Blogger Murray Chass attacks me for bad reporting, ignores quotes, evidence in doing so

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Murray Chass, who actually was the foremost expert in the media regarding baseball labor issues in general and collusion in the 1980s in particular, decided to tear me a new one over at his blog today after I wrote about those potentially collusive statements regarding Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales a couple of weeks ago. Statements which led to Tony Clark launching an investigation into their source.

When someone told me Chass was on my butt about that I actually got worried. Because, for as silly and crazy as his writings have become over the years, you can’t knock the man’s expertise on labor and collusion. That’s his turf and I was legitimately worried that I made a dumb mistake in my posts on the subject. So, while it’s always the better move to ignore Murray Chass, in this instance I had to go read what he wrote to see how wrong I was!

You’ll be shocked to learn that he’s far more interested in taking me to task for being a blogger and and not a reporter. Which is awesome considering that he himself is a blogger* but we’ll let that slide for a minute. He’s particularly upset that I claimed that Tony Clark is trying to to investigate the source of those quotes about Drew and Morales and that, in doing so, he’s not going to win over any friends in the media:

In the hours before I wrote this column I was looking for something and found something else, one of the dumbest and most ignorant pieces of baseball writing I have read in years. It was a piece by Craig Calcaterra of NBCsports.com.

Calcaterra criticized Tony Clark, the head of the players union, for suggesting that anonymous comments from club executives about free agents Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales could be a form of collusion . . . With his comments, Clark was not trying to sniff out sources or their identification.

Tony Clark was not trying to sniff out sources, eh? Better tell that to Tony Clark, Murray, because here was his official statement on the matter:

“I am angered that numerous baseball executives have blatantly and intentionally violated our collective bargaining agreement by offering to ESPN comments about free agent values of Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales. These statements undermine the free agent rights of the players and depress the market values. Today, I have called upon the Commissioner’s office to investigate immediately and thoroughly the sources of these statements and to take appropriate action to enforce our agreement.” [emphasis supplied].

A few days later, Clark sent all registered agents a document retention order, demanding that they keep all records of their contact with reporters regarding Drew and Morales.

I suppose I’m crazy to see those things as Clark “trying to sniff out sources for their identification.” Unfortunately Chass — after lecturing me about ignoring relevant information in my writing — ignores both of those things in reaching his own conclusion on the matter.

Murray, you’re a Hall of Famer, and for all the work that put you there, I respect you. But you have no more business being out there engaging in media criticism than 83-year-old Ernie Banks has being in the Cubs’ lineup against the Diamondbacks this afternoon. Less so, actually. Because while neither Banks nor you are likely to be able to catch up to a fastball these days, at least Banks isn’t blinded by bitterness and rage about not being active anymore.

*I suppose there are many definitions of “blogger,” but the original and in my mind truest definition of the term is one who reads and synthesizes news and opinion on the Internet, forms his or her own opinions about it, links said news and opinions on his or her “web log” — which is where the word “blog” comes from — and talks about what he or she thinks about the matter.

While, today, bloggers such as myself may work for large media organizations like NBC, the original promise of blogging was that it gave people not affiliated with the mainstream media a chance to write and opine about the issues of the day.

In what way Murray Chass does not fit this definition is beyond me. He is a blogger in the purest and truest meaning of the word. In form — he writes a blog from his home in his free time — and in practice — he is using it to attack a writer from a large media organization — Chass is, in fact, the Platonic ideal of a blogger. He is keeping it so real as a blogger, he makes a guy like me — who considers himself a pretty decent blogger — look like some sort of sellout. A piker. Frankly, I’m a tad embarrassed at how much more of a legit blogger Chass is than me sometimes.

So I shall no longer call him The Blogger Murray Chass.” I shall call him “King Blogger Murray Chass, O.G. Pimp Daddy Blogger Par Excellence.”

Unprecedented sanctions: MLB bans former Braves GM for life, makes 12 signees free agents

Associated Press
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Major League Baseball has slammed the hammer down on the Atlanta Braves as the result of their violations of rules on the international free agent market.

