Craig Calcaterra

Noah Syndergaard

Noah Syndergaard was given a talking-to by the Mets for feeding the trolls

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Mets minor league pitcher Noah Syndergaard got into it with a fan/troll on Twitter last night. The guy who started it has deleted his account so his tweets are gone, but the Internet doesn’t forget anything. Background: Syndergaard got scratched from a start because he was sick.

I love how quickly that dude backed off the minute the object of his scorn responded to him. But that’s trolls for ya. They talk big until someone talks back. That said, Syndergaard later tweeted some stuff about the guy’s “pathetic 9-to-5 job” and probably got a lot more personal than one might usual do in a simple snipping back-and-forth with a troll.

The Mets aren’t exactly pleased about this:

My penchant for engaging with trolls notwithstanding, I’d probably tell Syndergaard the same thing. I mean, when you’re a pro athlete, any of that kind of interaction with a fan is probably going to either be perceived as punching down or else the sort of thing that will just invite other people to try to get a rise out of you.

Rob Manfred was asked again about the leaks in the Josh Hamilton case. His answers weren’t much better.

manfred getty
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This is kind of fun.

Some of us dead-enders who still think the Joint Drug Agreement means something were a bit perturbed that someone — we don’t know who! — leaked information about Josh Hamilton’s drug relapse to the press. And leaked about the process going down during his disciplinary hearings. And about what the Angels thought about it all. You can read our dead-ender outrage about it here, and about how Major League Baseball said it would not investigate the leaks here.

Flash forward to today when MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred appeared on NBC Sports Radio’s “Under Center” with McNabb and Malone. It’s a good show! I’m on it every week, but obviously the Commissioner is much more important. Our ex-quarterback friends asked the Commish about the stuff he’d expect on sports radio like attendance and pace-of-play and the recent fisticuffs in Royals games. Manfred answered those questions in a pretty polished matter. He’s had these things on his mind all week.

But then Mark Malone shifted gears and asked him why the league hasn’t disciplined anyone with the Angels for leaking Hamilton’s business. Malone: a man after my own heart! And while I don’t have the audio handy in embeddable form just yet, I listened to it. And know that Manfred, to my ears anyway, lost a bit of his polished tone, probably because he didn’t expect to be asked this. Mostly because no one else seems to be asking it. Here’s what he said, though:

“The assumption that the leak came from the Angels is one that may not be correct. We have tried mightily to determine exactly how that information became public. We’ve been unable to do so. That’s often the case with respect to press leaks. As you know, members of the media and sources — a little difficult sometimes, but you know, a number of people knew about the relevant facts here, not just the Angels, and we really haven’t been able to establish any misconduct on the part of the club.”

It’s quite a leap from saying, two weeks ago, that the league would not investigate the leaks to now saying that they’ve “tried mightily” to do so. How one concludes that they can’t establish misconduct without actually mounting an investigation is beyond me.

But what do I know? All I did for several years in my career was assist and in some cases run internal investigations of companies at the behest of management. It’s more art than science, but I know this much: when an investigator is tasked with figuring something out from people over whom they have actual authority — like, say, MLB has over the Angels’ front office — it’s not the hardest job ever. At the very least you can find out — before even getting to the substance — the universe of people who had the information that was leaked. And then it’s just a matter of talking to them in conference rooms. Contrary to what you see on TV and in movies, people aren’t very good liars and most of them don’t like to lie.

But again, that’s just if you’re super inclined to figure something out. Something like, say, a violation of a provision of the Joint Drug Agreement that, on its very face, is described as “essential to the Program’s success.” I mean, really, why would you even have a meeting about that?

Must-Click Link: Alex Rodriguzez: the slugger with a thousand faces

Alex Rodriguez Reuters
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Bryan Curtis has a great story about Alex Rodriguez over at Grantland. It’s not about his playing as much about his image. An image that, for 20 years, baseball writers have been trying to shoehorn into classic baseball stereotypes, mostly unsuccessfully:

It’d be nice to think we treat each new ballplayer who comes along like a beautiful, unique snowflake. But sportswriters are comparative mythologists at heart. What we’re really doing is wedging ballplayers into archetypes that have been around long before they were born: The Natural, The Overweight But Jolly Slugger, The Veteran on His Last Legs.

No one in recent baseball history has been fitted for more of these archetypes than A-Rod.

Curtis takes us through various dramas and iterations of A-Rod’s career and reminds us of how he was thought of at different times by the sporting press. He was the young Wholesome Superstar, the Greedy Mercenary, the Celebrity, the Charlatan, the Cheater, The Monster and now, to some degree, The Man Who Would Be Redeemed.

As Curtis correctly notes, it’s not often that baseball players get more than one or two of these stereotypes applied to them. Barry Bonds stuck with Surly Jerk. Occasionally you get the Odball or Eccentric. There are a lot of Role Players. Most stars go from Wholesome Superstar to Grizzled Veteran. It’s not all that hard for baseball media, which isn’t all that creative most of the time, to be honest, to keep those players in their proper little narrative boxes and to make them dance in their stories and columns.

But not A-Rod. He has worn all manner of faces in his career. Part of this can be chalked up to what seems to be, if you believe some of the better stories about him, some basic insecurity that inspires him to try to please people or play roles he thinks he’s supposed to play. Part of this is because he has done some remarkable and some inexplicable things. Part of it is because, well, he’s a human being who, like most of us — but unlike most athletes, who tend to be more disciplined than normal folks — is just kind of making it all up as he goes along.

I think the volatility of the A-Rod narrative over the years that Curtis describes has a lot to do with baseball writers getting irked at A-Rod more than they get irked at any other player. He screws up their narratives. No one in the media business likes to appear as if they don’t know what’s going on and what’s supposed to happen next, but A-Rod flummoxes those who would play Authority. Sometimes, they even admit it:

“I’ll tell you this,” [Bill] Madden said. “After Bonds passed Aaron, nobody was rooting harder for A-Rod than I was. We needed a clean home run champion after Bonds.”

Then, the fall. “Disappointment is the best way to put it,” Madden said. “Utter disappointment. It’s just too bad this guy couldn’t be what he was supposed to be.”

There’s a lot to unpack in that quote. Starting with the idea that A-Rod was “supposed to be” something. Like he was a part of a predetermined drama rather than a person with free will and foibles. But it explains oh so very much about the coverage Rodriguez has received over the years. And oh so very much about how a media, which likes to tell you that it calls things like it sees them, actually sees them.

The Orioles considered boycotting Tuesday night’s game over the Rogers Centre turf

Rogers Centre
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We’ve observed before that the new turf in Rogers’ Centre is slow and several players who have played on it so far this year have complained about it being too cushy and thick and slow. But those all seemed like mild complaints of the “eh, what can you do?” variety. After all, both teams have to play on it.

But the Orioles were a bit more displeased than all of that. From Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun:

The turf is definitely different than anything we’ve seen. And experts say that it will start to play more normally and more true after it has settled in. But for now, look for this to be an issue for teams. Be it an actual one they talk about or, at the very least, something that gets in their heads.

Kris Bryant is still mulling a grievance against the Cubs

Kris Bryant
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Jon Heyman writes today about Kris Bryant and the decision he faces regarding filing a grievance against the Cubs over what most people reasonably assume was their manipulation of his service time. Legal manipulation but manipulation all the same.

Heyman notes the dilemma Bryant is in: he hears that Bryant is displeased with his treatment and would like to establish some sort of precedent that would prevent later players being subjected to the same service time games, but he is also just breaking in with his new team and probably doesn’t want to rock the boat or inject negativity into a relationship that, on the baseball side, is looking nice and healthy. It’s a tough spot for the kid, of course, and as Heyman notes, it’s that dynamic that has kept this from every being litigated in the past.

But that aside, I’m still skeptical about a grievance. Yes, Bryant and his lawyer might have some hay to make about whether the Cubs acted in good faith in his case, but I’m not sure how that, to use Heyman’s words describing Bryant’s desire, could possibly establish “a rules clarification regarding the permissibility of delaying MLB-ready players over the service time issue.” Any rule that would change this state of affairs would have to be so wide-ranging that it would affect everyone, and the only way that really could happen, it seems, is via collective bargaining.

Arbitrations have, in the past, established some major “yes/no” decisions, such as the invalidity of the reserve clause. But The work of setting up rules is done via the collective bargaining agreement. If Bryant were to take this to an arbitration, it’s possible he could have a couple of weeks service time restored. But then the greater work of dealing with these matters would fall to the union rank and file. And to date they have shown very little willingness to fight for this sort of thing. And I doubt they’ll fight for it the next time around either.