The wheeling, dealing, maybe stealing Padres

Mike Clevinger, from Cleveland outcast to the star of the San Diego Shuffle.

Entering the pandemic-truncated regular season, some thought the Show was going to be somewhere between dull and duller, not just by way of the rules experiments alone. They didn’t reckon with the San Diego Padres, of all people.

When not producing a youthful shortstop (Fernando Tatis, Jr.) who takes “let the kids play” to heart (and runs the boring old farts’ temperatures up the scale in the bargain), or hitting grand slams as if they’re going out of style, the Padres took what some presumed would be a sleepy trade deadline period and turned it into a bit of a thriller approaching Monday’s 1 p.m. Pacific time cutoff.

Landing Cleveland Indians pitcher/protocol violator Mike Clevinger and outfielder Greg Allen for a package including pitcher Cal Quantrill, infielder Gabriel Arias, outfielder Josh Naylor, and catcher Austin Hedges on Monday merely seems like what Duke Ellington once called “the cherries-and-cream topping to our sundae morning.”

Especially after the Friars already made four trades in a 24-hour period prior. The fourth of those trades looked like something of a nothingburger: on Sunday, the Padres sent a fringe relief pitcher from their 60-man roster (28 in Show; 32 at alternate camp), Gerardo Reyes, to the Los Angeles Angels for veteran catcher Jason Castro, who’s set to hit free agency after this season. And, who’s not much of a hitter but is respected for his abilities at pitch framing and new-rules plate blocking.

Now, look at what that deal followed doing the Slam Diego Shuffle:

* On Saturday, the Padres cast for and reeled in resurgent relief pitcher Trevor Rosenthal, sending the Kansas City Royals an outfield prospect (Edward Oliveres) and the proverbial player to be named later.

* On Sunday morning, the Padres more or less confirmed that the beleaguered Boston Red Sox were about to push the plunger on their season if not much of their roster, landing designated hitter/first baseman Mitch Moreland, a 2018 World Series hero, for a pair of prospects. (Hudson Potts, Jession Rosario.)

* And, a little later on Sunday, the Friars dealt big to the Seattle Mariners, sending two of their highest-rated prospects (pitcher Andres Munoz, outfielder Taylor Trammell) plus a pair of young sprouts with Show experience (catcher Luis Torrens, infielder Ty France) to land the Mariners’ best catcher, Austin Nola, plus relief pitchers Austin Adams and Dan Altavilla.

The Mariners were thin enough in the backstop ranks that nothing could have pried Nola out of their hands unless it was enough to think they might finally, maybe, possibly begin building a real future, as a good number of published reports suggest. When the Padres landed Clevinger Monday morning, what started as jaw-dropping hope turned into jaw-dropping actuality: They’re going all-in to win now as well as later.

How surreal is this season already? The Indians put Clevinger on ice when it turned out he’d made a team flight after violating coronavirus safety protocols with fellow pitcher Zach Plesac but said nothing about it—even after Plesac got bagged—until after that team flight. The Tribe sent both to their Eastlake, Ohio alternate site.

And all of a sudden Clevinger—who had a sterling 2019 season but had a struggle or two in four starts this season before his night out of dinner and cards with Plesac and other friends—became the most coveted starting pitcher on a weird trade market that figured to feature such arms as Lance Lynn (Texas Rangers), Trevor Bauer (Cincinnati Reds), and maybe Josh Hader (Milwaukee Brewers relief act) moving to fresh territory.

This must be heady stuff for Clevinger, who’s just gone from a Cleveland outcast to the star of the Slam Diego Shuffle.

One minute, Clevinger and Plesac were still recovering in Eastlake over the denunciations of their selfishness for sneaking out after dark no matter what Mom and Dad ordered. The next, he, at least, has moved from one pennant contender on the banks of Lake Erie to another down by that glistening San Diego waterfront. Where he gets to reap the pleasures and benefits of having one of the left coast’s two true marquee talents having his back at shortstop and lightening his loads at the plate.

It was enough for the Padres to swing and fling their way into the postseason picture, sitting five games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the West but tied with the Chicago Cubs at three and a half games up in the wild card picture. They’re not just making noise, they’re making memories of the kind San Diego hasn’t seen in a very long time.

