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Despite denials, writers continue to run with the “A-Rod was benched because he was flirting” story

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Yesterday Bob Klapisch, with no support whatsoever beyond his own speculation, said it was “unquestionable” that the Yankees benched Alex Rodriguez for Game 3 and Game 4 of the ALCS because of that New York Post story about A-Rod giving his phone number to some women in the stands during Game 1.

Then this happened:

Pretty definitive, no?  Guess not! Because despite this, Ian O’Connor, likely bored during last night’s rain delay, wrote this:

So people want to know if this is personal between you and the bosses, if the New York Post story about you and the ball and the Game 1 women in the stands — a story confirmed by a team source — is inspiring them to hit you harder than the rest.

“I don’t want to overthink it,” you said to the reporters who surrounded you Wednesday evening. Later, you added, “I don’t want to speculate.”

Both answers sounded an awful lot like yes.

And Bill Plaschke, linking the Post story, tweeted this:

I’m struggling to remember another instance in which reporters simply ignored a straight on-the-record denial of a fact by general manager and chose instead to credit what is literally nothing more than a reporter’s speculation as if it were unequivocal fact.*

Really, even if Klapisch’s story had something as thin as “an anonymous Yankees source said …” or “people are telling me …” it would at least be one story against another, and reasonable minds might assume that Cashman’s denial was a P.R. thing. I know folks hate anonymous sources, but they often speak the truth precisely because they are anonymous. And GMs, I’m sorry to say, often lie.

But this is different. There isn’t even an anonymous source for the Klapisch/O’Connor/Plaschke narrative. It is a plain conclusion by reporters, treating their angle on it as though it were the law of gravity or thermodynamics or something and thus it was unnecessary to even attempt to show their work.  But this is not so — it is not at all evident that it went down like they say it did — and thus unless there is some compelling reason why they would not even cite a source in their stories, we are left no choice but to assume that the notion that A-Rod’s benching is punitive is purely invented. That it is given credit by them because they want it to be true — or think their readers want it to be true — because it’s more juicy and interesting than the Yankees benching A-Rod because he simply can’t hit at the moment and his manager has lost confidence in him.

Guys, I’m totally willing to believe the juicier version. All kinds of crazy stuff has happened with the Yankees in the past, so an angry phone call from, say, Randy Levine to Cashman ordering that A-Rod never take an at bat as a Yankee again due to the Post story is not something that is beyond the realm of possibility. I’m a blogger who loves muck. I’D EAT THAT CRAP UP!

But you gotta give me a reason to. You have to at least have something suggesting that it actually happened rather than to just assert it and hope that the hatred and bile for Alex Rodriguez that you and your brethren in the New York sporting press have so gleefully cultivated for the past eight years will give it credibility.  In the face of Brian Cashman’s straight denial, you have to actually get off you butt and find someone who will tell you, anonymously or not, that it actually went down like you’re saying it did.

Until then, journalistically speaking, you’re just trafficking in baloney. You’re flinging unfounded stuff that, if some blogger did it, you’d excoriate as bringing on he death of the Republic.

Cut it out. Get the story or get off it.

Note that it’s not just the benching that is getting this treatment. Despite Cashman’s straight denial of it, there has been and likely will continue to be a lot written about that debunked rumor Keith Olbermann floated yesterday regarding talks between the Marlins and the Yankees of an A-Rod trade. Indeed, O’Connor credits the rumor in his story as if it was not immediately denied by Cashman when it came out yesterday afternoon.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.