A predictable turn in the ongoing saga of Charlie Blackmon’s 1979 Pontiac Trans Am

The end of the first month of the 2021 MLB season finds the Colorado Rockies stuck in last place in the National League’s Western Division. By OPS+, they’re the worst hitting team in the NL and the second-worst overall, their 85 OPS+ just edging the Detroit Tigers at 81 OPS+. Even though the Rockies were in the playoffs as recently as 2018, their slow start this year already has cost Jeff Bridich his general manager post. Perhaps unsurprisingly in light of the foregoing, Charlie Blackmon, the team’s ostensible star, so far is having the worst season of his career. His .169/.299/.292 line shakes out to 58 OPS+/56 wRC+/108 DRC+.*

Meanwhile, the winding road that conveys the legal saga of Blackmon’s 1979 Pontiac Trans Am– a story that remains too hot for any other website to cover– may be approaching its terminus. We picked up the tale as it hit the courthouse steps in January, when Blackmon filed suit against Michael Ramsey and his company, Ramsey Performance, alleging that the two entities took his money and his car and, after failing to complete agreed-upon restoration work on the latter, refused to return either. When Ramsey declined to hire a lawyer and instead made a “Good Job/Good Effort” attempt to respond to Blackmon’s complaint by filing only a copy of the complaint bearing Ramsey’s handwritten comments on the allegations, I predicted that Blackmon’s legal team would wait a few weeks and then file a motion for default judgment or judgment on the pleadings.

That’s exactly what happened. Referring to Ramsey’s unusual filing as “a something,” Blackmon’s motion asked the Superior Court of Cherokee County, Georgia to take a shortcut to the end of the lawsuit. Ramsey’s response either was so deficient that it didn’t amount to an answer at all, the essence of the argument goes, or it was an answer that didn’t deny any of the material allegations in the complaint. Either way, Blackmon contended that the court can rule for him on the question of the defendants’ liability right now. The question of damages– basically, the amount of money the court would order paid to Blackmon– could throw a wrench into Blackmon’s gears, however. Because he hasn’t been able to inspect the vehicle, the motion proposes the appointment of a special master– an investigator who works at the judge’s direction– to provide an assessment of the Pontiac’s condition for the purpose of determining a precise monetary award.

If Ramsey’s response to this motion is better than his response to the complaint, it is so only because he typed it as a partially separate document rather than handwriting his comments on Blackmon’s filing. This response otherwise is worse than the last one. Continuing to represent himself, Ramsey complains that Blackmon refused an out-of-court resolution of the dispute on terms Ramsey dictated. Ramsey also provided in-line responses to some of the arguments in Blackmon’s default motion, though these generally do not help his position, being either admissions of matters pertinent to the question of default (e.g., acknowledgement that he was served with the complaint) or immaterial. He also attached correspondence that again reveals Blackmon’s personal email address (although Blackmon’s own lawyer already let that cat out of the bag) and is neither relevant nor, to the extent it constitutes settlement communications, admissible as evidence.

Next up will be the trial judge’s ruling on the default motion. Judge Cannon certainly has plenty of latitude to grant a default judgment in Blackmon’s favor here. The easiest part to resolve should be a ruling on the question of a default judgment against Ramsey’s company, which, in Georgia, must be represented by a lawyer. Apparently open questions about the precise nature of the remedy or remedies Blackmon seeks (e.g., Does he just want his car back? Does he want money from Ramsey, and, if so, exactly how much?) may complicate the situation for Blackmon, however, and complications and uncertainties usually are not helpful to a party seeking entry of a default judgment.

Those, of course, are matters for Blackmon’s legal team to sweat. Their client likely is more concerned about his sub-.200 batting average and his team’s NL-worst record.

As always, keep your browser dialed to ALDLAND.com, where we remain your (actually; I somehow am not kidding) exclusive source for hot rod baseball litigation.

* All statistics current as of the time I typed them.