These are fun days to be a Padre. And, a Padre fan. So much so that a Twitter wag couldn’t resist wondering if their trade deadline wheeling, dealing, and possible stealing didn’t set at least one weird record: most players sharing the name Austin (including Moreland: it’s his middle name) moving to one team or another in a series of trades made by one team in the same deadline period.

Well, what’s baseball, too, if not the still-singular repository for silly records? Now the Padres hope their wheeling, dealing, and possible stealing produce the kind of record that’s not so silly, if you don’t count the semi-Mad Hatter style postseason to come. The kind of record that gets them to the postseason in the first place.

All they have to do is make sure Clevinger can’t be too seduced by that delicious waterfront to break the safety protocols again.

Headhunters ball

Of course our guy didn’t throw at your guy’s attic on purpose. And of course we’ll take that polar beach club off your hands for twice the market value!

A little Saturday rough stuff between the Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds may or may not be surprising. But is it all that surprising that Angel Hernandez’s umpiring crew sent it near nuclear? Not Hernandez himself, for a change, but still.

The Cubs and the Reds played a doubleheader in Great American Ballpark. Thanks to his performance in the Cubs’ first-game win (3-0), Anthony Rizzo wasn’t exactly the Reds’ favourite person on the day. Neither was Cubs starting pitcher Yu Darvish, who was so effective he could (and did) drop his glove while delivering and still throw a strike.

First, Rizzo wrestled Reds starter Trevor Bauer to a ninth pitch and drilled it down the right field line and out of sight in the top of the third. Then, in the top of the sixth, Rizzo made shorter work of Bauer by hitting a fourth-pitch 1-2 service deeper into the right field seats.

But in the top of the nightcap’s fourth, rookie Cincinnati relief pitcher Tejay Antone greeted Rizzo leading off with a pitch straight over Rizzo’s head. Rookie though he may be, Antone had all the right moves at the ready, looking at his pitching hand immediately as he turned to his right.

Of course the ball just slipped away off course against the guy who took the Reds deep twice in the first game. And of course you can have that Antarctican beach club for twice the market value. Rizzo’s reputation for plate crowding doesn’t fly here, either. If you’re going to push a batter back off the plate, you’re going to throw inside and tight, not upstairs above the attic.

“We’ve played against the Reds a long time and they do like to move my feet,” Rizzo told reporters after Cubs relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel wild-pitched the winning Reds run home in the bottom of the seventh.

It’s just part of their reports–it’s been for years. I don’t think any pitcher would purposefully throw at someone’s head. I give the benefit of the doubt to every pitcher, especially Antone. He’s a rookie. He’s been throwing really well. The pitch inside was definitely for a purpose. It’s just, it’s at the head and that’s scary stuff.

No sale. Both dugouts barked. Hernandez’s ump crew confabbed as Antone stepped into his errant-hand routine around the mound. Home plate umpire Nic Lentz handed warnings to both sides. Cubs manager David Ross, who wouldn’t have paid a wooden nickel for the pitch-slipping plea, was distinctly unamused.

Ross came out of his dugout at first, returned, then came back out after Lentz handed the warnings down. “I thought our dugout got pretty animated and the umpires stepped in and issued warnings, which I didn’t understand,” Grandpa Rossy told reporters later. “We hadn’t done anything from our perspective. A young man tried to take things into his own hands and send a message, and then it kind of escaped from there.”

With the Cubs dugout still bristling over Antone’s attic pitch to Rizzo, not to mention Antone still bristling quietly over having exchanged a few “grunts” with the Cubs previously, Ross and his pitching/catching/strategy coach Mike Borzello were ejected. It’s the first ejection in Ross’s managerial career. Welcome to Angel’s Hell, Gramps. You’re not supposed to say anything but “three bags full, sir” to the crew of the legend in his own mind.

Then the Reds got a taste of both theirs and Hernandez’s own medicine in the bottom of the fourth. Cubs reliever Adbert Adzolay zipped Reds center fielder Shogo Akiyama up, in, and tight. You’d have had to be a U.S. postmaster general not to know that Adzolay wanted to send the Reds a little return message about going upstairs against the guy who took you downtown twice in the first game.

