safety of the Plaintiff.”

To advance this claim, Fowler would benefit by convincing a jury that the box’s placement and other safety characteristics—such as its size, color contrast and hardness—was atypically dangerous for a big league ballpark. The more unusual the box seemed, the less Fowler would have been on notice of its presence. This is particular true given that it was Fowler’s first time playing in Guaranteed Rate Field. To that end, witnesses with expertise in ballpark design, such as stadium engineers and groundskeepers, could offer analysis on where other big league ballparks place electrical boxes and whether such placements poses similar or different health risks to the ones encountered by Fowler.

Other potential witnesses could include baseball managers and executives who are familiar with safety issues. It seems likely that one such witness will be Girardi, who in the aftermath of Fowler’s injury criticized MLB for allowing outfielders to experience unsafe conditions. The New York Daily News quoted Girardi as observing that Fowler’s injury was clearly influenced by the ballpark design. “I know it’s how the stadium was designed,” Girardi remarked, “but I think it’s something baseball needs to address. Maybe you put up Plexiglass so they can’t flip over and people can look through it . . . You say you want players to play hard. But sometimes this is what happens if the field doesn’t protect the players.”

Evidence of past injuries would also be important. This would be true of players injured by this particular box as well as other areas of Guaranteed Rate Field. The more evidence that the White Sox and ISFA were on notice of an unsafe feature, the less reasonable they would seem in failing to fix it.

Fowler’s potential damages are harder to assess. Assuming his health care costs were paid by his employer and assuming he is able to resume his career without a diminishment in skill, his damages would likely center on the considerable pain and suffering he endured as a result of the injury. Also, if Fowler’s comeback with the A’s is stalled due to ongoing knee problems, his potential damages would be higher. Similarly, since Fowler is a player who relies on speed as a key part of his game, a degeneration of his running ability could be compensable since it would hurt his chances for a big league career and lower his potential career earnings. Expert witnesses, including retired baseball executives and baseball agents, would likely testify on these topics.

Potential legal defenses for the White Sox and ISFA

The ideal argument for a defendant is one that convinces a judge that the judge has no grounds to hear the plaintiff’s case. The White Sox and ISFA could offer a couple of arguments along those lines.

First, Fowler’s lawsuit might be preempted by the collective bargaining agreement signed by MLB and MLBPA. The CBA contains detailed procedures for players to file “grievances.” Under Article XI of the CBA, a grievance is defined as a complaint involving agreements or provisions between a player and a club (among others). A grievance avoids court. It leads to arbitration and either a settlement or an arbitrator’s binding decision.

A number of MLB players, with help from the MLBPA, have filed grievances for injury-related matters. For example, a few years ago, pitcher Nick Hagadone grieved a dispute with the Cleveland Indians centering on the contractual impact of a self-inflicted forearm injury. The injury occurred after Hagadone was pulled from a game in which he struggled. In frustration, Hagadone, slammed a door while walking to the clubhouse. The Indians sent Hagadone to the minors and placed him on the disqualified list, transactions which had the effect of denying him service time. Through the grievance process, Hagadone and the Indians ultimately reached a settlement.

Had Hagadone sued the Indians, the Indians would have probably cited the federal Labor Management Relations Act as a core defense. The Act generally requires that unionized employees must exhaust their potential remedies under collectively bargained grievance procedures before turning to court.

While the White Sox might argue that Fowler, like Hagadone and other players, should use the grievance process instead of courts, Fowler’s attorneys would likely stress that the grievance process is not appropriate for Fowler’s injury or the claims that stem from it. For one, Fowler was never in contract with the White Sox; his employer at the time of the injury was the Yankees. For another, Fowler’s claims are not contractual in nature. They stem from a workplace injury that gave rise to claims in torts, an area of law that deals with personal and non-contractual harms. Further, Article XI of the CBA makes clear that the grievance process does not necessarily bar a lawsuit. “[N]othing,” according to Article VI, “herein shall alter or abridge the rights of the Parties, or any of them, to resort to a court of law for the resolution of such complaint or dispute.”

The ISFA might enjoy a separate defense that attempts to immunize it from Fowler’s claims. As a public entity, the ISFA may be able to take advantage of “sovereign immunity.” In its broadest form, sovereign immunity is a legal principle dictating that the government and its agencies (including public universities and public stadium authorities) can only be sued if they agree to be sued. Sovereign immunity has numerous exceptions, however, and some of those limits are expressed through the Illinois Tort Immunity Act.

Assuming the White Sox and ISFA are required to defend the lawfulness of the playing conditions, they might argue the box was an “open and obvious” condition to right fielders. Such an argument would be bolstered if other players would be willing to testify that they saw the box and adjusted for it in how they played. It would also benefit if the box has been there a while and Fowler is the first and only player hurt by it.

A related argument may be that outfielders have a professional duty to inspect the conditions in which they play. Is it common or customary for MLB outfielders who have never before played in a particular ballpark to survey the fence and other conditions before the game? If it is, the White Sox and ISFA might contend that Fowler should have done more to acquaint himself with his conditions.

The defendants will also argue that Fowler’s damages are relatively modest. The Yankees and A’s (presumably) covered his healthcare costs and he has been off the disabled list for a couple of months. The defendants will also insist that any depiction of the injury as having a long-term impact on Fowler’s baseball career is speculative and not provable with certainty. While Fowler will retain expert witnesses who take his view, the White Sox and ISFA will retain their own.

If Fowler’s lawsuit advances past a motion to dismiss and pretrial discovery begins, Fowler, the White Sox and ISFA would probably reach a settlement where the defendants pay him to drop his lawsuit. None of the parties likely want to expend the considerable time and energy required of pretrial discovery or a trial. Insurance companies for the White Sox and ISFA would likely encourage a settlement in order to reduce the risk of a large jury award in Fowler’s favor.

Yet settlement talks can break down and agreements aren’t always reached. And if Fowler’s case advances to trial, you can be sure that the many stakeholders in ballpark safety would closely watch it.

Michael McCann is SI’s legal analyst. He is also an attorney and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, and co-author with Ed O'Bannon of the forthcoming book Court Justice: The Inside Story of My Battle Against the NCAA.

FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2017, file photo, Houston Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel walks back to the dugout after the third inning of Game 5 of the baseball team&#39;s American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees in New York. Keuchel agreed to a $13.2 million, one-year contract after helping lead Houston to its first World Series title. Pitchers Lance McCullers Jr. and Brad Peacock and catcher Evan Gattis also reached one-year deals Friday, Jan. 12, when players and teams were set to swap proposed salaries in arbitration. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
Donaldson, Bryant set records ahead of arbitration swap
FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2017, file photo, Houston Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel walks back to the dugout after the third inning of Game 5 of the baseball team's American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees in New York. Keuchel agreed to a $13.2 million, one-year contract after helping lead Houston to its first World Series title. Pitchers Lance McCullers Jr. and Brad Peacock and catcher Evan Gattis also reached one-year deals Friday, Jan. 12, when players and teams were set to swap proposed salaries in arbitration. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 17, 1017, file photo, New York Yankees starting pitcher Sonny Gray throws during the first inning of Game 4 of baseball&#39;s American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros in New York. The Yankees have reached one-year contracts with their remaining six players eligible for arbitration, leaving their projected luxury tax payroll at $177 million. Gray agreed at $6.5 million Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Yankees settle with 6, on track to get under tax threshold
FILE - In this Oct. 17, 1017, file photo, New York Yankees starting pitcher Sonny Gray throws during the first inning of Game 4 of baseball's American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros in New York. The Yankees have reached one-year contracts with their remaining six players eligible for arbitration, leaving their projected luxury tax payroll at $177 million. Gray agreed at $6.5 million Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2017, file photo, New York Yankees&#39; Didi Gregorius, right, watches his three-run home run as Minnesota Twins catcher Jason Castro looks on in the first inning of the American League wild-card playoff baseball game in New York. The Yankees have reached one-year contracts with their remaining six players eligible for arbitration, leaving their projected luxury tax payroll at $177 million. Gregorius agreed at $8.25 million Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
Yankees settle with 6, on track to get under tax threshold
FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2017, file photo, New York Yankees' Didi Gregorius, right, watches his three-run home run as Minnesota Twins catcher Jason Castro looks on in the first inning of the American League wild-card playoff baseball game in New York. The Yankees have reached one-year contracts with their remaining six players eligible for arbitration, leaving their projected luxury tax payroll at $177 million. Gregorius agreed at $8.25 million Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, May 4, 2017 file photo, Baltimore Orioles&#39; Manny Machado hits a three-run homer in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, Thursday, May 4, 2017, in Boston. The Los Angeles Dodgers will pay baseball&#39;s highest luxury tax for the fourth straight year and the New York Yankees owe a penalty for a 15th consecutive season. The Dodgers and Yankees vow to get below next year&#39;s tax threshold of $197 million. That would reset their base tax rate from 50 percent to 20 percent going into the 2018-19 offseason, when Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and possibly Clayton Kershaw head a potentially illustrious free-agent class. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
Donaldson, Machado, Bryant, Rendon in arbitration hot corner
FILE - In this Thursday, May 4, 2017 file photo, Baltimore Orioles' Manny Machado hits a three-run homer in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, Thursday, May 4, 2017, in Boston. The Los Angeles Dodgers will pay baseball's highest luxury tax for the fourth straight year and the New York Yankees owe a penalty for a 15th consecutive season. The Dodgers and Yankees vow to get below next year's tax threshold of $197 million. That would reset their base tax rate from 50 percent to 20 percent going into the 2018-19 offseason, when Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and possibly Clayton Kershaw head a potentially illustrious free-agent class. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2017, file photo, Derek Jeter, chief executive officer and part owner of the Miami Marlins and former New York Yankees player, sits court side as the Miami Heat played against the Golden State Warriors in an NBA basketball game, in Miami. The latest acquisition by Jeters publishing imprint: A memoir by Robert Scheer, founder of the foster youth charity Comfort Cases. Jeter Publishing told The Associated Press on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, that Sheers A Forever Family will come out in November. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper, File)
Jeter imprint acquires book by Comfort Cases founder
FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2017, file photo, Derek Jeter, chief executive officer and part owner of the Miami Marlins and former New York Yankees player, sits court side as the Miami Heat played against the Golden State Warriors in an NBA basketball game, in Miami. The latest acquisition by Jeters publishing imprint: A memoir by Robert Scheer, founder of the foster youth charity Comfort Cases. Jeter Publishing told The Associated Press on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, that Sheers A Forever Family will come out in November. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper, File)
FILE - In this May 24, 2017, file photo, fans applaud as a medical employee carrying an injured youngster from the stands after the boy was hit in the head by a piece of New York Yankees&#39;s Chris Carter&#39;s bat that split during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium in New York. The Yankees are expanding netting to protect seats behind each dugout and for five sections past down both foul lines, a decision announced after several fans were injured last year.(AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
Yankees expanding protective netting past dugouts
FILE - In this May 24, 2017, file photo, fans applaud as a medical employee carrying an injured youngster from the stands after the boy was hit in the head by a piece of New York Yankees's Chris Carter's bat that split during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium in New York. The Yankees are expanding netting to protect seats behind each dugout and for five sections past down both foul lines, a decision announced after several fans were injured last year.(AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
New York Yankees&#39; Chris Carter, right, celebrates with Austin Romine (27) after hitting a home run off Oakland Athletics&#39; Sean Manaea during the sixth inning of a baseball game Friday, June 16, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Yankees expanding protective netting past dugouts
New York Yankees' Chris Carter, right, celebrates with Austin Romine (27) after hitting a home run off Oakland Athletics' Sean Manaea during the sixth inning of a baseball game Friday, June 16, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
<p>Second baseman Starlin Castro has yet to play a game for the Miami Marlins but already wants to be traded, <a href="https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/951115630014554112" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:according" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">according</a> to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Castro does not want to be part of another rebuilding process like he was with the Chicago Cubs from 2010 to 2015.</p><p>Castro was acquired by the Marlins in the December trade that sent National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees. Stanton is expected to be the team&#39;s starting second baseman after the Marlins dealt Dee Gordon to the Seattle Mariners.</p><p>The New York Mets were rumored to have interest in Castro shortly after the Stanton trade, if the Marlins were willing to flip him for more prospects. Castro&#39;s contract has him slated to earn $10 million in 2018, $11 million in 2019 and includes a $16 million option or $1 million buyout for 2020.</p><p>Castro is coming off a season in which he hit .300/.338/.452 with 16 home runs and 63 RBIs in 112 games. He spent just two seasons in New York after rising to stardom with the Cubs. The Cubs traded him to the Yankees in December 2015 for pitcher Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan. The Cubs went on to win the World Series in 2016.</p><p>The Marlins are also reportedly listening to offers for outfielder Christian Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto as the fire sale under a new ownership group, which includes Derek Jeter, continues. The Marlins&#39; goal is to get their Opening Day payroll around $90 million.</p>
Report: Starlin Castro Wants To Be Traded From The Marlins

Second baseman Starlin Castro has yet to play a game for the Miami Marlins but already wants to be traded, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Castro does not want to be part of another rebuilding process like he was with the Chicago Cubs from 2010 to 2015.

Castro was acquired by the Marlins in the December trade that sent National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees. Stanton is expected to be the team's starting second baseman after the Marlins dealt Dee Gordon to the Seattle Mariners.

The New York Mets were rumored to have interest in Castro shortly after the Stanton trade, if the Marlins were willing to flip him for more prospects. Castro's contract has him slated to earn $10 million in 2018, $11 million in 2019 and includes a $16 million option or $1 million buyout for 2020.

Castro is coming off a season in which he hit .300/.338/.452 with 16 home runs and 63 RBIs in 112 games. He spent just two seasons in New York after rising to stardom with the Cubs. The Cubs traded him to the Yankees in December 2015 for pitcher Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan. The Cubs went on to win the World Series in 2016.

The Marlins are also reportedly listening to offers for outfielder Christian Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto as the fire sale under a new ownership group, which includes Derek Jeter, continues. The Marlins' goal is to get their Opening Day payroll around $90 million.

<p>It’s 2018, which means it’s time for folks all around the globe to take stock and make resolutions for how to do better in the year to come. The same can be said for all 30 MLB teams, even in an offseason that has seen frightfully little action. From the strongest contender to the dedicated rebuilder, every club has something to strive for over the rest of the winter. But what moves need to be made to make sure the 2018 season is the best it can possibly be? Here are my picks for what each American League team should do before the offseason is out so that, come Dec. 31, they’re not looking back at the year that was and wishing they’d taken a different course.</p><p><strong>Baltimore Orioles: Trade Manny Machado</strong></p><p>For a brief few weeks in December, the moribund Orioles were the center of the baseball world as the team’s front office weighed a question that could reshape the playoff race in either league: Should Baltimore deal away Manny Machado? The cons are stark. No Machado, who will be a free agent at season’s end, effectively means no chance of competing in the AL East for the O’s, and it will not be met well by the fans. But the hard choice here is the right one. Baltimore already has no shot in the division thanks to its horrible starting rotation and uneven lineup, and the team has equally little chance to bring Machado back as a free agent. Move him now and get the most you can for him in prospects. It’ll hurt, but that’s the pain of being pragmatic.</p><p><strong>Boston Red Sox: Sign J.D. Martinez</strong></p><p>At the risk of sounding like a broken record on this, there is no better match between team and player this winter than Boston and Martinez. The former desperately needs power in the lineup and at the designated hitter spot; the latter is a home run machine whose glove is best left at home. The Red Sox reportedly have a five-year offer on the table to Martinez, who is said to be looking for a seven-season commitment, but that feels like a gap that can be bridged—and one that should be in Boston’s case, as the team needs to try to close the enormous power deficit between it and the Yankees.</p><p><strong>Chicago White Sox: Stay the course</strong></p><p>As Machado’s name floated on the trade market, the White Sox—this time last year stripping their roster down to the screws—were frequently and surprisingly mentioned as a contender for his services. How real that interest was is unknown, as the Machado talk has died down in the last few weeks. But it’s a move that Chicago should avoid. Yes, Machado would provide a sorely needed big bat in the lineup, but even at his best, he takes the South Siders from rebuilding team to the fringes of contention. Is that worth the top prospects he would cost? Maybe general manager Rick Hahn figures he can flip Machado at the deadline if things go sour, but that’s a risky bet. Better to stay out of it and keep banking on internal improvement via a superb farm system, or use that prospect stash to improve a weak rotation or bullpen instead.</p><p><strong>Cleveland Indians: Spend like a contender</strong></p><p>The Indians’ biggest move of the winter has been to let Carlos Santana walk, as the burly first baseman signed a three-year, $60 million pact with the Phillies. That’s not exactly breaking the bank, and while Santana has his downsides (namely his age), it’s odd that a 102-win team wouldn’t shell out reasonable dollars to keep an important high-floor bat. Instead, Cleveland replaced him with a discount option, signing Yonder Alonso to a one-year deal. He’s a fine player, but for a team with real World Series hopes, it’s a disappointing choice. The Indians aren’t the Dodgers, but they’re still worlds away from the luxury tax limit and have barely any big long-term deals on the books. Now is the time to spend and bolster a championship-caliber core.</p><p><strong>Detroit Tigers: Find a way to trade Miguel Cabrera</strong></p><p>There’s just about no reason to tune in to Tigers baseball in 2018, as the team set about tearing down the roster in the second half as part of a long-delayed rebuild. But while Detroit has successfully dealt away J.D. Martinez, Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera remains, sucking up a gigantic chunk of the Tigers’ payroll as a veteran bat on a team of nobodies. Given the money he’s owed (another $184 million guaranteed over the next six years) and age (35 in April), there’s zero chance the Tigers will get anything of value for him in a trade. But should that matter? There are no half-measures in rebuilds. Get what you can, eat what money you have to, and finish the job. And it would be a gift to Cabrera to let him play his sunset years for a team that won’t be bottoming out for the next few seasons.</p><p><strong>Houston Astros: Start handing out extensions</strong></p><p>As the defending World Series champions, there’s not a whole lot—if anything—the Astros need to do before next season begins; their roster is already strong and secure across the board. Instead, it would behoove Houston to take the windfall of cash that comes with winning a title and invest it into long-term deals for the team’s young core. In particular, buying out the arbitration years of Carlos Correa and George Springer would be a good start. The former won’t get expensive for some time, but it would be both economically prudent and a show of good faith to get him locked up to bigger dollars at the first chance.</p><p><strong>Kansas City Royals: Resist the reunion temptation</strong></p><p>The frozen free-agent market has left dozens of stars in the cold, including the Royals’ title-winning trio of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. They looked set to cash in this winter after strong 2017 seasons, but with teams refusing to open their checkbooks, each is looking at a weaker-than-expected market (except perhaps Hosmer, who reportedly has been offered a seven-year deal by the Padres). For the small-market Royals, who looked set to lose all three, the lack of interest elsewhere could be a chance to bring one or more of them back; rumors abound that they <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2018/01/03/kansas-city-royals-eric-hosmer-offer" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:have a seven-year offer of their own out for Hosmer" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">have a seven-year offer of their own out for Hosmer</a>. But it seems smarter for Kansas City to make a clean break and get started on building the next great Royals team instead of investing lots of years and money in trying to recapture the past.</p><p><strong>Los Angeles Angels: Keep adding to the haul</strong></p><p>Few teams have been busier than the Angels, who have signed Shohei Ohtani and Zack Cozart and traded for Ian Kinsler, at once acquiring a new ace and improving a terrible infield. But Los Angeles can’t stop there. A team that was destroyed by pitcher injuries last year should keep building rotation depth, and the bullpen also needs attention. If the Angels are finally serious about building around Mike Trout, then they need to do everything they can to shore up their weak spots instead of hoping for the best from what they already have.</p><p><strong>Minnesota Twins: Get an ace</strong></p><p>Minnesota surprised everyone last year with its unlikely wild-card berth, and the team is poised for perhaps better in 2018 as its young stars develop. But what is currently separating the Twins from being real contenders is the state of their rotation, which is full of question marks and mediocre arms. Luckily for them, the market has plenty of good options who may be willing to sign below-market deals given the league-wide reluctance to spend. Minnesota should take its chance to make a real splash.</p><p><strong>New York Yankees: Dump Jacoby Ellsbury</strong></p><p>It’s been a magical offseason for Brian Cashman, who landed Giancarlo Stanton for a song, brought back CC Sabathia on a reasonable one-year pact, and got out from under the $13 million owed to the declining Chase Headley. Now, he has two months or so left to pull off his greatest trick yet: convincing an outfielder-needy team to take Ellsbury—and the $68 million still owed to him over the next four seasons—off his hands. That won’t be easy in a day and age when every franchise is tightening its belt, but getting rid of as much of Ellsbury’s salary as possible would be a huge boost to the Yankees in their quest to get under the luxury tax limit and set themselves up even better for next year’s free-agent spending spree. And while Ellsbury is a marginal hitter, his speed and defense can still help the right squad. If Cashman can make that move happen, his winter will have been a total success.</p><p><strong>Oakland Athletics: Find a direction (?)</strong></p><p>Squint hard enough at the Athletics’ roster, and you can see the faint outline of a .500 team with a small chance at being a dark horse contender. But that takes a lot of wishcasting and optimism, particularly with a rotation and bullpen that don’t have much high-upside talent. The A’s are a perpetual enigma, seemingly always rebuilding with an eye on a future that refuses to arrive, but the team as it exists now doesn’t seem to have any purpose. Not every franchise has to be either a contender or a bottom-feeder, but what Oakland has is amorphous at best. An 80-win team isn’t worth much these days, so why not make a move in either direction of that?</p><p><strong>Seattle Mariners: Fix the rotation</strong></p><p>A healthy James Paxton would go a long way toward making the Mariners a better bet for 2018, but Seattle should still aim for adding arms behind him if contention is what it seeks. The old Felix Hernandez is gone and likely never coming back, and the rest of the rotation is a fright. If Jerry Dipoto can tear himself away from trading a minor leaguer every hour, his attention should go toward one of the better pitchers still available in free agency, like Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb.</p><p><strong>Tampa Bay Rays: Continue the rebuild</strong></p><p>Evan Longoria is gone, but he shouldn’t be the only player the Rays send out of town this winter. Always at a disadvantage in the luxury neighborhood that is the AL East, Tampa isn’t a good bet to compete with either the Yankees or the Red Sox, or to make much noise in the wild-card race. Now is as good a time as any to look toward the future, and that begins with moving Alex Colome and Chris Archer.</p><p><strong>Texas Rangers: Figure out the bullpen</strong></p><p>The Rangers have plenty of issues still to address on the roster, from more rotation depth to whether or not top prospect Willie Calhoun is the answer in leftfield. But especially pressing is the relief corps, which was flat-out awful in 2017: a 4.76 ERA, third-worst in the majors, and only 29 saves converted in 50 opportunities. The current closer is soft-tossing lefty Alex Claudio, whose poor strikeout-per-nine ratio (6.1 last year) doesn’t inspire much confidence going forward. But with hard-throwing Matt Bush gearing up to be a starter, where is the heat in the late innings going to come from? With not much left in terms of bullpen help on the market, GM Jon Daniels would be better off keeping Bush in relief and seeing if any of his minor leaguers have what it takes to throw strikes in short bursts.</p><p><strong>Toronto Blue Jays: Get realistic about 2018</strong></p><p>There wasn’t a whole lot to like about the Blue Jays in 2017. Thanks to injuries and forgettable seasons across the roster, Toronto slumped to 76 wins and a fourth-place finish. And while there’s reason to be more optimistic this year, it’s hard to see where the big improvement needed to catch the Yankees and Red Sox comes from without some sizable changes. So is it time to throw in the towel? The future is bright, as the Jays’ farm system is full of excellent young talent; a small step back in the present might help make it even brighter. Dealing away free-agent-to-be Josh Donaldson, who would bring back a king’s ransom in prospects, would be the right way to go.</p>
What Every AL Team Should Do in This Painfully Slow Offseason

It’s 2018, which means it’s time for folks all around the globe to take stock and make resolutions for how to do better in the year to come. The same can be said for all 30 MLB teams, even in an offseason that has seen frightfully little action. From the strongest contender to the dedicated rebuilder, every club has something to strive for over the rest of the winter. But what moves need to be made to make sure the 2018 season is the best it can possibly be? Here are my picks for what each American League team should do before the offseason is out so that, come Dec. 31, they’re not looking back at the year that was and wishing they’d taken a different course.

