Griffey's agent: napping story was an accident; newspaper: baloney

20 Comments

Ken Griffey Jr. swing.jpgKen Griffey Jr.’s agent took to the media yesterday to fight back on the sleeping story that, at least from where I’m sitting, people had already started to forget. But hey, agents fight for their guy whenever possible, so what say you Mr. Goldberg:

Ken Griffey Jr’s agent says the napping story was
accidentally published before the story was ready.

Brian Goldberg told KIRO Radio Thursday, Tacoma News
Tribune writer Larry LaRue was investigating Griffey’s
performance with the Mariners, but accidentally published
his blog posting before completing the story.

According to Goldberg, LaRue felt horrible for prematurely
making the story public before consulting with Griffey and
Mariners Manager Don Wakamatsu. LaRue immediately called
the newspaper after realizing his mistake to try to
retract the story.

Goldberg said the newspaper declined LaRue’s request. He
said LaRue wrote a retraction, but the editors at the TNT
told him “No, we need to cover this up. We can’t look
foolish.”

Which, if true, is a pretty damning indictment of the Tacoma News-Tribune.  Unfortunately for Goldberg, the Tacoma News-Tribune is saying that Goldberg’s account is completely bogus.

To the contrary, the N-T’s sports editor, Darrin Beene, says that before telling this tale to KIRO radio yesterday, Griffey’s agent called him on Wednesday, “basically threatening to go public with
his ‘information.'”  Beene’s response: “I told him to go ahead, because what we have
published on the blog and in print remains solid.”  Tellingly, Beene says he asked Griffey’s agent if there was any doubt about Griffey sleeping in a chair in the clubhouse during the 7th inning of the game, and the agent would not answer the question.

Beene goes on to refute the agent’s story point-by-point. Considering (a) the agent’s story is all about the inner-workings of the News-Tribune’s editorial process, which he is in no position to know anything about; and (b) the agent has every reason in the world to give this a positive spin from Griffey’s perspective, I see no reason why anyone should believe him over the newspaper. (UPDATE: see below; I was just reminded of one thing that Goldberg’s story has going for it).

Look, I’m not going to go to the mat over LaRue’s original story. It wasn’t exactly the finest act of journalism in history, if for no other reason than, as his editor admits, LaRue didn’t try to get any comment from Griffey before he posted it on the blog.

But that’s an issue of fairness, not basic accuracy, and it’s quite telling that for all of the noise we’ve heard on it this week, no one will deny that Griffey was asleep at some point during the game before Rob Johnson was used to pinch hit in the eighth inning.  LaRue’s editor says he knows the source of the story, and the paper is standing by their reporter, which is by no means a given in this day and age. If it was b.s. they’d throw LaRue over the side.  I’m inclined to believe that he got the facts right, even if he could have done more to give Griffey a chance to defend himself.

As for this latest development: it  seems like a hamfisted attempt by Griffey’s agent to do some damage control, and on the merits alone it fails miserably. And even if not on the merits, than by virtue of the fact that he has once again thrust it out into the fore when it seemed to be dying on its own.

Which is fine for me, because part of my business is writing about media kerfuffles like this one. But it’s bad for his client who, as a result of this whole mess, has been the subject of countless “Ken Griffey Jr. is washed up” articles this week, and those are far more damning than when he does or does not take his naps.

UPDATE:  Just after I posted this, Aaron reminded me of one fact that could possibly give Goldberg’s story some credence. Soon after the story first went live on Monday, the link broke. For a good while — around a half hour when I started clicking it — you couldn’t get to the post.  Then it was posted again with a different URL.  Based on conversations I’ve had with people who read the initial post, the substance was the same. Certainly everything that led to the controversy was and remains in LaRue’s post on the subject.

It’s possible, is it not, that the post was accidental, that it got pulled back, and then the newspaper decided “aw, screw it, people have seen it already” and let it fly later?  If so, that would square with Goldberg’s account of the mechanics of it all. Though, notably, he did not site the deal URL as evidence for his position in the KIRO story.

