A-Rod, “Reporting” and Journalistic Ineptitude

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We can only speculate as to the look on Michael Kay’s face as he sat down to his customary breakfast of a chicken parm smoothie and a hot, percolating pot of Postum and received the news that Alex Rodriguez had another hip injury and would miss a chunk of the 2013 season. It would be understandable if Kay spat out his Postum and chicken parm in one gloppy, colorful, repulsive mess when reading that A-Rod had again torn the same hip that was surgically repaired in 2009. This exercise in professional reporting and journalistic excellence was exemplified by Joel Sherman as he said the following on Twitter:

Hear exclusively Alex Rodriguez was playing with re-tear in surgically repaired hip Likely going for another surgery ‪#Yankees

Rodriguez was dealing with hip re-tear during playoffs, tried to play thru. Explains why really couldn’t use lower half in swing ‪#Yankees

“Exclusively.” Exclusively wrong maybe.

Then the re-tweets began by the reporters who were jumping on a story clearly before it had been verified as Jon Heyman, Jack Curry, Ken Davidoff and the rest of the experts put forth the inaccurate report that A-Rod re-tore the same hip (his right). The stories haven’t even been spiritually correct as you can see in this Yahoo posting as Ken Rosenthal is quoted as saying:

A-Rod’s injury occurred during the postseason and that he was experiencing pain so severe that he spent a night in the emergency room following one of the ALDS games.

It’s the left hip now and no one knew about it until last month when it was diagnosed. A-Rod did complain about a twinge in the surgically repaired right hip in the playoffs, went to the hospital and had an MRI which revealed nothing. The story is fluid which, to translate, means nobody knows anything. They’re reporting information as it comes in and relying on sources that don’t know what’s going on either.

They could try to cover their own behinds by saying that when they said, “re-tear,” they were referring to another tear and didn’t mean that he’d torn the same hip, but of course that would be an outright lie. You can read the tweets and re-tweets of Sherman here. It’s a who’s who of ineptitude and crying wolf.

I have no idea who Sherman was quoting and whether he misheard and misunderstood what they said; if they told him the wrong thing and he ran with it. What I’d like to know is when this is going to end with those who are supposed to be dispensing the news rushing to be the first to deliver the story and getting it completely wrong!!! Then their reporting brethren report the same wrong story!!!!

Clearly Sherman, the leader of the hack brigade, learned nothing from his news that the Yankees had acquired Cliff Lee in July of 2010 when they had not acquired Cliff Lee.

Getting the truth is meaningless today and that’s not being a reporter, it’s being a pop-up ad and/or spammer. Unfortunately there are never any consequences for these repeated, infrastructural gaffes.

As for the Yankees, they’re a team that was already on shaky ground when it came to contending for their one and only objective every single year—a championship—and now they not only have to find a right fielder and a catcher, but they need to figure out what they’re going to do about third base. I wrote about the host of Yankees issues earlier today and also explained why they’re adhering so rigidly to the $189 million by 2014 mandate.

For the future, given the way the A-Rod contract has gone down the tubes, how does this affect the Yankees negotiations with Robinson Cano after the 2013 season? It’s Yankees policy not to give a player a contract extension before it’s absolutely necessary. This is a George Steinbrenner tactic that they never bothered to change no matter who the player is. It’s going to cost them a great deal more money than if they copied the Rays’ strategy and tried to sign their players to reasonable deals before it got to this point. But with A-Rod breaking down entirely at age 37, are the Yankees going to give Cano the $200+ million he and Scott Boras are sure to ask for? Could they dare to play chicken with Cano and let him get onto the market with the risk that another team—the Dodgers?—would give him more money than the Yankees?

It’s reasonable to be hesitant with the contracts the type A-Rod signed and what Cano will ask for becoming a universally losing proposition, will the Yankees draw a line that they won’t cross or will they repeat the risks of the past?

There’s no solution out there given the payroll mandates, age, lack of prospects on the farm, and now the injuries. In short, it’s a new disaster for the Yankees except, unlike the past, they don’t have the capacity to toss money at it to cover it up.

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Billy Martin, Twitter and the Pat Burrell-Jon Heyman “Thing”

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Just imagine the famously pugilistic Billy Martin managing today with all the scrutiny and rapid fire information that winds up on the internet seconds after it happened. Also imagine what the reaction would be if a reporter made public a snarky comment that in years past would have been saved for a whisper to a colleague or for a laugh over beers in the hotel bar long after the game stories had been filed and where there was a reasonable level of plausible deniability to assert, “I didn’t say that,” before Martin was able to throw a punch. Martin probably would’ve thrown the punch anyway, but that’s beside the point.

If Martin were a manager today, he wouldn’t last long. With all the attention to his off-field activities, press conferences, questions asked regarding his strategies and criticisms around the world, people in suits telling him how to do his job, pitch counts, rules, regulations and everything else that’s a job hazard nowadays, he’d get fired quickly.

There are few characters like Martin left and if they are, they’re not managing. But the dynamic of baseball people getting angry enough to want to fight a reporter nearly came to pass last week when Giants’ scout and former player Pat Burrell tried to fight CBS reporter Jon Heyman in a bar. According to the linked story, Kevin Millar broke it up and the general consensus was that Heyman was lucky that the 6’4”, 235 pound Burrell didn’t get to him. I don’t know that that’s necessarily the case. Just because Heyman has a tendency to block people who say “boo” to him on Twitter and takes the tone of a nebbish doesn’t mean he’s an easy mark. It would’ve been far worse for Burrell had he gone after Heyman and gotten beaten up than if he’d satisfied whatever was eating at him to get angry enough to start something in the first place.