Baltimore Orioles: Trade Manny Machado

For a brief few weeks in December, the moribund Orioles were the center of the baseball world as the team’s front office weighed a question that could reshape the playoff race in either league: Should Baltimore deal away Manny Machado? The cons are stark. No Machado, who will be a free agent at season’s end, effectively means no chance of competing in the AL East for the O’s, and it will not be met well by the fans. But the hard choice here is the right one. Baltimore already has no shot in the division thanks to its horrible starting rotation and uneven lineup, and the team has equally little chance to bring Machado back as a free agent. Move him now and get the most you can for him in prospects. It’ll hurt, but that’s the pain of being pragmatic.

Boston Red Sox: Sign J.D. Martinez

At the risk of sounding like a broken record on this, there is no better match between team and player this winter than Boston and Martinez. The former desperately needs power in the lineup and at the designated hitter spot; the latter is a home run machine whose glove is best left at home. The Red Sox reportedly have a five-year offer on the table to Martinez, who is said to be looking for a seven-season commitment, but that feels like a gap that can be bridged—and one that should be in Boston’s case, as the team needs to try to close the enormous power deficit between it and the Yankees.

Chicago White Sox: Stay the course

As Machado’s name floated on the trade market, the White Sox—this time last year stripping their roster down to the screws—were frequently and surprisingly mentioned as a contender for his services. How real that interest was is unknown, as the Machado talk has died down in the last few weeks. But it’s a move that Chicago should avoid. Yes, Machado would provide a sorely needed big bat in the lineup, but even at his best, he takes the South Siders from rebuilding team to the fringes of contention. Is that worth the top prospects he would cost? Maybe general manager Rick Hahn figures he can flip Machado at the deadline if things go sour, but that’s a risky bet. Better to stay out of it and keep banking on internal improvement via a superb farm system, or use that prospect stash to improve a weak rotation or bullpen instead.

Cleveland Indians: Spend like a contender

The Indians’ biggest move of the winter has been to let Carlos Santana walk, as the burly first baseman signed a three-year, $60 million pact with the Phillies. That’s not exactly breaking the bank, and while Santana has his downsides (namely his age), it’s odd that a 102-win team wouldn’t shell out reasonable dollars to keep an important high-floor bat. Instead, Cleveland replaced him with a discount option, signing Yonder Alonso to a one-year deal. He’s a fine player, but for a team with real World Series hopes, it’s a disappointing choice. The Indians aren’t the Dodgers, but they’re still worlds away from the luxury tax limit and have barely any big long-term deals on the books. Now is the time to spend and bolster a championship-caliber core.

Detroit Tigers: Find a way to trade Miguel Cabrera

There’s just about no reason to tune in to Tigers baseball in 2018, as the team set about tearing down the roster in the second half as part of a long-delayed rebuild. But while Detroit has successfully dealt away J.D. Martinez, Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera remains, sucking up a gigantic chunk of the Tigers’ payroll as a veteran bat on a team of nobodies. Given the money he’s owed (another $184 million guaranteed over the next six years) and age (35 in April), there’s zero chance the Tigers will get anything of value for him in a trade. But should that matter? There are no half-measures in rebuilds. Get what you can, eat what money you have to, and finish the job. And it would be a gift to Cabrera to let him play his sunset years for a team that won’t be bottoming out for the next few seasons.

Houston Astros: Start handing out extensions

As the defending World Series champions, there’s not a whole lot—if anything—the Astros need to do before next season begins; their roster is already strong and secure across the board. Instead, it would behoove Houston to take the windfall of cash that comes with winning a title and invest it into long-term deals for the team’s young core. In particular, buying out the arbitration years of Carlos Correa and George Springer would be a good start. The former won’t get expensive for some time, but it would be both economically prudent and a show of good faith to get him locked up to bigger dollars at the first chance.

Kansas City Royals: Resist the reunion temptation

The frozen free-agent market has left dozens of stars in the cold, including the Royals’ title-winning trio of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. They looked set to cash in this winter after strong 2017 seasons, but with teams refusing to open their checkbooks, each is looking at a weaker-than-expected market (except perhaps Hosmer, who reportedly has been offered a seven-year deal by the Padres). For the small-market Royals, who looked set to lose all three, the lack of interest elsewhere could be a chance to bring one or more of them back; rumors abound that they have a seven-year offer of their own out for Hosmer. But it seems smarter for Kansas City to make a clean break and get started on building the next great Royals team instead of investing lots of years and money in trying to recapture the past.

Los Angeles Angels: Keep adding to the haul

Few teams have been busier than the Angels, who have signed Shohei Ohtani and Zack Cozart and traded for Ian Kinsler, at once acquiring a new ace and improving a terrible infield. But Los Angeles can’t stop there. A team that was destroyed by pitcher injuries last year should keep building rotation depth, and the bullpen also needs attention. If the Angels are finally serious about building around Mike Trout, then they need to do everything they can to shore up their weak spots instead of hoping for the best from what they already have.

Minnesota Twins: Get an ace

Minnesota surprised everyone last year with its unlikely wild-card berth, and the team is poised for perhaps better in 2018 as its young stars develop. But what is currently separating the Twins from being real contenders is the state of their rotation, which is full of question marks and mediocre arms. Luckily for them, the market has plenty of good options who may be willing to sign below-market deals given the league-wide reluctance to spend. Minnesota should take its chance to make a real splash.

New York Yankees: Dump Jacoby Ellsbury

It’s been a magical offseason for Brian Cashman, who landed Giancarlo Stanton for a song, brought back CC Sabathia on a reasonable one-year pact, and got out from under the $13 million owed to the declining Chase Headley. Now, he has two months or so left to pull off his greatest trick yet: convincing an outfielder-needy team to take Ellsbury—and the $68 million still owed to him over the next four seasons—off his hands. That won’t be easy in a day and age when every franchise is tightening its belt, but getting rid of as much of Ellsbury’s salary as possible would be a huge boost to the Yankees in their quest to get under the luxury tax limit and set themselves up even better for next year’s free-agent spending spree. And while Ellsbury is a marginal hitter, his speed and defense can still help the right squad. If Cashman can make that move happen, his winter will have been a total success.

Oakland Athletics: Find a direction (?)

Squint hard enough at the Athletics’ roster, and you can see the faint outline of a .500 team with a small chance at being a dark horse contender. But that takes a lot of wishcasting and optimism, particularly with a rotation and bullpen that don’t have much high-upside talent. The A’s are a perpetual enigma, seemingly always rebuilding with an eye on a future that refuses to arrive, but the team as it exists now doesn’t seem to have any purpose. Not every franchise has to be either a contender or a bottom-feeder, but what Oakland has is amorphous at best. An 80-win team isn’t worth much these days, so why not make a move in either direction of that?

