Paxton stands to lose big from attempted return to UK; Clark breaks Legends save record; Williams staying at UofL

College Baseball, Minor League Baseball

James Paxton; Photo: UK Athletics

Latest links and notes from around Kentucky baseball:

  • Jim Callis of Baseball America has released his annual chart comparing MLB slot recommendations for signing bonuses to drafted players and their actual signing bonuses. No 2010 Kentucky draftee has signed for over-slot as of yet, though Louisville native Zack Cox figures to buck that trend if he signs with the St. Louis Cardinals as the team’s first-round pick.
  • One interesting note from the chart: Former University of Kentucky left-handed pitcher James Paxton would have signed for $873,000 if he had agreed to a slot-value deal with the Blue Jays as the 37th pick in the draft in 2009. Now, after trying to return to UK only to end up in an independent league after an NCAA investigation into his amateur status, if he signs for slot-value as a fourth round pick in 2010 (which is a big if) he stands to get a $209,700 bonus. That means he could lose around $663,300 by trying to come back to UK for his senior season.
  • Jared Macarin of the Mobile Press-Register profiles former UK outfielder Collin Cowgill, who has “weathered the heat of Mobile to become model of consistency for the BayBears.”
  • Lexington Legends closer Kirk Clark, a 2010 South Atlantic League All-Star, set the new Legends’ career and single-season saves mark with his 22nd save Thursday night. Mark Maloney of the Lexington Herald-Leader profiles the 2009 non-drafted free agent, who told Maloney, the record “feels amazing to actually go out there, compete and accomplish something.”
  • Michael Grant of the Courier-Journal writes now that Louisville Bats third baseman Juan Francisco is healthy he has found his stroke at the plate.
  • Kendall Rogers of Yahoo! Sports and Rivals.com reports University of Louisville pitching coach Roger Williams will stay with the Cards after considering taking the same job at the University of South Carolina.
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Report: Andy Burns transferring to Arizona

College Baseball

Andy Burns; UK photo

Brewster Whitecaps broadcaster Fred Katz reports via Twitter that former University of Kentucky sophomore infielder Andy Burns is transferring to Arizona. Burns, who is currently playing for the Whitecaps of the Cape Cod League, came to UK as one of the highest ranked high school hitting prospects to ever sign with the program. Last week BluGrass Baseball confirmed that Burns was transferring from UK with a statement from head coach Gary Henderson who said after the season “both parties decided to go in another direction.”

On Monday Brewster General Manager Ned Monthie told BluGrass Baseball that Burns “wants to concentrate on the present season and won’t make any statements at this time.” Under NCAA transfer rules, if Burns attends Arizona he will have to sit out one season.

Paxton’s attorney responds to UK’s statement about pitcher

College Baseball

James Paxton; Photo: UK Athletics

James Paxton‘s attorney, Richard Johnson, has responded to the University of Kentucky’s Friday statement about Paxton’s decision to leave the team, first reported by BluGrass Baseball. I’ve included the entire statement, unedited, below via the Lexington Herald Leader:

Why James A. Paxton Left UK?

March 2, 2010

In light of UK’s decision to issue a press release Friday evening, I feel compelled to explain this sad state of affairs, none of which would be occurring, if UK was not scared to death of the NCAA.

UK’s fear of the NCAA has resulted in UK withholding James from intercollegiate baseball competition, when there are no allegations or evidence against him, when he is eligible to play, and when UK admits that it cannot compel James to speak to the NCAA. This fear is based upon the unsupported supposition that someday allegations would be filed against James predicated upon some unknown set of facts that would result in some unknown NCAA retaliation down-the-line.

As everyone knows, James turned down a lot of money from the Toronto Bluejays to come back to UK to play with his teammates and for his coach with the hopes of reaching the post-season and the possibility of winning the College World Series for the Wildcats.

The past several months have been very challenging for James and his family as well as for his teammates and coach. To the many who have stood by him, he is forever grateful for their support.

Much has been speculated about why the NCAA wishes to interview James, even though UK admits that it does not know, and this speculation has focused on a single, unverified blog entry, which is vague at best. However, the implication is that James’ attorney violated the NCAA’s No Agent Rule, which attempts to limit his attorney’s representation of him, and which would be held invalid in Kentucky, if James were ever charged with such a violation — just like it was held invalid in Ohio in the Oliver v. NCAA case last year. The NCAA’s presumptive penalty for a No Agent Rule violation is permanent ineligibility, and not six games or the like that has been bandied about as a possible sanction for such a violation.