Would Martin have taken a poke at the late reporter Henry Hecht? The two despised each other to a remarkable degree. The diminutive Hecht presumably had no chance against Martin, but the revenge would’ve been the fallout and Martin’s inevitable firing.

In this era, we’re going to see more of these confrontations between a reporter and a baseball person. It’s not because of what was tweeted, but specifically because it was on social media and crossed the line from reporter or even columnist to a wise guy making a comment from the safety of his computer or phone that he would never say directly because it was: A) unprofessional; and B) dangerous because he’d get hit.

Heyman almost got hit.

Outlets like Twitter tend to be stream of consciousness and immediate, but when tweeting something that could be deemed offensive—funny or not—perhaps the circuit breaker of, “Would I say this if I might run into this person?” would be wisely adhered to, especially when there’s a genuine possibility that you will.

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The Hypocrisy of the Melky Cabrera Aftermath

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Amid the shock (really?) and indignation (really?) at Melky Cabrera’s failed PED test and admission that he took a banned substance, few if any have acknowledged the juiced up elephant in the room that was present while Cabrera was being celebrated for dedicating himself to physical fitness and fulfilling his so-called “potential”. That elephant being a wondrous jump in production that was so unlikely and unexpected that it should’ve been asked months ago: is he taking anything to account for the newfound success?

Instead of the preemptive suggestion that the foundation of Cabrera’s career year was the result of hard work and more than a little luck, there’s the postscript from people like Joel Sherman saying that there were “whispers” that he failed a test in late July. Then why didn’t you report it Joel? Or plant it as an anonymous story somewhere? Considering who you work for and your nonexistent journalistic ethics, you know how to do that, don’t you? Of course you do.

Mr. Twitter Tantrum and thin-skinned re-tweeting maestro himself Jack Curry continued his skill at stating the obvious by speculating on how much money Cabrera cost himself as a free agent at the end of the season without accounting for the fact that Cabrera wasn’t a particularly highly regarded player before and if he hadn’t used, he wouldn’t be putting up the numbers he is now; objectively, it was worth it for him to try and get away with it in the interests of getting paid.

Jon Heyman, after the fact, said it was “too good to be true”. Yeah. No kidding.

And Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi sounded like the conservative dad shaking his head at “kids today” by saying Cabrera’s predicament was “disappointing”. Was it “disappointing” when Alex Rodriguez got caught and admitted to drug use? Or did A-Rod’s use and the Yankees’ silence as an organization regarding it fall under the auspices of supporting a “family” member because he was a Yankee? In hindsight, judging from his increased injuries and declining numbers, is A-Rod’s fragility and slowing bat attributable to age or was he taking boosters as a Yankee and getting away with it?

A-Rod was a mentor to Cabrera and has talent that Cabrera could never dream of having, drugs or not. They’ve worked out together and A-Rod pushed Cabrera to get in shape. I haven’t seen anyone saying that perhaps Cabrera emulated A-Rod to the point of doing what his mentor once did and had justified with contracts that, by the time he’s done, will have netted him around half-a-billion dollars.

The hypocrisy and bottom-line self-righteous idiocy is profound.

The reality of this kind of statistical jump and era of drug availability and use can’t even be mentioned for fear of a raging freakout similar to Raul Ibanez’s in 2009 when it was asked how a good player suddenly morphed into an MVP candidate in his first half-season with the Phillies. Ibanez was never caught having used anything and his numbers fell precipitously after that first half. But Ibanez was a very good and underrated player before he got to Philadelphia and had consistent power numbers throughout his career, so the cloud of suspicion was purely circumstantial. Without in-depth research to the whys of his decline, it could be explained that the pitchers in National League were challenging Ibanez with fastballs the first go-round through the league and once they discovered how to exploit his decreasing bat speed and that he had to start his swing earlier to account for it making him susceptible to off-speed stuff, they got him out when he guessed wrong. It’s probably more due to that than any drug use.

But at the time, it was fair to wonder.

Had Cabrera found a way to circumnavigate the test or simply gotten lucky and not been tested, this would’ve continued along with the media and fans nodding appreciatively at Cabrera’s rise; he’d have finished with a career season, maybe a batting title, MVP votes and possibly a championship ring. Then he’d have gotten paid handsomely this winter as a free agent.

Instead he got caught.

Mentioning Ryan Braun in the same sentence with Cabrera is ridiculous. Braun is an All-Star player and MVP candidate without drugs. Cabrera isn’t. Braun legally stickhandled his way around a suspension for PEDs and Cabrera confessed. All that does is make Cabrera a more honest person than Braun, but not a talent in Braun’s class. With players like Cabrera, it’s as if we’re not even allowed to stop and say, “Wait a second…”; as if what should be a little obvious given the history of this player is somehow wrong. It’s not an accusation. In the end it’s just a question. And in the end, considering how Cabrera blossomed into an All-Star (and the MVP of the All-Star Game), it was a legitimate question because Cabrera didn’t blossom into anything. He used PEDs and got busted. The explanation for Cabrera is in front of us and the question could have been asked when he was being celebrated in May and the Royals, Braves and Yankees were savaged for letting him go.

Now we know why, should’ve suspected months ago and openly said it. But no one—including me—did. The pompous and judgmental head shaking is only making it worse. At least I’m not doing that.

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Bounties vs Targets—the NFL and MLB

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The New Orleans Saints have been given harsh sentences for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams encouraging a culture of paying cash bonuses for his players on hard hits and knockouts of opposing players. Head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the season; GM Mickey Loomis for the first eight games of the season; and Williams, who was hired as the defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams in January, was suspended indefinitely—NY Times Story.

