Checking in with this morning’s Red Sox hyperbole

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I know a lot of Red Sox fans in that way you know people on the Internet. Twitter and message boards and stuff. Most of them are understandably bummed about the team’s start, but almost none of them are wallowing or anything. The consensus is “this is straight shite, but they’ll turn it around.”  It’s a sensible view. The “panic” people refer to at times like these is really media panic. Talk radio and columnists and stuff. And I don’t think they’re really panicking per se, as opposed to just trying to outdo themselves in characterizing how bad things are.

I don’t listen to Boston talk radio, sadly, and my guess is that’s where the best stuff will be today. Hosts trying to top one another in framing the apocalyptic nature of it all while their producers try to find the looniest loon they can find on the phone lines to put on the air.  I mean, if your wish is to get on the radio today, call in to the sports squawk station and say that you think Terry Francona should be fired. You’ll get your air time.

The columnists are doing their part too, even if they’re not quite as nutty. Here are the two best I’ve seen so far. First, Steve Buckley at the Herald, who is proposing — maybe seriously? maybe not? — that the Sox should cancel all the pregame pomp and circumstance today. No flyover, no introductions, no ceremonial first pitch. Just baseball, because we’re all too depressed to do anything else. Or something.  His best line:

The 2011 Red Sox are starting to look like the 1988 Dukakis for President campaign. As in, high hopes followed rather quickly by a disastrous tumble. (Picture Sox GM Theo Epstein riding in the little tank.)

Mr. Buckley: I followed the 1988 presidential election. I knew the 1988 presidential election. In a way, it became a friend of mine. Mr. Buckley, this team is no Michael Dukakis.

Now, over to Dan Shaughnessy, who quite frankly disappointed me with his failure to truly go after it. Most of it is sensible if a bit obvious. I liked this one though:

Any way you look at it, the Sox haven’t been the same since John Henry bought Liverpool FC

I can’t decide if that’s a tongue-in-cheek reference to something that really doesn’t matter but people chatter about anyway or if Shaughnessy is really going with the notion that John Henry’s buy-in to English soccer represents some kind of distraction that has competitive implications for the 2011 Red Sox.  If it’s the former, that’s kind of funny. If the latter: dude, they bought Liverpool in, like, October. I’m going to go out on a limb and say nothing good or bad has trickled down since then.

Ah well. Maybe the columnists will bring their really top-grade stuff on Sunday if the Sox drop the first two of the Yankees series.  Until then … Panic.

Reds sign catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year deal

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Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that the Reds have signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year contract extension. The terms: $16 million total, with a $7.5 million club option for the 2022 season that has a $500,000 buyout. He also received a $1.75 million signing bonus.

The deal buys out all three of his arbitration years — he was going to be eligible for the first time this offseason — and the first year of his potential free agency. The club option buys a second. Barnhart made $575,000 this season.

Barnhart, 26, is finishing his second season as the Reds primary catcher. This year he’s hitting .272/.349/.399 with six homers and 42 RBI in 113 games. For his career he has a line of .257/.328/.366 in 330 major league games. His real value is defensive, however. He leads the National League in caught stealing percentage and number of base stealers caught (31-for-70, 44%) and leads all players at any position in the league in defensive WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Dodgers owner Mark Walter is involved in a scandal

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The Dodgers last owner, Frank McCourt, was a mainstay of the gossip pages. The new administration has been pretty drama free since taking over five years ago. That is, until now.

Multiple outlets, ranging from the New York Post to the Wall Street Journal, have been reporting on a scandal brewing at Guggenheim Partners, the multi-billion investment firm led by Mark Walter, its CEO. Walter is also the head of Guggenheim Baseball Management, the offshoot of the firm which owns the Dodgers. Walter is the Dodgers’ named owner — the “control person” — as far as Major League Baseball is concerned.

The scandal does not directly relate to the baseball team. Rather, it involves allegations that Walter bought a $13 million Pacific Palisades home for a younger female executive named Alexandra Court:

In the past 24 hours, the company has pushed back on multiple reports that CEO Mark Walter will step down; its chief investment officer has claimed on CNBC that there’s “no tumult” at the company; and Guggenheim has denied reports on a real-estate blog and in the New York Post that Walter bought a California mansion for a younger female executive at the company.

The denial regarding who bought the mansion is a bit too cute, though, as the company only denies that Walter bought it or owns it. In fact, the mansion is owned by a holding company that also bought Walter’s personal residence in Malibu. Billionaires don’t go to closings at title company offices, of course. They buy houses through companies and LLCs and trusts and stuff. As such, the claim that Walter didn’t buy the house may be technically and legally true but entirely misleading all the same. For what it’s worth, The Wall Street Journal has reported that Walter and Court have a “personal relationship.” Walter, who is married, and the company deny this. Court is on an extended leave of absence.

Walter and Guggenheim are denying that Walter is going to step down as CEO. That remains to be seen. The question for our purposes is whether, if he steps down from Guggenheim Partners, he would necessarily have to step down from Guggenheim Baseball Management and thus relinquish control of the Dodgers. I suspect not — they’re distinct legal entities, and his departure from Partners would be unrelated to stuff having to do with the baseball team — but you never know. It’s not like he put up $2 billion of his personal dollars for the team. There are likely a lot of strings attached and contingencies involved to the arrangement.

Something to watch.