Curt Schilling has a good point about that big Red Sox story

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There has been a lot of talk in the blogosphere and Twitterverse today about that Boston Globe story in which anonymous Red Sox sources basically tear Terry Francona, Theo Epstein and multiple Sox players a new one. Whether its use of anonymous sources was the right thing to do. Whether it had actual value or if it’s just angry venting. Whether this signifies something meaningful for the organization or if it’s just the bad old ways of the Boston Red Sox reasserting themselves.

There’s a little truth to all of that. My view, though, is that the Globe should apologize to no one for reporting what it reported.  They have sources, the sources say stuff, most of it is both interesting and potentially relevant and, as far as we can tell anyway, the factual assertions are all true.*

I think the Globe’s only error in reporting it was that the tone of the piece. It was all Serious Business Facing the Nation when, in reality, it’s a lot of backbiting and gossip. And I don’t mean that as a bad thing from the Globe’s perspective. I don’t like the fact that “gossip” has a pejorative connotation to it.  Gossip is interesting and fun and often revealing. Sports isn’t international diplomacy. A lot of what we talk about is gossip, and I think there’s nothing wrong with that, even if it’s anonymously sourced (that’s when you get the best gossip!). A little more humor and lightness and I would have enjoyed the story more, but that’s a mere quibble.

I am not so charitable to the Globe’s sources, however.  I don’t know what people in the Red Sox organization thought they’d accomplish with all of this. Airing the kind of dirty laundry they air is great for us as readers and fans, but it’s a pretty low rent thing to do for the organization. And for one of its main subjects — Terry Francona — who has a lot of crap flung at him by these people for no apparent reason. I get the stuff about him losing control of the clubhouse being germane, but whoever decided to get into his marriage and his alleged use of painkillers isn’t doing much to impress me.

Indeed, I never thought I’d agree with Curt Schilling about, well, anything, but he makes a pretty good point** about that kind of dirt coming from Yawkey Way:

Imply that an outgoing manager has a drug problem after decision to leave and likely looking for work. Stay classy, ownership.

Seriously. The guy is gone. Let him go and keep that kind of stuff to yourself. What possible good are you accomplishing with airing that kind of dirty laundry?

*Not saying the substance of all of the the insider’s claims are accurate about all topics on which they opine. For example, just because someone inside said that Francona had a prescription drug problem doesn’t mean he has one.  We have no idea of that and, it should be noted, Francona denied it. But someone is actually saying those things and in this context that itself is newsworthy, because it speaks to the organization too that they’d even say this kind of thing.

**He added a “from Sons of Sam Horn” at the end of that, which may mean that Schilling is merely repeating the sentiment. But good for him for giving it his platform.

Free agents who sign with new teams are not disloyal

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Most mornings my local newspaper is pretty predictable.

I know, when I navigate to its home page, that I’ll find about eleventeen stories about Ohio State football, even if it is not football season (especially if it’s not football season, actually), part 6 of an amazingly detailed 8-part investigation into a thing that is super important but which no one reads because it has nothing to do with Ohio State football and, perhaps, a handful of write-ups of stories that went viral online six days previously and have nothing to do with anything that matters.

Local print news is doing great, everyone.

I did, however, get a surprise this morning. A story about baseball! A baseball story that was not buried seven clicks into the sports section, but one that was surfaced onto the front page of the website!  The story was about Michael Brantley signing with the Astros.

Normally I’d be dead chuffed! But then I saw something which kinda irked me. Check out the headline:

Is Michael Brantley “leaving” the Indians? I don’t think so. He’s a free agent signing with a baseball team. He’s no more “leaving” the Indians than you are “leaving” an employer who laid you off to take a job at one of its competitors. This is especially true given that the Indians made no effort whatsoever to sign him. Indeed, they didn’t even give him a qualifying offer, making it very clear as of November 2 that they had no intention of bringing him back. Yet, there’s the headline: “Michael Brantley leaves Indians.”

To be clear, apart from the headline, the article is unobjectionable in any way. It merely recounts Ken Rosenthal’s report about Brantley signing with the Astros and does not make any claim or implication that Brantley was somehow disloyal or that Indians fans should be upset at him.

I do wish, though, that editors would not use this kind of construction, even in headlines, because even in today’s far more savvy and enlightened age, it encourages some bad and outmoded views of how players are expected to interact with teams.

Since the advent of free agency players have often been criticized as greedy or self-centered for signing contracts with new teams. Indeed, they are often cast as disloyal in some way for leaving the team which drafted or developed them. It’s less the case now than it used to be, but there are still a lot of fans who view a player leaving via free agency as some kind of a slap in the face, especially if he joins a rival. Meanwhile, when a team decides to move on from a player, either releasing him or, as was the case with the Indians and Brantley, making no effort to bring him back, it’s viewed as a perfectly defensible business decision. There was no comparable headline, back in early November, that said “Indians dump Brantley.”

Make no mistake: it may very well turn out to be a quite reasonable business decision for Cleveland to move on from Brantley. Maybe they know things about him we don’t. Maybe they simply know better about how he’ll do over the next year than the Astros do. I in no way intend for this little rant to imply that the Indians owed Brantley any more than he owed the Indians once their business arrangement came to an end. They don’t.

But I do suspect that there are still a decent number fans out there who view a free agent leaving his former team as some sort of betrayal. Maybe not Brantley, but what if Bryce Harper signs with the Phillies? What if Kris Bryant walks and joins the Cardinals when he reaches free agency? Fans may, in general, be more enlightened now than they used to be, but even a little time on talk radio or in comments sections reveals that a number of them view ballplayers exercising their bargained-for rights as “traitors.” Or, as it’s often written, “traders.” I don’t care for that whole dynamic.

Maybe this little Michael Brantley headline in a local paper that doesn’t cover all that much baseball is unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but it’s an example of how pervasive that unfortunate dynamic is. It gives fans, however tacitly, license to continue to think of players as bad people for exercising their rights. I don’t think that belief will ever completely disappear — sports and irrationality go hand-in-hand — but I’d prefer it if, like teams, athletes are likewise given an understanding nod when they make a business decision. The best way to ensure that is to make sure that such decisions are not misrepresented.