On Sunday afternoon Peter Gammons, filling in for Jerry Remy on the Red Sox TV broadcasts, was talking with broadcast partner Don Orsillo about the NFL bountygate. Gammons said it was inexcusable and that if anyone in baseball did it, Bud Selig had told him that those involved would be banned for life. Period.

If it was a player, I’m sure the MLBPA would have something to say about that penalty.

In what was a conveniently timed sequence of events, Phillies’ starter Cole Hamels hit Nationals’ rookie Bryce Harper in the back with a fastball in Sunday night’s Phillies-Nats game in Washington and then inexplicably announced that he’d done it intentionally in an “old-school” method of initiation for an arrogant, hot shot rookie.

Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo called Hamels a series of names including “gutless” and said he was “opposite of old-school”. Ken Rosenthal said it was an overreaction on the part of Rizzo for a legitimate play from years gone by. Other sportswriters like Jon Heyman, admired the “toughness” of Hamels.

This is on the heels of Mike Francesa’s suggestion two weeks ago that the Mets, rather than give Jose Reyes a small video tribute on his return to Citi Field as an opponent with the Marlins, throw the ball at his head.

He said this twice.

It’s very easy to encourage these types of things when not actually standing in the box and facing the prospect of getting hit with a 95-mph fastball that can end a career or seriously injure the recipient.

I don’t have a problem with Hamels popping Harper; I do have a problem with him announcing it as if he wants credit for it. It was obvious to any longtime observer of baseball that it was done intentionally, but did the pleased-with-himself Hamels need to say, “Look! See what I did?”

In essence, because Harper is a former number 1 overall pick and is widely expected to embark on a potential Hall of Fame career starting now, he had a bulls-eye on his back and Hamels hit that bulls-eye.

We can debate the propriety of the decision by Hamels to throw at Harper just like we can debate collisions at the plate; umpires having larger strike zones for rookies to test them; or any other rites of passage that occur as a common hazing ritual for newcomers.

But you don’t announce it.

This all fits in neatly with Gammons’s discussion of the bounty program used by the Saints.

What’s missed in many of the analysis and commentaries regarding the Saints is that it wasn’t the program itself that got them in trouble. It was that the NFL told them to stop it, they said they would and didn’t.

And they got caught.

The NFL—conservative as a whole and run by Roger Goodell, whose father was a Republican U.S. Senator—is image-conscious and serious about their perception and disciplinary programs. Punishing the Saints is a combination of punitive measures and a message to everyone else not to do this.

Transferring one sport’s rules and regulations to another can be done in theory but is difficult to do in practice. There’s an overt failure to account for the differences between baseball and football. I’m not talking about the classic George Carlin comedy routine in which he declares the superiority of football to baseball—YouTube link. I’m talking about the fundamental differences between the two sports on and off the field.

MLB players have guaranteed contracts and 100% medical coverage. NFL players don’t. Because NFL players’ contracts are not guaranteed, there’s more pressure for them to play in order to keep those game checks coming in. They can be cut at anytime and be completely out of work. The NFL, such as it is, is a close-knit community and if a player is judged as not being willing to take shots and medications to get out on the field and play when he’s hurt, the rest of the league is going to know about it. It spreads like wildfire and affects their careers negatively or ends them completely.

For every star like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning who have the power to command their organization to make certain maneuvers, there are the rank and file players who have to adhere to the culture or else. It’s a brutal version of survival of the fittest and most resilient, rewarding the player who can live through the war of attrition in exchange continued employment.

This doesn’t happen in baseball.

When a player signs a $100 million contract in football, his stature as a talent predicates a large signing bonus which he gets to keep, but the rest of the deal isn’t guaranteed; therefore it’s not really $100 million even though that’s what the news reports say without full context of the disposability of the contract. We see situations where teams can’t cut a player they’d dearly love to be rid of (Santonio Holmes of the Jets for example), but can’t because of salary cap ramifications. But that’s due to overzealousness and a myriad of other factors such as arrogantly thinking “we’ll be able to handle this guy”. Historically when one team can’t “handle” a guy and gets rid of him based on that and that alone, no one—not the Jets; not the Al Davis Raiders of the 1970s and 80s—will be able to handle him for any amount of money. That’s a foundational error.

Contracts in baseball are such that when Albert Pujols signed a $240 million contract with the Angels last winter, it was guaranteed that he’d collect $240 million if he never plays another game.

How many MLB players do you read about committing suicide after their careers are over? Winding up in serious trouble with the law? Have debilitating injuries?

Just last week Junior Seau committed suicide and it was forgotten the next day because the “tragedy” of the day became Mariano Rivera tearing his ACL and being lost for the season.

Which is the true tragedy?

Both are future Hall of Famers in their respective sports; both were well-liked; but Rivera will collect his $15 million salary for 2012 and receive a similar contract for 2013; Seau was rumored to be having financial troubles and domestic squabbles and was entirely unable to adjust to the freedom, emptiness and depression of not having a season or game to prepare for to go along with the wear-and-tear of a 13-year NFL career.

You can call baseball a “contact” sport, but considering the uproar when a collision at home plate occurs and knocks out the catcher, it—clean or not—becomes the impetus for calls to outlaw the home plate collision entirely. It degenerates into a pseudo-contact sport. In football, the mandate is to hit hard—it’s inherent; in baseball, a hard hit is a rare, incidental and predominately unintentional byproduct.

In football, they’ve taken steps to reduce the injuries and number of hard hits because of the bottom line need for offensive production and the stars being on the field to keep the fans engaged and happy, but they’re still very large, well-conditioned men running into one another at full speed. People get hurt. If you can’t or won’t play through pain and the backup will, then your job and career are in jeopardy without any outlet for the aggression that led to an NFL career in the first place, nor the opportunity to make the kind of money they’re making once their careers are over.