Former Braves General Manager John Coppolella has been placed on the permanently ineligible list — the same list Pete Rose is on — banning him from a job in baseball forever. His assistant, Gordon Blakeley, will be suspended for a period of one year. Each had already been dismissed by the Braves. Other Braves’ international baseball operations employees who participated in the misconduct could still be suspended as the league finishes its investigation.

As reported earlier, 12 of the clubs’ international signees are now free agents. The Braves will lose the following players, signed during the 2015-17 international free agent signing periods:

  • Juan Contreras;
  • Yefri del Rosario;
  • Abrahan Gutierrez;
  • Kevin Maitan;
  • Juan Carlos Negret;
  • Yenci Peña;
  • Yunior Severino;
  • Livan Soto;
  • Guillermo Zuniga;
  • Brandol Mezquita;
  • Angel Rojas; and
  • Antonio Sucre

As reported earlier, Maitan was the number one overall international prospect in 2016. The Braves have, for a few years now, had among the top international signee classes. Obviously that came by virtue of cheating the system, and obviously that will lead to a reevaluation of where the clubs’ minor league system stands, talent-wise.

The penalties are not limited to the loss of those players. Commissioner Manfred is imposing what amounts to punitive damages going forward. From Commissioner Manfred’s statement:

“While the remedies discussed above will deprive the Braves of the benefits of their circumvention, I believe that additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the Club for the violations committed by its employees. Accordingly, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period, which is the first signing period in which the Braves are not subject to any signing restrictions under our rules; and the Braves’ international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.”

There was also what appears to be an unrelated draft violation, imposing penalties along those lines as well:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves offered impermissible benefits, which were never provided, to a player they selected in the First-Year Player Draft in an attempt to convince him to sign for a lower bonus. As a penalty for the Club’s attempted circumvention involving a draft selection, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.

The gist of the violations against the Braves involves the bundling of signing bonuses, in which the Braves got players — through their representatives in Latin America — to take lower than the amount typically allotted in one year in order to use the money to sign other, highly rated players in subsequent years, with money they wouldn’t have otherwise had. MLB’s statement describes the scheme thusly:

“The investigation established that the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017. During the 2015-16 international signing period, the Braves signed five players subject to the Club’s signing bonus pool to contracts containing signing bonuses lower than the bonuses the Club had agreed to provide the players. The Club provided the additional bonus money to those players by inflating the signing bonus to another player who was exempt from their signing pool because he qualified as a ‘foreign professional’ under MLB rules.

“Consistent with the rules, the Braves could have signed all of the 2015-16 players for the full, actual signing bonus amounts. Had the Club signed the five players to contracts containing their actual bonuses, however, the Braves would have exceeded their signing bonus pool by more than five percent and would have been, under MLB rules, restricted from signing any players during the next two signing periods for contracts with bonuses greater than $300,000.

“As a result of the 2015-16 circumvention, the Braves were able to sign nine high-value players during the 2016-17 signing period who would have been unavailable to them had the Club accurately accounted for its signings during the 2015-16 signing period.”

The scheme continued like this:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves: (i) agreed to sign six players to inflated signing bonuses pursuant to an agreement with prospect Robert Puason’s agent in exchange for a commitment that Puason would sign with the Club in the 2019-20 signing period; and (ii) offered prospect Ji-Hwan Bae extra-contractual compensation. In order to remedy these violations, I am prohibiting the Club from signing Robert Puason when he becomes eligible to sign, and disapproving the contract between Bae and the Braves, which has not yet become effective.”

This is, by far, the most serious set of scouting, drafting and signing penalties ever imposed by Major League Baseball. It speaks to the sheer audacity of the Braves’ scheme to circumvent signing rules. It also sends a loud and clear signal to other teams — many which have been rumored to have engaged in similar conduct on a smaller scale — that MLB will not tolerate it.

The Braves lower minor league system has been decimated. It stands, essentially, as the head on the pike outside of Major League Baseball’s castle.