Seattle Mariners: Fix the rotation

A healthy James Paxton would go a long way toward making the Mariners a better bet for 2018, but Seattle should still aim for adding arms behind him if contention is what it seeks. The old Felix Hernandez is gone and likely never coming back, and the rest of the rotation is a fright. If Jerry Dipoto can tear himself away from trading a minor leaguer every hour, his attention should go toward one of the better pitchers still available in free agency, like Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb.

Tampa Bay Rays: Continue the rebuild

Evan Longoria is gone, but he shouldn’t be the only player the Rays send out of town this winter. Always at a disadvantage in the luxury neighborhood that is the AL East, Tampa isn’t a good bet to compete with either the Yankees or the Red Sox, or to make much noise in the wild-card race. Now is as good a time as any to look toward the future, and that begins with moving Alex Colome and Chris Archer.

Texas Rangers: Figure out the bullpen

The Rangers have plenty of issues still to address on the roster, from more rotation depth to whether or not top prospect Willie Calhoun is the answer in leftfield. But especially pressing is the relief corps, which was flat-out awful in 2017: a 4.76 ERA, third-worst in the majors, and only 29 saves converted in 50 opportunities. The current closer is soft-tossing lefty Alex Claudio, whose poor strikeout-per-nine ratio (6.1 last year) doesn’t inspire much confidence going forward. But with hard-throwing Matt Bush gearing up to be a starter, where is the heat in the late innings going to come from? With not much left in terms of bullpen help on the market, GM Jon Daniels would be better off keeping Bush in relief and seeing if any of his minor leaguers have what it takes to throw strikes in short bursts.

Toronto Blue Jays: Get realistic about 2018

There wasn’t a whole lot to like about the Blue Jays in 2017. Thanks to injuries and forgettable seasons across the roster, Toronto slumped to 76 wins and a fourth-place finish. And while there’s reason to be more optimistic this year, it’s hard to see where the big improvement needed to catch the Yankees and Red Sox comes from without some sizable changes. So is it time to throw in the towel? The future is bright, as the Jays’ farm system is full of excellent young talent; a small step back in the present might help make it even brighter. Dealing away free-agent-to-be Josh Donaldson, who would bring back a king’s ransom in prospects, would be the right way to go.

<p>It’s 2018, which means it’s time for folks all around the globe to take stock and make resolutions for how to do better in the year to come. The same can be said for all 30 MLB teams, even in an offseason that has seen frightfully little action. From the strongest contender to the dedicated rebuilder, every club has something to strive for over the rest of the winter. But what moves need to be made to make sure the 2018 season is the best it can possibly be? Here are my picks for what each American League team should do before the offseason is out so that, come Dec. 31, they’re not looking back at the year that was and wishing they’d taken a different course.</p><p><strong>Baltimore Orioles: Trade Manny Machado</strong></p><p>For a brief few weeks in December, the moribund Orioles were the center of the baseball world as the team’s front office weighed a question that could reshape the playoff race in either league: Should Baltimore deal away Manny Machado? The cons are stark. No Machado, who will be a free agent at season’s end, effectively means no chance of competing in the AL East for the O’s, and it will not be met well by the fans. But the hard choice here is the right one. Baltimore already has no shot in the division thanks to its horrible starting rotation and uneven lineup, and the team has equally little chance to bring Machado back as a free agent. Move him now and get the most you can for him in prospects. It’ll hurt, but that’s the pain of being pragmatic.</p><p><strong>Boston Red Sox: Sign J.D. Martinez</strong></p><p>At the risk of sounding like a broken record on this, there is no better match between team and player this winter than Boston and Martinez. The former desperately needs power in the lineup and at the designated hitter spot; the latter is a home run machine whose glove is best left at home. The Red Sox reportedly have a five-year offer on the table to Martinez, who is said to be looking for a seven-season commitment, but that feels like a gap that can be bridged—and one that should be in Boston’s case, as the team needs to try to close the enormous power deficit between it and the Yankees.</p><p><strong>Chicago White Sox: Stay the course</strong></p><p>As Machado’s name floated on the trade market, the White Sox—this time last year stripping their roster down to the screws—were frequently and surprisingly mentioned as a contender for his services. How real that interest was is unknown, as the Machado talk has died down in the last few weeks. But it’s a move that Chicago should avoid. Yes, Machado would provide a sorely needed big bat in the lineup, but even at his best, he takes the South Siders from rebuilding team to the fringes of contention. Is that worth the top prospects he would cost? Maybe general manager Rick Hahn figures he can flip Machado at the deadline if things go sour, but that’s a risky bet. Better to stay out of it and keep banking on internal improvement via a superb farm system, or use that prospect stash to improve a weak rotation or bullpen instead.</p><p><strong>Cleveland Indians: Spend like a contender</strong></p><p>The Indians’ biggest move of the winter has been to let Carlos Santana walk, as the burly first baseman signed a three-year, $60 million pact with the Phillies. That’s not exactly breaking the bank, and while Santana has his downsides (namely his age), it’s odd that a 102-win team wouldn’t shell out reasonable dollars to keep an important high-floor bat. Instead, Cleveland replaced him with a discount option, signing Yonder Alonso to a one-year deal. He’s a fine player, but for a team with real World Series hopes, it’s a disappointing choice. The Indians aren’t the Dodgers, but they’re still worlds away from the luxury tax limit and have barely any big long-term deals on the books. Now is the time to spend and bolster a championship-caliber core.</p><p><strong>Detroit Tigers: Find a way to trade Miguel Cabrera</strong></p><p>There’s just about no reason to tune in to Tigers baseball in 2018, as the team set about tearing down the roster in the second half as part of a long-delayed rebuild. But while Detroit has successfully dealt away J.D. Martinez, Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera remains, sucking up a gigantic chunk of the Tigers’ payroll as a veteran bat on a team of nobodies. Given the money he’s owed (another $184 million guaranteed over the next six years) and age (35 in April), there’s zero chance the Tigers will get anything of value for him in a trade. But should that matter? There are no half-measures in rebuilds. Get what you can, eat what money you have to, and finish the job. And it would be a gift to Cabrera to let him play his sunset years for a team that won’t be bottoming out for the next few seasons.</p><p><strong>Houston Astros: Start handing out extensions</strong></p><p>As the defending World Series champions, there’s not a whole lot—if anything—the Astros need to do before next season begins; their roster is already strong and secure across the board. Instead, it would behoove Houston to take the windfall of cash that comes with winning a title and invest it into long-term deals for the team’s young core. In particular, buying out the arbitration years of Carlos Correa and George Springer would be a good start. The former won’t get expensive for some time, but it would be both economically prudent and a show of good faith to get him locked up to bigger dollars at the first chance.</p><p><strong>Kansas City Royals: Resist the reunion temptation</strong></p><p>The frozen free-agent market has left dozens of stars in the cold, including the Royals’ title-winning trio of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. They looked set to cash in this winter after strong 2017 seasons, but with teams refusing to open their checkbooks, each is looking at a weaker-than-expected market (except perhaps Hosmer, who reportedly has been offered a seven-year deal by the Padres). For the small-market Royals, who looked set to lose all three, the lack of interest elsewhere could be a chance to bring one or more of them back; rumors abound that they <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2018/01/03/kansas-city-royals-eric-hosmer-offer" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:have a seven-year offer of their own out for Hosmer" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">have a seven-year offer of their own out for Hosmer</a>. But it seems smarter for Kansas City to make a clean break and get started on building the next great Royals team instead of investing lots of years and money in trying to recapture the past.</p><p><strong>Los Angeles Angels: Keep adding to the haul</strong></p><p>Few teams have been busier than the Angels, who have signed Shohei Ohtani and Zack Cozart and traded for Ian Kinsler, at once acquiring a new ace and improving a terrible infield. But Los Angeles can’t stop there. A team that was destroyed by pitcher injuries last year should keep building rotation depth, and the bullpen also needs attention. If the Angels are finally serious about building around Mike Trout, then they need to do everything they can to shore up their weak spots instead of hoping for the best from what they already have.</p><p><strong>Minnesota Twins: Get an ace</strong></p><p>Minnesota surprised everyone last year with its unlikely wild-card berth, and the team is poised for perhaps better in 2018 as its young stars develop. But what is currently separating the Twins from being real contenders is the state of their rotation, which is full of question marks and mediocre arms. Luckily for them, the market has plenty of good options who may be willing to sign below-market deals given the league-wide reluctance to spend. Minnesota should take its chance to make a real splash.</p><p><strong>New York Yankees: Dump Jacoby Ellsbury</strong></p><p>It’s been a magical offseason for Brian Cashman, who landed Giancarlo Stanton for a song, brought back CC Sabathia on a reasonable one-year pact, and got out from under the $13 million owed to the declining Chase Headley. Now, he has two months or so left to pull off his greatest trick yet: convincing an outfielder-needy team to take Ellsbury—and the $68 million still owed to him over the next four seasons—off his hands. That won’t be easy in a day and age when every franchise is tightening its belt, but getting rid of as much of Ellsbury’s salary as possible would be a huge boost to the Yankees in their quest to get under the luxury tax limit and set themselves up even better for next year’s free-agent spending spree. And while Ellsbury is a marginal hitter, his speed and defense can still help the right squad. If Cashman can make that move happen, his winter will have been a total success.</p><p><strong>Oakland Athletics: Find a direction (?)</strong></p><p>Squint hard enough at the Athletics’ roster, and you can see the faint outline of a .500 team with a small chance at being a dark horse contender. But that takes a lot of wishcasting and optimism, particularly with a rotation and bullpen that don’t have much high-upside talent. The A’s are a perpetual enigma, seemingly always rebuilding with an eye on a future that refuses to arrive, but the team as it exists now doesn’t seem to have any purpose. Not every franchise has to be either a contender or a bottom-feeder, but what Oakland has is amorphous at best. An 80-win team isn’t worth much these days, so why not make a move in either direction of that?</p><p><strong>Seattle Mariners: Fix the rotation</strong></p><p>A healthy James Paxton would go a long way toward making the Mariners a better bet for 2018, but Seattle should still aim for adding arms behind him if contention is what it seeks. The old Felix Hernandez is gone and likely never coming back, and the rest of the rotation is a fright. If Jerry Dipoto can tear himself away from trading a minor leaguer every hour, his attention should go toward one of the better pitchers still available in free agency, like Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb.</p><p><strong>Tampa Bay Rays: Continue the rebuild</strong></p><p>Evan Longoria is gone, but he shouldn’t be the only player the Rays send out of town this winter. Always at a disadvantage in the luxury neighborhood that is the AL East, Tampa isn’t a good bet to compete with either the Yankees or the Red Sox, or to make much noise in the wild-card race. Now is as good a time as any to look toward the future, and that begins with moving Alex Colome and Chris Archer.</p><p><strong>Texas Rangers: Figure out the bullpen</strong></p><p>The Rangers have plenty of issues still to address on the roster, from more rotation depth to whether or not top prospect Willie Calhoun is the answer in leftfield. But especially pressing is the relief corps, which was flat-out awful in 2017: a 4.76 ERA, third-worst in the majors, and only 29 saves converted in 50 opportunities. The current closer is soft-tossing lefty Alex Claudio, whose poor strikeout-per-nine ratio (6.1 last year) doesn’t inspire much confidence going forward. But with hard-throwing Matt Bush gearing up to be a starter, where is the heat in the late innings going to come from? With not much left in terms of bullpen help on the market, GM Jon Daniels would be better off keeping Bush in relief and seeing if any of his minor leaguers have what it takes to throw strikes in short bursts.</p><p><strong>Toronto Blue Jays: Get realistic about 2018</strong></p><p>There wasn’t a whole lot to like about the Blue Jays in 2017. Thanks to injuries and forgettable seasons across the roster, Toronto slumped to 76 wins and a fourth-place finish. And while there’s reason to be more optimistic this year, it’s hard to see where the big improvement needed to catch the Yankees and Red Sox comes from without some sizable changes. So is it time to throw in the towel? The future is bright, as the Jays’ farm system is full of excellent young talent; a small step back in the present might help make it even brighter. Dealing away free-agent-to-be Josh Donaldson, who would bring back a king’s ransom in prospects, would be the right way to go.</p>
What Every AL Team Should Do in This Painfully Slow Offseason

It’s 2018, which means it’s time for folks all around the globe to take stock and make resolutions for how to do better in the year to come. The same can be said for all 30 MLB teams, even in an offseason that has seen frightfully little action. From the strongest contender to the dedicated rebuilder, every club has something to strive for over the rest of the winter. But what moves need to be made to make sure the 2018 season is the best it can possibly be? Here are my picks for what each American League team should do before the offseason is out so that, come Dec. 31, they’re not looking back at the year that was and wishing they’d taken a different course.

Baltimore Orioles: Trade Manny Machado

For a brief few weeks in December, the moribund Orioles were the center of the baseball world as the team’s front office weighed a question that could reshape the playoff race in either league: Should Baltimore deal away Manny Machado? The cons are stark. No Machado, who will be a free agent at season’s end, effectively means no chance of competing in the AL East for the O’s, and it will not be met well by the fans. But the hard choice here is the right one. Baltimore already has no shot in the division thanks to its horrible starting rotation and uneven lineup, and the team has equally little chance to bring Machado back as a free agent. Move him now and get the most you can for him in prospects. It’ll hurt, but that’s the pain of being pragmatic.

Boston Red Sox: Sign J.D. Martinez

At the risk of sounding like a broken record on this, there is no better match between team and player this winter than Boston and Martinez. The former desperately needs power in the lineup and at the designated hitter spot; the latter is a home run machine whose glove is best left at home. The Red Sox reportedly have a five-year offer on the table to Martinez, who is said to be looking for a seven-season commitment, but that feels like a gap that can be bridged—and one that should be in Boston’s case, as the team needs to try to close the enormous power deficit between it and the Yankees.

Chicago White Sox: Stay the course

As Machado’s name floated on the trade market, the White Sox—this time last year stripping their roster down to the screws—were frequently and surprisingly mentioned as a contender for his services. How real that interest was is unknown, as the Machado talk has died down in the last few weeks. But it’s a move that Chicago should avoid. Yes, Machado would provide a sorely needed big bat in the lineup, but even at his best, he takes the South Siders from rebuilding team to the fringes of contention. Is that worth the top prospects he would cost? Maybe general manager Rick Hahn figures he can flip Machado at the deadline if things go sour, but that’s a risky bet. Better to stay out of it and keep banking on internal improvement via a superb farm system, or use that prospect stash to improve a weak rotation or bullpen instead.

Cleveland Indians: Spend like a contender

The Indians’ biggest move of the winter has been to let Carlos Santana walk, as the burly first baseman signed a three-year, $60 million pact with the Phillies. That’s not exactly breaking the bank, and while Santana has his downsides (namely his age), it’s odd that a 102-win team wouldn’t shell out reasonable dollars to keep an important high-floor bat. Instead, Cleveland replaced him with a discount option, signing Yonder Alonso to a one-year deal. He’s a fine player, but for a team with real World Series hopes, it’s a disappointing choice. The Indians aren’t the Dodgers, but they’re still worlds away from the luxury tax limit and have barely any big long-term deals on the books. Now is the time to spend and bolster a championship-caliber core.

Detroit Tigers: Find a way to trade Miguel Cabrera

There’s just about no reason to tune in to Tigers baseball in 2018, as the team set about tearing down the roster in the second half as part of a long-delayed rebuild. But while Detroit has successfully dealt away J.D. Martinez, Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera remains, sucking up a gigantic chunk of the Tigers’ payroll as a veteran bat on a team of nobodies. Given the money he’s owed (another $184 million guaranteed over the next six years) and age (35 in April), there’s zero chance the Tigers will get anything of value for him in a trade. But should that matter? There are no half-measures in rebuilds. Get what you can, eat what money you have to, and finish the job. And it would be a gift to Cabrera to let him play his sunset years for a team that won’t be bottoming out for the next few seasons.

