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.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.