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Previously
A reminder that it’s spring training for automotive shop workers too: The ongoing saga of Charlie Blackmon’s 1979 Pontiac Trans Am
The ongoing saga of Charlie Blackmon’s 1979 Pontiac Trans Am

MLB’s Instant Replay Review is Neither Instant nor Review: Discuss

OT - Coffee Talk

It was another bad weekend for MLB officials, whose joint obsessions with speaking publicly about an alleged need to shorten the length of games and threatening their existing fans with rule changes they hate (while forcing official telecast commentators to praise the ill-conceived reforms) came to a sudden and startling head in Atlanta last night.

This catastrophe was not entirely without advance warning, thanks to a Thursday-afternoon prelude in Queens, where replay review affirmed a plainly incorrect, game-ending call at home plate. There, with game tied and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, officials awarded the Mets a walk-off victory when their batter, Michael Conforto, leaned into strike three from Miami Marlins pitcher Anthony Bass (good fish name), taking the ball off his elbow and forcing in the game-winning run. Replay review showed that Conforto not only failed to make any effort to avoid being hit but actually extended his elbow out toward the pitched ball. Even the home telecast crew on SNY acknowledged the rules violation. MLB officials did not, however, asserting that the scope of their review was limited to the simple question of whether the pitch hit Conforto, and the Mets had a win in their home opener.

Three days later, things became unimaginably worse and even less defensible for MLB. In the primetime Sunday night game, the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves had dueled to a six-all tie through eight innings. The Braves sent reliever Will Smith out to start the ninth. Smith allowed a leadoff double to Alec Bohm, who advanced to third on Jean Segura‘s groundout. Smith then induced Didi Gregorius to fly out to Marcell Ozuna in left field. Bohm tagged up and headed home. Ozuna’s throw to catcher Travis d’Arnaud looked good enough to end the inning, but the home-plate umpire called Bohm safe.

Instant replay showed anyone with eyes that Bohm was not safe, however. While there may be room for debate as to whether Ozuna’s throw beat Bohm to the plate, the fact that Bohm never actually touched home plate should have negated any other question on the call. Video replay clearly and unequivocally showed that Bohm missed the plate entirely. A lengthy video replay review shockingly resulted in a decision upholding the safe call, however, and angry Braves fans began littering the field with debris, causing further delay.

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Detroit Tigers 2021 Season Preview

The day is here. A full season of baseball, we have many reasons to hope, lays before us. The Detroit Tigers’ opening contest, a home divisional matchup with Cleveland, begins at 1:10 this afternoon. It will be, we must begin by noting, the first opening day without Al Kaline as a part of the Tigers organization since 1954.

The leading public projection systems don’t particularly care for what they see in the Tigers roster this year (PECOTA: sixty-six wins; FanGraphs: seventy-one wins), but even seventy wins would feel like a good accomplishment for a team that hasn’t bested that mark since 2016.

With championship contention out of the question, the focus turns to individual accomplishments. In that regard, most of the spotlight rightly belongs to Miguel Cabrera. A full, healthy season puts in play for him in 2021 two major offensive milestones: 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. Cabrera’s place in Cooperstown already is assured, but these are lifetime-achievement benchmarks it’s difficult to imagine absent from his resume. Cabrera enters the season second on both the active hits (2,866) and home runs (487) leaderboards, trailing only Albert Pujols in both categories. Most observers are targeting August and September for Cabrera to hit these historic points. In the meantime, it will be fun to watch him pass other big names– Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Barry Bonds– on his way there.

The rest of the Tigers roster has perhaps more modest goals for this season. The PECOTA projection system sees a few interesting individual achievements of varying significance for a handful of players. Will Opening-Day starter Matthew Boyd finish the season with an ERA under 4.00 for the first time ever? Will Buck Farmer post his first career save? Will Jeimer Candelario go all year without being caught stealing for the first time since 2017? Will Cabrera hit his first triple since 2016?

