Scenes from Spring Training: Phun with the Phillie Phanatics Part 2

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I went into the Phillies clubhouse. Charlie Manuel was there. As was Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth and all the other guys which make the Phillies perhaps the most recognizable team in baseball. Yes, even more so than the Yankees. Quick: describe Brett Gardner’s facial features. Now tell me if there’s any Phillie starter you couldn’t pick out of a linuep.

I chatted informally with several players as they suited up and got ready for morning drills, but as I did, I was struck by something I read on a political blog earlier in the week about the value of getting quotes from big sources vs. observing, talking off the record and generally trying to get a handle on the scene instead of getting “the news” as we’ve come to understand it:

I do think anonymity has some value in that by preventing journalists
from doing sensationalist stories based around a single direct quote it
forces you to focus on the big picture of what the officials in
question are trying to say . . . it’s much easier to build an item
around a direct quote so it’s more professionally valuable to
be on the record. But it seems to me that the people who do the real
value-adding reporting are mostly talking to lower-level people–nobody
ever gets the real scoop from anyone remotely senior.

I think this applies to baseball just as much as it applies to reporting on government. If I go up to Ryan Howard with my notepad out or my tape recorder going, and get him to say some things on the record, I’m going to be tempted — or, if I have an editor bird dogging me, required — to build a story around those quotes.  Howard says that everyone in camp is focused to maintain the success they’ve had the past few years. The story the next day leads with that quote and builds around it.  It’s not particularly illuminating, at best serving as the basis for a recap of the competitive challenges facing the team this year, at worst just a quote in a notes column.

I guess my point to all of this is that I think there’s very, very limited value in actually talking to ballplayers on the record and printing those quotes. All of the baseball writers I like tend to limit the amount of that kind of stuff they do. They walk around and talk to guys with their notepads in their bag. They get the big picture of what’s going on and build stories on those themes, but they use their own observations and reason as a filter.  The fans care about what what happens on the field, and they have to report that accurately, but the background stories, the flavor and the non-game info that appears in columns are almost always better when a writer is telling you what he observes and writes thoughtfully about it, not when he’s telling you what a ballplayer, manager or GM says.  Just my two cents.

Enough with these philosophical meta-musings. I took pictures and observed things myself, and I’ll have that post up in about an hour.

Yankees in, Red Sox out on Edwin Encarnacion

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on against the Cleveland Indians during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler AustinGreg Bird combo in 2017.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.

Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.

Report: The Nationals are still in on Chris Sale and Andrew McCutchen

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 05: Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning on September 5, 2016 at U. S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.

In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.

According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.

McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.

The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.