Houston Astros: Start handing out extensions

As the defending World Series champions, there’s not a whole lot—if anything—the Astros need to do before next season begins; their roster is already strong and secure across the board. Instead, it would behoove Houston to take the windfall of cash that comes with winning a title and invest it into long-term deals for the team’s young core. In particular, buying out the arbitration years of Carlos Correa and George Springer would be a good start. The former won’t get expensive for some time, but it would be both economically prudent and a show of good faith to get him locked up to bigger dollars at the first chance.

Kansas City Royals: Resist the reunion temptation

The frozen free-agent market has left dozens of stars in the cold, including the Royals’ title-winning trio of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. They looked set to cash in this winter after strong 2017 seasons, but with teams refusing to open their checkbooks, each is looking at a weaker-than-expected market (except perhaps Hosmer, who reportedly has been offered a seven-year deal by the Padres). For the small-market Royals, who looked set to lose all three, the lack of interest elsewhere could be a chance to bring one or more of them back; rumors abound that they have a seven-year offer of their own out for Hosmer. But it seems smarter for Kansas City to make a clean break and get started on building the next great Royals team instead of investing lots of years and money in trying to recapture the past.

Los Angeles Angels: Keep adding to the haul

Few teams have been busier than the Angels, who have signed Shohei Ohtani and Zack Cozart and traded for Ian Kinsler, at once acquiring a new ace and improving a terrible infield. But Los Angeles can’t stop there. A team that was destroyed by pitcher injuries last year should keep building rotation depth, and the bullpen also needs attention. If the Angels are finally serious about building around Mike Trout, then they need to do everything they can to shore up their weak spots instead of hoping for the best from what they already have.

Minnesota Twins: Get an ace

Minnesota surprised everyone last year with its unlikely wild-card berth, and the team is poised for perhaps better in 2018 as its young stars develop. But what is currently separating the Twins from being real contenders is the state of their rotation, which is full of question marks and mediocre arms. Luckily for them, the market has plenty of good options who may be willing to sign below-market deals given the league-wide reluctance to spend. Minnesota should take its chance to make a real splash.

New York Yankees: Dump Jacoby Ellsbury

It’s been a magical offseason for Brian Cashman, who landed Giancarlo Stanton for a song, brought back CC Sabathia on a reasonable one-year pact, and got out from under the $13 million owed to the declining Chase Headley. Now, he has two months or so left to pull off his greatest trick yet: convincing an outfielder-needy team to take Ellsbury—and the $68 million still owed to him over the next four seasons—off his hands. That won’t be easy in a day and age when every franchise is tightening its belt, but getting rid of as much of Ellsbury’s salary as possible would be a huge boost to the Yankees in their quest to get under the luxury tax limit and set themselves up even better for next year’s free-agent spending spree. And while Ellsbury is a marginal hitter, his speed and defense can still help the right squad. If Cashman can make that move happen, his winter will have been a total success.

Oakland Athletics: Find a direction (?)

Squint hard enough at the Athletics’ roster, and you can see the faint outline of a .500 team with a small chance at being a dark horse contender. But that takes a lot of wishcasting and optimism, particularly with a rotation and bullpen that don’t have much high-upside talent. The A’s are a perpetual enigma, seemingly always rebuilding with an eye on a future that refuses to arrive, but the team as it exists now doesn’t seem to have any purpose. Not every franchise has to be either a contender or a bottom-feeder, but what Oakland has is amorphous at best. An 80-win team isn’t worth much these days, so why not make a move in either direction of that?

Seattle Mariners: Fix the rotation

A healthy James Paxton would go a long way toward making the Mariners a better bet for 2018, but Seattle should still aim for adding arms behind him if contention is what it seeks. The old Felix Hernandez is gone and likely never coming back, and the rest of the rotation is a fright. If Jerry Dipoto can tear himself away from trading a minor leaguer every hour, his attention should go toward one of the better pitchers still available in free agency, like Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb.

Tampa Bay Rays: Continue the rebuild

Evan Longoria is gone, but he shouldn’t be the only player the Rays send out of town this winter. Always at a disadvantage in the luxury neighborhood that is the AL East, Tampa isn’t a good bet to compete with either the Yankees or the Red Sox, or to make much noise in the wild-card race. Now is as good a time as any to look toward the future, and that begins with moving Alex Colome and Chris Archer.

Texas Rangers: Figure out the bullpen

The Rangers have plenty of issues still to address on the roster, from more rotation depth to whether or not top prospect Willie Calhoun is the answer in leftfield. But especially pressing is the relief corps, which was flat-out awful in 2017: a 4.76 ERA, third-worst in the majors, and only 29 saves converted in 50 opportunities. The current closer is soft-tossing lefty Alex Claudio, whose poor strikeout-per-nine ratio (6.1 last year) doesn’t inspire much confidence going forward. But with hard-throwing Matt Bush gearing up to be a starter, where is the heat in the late innings going to come from? With not much left in terms of bullpen help on the market, GM Jon Daniels would be better off keeping Bush in relief and seeing if any of his minor leaguers have what it takes to throw strikes in short bursts.

Toronto Blue Jays: Get realistic about 2018

There wasn’t a whole lot to like about the Blue Jays in 2017. Thanks to injuries and forgettable seasons across the roster, Toronto slumped to 76 wins and a fourth-place finish. And while there’s reason to be more optimistic this year, it’s hard to see where the big improvement needed to catch the Yankees and Red Sox comes from without some sizable changes. So is it time to throw in the towel? The future is bright, as the Jays’ farm system is full of excellent young talent; a small step back in the present might help make it even brighter. Dealing away free-agent-to-be Josh Donaldson, who would bring back a king’s ransom in prospects, would be the right way to go.

<p>Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter expects to the team to turn a profit this upcoming season, according to documents <a href="http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/barry-jackson/article192646499.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:obtained" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">obtained</a> by the <em>Miami Herald</em>.</p><p>The team has already cut almost $40 million in payroll this offseason due to a number of trades.</p><p>According to the paper, Jeter circulated a document in August letting potential investors know that they can expect big returns in the next few years.</p><p>The document was entitled Project Wolverine because of Jeter&#39;s ties to the state of Michigan, and gave a blueprint to goals that expected to be reached in ticket sales, television rights and sponsorship deals that go along with the rapidly decreasing payroll.</p><p>Coupled that with a $50 million payout that his MLB team will receive this season because of the league&#39;s sale of its stake in the digital media company BAMtech, the Marlins expect a &quot;cash flow&quot; profit in 2018 of around $70 million.</p><p>Project Wolverine expects the team&#39;s profits to increase to at least $22 million by the 2021 season, according to the August version of the document.</p><p>The offseason has seen many changes for the Marlins, who have not made the playoffs since winning the World Series in 2003.</p><p>The team traded current National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton to Jeter&#39;s former team, the New York Yankees. They also sent outfielder Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals and shipped second baseman Dee Gordon to the Seattle Mariners.</p>
Report: Marlins CEO Derek Jeter Projects Revenue Increase in 2018

Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter expects to the team to turn a profit this upcoming season, according to documents obtained by the Miami Herald.

The team has already cut almost $40 million in payroll this offseason due to a number of trades.

According to the paper, Jeter circulated a document in August letting potential investors know that they can expect big returns in the next few years.

The document was entitled Project Wolverine because of Jeter's ties to the state of Michigan, and gave a blueprint to goals that expected to be reached in ticket sales, television rights and sponsorship deals that go along with the rapidly decreasing payroll.

Coupled that with a $50 million payout that his MLB team will receive this season because of the league's sale of its stake in the digital media company BAMtech, the Marlins expect a "cash flow" profit in 2018 of around $70 million.