That prompted veteran Reds leader and designated hitter for the game Joey Votto to bark at the Cubs, Kyle Schwarber in particular. Cincinnati skipper David Bell returned to the field for another conversation with the umps, during which Rizzo hollered at him from first base, which lured Votto and Reds outfielder Jesse Winker out to have it out with Rizzo.

First base umpire Dan Bellino tried and failed to convince Votto and Winker to knock it the hell off, then he invited both to kindly remove themselves from the game, at which point—pandemic protocols be damned—both benches and bullpens emptied to the field, although nobody even thought about throwing a punch.

“I went over to get an explanation for what happened,” Bell told reporters afterward. “And then I believe Anthony Rizzo started walking towards me and yelling at me,” Bell said. “I don’t know what he was saying, it didn’t really matter to me. And at that point, a couple of our players jumped over the railing and the umpire just started throwing everybody out of the game. Not everybody, but Jesse Winker, Joey Votto and myself.”

“Having each other’s backs and the Reds and all their guys and David Bell are going to have each other’s backs and we’re going to have our backs,” said Rizzo, who speaks fondly of Bell otherwise from Bell’s days as a Cubs infield coach. “That’s what happens when you’re competing anytime through baseball, but especially this year when it’s all heightened and you can hear every little thing.”

The Twitterverse erupted with a round of brickbats against Hernandez as the leader of the crew, but in absolute fairness this was one time when Hernandez himself didn’t jump the first bullet train to make himself the object of everyone’s attention. That’s about as far as absolute fairness should go, thanks to a time-honoured precept that when you lead you take responsibility for what your subordinates do, for better or worse.

Including making the headhunters captured by the game the story of the day, instead of Darvish’s virtuosity on the mound in the first game. Or even the hapless and once-formidable Kimbrel’s ninth-inning nightcap disaster, when he was brought in to try saving a 5-4 Cubs lead and should-have-been win. Oops.

He walked Reds catcher Curt Casali on 3-1 to open the bottom of the ninth. He struck Votto’s successor Mark Payton out, but he wild-pitched Casali’s pinch runner Freddy Galvis to second before walking Nicholas Castellanos. Winker’s successor Aristedes Aquino singled Galvis home, then Kimbrel wild-pitched Castellanos and Aquino to third and second, respectively, before walking Eugenio Suarez.

The good news: Cardiac Kimbrel struck Mike Moustakas and Jose Garcia swinging, back to back, Garcia especially on one of the filthiest curve balls Kimbrel’s thrown in recent times. The bad news: That strikeout pitch escaped not just Garcia’s bat but one and all around and behind the plate, enabling Castellanos to score the Reds’ winning run.

Too-vivid reminders of how Kimbrel, formerly one of the most automatic closers in the Show, kept the crash carts on red alert during the 2018 Boston Red Sox’s postseason run even when credited with saves. The poor man threw four first-pitch strikes out of his six batters but only three of his eleven total strikes were called and his earned run average now matched a ten-dollar bill.

“We’re behind him every single day,” Rizzo said of Kimbrel. “Every time he comes to the mound, we’re behind him and have full confidence in him. He’s Craig Kimbrel. He has his resume for a reason.” That door swings both ways, unfortunately.

I hate to say “I told you so,” but . . .

Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez arrive for a Citi Field tour.

Every once in awhile I call one right. You may think that makes me overqualified to become a major league umpire, and that’s your business. But the proverbial rat I smelled, when noting reports that Alex Rodriguez was talking to Jeff Luhnow as he prepared for the deadline to bid on the New York Mets, wasn’t just my nose telling me liver and onions were chateaubriand.

Rodriguez and his paramour Jennifer Lopez dropped out of the bidding Friday, leaving hedge fund maven Steve Cohen the likely buyer for the Mess (er, Mets). Writing earlier today, I said the J-Rod drop-out means the Mets dodging one bullet: “Taking baseball administration counsel from Luhnow is like seeking family counseling from Ma Barker.”

Apparently, it wouldn’t have mattered to the rest of the owners or to commissioner Rob Manfred if J-Rod had enough money on their own or gathered in a group to buy the team. Say New York Daily News writers Deesha Thosar and Bill Madden, “the final straw that put the kibosh on the Rodriguez-led bid . . . was when A-Rod consulted with disgraced/suspended ex-Astros executive Jeff Luhnow, a source tells the Daily News.”