Players don’t know what to do with themselves once their regimented lives as football players are done. The simultaneous addictions to the attention, painkillers, money, pain and the compulsive need to keep going in spite of the threat of long-term damage already in place is being exacerbated; irrationality and rudderless post-career lives are too often rife with financial missteps, legal entanglements, after-effects and early deaths.

Coaches and managers are not exempt from the urgency of their professions.

MLB managers and coaches are not working the hours that NFL coaches are. Rank and file MLB assistants are comparatively well-paid and their jobs are many times as a result of patronage, friendship, loyalty or payback. In reality, apart from the pitching coach, not many MLB coaches influence the team to any grand degree.

Not so with the NFL on any count.

NFL assistants work ridiculous hours and, apart from star coordinators, aren’t paid all that well and, like the players, if they don’t have friends in the league or a good reputation, they won’t have another job when they’re let go.

John Madden left coaching because of his ulcer and didn’t return because he replaced it by carving out a Hall of Fame broadcasting career. Jim Brown retired at the top of his game to go to Hollywood. Barry Sanders and Tiki Barber both retired while they still had a few years left in them, but also had their health.

How many other football players can say that?

Mostly they play until they’re dragged off the field knowing what awaits them in the aftermath.

The sporting ideal of competitiveness, honor and fair play doesn’t truly exist. Baseball players subsist in the bubble of individual achievement within a team concept. It’s one man against another when a pitcher and hitter square off. It’s not that way in football where no one player can function without the other ten men. Football players are warriors who know their time is short and every play could be their last with nothing to fall back on aside from a lifetime of pain and mounting bills for medical and family expenses. Baseball players are covered. Football players can’t just turn off that intensity and otherworldliness that allows them to ignore aches and pains that would hospitalize a normal man.

Baseball is languid; football is full-speed and frantic.

Comparing baseball and football is apples and oranges. They’re different. A bounty program wouldn’t specifically exist in baseball because how would it be enacted? A bounty program in football is easy because, in general, a player contract in the NFL is a bounty, but it’s a bounty the player places on himself. He knows when he signs it that one day, he’ll have to pay up with his physical and emotional well being.

Sometimes he pays with his life in quality and permanence.

They know that going in and, invariably, it gets them in the end.

The bounty a player puts on his own head is carried out by football itself.

And football is tantamount to the monolithic hit man that never, ever fails in its objective.

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The Shady Non-Story of Keith Law and the Astros

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How is it possible when any tiny little bit of baseball news on and off the field is reported by multiple outlets that—during a relatively slow time—no one has any details of the job Keith Law was supposedly offered by the Houston Astros?

What you’re telling me is that Jon Heyman, Richard Justice, Tracy Ringolsby, Ken Rosenthal, Jerry Crasnick and Jayson Stark (both of whom work for ESPN with Law) don’t have any details on this bit of “news”? On a baseball news day in which MLB Trade Rumors was posting stories entitled “Phillies Release John Bowker”; “Cardinals Shopping for Right-Handed Reliever”; “Phillies Interested in Jeremy Accardo”; and “Mets Re-Sign Miguel Batista”, the Law-Astros story received no attention and no digging apart from what Law himself said on Twitter?

Really?

What would be said if Sergio Mitre came out and said that he’d chosen to leave the Yankees rather than be the number two starter behind CC Sabathia?

Or if Grady Little said he’d chosen not to return to manage the Red Sox to replace Terry Francona?

They’d be ridiculed.

But because of his status as a former assistant in the Blue Jays front office who has carved out a snarky niche for himself as something other than a stat guy and is now a TV analyst and scout, his pronouncements are given credibility.

Do they warrant credibility?

It’s circular.

Highly educated at Harvard and other fine institutions of higher learning>>writer for Baseball Prospectus>>former Blue Jays assistant>>ESPN analyst/scouting and draft guru>>interviewing with the Astros.

But is it real?

Should we believe him?

It’s hard to tell.

Weeks ago, it was reported that Law interviewed for several front office positions with the new Astros braintrust led by Jeff Luhnow.

Luhnow proceeded to hire Sig Mejdal as his “Director of Decision Sciences” (whatever that is); and Stephanie Wilka as his Coordinator of Amateur Scouting.

But no Law.

Yesterday Law said the following at about noon Eastern time on his Twitter feed:

I have chosen to stay with ESPN. It was a difficult decision, and I’m very grateful to the Astros for the opportunity.

The opportunity for what is unclear.

Did they offer him a job or not?

The tweet was so opaque and laden with ambiguous phrasing and plausible deniability that it looks like a political cover story to protect Law’s reputation as the ultimate baseball insider; someone who knows his way around front offices, crunches the numbers and travels around doing “scouting”. He has a breadth of experience and knowledge, thereby according him as an “expert” in the media.

But is he?

Where is this story and why doesn’t anyone with inside informers and leaks have the details of the job that Law implies—doesn’t say, but implies—the Astros offered?

The only reporting I can find online ends up back with Law’s pronouncement. Here on Hardball Talk, Aaron Gleeman reports what Law said on Twitter.

No one knows what job he was offered?

Circular.

And back to Law.

Law has me blocked on Twitter. Why? Probably because I call him an armchair expert who regurgitates scouting terminology. I don’t call people names or curse at them; his decision to block me is indicative of a skin far too thin to say the things he does in the tone he says them.