Project Wolverine expects the team's profits to increase to at least $22 million by the 2021 season, according to the August version of the document.

The offseason has seen many changes for the Marlins, who have not made the playoffs since winning the World Series in 2003.

The team traded current National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton to Jeter's former team, the New York Yankees. They also sent outfielder Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals and shipped second baseman Dee Gordon to the Seattle Mariners.

FILE - In this July 17, 2017, file photo, Minnesota Twins third baseman Miguel Sano throws to first after fielding a ball hit by a New York Yankees batter during the first inning of a baseball game in Minneapolis. Sano will have surgery for a persistent leg injury that knocked him out for six weeks during the season. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn, File)
Photographer: Twins' Sano grabbed, tried to kiss her in 2015
FILE - In this July 17, 2017, file photo, Minnesota Twins third baseman Miguel Sano throws to first after fielding a ball hit by a New York Yankees batter during the first inning of a baseball game in Minneapolis. Sano will have surgery for a persistent leg injury that knocked him out for six weeks during the season. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn, File)
Iowa running back Akrum Wadley (25) rejoices after Hal Steinbrenner, right, principal owner, managing general partner and co-chairman of the New York Yankees presented him with the Most Valuable Player trophy after Iowa defeated Boston College 27-20 to win the Pinstripe Bowl NCAA college football game, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Iowa rallies to beat Boston College 27-20 in Pinstripe Bowl
Iowa running back Akrum Wadley (25) rejoices after Hal Steinbrenner, right, principal owner, managing general partner and co-chairman of the New York Yankees presented him with the Most Valuable Player trophy after Iowa defeated Boston College 27-20 to win the Pinstripe Bowl NCAA college football game, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2017, file photo, Houston Astros&#39; Jose Altuve reacts after scoring the game-winning run during the ninth inning of Game 2 of baseball&#39;s American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, in Houston. Altuve was named The Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)
Astros star Jose Altuve named AP Male Athlete of the Year
FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2017, file photo, Houston Astros' Jose Altuve reacts after scoring the game-winning run during the ninth inning of Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, in Houston. Altuve was named The Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 21, 2017, file photo, Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch and Jose Altuve hold the championship trophy after Game 7 of baseball&#39;s American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, in Houston. Altuve was named The Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
Astros star Jose Altuve named AP Male Athlete of the Year
FILE - In this Oct. 21, 2017, file photo, Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch and Jose Altuve hold the championship trophy after Game 7 of baseball's American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, in Houston. Altuve was named The Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
C.C. Sabathia of the New York Yankees is baseball&#39;s active leader with 2,846 career strikeouts and 3,317 innings pitched over 17 major league seasons (AFP Photo/ELSA)
C.C. Sabathia of the New York Yankees is baseball's active leader with 2,846 career strikeouts and 3,317 innings pitched over 17 major league seasons
C.C. Sabathia of the New York Yankees is baseball's active leader with 2,846 career strikeouts and 3,317 innings pitched over 17 major league seasons (AFP Photo/ELSA)
Aug 23, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia (52) throws against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters Picture Supplied by Action Images
MLB: New York Yankees at Seattle Mariners
Aug 23, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia (52) throws against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters Picture Supplied by Action Images
Aug 23, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia (52) throws against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters Picture Supplied by Action Images
MLB: New York Yankees at Seattle Mariners
Aug 23, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia (52) throws against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters Picture Supplied by Action Images
File- This Oct. 21, 2017, file photo shows New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia throwing during the first inning of Game 7 of baseball&#39;s American League Championship Series in Houston. Sabathia&#39;s $10 million, one-year contract has been finalized by the Yankees, a deal that raises New York&#39;s projected luxury tax payroll for next year to about $178 million. The deal was announced Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017, about 10 days after the sides reached an agreement pending a physical. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
Sabathia's $10M deal finalized by Yanks; payroll up to $178M
File- This Oct. 21, 2017, file photo shows New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia throwing during the first inning of Game 7 of baseball's American League Championship Series in Houston. Sabathia's $10 million, one-year contract has been finalized by the Yankees, a deal that raises New York's projected luxury tax payroll for next year to about $178 million. The deal was announced Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017, about 10 days after the sides reached an agreement pending a physical. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
<p>Joe Garagiola, a major league baseball catcher who had stints with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburg Pirates, Chicago Cubs, and New York Giants, died on March 23 and age 90. After retiring from the MLB, Garagiola was well known as an announcer and television host. — (Pictured) NBC sport personality Joe Garagiola prior to the start of a Major League Baseball game against the New York Yankees circa 1983 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Focus on Sport/Getty Images) </p>
Joe Garagiola

Joe Garagiola, a major league baseball catcher who had stints with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburg Pirates, Chicago Cubs, and New York Giants, died on March 23 and age 90. After retiring from the MLB, Garagiola was well known as an announcer and television host. — (Pictured) NBC sport personality Joe Garagiola prior to the start of a Major League Baseball game against the New York Yankees circa 1983 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

<p>MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred complained to the management of ESPN after his interview with Dan Le Batard concerning the sale of the Miami Marlins, <a href="http://thebiglead.com/2017/12/22/mlb-rob-manfred-complained-espn-dan-le-batard-interview-marlins-derek-jeter-giancarlo-stanton/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:reports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">reports</a> the Big Lead. </p><p>During an interview on the Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on Wednesday, Le Batard grilled Manfred from the start of the interview, questioning the Marlins plans with their team, including trading multiple players to cut payroll.</p><p>&quot;South Florida is really mad,&quot; Le Batard told Manfred at the beginning of the interview, &quot;baseball has been really bad to South Florida for many years, and I don&#39;t believe that baseball deserves a single customer in South Florida.&quot;</p><p>The interview remained testy when Manfred took exception to the way he was being questioned.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;m not gonna be deposed like this is some adversary thing. You wanna ask me some questions, I&#39;ll answer them the way I want to answer them. If that&#39;s not enough, we can move on,&quot; Manfred said.</p><p>ESPN confirmed with The Big Lead that they had a discussion with MLB concerning the interview, saying, &quot;We have a terrific relationship with Major League Baseball and we’re in constant communication at all levels, so it’s not uncommon that we would discuss both issues and opportunities in the course of that communication.”</p><p>The Marlins agreed to be sold in August for $1.2 billion to a group that included former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and businessman Bruce Sherman.</p><p>After the season, the Marlins traded National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees and also shipped Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals and second baseman Dee Gordon was dealt to the Seattle Mariners.</p>
Report: Rob Manfred Complains to ESPN After Interview

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred complained to the management of ESPN after his interview with Dan Le Batard concerning the sale of the Miami Marlins, reports the Big Lead.

During an interview on the Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on Wednesday, Le Batard grilled Manfred from the start of the interview, questioning the Marlins plans with their team, including trading multiple players to cut payroll.

"South Florida is really mad," Le Batard told Manfred at the beginning of the interview, "baseball has been really bad to South Florida for many years, and I don't believe that baseball deserves a single customer in South Florida."

The interview remained testy when Manfred took exception to the way he was being questioned.

"I'm not gonna be deposed like this is some adversary thing. You wanna ask me some questions, I'll answer them the way I want to answer them. If that's not enough, we can move on," Manfred said.

ESPN confirmed with The Big Lead that they had a discussion with MLB concerning the interview, saying, "We have a terrific relationship with Major League Baseball and we’re in constant communication at all levels, so it’s not uncommon that we would discuss both issues and opportunities in the course of that communication.”

The Marlins agreed to be sold in August for $1.2 billion to a group that included former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and businessman Bruce Sherman.

After the season, the Marlins traded National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees and also shipped Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals and second baseman Dee Gordon was dealt to the Seattle Mariners.

Sep 26, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) throws out New York Yankees third baseman Chase Headley during the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees
Sep 26, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) throws out New York Yankees third baseman Chase Headley during the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

What to Read Next