- "Sources" work both ways:
The old adage of a reporter protecting his sources is understandable and necessary; but it works both ways. The cloak of secrecy that surrounds said "unnamed" sources can spur the desperate and unimaginative to (at best) exaggerate; or (at worst) out-and-out conjure up a phantom quote to create a story. I have no idea which is the case with Buster Olney's latest bit of absurdity suggesting that the Phillies had internal discussions of a Ryan Howard for Albert Pujols trade, but the very idea isn't just stretching the boundaries of reality, but destroying it.
It's not as if Olney has any credibility left to begin with and it's hard to know whether this stuff is due to pressure from above at ESPN to initiate buzz and garner attention rather than report news from an entity that still casts itself as the "worldwide leader in sports". Aside from Jerry Crasnick and Jayson Stark, the writers and bloggers at ESPN are lazy, incompetent, faux experts who don't bother to put any effort into their work----or simply make stuff up.
Long ago, I accepted the fact that the mainstream writers who are aware of my shadowy existence: A) hate me; B) want nothing to do with me because I'm such a loose cannon; and C) feel free to rob me or try to refute arguments I've made without crediting me.
It's fine because I'm glad to be able to write, say and do what I want without some corporation breathing down my neck steering me in a direction convenient for their own nefarious ends.
I've got a few nefarious ends of my own.
I'm not a monster.
I'm just ahead of the curve.
That said, let's look at a proposed trade of Albert Pujols for Ryan Howard. Here's the Olney posting----link.
The relevant quotes (to be examined with----let's be gentle----a skeptical gaze:
...according to sources, an idea has been kicked around the Phillies' organization internally, with discussions about proposing a swap of slugger Ryan Howard for St. Louis superstar Albert Pujols.
The logic for a Howard for Pujols swap, as discussed within the Phillies' organization, could fall along these lines: Pujols, 30 years old, is eligible for free agency after the 2011 season, and early conversations about a contract extension have not led to any long-term deal. The expectation within baseball is that Pujols may ask for a deal that would rival, in annual value, the record-setting 10-year, $275 million deal that Alex Rodriguez negotiated with the Yankees in fall 2007.
If the Cardinals were to decide, at any point, that they could not afford to sign Pujols, they could consider dealing him, in the way the Toronto Blue Jays traded Roy Halladay, or the Minnesota Twins traded Johan Santana.
And Howard, who is just a couple of months older than Pujols, would not be a bad alternative. In the past four seasons, Howard has hit 198 homers and accumulated 572 RBIs, and has finished in the top five of the NL MVP race.
Here's the public relations kicker: Howard was born in St. Louis, and is regarded as a hometown kid in that city.
We'll ignore the patched together "story"; the nonsensical, non-existent logic therein; the atrocious writing; that it could've been said as a passing joke among low-level staffers and that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said the following at the mere suggestion:
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro flatly denied that the internal discussions have taken place. "Lies," he said. "That's a lie. I don't know who you're talking to, but that's a lie."
Let's instead examine the idea as if it's real.
In comparing the two as players, the 30-year-old Albert Pujols (if his age is accurate) is in fact two months younger than Ryan Howard. The misconception in ages is a direct result of the Phillies having kept Howard in the minors until he was 25.
Pujols is the best hitter in baseball. Period. He murders both lefties and righties; he gets on base 45% of the time; he hits tons of homers; loads of extra base hits; bats .330; can steal bases; rarely strikes out; and is a great fielder.
Howard, as powerful and productive as he is has gigantic holes in his game. He was horrific against lefties last season to the point where it wouldn't have been out of line for the Phillies to platoon him. He batted .207; had 6 homers; a .298 on base percentage; and 83 strikeouts in 252 plate appearances. In any language and by any measurement that...is...unacceptable.
Howard will hit 45 homers and drive in 130 runs; while he's a better fielder than he's given credit for, he's nowhere near Pujols; and he strikes out 200 times a year.
Then we get to money.
Like Joe Mauer, Pujols is not a money whore. All you need do when determining whether a player is going to hold his team hostage by impending free agency is check his representation. If the name Scott Boras appears next to the player's name, you can pretty much guess where it's going. If the name Ron Shapiro (Mauer) or Dan Lozano (Pujols) is their agent, then squeezing every single penny from the club is not the motivating factor in making a deal or where he plays.
Is Pujols going to want to be paid commensurately with his performance when he receives his next contract? Yes. Is he going to look for an exorbitant ransom from the Cardinals or shoehorn his way to the only cities that can pay him like Los Angeles, New York, Boston or Baltimore? No.
Pujols will be faced with the Cardinals salary structure and that they cannot turn the dual trick of paying Pujols and surrounding him with the players the club needs to be a legitimate contender. Pujols loves St. Louis; he's happy there and as long as Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan are patrolling the dugout, he has a chance to win. Would he need the aggravation of Philadelphia? A city that will boo him if he grounds out in his first at bat in a Phillies uniform?
Let's say Pujols decides he wants an Alex Rodriguez contract, would he really want to deal with New York? With Boston? He'd handle it, but he doesn't have to. He can do no wrong in St. Louis; he's won his championship; they're an annual contender; and he's going to get an amount of money that he's going to be wealthy beyond any normal comprehension.
So why be a hard-liner? Why?
The idea that Howard going back to his hometown of St. Louis would ease the sting of losing Pujols is a stupid reason to make a deal on the surface before even getting to the quality of the players. Pujols is head-and-shoulders better than Howard.
It's not just dumb; the stuff that would emanate from a voice that literally knows nothing about baseball, it's downright ridiculous. When the GM of the club in question says something to the tune of "that's a lie" you have to question the motive and scrupulousness of the author and the forum upon which it was published. Is Olney out of his mind to write this? ESPN to publish it? Are they sure they want to go down this road?
As if ESPN didn't have enough issues in the credibility and morality of reporting to begin with, they get worse and worse. I'd say they've found the bottom of the barrel, but considering how things have degenerated to lower levels on a weekly basis, I can't say they won't get worse.
If they had any shame, I'd say they should be embarrassed; but like the Pujols for Howard trade, that's a fantasy. They can tie the noose around their own necks. I'll be glad to pull the lever. It's my pleasure in fact.
- Have the Braves learned nothing from Jeff Francoeur?
To have a player dubbed as "The Natural" and promoted as the next superstar by the media and the club itself, then to blame him when he slumps; demote him; and send him to the minor leagues and finally dispatch him should've been enough of a wake-up call to ditch the hyperbole and let a player's stature grow organically as he develops; but the Braves are in the process of making the same mistake with Jason Heyward.
This is not to equate Francoeur's abilities to Heyward's, but the comparisons are, in fact, worse. How can a 20-year-old player walk into big league camp and be told by the Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox that he's similar to Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron and not feel the pressure of those comments?
Heyward knows that the club is short in the power department and will need him to come in and be a mid-lineup terror. At 20-years-old, it's wrong. It's a possible hindrance to his development; and if he slumps or fails and needs to be sent back to the minors, is he going to be able to recover? The smart thing to do would have been to low-key it; say that Heyward will get a chance to show what he's got in the spring, but is likely to begin the season in the minors for more experience, keeping it close-to-the-vest that the intention is to give him every chance to make the big leagues and be the everyday right fielder.
Instead, the Braves are turning this kid into a larger-than-life savior just as they did with Francoeur and it's wrong.They made the identical mistake with Francoeur and it fell apart. Evidently they haven't learned their lesson and it could be to the detriment of another potential star player. It'll be the organization's fault if he falters.