Detroit fans definitely like Farmer’s odds. As fun as it would be to see Cabrera leg out another triple, I think I’m rooting for Farmer, if only because that might help my nickname for him– Deer Hunter– finally gain some traction.

The Candelario item highlights a broader strategic shift toward what seems like it will be a more aggressive style of play coming from new manager A.J. Hinch. After leading the Houston Astros from the bottom all the way to the top and then losing his job and serving a one-year suspension for his role in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, Hinch found a new home with the team for which he played an unmemorable season of third-string catcher nearly a decade ago. Although there is and will remain a cloud over it, Hinch’s managerial championship pedigree and association with some of the game’s brightest minds (a little too bright, perhaps) in Houston, together with his playing experience that includes time behind the dish in Detroit and his relative youth (he’ll turn forty-seven next month), all suggest he could be the best version of what the Tigers thought they’d found in Brad Ausmus back in 2014.

While Hinch appears to be a steady hand at the helm, this ship will sail only as far as ownership allows. As some of the team’s top pitching prospects begin to ripen, the task of finding run support for that budding rotation remains at the feet of Chris Ilitch. When the iron is hot, will he spend like his father did to add key free agents and push the team back into the top tier of contention? Or will he continue to churn the roster, keeping the team mired in a hunt for nothing more than intransigent mediocrity? I really like the Julio Teheran signing this offseason, but it’s moves of a different kind– think Prince Fielder or even Justin Upton, like Teheran, also a former Atlanta Brave– that soon will be needed. Is the young owner truly motivated to win? We’ll know before long.

For now, we have at our own feet that pure and exciting thing for which there is no need to wait: the Detroit Tigers are playing baseball today.

Update: Jamal Crawford remains consistent when it comes to what matters most

NBA free agent Jamal Crawford confirmed that he still has it. Although he no longer is the active leader in three-pointers attempted (as he was when we last wrote about him in 2018), Crawford– a one-and-done Michigan Wolverine during Michigan State’s championship season– confirmed last night that he continues to be a BlackBerry user.

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A reminder that it’s spring training for automotive shop workers too: The ongoing saga of Charlie Blackmon’s 1979 Pontiac Trans Am

MLB spring training kicked off this week, and the schedule included a couple of games for the Colorado Rockies, who make their spring camp in Arizona. While outfielder Charlie Blackmon has yet to make his 2021 spring debut for the Rockies, that didn’t stop his legal adversaries from making theirs on the other side of the country.

In the story too hot for any other sports website to handle, Blackmon is suing a Georgia man– Michael Ramsey– and his company– Ramsey Performance– who, Blackmon alleges, took his money to restore a 1979 Pontiac Trans Am but didn’t finish the work and now refuses to return either Blackmon’s car or his money.

Yesterday, the Superior Court of Cherokee County, Georgia finally heard from Ramsey and his company– sort of. Ramsey, purporting to represent himself and possibly his company, filed a response to Blackmon’s complaint that does not so much answer the allegations, in a conventional sense, as it does continue the long-winded, argumentative emails Ramsey had been sending to Blackmon’s agent before he filed the lawsuit. To the extent they can be distilled, the main points of Ramsey’s countering contentions are that he, personally, is not at fault because all the work was done by his company; there was no fixed schedule for this “spare time” project; the scope of and financial responsibility for work done by third parties remains Blackmon’s obligation; “the vehicle is not a hostage . . . but it will not leave without payment resolution”; a sheriff’s deputy sent to inspect the vehicle at Ramsey’s garage accidentally defrosted Ramsey’s freezer; and Blackmon’s complaint should have included more of Ramsey’s emails.

The unsolicited suggestion that Ramsey and his company should hire a lawyer isn’t merely a strategic one borne out of the thought that judges are unlikely to be swayed upon encountering filings that include both segments typed entirely in capital letters and handwritten annotations on the opposing party’s exhibits. Indeed, while Ramsey has the right to make the choice to represent himself in court, his company, Ramsey Performance, does not.