Some people wonder why James won’t just go to an NCAA “interview,” if he has nothing to “hide,” so let me tell you why: First, at UK, students have due process rights under its Code of Student Conduct, faculty have these rights by Kentucky statute, James’ coach and the athletic director have these rights via their lucrative contracts, and UK has these rights via NCAA Bylaw 32, which affords it the rights, when it is being investigated, that it has ironically denied to James. In addition, all of these persons have the rights guaranteed by the Kentucky Constitution. However, James is being denied these rights. Indeed, despite making massive profits on the backs of student-athletes, the NCAA provides no due process protections to student-athletes like James; Second, what the NCAA cloaks as an “interview” is in reality a prosecution and execution by ambush without notice of what the subject matter will be. On top of that, 2 the NCAA sometimes relies on confidential witnesses, dubious so-called “evidence,” like blogs, without any standards for credibility or weight, and so on. The NCAA acts like an unscrupulous bully by doing essentially whatever it wants without regard to the rights of student-athletes; Third, at the end its prosecution and execution of a student athlete, the NCAA, does not even have to put its reasoning or the alleged violations in writing to James.

With absolute power over the athlete — as the UK AD put it, “the NCAA holds James’ life in its hands” — the NCAA is completely unaccountable to student-athletes; Fourth, the schools like UK, which described itself to James as just the NCAA’s messenger, are forced to do the NCAA’s dirty work. Under NCAA rules, only UK can suspend James, and all suspensions are indefinite by definition. Indeed, UK indicated to James back in September that, if he went to the NCAA “interview,” he would be suspended — even though UK said that it did not know why. Thus, James has already been told going to an interview means suspension, and under NCAA rules, the suspension is indefinite and possibly forever; Fifth, in December, James was told by UK that, if the interview was about the No Agent Rule, and if James went to the “interview” and asserted his attorney-client privilege regarding his communications with his attorney, it would be interpreted as not cooperating, and he would be suspended. In fact, UK told James that the NCAA Bylaws superceded his right to have confidential and privileged communications with his attorney, which is mind-boggling. In a nation built upon due process and equal protection, the NCAA’s refusal to respect student-athletes’ right to counsel is staggering; Sixth, once suspended, only the NCAA can reinstate James, and it can impose whatever penalties it wants as a condition of reinstatement. James has no right to even seek his own reinstatement, and only UK can supposedly “represent” him on reinstatement, subject to whatever position regarding his future it decides to take, even if James disagrees with it. Thus, in layman’s terms, the NCAA has banned James from having any individual right to appeal, so it can do whatever it wants to him, and he has absolutely no recourse of his own; and Seventh, UK which is beholden to the NCAA, scared of the NCAA, and the selfdescribed messenger of the NCAA, stated in its press release that it is “disappointed” that James is unwilling to go through “the normal NCAA process.” This is astonishing, because in a civilized society, the “normal NCAA process” is hardly normal and is about as un-American as it can get. Hypocritically, UK and the other NCAA members do not believe that such a process would be fair to them, since they have negotiated their own due process protections that apply to them, when they are investigated by the NCAA.

James’ lawsuit against UK was a civil rights case under the Kentucky Constitution, where he challenged the denial of due process rights to student-athletes, yet the circuit court did not even discuss the merits of this challenge. Likewise, the court of appeals did not analyze or even discuss any of the specific arguments advanced on James’ behalf, and, instead, it blamed James for this situation, which was hardly of his own making.

While James could have sought discretionary review in the Kentucky Supreme Court, any such review, if at all, would most likely have come long after the baseball season was over, thus making the effort a futile one, all the while leaving James in limbo during the remainder of the season.

At some point, James believes you have to stand up for what is right, and James has decided to do so by taking a leave of absence from the University. James understands that his life will be defined by his principles, and he is making a heartbreaking sacrifice to stand up for what he believes is right. James is a wonderful young man with a bright future, and he will emerge from this process stronger and wiser than he was before.

I look forward to that day very soon, when I will be able to see him pitch in the Major Leagues.

In conclusion, James apologizes to his teammates and coach, who are stuck in the middle, just like he is. James wishes his teammates and his coach a successful season, and he will be there in spirit cheering them on. James is and always will be a Wildcat at heart.

Richard G. Johnson

The day after: Paxton reaction from around Web

College Baseball
The Web has exploded with reaction to BluGrass Baseball’s report of James Paxton leaving the UK team Friday. Here’s a sampling of some of the most interesting reaction:
  • Aaron Fitt of Baseball America writes Paxton is likely headed to independent ball.
  • Kendall Rogers of Rivals.com writes at least the drama is over.
  • Patrick Sullivan of the Lexington Herald-Leader also has a Paxton report.
  • Adam Revelette, former UK pitcher of Examiner.com, criticizes the NCAA for its position.
  • BluGrass Baseball contributor Rob Gidel has an open letter to Paxton on Kentuckysportsradio.com.

