Adrian Gonzalez is trying to kill the messenger and you shouldn’t buy it

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Something that stuck out the most to me in all of the Red Sox drama last night was Adrian Gonzalez trying to trash Jeff Passan’s report of the coup he and the Red Sox players reportedly attempted last month:

“I don’t know what you’re talking about … I’ve never seen that guy in our clubhouse before. He doesn’t know what’s going on with us.”

Yes, because the only people who can credibly report on stuff that the players would not want to be made public are the guys who talk to the players every day and get on-the-record quotes for their stories.

Sorry, whether it’s politics, sports, entertainment or whatever, it’s way more likely that reporters working from the outside, cultivating sources who don’t normally provide media quotes, are the ones who are going to get the stories that make the powers-that-be look bad.  The White House press corps didn’t break Watergate, after all.

It’s just the nature of the beast. Beat reporters who are in the clubhouse every day have a huge incentive to not piss off the players and coaches on whom they report. It’s totally understandable. It’d present a practical (not an ethical) conflict of interest for any of them to report on such things as the Red Sox coup even if they knew about it.

More basically, that kind of dynamite tends to come from leakers and whisperers. If the leakers and whisperers are players, they’re not likely to leak or whisper to a guy who is in the clubhouse each day because people tend to know which players are tight with which reporters and the risk of being busted is too great.  Front office people leaking are not limited by who they talk to in the locker room each day because they’re not, you know, in the locker room.

Anyway, point is this: it’s one thing to say a story is false. It’s another thing to kill the messenger like Gonzalez is trying to do here.  It’s a non-denial that rings hollow and weak.

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

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We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.