Indeed, it isn’t clear that Ramsey Performance, as the distinct legal entity that Blackmon named as a separate defendant and to which Ramsey himself pointed for potential liability, filed an answer at all. If it did not, Blackmon’s attorney likely will wait a couple weeks and then move for a default judgment against Ramsey Performance. As for Ramsey’s responsive filing, assuming it qualifies as an answer, it may be ripe for a quick motion for judgment on the pleadings or summary judgment to the extent the judge determines that it does not sufficiently deny key allegations in Blackmon’s complaint. Setting aside for a moment the possibly critical technical failings of Ramsey’s answer, it also is possible that the judge orders the parties to mediate a dispute that seemingly could be resolved for less than $20,000.

The only way to find out what will happen next? Keeping it tuned right here to ALDLAND.com, your exclusive source (seriously) for hot rod baseball litigation.

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Previously
The ongoing saga of Charlie Blackmon’s 1979 Pontiac Trans Am

“Not everyone can play for the Yankees” – Inside Nick Saban’s Alabama football recruiting pitch

Sports fans have access to more information about teams, players, and coaches than ever before. Most of that information comes from the observation of on-field performance, the tracking, processing, and synthesizing of which is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and what off-field information teams, players, and coaches decide to make public, something they’re doing more often and to a greater degree thanks in part to tools like social media.

Still, some information and interactions remained elusive, though that list is shrinking. In the last decade, Baseball Prospectus retained a lip reader to transcribe the often-heated arguments between MLB managers and umpires. Loose treatment of the NFL’s popular “mic’d-up” programming has permitted more exposure of in-game player commentary (even as sideline reporters are compelled to limit what they share with public audiences).

And now, thanks to pandemic-induced videoconferencing, we can step inside the world of top-tier amateur athletic recruiting, courtesy of this clip of a Nick Saban player pitch on behalf of the Alabama football program:

While obviously incomplete, there isn’t anything surprising here. Saban runs through the high points of his monumentally successful resume before addressing the counter-pitching refrains of his lesser rivals.

Plenty of the conversations about player recruiting in college athletics involve the subject of improper benefits, something Saban of course doesn’t mention in this clip. (If he had, you’d be hearing about this from someone other than me.) I have not been a Saban fan since his unceremonious departure from Michigan State, but his track record is undeniable. I think it’s plausible that programs like his don’t need to do much off the books to entice top players. Even within the SEC, bottom-feeder Tennessee probably needs to hand out McDonald’s bags full of cash to try to siphon prospects away from the conference elite. When it comes to Alabama, though, players might consider slipping Saban a few bills– or maybe an oatmeal cream pie— to improve their chances at a roster spot.

The ongoing saga of Charlie Blackmon’s 1979 Pontiac Trans Am

1979 Trans Am- bought it new in April of 1979. It is an unrestored 400/4spd  car with a little… | Pontiac firebird trans am, Pontiac firebird, 1979  pontiac trans am

From MLB hot stove season to MLB hot rod season, the Superior Court of Cherokee County, Georgia brings us the tale of Colorado Rockies outfielder and four-time All-Star Charlie Blackmon‘s classic sports car. While the Sports Law Roundup is on hiatus, we’ll tackle this one in as much detail as the public record permits, because what else are we going to do during Pandemic Pro Bowl Weekend?

According to a complaint his legal team filed on Monday, Blackmon hired Michael Ramsey and Ramsey’s company, Ramsey Performance, to restore a 1979 Pontiac Trans Am in early 2015. Since then, Blackmon has paid Ramsey more than $50,000 and has nothing to show for it, and now he wants it back. Ramsey may have done some work on the project, but it is not complete. The allegations and written communications attached to Blackmon’s filing suggest that Ramsey even has refused to allow Blackmon to view the vehicle, much less take possession of it.

