Yet more proof that Murray Chass just pulls this crap out of his ass

December 12th, 2006 → 3:01 pm @

Remember last week, when the Times‘s Murray Chass wrote an anonymously sourced article that claimed Dodgers officials were considering filing tampering charges against the Red Sox because of the J.D. Drew signing? (I sure do.) Here was Chass’s proof: an “executive of one club” said the “Dodgers’ owner, Frank McCourt, was certain tampering had occured.”

Now, Chass got a truly shocking number of things wrong in the piece, including whether or not Theo and Dodgers GM Ned Colletti were talking (they were). Now it seems as if the entire premise of the piece was, in fact, made up out of whole cloth.

No joke. Check out this story in today’s Los Angeles Times:

“The Dodgers hadn’t seriously considered asking Major League Baseball to investigate until a column last week in the New York Times suggested tampering had occurred, leading General Manager Ned Colletti to say Friday, ‘We’ve looked into’ filing charges.'” (Emphasis added to stress just how insane this whole thing is.)

To review: Murray Chass writes one in a series of his bizarre, vitriolic rants directed at the Red Sox in which he quotes anonymous “executives” as saying the Dodgers are considering filing tampering charges…while, in reality, the Dodgers weren’t considering any such thing until Chass wrote his column!

We direct Chass to the relevant sections of the Times‘s guideline on ethics:

p. 9, paragraph 23: “[I]t is essential that we preserve a professional detachment, free of any whiff of bias.”

As well as the paper’s policy on anonymous sourcing:

“In any situation when we cite anonymous sources, at least some readers may suspect that the newspaper is being used to convey tainted information or special pleading. … Confidential sources must have direct knowledge of the information they are giving us — or they must be the authorized representatives of an authority, known to us, who has such knowledge.”

Not only did the source not have direct knowledge of the information, the article actually created the exact situation it purported to report — that there was “talk of misconduct” swirling around the Sox.

It’s kind of impressive, if you think about it.

Post Categories: Media ethics & Murray Chass & New York Times

Murray Being Murray

December 10th, 2006 → 10:15 am @

In today’s “Baseball Notes” column, Murray Chass has two items about the Red Sox (as compared to one that involves either the Mets or the Yankees. That one was about how Mike Mussina, who sits on the Little League international board of directors, isn’t in support of a ban on metal bats.)

The more vitriolic of the two Sox items is this total head-scratcher:

“Red Sox Being the Red Sox”
“The Boston Red Sox may have honorable intentions, but the next time they let it be known that they are trying to trade Manny Ramírez, everyone should ignore them. The Red Sox are wasting everyone’s time. The Mets were smart this time for not even asking about Ramírez. The Red Sox have supposedly tried to trade Ramírez, their slugging outfielder, the past three off-seasons and have yet to let him go anywhere. It’s understandable that they just don’t want to give him away, but if they haven’t been able to get equal value for him in three tries, they’re not going to get it.”

That’s an odd formulation, to say the least: because the Sox haven’t been able to get equal value for the best right-handed slugger of his generation, Boston is “wasting everyone’s time.”

What’s more, the Mets apparently are still interested in Manny. As the Globe‘s Nick Cafardo (who did put in a call to Minaya) writes in his “Baseball Notes” column, Minaya remains interested in Manny: “Minaya was a bit miffed early in the week that he hadn’t heard from Red Sox GM Theo Epstein about Manny Ramírez. It wasn’t until Thursday, moments before the GMs scattered, that Minaya struck up a conversation with Epstein. Minaya, who spent the weekend in the Dominican Republic on a scouting trip, has always had interest in Ramírez. Asked if anything was rekindled, Minaya said, ‘No. Theo was just the one GM I hadn’t had a conversation with. Just wanted to say hi.’ … Did the Sox feel Minaya was no longer interested in Ramírez because of the [Moises] Alou signing? Minaya sounded like a man who would have explored it even with Alou aboard. … You wonder whether something iwll get going again.”

It’s the second time in two days the Globe has, directly or indirectly, refuted one of Chass’s stories.

Chass also shows his difficulty with math. Referring to Alfonso Soriano, he writes, “The Chicago Cubs committed $136 million to a player who will have a salary of $18 million at the age of 39.” According to Baseball Reference, Soriano was born on January 7, 1976…which will make him 38 when his contract expires on October 31, 2014.