Blocking me on Twitter was, retrospectively, a bad idea. Truth be told, I don’t remember if I ever even followed him (I don’t think I did), so blocking me informs the world at large that he knows who I am. That’s unless he scours Twitter during his off hours and blocks random people. With (at the time of this writing) 364,584 followers, that’s highly unlikely.

Law strikes me as someone who’s very conscious of how he’s perceived and is desperately seeking to maintain and bolster his reputation; but when one is caught in prevarications or twisted facts as he was when he had his somewhat embarrassing slap fight with Michael Lewis over Law’s negative review of the film Moneyball and then backtracks like a trapped waterbug, his agenda reveals itself.

Later, in what was clearly an effort to say, “look, the Astros aren’t done hiring after Mejdal and Wilka”, Law tweeted:

Astros have received permission to interview Cardinals regional cross-checker Mike Elias for a Special Assistant role in scouting

Someone asked if that was the same job Law was offered and he replied:

no, I don’t think it’s the same job.

Here’s what I suspect: the Astros interviewed Law as a courtesy without any intention of hiring him; the story of said interview was leaked (possibly by Law himself); this was either an attempt on the part of Law to extract a better deal from ESPN or to shoehorn his way into a front office job with a GM in Luhnow who believes what Law believes in building an organization; the Astros may or may not have offered him a position, but that position was such that it was either designed for him to turn down because it was so low on the totem pole or didn’t happen at all and they’re letting him kindasorta say they did in a face-saving gesture; and now he’s made a great show of “choosing to stay at ESPN” when he really didn’t have much of an alternative to leave from the beginning.

How is a story that begins and ends with one source—the subject of said story—to be taken at face value?

It can’t.

If I’m wrong, I’ll admit it.

But through the principles of deduction, what we’ve learned so far and from whom we’ve learned it, I don’t think I am.

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Analyzing the Red Sox-A’s Trade

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Athletics trade RHP Andrew Bailey and OF Ryan Sweeney to the Red Sox for OF Josh Reddick, minor league 1B Miles Head and minor league RHP Raul Alcantara.

For the Red Sox:

After trading for Mark Melancon and claiming to be comfortable with him as their closer, the Red Sox were still loitering around Ryan Madson and Francisco Cordero and trying to trade for Bailey and Gio Gonzalez.

They needed a legitimate closer and starting help. With the trades for Melancon and Bailey, they accomplished both.

In a more understated fashion than the Rangers maneuver of signing Joe Nathan and shifting closer Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation, the Red Sox are going to attempt something similar with Daniel Bard. Bard was a starter in the minors, struggled when given the chance to close and had a brief slump at the end of the 2011 season as the set-up man that cost the club dearly during their September collapse. He’s 26 and in the same vein of limiting his innings as a starter, the Red Sox were able to build up his tolerance without indulging in the damaging charade the Yankees did with Joba Chamberlain; as he enters his prime years, Bard will be able to give them 180 innings and slowly build until he’s a legitimate, 200+ inning starter.

Of course, that’s contingent on him being good at it. Bard has a power fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s; a slider and a changeup—there’s no reason to think he won’t transition well to the rotation.

I wouldn’t trust Melancon as my closer. Bailey is a two-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year who throws strikes, doesn’t allow many homers and strikes out around a batter-per-inning; the only concern with him is his troublesome elbow, but for two low-level minor leaguers and an extra outfielder, he’s worth it as a far cheaper alternative to the free agents that are still on the market.

Sweeney is two years older than Reddick (almost to the day) and is an up-the-middle/opposite field hitter who might benefit from the Green Monster. Reddick is better defensively and Sweeney is a more proven big league player.

As a win-now team with a new, veteran manager and clubhouse loaded with veterans, the two minor leaguers the Red Sox surrendered weren’t going to help this current group, so it made sense to deal them.

For the Athletics:

I went into detail about Billy Beane’s latest rebuild in my last posting.

Strategy aside, the return for Bailey seems a bit short. Two low-level minor leaguers for an in-demand, All Star closer? Elbow problems or not, the A’s could’ve held out and waited to see if something better came along.

Head will be 21 in May and is reminiscent of the return to the Moneyball storyline of slightly out-of-shape players who hit for power and get on base. He was a 26th round draft pick in 2009.

Alcantara has good numbers in the low minors, but he just turned 19.

Who knows?

Neither is close to the big leagues.

Reddick is an extra player who might blossom if given the opportunity to play regularly. He’s shown good pop in the minors and some speed. Truthfully, what difference does it make to the A’s whether they play Reddick every day and he turns out to be better suited as a fourth outfielder? Other than to raid them for veteran, mid-season help, no one’s paying much attention to them anyway.

This trade suits the purposes of both sides although at first glance the advantage goes to the Red Sox. The Red Sox get their closer; the A’s clear out another veteran for the future (somewhere off in the distance, presumably in San Jose).

On the “ridiculous analysis” front, in this posting on CBS Sports, Jon Heyman said the following:

All in all, this was new Red Sox GM Ben Cherington’s finest moment as GM(…)

Um. Yeah. I tend to agree. After being on the job a little over two months, it’s his finest moment just ahead of getting a new chair for his office and not drooling on himself during dinner at the winter meetings.

Bravo.

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Hey, Reality!!!

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Movies, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

Jon Heyman said the following on Twitter:

@SI_JonHeyman

Jon Heyman

Perception is, redsox ownership wants valentine. Lamont was on gm’s list. Would take quite a set for cherington to buck owners

“Buck owners”?

What part of “ownership” is so difficult to understand?

The owner makes the final decision, not the GM.

No GM has full autonomy.

