April 4th, 2008 → 9:36 am @ Seth Mnookin
Not surprisingly, I’ve gotten lots of emails about the news that Murray Chass might have been nudged out the door at the Times. This would undoubtedly be a good thing for the sportswriting profession, as well as for anyone who regularly reads the Times’ sports section. (Just last week I had lunch with a longtime baseball scribe who said, more or less unprompted, that Chass was the worst sportswriter in the country…maybe ever.)
Chass has long been somewhat of a bete noire for me. I have no independent news about his supposed forced buyout, but if his career is actually done–and unlike Jackie Mac, I can’t imagine anyone bidding for his services–I’ll need to look elsewhere for my morning dose of indignation. And two-bit baseball officials and washed up hardball lifers will need to find someone else to faithfully regurgitate their pablum.
February 10th, 2008 → 10:52 am @ Seth Mnookin
Some loyal readers have pointed out that there’s been an usually long period of silence coming from this corner; in fact, January was the first month FTM was quiet since we started (virtual) publication. There are some good reasons for this: I’ve been obsessing over my rapidly shrinking bank account; wondering why I felt compelled to buy real estate last spring; wondering why I felt compelled to buy tech stocks in the spring of 2000; wondering if I can make a career out of forecasting when bubbles are about to burst…well, you get the idea.
I’ve also been waiting for news–real news, news that’s worth talking about–to come out of Yawkey Way. There have been some minor developments, but call me crazy, I didn’t think Eric Hinske signing with the Jays was of true, earth-shattering importance.
I know what you’re thinking: what happened today? Did Curt’s shoulder actually fall off? Did Coco jump Jacoby in a back alley somewhere? Is Pedro coming back to the Sox as a bullpen coach? No, no, and no — and in fact, the news that brought me out of my winter hibernation was as commonplace as can be.
It was the staggering stupidity of our favorite punching bag: Murray Chass.
Chass has been, for as long as I can remember, a uniquely horrid sportswriter, one of those buffoons that make you wonder how folks like him manage to be gainfully employed. It’s not just that he’s lazy. It’s not just that he uses a column in a national newspaper to browbeat subjects who dare not talk to him. It’s also that he understands next to nothing about baseball.
Take today’s column, which, by the way, is buried, as always, deep within the Times‘s sports section. In a section titled “Giving Up Early,” Chass writes that the Sox “may yet regret that they were not more serious in their effort to win this winterâ€šÃ„Ã´s Santana sweepstakes.” Chass implies that the Sox interest in Santana was because “their primary interest preventing the Yankees from getting Santana,” but that now, with Schilling’s shoulder trouble, the Sox need a starter. (He then floats one of those conspiracy theories that make no sense to anyone save for the little monkey living in Murray’s brain: “Players these days are supposed to have physicals before signing contracts. If the Red Sox found no shoulder problem in November before Schilling signed an $8 million contract, why does he have a shoulder problem now?” Does he think Curt’s faking — you know, because he doesn’t care about playing? Or that the Sox secretly sabotaged their own efforts and blew $8 mil in the process? Anyone who can figure this out gets a free prize.*)
Now, since neither Schill nor Wake is going anywhere, the Sox are guaranteed of having two 40+ starters on their team. They also have Dice-K, Beckett, Lester, and Buccholz. You could reasonably assume that the team’s brass figured that one of their older starters were likely going to be in the shop for repairs at any given point…but that their stable of young arms protected them.
The Sox might also have decided that, at the end of the day, paying Santana $140 mil through age 35 might not make sense – the team does, after all, know a little something about the durability of hard throwing aces that weight in at under two bills once they hit, say, age 32.
But it’s ridiculous to say that Ye Olde Towne team was never interested. Any package that includes either Jon or Jacoby is clearly a serious one. (For the record: I was never in favor of a Santana deal.
So there you have it. Happy new year, folks. I’ll be seeing you again real soon.
* Note: There is no prize.
July 24th, 2007 → 9:57 am @ Seth Mnookin
In an effort to keep my blood pressure down, I’ve held off on my usual Talmudic readings of everyone’s favorite sports columnist, Murray Chass. Thankfully, faithful reader Aaron Yeater wrote in to point out that in his column in Sunday’s Times, Chass, while discussing a possible Dontrelle Willis trade, manages to contradict himself four times in four sentences. To wit:
“[T]he Marlins may be ready to trade Willis. Or maybe the Marlins will hold on to Willis, a 25-year-old left-hander, to build his trade value back to where it had been. Whatever their reason, the Marlins are quietly trying to move him. Jeffrey Loria scoffed at the whispers.”
So…Florida might be trying to trade Willis, or maybe they aren’t, except they definitely are, although their owner said they’re not. As Yeater said, “I am no closer to understanding whether or under what circumstances the Marlins would trade Willis.”