Rodriguez couldn’t have been more foolish if he’d tried to steal home with the bases loaded, two out, and Babe Ruth himself at the plate in the bottom of the ninth.

We take you back to before the coronavirus world tour compelled baseball’s spring shutdown and delayed, truncated regular season. To Rodriguez in the ESPN booth broadcasting an exhibition game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. To A-Rod ripping the Astros the proverbial new one over Astrogate:

I think the one thing that has really upset the fans is you cheat, you win a championship, there is no suspension, and then there’s no remorse. The last one I think is probably the worst one because people want to see remorse. They want a real, authentic apology. And they have not received that thus far.

Remember, too, that Rodriguez was compelled to humble himself powerfully enough after his exile over the Biogenesis scandal and the revelations of his own relationships with actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances. We thought in March that he spoke from self-inflicted but no less bitter experience when he lectured the unapologetic Astros for their illegal 2017-18 electronically-based sign-stealing operation.

Whatever else Manfred did in handling or mishandling Astrogate, the commissioner at least suspended Luhnow for all 2020 while delivering a report charging powerfully enough that Luhnow’s results uber alles administrative culture, long on technology and stillborn on human relations, did more than a modicum of making Astrogate possible in the first place.

While you’re at it, remember that the Mets themselves got nipped by an Astrogate hound—they’d hired 2017 Astros designated hitter Carlos Beltran to be their next manager, only to have to let him go over his own Astrogate culpability before he’d had the chance to manage even one spring exhibition for the Mets.

Luhnow’s suspension enjoins him from doing any official business in any way, shape, or form with any major league franchise all year long. Neither Luhnow nor Rodriguez violated those terms merely by talking, since Rodriguez isn’t tied formally to the Mets or any other team. But let’s not get technical.

Why on earth would A-Rod seek even Luhnow’s informal and unofficial counsel in light of his own on-the-air rip of Astrogate and what he and the entire un-sleeping world knows about Luhnow’s helping to foster the climate that enabled an Astrogate-type cheating scheme in the first place?

To discover sneakier ways to develop sign-stealing algorithms and jam acquisitions down the throats of staffers who find them suspect? To hire assistant GMs who might be smarter about taunting female reporters in the clubhouse that they were so [fornicating] glad they dealt for a pitcher still under the weight of domestic violence charges at the time of the deal?

(Don’t even think about it. Rodriguez trucking in actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances isn’t quite of a piece with the Astro Intelligence Agency. As pitcher Alex Wood said when the Astrogate report came down, “I would rather face a player that was taking steroids than face a player that knew every pitch that was coming.“)

“Alex and I are so disappointed,” Lopez tweeted when announcing Friday that J-Rod dropped out of the Mets running. “We worked so hard the past 6 months with the dream of becoming the first minority couple and the first woman owner to buy her father’s favorite Major League Baseball team with her own hard earned money. We still haven’t given up!! #NYForever”

She might want to include in tonight’s pillow talk that it’s not exactly a brilliant idea to seek out the counsel of a man who had fingers fat enough in baseball’s arguable worst cheating scandal since the final, affirmed exposure of the 1951 Giants. Just remind him that seeking a cheater’s advice on running a baseball team is like hiring John Dillinger for bank security.

Tempered joy in Metsville

Amed Rosario (arms up) gets a hero’s welcome after his walkoff bomb finishes a doubleheader sweep of the Yankees Friday night. Crowning a pair of surreal days for these surreal Mets.

When hedge fund titan Steve Cohen first emerged as a potential buyer of the New York Mets, I had a little mad fun with that news because we have a couple of things in common. Not financially, of course; Cohen can hand out in tips about a million times what I’ll ever be required to pay in taxes. But we have our mutual grounds regardless.

We’re both Long Island boys who’ve been Met fans since the day they were born. We both made our baseball bones on the original troupe about which it’s fair to say they were baseball’s anticipation of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. We both grew up or (in my case) finished growing up (har har) in Long Island towns with pronounced Mob connections.

Cohen grew up in Great Neck, where there lives the opulent wedding/bar-mitzvah factory emporium (Leonard’s) at which Johnny Sack asked Tony Soprano to perform a hit, a request made just before Sack was carted back to prison from his daughter’s wedding. Bronx native though I am, I finished growing up (snort) in Long Beach, also the home of Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather.

