Why I call out guys like Murray Chass and T.J. Simers

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In the past couple of days I’ve blasted T.J. Simers and Murray Chass for writing pieces that, in my view, were low-rent, unprofessional hit jobs.  This is not new territory for me. I have a combative streak and, like a lot of blogger boys, I engage in a healthy amount of media criticism. And whenever I do, I usually get comments from readers, friends and peers to the effect of “hey, why don’t you just ignore the guy?  You’re just giving him attention, and that’s what he wants.”

It’s a valid point, and one I have wrestled with for a long time.  But it’s a notion that I simply can’t abide.

On a very basic level I can’t abide it because people who traffic in this nonsense do so for major daily publications read by thousands upon thousands of people. They shape people’s opinions by virtue of their presumed authority and station and, in the case of Hall of Fame and awards voting, actually shape news and history through their own words and deeds. Well, Chass doesn’t anymore, but his little blogging hobby is but a blip; his obituary will refer to him as “Noted New York Times columnist, Murray Chass.”  But Simers certainly does, as do the other guys I go after from time to time.  They are the professional sporting press, that still means something, and they can’t be dismissed like some crank on a message board.

More deeply, I can’t abide it because I simply don’t believe that ignorance and idiocy are best combated by silence. People generally take silence as tacit approval. The cranky, crusty out-of-touch columnist got that way because for years he isolated himself from dissenting voices, took drinks at the press club among friendly colleagues and only took notice of reader dissent if it was brought to his attention by the legal department (if he truly crossed a line) or the circulation desk (if someone threatened to cancel their subscription).  And it’s not just newspaper writers. It’s anyone. To those who consider themselves influential, no news is good news. Silence is golden.

It’s a different world now.  Everything is interactive. Readers have voices. The good reporters out there — which is most of them, thankfully —  engage with the audience and hold themselves accountable.  Those who don’t have even less of an excuse than they ever did before, and deserve to be called out.

Yes, we’re in a business where page views and circulation numbers matter. But, at the risk of sounding like a naive idealist, truth and integrity matter more.  I’ll gladly send Murray Chass or T.J. Simers a few thousand clicks if by doing so their baloney is exposed for what it is.

Kevin Kiermaier on Rays’ recent moves: “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset.”

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On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”

Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.

The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.

When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.