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.

Report: Braves extend Kurt Suzuki

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Kurt Suzuki will wear a Braves’ uniform through the 2018 season after signing a one-year, $3.5 million extension with the club on Saturday, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal adds that the two had been in talks for weeks and Suzuki made it clear that he wanted to remain in Atlanta for the foreseeable future. The team has yet to announce the extension.

Suzuki, 33, initially signed a one-year contract with the Braves back in January. The veteran backstop stepped into a backup role behind starting catcher Tyler Flowers, but still found a way to impress at the plate with a .271/.343/.525 batting line, career-best 18 home runs and an .868 OPS through 287 PA. According to FanGraphs, Suzuki’s 2.2 fWAR makes 2017 his most valuable season since his run with the 2009 Athletics.

It’s a prudent move for the Braves, who would have lost one of their most dynamic second-half hitters to the free agent market this offseason. Entering Saturday, Suzuki is second only to Freddie Freeman with 11 homers and 1.4 fWAR since the All-Star break. His stunning comeback also confirmed the team’s decision to look outside the organization for a backup catcher, rather than turning to fellow veteran Anthony Recker behind the plate.

“On a personal level, this season exceeded my expectations,” Suzuki told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s just one of those things I can’t explain. I put a lot of work in and really didn’t have a job until late January. I got an opportunity here and took advantage of it. It was definitely a good fit.”

Mikie Mahtook is likely done for the season

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Tigers’ outfielder Mikie Mahtook is unlikely to play again this season, club manager Brad Ausmus announced Saturday. Mahtook was diagnosed with a Grade 2 left groin strain following Friday’s series opener against the Twins, when he appeared to injure himself after chasing down Byron Buxton‘s two-RBI double in the fourth.

This is the second time Mahtook has sustained a groin injury over the past month. The 27-year-old exited Friday’s game with a .276/.330/.457 batting line, 12 home runs and a .787 OPS through 379 plate appearances with the team.

With the Tigers out of contention, there’s no reason to trot out Mahtook for the remaining eight games of the regular season. The club has yet to specify a timetable for his return, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be in fine shape to compete for a starting role next spring.