Not the exalted Billy Beane; not Andrew Friedman; not Brian Sabean; not Ruben Amaro Jr.; not Brian Cashman; not Theo Epstein; and certainly not the newly-hired Ben Cherington of the Red Sox.

Yet we still see the so-called “credible” reporters interjecting opinion into the situation without a shred of understanding as to this simple fact of life.

Epstein himself wanted Terry Francona back with the Red Sox and has said he would’ve stayed for the final year of his contract had Francona’s options been exercised. Francona was tired both emotionally and physically; the ownership and upper hierarchy (see Larry Lucchino) were unhappy with multiple aspects of what transpired with the Red Sox all year long and culminated in the humiliating collapse; and they wanted to make a change.

That’s their right as the owners and top-tier management.

To think that if John Henry, Tom Werner and Lucchino want Bobby Valentine and it’s “going to take a set” for Cherington to bypass ownership’s desires is pure idiocy. Cherington’s not hiring anyone that he’s not allowed to hire and if it’s Lamont instead of Valentine, then everyone is onboard with the decision.

Could it be that Lucchino is seeing an opportunity to regain the control he lost as a result of Epstein’s success as GM?

Yes.

Could it be that they don’t want to follow that same path of middle-manager to whom the players might not listen with a Lamont instead of Valentine?

Yes.

Could they want someone with a personality who’s going to energize a livid fan base and have the cachet to stand up to the bullying of Josh Beckett?

Yes.

Are they wrong to make their collective presence felt in an important hire?

Absolutely not.

The Red Sox could be ruminating on the decision or they might want to have a fallback plan so they can keep Valentine’s contract as reasonable as possible. If they eliminate all other candidates, then Valentine might feel emboldened in the negotiations to ask for more money.

I remember Gene Lamont‘s understated personality as a manager with the White Sox and Pirates to be eerily similar to that of Francona. Doesn’t hiring the same type of individual defeat the purpose of making the change?

If the Red Sox try to scrimp and save a few bucks or avoid the Bobby V package and those are the only reasons they choose Lamont over him, then they’re making a terrible mistake. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Lamont won’t work—he’s a qualified baseball man and experienced manager—but the why is important.

They might hire Lamont; they might hire Valentine; I’m thinking that Cherington’s preference would’ve been Torey Lovullo.

But don’t think that Cherington will “buck” ownership in the managerial decision.

Because he won’t.

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The Phillies And Ryan Madson—Leaks And Lies And Baseball

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Much like the Keith Law-Michael Lewis dustup over Law’s negative review of Moneyball (which was somewhat embarrassing for both parties, but was absolutely and completely hysterical), someone in the Phillies-Ryan Madson contract negotiations and reporting is lying.

First, Jon Heyman and Jim Duquette said on Twitter that the Phillies and Ryan Madson had agreed to a 4-year, $44 million contract with a $13 million.

Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports said the same thing.

Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com said the Madson camp told him there was no agreement yet and talks were ongoing.

It sounded done. And stupid.

But wait!! All contracts have to go to ownership for approval. But given the series of maniacally overpriced contracts that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has given to players like Ryan Howard along with spending big on Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and with Jimmy Rollins a free agent, team president David Montgomery didn’t sign off on what Amaro wanted to do.

Now the Madson agreement might be on the verge of collapse with Jonathan Papelbon a possibility for the Phillies.

If you believe the rumors (and I don’t) Madson could be a target for the Nationals, Rangers or Red Sox.

Madson’s been a closer for one year and that wasn’t even full-time; paying him on a level with a proven short reliever like Papelbon, Heath Bell or Francisco Rodriguez (remember him?) is idiotic.

Jayson Stark said on Twitter that Amaro called the rumors unequivocally false and that there was no agreement.

Lots of stories.

Is someone lying? Or is what most normal people would consider lying in real life—intellectually and otherwise— “just baseball” as Mike Marshall said in Ball Four?

The following is what I suspect based on my own analysis of baseball and human nature.

Ready?

Here we go:

Amaro and Boras had the parameters in place for a deal with the reported dollar figures; Boras leaked it to friendly reporters in an act of quid pro quo—they exchange information for mutual benefit; the reporters reported it and people believed it was true because it was true; all that remained was for Amaro to get approval from Montgomery—an approval that had been fait accompli in prior negotiations; but the public reaction to the contract for Madson was widespread and negative; Montgomery hesitated, understanding the ramifications of being the first team to sign a closer (who is only a semi-closer for part of a season) and spending that amount of money when the Phillies have upcoming layouts to Rollins, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Hunter Pence; he nixed the it and wondered whether that same money or slightly more could get a better and more proven reliever in Papelbon; this left Amaro in a bad position because if the deal was done and the club president turned it down, Amaro looks impotent and powerless in the organization and, worse, to his peers, media and public; and with the criticism levied as the details initially leaked, the Phillies are going to look even dumber if they still give it to him and he pitches poorly; in a face-saving maneuver, Amaro played semantics and told Stark that there was no deal—which is technically true because he needed Montgomery’s okay; and Montgomery didn’t okay it.

At this point, I highly doubt that Madson will receive that same $44 million from the Phillies and I’m sure that Boras is really, really angry.

I think Papelbon is going to wind up with the Phillies and they’ll be better because of it.

I’m not getting this from anywhere other than my own understanding of people and baseball.

You’re better off listening to me because there’s no agenda; nor is there a trade-off in play.

You know what you’re getting here, for better or worse.

Do you know with the “insiders”?

I think we both know the answer to that question.

If you’re smart, you do know what you’re getting from those with a vested interest in the proceedings and that you shouldn’t believe it because it may be twisted or false—presented as such for their own purposes.

And you’re their target.

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MLB September Stories To Watch, Part I

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Justin Verlander‘s MVP candidacy.

