“No morning access since it was media training for the Orioles players. There goes all my good quotes for the season.”
— MLB.com beat writer Brittany Ghiroli from Orioles camp this morning.
Brittany is being funny here, but there’s a lot of truth to that. We live in an age now where controlling the message and sanding off all the rough edges is part of doing business for ballplayers and the teams that employ them. As the legendary Pat Jordan wrote in his outrageously good essay on the subject a couple of years ago:
Writers and fans alike no longer get to know the object of their
affections in a way they did years ago. Athletes see us as their
adversaries, not as allies in their achievements. They are as much
celebrities as rock stars and Hollywood actors are. They live insular
lives behind a wall of publicists, agents, and lawyers. They don’t
interact with fans or writers. They mingle only with other celebrities
at Vegas boxing matches, South Beach nightclubs, and celebrity golf
events, all behind red-velvet VIP ropes. We can only gawk at them as if
at an exotic, endangered species at a zoo.
Not that I don’t understand why athletes approach things this way these days. Our media culture has become insatiable. Whereas once upon a time people might be content to accept a handful of good Jordan-esque player profiles a year we want so much more now. We’re obsessed on who’s dating who, who’s wearing what, who’s drinking what and that’s just the beginning. If I was a ballplayer I’d protect my privacy with extreme vigilance.
Still, it saddens me that we’re very, very unlikely to read a story about, say, Jon Lester, like the one Jordan tells about Tom Seaver:
Then I drove him to Shea Stadium in a rainstorm in my old Corvette with
the T-top that leaked. Water dripped on Tom’s forehead. He looked up
and said, “Why don’t you buy a Porsche?” I said, “Because I’m not Tom
Seaver.” Water dripped on his head. He laughed. “That’s a f***ing
Nowadays two publicists and a lawyer would call Jordan and ask him to scrub that prior to publication. So it goes.
The dust hasn’t quite settled after right-hander Dellin Betances‘ arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Saturday. The case was decided in the team’s favor, awarding Betances with a $3 million salary for the 2017 season instead of the $5 million he initially requested. Yankees’ president Randy Levine held a press conference to voice his outrage over the figure presented by Betances and his agency, saying it had “no bearings in reality” since Betances does not have the elite closer status required for a salary bump of that magnitude.
Needless to say, the comments caused some consternation within Betances’ camp. The reliever publicly addressed the outburst, telling the press that he was prepared to put his differences with the team aside until he heard what Levine had to say. Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:
Players union executive Rick Shapiro and Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, also spoke out in the right-hander’s favor. Shapiro presented Betances’ case during the hearing on Saturday and called Levine’s comments “an absolute disgrace to the arbitration process and to all of Major League Baseball.” In a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Shapiro added: “The only thing that has been unprecedented in the last 36 hours is that a club official, after winning a case, called a news conference to effectively gloat about his victory – that’s unprecedented.”
Murray spoke exclusively to Rosenthal, accusing the president of effectively bullying the 28-year-old during the arbitration process and claiming that Levine had both mispronounced Betances’ name throughout the hearing and blamed the reliever for “declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history.” Like Betances, Murray said that the agency was ready to accept the arbiter’s decision and move on before Levine’s decision to air his grievances to the media. “The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy,” Murray told Rosenthal. “He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him.”
Royals’ manager Ned Yost is shaking things up in 2017, starting with left fielder Alex Gordon. Yost told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that “every scenario is open,” and expects to utilize Gordon in right and center field this spring while he figures out where to position Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss.
Gordon, 33, hasn’t manned right field since a three-game experiment with the Royals back in 2010 and has yet to play center field during any regular season to date. The focus, however, isn’t on Gordon’s capabilities. Among the three outfielders, he carries the best defensive profile and appears to be the most versatile of the bunch.
According to Flanagan, Soler and Moss are average on defense and will continue working closely with Royals’ coach Rusty Kuntz as the season approaches. One arrangement could see Gordon in center field, flanked by Soler in right field and Moss in left, though Yost foresees Soler taking some reps at DH if his defensive chops aren’t up to snuff.
While Moss is prepared to see starts at either outfield corner, Yost appears to be set on keeping Soler in right field, at least for the time being. The club is hoping for a bounce-back season from the 24-year-old outfielder, who was acquired from the Cubs in December after batting a lackluster .238/.333/.436 and sustaining a slew of minor injuries throughout the 2016 season.