Sorry, Mr. Cohen. My mob family’s Oscars can blow up your mob family’s Emmys.

But it looks at last as though Cohen will graduate from an eight percent stake to controlling ownership of the Mets, more or less as the last man standing. So that gives him more than one up, since the only piece of the Mets I own and can afford is a game hat.

Celebrity would-be buyers Alex Rodriguez, a former Yankee who actually grew up loving and hoping to play for the Mets one day (he actually had his chance, which either he or his then-agent blew like a ninth-inning Met lead), and his paramour Jennifer Lopez, pulled out of the bidding Friday. That may have been the first heavy sigh of relief from Met fans on the day.

Apparently, not even J-Rod could come up with quite the money needed to buy the Mets, whose incumbent Wilpon ownership has long enough been a two-man implosion machine. The J-Rod group would also have included one NFL owner (the Florida Panthers’ Vincent Viola), a BodyArmour founder (Michael Repole), and a WalMart e-Commerce U.S. wheel. (Chief executive officer Marc Lore.)

J-Rod said farwell to the bidding by observing they “submitted a fully funded offer at a record price for the team which was supported by binding debt commitments from JP Morgan and equity commitment letters from creditworthy partners.” The Athletic‘s Daniel Kaplan observes red flags:

[N]otable in the statement is a reference to debt and equity commitment letters from creditworthy partners. On the latter, equity commitment letters are different from money in the bank, and adding a lot of debt to a team that loses around $50 million per year, pre-COVID-19, is not a recipe upon which MLB may have looked fondly.

MLB isn’t “too keen on another [Derek] Jeter/Marlins where they had to scrape their last nickel to pay the purchase price,” a source close to MLB told The Athletic earlier this month, referring to the debt-heavy Marlins. “Especially for a major-market club that already has such large operating losses. Cohen’s checkbook is even more valuable in a COVID and post-COVID environment.”

Not that Kaplan missed red flags flying around Cohen himself, of course. Cohen’s former SAC Capital outfit copped to insider-trading charges and coughed up a record fine of $1.8 billion. Cohen himself wasn’t accused of wrongdoing, but in 2016 he had to agree to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s demand that he not manage the monies of outside investors for 24 months.

Just as problematic may be sex discrimination claims filed in Connecticut against Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management, which I noted myself during the week. Those don’t charge Cohen personally, but one filed in 2018 does, Kaplan writes, though he adds that later in 2018 “the parties voluntarily agreed to terminate the case and submit the case to arbitration, according to court filings.”

Buying an eight percent take in a major league franchise won’t place you under the proverbial microscope, but looking to become the controlling partner will. Baseball’s 23 other major league ownerships have to be edgy about welcoming to their often-dubious ranks a man whose history includes battles over financial crime and sex discrimination charges.

Fred Wilpon and his son, Jeff, haven’t been anywhere near such suspicions so far as anyone knows. They’ve been seen mostly as having been more dumb than dishonest regarding the Bernie Madoff scandal, in which they invested and took an extremely expensive bath. The same could be said for most of Madoff’s investors. But the fallout eventually amplified the Wilpons’ wounding flaws.

Their naivete about Madoff helped them leverage to make the notorious Bobby Bonilla deferred-compensation contract, compel them to pay a reported $29 million into the fund marked for compensating other Madoff victims, and force them “to borrow hundreds of millions more to cover debts they had made against their Madoff assets, [having] almost a major-league payroll’s worth of money due every year just in interest on those debts.”

In baseball terms, the Wilpons weren’t exactly geniuses, either. Before they bought out their original co-owner Nelson Doubleday, they tried to thwart a deal Doubleday wanted to make in the worst way possible. Lucky for them that wiser minds prevailed. That’s two wild cards, one pennant, and one World Series appearance—not to mention the post-9/11 shot heard ’round the world and a Mets hat atop his head—underwriting Mike Piazza’s Cooperstown plaque.

For every Piazza, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Johan Santana, and Billy Wagner deal, the Wilpons blocked exponential other solid signings and tradings their baseball brain trusts recommended or signed off on deals and trades about which “dubious” could be considered a compliment.

