Suspensions, negotiations, foregone conclusions and absurd depositions

What is Roberto Osuna thinking? What is Jacob Trouba demanding? What is Gary Bettman smoking? And some other random musings...

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/06/2018 (1616 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

What is Roberto Osuna thinking? What is Jacob Trouba demanding? What is Gary Bettman smoking? And some other random musings…

So, if you’re confused by the 75-game suspension Major League Baseball handed out to Toronto Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna late last week, you’re not the only one.

Osuna was arrested and charged with assault in a domestic violence incident in May, but hasn’t been convicted of anything.

But that’s not the confusing part. In the era of #MeToo, you’re now guilty until proven innocent and just an accusation can kill a career in a matter of hours.

Seventy-five games — and $2.5 million in lost salary — for something Osuna might, or might not, have done is actually a pretty light sentence when you consider the career-ending consequences other prominent athletes, politicians and celebrities have recently faced based solely on an accusation and without even a criminal charge.

But what’s weird about the Osuna case is that he’s agreed to the MLB suspension and waived all right to appeal, despite the fact his lawyer says Osuna continues to contest the criminal charge and intends to plead not guilty if and when the case ever goes to trial.

So just to review: Osuna is pleading not guilty in a criminal court but guilty in MLB’s kangaroo court.

Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Roberto Osuna will plead not guilty if accusations against him end up in criminal charges, but won't plead his case before his own league commissioner. (Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press Files)

It says something about how dramatically times have changed that an athlete accused of wrongdoing is now more willing to take his chances in a criminal court — where things such as evidence and testimony and the right to cross-examine witnesses still counts for something — than try to plead his case before his own league commissioner.

And it also says something about the current state of things that the Jays have rolled over in all this, issuing a statement that said they support that they support a decision that has denied them the use of arguably their most impactful player in the brief time he played this year, for close to half the season.

Make no mistake, while the Jays have all sorts of problems in this lost season, Osuna’s absence has contributed significantly to the struggles.

Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons pointed out over the weekend that the Jays were 13-2 early this season in games in which Osuna made an appearance and have gone 16-25 since his arrest triggered an indefinite suspension.

•••

Conventional wisdom is that a high tide floats all boats when it comes to contract negotiations, and so you have to figure Winnipeg Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba and his agent were elated with the new eight-year, $64-million monster contract defenceman John Carlson signed with the Washington Capitals over the weekend.

Trouba, of course, becomes a restricted free agent July 1 and Carlson’s new deal, with an average annual value of $8 million a season and maximum term, would presumably give Trouba more leverage in his negotiations with the Jets.

Is Jacob Trouba worth $8 million a year? If his contract negotiations wind up in arbitration, both his agent and the Winnipeg Jets can use the contract Washington just signed with defenceman John Carlson to support their positions. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press Files)

But you could also argue the exact opposite: that what the Carlson deal proves is that you need to have a strong offensive component to your game and durability — two things Trouba has struggled with in his career — if you’re going to land a big bucks, long-term deal as an NHL top-pairing defenceman.

Carlson had more goals in the playoffs during Washington’s Stanley Cup run (five) than Trouba had all regular season (three). And Carlson is coming off a career-high 68-point regular season (15 goals, 53 assists) in which he suited up for all 82 games, the fifth time in his career he has done so.

Trouba, on the other hand, once again missed a lot of playing time with injury (27 games) and finished with just 24 points.

Put it all together and both Trouba and the Jets could point to the Carlson deal in support of their respective positions, should the Jets defenceman elect to go to arbitration.

•••

So if Carlson is worth $8 million a season to Washington, isn’t the man who guided the Caps to their first Stanley Cup this season worth at least half that?

Former Washington head coach Barry Trotz walked away from the Caps this month, Stanley Cup ring in hand, after the club refused to give him a significant raise over the $1.5 million he made this year.

The Caps reportedly offered Dauphin’s Trotz just $2 million a season moving forward and Trotz balked, quickly signing a new five-year contract with the New York Islanders instead that will pay him a reported $4 million a season.

It didn't take long for Stanley Cup winning Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz to accept a better deal with the New York Islanders. (Carlos Osorio / The Associated Press Files)

That’s still $2 million a season less than the likes of Joel Quenneville in Chicago and Mike Babcock in Toronto earn, but at least Trotz can now eat in the same restaurants as his worst-paid players.

It’s never made sense that teams who think nothing of dumping millions a year on an underperforming 10-goal scorer will quibble to the last dime with the man they put in charge of their entire $80-million payroll.

•••

Got an email from a loyal reader over the weekend wondering, with some justification, what’s happened to all the parity in the CFL that used to make every game a nailbiter.

The average margin of victory in Week 2 was 30 points — that included the Bombers’ 56-10 shellacking of a Montreal team that might not win a game this year. And overall, six of eight games this season have been decided by 12 points or more.

Say what you want about the CFL’s shortcomings, the one thing the league always had going for it was every game seemed to come down to the final two minutes.

Not so this year, at least not yet.

•••

And it’s not just the CFL that has seen the competition tilt lopsidedly this year.

In Major League Baseball, many of the playoff races are already settled, with more than half the season still to play.

The AL West Division-leading Houston Astros already have a 100 per cent chance of making the post-season, according to the probabilities website FanGraphs. The New York Yankees, it says, have a 99.9 per cent chance, the Boston Red Sox have a 99.7 per cent chance and the Cleveland Indians have a 98.3 per cent chance.

Put it all together and the American League season, with more than 80 games to play, has already been reduced to an eye-glazing three-month battle to settle nothing more than the second wild-card spot. And things aren’t much different in the National League, where the Nationals, Cubs and Dodgers all hold similar playoff-spot strangleholds.

Is it any wonder baseball attendance is down 15 per cent this year?

The Houston Astros already have a 100 per cent chance of making the playoffs, according to a probabilities website. (Eric Christian Smith / The Associated Press)

•••

And finally, former Montreal Canadiens great Ken Dryden had a column in the Washington Post Monday in which he detailed the abject nonsense Gary Bettman and some NHL owners spewed while giving depositions in a U.S. court case brought by former NHL players seeking compensation for post-concussion injuries they’ve suffered.

As Bettman apparently sees it, the overwhelming research suggesting high rates of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in the brains of former NHLers, along with all those prematurely dead and dying former players — from Bob Probert to Derek Boogaard, Wade Belak to Rick Rypien — doesn’t mean much.

“I think the sample has been too small,” Dryden quoted Bettman as saying during his deposition. “I would respectfully suggest that, as tragic and as unfortunate as it is, there isn’t even enough circumstantial evidence to draw any conclusions.”

L.A. Kings owner Phil Anschutz and Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs were even more brazen, with both men denying under oath that they’d ever even heard of CTE.

The bottom line? These guys are either very, very stupid or they’re lying.

And I happen to think they’re a lot smarter than they’re letting on.

email: paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Paul Wiecek

Paul Wiecek
Reporter (retired)

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.

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