This level of opacity should surprise no one. It also shouldn’t surprise me that the Times doesn’t even attempt to clean up his copy; I’ve theorized before that the paper’s editors are actually part of this very sadistic joke. It’s just kind of sad, is all.
June 24th, 2007 → 11:44 pm @ Seth Mnookin
I know, I know — I’ve been forsaking my duties. And I’m still behind on my work, so I’ll be forsaking some more. But I’ll duck back in for a couple of quick posts, the first of which…is about Murray Chass! Many of you will remember that it was less than two weeks ago when Chass wrote, “At the rate at which the Yankees are slashing into Boston’s lead in the American League East, they will pass the Red Sox in the standings by July 4.” At the time, the Sox led New York by a mere 7.5 games. After today’s Sox win/Yankees loss, the Yankees are back below .500, stuck in third place, and 11.5 games out of first. Oh, and the Sox have the best record in all of baseball. For the Yankees to overtake Boston by Independence Day would truly be miraculous: each team only has 8 games between now and then.
Murray so consistently displays an almost total lack of awareness about the game of baseball — how it’s played, what it means, how to write about it — that it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he remains one of the very few New York Times columnists the paper doesn’t make you pay for reading online. (I will admit that even I was somewhat surprised that the paper didn’t even put him on the front page of its sports homepage.) (Oh, and want a rich combo of delicious irony and total boneheadedness, check out today’s column, in which Chass bitchslaps ESPN for not bringing up steroids during a discussion of whether or not Sammy Sosa would make it to the Hall of Fame. Murray, the man has more than 600 home runs. The only reason they were even having that conversation was because of steroids!)
May 13th, 2007 → 10:29 am @ Seth Mnookin
There are days when I think Murray Chass is a bad writer, or a lazy reporter, or a grudge-carrying boob. Those are the good days. Then there are days like today, when I wonder if he knows anything about baseball at all.
Pretty much everyone who is involved with, reporters on, is a fan of, or reads about baseball is aware of the laughably porous PED-testing program MLB has in place. It’s been written about again and again and again.
But in today’s Times, Chass has a typical column, which is to say, one devoid of any new information. He also comes out with this gem, which is impressive even for him:
“Because baseball tests for steroids and other performance-enhancing substances, it is unlikely that Bonds is risking his career by using them. But baseball, as all other sports, doesnâ€šÃ„Ã´t test for human growth hormone, so some Bonds critics believe thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s what heâ€šÃ„Ã´s using.”
This may very well be the first time I’ve seen anyone write that the MLB testing program is so good as to all but ensure players aren’t using. In fact, Jack Curry, one of Chass’s colleagues at the Times, wrote a long, prominent story less than two months ago that highlighted just how porous baseball’s program is.
Some of the highlights of Curry’s article:
* Baseball doesn’t test for the blood booster EPO or 1GF-1, a hormone that mimics the effects of HGH.
* If a player faces a random test on game day, he has up until an hour after that night’s contest to actually give a sample. That prompted this quote: “If a guy canâ€šÃ„Ã´t do it, he comes back in an hour?” said Dr. Gary I. Wadler, an associate professor of medicine at NYU and a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency. “Comes back in an hour? Give me a break. They should say that he will be chaperoned from the moment of notification. It shouldnâ€šÃ„Ã´t even be 30 seconds later.” The players, Wadler pointed out, are not chaperoned during this time.
* A GM told Curry that, on days in which a collector comes to spring training, a player could alert teammates who hadn’t shown up yet that testing was taking place.
* Some players are notified the night before a test is going to take place.
Chass is also wrong when he says that “all other sports” are similar to baseball in that they don’t test for HGH…unless Chass doesn’t consider what takes place at the Olympics as “sport.” Finally, HGH is no small exclusion: two seasons ago, when I was with the Red Sox, HGH was widely acknowledged throughout baseball to have replaced steroids as the juicer of choice.
April 19th, 2007 → 9:11 am @ Seth Mnookin
It’s true: Rob Bradford, who’d been toiling in the purgatory of the Eagle-Tribune, has been hired by the Herald. I’ve long been a fan of Rob’s — he’s one of the best guys on the beat, and goes out and reports out new stories with new angles, an especially difficult task in Boston. (This isn’t a slam on anyone else covering the Sox: I’m a big proponent of newspapers dedicating staffers to reporting on sports as opposed to asking the same guy/gal who’s writing up game summaries and doing a Notes column to also come up with enterprise stories. It’s no accident that the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Balco reporting came from the work of two investigative reporters and not the paper’s Giants beat writers.)
This is the second Herald poach of an Eagle-Tribune staffer in the past year: John Tomase, who preceded Bradford as the E-T‘s Sox writer, was hired by the Herald last year to cover the Pats (and pinch hit when needed on baseball). That’s two good guys coming out of the E-T and two great hires by the Herald. For all the talk over the last several years about the Herald‘s tenuous business situation (and it’s purported $2 million a year in operating losses), they’ve an impressive investment in what’s long been the most profitable beat in Boston. (For the papers, that is…not the reporters.)
