Anatomy of conflicting trade rumors: Adam Dunn edition

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Like I said an hour ago, trade rumors lend themselves to all kinds of mischief. Who is doing the leaking? What do they have to gain and lose by a piece of information floating out there? How near — or far — from the real decision makers are the sources whispering in the reporter’s ear? The answers to these questions can change a piece of news to a rumor to something close to utter baloney in five minutes. A great example: the Adam Dunn rumors.

The Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley continues to report that the White Sox are all over Adam Dunn, saying just yesterday that the Nats and White Sox have exchanged names and are champing at the bit to make a deal.  Meanwhile,’s Nats’ reporter, Bill Ladson, tweeted just a few short minutes ago that there “is nothing to” the Cowley report and that GM Mike Rizzo never talked to White Sox GM Kenny Williams
about Adam Dunn.”

Oh noes! Conflicting information! What’s a poor baseball fan to think!

You gotta parse this stuff.  You can start by noting that a White Sox source would have less reason to lie about the Sox and the Nats talking about Dunn, because if the deal doesn’t happen he has dashed the hopes of a lot of excitable fans who want the team to get a bat. In contrast, you have to think that a Nats’ source would not want a rumor about a fire-sale-quality trade like giving up Adam Dunn floating around out there until the last possible minute.  It could demoralize fans and anger the subject of the trade (who’s on record saying he doesn’t want to go be a DH, by the way).

Sure, there are counterarguments to each of those things — maybe the Chisox guy wants to create the illusion of action and the Nats guy would love to leak something about Dunn to cater to prospect hounds — but that’s the way I see it.

The giveaway, though, is Ladson’s subtle but rather significant qualification. Let me highlight it:  “MIKE RIZZO never talked to KENNY WILLIAMS about Adam Dunn.” Is it not possible that, say, the assistant GMs talked? Or that Nats’ President Stan Kasten talked to Williams? Or that, rather than talked, they exchanged emails or texts or telegrams or something?

It just seems like an oddly specific way to put that. It’s as if he was actually told the Williams/Rizzo thing in those exact words by someone with a need to be technically truthful but kinda cute. Reporters generally don’t operate on that level so I’m guessing Ladson didn’t create the odd construction. Front offices do, though, and I bet they did. After all of that, I come away thinking that there’s a lot of truth to the Adam Dunn to the White Sox buzz.  Maybe a trade happens, maybe it doesn’t, but I think there’s some fire there to go with that smoke.

I try to do this with every set of rumors I read. Sometimes there’s just no room to parse: you have directly conflicting reports through which no sunlight shines.  Sometimes reports are coming so fast and so furious that there just isn’t time or oxygen to go through the exercise. But a lot of the time you can smell the freshly sliced baloney, and when you can do that, it’s pretty sweet.

The realization, that is.  I’m not a big fan of baloney, let alone its aroma.

Concerns over Jon Lester’s throwing ability much ado about nothing

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20: Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

Going into Thursday night’s NLCS Game 5, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts planned to have his team be annoying and distracting on the base paths for Cubs starter Jon Lester. Lester, you see, has a hard time making throws when he’s not pitching from the rubber, as seen here.

The Dodgers got an immediate opportunity to test their strategy, as Enrique Hernandez drew a four-pitch walk to start the game in the bottom of the first inning. Hernandez was taking leads between 15 and 25 feet, just taunting Lester to throw over to first base. Lester never did. And despite being given the luxury of such a large lead, Hernandez never attempted to steal second base.

It ended up costing the Dodgers a run. After Justin Turner struck out, Corey Seager lined a single to center field. Hernandez, large lead and all, should’ve been well on his way to third base, but he settled for staying at second base. Carlos Ruiz then flied out to right field on what should’ve been a sacrifice fly. Hernandez instead just advanced to third. Howie Kendrick grounded out to end the inning with the Dodgers having scored no runs.

In the bottom of the second inning with two outs, Joc Pederson dropped down a bunt, but Lester was able to field it and make a bounce-throw to Anthony Rizzo at first base to end the inning. Lester stared angrily into the Dodgers’ dugout as he walked off the field. If it were me, I’d have been glaring angrily not because the opposing team was attempting to exploit my weakness, but because the strategy is so poor.

