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.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.