I went into the reasons why Verlander is a worthy candidate here.

Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated also believes pitchers should be eligible in this piece while saying Verlander’s not his pick now. In August. Why Heyman’s writing who his MVP is in August is a mystery aside from screaming, “I dunno what else to write about so I’ll write about the MVP in August!!”

While I’m unsure of whom should actually be the MVP in the American League yet, I don’t know how even the greatest holdout that pitchers shouldn’t win the MVP can deny Verlander serious thought if he wins 26 games and leads the league in ERA, strikeouts, innings pitched and the Tigers win a division that they wouldn’t have come close to winning without him.

I still might say Adrian Gonzalez is the MVP, but it’s simple arrogance to completely exclude Verlander because of self-inflicted parameters that aren’t in the mandate of who’s eligible for the award and who’s not.

What the Yankees will do with A.J. Burnett.

Burnett has the right arm of an ace and the results of a pitcher with the right arm of an ace who decided he’d pitch with his left hand.

And he’s not ambidextrous.

I’m not even convinced Burnett is capable of tying his own shoes.

He’s going to stay in the starting rotation for the next 10 days or so because of the number of make-up games the Yankees have to play, but by mid-September, they’re going to have to come to a conclusion of what to do with him.

They could take him out of the rotation, stick him in the bullpen or just sit him down completely.

All are possible.

All are viable.

Planting the seeds for Billy Beane‘s departure from Oakland.

Already there are whispers that sound more like preparatory statements for Beane to leave the Athletics.

The time is right. Moneyball is at his conclusion (at least with people believing that nonsense); the movie’s coming out in three weeks; Beane’s reputation is pretty much shot with only those holdouts who cling to his fictional genius, trying to justify it with alibi-laden columns and statements as to how what’s happened with the A’s is the fault of Northern California because the evil politicos won’t let the A’s build a stadium.

Yeah. The A’s are going to lose 90 games because of the stadium.

Nothing’s Billy’s fault.

Interesting that the stadium wasn’t an issue when there were so many experts picking the A’s to win the AL West this year.

What happened?

The skids are being greased and the nuggets are popping up from “those close” to Beane saying he might be tired of tilting at windmills with no money and no stadium revenue; that A’s owner Lew Wolff would let Beane talk to other teams that might be interested in him.

Blah, blah, blah.

I say he’s going to the Cubs. The only question is how it’s framed when he does.

LoMo and the Twitter and the mouth and the batting average.

The Marlins demotion of Logan Morrison was a warning shot that lasted a week. They brought Morrison back quickly in the hopes that he’ll learn his lesson that he’s not a veteran; he’s not a megastar who can say whatever he wants; that he’s an employee held at the whims of his bosses for the foreseeable future.

Will he understand?

Yes.

Will he listen?

I’m not convinced.

The Marlins don’t tolerate a lot of crap; don’t be surprised to see Morrison showcased by batting fourth for all of September as they hope he has a big month and then listen to offers for him. The price would be steep because he’s cheap, young and good, but the Marlins wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger and trade him.

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MLB Trade Deadline Rules To Live By

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And/or die by.

Here’s a logical and well-reasoned list of rules that teams should adhere to when assessing whether or not to buy, sell or stand pat at the trading deadline.

Don’t do something stupid.

It sounds easy enough, but there are always teams and GMs that let ancillary issues like job security of the participants influence what they’ll do. If a GM or manager is on shaky ground and concerned about his own status, of course he’s going to do something to try and make his own situation better whether that hamstrings the team for the future or not.

If he knows his job hinges on 2011 results, what difference does it make to Dave Dombrowski if Al Avila has a solid foundation to rebuild the aging Tigers?

Regardless of what you think of their various strategies, at least you can trust that Billy Beane, Brian Sabean and Larry Beinfest are doing what they think is right for their clubs based on current and future needs rather than what’s going to be perceived as “correct” or “incorrect” by would-be experts in the media and fan bases.

In other circumstances, you can’t say that. Will Dombrowski do something crazy to try and placate his impatient manager Jim Leyland and keep their jobs? Apart from legacy, what stake does Orioles GM Andy MacPhail have with the Orioles as he’s been marginalized by the hiring of Buck Showalter and is likely out the door after the season?

If you see a top prospect traded for a negligible talent like Ryan Dempster or a pending free agent like Carlos Beltran, you’ll get a pretty good idea of the intent and underlying reasons.

Any team that acquiesces to the Padres apparent demands of a top prospect for Mike Adams—a journeyman set-up man with atrocious mechanics and a history of arm problems whose success has been late-coming; is arbitration-eligible and a free agent after 2013 and is 33-years-old—is foolish. Plain and simple.

Don’t say something stupid.

Theo Esptein sounded like a total moron and he was in full self-defensive spin mode after the Yankees had addressed every single one of their needs in 2006 by acquiring Bobby Abreu (whom the Red Sox were after), and Cory Lidle.

Epstein’s quote was something to the tune of “we can’t afford to do certain things; we have to build now and for the future” to explain away their inaction as the season came apart…then after the season, they turned around and spent a load of money on Julio Lugo.

Or Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik explaining his re-acquisition of Russell Branyan with the silly statement that “part of development is winning games” as if Branyan was going to be a key piece to that end.

It didn’t work in any context.

Either speaking in indistinct circles or telling the truth are better than saying something that people are going to remember and toss in your face years later.

Like I just did.

Read every word written by Joel Sherman and think the exact opposite (except when he’s plagiarizing me—click this link and scroll to the section beginning with “Hmmm”).

I don’t care much for unnamed “sources”.

