The Mets, Carlos Beltran and the problem of media access

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Yesterday Adam Rubin of ESPN New York made a series of tweets regarding that flap from 2010 about Carlos Beltran not visiting Walter Reed Hospital.

You remember it: Beltran didn’t go, he had permission not to due to other charitable obligations, the team said it was OK, but then stories came out about how mad the team was at him and how selfish and awful he was.

Yesterday, Rubin defended the media’s role in all of that thusly (read from the bottom up):

source:

When I saw it I was astounded. Astounded that Rubin seems to be saying that it’s inevitable that team smear campaigns are going to be parroted by a credulous or complicit press.  My view yesterday was that it doesn’t have to be that way. That, rather than oblige the smears by reporting them at face value, you offer context or criticism or, at the very least, identify them as the smears they are. Tell the full story rather than serve as a conduit for team sources.

Today there is a much richer take on all of this from Matthew Callan at Amazin’ Avenue. After making a similar observation I made, Callan notes how access to teams and clubhouses and stuff is part of the problem here:

The only reason I can come up with as to why this story was put out there unquestioned is because it came straight from ownership. So failing to report the “story” could not only mean getting scooped, but losing access as well. I understand that in journalism access trumps all, but what good is access if all it buys you is closer proximity to lies, half-truths, and axe-grinding? And what is a reporter’s job if not to question the “official” story? In the case of the Walter Reed incident, there was precious little reporting and a whole lot of dictation.

Journalists will tell you that there is nothing more important in the reporter’s craft than his objectivity, and I presume that their response to what Callan writes will be to say that calling out the Mets’ ownership’s official line in the story would somehow not be objective because, hey, what they said is what they said and when we reported that, it was totally true.

Seems to me, however, that such objectivity can — as it did in this case — mislead readers as to what is actually going on.  And that is way worse in my mind than reporting news with some critical skepticism towards the source of that news.

The Nationals sign Kevin Jepsen

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Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reports the Nationals have agreed to terms with free agent reliever Kevin Jepsen.

Think of this as the latest in what will likely be a series of no-risk bullpen additions. The Nats, basically, collecting as many almost free arms they can find in an effort to fix their bullpen woes without having to give up anything valuable at the trade deadline. Just like the K-Rod signing earlier this week or the Edwin Jackson signing two weeks ago.

Jepsen pitched for Tampa Bay and Minnesota last year, posting a 5.68 ERA with the Rays and a 6.16 ERA with the Twins, appearing in 58 games in all. He went unsigned this past offseason.

Eh, it might work. It probably won’t, but it might.

Rival Executives Expect Justin Verlander To Hit The Trading Block

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About a month ago, a report circulated that if the Detroit Tigers weren’t above .500 by the end of June, they were going to chuck the season, look to trade off veterans and rebuild. It’s now June 29 and the Tigers are 34-42 and sit six games out of first place.

As such, we should not be too terribly surprised to see a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo that multiple baseball executives expect Tigers ace Justin Verlander to hit the trade market sometime in the next two weeks. Passan notes that the Tigers haven’t formally offered him and that he’s just passing along speculation from rivals, but it’s pretty astute speculation.

The question is what the Tigers can get for Verlander. On the one hand, yes, Verlander is Verlander and has been one of the top starters in baseball for a decade. While he had struggled for a bit, last year featured a return to Cy Young form. He still has a blazing fastball and there is no reason to think he could not anchor the staff of a playoff caliber team.

On the other hand, as Passan notes, his 2017 has been . . . not so good. He looks amazing at times and very hittable at other times. Overall his walk rate is way up and his strikeout rate is down. There doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with him — various ailments contributed to his 2014-15 swoon — so it’s possible he’s just had a rough couple of months. Like I said, Verlander is Verlander, and it may not be a bad gamble to expect him to run off a string of dominant starts like he has so many times in the past.

The problem, though, is that anyone acquiring Verlander is not just gambling on a handful of starts down the stretch. They’re gambling on the $56 million he’s owed between 2018 and 2019 and the $22 million extra he’ll be guaranteed for 2020 if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2019. Those would be his age 35, 36 and 37 seasons. There are certainly worse gambles in baseball, but it’s a gamble all the same.

If the Tigers don’t find any gamblers out there on the market, they’re going to have to make a gamble of their own: let Verlander go and get relatively little in return if another club picks up that $56 million commitment or eat it themselves and get prospects back in return to help kickstart a rebuild. Personally I’d go with the latter option, but I don’t work for the Illitch family.