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


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.

Spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws

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Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post reports that, according to three congressional officials familiar with current talks, an upcoming spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws. This is an issue we have spent some time covering here. A bill proposed in 2016, H.R. 5580, would have amended language in Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 which would have made it so minor leaguers wouldn’t be protected under a law that protects hourly workers. There is also an ongoing class action lawsuit over unfair labor prospects.

As DeBonis notes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is among the representatives backing the measure. The provision specifically concerning minor leaguers didn’t appear in any of the draft spending bills, but DeBonis spoke to officials familiar with the negotiations under the condition of anonymity who said it was under serious consideration by top party leaders.

DeBonis got a comment from Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner. He said, “We’re not saying that [minor league pay] shouldn’t go up. We’re just saying that the formula of minimum wage and overtime is so incalculable. I would hate to think that a prospect is told, ‘You got to go home because you’re out of hours, you can’t have any extra batting practice.’ It’s those kinds of things. It’s not like factory work. It’s not like work where you can punch a time clock and management can project how many hours they’re going to have to pay for.”

O’Conner said as much in an interview back in December. It’s an extremely disingenuous deflection. O’Conner also said, “I don’t think that minor league baseball is a career choice for a player.” This is all about creating legislation that allows Minor League Baseball to keep money at the top, which is great if you’re a team owner or shareholder. If they could get away with it, every owner of every business would pay its employees as little as possible, which is why it’s important to have unions and people keeping an eye on legislation like this that attempts to strip laborers of their rights in the dead of night.

Minor league players need to unionize. Or, better yet, the MLBPA should open their doors to include minor leaguers and fight for them just as they would a player who has reached the majors. Minor leaguers should be paid a salary with which they do not have to worry about things like rent, electricity, food, and transportation. They should be provided healthcare and a retirement fund. And if anyone tries to tell you it’s not affordable, MLB eclipsed $10 billion in revenues last year. There’s plenty to go around.

The owners are banking on this legislation passing and labor still coming in excess due to young men holding onto the dream of making the major leagues. According to CNN, “far less than 10 percent of minor league players ever get the chance to make it to the major leagues.” Some of these players have forgone college to work in baseball. They arrive at the park in the morning and leave late at night, putting in far more than your standard eight-hour work day. Since their bodies are their vehicle for success, they have to exercise regularly and vigorously off the field while maintaining a healthy diet. (And teams are still reluctant to invest even the smallest amount of money to ensure their young players eat well.) Minor leaguers make tremendous sacrifices to pursue their dream and now Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying Congress to legalize taking further advantage of them.