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Removal of Cuban Embargo Would Greatly Impact Baseball

December 19, 2014
tags: ,
Orlando and Livan Hernandez escaped from Cuba and both enjoyed long careers in the MLB

Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post breaks down the impeding decision that could great affect Major Baseball and Cuba’s greatest export, baseball players.

President Obama’s move to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba will resonate through baseball. The trickle of dazzling talent that already flows from the baseball-crazed island could turn into a geyser, a stream of available players that would force Major League Baseball to frame and police how teams acquire Cuban players. The political thaw would also eliminate the dangerous back channels of defection. The impact on the sport could be immense and, in the words of one team official, “drastic.”

Even with a political blockade between Cuba and the United States, players born in Cuba have shaped the game. White Sox designated hitter Jose Abreu earned last year’s American League Rookie of the Year. Tigers outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has won the past two Home Run Derbies. Outfielder Rusney Castillo signed a $72.5 million contract with the Boston Red Sox. Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig received a nickname – “The Wild Horse” – from no less of an authority than Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully.

A new burst of talent may arrive from Cuba’s highest level into the majors and the upper levels of the minor leagues in the United States. Scouts would flock to youth tournaments in an attempt to discover teenaged players with huge potential and sign them on the cheap. Within a few years, baseball academies may spread across the island covered in the logos of major league teams, same as the patchwork of diamonds clustered around barracks-style dormitories strewn over the Dominican Republic.​

On the day President Obama announced his intention to end the 53-year standoff, the league still waited for the situation to develop. Multiple high-ranking team officials declined comment, underscoring the topic’s sensitive nature.

“Major League Baseball is closely monitoring the White House’s announcement regarding Cuban-American relations,” the league said in a statement. “While there are not sufficient details to make a realistic evaluation, we will continue to track this significant issue, and we will keep our clubs informed if this different direction may impact the manner in which they conduct business on issues related to Cuba.”

The changes could come fast, because baseball prepared for this day. One Latin American scouting director, who has worked with Cuban baseball players since 1990, said he already has plans for the logistics of how to scout players on the island and the optimal place to build an academy. “I know what I would do,” he said. “I would just have to get approval from ownership.”

Latin American talent already saturates the sport, and the potential for a system in which teams can openly acquire talent from Cuba will only bolster the region’s influence. The Dominican Republic, with a population of roughly 10.4 million, accounted for 9.7 percent of the players on major league opening day rosters, according to MLB figures. The talent pool in Cuba, the scouting director said, is “on the same plane” as the Dominican Republic. The country has a population of roughly 11.3 million. Within a decade or so, baseball could see a demographic turnover of its talent pool of 10 percent or more.

“It would be a huge boon for the U.S.,” the Latin American scouting director said. “It would be another island that’s fertile. Then it’s gets confusing.”

Major League Baseball would need to determine what set of rules it implements for teams acquiring Cuban players. The league would hope for Cuban officials to allow it to use the same set of rules that apply in other Latin American countries: players over 23 would be considered free agents, and signing bonuses for players under 23 would be subject to spending limits per team.

But the Cuban government, as raised by Ben Badler of Baseball America, may provide complications. Cuba could put in place a system in which MLB teams bid for the right to sign top Cuban players, similar to the posting system used by Japan’s top league, except the money would flow to the government as opposed to a private league.

Cuban baseball already has made a lasting impact on the major leagues. Of the 186 players born in Cuba to reach the majors, 25 appeared last season. Their achievements created a Cuban golden age. Livan Hernandez lifted the Florida Marlins to the 1997 World Series and threw the first pitch upon baseball’s return to Washington. The Cincinnati Reds’ Aroldis Chapman throws more 100-mile-per-hour fastballs than any pitcher alive. Outfielder Jorge Soler is at the core of the Chicago Cubs’ rebuilding efforts.

But as more players defected, the stories of how they arrived turned grimmer. For years, Cuban baseball players morphed into a dark cottage industry, a black market unto themselves, their talent inviting danger as it created opportunity. Smuggling and secrecy have imperiled defectors’ safety, robbed them of money and chiseled at their dignity

Shadowy figures rubbed up against the baseball apparatus – prior to his arrival in the United States, Puig famously spent weeks in Mexico under the watch of men associated with the Los Zetas drug cartel. In 1999, pitcher Danys Baez snuck out of the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg without telling his family, friends or teammates, fearful of consequences. “You can’t tell anyone,” he said.

For years, the Cold War chill between the U.S. and Cuba left some of the most talented players in the world alone and vulnerable to exploitation. Now there is a real chance doors will open. Lourdes Gourriel, one of the top players still in Cuba, may now play in the majors without sacrificing his safety. His father, also named Lourdes, and his older brother Yulieski never had the chance. After Wednesday’s announcement, those kinds of missed opportunities may soon disappear.

Fore more information consider contacting a Seattle NFL Agent.

Hockey Player Bankrupt After Parents Take Earnings

November 20, 2014

Just as soon as news broke that Ryan Howard’s parents were in a legal fight asking for $10 Million, story broke on another professional athlete involved in a financial struggle with his parents. Just another reason to watch ESPN’s 30 for 30 “Broke” and read our previoused blogged article on athlete’s finances. ESPN’s Katie Strong has the story along with Paula Lavigne and Scott Burnside

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and, according to a Columbus Dispatch report, claims that his parents are responsible for helping lead him “financially astray.”

According to the Dispatch story, before Johnson signed his seven-year, $30.5 million deal in 2011, he granted power of attorney to his mother, Tina Johnson, that gave her full control of his finances.

Jack Johnson claims that Tina Johnson and his father Jack Sr. bought a house in Manhattan Beach, California, with his money but without the player’s knowledge, according to the report. In addition, Johnson’s parents borrowed $15 million against their son’s future earnings. Many of the loans carried high interest rates, according to the Dispatch. The mortgage on the house carried a 12 percent rate, while a loan for $3 million was at 24 percent, leading to huge fees and, ultimately, default.

According to documents filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District Court of Ohio that were obtained by, the 27-year-old Johnson has little left of the almost $18 million he has earned throughout his nine-year NHL career. His future earnings also appear compromised because of a tremendous amount of debt incurred, with court documents showing a list of creditors with unsecured claims totaling more than $1.68 million.

In the filing, Johnson claims assets of less than $50,000.

The Dispatch reported, through a source, that Johnson has cut off all contact with his family.

“I’d say I picked the wrong people who led me down the wrong path,” Johnson told The Dispatch last week. “I’ve got people in place who are going to fix everything now. It’s something I should have done a long time ago.”

Johnson, who is represented by Columbus-based attorney Marc Kessler, is reportedly now surrounded by financial advisers and a legal team retained to protect his interests. Johnson dropped former agent Pat Brisson in 2008.

According to the Dispatch story, Johnson’s parents also spent money on cars, upgrades to the California home and travel costs while following their son as he played for the Los Angeles Kings and Blue Jackets.

According to one source familiar with the situation, there were warning signs early on during Johnson’s professional career, but the scenario is not altogether uncommon with hockey parents who have invested a lot in their children’s futures.

“It happens way more than it should,” the source told

The parents are named in the suit as among Johnson’s creditors, but he is reportedly not interested in pursuing criminal charges against them. According to the Dispatch story, he is worried about the welfare of his 16-year-old brother, who lives with his parents in Michigan.

Johnson has petitioned to maintain his existing bank accounts so as to continue payment for living expenses, with court documents revealing that, at the date of petition, he carried a balance of $6,339 in his checking account and $2,202.62 in his savings account.

The former first-round pick, who has seven assists in 15 games this season, has three seasons remaining on the $30.5 million deal.

For more information about an NFL Agent and NHL, consider contacting a Seattle NFL Agent.

DEA Cracks Down on NFL

November 18, 2014
DEA agents raided NFL locker rooms regarding improper use of pain medication

Much was made of the “Breaking Bad” like scene that developed at each road team in the NFL this weekend. Each locker room was raided by the FDE for illegal use of drugs after former players accessed medical staffs of improper use of pain medication. Jim Litke, an AP sports writer for Komo News has more details.

Federal drug enforcement agents showed up unannounced Sunday to check at least three visiting NFL teams’ medical staffs as part of an investigation into former players’ claims that teams mishandled prescription drugs.

There were no arrests, Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne said Sunday. The San Francisco 49ers’ staff was checked at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, after they played the New York Giants. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ staff was checked at Baltimore-Washington International airport after playing the Redskins. The Seattle Seahawks, who played at Kansas City, confirmed via the team’s Twitter account that they were spot-checked as well.

The operation was still ongoing, and other teams may be checked later Sunday, Payne said.

“DEA agents are currently interviewing NFL team doctors in several locations as part of an ongoing investigation into potential violations of the (Controlled Substances Act),” Payne said.

The spot checks were done by investigators from the federal DEA. They did not target specific teams, but were done to measure whether visiting NFL clubs were generally in compliance with federal law. Agents requested documentation from visiting teams’ medical staffs for any controlled substances in their possession, and for proof that doctors could practice medicine in the home team’s state.

“Our teams cooperated with the DEA today and we have no information to indicate that irregularities were found,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email.

The nationwide probe is being directed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York – where the NFL is headquartered – but involves several U.S. attorney’s offices.

The investigation was sparked by a lawsuit filed in May on behalf of former NFL players going back to 1968. The number of plaintiffs has grown to more than 1,200, including dozens who played as recently as 2012. Any violations of federal drug laws from 2009 forward could also become the subject of a criminal investigation because they would not be subject to the five-year statute of limitations.

“This is an unprecedented raid on a professional sports league,” said Steve Silverman, one of the attorneys for the former players. “I trust the evidence reviewed and validated leading up to this action was substantial and compelling.”

Federal prosecutors have conducted interviews in at least three cities over the past three weeks, spending two days in Los Angeles in late October meeting with a half-dozen former players – including at least two who were named plaintiffs in the painkillers lawsuit, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the meetings who spoke on the condition of anonymity because prosecutors told them not to comment on the meetings.

The lawsuit alleges the NFL and its teams, physicians and trainers acted without regard for players’ health, withholding information about injuries while at the same time handing out prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet, and anti-inflammatories such as Toradol, to mask pain and minimize lost playing time. The players contend some teams filled out prescriptions in players’ names without their knowledge or consent, then dispensed those drugs – according to one plaintiff’s lawyer – “like candy at Halloween,” along with combining them in “cocktails.”

Several former players interviewed by The Associated Press described the line of teammates waiting to get injections on game day often spilling out from the training room. Others recounted flights home from games where trainers walked down the aisle and players held up a number of fingers to indicate how many pills they wanted.

The controlled substance act says only doctors and nurse practitioners can dispense prescription drugs, and only in states where they are licensed. The act also lays out stringent requirements for acquiring, labeling, storing and transporting drugs. Trainers who are not licensed would be in violation of the law simply by carrying a controlled substance.

The former players have reported a range of debilitating effects, from chronic muscle and bone ailments to permanent nerve and organ damage to addiction. They contend those health problems came from drug use, but many of the conditions haven’t been definitively linked to painkillers.

The lawsuit is currently being heard in the northern district of California, where presiding judge William Alsup said he wants to hear the NFL Players Association’s position on the case before deciding on the league’s motion to dismiss. The NFL maintained that it’s not responsible for the medical decisions of its 32 teams. League attorneys also argued the issue should be addressed by the union, which negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that covers player health.

The DEA investigation comes during a turbulent time for the NFL.

The league is still weathering criticism over its treatment of several players accused of domestic violence and just wrapped up an arbitration hearing involving Ravens running back Ray Rice, who is contesting the length of his suspension. The league has hired former FBI director Robert Mueller III to investigate its handling of the Rice case.

The NFL is also trying to finalize a $765 million class-action settlement reached in August 2013 over complaints by thousands of former players that the NFL concealed the risk of concussions.

For more information about an NFL Agent, consider contacting a Seattle NFL Agent.

NFL Futures Contract

October 23, 2014

I wanted to give people more insight into a fairly unknown concept in the NFL, Futures/Reserves contracts.

When a NFL player is signed to a “reserve/futures” contract, it means they are being signed for the upcoming season, even though that season does not officially begin until the official start of the league’s new year as outlined by the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Only players who were not on any NFL team’s active roster when the previous season ended are eligible for these types of contracts. If they were under contract, then they would remain so until the league’s new year starts. Players who were on practice squads at the end of the season are eligible to sign with any team. Hence the reason that you see many practice squad players being signed by their current team for the upcoming year to a reserve/futures contract. That way the team can continue to work with a player they’re familiar with and hopefully get them ready for an eventual roster spot on game day.

For more information about an NFL Agent, consider contacting a Seattle NFL Agent.

Percy Harvin Traded

October 17, 2014
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks

Percy Harvin has been traded to the New York Jets for an undisclosed draft pick. Percy was finally health, but still lacked to contribute to the Seattle offense. The Seahawks acquired Harvin last off-season in a trade of a first round pick. He played in one regular season game and two postseason games on the way to Seattle winning it all. Now that Percy was heatlhy this season, there was optimism that he would be a huge offensive weapon for Darrel Bevell. He was obvious that play calls to get him the ball were forced and ineffective. seems like a bad investment now as the Hawks would be lucky to have received a third round pick in exchange.

For more information about an NFL Agent, consider contacting a Seattle NFL Agent.

Marshawn’s Carries Dictate Seahawk’s Success

October 17, 2014
Pete reassuring Marshawn that they will run the ball consistently.

It is a know fact the the Seahawks rely on Marshawn Lynch and his explosive running style. Beast Mode has been a huge factor in the Seahawk’s success in his tenure in Seattle, including last season’s Super Bowl Championship.

This is why it was so shocking to see Darrell Bevel, the offensive coordinator, call for just two carries in the first half by Lynch in last week’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys. While it is known that the Seahawk’s feed the beast to victory, the statistics below are staggering;

 Lynch’s Carries              Seahawk’s Win/Loss Record

20 or More                               18-4

16-20                                       14-8

10-15                                        5-6

Less than 10                             1-6

Darrell Bevell said today in his press conference “we need to do a better job of getting Marshawn the ball”. I think needless to say that is an understatement. While it is great to force feed the ball to now healthy weapon Percy Harvin, I believe it is obvious that the Seahawk’s success on offense starts and ends with Beast Mode. His powerful runs in the first quarter set the tone for an entire game and open open the play action pass for Russell Wilson. Once the safeties start creeping up in the box it allows Harvin more room in the open field. Then Marshawn finishes off the game in the 4th quarter and grinding out the clock. Feed the Beast!

For more information about an NFL Agent, consider contacting a Seattle NFL Agent.

Century Link Still Loudest NFL Stadium

October 1, 2014

Kansas City may have broken the Guinness World Record for loudest stadium in the Monday Night mashing of the New England Patriots, however, everyone still knows that Century Link is still the loudest stadium…. in the world. This marks the 2nd time that Arrowhead has broken Seattle’s record of decibels. Come January Arrowhead will be quiet again as the Chief’s haven’t won a playoff game in over 20 years, while the Seahawks are the defending Super Bowl Champions. Century Link will be shaking all season long and causing earthquakes when the playoffs roll around again. I can personally attest that the final drive of the 2014 NFC Championship Game was the loudest that any football stadium has been…ever. These rankings come from Katie Sharp of SB Nation.

Playing a road game in the NFL can be a daunting task. With only eight home games per season, NFL fans are among the most passionate in all of professional sports and make the stadium experience very uncomfortable for visiting teams.

The construction of the stadium and the intensity of the crowds creates a significant home field advantage in the NFL. Over the last five seasons, home teams have won 58 percent of games and last year three teams finished unbeaten at home (Patriots, Saints,Bengals). It’s almost common law in the NFL that you have to take care of business at home, especially against divisional opponents, if you want to make the playoffs.

An amped-up crowd can create so many obstacles for a visiting team trying to relay audibles and snap counts at the line of scrimmage. We see it every week in the numerous false-start penalties and 12-men on-field infractions that teams are flagged for during games. While a loud crowd isn’t solely responsible for these mistakes, the intensity and passion of the fans can definitely make a difference in how efficiently a visiting team can run its offense.

Here’s a look at our top five loudest NFL stadiums:

1. CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA

Seahawks fans have definitely earned themselves the nickname of “12th Man.”

Last season the team set a Guinness World Record as the loudest outdoor sports stadium, with the crowd noise registering at 137.6 decibels during a win over the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 2. To put that number in perspective, a jet engine 100 feet away is about 140 decibels. The noise generated by the crowd was loud enough to trigger a minor earthquake in the region, per a local research group.

According to the team’s website, the Seahawks lead the NFL in opponent false start penalties since 2005, and last year no team had a larger difference in opponent false start penalties generated at home (12) versus on the road (5).

While the team has overall been one of the most successful in the league since 2010, much of that is due to their significant homefield advantage. Over the last five seasons, the Seahawks have a 25-8 record at home in the regular season compared to just 14-19 on the road, the third-largest home/road differential in that span.

2. Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO

The record that the Seahawks broke last December was originally set by the Chiefs in a win over the Raiders two months earlier on Oct. 13, when the crowd noise was recorded at 137.5 decibels. Chiefs fans create a sea of red at Arrowhead, where the most popular chant is “we’re going to beat the hell out of you, you, you.”

Last season they had 13 opponent false start penalties at home, the second-most in the league, and have generated at least 10 of them in four of the last five seasons. The Chiefs won their first five home games last year in dominating fashion, winning by an average of nearly 10 points per game.

3. University of Phoenix Stadium, Phoenix, AZ

The Cardinals have not given their fans in Arizona much to cheer about with just three playoff appearances since the team moved west prior to the 1988 season. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t among the most passionate and loudest fans in the league.

Over the last five seasons, no team has a greater difference between its home and road record than the Cardinals, who are 21-12 at home and 9-24 on the road since 2010.  The Cardinals fans have caused tons of problems for visiting teams, as they’ve ranked in the top-5 in opponent false start penalties at home in each season from 2010-13, including an NFL-best 18 in 2010.

4. Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA

The Superdome has long been considered one of the toughest places to play and one of the reasons is the deafening crowd noise that seems on the verge of blowing through the roof at any time.

One week after the Seahawks set the record for the noisiest outdoor stadium last December, the Saints tried to break the indoor record in their home game against thePanthers on Dec. 8. The effort fell just short, however, with the crowd noise registering 122.6 decibels, four shy of the record of 126 set at a Sacramento Kings basketball game Nov. 15, 2013.

The Saints may have started this season 0-2, but don’t count them out of the playoffs yet, as both of those losses came on the road. The Saints have posted perfect home records in two of the last three seasons, and their home/road win percentage differential since 2010 is the fifth-largest in the league.

5. Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI

How can you not include legendary Lambeau Field in a list of the loudest NFL stadiums? Packers fans are known as some of the rowdiest in all of pro sports, and their passion only increases when the temperature drops and the winds start sweeping through the stadium.

Over the last five seasons, only the Patriots have a better record at home than the Packers, who have also barely won half their road games in that span. The ear-splitting crowd noise was a key part of their Week 2 win against the Jets, as the Packers rallied from an early 18-point deficit thanks to a ill-timed timeout call by the visitors when the Jets were poised to take the lead in the final minutes.

For more information about an NFL Agent, consider contacting a Seattle NFL Agent.


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