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Pinstripe Bible and River Ave. Blues issue statements about the censorship allegations

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On Tuesday Moshe Mandel of TYU presented evidence which strongly suggested that the YES Network and/or the Yankees caused one Yankees blog — Pinstripe Bible — to ratchet-back criticism of the team in light of the Rafael Soriano signing, and that it punished another blog — River Ave. Blues — by removing the Yes Network toolbar for a period of time.

In the past 24 hours or so, both blogs issued statements on the matter.  Here’s River Ave. Blues, passed along at the bottom of a TYU post from yesterday:

“The YES Network has no editorial control over the content produced by River Ave. Blues, and at no point during our relationship has YES ever asked us to edit or remove any post we’ve published on RAB.”

Here’s Pinstripe Bible:

On Tuesday, Moshe Mandel of the blog TYU raised some questions about the Pinstriped Bible in the aftermath of the Rafael Soriano signing, making allegations of censorship. I chose not to comment at the time. However, given the volume and tone of speculation I have read, I would be remiss if I did not say the following: the Pinstriped Bible has been affiliated with YES almost since the network’s beginning. In all that time, I have never been asked to alter the tone or substance of my commentary. The day that happens is the day we part company, though I don’t expect such a thing to come to pass, because the YESmen understand as well as I do that our readership is looking for honesty, not propaganda.

In response to the former statement, I consider the matter closed.  As TYU noted, RAB did not change its posts on the Soriano matter.  All that happened was that the YES toolbar disappeared for a period of days and then returned.  It’s possible that the toolbar stuff was punishment by YES, but it’s also possible there were other reasons for it.  And ultimately, I don’t think most readers care a lick about whether a toolbar is there or not as long as the content is good and credible and that has never been at issue with RAB.

In response to the latter statement, I asked Steve — on Twitter — if that also means that no one at YES or the Yankees voiced displeasure at his initial post. My reason for asking was that there is more than one way for an organization to influence the message.  Even if Steve was not asked to change the content of his post, was it possible that there was subtler pressure being applied in the form of harrumphs, veiled threats, smoke signals or anything else?  Steve dismissed the possibility:

Me: Steve: so is it the case that no one at YES or the Yankees was critical of your initial post?

Steve: No. I revised the post upon further consideration and input from colleagues.

I know both the RAB writers and Steve Goldman of Pinstripe Bible (in that way you know people you talk to online).  I have no question about their quality as writers and analysts.  I likewise have no cause to question their integrity whatsoever.  If there is any doubt about this at all, let me be clear: my interest in this topic is no way meant as a criticism of RAB or Pinstripe Bible.  Rather, I am interested in the extent to which the Yankees and/or the Yes Network has attempted to influence what affiliated bloggers are writing about the team if, in fact, they are.

Having said that, I will honestly say that I don’t know how to reconcile the changes in the Pinstripe Bible post — outlined in TYU’s initial report — with Steve’s statement today.  I take him at his word. But I still not sure I understand how that post ended up as mangled as it did.

Obviously we as bloggers are entitled to change our minds about things.  Blogging is often a game of ready-fire-aim, and our initial opinions on a matter are often in need of later revision as new facts come in or as we reflect on a matter for a while.  And that’s how it should be. Immediacy is important for blog readers and the benefits of such immediacy outweigh the costs most of the time. But a corollary to that notion is that a blogger’s change of opinion on a matter should be transparent.

I don’t begrudge Steve for reflecting on his initial opinion of the Soriano signing and ratcheting back his rhetoric some.  I’ve done that many times myself.  But it does strike me that a better way to handle it is to update a post or do a second post that makes clear that the blogger’s mind has, in fact, changed.  Doing so helps the reader better understand your thought process and helps them weigh the credibility or your opinions.  Not doing so causes the reader — as it caused TYU, me and others in this case — to question why the changes were made and to wonder if it was something greater than a mere change of mind.

Again, these are just my personal thoughts on the matter and I don’t presume to have a monopoly on wisdom on this topic.  Just thinking out loud, really.

A study showed “grit” isn’t always a great attribute

Washington Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper slides into third with a three RBI triple during the third inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Friday, April 25, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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This popped up in my Twitter feed and I felt it had some applicability to baseball. This past October, Olga Khazan of The Atlantic highlighted a study in which researchers from the University of Southern California and Northeastern University performed three separate but related experiments to determine how “gritty” their subjects were.

One experiment had them solve anagrams. The second, a computer game. Finally, the third test had them solve math problems. Those who were deemed “grittier” attempted to solve fewer anagrams, which means they were sticking too long with difficult words rather than skipping and moving onto easier ones. The “grittier” crowd worked harder when losing at the computer game, but worked only as hard as the less-gritty when winning. With the math problems, the subjects when stuck were given a choice to take $1 and quit or keep going for a potential reward of $2 but $0 if they failed. The study showed that the “grittier” people weren’t any more productive but were more willing to risk the $1 for the doubled prize.

