Translating GM-Speak, Votes of Confidence and Threats

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Most of the “rumors” or information from “insiders” is either fictional or planted and has no basis in fact. But there are other instances where baseball people say something without saying something; when they make a statement for selfish reasons, whether it’s to get the fans/media off their backs or to send a message to individuals. In recent days, there have been several such stories. As we saw with Mariners’ GM Jack Zduriencik saying that Ichiro Suzuki was a franchise player, then turning around and trading him, many times there’s an ulterior motive behind the rhetoric.

Let’s take a look at some statements and translate them into what is actually meant.

The Bobby Valentine vote of confidence

It’s called the “dreaded” vote of confidence because the perception is that it inevitably precedes a firing. Valentine just received one from the Red Sox’ front office. It’d be nice if some enterprising stat person with a lot of time on his or her hands did some research, looked into historic votes of confidence and crunched the numbers of a firing or not following the public declaration of job security.

The thing with Valentine is that he needs absolute support from the ownership to counteract the media/fan/player hate he engenders. If he doesn’t have that, there’s no point in keeping him around. If the Red Sox are truly invested in Valentine, they’re going to have to: A) make structural changes to the roster including getting rid of the subversive elements like Josh Beckett (which they’re probably going to try to do regardless of who the manager is); and B) give him at least an extra year on his contract for 2014.

They have to decide whether changing the manager is easier than changing the players and that can only be determined as they gauge interest in the likes of Beckett and even Jon Lester this September.

Translation: They don’t know whether Valentine’s coming back and it depends on a myriad of factors, not just putting up a good showing late in the season or making the playoffs.

David Samson on the Marlins

The Marlins’ hatchet-man, Samson, offered his opinions on this season. Here are the main quotes regarding owner Jeffrey Loria, baseball ops boss Larry Beinfest and GM Michael Hill:

“As we go into the offseason, the fact is, forgetting the injuries, the players we have right now should be winning games,” Samson said. “It’s clear the evaluation was wrong on certain players. It’s a constant process of seeing what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong, and changing. One thing we don’t want to be as a baseball organization is stubborn. We don’t want to not admit mistakes. Who is that serving?”

“Everything may change,” Samson said. “I think it’s going to be an interesting October, a little different than the October we envisioned …. [Loria] is angry and he should be. Me, Larry and Mike are only two, three and four in the disappointed department. He’s number one.”

The Marlins are a disaster, that’s something everyone can agree on. Given the constant changes in field staff and player personnel and that Samson mentioned the words “evaluation” and “wrong” without pointing the finger at himself or Loria, along with the history of Samson and Loria of firing people, there might be front office changes rather than field staff and player changes. The one static department has been the front office. Beinfest and Dan Jennings have been prevented from interviewing with other clubs for positions and they—Beinfest, Jennings, Hill—have super-long term contracts to stay.

Translation: Manager Ozzie Guillen is safe, but members of the baseball operations team are definitely not.

Manny Acta’s job security

Indians’ GM Chris Antonetti didn’t specifically say Acta would be back, but said he has, “no reason to think otherwise.” That’s not a ringing endorsement and the Indians have come undone—through no specific fault on the part of Acta—and faded from negligible contention. There’s talent on the team, but the issues they have stem from front office mistakes than anything Acta has or hasn’t done. Grady Sizemore was brought back and hasn’t played; Johnny Damon and Derek Lowe didn’t work out and were jettisoned; Casey Kotchman reverted back into being Casey Kotchman; Ubaldo Jimenez has been awful since being acquired from the Rockies.

I think they need a change and with Sandy Alomar Jr. still very popular in Cleveland and on several managerial short-lists, they won’t want to let him leave when he’d benefit the front office and shield them from rightful criticism for what they put together.

Translation: Acta won’t be back and will be replaced by Alomar.

Sandy Alderson says the Mets won’t eat Jason Bay’s contract

The Mets are saying they won’t pay Bay to leave. After this season, the Mets owe him $19 million. Those who are saying the Mets should just swallow the money are living in a dreamworld where $19 million is considered absolutely nothing. Yes, the money’s gone whether Bay’s here or not and while the Mets’ financial circumstances may have stabilized with the settlement of the Bernie Madoff lawsuit against the Wilpons, that doesn’t mean they’re going to hand Bay that golden parachute.

It’s not going to work in New York for Bay, but the Mets will exchange him for another bad contract before releasing him. A release would come next year despite the vitriol they’ll receive if he’s brought back.

Translation: The Mets aren’t releasing him now and won’t eat the money, but they’ll eat some of the money and trade him for another contract that’s equally bad. He’s not going to be a Met in 2013.

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Of Course Bankruptcy is on the Table for the Mets

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The Mets have hired CRG Partners, a consulting firm that assisted the Texas Rangers in their bankruptcy and sale. Naturally, it’s being assumed that this is in preparation for an eventual bankruptcy and sale of the financially hemorrhaging Mets.

So what would happen if the Mets’ situation reached avalanche proportions so they had to start selling the light fixtures and they were entirely unprepared for the legal and practical ramifications for such a move?

What would be said then?

It’s at the point where everything the Mets organization does or doesn’t do is dissected to find some underlying “truth” that they’re not disclosing.

But what if what they’re saying is the truth? What if the apparent spin doctoring to keep the wolves at bay is what’s really going on?

Are the Mets preparing for a bankruptcy or did they hire CRG to, as the club statement says, “provide services in connection with financial reporting and budgeting processes”?

Does it really matter?

If the Mets hired a “turnaround specialist” to help with their morass of debt and legal entanglements, isn’t that the wise thing to do? Aren’t they performing their due diligence based on current circumstances?

This story doesn’t automatically imply a bankruptcy filing is on the horizon; obviously that’s on the table, but regardless of public perception and until the Madoff trial begins, the Wilpons are within their rights to do everything they can to keep the team.

As absurd as it sounds, has anyone ever truly considered the possibility that they were victimized by Madoff as so many others were? There’s a presumption of guilt surrounding the Wilpons, in part, because the club has been run so haphazardly on the field and the front office has been adept at telling half-truths and misleading the media and public with semantics. Because of that, they don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt for anything they say, but logically what they’ve done is what they should do to prepare for every eventuality.

The entire episode has turned into a spitting contest over the breaking of the story, what the hiring means and the fans newest attempts to get the Wilpons to sell the team immediately.

This new culture of being the “first to report” has degenerated reporting into stories coming out based on anonymous sources whether they’re accurate and reliable or not. It appears that this story has been reported accurately, but it’s on the short list in that achievement.

I’d rather be right than first.

What Mets fans have to understand is that the Madoff trial and the Mets ownership issues are not going to be resolved in the near future; no matter how much complaining, threats and ridicule are doled out, nothing is going to change that. Fans are of the opinion that they have this power over ownership by their self-indulgent ranting about the way the franchise has unraveled and that their demands will be met immediately.

Mark Cuban is not buying the Mets tomorrow no matter how many times you demand it.

Is it more enjoyable for fans to be talking about the pursuit and signing of big name free agents like Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols and keeping Jose Reyes? Absolutely.

Does the endless public vitriol directed at the franchise affect the Wilpons when they have bigger things to worry about? No.

The Mets are under no obligation to even respond to these allegations—the club is not a public enterprise; they’re owned by a private entity—so they replied with a statement that’s exacerbated the factions of will they or won’t they file for bankruptcy.

But does it matter?

Really?

In the grand scheme, I don’t think it does.

It’s a story because it’s a story—an end unto itself with no legitimate endgame until the trial and its results are known. Until then, what’s the difference?

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