The bunting would continue in the seventh inning as first baseman and noted power hitter Adrian Gonzalez tried to sneak a bunt past Lester on the right side of the infield. Second baseman Javier Baez was able to scoop it up and fire to first. Gonzalez was initially ruled safe, but the call was overturned upon replay review.

Lester countered the Dodgers’ bunting and greedy lead-taking by just pitching his game. He went seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts on 108 pitches. The Cubs went on to win 8-4, taking a 3-2 lead in the NLCS. A worthy consideration for the National League Cy Young Award based on his regular season performance, Lester now has a 0.86 ERA in 21 innings spanning three starts this postseason. Turns out, the yips isn’t debilitating if you’re really good at your main job.

Cubs swat their way past the Dodgers 8-4 in NLCS Game 5

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20:  Addison Russell #27 of the Chicago Cubs hits a two-run home run in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

During the regular season, the Cubs had the second-best offense in baseball behind the Rockies, averaging 4.99 runs per game. It was the best after debiting the Rockies for playing in Coors Field. There was no way, after getting shut out in NLCS Games 2 and 3, that the offense was going to stay dormant much longer. They broke out for 10 runs in a Game 4 victory on Wednesday night. They scored eight more to beat the Dodgers 8-4 in Game 5, taking a 3-2 NLCS lead.

The Cubs took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when leadoff batter Dexter Fowler greeted Kenta Maeda with a single to center field. He’d come around to score on a one-out double by Anthony Rizzo who, like teammate Addison Russell, hadn’t hit much until breaking out in Game 4.

Starter Jon Lester was able to silence the Dodgers’ offense despite their strategy of attempting bunts and taking big leads, knowing Lester has trouble throwing when it’s not from the pitching rubber. They managed just one run, coming around in the fourth inning to knot the game at 1-1 when Howie Kendrick doubled, stole third base, and scored on an Adrian Gonzalez ground out.

Ultimately, Lester lasted seven innings, holding the Dodgers to five hits and a walk with six strikeouts on 108 pitches. Addison Russell allowed him to leave with a lead, slugging a two-run home run off of reliever Joe Blanton in the sixth to break the 1-1 tie.

The Cubs tacked on plenty of insurance in the top of the eighth against reliever Pedro Baez, which proved to be rather necessary. Russell reached on an error by Baez, Willson Contreras singled, and Albert Almora, Jr. moved both runners up a base on a sacrifice bunt. Dexter Fowler then hit a single to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, but Baez didn’t break to cover first base. Gonzalez wasn’t able to beat Fowler to the bag, allowing the Cubs’ fourth run to score. Kris Bryant hit a weak grounder to third base and he was able to beat that out as well, pushing across another run in the process. Anthony Rizzo lined out, but Baez prolonged the inning by walking Ben Zobrist. Ross Stripling relieved Baez, but he served up a bases-clearing double to Javier Baez, making it an 8-1 ballgame. Jason Heyward, as has often been the case, popped up feebly, mercifully ending the inning with the Cubs having hung up a five-spot.

Pedro Strop took over for Lester in the bottom of the eighth. He gave up a double to Andrew Toles, then hit Justin Turner to begin the inning. Though Strop was able to induce a ground ball double play from Corey Seager, Carlos Ruiz followed up with a double to left-center to push in a run. Howie Kendrick flied out to send the game to the ninth.

Closer Aroldis Chapman took over with a six-run lead in the bottom of the ninth. He issued a leadoff walk to Gonzalez, then served up a single to Yasiel Puig. Joc Pederson grounded out, but Josh Reddick knocked in Gonzalez and moved Puig to third with a single to center. Toles plated Puig with a sacrifice fly, making it 8-4. Turner grounded out to shortstop to end the game, finalizing the victory for the Cubs.

The two clubs will take Friday off to travel back to Chicago. Game 6 will take place at Wrigley Field at 8:00 PM EDT. Clayton Kershaw will start for the Dodgers opposite the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks.