M’s and rumor mongers, Alex’s a jerk
I’m back again, again — I spent the weekend hanging out with my brother, which included being hit by The Worst Beat Ever in my poker-playing life (but nobody likes bad beat stories, so I’ll spare everyone). And there was no Mariner news to write about. I was a little disappointed.
So I have two things, then:
If you’re following the free agent speculation, you’ll note that Carlos Beltran is frequently mentioned as a future Yankee. Possibly a Cub, or a Met, or an Astros. Sometimes the Red Sox, Angels, even the Dodgers. Not, though, a Mariner.
I think this reflects two things: first, in general, sports media (like all mass media) often fixates on the easy story. Every outlet has individual people who look at all the stuff they could fill their column-inch quota or word count with, and those people often look at possible topics and think “which of these is easiest to write something that my readers will look at and, possibly, react to?” I know: writing columns at BP I often sat down at keyboard with two or three topics, tried to work on the most interesting ones, ran up on the deadline, and ended up having to do the easy-to-write one and after that got back to the other topic.
The Yankees are eaaaaaaaaaaasy. Will they be able to continue their huge spending as the “tax rate” on payroll increases to 40%? Will they be able to take on Beltre, and does that mean Alex moves to short and Jeter to second? Or center? And then what about Beltran — does Bernie stay there? Are they looking to dump someone?
Easy column, guaranteed to generate response, because the Yankees are always controversial.
Moreover, and this is going to sound bad no matter how I write it, sports media in general is hugely East Coast-centric. ESPN, the big networks, they’re all out east, and it shows. Great West Coast performances rarely get national play because the games air at ten in New York, and nobody’s watching. This is more subjective, but coverage of some teams often seems to be an afterthought. I find many more factual errors in team and game stories the farther west they’re filed. In general it seems that only LA, also in a media center, gets the kind of press attention that the Phillies do. They certainly don’t cover the kind of in-depth backroom dealings that those east franchises do. If you want to get rumors out of the Mariners in a mainstream publication, you’re looking to Gammons pretty much.
So the fact that the Mariners are a huge revenue-generating team — I don’t think that’s well-known. That they’re interested in spending on a top-tier free agent… I don’t think that’s well-known either, and as a story it doesn’t lend itself to an easy column as well as the Yankees do. And then when people write about “speculation is that he’ll be courted by x, y, and, z” there’s no buzz about it.
There is also the fact that these teams are known to pursue and sign big names, while the Mariners are not. We could talk about whether the perception that the Mariners have never signed a top-tier free agent is justified, but it’s absolutely true that this belief is widespread, and it’s not going to go away until the team signs someone great to a truly monster deal. No one cares that the Mariners were bidding on Tejeda, or whoever — it’s going to take a signing to change this perception, and until then people aren’t going to buzz about how they’re rumored to be after this top guy or that top guy unless the team’s actually in the running.
I expect that once the free agent season has started and the team is out bidding, we’ll know about it. I don’t think this is a case where the lack of whispering about what they’re up to means they’re not up to anything.
And in the things-that-generate-hate-mail category, I’ve always stuck up for Alex. The money, even the contract, isn’t an issue for me, because I think he was worth it, and Texas’ whining about payroll flexibility rang false to me. He’s always been sort of… personality-less to me, someone who knows what he’s supposed to say, and says it. I’ve also seen Alex flash genuine warmth before kids while doing random promo appearances at schools and stuff when he was here, so I’ve always figured
But man, seeing his hand-slap thing in the ALCS, followed by his subsequent whining to the umpires and everyone else… what a jerk. There’s a certain amount of uh… latitude I’m willing to give players in trying to do what it takes to win, but between the move itself, the argument with the umps that he was just running — which was obviously not true — and then his bleating about the call, I was thinking “dude, don’t be a jerk about this, please…”
No such luck.