BREAKING NEWS: Paxton leaves UK

College Baseball

James Paxton; Photo: UK Athletics

University of Kentucky left-handed starting pitcher James Paxton has officially left the team after his latest appeal of his lawsuit against the university was denied. Paxton was accused of violating the no-agent rule in his negotiations with the Toronto Blue Jays after being selected in the first supplemental round of the 2009 draft and had sued UK in an attempt to circumvent a meeting with NCAA investigators. UK head coach Gary Henderson told BluGrass Baseball the news after UK’s 6-4 victory over Bowling Green State Friday:

James has decided not to play with us. What I can tell you is the University of Kentucky and Gary Henderson have done everything they can to try and convince James to be a part of this baseball team. We wanted him to be a part of our club; he could certainly make us a better team. I think it would have been the best decision for him baseball wise, but he’s decided not to do that.”

I asked Henderson about the news’ effect on defacto ace Alex Meyer and whether he would face added pressure without Paxton. Henderson’s response:

Oh…I don’t know. Somebody’s going to have to [step up]. Maybe it’s Logan [Darnell] maybe it’s Alex [Meyer] maybe it’s Taylor Rogers. It clearly changes our bullpen. Somebody is going to start that would have been in the bullpen if James was here.”

UPDATE 9 p.m.: UK has released its official statement about Paxton’s decision:

The University of Kentucky is very disappointed in James Paxton’s decision to not meet with the NCAA about a potential amateurism issue. No one wanted James on the mound in a Kentucky uniform more than UK head coach Gary Henderson, athletics director Mitch Barnhart and the UK Athletics staff. Due to the possibility of future penalties, including forfeiture of games, UK could not put the other 32 players of the team and the entire UK 22-sport intercollegiate athletics department at risk by having James compete. It’s about the team and giving student-athletes the opportunity to achieve their goals. Throughout the process, UK has remained confident that James would be able to pitch for Kentucky during the 2010 season and UK offered every bit of assistance to aid James in that NCAA process.

UK does not know all the facts of last summer’s post-draft interaction among James, his advisors and the Toronto Blue Jays and has not prejudged his situation. James has an obligation under NCAA Bylaw 10.1 (j) to answer questions that relate to his amateur status. On advice of his counsel, James has elected not to be interviewed by the NCAA. UK has offered to pursue an immediate application for reinstatement for James with the NCAA if that became necessary. However, no request for reinstatement of his eligibility can be made based on mitigating circumstances until the student-athlete and his family cooperate and make all facts known to UK, with the NCAA having the opportunity to verify those facts. UK has never been provided all pertinent information from James and his family, who are following the legal advice of his attorneys not to be interviewed by the NCAA. Without knowing all the facts, UK cannot present mitigating circumstances to the NCAA on James’ behalf.

UK is more optimistic than James and his family that any period of ineligibility could be shortened to allow James to pitch during the last and most important part of the season, the Southeastern Conference schedule. So it is disappointing that James is unwilling to go through the normal NCAA process, allowing UK to appeal for him, if necessary. The University of Kentucky is sad to see James leave its baseball team, especially after other players gave up portions of their scholarships in August so that he would have a substantial scholarship for his senior year.

While UK is extremely disappointed in the decision made by James to not meet with the NCAA, he will always be a member of the Wildcat family. UK hopes that James will stay and earn his degree and wishes him the best in his professional baseball career. Should James change his mind and be willing to cooperate with the NCAA inquiry, the door is open for him to return to the UK baseball team and UK will seek any immediate appeal necessary for his reinstatement.”

Paxton speaks; Burke looking for shot with Reds; Wunderlich healthy; Webb a trade candidate?

College Baseball, Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Chris Burke; Photo by grovesa16 via Flickr

The college Opening Day was marred a little yesterday with the late news that the Ky. Court of Appeals had sided against University of Kentucky left-handed pitcher James Paxton, and that story leads our morning links. For the first time we also have a comment from Paxton himself:

  • Paxton told Jennifer Hewlett of the Lexington Herald-Leader, “It’s very disappointing the way things have gone here. I’m kind of on the sidelines waiting to see what happens.”
  • B. W. Jones of the Kentucky Kernel also reports on the appeal.
  • My friend Rob Gidel of the Cat’s Pause profiles University of Kentucky freshman starting pitcher Taylor Rogers in preparation his collegiate debut this afternoon.
  • St X alum Chris Burke is hoping to make the Cincinnati Reds squad out of Spring Training, Michael Grant of the Courier-Journal reports, but he is excited about playing for the hometown Louisville Bats if he is sent to AAA.
  • Grant also profiles University of Louisville slugger Phil Wunderlich who says his shoulder is fully healthy.
  • Phil Rogers of The Chicago Tribune picks Ashland-native and UK alum Brandon Webb as one attractive midseason MLB trade candidate.