Everyone likes to portray themselves as an “insider” and get credit after the fact for being “right”, but much of the time these rumors are utter nonsense that emanated from some reporter/talk show host’s ass.

A year ago, Sherman had Cliff Lee traded to the Yankees for about 12 hours before—lo and behold—Lee was traded to the Rangers. He went into desperate backpedal in trying to explain the intricacies of when a trade is truly completed and flung his favored “Amazin’ Exec” Zduriencik off the roof of his skyscraper of fantasy consisting of unnamed executives and built on quicksand as he tried to maintain the role of someone who knows what’s going on before the fact when he’s dumber than even the most idiotic and reactionary fan.

You’ll hear the nonsense from Michael Kay, Buster Olney, Jon Heyman and even Peter Gammons.

Ignore it.

Know when to go for it; when to hold off; when to clear the house.

Mets fans have the audacity to take Sandy Alderson’s decisive act of brilliance in getting rid of Francisco Rodriguez and his onerous contract option and are interpreting it as the raising of the white flag.

White flag to what?

If the Mets were in the NL Central and in their exact same position, there’s an argument for holding off on making any trades of veterans.

But they’re not.

They’re in a division with the Braves and Phillies; have inexplicably played about 5 miles over their heads with limited talent and countless injuries; and are not contenders regardless of the propaganda designed to rip them for anything they do.

What do the fans/media geniuses want?

The Mets get aggressive when they’re not contenders and trade Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano and get roasted. They hire Omar Minaya and he convinces the front office to eschew the lifetime severance employment for Al Leiter and John Franco and signs Pedro Martinez and Beltran and try to win immediately, he gets treated as an utter fool after the fact for spending money unwisely.

That Mets team was a Duaner Sanchez car accident and one hit away from a World Series they would’ve won in 2006.

How would Minaya look had things gone a bit differently?

They fire Minaya and hire the cold-blooded and stat savvy Sandy Alderson; he assesses the situation and does the right thing and what happens? The Mets get hammered by the same fans who aren’t even coming to the ballpark now.

Tell the fans to take a hike if they don’t like it.

A team like the Pirates needs to go the opposite direction.

As hard as it is to believe, they’re in the NL Central race. But if you examine how they’ve done it, it’s unsustainable over the long term. They’re winning because of superlative performances from mediocre veterans like Jeff Karstens and a patched together bullpen of journeyman from whom a continuation of this work is not going to happen.

The Pirates don’t have a group of young pitchers who are developing as the Giants had with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain in the years preceding their 2010 title.

Their defense has saved them and they can’t hit.

The Pirates must make a bold move now to try and win in 2011 because in 2012, it’s more likely that they’ll fall back to 90 losses than to continue the innocent climb.

Have a check on the baseball people.

In retrospect, it was a bad thing that Orioles owner Peter Angelos overruled Pat Gillick and Davey Johnson as they tried to trade Bobby Bonilla and other veterans at mid-season 1996 when they looked hopelessly out of playoff contention.

But back then, it worked as the Orioles got hot and made the playoffs.

In fact, the Orioles were Jeffrey Maier’s act of fan interference on Derek Jeter‘s homer away from beating the Yankees in that year’s ALCS and maybe winning the World Series.

They made the playoffs the next year too.

I’m not saying that the Mets college of cardinals approach in 2004 when they sat there and voted on the trade of Kazmir was the right way to go, but the owner has a right to nix a deal he doesn’t think is the right thing to do. It’s the height of arrogance for a baseball man to sit there and say, “I want to have final say” in the construction of the club. He doesn’t own it, he doesn’t get final say.

It’s not a bad thing to have dissent or questioning from the man signing the checks if he’s willing to listen and analyze rather than bloviate.

If top prospects are traded for veteran rentals, make sure you can sign them or are going to win with them before letting them leave.

Dodgers GM Ned Colletti was criticized for trading Carlos Santana to the Indians for Casey Blake in 2008.

Why?

The Dodgers had a 25-year-old catcher in Russell Martin who, at the time, was heading for superstardom; they were in a winnable and weak division and were built to win immediately. They needed a third baseman/outfielder and solid veteran, so they traded for Blake.

Looking back, you can say it was a mistake, but Blake helped them greatly in both 2008 and 2009 as the Dodgers were a couple of plays away from possibly winning one or two World Series.

Don’t mess with something that’s working just because you can.

The 2004 Dodgers were streaking, rolling and blasting towards the playoffs. They had a devastating bullpen and a team that had grown organically and been built by former GM Dan Evans and manager Jim Tracy; they trusted each other and have a cohesiveness that pure statistical analysis can’t account for.

That didn’t stop then-GM Paul DePodesta from dropping a bomb in the middle of the clubhouse and undermining everything that had been created simply because he could and it made some form of theoretical sense.

Theory and practice are two vastly different things.

Trading the leader of the team and the manager’s favorite player Paul Lo Duca, the best set-up man in baseball in Guillermo Mota and Juan Encarnacion to the Marlins for Brad Penny and Hee-Seop Choi was a failure in every conceivable metric.

Penny got hurt immediately; a proposed trade of Penny to the Diamondbacks for Randy Johnson came apart because Johnson refused to waive his no-trade clause; Mota’s designated replacement Darren Dreifort was atrocious before he predictably got hurt; and Choi was a disaster.

You don’t muck with something that’s good even if you don’t understand why it’s good.

If you follow these simple rules, you’ll have a good chance of doing what’s right rather than what’s popular.

Of course I expect the world at large to ignore me, but they’ll do so having been warned.

It’s in writing.

I’ll be on the Red State Blue State podcast tomorrow. Dig your trenches.

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