Jonny Gomes “reached out” to Cardinals following reported celebration of Adam Wainwright injury

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Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News unknowingly created a controversy yesterday when he wrote about overhearing Jonny Gomes in the Reds’ clubhouse celebrating news of Adam Wainwright’s elbow injury by singing.

By last night McCoy had deleted the original excerpt while posting a follow-up article explaining his version of what happened and several other writers covering the Reds offered their own versions of the situation, all of which served to blur what actually took place.

Gomes then spent much of today making the media rounds to explain his side of the story and, as reported by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, “reached out” to Cardinals players in an effort to clear the air. Here’s some of what Gomes told Crasnick:

[Wainwright] is a good old Christian boy. He’s the guy that you root for as a fan and as a player. He did all his work in the minor leagues, grabbed the ball as a closer and converted to a starter. He’s the guy every kid should mirror. The hardest part was facing my friends and family. They’re questioning me like, “What’s wrong with you? You’re not that type of person.” I walked through the door and my wife questioned me right out of the gate. She was like, “What’s your deal already?”

The hardest part of my night was, “How do I clean this up without backtracking, because I didn’t do anything wrong.” I was just accused of doing something I never did. I’m not like, “I shouldn’t have said that,” or, “I wish I would have said that behind closed doors.” I didn’t do anything wrong. Flat out.

Despite taking down the initial article containing his version of the events McCoy has not actually backed down from saying he heard Gomes singing in a celebratory manner, writing:

He denies he was singing about Wainwright and said he was singing something else. I’m not the only one who heard “Wainwright” in his song, but I won’t throw anybody else under the bus. Maybe my 70-year-old ears are hearing things, but at the time I didn’t know about Wainwright and wondered to what Gomes was referring. I heard about Wainwright’s injury a few minutes later in manager Dusty Baker’s office.

Under these circumstances his “I won’t throw anybody else under the bus” comment is seemingly aimed at other media members who didn’t write anything about the incident and, once it became a big story, denied hearing Gomes sing about Wainwright. Whatever the case, McCoy has made it very clear that he regrets quoting what he overheard in the clubhouse, telling Crasnick that he “just thought it was something humorous” and “a cute throwaway thing.” Here’s more from McCoy:

I didn’t think it would create this kind of furor. I love Jonny Gomes. He’s one of my favorite people, and I’m sorry he has to be dealing with this. I didn’t sleep last night.

Lost in all the hoopla surrounding Gomes, Wainwright, and the Cardinals-Reds rivalry is a pretty interesting journalistic quandary. Beat writers spend hours every week in a team’s clubhouse, where they no doubt overhear all kinds of stuff that would make for juicy articles and instead restrain themselves. However, my sense is that McCoy only quoted what he heard yesterday specifically because he didn’t think it would be a big deal. Had he thought Gomes’ behavior would have caused a big uproar or even just gotten the outfielder in a little hot water, it certainly seems like McCoy wouldn’t have written anything about it.

In other words, in many cases the juicer something said within the clubhouse doors the less likely it is to be quoted or written about directly. We’ll never know exactly what was said by Gomes in the Reds’ clubhouse yesterday, but we do know that the one guy who wrote about it did so only because he wrongly believed it wouldn’t get Gomes into trouble.

Report: Braves not expected to pursue Bryce Harper

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Thanks in part to a rebuilding effort that got ahead of schedule, the Braves in 2018 had their best season in five years, finishing 90-72 and winning the NL East. They were stopped in the playoffs by the Dodgers, falling in five games in the NLDS. Outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. won the NL Rookie of the Year Award and Brian Snitker won the NL Manager of the Year Award. Veteran outfielder Nick Markakis even got some down-ballot love in NL MVP voting, finishing 18th behind teammates Freddie Freeman (fourth) and Acuña (12th).

Markakis is now a free agent and there happens to be a very talented and still-young outfielder available in free agency this offseason who could replace him and then some. He goes by the name Bryce Harper. You might have heard of him. David O’Brien of The Athletic initially said to not be surprised if the Braves became players in the Harper sweepstakes, but quickly retracted it as a source he trusts assured him the Braves are not, in fact, in on Harper and added that he thought there would be no way Braves ownership (Liberty Media) would sign off on a 10-year deal.

Since being taken over by Liberty Media in 2007, the Braves’ Opening Day payroll has been in the $60 million to $137 million range, according to USA TODAY Sports. On average over that period of time, the Braves have had the 18th-highest payroll among the 30 major league teams. The Braves increased payroll to a franchise-record $137 million on Opening Day in 2017, but cut that all the way back to $83 million in 2018, dropping their rank in baseball from 13th to 27th. In April, the Braves disingenuously played service time games with Acuña, then an uber-prospect who was undoubtedly major-league ready, in order to cheaply get another year of team control over him.

Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution wrote in March this year that Liberty Media has $42 billion in assets. This corporation is not hurting for cash. Yet the Braves cried poor in order to bilk taxpayers of $400 million to fund the totally unnecessary new ballpark that moved the Braves’ home from Atlanta to Cumberland (Cobb County). The stadium is not as easily accessible by way of bus or subway, hurting a lot of the Braves’ poorer fans and those who live in the city, sans car. As Meris Lutz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last year, Cobb County found itself in a $30-55 million budget shortfall, even after “raiding $21 million in rainy-day funds to plug a gaping hole in the 2018 budget.” Liberty Media, of course, doesn’t lose anything from this.

The Braves were one of 13 teams in baseball to see an attendance increase from 2017 to ’18, seeing over 50,000 more fans go through the turnstiles. Braves ownership had said that a spike in revenue — from increased attendance as well as from leasing offices and retail space — would lead to increased payroll. Instead, the Braves’ payroll was cut by approximately $54 million and now the organization has reportedly already taken itself out of the running for Harper, unarguably the best free agent outfielder to hit the open market in quite some time. Adding a talent like Harper (or Manny Machado) would solidify the Braves’ legitimacy in the NL East and it would, at minimum, be a show of good faith to Braves fans, whose tax dollars are on constant display during all 81 home games in Cobb County.

This is in stark contrast to Phillies owner John Middleton, who recently said, “We’re going into this [offseason] expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.” He added, “We just prefer not to be completely stupid.” This confirms what everyone already knew: the Phillies are major players for elite free agents Harper and Machado. Heck, they might even get both. Either player could exceed the record for the largest contract in baseball history, currently held by Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who signed a 13-year, $325 million contract with the Marlins in 2014.

This past season, the Phillies fell flat on their faces in the second half while the Braves continued to press forward with a better-constructed team. The Phillies didn’t have an Acuña or a Freddie Freeman and their minor league system still doesn’t quite match up with the Braves’. Sniping Harper from the Phillies would seem almost critical, then. Or at least keeping up with the Phillies by signing other free agents to fill the gaps left by Markakis and others.

Sadly for Braves fans, it seems like Liberty Media got what it wanted, largely on the taxpayers’ dime, and is happy to keep the Braves near the bottom-third of the league when it comes to payroll. If the Braves finish behind the Phillies in 2019 and beyond, fans and the players will have only ownership to blame.