Paxton appeal denied; to decide next step Monday

College Baseball

James Paxton; Photo: UK Athletics

We couldn’t make it through the day with all good news regarding college baseball; the Kentucky Court of Appeals denied University of Kentucky senior left-handed pitcher Jams Paxton‘s request for interlocutory relief Friday. The move was essentially an appeal of the circuit court’s prior ruling in favor of UK, Aaron Fitt of Baseball America reports. Paxton, who BA recently ranked as the No. 1 senior in college baseball, now must decide whether to appeal the case to the Kentucky Supreme Court. His attorney, Rick Johnson told Fitt they would make that decision by Monday. (Read more)

If Paxton doesn’t appeal or loses again his only choice at this point would be to consent to the NCAA meeting. The NCAA would likely suspend him for some time for violating the no-agent rule according to media reports from Toronto. Depending on the length of the suspension, Paxton could theoretically forgo his final semester in favor of playing in an Independent League in prep for the 2010 draft this summer.

UK to open season without Paxton in rotation; Meyer, Darnell and Rogers to begin season as weekend starters

College Baseball

James Paxton; Photo: UK Athletics

Since August prognosticators like me have predicted University of Kentucky baseball could ride top prospects James Paxton and Alex Meyer in their weekend rotation to the NCAA tournament. The Cats hope their tournament runs starts this weekend, but BluGrass Baseball can report at least for now Paxton isn’t in the rotation. UK will begin the year with Meyer, junior Logan Darnell and freshman Taylor Rogers in the weekend starting spots.

Paxton, who is currently appealing a circuit court decision that UK didn’t violate his student rights in forcing him to consent to an NCAA interview, will begin the season on the bench. Paxton’s eligibility is in question after the Toronto Blue Jays told a Canadian newspaper they conducted negotiations with Paxton through agent Scott Boras this summer. The NCAA prohibits college players from using agents in professional negotiations.

The door is still open for a Paxton return to the rotation later this season if his eligibility issues are cleaned up, but don’t look for UK to use him until it is sure the team isn’t risking potential retroactive penalties for using an ineligible player. UK faces Virginia Tech in its season opener Friday as part of the Caravelle Resort Tournament in Myrtle Beach, S. C. Meyer will get the start against Virginia Tech, Rogers will start against West Virginia Saturday and Darnell will start against Coastal Carolina on Sunday.

Paxton appeals case….What next?

College Baseball

James Paxton; Photo: UK Athletics

Both Aaron Fitt of Baseball America and B. W. Jones of the Kentucky Kernel report that UK ace pitcher James Paxton has appealed the Circuit Court’s ruling in favor of UK to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Paxton’s attorney Rick Johnson had this to say in an email to the media:

Make no mistake about it: The Circuit Court found, based upon UK’s admissions, that James IS eligible to compete in intercollegiate athletics. However, that court erroneously found that, because the student code of conduct did not apply, James had no due process rights, and therefore that UK could withhold him from competition, in order to extort him to submit to an NCAA interview that it admits it cannot compel him to attend, without any consequence to itself . . . Implicit in all of this is that student-athletes are second-class citizens undeserving of the most basic civil rights.”

BA’s story. The Kernel’s story.

So now we know Paxton is appealing his case which may or may not result in a favorable ruling. The real question is what next for the Bat Cats? The situation is bad for all parties involved. Paxton should have had the right to negotiate with the Blue Jays through an agent, but the NCAA currently prohibits such action. UK can’t in good faith let Paxton risk the season for the rest of its team if they feel subsequent action from the NCAA would come from him playing.

At this point the Cats basically have to prepare as if Paxton isn’t going to play. As of now he is still practicing and working out with the team as if this will all go away when the season starts. Even if he wins this case the chances of a subsequent suit against the NCAA in the event of a likely suspension could be around the corner.

The chances of Paxton ever appearing in a UK game this season appear to be lessening with every legal advance. Maybe I’m wrong and he wins a quick appeal and the NCAA gives up its investigation, but don’t count on it.

Judge rules against Paxton

College Baseball

Fayette County Circuit Court Judge James Ishmael ruled against James Paxton, right, yesterday in saying the University of Kentucky could hold him out of competition for refusing to consent to an interview with the NCAA. Ishmael said that even though the NCAA’s request was ambiguous, UK could be sanctioned for allowing Paxton to compete in games if he was in violation of NCAA rules, Jeff McMurray of the Associated Press reports.

“That is clearly not part of the student code,” Ishmael said. “I don’t see how in the world a student code can address the NCAA eligibility of a student athlete.” Paxton, UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart, Compliance Director Sandy Bell and head coach Gary Henderson testified at the hearing. (Read more)

Paxton and his attorneys have up to ten days to decide to appeal the decision. “It’s not just about James, it’s about students across the nation who don’t have due process before they’re suspended,” Paxton attorney Richard Johnson told the Kentucky Kernel in a phone interview. (Read more)