The biggest problem with this, however, is what would the newspaper possibly have to gain by pulling back an accidental post, only to go with the same substance a few minutes later?  If the story was wrong, why on Earth wouldn’t they change it to be right when given the chance (or since then, for that matter)?  For what reason would they stick their necks out on a bad story like this when it could so easily be stricken or corrected? Again, if LaRue truly screwed it up, why would the paper protect him in such a complicated conspiracy like Goldberg suggests it is?

I think the answer is the same as the one I gave above: the story is accurate. If the the little URL hiccup is evidence of the paper having second thoughts, it may have been over LaRue not having talked to Griffey yet. Or it may have been for some technical reason. Or it may have been for any number of other reasons (I take stuff down several times a week because I misfired on the time stamp or something and I want to relaunch the post later). The fact is, the same story ran both before and after the URL changed.

Anyway, despite whatever distinctions one can make about fairness and accuracy, I’m personally obligated to be fair, and adding this URL business is necessary, I think, to the overall fairness of the thing.

Nick Markakis: ‘I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?’

Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
5 Comments

Earlier today, the Braves inked veteran outfielder Nick Markakis to a one-year deal worth $4 million with a club option for the 2020 season worth $6 million with a $2 million buyout. Though Markakis is 35 years old, he’s coming off of a terrific season in which he played in all 162 games and hit .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs and 93 RBI in 705 trips to the plate. Markakis had just completed a four-year, $44 million contract, so he took a substantial pay cut.

Per David O’Brien of The Athletic, Markakis asked his kids where they wanted him to play and they said Atlanta. O’Brien also asked Markakis about the pay cut. The outfielder said, “I’m not mad at all. I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?”

This seemingly innocuous comment by Markakis is actually damaging for his peers and for the union. Baseball as a game is indeed a “kids’ game,” but Major League Baseball is a billion-dollar business that has been setting revenue records year over year. The players have seen a smaller and smaller percentage of the money MLB makes since the beginning of the 2000’s. Furthermore, Markakis only gets paid “a lot of money” relative to, say, a first-year teacher or a clerk at a convenience store. Relative to the value of Liberty Media, which owns the Braves, and relative to the value of Major League Baseball itself, Markakis’s salary is a drop in the ocean.

That Markakis is happy to take a pay cut is totally fine, but it’s harmful for him to publicly justify that because it creates the expectation that his peers should feel the same way and creates leverage for ownership. His comments mirror those who sympathize first and foremost with billionaire team owners. They are common arguments used to justify paying players less, giving them a smaller and smaller cut of the pie. Because Markakis not only took a pay cut but defended it, front office members of the Braves as well as the 29 other teams can point to him and guilt or shame other players for asking for more money.

“Look at Nick, he’s a team player,” I envision a GM saying to younger Braves player who is seeking a contract extension, or a free agent looking to finally find a home before spring training. “Nick’s stats are as good as yours, so why should you make more money than him?”

Contrast Markakis’s approach with Yasmani Grandal‘s. Grandal reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million contract offer from the Mets early in the offseason and settled for a one-year, $18.25 million contract with the Brewers. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Grandal said on MLB Network, “I felt like part of my responsibility as a player was to respect the guys that went through this process before I did. Guys like Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, These are guys who established markets and pay levels for upper-tier catchers like me. I felt like I was doing a disservice if I were to take some of the deals that were being thrown around. I wanted to keep the line moving especially for some of the younger guys that are coming up … to let them know, if you’re worthy, then you should get paid what you’re worth. That’s where I was coming from.”

Grandal’s comments are exactly what a member of a union should be saying, unapologetically. The MLBPA needs to get all of its members on the same page when it comes to discussing contracts or labor situations in general publicly. What Markakis said seems selfless and innocent — and I have no doubt he is being genuine without malice — but it could reduce the bargaining power players have across the table from ownership, which means less money. They are already being bamboozled, at least until the next collective bargaining agreement. They don’t need to be bamboozled any more.