NESN’s Jenny Dell off Red Sox broadcasts amid relationship with player

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Is it a conflict of interests if you’re not really a reporter? It appears NESN may think so.

The Boston Herald’s Inside Track reports that Red Sox “sideline reporter” Jenny Dell has been reassigned by NESN after she and Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks went public with their relationship on New Year’s Day by tweeting pictures with one another. While that wasn’t given as a reason for the move, the timing makes it pretty obvious.

Still, one wonders if it was really a necessary step for NESN. Dell’s role is certainly much more one of public relations than reporting. If she were covering the Red Sox for the Herald or the Globe, of course the relationship would be inappropriate. Really, though, her reporting on the team consists of press releases and materials given to her by NESN. On the other hand, interviews with players are a big part of her job and those could, on occasion, become awkward, particularly if she’s talking to someone who might be competing with Middlebrooks for playing time; the players might not always keep it professional.

Regardless, Dell figures to land on her feet. She’s still employed by NESN at the moment, but there’s been talk of her joining FOX Sports 1.

Mark Lerner says Nationals can’t afford both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg

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The defending champion Washington Nationals may have to replace two star players in third baseman Anthony Rendon and starter Stephen Strasburg as both are free agents. Both are represented by agent Scott Boras and both are expected to command lucrative contracts. As a result, Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner said the club can’t afford to bring back both players, Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington reports.

Lerner told Donald Dell in an interview, “We really can only afford to have one of those two guys. They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”

As Dybas notes, there are myriad reasons why Lerner would say this publicly. If Lerner had instead said, “Yeah, we’re filthy stinking rich, especially coming off of a World Series win. We could afford to get every free agent if we wanted to,” then the Nationals would have no leverage in negotiations. Creating artificial scarcity increases the Nationals’ leverage when negotiating with Boras and his clients. And as Dybas also points out, Lerner’s statement also prepares fans for an unsatisfactory outcome not unlike when the club took itself out of the running to bring back outfielder Bryce Harper earlier this year. This not to say Lerner’s statement is justified; it’s just how things work in the current system.

Lerner also defended the Nationals’ approach to free agency. He said, “They think you’re really back there printing money and it’s whoever goes to the highest bidder. It’s not that way at all. You give these fellas — there’s a negotiation that goes on, but…We’ve been pretty successful in free agency over time. You’re not going to get everybody. Certain players may want to go home, closer to where their home is. You never know the reason why people move on. But, we’ve been very successful. Probably one of the most successful teams in free agency the last 10 years. We’re very proud of our record. But, again, I think people have to realize, it’s not all up to us.”

It is true that the Nationals have been one of the most active teams in free agency in recent years. In a league that has otherwise done the opposite, they deserve some credit for that. But the Nationals are also keenly aware of the competitive balance tax threshold, which teams use as a de facto salary cap. They don’t have to, but they choose to because it’s a convenient structure that allows them to limit expenditures.

At the end of the day, it’s baseball’s financial structure that is rotten. It forces constant misinformation out of everyone’s mouths so as to protect their financial interests and leverage, and incentivizes teams to value profits above all. In a perfect world, MLB team owners wouldn’t need to cry poor every offseason, but we don’t live in such a world.