When Cohen first stepped into the Mets’ controlling partnership picture last winter, I remembered the Wilpons also doing once what some thought could never be done. They made George Steinbrenner himself, the man who threw out the first manager of the year during the 1980s, resemble the epitome of benevolence, with their despicable 2008 execution of manager Willie Randolph, his pitching coach Rick Peterson, and his first base coach Tom Nieto.

The guillotines dropped on the trio after the struggling Mets traveled all the way west from New York to play the Los Angeles Angels in an interleague set and won the first of the set. At three in the morning. It must have been enough to make Randolph, a longtime Yankee fixture at second base, nostalgic for The Boss’s Malice in Wonderland fun house.

Red flags or no red flags, the news that J-Rod dropped out of the Mets’ bidding does indicate the Mets dodging at least one bullet, if what I noted during the week is true and Rodriguez was taking informal counsel from disgraced former Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow. Taking baseball administration counsel from Luhnow is like seeking family counseling from Ma Barker.

The news may also have had an effect on the Mets otherwise.

On Thursday, the night before J-Rod pulled out of the Mets’ running, the Mets’ front office botched almost completely a stirring protest gesture against rogue police and racism, when the Mets and the Marlins observed a moment of silence on field before walking off the field postponing their game.

But come Friday, as MLB commemorated its pandemic-delayed Jackie Robinson Day, and—tragically—the actor (Chadwick Boseman) who played Robinson so powerfully in 42 lost his battle against colon cancer the same day, the Mets swept a doubleheader from the Yankees in the Bronx.

The sweep finished when Amed Rosario, pinch hitting for starting Mets shortstop Luis Guillorme, caught hold of a hanging slider from Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman with pinch-runner Billy Hamilton aboard and sent it into the left field seats. A Mets team who entered the twin bill as the Show’s worst for hitting with men in scoring position (.199) went 5-for-12 in that situation Friday.

Come Monday is the reported deadline for new Mets ownership bids. Joy in Metsville about the end of the Wilpon era is probably tempered by their wish that a saviour with cleaner hands might enter at the eleventh hour. Such a saviour will need five king’s ransoms to out-bid the Long Island boy who once paid for a single painting what the Mets will have paid stud pitcher Jacob deGrom for the entire length of his current contract.

The Mets have been many things in their 58-year life. Dull isn’t necessarily one of them.

Ballplayers aren’t wild about qualified immunity, either

I am . . . a huge fan of getting rid of qualified immunity, and holding cops and everyone accountable, just like we hold ourselves.
—Lorenzo Cain.

Over two months ago, over 1,100 professional athletes and at least 300 front office workers in professional sports signed a letter from the Players Coalition. It expressed support for a Congressional bill to end qualified immunity for law enforcement personnel. No few incumbent and former baseball players signed the letter.

They only began with Tim Anderson, Chris Archer, Alex Bregman, Byron Buxton, Eric Davis, Jack Flaherty, Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward, Jordan Hicks, Austin Jackson, CC Sabathia, Denard Span, and Giancarlo Stanton.

The Ending Qualified Immunity Act was introduced 4 June 2020 by Republican-turned-Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan and Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley or Massachussetts. The Players Coalition letter appeared six days later. When Rep. Tom McClintock (R-California) signed on, the bill became the first tripartisan legislation in the history of Congress.

“[P]olice are legally, politically, and culturally insulated from consequences for violating the rights of the people whom they have sworn to serve,” Amash said after he and Pressley  introduced their bill. “That must change so that these incidents of brutality stop happening.”

Amash and Pressley wrote the bill specifically after George Floyd’s death at police hands, but it isn’t just non-white people who suffer or die at the hands of rogue police. It’s safe enough to presume that too many of those breaking entire cities over police atrocities care less about justice than about cover for their own destruction.

“Whatever his motive,” McClintock said announcing his co-sponsorship, “the killer of George Floyd had eighteen complaints for misconduct, and one of his accomplices had six. Why is such misconduct tolerated by big city police departments? Is it because the doctrine of qualified immunity shields corrupt officials from accountability for a wide range of crimes?”

Not long after that, the Supreme Court—which created qualified immunity in the first place in 1982—turned down seven cases in which it might have revisited the monster the Court itself created. Justice Clarence Thomas rejected that rejection. “There . . .  may be no justification,” he wrote in his dissent, “for a one-size-fits-all, subjective immunity based on good faith.”

