ALCS Yankees Tigers Baseball

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.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: