Buster Olney defends his Pujols-Howard story

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Buster Olney.jpgEveryone has had a lot of fun with Buster Olney’s report about the Phillies having internal discussions about trading Ryan Howard for Pujols.  Today Buster strikes back. After making it clear that he never said that any St. Louis-Philly negotiations took place and that neither team was inclined to make such deal, Buster says he was dead on the money. He adds:

And as a reporter, when you have confirmed information that the
Phillies have discussed internally an avenue through which how they
might pursue the best player in baseball — and you know exactly who
said what to whom, and how sturdy the intent was — that is news.

It’s
news in the same way that it would be news if you knew what the
internal conversations were within the Twins organization about how to
replace Joe Nathan, if you knew whether they talked about Heath Bell or Jason Frasor or John Smoltz.

The only difference was, in this case, is that the internal conversations were about two superstars. And while it may be inconvenient to some, it’s credible.

I think Buster’s technically right about this, but I think he also has to know that talking about potential candidates to replace an injured closer is a totally different deal than throwing what could be the biggest trade in recent baseball history out there.  It’s not Olney’s fault that everyone went crazy with it, but knowing how quickly “internal discussions” get blown up to “a deal has been discussed” which in turn gets blown up into “Team X and Team Y are close to making a deal,” he had to have at least expected some of this would happen.

I think the greater lesson here, however, is that it’s important to read the reporter’s words more closely and pay less attention to the headline (often applied by an editor), the TV anchor’s summary or the scroll on the bottom of the screen.  From what I’ve seen Olney didn’t oversell what he was reporting. But ESPN kinda did, and they didn’t do their reporter any favors by doing so.

I’m also thinking that Olney might have gotten a bit more mileage out of this by placing that little news nugget in his back pocket and bringing it out later as flavor in another story.  Peter Gammons is a master at this.  Six months from now, when there’s actual news about Pujols, how slick would it have been to simply drop something like ” . . . and there aren’t many good options. A trade for Pujols would be nearly impossible — the Phillies talked about it last spring and shelved the idea — but the Cardinals have to pursue . .”  Gammons has been doing that stuff since I was in diapers and it has gone a long way towards cementing his reputation as a Man Who Knows Things.

Again, none of that is a slam on Olney. Just some observations about the media environment in which we find ourselves.

Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

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NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.