Whether the end of qualified immunity would have prevented the Kenosha, Wisconsin police shooting of a suspect named Jacob Blake is your guess as well as mine. Rogue police have this much in common with the criminals they’re otherwise sworn to apprehend—they think the law doesn’t apply to them.

But absent qualified immunity at least the officer who pumped seven bullets into Blake’s back wouldn’t necessarily be protected from consequences above and beyond whatever a Kenosha police departmental investigation imposes upon him.

“[C]ivil society is impossible without a well‐​functioning criminal justice system,” wrote Clark Niely, vice president for criminal justice at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, a month before the Amash-Pressley bill emerged, explaining why Cato took qualified immunity on as a specific analytical subject within a subject.

But in order to be well‐​functioning, it is not enough that a criminal justice system have the power to arrest, prosecute, and punish wrongdoers. The system must also be perceived by citizens as fundamentally legitimate and thus genuinely worthy of their confidence and support . . . [I]t is difficult to imagine anything more delegitimizing than a law‐​enforcement community that insists upon being held to a vastly lower standard of accountability than the one it imposes on ordinary citizens. But that, unfortunately, is precisely what we have. Even more tragically, it is an unforced error caused by a misbegotten blunder into judicial policymaking by the Supreme Court.

“The fact we’re talking about this in 2020, I don’t see the progress in that,” says Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain to The Athletic. “It’s almost like we’re going backwards. I think we’re going to be in the same situation until we start holding the people doing this accountable. Until that changes, it’s going to be tough for real change.”

Cain opted out of playing this season over the coronavirus world tour after the truncated season began but over safety concerns on road trips. He also prefers quiet protests like postponing baseball games over breaking the neighbourhood. “It’s burning buildings. It’s people out there shooting each other,” he tells The Athletic‘s Andy McCullough. It’s chaos. It’s bad.” And he’s not going to let rogue police off the hook, either.

I just feel like the change we need, as far as the top of our government, all the police forces out there, I just feel like deadly force shouldn’t be the first thing we go to. They’ve got Tasers and every other weapon on their tool belts. And deadly force is always the go-to.

That’s why I am such a huge fan of getting rid of qualified immunity, and holding cops and everyone accountable, just like we hold ourselves. That’s what I’m all about, getting rid of that qualified immunity.

Cain doesn’t have to be told that police officers don’t always have time to think before they fire. But neither does he need to remind anyone with a brain that shooting a suspect with his back turned even while possibly reaching for a knife makes a cop a crook.

So does killing an unarmed suspect. So does performing a home invasion based on questionable evidence. So does sending the SWAT team to terrorise a family accused wrongly of growing marijuana where it’s still illegal. So does holding Grandma and her four-year-old granddaughter at gunpoint while executing a sloppy or out-dated warrant.

When the men and women sworn to uphold the law become the lawless themselves, be afraid. Be very afraid. And you don’t need baseball players taking knees or postponing games to tell you. Among those who would tell you, and just did, are this paternal grandson of a New York police officer, the only known cop in my family. I’ve said it until I’m blue in the face but I’ll say it again. He’d have been just as appalled by rogue cops as he was by rogue citizens.

Today is baseball’s delayed commemoration of Jackie Robinson, who once lamented that violent contingencies would hurt more than help his people and all people.

We’ll never know truly what the Hall of Famer today would think of Kenosha, Minneapolis, and other places where rogue police make themselves judges and juries on the scene, and rogue citizens use rogue police acts as beards to burn the innocent and claim justice. Based on his own record in and after baseball, Robinson would likely reject both.

“He does not want society to burn,” Roger Kahn wrote after spending long time with him for The Boys of Summer. “Burn America and you burn the achievements of Jackie Robinson. After ruinous, anarchic blaze, who will remember the brave, fatherless boyhood, the fight for an inch of Army justice, the courage in baseball, the leadership and the triumph of a free man who walked with swift and certain strides?”

Very likely, Robinson himself would support the end of qualified immunity. As Lorenzo Cain does today. As did the Andersons, Bregmans, Flahertys, and Heywards signing the letter supporting the Amash-Pressley bill. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee when last seen. I hope it’s not the last we’ve seen of it.