In other Red Sox-media news, it’s nice to see that Schilling not only agrees with me about Bradford, he also shares my opinion of my favorite punching bag, the ineffable Murray Chass. From a Q&A Schilling posted on his blog yesterday:
“Boston, like any other city, is what the player makes it, period. Every city has itâ€šÃ„Ã´s CHB* to some degree. That miserable curmudgeon who will be the â€šÃ„Ã²anti-opinionâ€šÃ„Ã´ guy because thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s the only niche he can fill. You come to realize that most times that person, or those people, are just bitter unhappy people and it has nothing to do with you in the end. If you allow people like that to skew your perspective on guys like McCadam (sic), Bradford, Browne, Buckley, Maz, then you can miss the boat. … [When] you read weekly sludge from the Murray Chasâ€šÃ„Ã´ (sic) of the world it gets easy to let it roll off your back. There are going to be bad people with rotten agendas in any workplace, you just laugh and move on.”
I’ve taken a couple of weeks off from reading Chass; I was, frankly, worried about my blood pressure. I’m sure that’ll end soon…
* CHB=Curly Haired Bastard/Curly Haired Boyfriend=a Carl Everett-coined nickname given to Shaughnessy, although Simmons gets credit for the acronym.
March 28th, 2007 → 11:32 am @ Seth Mnookin
He’s taunting me. That’s the only explanation I can possibly come up with.
The “he,” of course, is our old friend Murray Chass. He’s finally moved on from his Ahab-esque obsession with the J.D. Drew signing. (At least Moby Dick was an actual whale; Chass appears to have come up with the object of his obsession in his own muddled mind.) But he has not, to absolutely no one’s surprise, been able to move on from the Red Sox.
To wit:* today’s gem, titled “Boston Got What It Wanted, Or So It Seems.” Give Chass credit for one thing: he is consistent…in his ability to use odd, unnamed sources to prove a point, even when it’s contradicted by both the evidence and any number of people who are willing to be quoted on the record. Today, he writes that the Sox’s main motivation in bidding for the rights to negotiate with Dice-K was that they wanted to keep him from the Yankees. How does he know this? Well, supposedly one of the Henry-Werner-Lucchino trio told “a person who works as a consultant in Major League Baseball that had they been unable to sign Matsuzaka to a contract, they would still have considered the enterprise a success because he wouldnâ€šÃ„Ã´t be on the Yankees.”
This remarkably thinly sourced item — and to call it sourced at all is generous — is apparently worth a column. Despite the fact that John Henry told Chass this was “malarkey” and “utter nonsense.” So to review: someone who is a “consultant” to MLB told Chass the Sox wanted to keep Dice-K out of New York. Not a consultant to the Red Sox, mind you. Not an MLB official. A “consultant.”
That’s not even the best part of the column. Check this out: “The Red Sox, according to the account that Henry is denying, figured that they would get the negotiating rights to Matsuzaka but would probably be unable to negotiate a deal for him with his agent, Scott Boras, who can be particularly tough to deal with in high-profile bargaining.”
This would seem to be a problematic formulation, and does nothing so much as to refute the entire premise of Chass’s column, because, of course, the Sox did sign Dice-K. How to explain that? According to good ol’ Murray, “[a]s the negotiating progressed, the Red Sox grew intrigued, and they offered more than the $5 million to $6 million a year they had originally planned as their ceiling.”
Wow. This is a player the Red Sox spent years scouting. For most of last season, there were two team employees who followed Dice-K more or less full-time. Never mind all that; Murray’s convinced, on the basis of absolutely nothing, that it was only as the negotiating progressed that the Sox grew “intrigued.”
A couple of weeks ago, Murray got some attention (and not just from me) when he bragged about his insistent ignorance regarding baseball. Now, once again, he’s come up with a column that is contradicted by all the facts and has no real sourcing. And so once again, I’m left wondering: why does the Times print this dreck? And will they ever get sufficiently embarrassed to pull the plug? Past history doesn’t give us much reason to be optimistic. But I’m holding out hope…
(As reader scotthp49 points out, I left out the best part of the article, where Chass points out that Wakefield “had a losing record last season that might have made the difference between the Red Sox making and not making the playoffs.” The Sox finished 11 games behind the Yankees and nine games behind Detroit for the wild card; Wake, who started 23 games, ended the year with a 7-11 record. (It’s worth noting that his peripherals weren’t that out line with the past couple of years…but we know Murray doesn’t much care for “numbers.”) Which means, assuming Wake got the same number of decisions in his starts, he would have had to put up a 15-3 record. (It’s 15 wins and not 16 because one of those losses was to Detroit, meaning if Wake won that game, the Sox would only need to make up 8 games total.) Clearly, the fact that Boston didn’t make the playoffs in 2006 was Wakefield’s fault.)