Some musings on scoops and the people who get them

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Beyond the Box score has a chart up today tracking which baseball reporters got the most transactions scoops this winter.  Ken Rosenthal leads the pack. Jon Heyman is second. You’ll recognize all the other names based on reading “So and so reports …” posts here and elsewhere.  It’s a relatively small group of men and women who spend a lot of time on that beat.

I never gave much thought to scoops until I got a couple of random ones myself, and since then I’ve had a hard time trying to figure out what they really mean, if anything.  On the one hand it’s kind of thrilling to break news, even if it’s small news like a player signing. People talk about you a bit. You get some clicks. You feel like a big man for a while.  On the other hand, the vast, vast majority of baseball fans don’t know and frankly don’t care who got the scoop. They just want to know who’s playing shortstop. I’d guess that there are no more than a couple hundred people in America who can tell you who got what transaction off the top of their head and really care about it, and that may be overestimating.

Having dabbled in scoopdom, I have a much, much greater respect for what the Ken Rosenthals, Jon Heymans and Buster Olenys of the world do for a living. It’s hard. It’s humbling too.  But at the end of the day, it’s not always easy to get your arms around exactly what it is you’ve done.  Someone who knew something told me about it, and I reported it. I feel like I’ve done good, but what is it?  I let the small handful of readers who care about reading things first know about it first. But long gone are the days when a scoop gave you a story for an entire day. Now anything you report — unless you have a ton of exclusive background information — is all subsumed by the tweets and blog posts of others spreading the news within minutes.

But it’s not nothing either. I gained someone’s trust, which came from some combination of previous good work or a personal relationship.  Other people trusted me enough to credit me when I reported it.  There’s something good there.  I’ve only broken a few stories, but each time I did, someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in my page views has said “good work” or has otherwise considered it worthy.

It’s a weird little world. To the extent I’ve talked with other people who work in it — and here I mean the player transaction beat specifically, not general reporting — they kind of agree.  I don’t know that I have any answers about what it all means and whether it’s significant.  Maybe I would if I had more scoops.

But then we just begin this analysis back at the beginning and start over, don’t we?

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.