Griffey's agent: napping story was an accident; newspaper: baloney

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Ken Griffey Jr. swing.jpgKen Griffey Jr.’s agent took to the media yesterday to fight back on the sleeping story that, at least from where I’m sitting, people had already started to forget. But hey, agents fight for their guy whenever possible, so what say you Mr. Goldberg:

Ken Griffey Jr’s agent says the napping story was
accidentally published before the story was ready.

Brian Goldberg told KIRO Radio Thursday, Tacoma News
Tribune writer Larry LaRue was investigating Griffey’s
performance with the Mariners, but accidentally published
his blog posting before completing the story.

According to Goldberg, LaRue felt horrible for prematurely
making the story public before consulting with Griffey and
Mariners Manager Don Wakamatsu. LaRue immediately called
the newspaper after realizing his mistake to try to
retract the story.

Goldberg said the newspaper declined LaRue’s request. He
said LaRue wrote a retraction, but the editors at the TNT
told him “No, we need to cover this up. We can’t look
foolish.”

Which, if true, is a pretty damning indictment of the Tacoma News-Tribune.  Unfortunately for Goldberg, the Tacoma News-Tribune is saying that Goldberg’s account is completely bogus.

To the contrary, the N-T’s sports editor, Darrin Beene, says that before telling this tale to KIRO radio yesterday, Griffey’s agent called him on Wednesday, “basically threatening to go public with
his ‘information.'”  Beene’s response: “I told him to go ahead, because what we have
published on the blog and in print remains solid.”  Tellingly, Beene says he asked Griffey’s agent if there was any doubt about Griffey sleeping in a chair in the clubhouse during the 7th inning of the game, and the agent would not answer the question.

Beene goes on to refute the agent’s story point-by-point. Considering (a) the agent’s story is all about the inner-workings of the News-Tribune’s editorial process, which he is in no position to know anything about; and (b) the agent has every reason in the world to give this a positive spin from Griffey’s perspective, I see no reason why anyone should believe him over the newspaper. (UPDATE: see below; I was just reminded of one thing that Goldberg’s story has going for it).

Look, I’m not going to go to the mat over LaRue’s original story. It wasn’t exactly the finest act of journalism in history, if for no other reason than, as his editor admits, LaRue didn’t try to get any comment from Griffey before he posted it on the blog.

But that’s an issue of fairness, not basic accuracy, and it’s quite telling that for all of the noise we’ve heard on it this week, no one will deny that Griffey was asleep at some point during the game before Rob Johnson was used to pinch hit in the eighth inning.  LaRue’s editor says he knows the source of the story, and the paper is standing by their reporter, which is by no means a given in this day and age. If it was b.s. they’d throw LaRue over the side.  I’m inclined to believe that he got the facts right, even if he could have done more to give Griffey a chance to defend himself.

As for this latest development: it  seems like a hamfisted attempt by Griffey’s agent to do some damage control, and on the merits alone it fails miserably. And even if not on the merits, than by virtue of the fact that he has once again thrust it out into the fore when it seemed to be dying on its own.

Which is fine for me, because part of my business is writing about media kerfuffles like this one. But it’s bad for his client who, as a result of this whole mess, has been the subject of countless “Ken Griffey Jr. is washed up” articles this week, and those are far more damning than when he does or does not take his naps.

UPDATE:  Just after I posted this, Aaron reminded me of one fact that could possibly give Goldberg’s story some credence. Soon after the story first went live on Monday, the link broke. For a good while — around a half hour when I started clicking it — you couldn’t get to the post.  Then it was posted again with a different URL.  Based on conversations I’ve had with people who read the initial post, the substance was the same. Certainly everything that led to the controversy was and remains in LaRue’s post on the subject.

It’s possible, is it not, that the post was accidental, that it got pulled back, and then the newspaper decided “aw, screw it, people have seen it already” and let it fly later?  If so, that would square with Goldberg’s account of the mechanics of it all. Though, notably, he did not site the deal URL as evidence for his position in the KIRO story.

The biggest problem with this, however, is what would the newspaper possibly have to gain by pulling back an accidental post, only to go with the same substance a few minutes later?  If the story was wrong, why on Earth wouldn’t they change it to be right when given the chance (or since then, for that matter)?  For what reason would they stick their necks out on a bad story like this when it could so easily be stricken or corrected? Again, if LaRue truly screwed it up, why would the paper protect him in such a complicated conspiracy like Goldberg suggests it is?

I think the answer is the same as the one I gave above: the story is accurate. If the the little URL hiccup is evidence of the paper having second thoughts, it may have been over LaRue not having talked to Griffey yet. Or it may have been for some technical reason. Or it may have been for any number of other reasons (I take stuff down several times a week because I misfired on the time stamp or something and I want to relaunch the post later). The fact is, the same story ran both before and after the URL changed.

Anyway, despite whatever distinctions one can make about fairness and accuracy, I’m personally obligated to be fair, and adding this URL business is necessary, I think, to the overall fairness of the thing.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.