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Good morning from Day Two of the Winter Meetings

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At least I think it’s morning. That ever-increasing light in the sky and the incessantly-beeping clock next to my bed says it’s morning, but my body is screaming at me that I require far more sleep than I just received, so clearly it must me, oh, midnight.  Oh well, the sky and clocks have been wrong before.

The first day of the Winter Meetings was highly eventful. Some deals got inked. Some deals fell through. Some deals got done but we’re all supposed to pretend they didn’t. One guy made the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame, however, made itself look silly.  There’s also a notorious rumor floating around that a bald blogger and another writer were captured on video — with said video being taped by a third writer — in the hotel lobby singing “Laid” by James at around 2AM, high notes included. If you see such a video on the web today, rest assured, it is a pure fabrication.

In other news, one of the most striking things of Day One was that, though I didn’t believe it possible, the speed of rumor-dissemination has gotten even faster this year than it was last year.  A few years ago rumors started to get spread fast by reporters reading MLB Trade Rumors and then putting up stories about what they saw there. Last year, for the first time, a large number of writers were finally on Twitter.  This year everyone is on Twitter and most now have smart phones. As a result, rumors go from a single tweet to a widespread topic of conversation in a minute or two.

Yesterday, for example, someone at ESPN LA tweeted that the Dodgers had made an offer for Prince Fielder. Within the time it took for a couple of other reporters to make a phone call to confirm it, it had become a bona fide rumor everyone was writing about (us included). Then it was debunked quickly and everyone updated (us included). What to make of this?

The conventional reaction is for people to wring their hands and talk about irresponsible reporting and how back when they were riding dinosaurs to the newsroom, people did not play so fast and loose with such matters.  I’m not a fan of this reaction. Partially because it’s not true. People’s tongues wagged about everything back then and if they had the means to spread such things quickly they would have.  They were just left to wag their tongues in the lobby. That is, when drunk managers weren’t teaching people how to do a proper hook slide in the bar.

My view of these fast-but-then-debunked rumors is that they’re great fun. Let’s be clear about something: baseball is not national security. The fate of the Republic is not at stake. If some baloney gets thrown around a bit — at least as long as it doesn’t involve someone’s personal life or truly serious matters — no one is harmed. Not even the allegedly respectable and noble calling of journalism.  The fans — and we’re all fans — can have a few minutes of fun speculating on why the Brewers would take so little for Prince Fielder and wonder if the Dodgers are contenders in the West again.  Inventing things from whole cloth for cynical purposes is obviously horrible, but if someone runs with a rumor a tad too quickly, we will all survive.

Our view of such rumors at HardballTalk: to let you know what people are talking about. To give you context for the news and rumors so you can judge them for yourself between the time you hear it and the time the authoritative word comes down (and to understand the stuff after word comes down).  We want everyone to get their news right in the first instance, but in the event they don’t, we want to have fun with stuff.  Because this is baseball, and it’s supposed to be fun, dammit.

Anyway, back into the trenches for Day Two.  If Day One is any indication, we’re in for a ball.

Drew Smyly brings youth and experience to Mariners rotation

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PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Trades don’t surprise Drew Smyly anymore.

At age 27, the Seattle Mariners left-hander has been dealt twice. The first swap sent him from the team that drafted and developed Smyly, the Detroit Tigers, to the Tampa Bay Rays in midseason 2014. That trade landed star pitcher David Price in Detroit.

“I was surprised by that one,” Smyly said.

The most recent trade involving him came in January, when the Rays shipped Smyly to Seattle for three prospects in one of many moves by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto. Smyly immediately joined the Mariners’ projected starting rotation, and is having fun getting to know his new teammates at spring training by way of manager Scott Servais’ clubhouse icebreakers.

Servais thinks Smyly is a solid fit as a still young yet experienced pitcher.

“One, being where he’s at in his career age-wise and service time, he’s kind of at the point where, put him in the right environment … very good defensive outfield, he’s a fly ball guy, maybe he does step up and take the next step,” Servais said. “Getting out of the American League East certainly should help him, but there’s no guarantees. Our division’s pretty tough.”

Servais suggested that another Arkansas native, ex-big leaguer Cliff Lee, might have helped sell Seattle on Smyly. Lee is a former Mariner and the two share an agent.

Smyly went 7-12 in a career-high 30 starts last season in Tampa, but won five games from July 30 to the end of the season after starting out 2-11. From May 21 to July 18, he lost seven straight starts.

“Pitching’s tough, you know,” Smyly said. “To manipulate the ball, to make it do different things, to put it in the strike zone with hitters that know what they’re doing. … I just had a rough stretch but I show up at the field every day, play catch and work on my craft and you know, that’s going to turn around one day.”

The 32 home runs Smyly surrendered in 2016 figure to be reduced in Seattle’s pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.

“It can only help,” he said. “But it’s still going to be up to me to execute pitches and pitch well.”

Smyly is set to join the U.S. World Baseball Classic team shortly. Before that, he’ll make his first spring training start in the middle of next week.

“It’s an honor to be able to put your country on your chest and play with some of the guys on that team,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it big time.”

NOTES: Servais plans to roll out what figures to be Seattle’s opening day lineup in the spring training opener Saturday against San Diego. It’s OF Jarrod Dyson, SS Jean Segura, 2B Robinson Cano, DH Nelson Cruz, 3B Kyle Seager, OF Mitch Haniger, 1B Dan Vogelbach, C Mike Zunino and OF Leonys Martin. … Servais said Cano and Cruz will play a little more than is typical for early spring games, as the two will depart for the World Baseball Classic in early March. … LHP Ariel Miranda will start Saturday, then RHP Chris Heston Sunday, RHP Yovani Gallardo on Monday and ace Felix Hernandez on Tuesday.

Mitt Romney’s sons are trying to buy a stake in the Yankees

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 30:  Tagg Romney son of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives an interview during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC which will conclude today.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Mitt Romney built his professional life in Massachusetts and was once the governor of the state. As such, it is not surprising that he has long identified as a Red Sox fan. So this has to be troubling to him from a fan’s perspective. From Jon Heyman:

The Romney family is bidding to buy a small stake in the Yankees months after their try for the Marlins stalled. If the deal goes through, it is expected to be $25 million to $30 million per percentage point and thought to be interested in one or two percentage points. The Yankees are valued around $3 billion or more.

The effort is being led by Mitt’s son Tagg, one of his brothers and their business partners. Mitt’s spokesman tells Jon Heyman that he has nothing to do with it personally. Tagg Romney is reported to have been planning a bid for controlling interest in the Marlins, but that has fallen through.

I find this interesting insofar as the M.O. for the Steinbrenners has, for years, been to buy out minority shareholders in the Yankees, not seek more. Indeed, when George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees back in 1973 he held just a bare controlling interest and there were a ton of silent partners, most of which were back in Ohio and knew Steinbrenner from his shipping business. I’ve personally gotten to know some of them over the years as there are a handful of them in Columbus and I crossed paths with them in my legal career. They have almost all been bought out in the past couple of decades. They still get season tickets and World Series rings and stuff. You can tell them by their personalized Yankees plates and the fact that, within the first ten minutes of meeting them, they will tell you that they once owned a piece of the Yankees but got pushed out.

In light of all of that it’s interesting that the Steinbrenners are once again accepting bids for small stakes in the team. Especially from someone whose interest in controlling the Marlins suggests that they do not consider it to be a mere vanity investment. Makes me wonder what the Steinbrenners’ long term plans are.