Heyman and Olney fight about the Red Sox and it’s a good, good thing

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As we noted yesterday, Jon Heyman took the curious tack of accusing the Red Sox of being cheap or small market or something and suspecting that the team owners are spending money on their soccer interests or whatever.  It was fairly silly, and no shortage of bloggers have weighed in on just how silly it is.

But it’s not just the bloggers. Buster Olney took to Twitter this morning to tear that line of reasoning to shreds:

He later said in reply to another person that “The Red Sox have made mistakes in the past, but they can’t be accused of being cheap.”  Which is 100% correct.

I find this all rather interesting, simply because it’s so rare that you see two of the big name baseball columnists in direct disagreement like this.  But it’s not just interesting for gossipy purposes.

One of the things you see in the political blogosphere and mainstream media is a willingness for pundits and commentators to engage each other directly. It doesn’t need to be nasty, though sometimes it is.  What it does more broadly speaking, however, is it allows for ideas and arguments to be tested, honed and refined. It helps put lie to baloney rather quickly and, ultimately, the readers are all better served.

We don’t see that too often in sports writing, at least in a way that includes the big names like Olney and Heyman.  Rather, there’s this sort of fierce deference most of the time, with a commentator voicing what may be baloney and no one else of stature questioning it that much.  It’s almost seen as rude to do so. And if you do it, you’re considered something of a bomb-thrower.

I wish we had more of it in baseball writing.  A culture in which fierce debate can be had about these kinds of things without someone considering it a faux pas and without people blocking one another on Twitter* and what have you.  A culture of discourse in which it is business, not personal, and in which strong debate and opinion can be aired without everyone getting all upset about it.

Maybe that never happens because people tend not to view sports as being as important as politics. But I wish we could see more dust kicked up than we do. Ultimately knowledge and insight is advanced and disseminated in a much better fashion that way and the baloney is less able to flourish like it does.

 

NoteEvan Grant of the Dallas Morning News said today that Heyman blocked him Why would he do that?  Why would anyone secure in their arguments and place in the world do that to a colleague?

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.