The filing includes written correspondence, mostly between Ramsey and Anna Domenech, one of Blackmon’s representatives at his sports agency, ACES. Domenech stepped in to try to retrieve her client’s vehicle. Her documented efforts over the course of most of 2020 proved unsuccessful, but they paint a picture of Ramsey as someone with other priorities and not particularly eager for real engagement with Blackmon’s people. Ramsey’s rare, often lengthy responses refer to his obligations to a software company undergoing post-merger downsizing, a matter he characterized as “my job which actually supports my family.” The emails also suggest that the restoration project became more expensive than Ramsey anticipated and required him to advance money for overruns that he wants to recover, at least in part, before surrendering the car to Blackmon.

Ramsey eventually offered a completion date of May 23, 2020. After he missed his own deadline, Blackmon hired a Georgia lawyer with experience representing sports and entertainment clients in the state to secure the vehicle’s return. In September, when Ramsey responded to the lawyer’s demand, the lawyer forwarded the response to Domenech, simply noting, “[a]t least he is alive.” Domenech replied to agree, further pointing out that the work still wasn’t done and writing, of Ramsey, “[i]f there is someone that can’t be trusted its [sic] him and he has proven that time and time again.”

Blackmon hired another Georgia lawyer who, in December, again demanded possession of the car. Ramsey responded by insisting that he be paid additional money before surrendering the vehicle:

I am more than happy to setup [sic] a review/inspection of the car, settle on what is owed based on that review, and ONLY THEN return the car to Charlie once we are both able to close this. It can only happen in that order and in that way, I will not release the car and settle later . . . . Anything owed on either side are [sic] agreed to and handled before the car leaves as once the car leaves everything is closed.

Blackmon then sought the assistance of the Cherokee County Sheriff to retrieve the car. When that effort was unsuccessful, Blackmon finally filed suit this past week against Ramsey and his company. He’s asking the court to order Ramsey to return the car or pay Blackmon the value of the car plus all materials and services for which Blackmon paid. Blackmon also is asking the court to force Ramsey to pay Blackmon’s legal expenses incurred in the case.

Ramsey has not yet filed an answer to the complaint, and his response isn’t due until at least late February.

There has been no detectable media coverage of this case, and Blackmon presumably wants it to stay that way. Nevertheless, his lawyers’ decision to leave unredacted certain personal identifying information, including Blackmon’s email address and the addresses of two of his current or former residences (one of which looks like it might be incorrect), is a footnote of minor interest pertaining to the representation of a famous client.

Born in Texas, Blackmon attended high school and colleges in Georgia before signing with Colorado as a second-round pick in 2008. Now, he’s entering what might be his final season with the Rockies (he has player options in 2022 and 2023) and looking to rebound from a slight dip, by his standards, in his eleventh year in the majors.

From Wayne Train to Crazy Train: Dan Campbell is the Motor City’s new mad man, and also the Lions are going to kick you in the teeth and bite off your kneecap

For the woebegone Detroit Lions, this offseason has offered a fresh take on an old theme. Controlling owner Sheila Firestone Ford Hamp cleaned out most of the front office, something her mother and father had done before. This time, though, Hamp first brought in two Lions legends, Chris Spielman and Barry Sanders, to work on the task of hiring Detroit’s next general manager and head coach.

So far, the results of their work have received widespread praise. GM Brad Holmes, who came up as a scout with the Rams, was their first hire. With the Matt Millen era still fresh in the minds of many fans, and thoughts of suboptimal picks by Bob Quinn due to frictious relationships between players and coach Matt Patricia even fresher, the idea of a general manager with a modern take on scouting and a successful track record to match is quite exciting.

Today, the team formally introduced its new head coach, former Lions tight end Dan Campbell. After a ten-season NFL playing career that finished with three seasons in Detroit (he signed with the New Orleans Saints before the 2008 season but never played due to an injury), he worked as a coach for the Miami Dolphins– rising to interim head coach following the firing of Joe Philbin– and Saints.

