Boston Red Sox manager Valentine watches pitchers work out at the Red Sox new Major League Baseball spring training facility in Fort Myers

When simply “stating the facts” is actually criticism

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Bobby Valentine talked yesterday about his reputation for criticizing ballplayers. He bristled at the notion.

He says he has never thrown anyone under the bus ever, and that when he is construed to have done so — like, if he says that Mark Melancon got all of his running in backing up the bases after giving up hits — it’s because he’s simply stating facts, not ripping anyone:

“A statement of fact should never be misconstrued as criticism. I don’t think it is, or should be. I don’t have time to deal with intelligence or morality. I can’t deal with those. If ignorant people misinterpret simple statements, it’s not my fault. If factual statements are misconstrued as criticism, that’s somebody else’s problem.”

Maybe I’m about to go too far down the rabbit hole here, but I think this is a fascinating subject that actually illuminates some stuff about how blogging works. And I think I’m taking Valentine’s side here to some degree. But there’s an important caveat.

I can’t think of how many times I’ve simply passed along a fact like “the Mets finances are troubled” or “an unfortunate event happened in Citizens Bank Park involving an unruly fan,” only to have people accuse me of being a hater.  When I hate — or troll or whatever — I would hope that it’s pretty obvious. I have a lot of fun with that. But simply stating facts? Bah, that’s not hating. Fred Wilpon did screw up the Mets finances. That guy did intentionally puke on that little girl at CBP.  Those things happened, even if a bunch of people got all mad after I wrote about, saying stuff like “there you go again, picking on the [Mets of Phillies].”

When someone reacts all hurt about that kind of thing, it says way more about them than it does about whatever it is I have to say. Mets fans don’t like to be reminded that their franchise has issues and Phillies fans don’t like to be reminded that there is a history of ugly things happening in the stands. But that doesn’t change the facts of it all.

But here’s the caveat:  Context matters too. If I have a reputation of hating or trolling — and I’m so happy I do! — it stands to reason that my straight-up statements about the subjects of that hating should fall under greater scrutiny. I try to be fair, but I have a higher burden on me when it comes to subjects I’ve criticized in the past. I have to be careful to play it more straight than usual because I’ve dug myself a bit of a credibility hole, even if it was intentional and, in my view, acceptable to have done so.

Indeed, I want you to hold my feet to the fire on, say, an objective piece of analysis about the Phillies more so than you would other teams, because if you don’t, I get lazy.

Back to Valentine: he’s right. Simply stating the facts, however poorly those facts reflect on a given player, is not ripping them. But if he has a pattern of stating the facts about some players more than others, or if he rarely states the facts, as it were, about other players, that creates a pattern of its own that, in the whole, can be construed as being unfair or throwing guys under the bus or what have you.

To suggest otherwise is to play it a bit too cute.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.