“Grit” is also a common colloquialism in baseball circles, used to refer to players who always run out a routine ground ball or pop-up. Other common characteristics include a willingness to dive for fly balls, slide into players to break up double plays, and to stick up for their teammates when there’s a disagreement between members of two teams. Often, those deemed “gritty” are in many other ways subpar players, but their perceived “grit” gives them value.

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is a rare superstar player who has earned the “grit” descriptor. There are many examples showing why he has earned it, but the most famous incident occurred on May 13, 2013 at Dodger Stadium. Harper turned his back to the field to chase an A.J. Ellis fly ball but went face-first into the wall, suffering abrasions on his face and a jammed left shoulder. This was during a game the Nationals were comfortably winning 6-0 in the sixth inning. At the time, the Nationals were 95 percent favorites to win the game, according to FanGraphs. Is the risk of suffering an injury — which could keep Harper out only a game or two, or cause him to miss the rest of the season — worth potentially turning a double or triple into an out?

Famously, Philadelphia fans and talking heads got on outfielder Bobby Abreu’s case in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s because he appeared gun-shy when approaching the outfield fence on fly balls. He was under a lot of pressure to sacrifice his body for the supposed good of the team, and developed a reputation as “soft”. As a more recent example, former Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins caught flack from fans when he didn’t run out a routine pop-up against the Mets on August 30, 2012. Then-manager Charlie Manuel benched the veteran. At the time, the Phillies were 62-69 and 17.5 games back of first place in the NL East and 8.5 games behind the second Wild Card. Freak injuries can happen, as Rollins’ teammate Ryan Howard showed when making the final out of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals. Is that non-zero injury risk worth the tiny chance that the infielder drops the pop-up and Rollins gets a single (or, in rarer cases, a double) in a game that is essentially meaningless?

The aforementioned study shows that maybe Abreu and Rollins had it right after all. Statistically, a freak injury that occurs on a “hustle” play is bound to happen. Maybe that’s what it will take to stop expecting athletes to put their bodies on the line for no realistic gain.

Zach Britton settles with the Orioles for $6.75 million

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Zach Britton delivers a pitch against the Boston Red Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park, Tuesday, June 23, 2015, in Boston. The Orioles won 6-4. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
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The Orioles and closer Zach Britton avoided an arbitration hearing, agreeing to a $6.75 million salary for the 2016 season, Jon Heyman reports. The club has now handled all of its remaining arbitration cases and won’t have to go to a hearing with any players.

Britton, in his second of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $7.9 million while the Orioles countered at $5.6 million. $6.75 million is exactly the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

The 28-year-old lefty saved 36 games in 40 chances last season for the O’s while putting up a 1.92 ERA with a 79/14 K/BB ratio over 65 2/3 innings.

The Blue Jays will also try to sign Josh Donaldson to a multi-year deal

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson gets up after being unable to handle an infield single by Boston Red Sox's Mookie Betts during the fourth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston Monday, Sept. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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Tacking onto Friday’s report that the Blue Jays will attempt to sign Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to multi-year deals, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the club will try to do the same with third baseman and defending American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes that Donaldson’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for February 15, so the two sides will have 10 days to hammer out a contract.

Donaldson, 30, is entering his second of four years of arbitration eligibility. After earning $4.3 million last season, Donaldson filed for $11.8 million and the Blue Jays countered at $11.35 million. The $450,000 difference isn’t much compared to some of the other disparities among arbitration-eligible players and their respective clubs. Jake Arrieta and the Cubs, for example, had a gap of $6.5 million.

This past season, Donaldson let the league in runs scored and RBI with 122 and 123, respectively, while batting .297.371/.568 with 41 home runs and 41 doubles. He earned 23 of 30 first place votes in AL MVP balloting, with runner-up Mike Trout of the Angels grabbing the other seven votes.

Reds prospect Juan Duran suspended 80 games

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Juan Duran, a minor-league outfielder in the Reds’ farm system, has been suspended 80 games following positive tests for the performance-enhancing drugs Drostanolone, Stanozolol, and Nandrolone.

Duran is 6-foot-7 with big-time power, averaging 23 homers per 150 games since 2011, but he also strikes out a ton and struggles to control the strike zone. He spent last season at Double-A, missing a lot of time with injuries and hitting .256 with six homers and a .728 OPS in 59 games as a 23-year-old.

Duran is on the 40-man roster and is considered a quasi-prospect, but he’ll be ineligible to play until July and figures to head back to Double-A once reinstated.