Campbell’s approach to football was on full display during an hourlong media conference that peaked right around this moment:

This is not Patricia’s faux tough-guy act, and even if it ends up descending into a WWE-meets-Tom-Thibodeau disaster, we’re playing with house money here. The situation really cannot get worse. From a perspective of pure entertainment, no one loses like the Lions lose, and, whatever the result, Campbell showed today he’ll add much more than a spark to that entertainment value.

If you haven’t already concussed yourself trying to run through the nearest brick wall, you can watch Campbell’s entire appearance here.

Turn The Page Jam

The past year has offered more than its fair share of challenges, and unwrapping a new calendar while casting out the old one isn’t likely to offer the degree of actual page-turning transformative catharsis many colloquially proclaim to expect and for which all hope.

Whatever the nature and trajectory of the new chapter that commences tomorrow, we pause here– unprecedently for this feature, on a Thursday— to acknowledge one last strike this current year struck in the taking of the captain of music’s all-name team and, along with Clarence Clemmons and Bobby Keys, a charter member of the most elite and exclusive cadre of rock and roll saxophonists, Alto Reed, who yesterday lost his battle with colon cancer.

With Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band, Reed was the author of many essential rock horn licks and, as featured in today’s Jam, perhaps its most singularly memorable sax line. Seger called Reed his band’s ambassador and true rock star. Let this lonely, wintery wail never be far from your ear:

2020 Campaign Promises: Did MLB pitchers fail to back up their bluster in Houston?

During this time of evaluating early returns on campaign promises (no, not those ones), retrospective data on the 2020 MLB season allows an assessment of whether opposing pitchers actually delivered on their commitments to punish Houston Astros batters for their revealed roles in an on-field cheating program perpetuated in prior seasons.

To be fair, I don’t think any pitchers actually promised, publicly, to plunk a Houston hitter, but the notion propagated readily and rapidly throughout the broader baseball discourse during the offseason. Video clips of Houston HBPs spread swiftly and to great general approval. Intentionality of individual encounters unknown and therefore aside, was this really happening, though?

The hit-by-pitch rate across all teams hit a historic high in 2020. Evidence of a spike in beaned batters in Houston? Not so. (A missed opportunity for a beaned, battered burrito? Absolutely.) Even though 2020 saw a record one hit hitter for every eighty-one plate appearances, pitchers only hit Houston batters once every ninety-seven plate appearances, well below average for this past season. In 2018 and 2019, pitchers hit Astros batters at almost exactly average rates relative to all other teams, indicating that what happened was the exact opposite of what many people expected to happen: Astros players were hit less frequently than they had been in past seasons and less frequently than most other teams’ players in 2020.

There’s no doubt that civic upheaval due to a global pandemic and policing tragedies contributed to dramatically differ the demeanor with which players and fans approached sports in the spring of this year. It would be little surprise if the zeal of those plotting revenge against the Astros diminished substantially as the season shortened and attentions diverted to more pressing matters.

Before those realities unavoidably presented themselves, though, the teams played relatively unencumbered spring training schedules. That would have been opposing pitchers’ first chances to leave their marks on this conversation, and perhaps their best ones, given the general insignificance of the outcomes of these games.

What do the spring numbers say? Across all games and teams, a batter was hit once every seventy-eight plate appearances, an even higher rate than the high water mark of the regular season. And this time, Houston was near the top, with a hit batsman once every sixty-five plate appearances. Of course, that only adds up to twelve total HBPs, but the relative rate supports the suggestion that opposing pitchers in fact took their best first chances to submit a statement on the record with signal clear and significant consequence low. Whether that would have satiated the opposition or exhibition attitudes would have sustained through the regular season absent the significant intervention of external circumstances is impossible to say.

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