That’s just Murray being Murray.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Murray Chass & New York Times

The cartel: at war with itself! (Even the Globe is shocked at Chass’s shoddy work)

December 9th, 2006 → 1:17 pm @

Much is made in Boston of the way the connections between the Globe and the Red Sox influence coverage of the team. (The New York Times Co. owns the Globe as well as a minority stake in New England Sports Ventures, the holding company that owns the Red Sox.)

At least we know the Globe and the Times aren’t all lovey-dovey. In today’s Globe, Gordon Edes gives the Times‘s Murray Chass a little lesson on what, exactly, it means to be a responsible journalist. (For some reason, I don’t think Chass is real open to these kind of constructive criticisms when they come from me.)

“Epstein had little to say about a column by Murray Chass in yesterday’s New York Times that raised the issue of whether the Sox were guilty of tampering in their pursuit of free agent outfielder J.D. Drew,” Edes writes. “In a story headlined, ‘Talk of Misconduct Swirling Around the Red Sox,’ Chass, relying primarily on anonymous sources, suggested that the topic was a popular one at the winter meetings, and that it was possible the Dodgers would file a charge of tampering with the commissioner’s office.” And then Gordo goes on to lay out who exactly hasn’t heard anything about the subject that Chass says was “a hot topic of private conversation at the general managers’ meeting” as well as the winter meetings: Bob Dupuy, MLB’s president and CEO, who told Edes he “has not heard of anything” about possible tampering. (Of course, if Chass had bothered to check with Dupuy it might have poked a hole in his anti-Red Sox fervor.) If there was a tampering charge, Dupuy’d be the guy to handle it.

Gordo also quotes — on the record — a number of people who directly refute the entire contention of Chass’s article, including:

* Scott Boras, Drew’s agent: “I did my due diligence. There were a number of teams that need ed a 3, 4, or 5 hitter, and J.D. was the only center fielder. I went to the Dodgers a week before the opt-out date and had lunch with Colletti. I had not yet met with J.D. I said if you want to talk about it, we are prepared to talk because J.D. has enjoyed his time in LA.”

* Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, who, through a spokesman, “refuted Chass’s allegation that there was a rift between Colletti and Epstein, and that he refused to take Epstein’s phone calls in Orlando. ‘They probably talked about 20 times last week,’ said spokesman Josh Rawitch. Indeed, when Colletti arrived at the meetings late last Sunday night from the Dominican Republic, one of his first orders of business was to conduct an hourlong face-to-face meeting with Epstein on a possible deal for Manny Ramírez.”

* Edes also points out that, in the silly world of tampering charge threats, the Red Sox could hypothetically charge Dodgers manager Grady Little of tampering when he told a reporter Manny would “make a nice Christmas present” for the team.

* And finally, “one other component of the Dodgers-Red Sox relationship not mentioned in the Times article: Sox owner John W. Henry and Dodgers owner Frank McCourt have a relationship that Henry in the past has described as close, and while Henry would not comment on the Times piece, it is known that he and McCourt have spoken on several occasions since Drew left the Dodgers and did not raise the issue of tampering with the Sox owner.”

I’m not saying Chass made this story up out of whole cloth. But he sure as hell seemed pretty determined not to do a lick of reporting that might uncover anything that would possibly go against his thesis (Theo is bad, the Red Sox suck), which he seems to have come up with about, oh, three years ago.

There aren’t any corrections about Chass’s story in today’s Times; I wouldn’t hold my breath for any in the next couple of days either. I doubt, too, that Barney Calame, the Times independent, internal policeman, is going to be launching an inquiry anytime soon. But maybe he should. Let him know what you think: his contact info is below…

Barney Calame
Phone: (212) 556-7652
Address: Public Editor
The New York Times
229 West 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036-3959

Post Categories: Boston Globe & Gordon Edes & Murray Chass & New York Times

The impossible becomes real: Murray Chass reaches new lows

December 8th, 2006 → 11:18 am @

More than two years ago, The New York Times established a written code for the use of anonymous sources. Murray Chass seems determined to blow those guidelines right out of the water. Especially when it comes to the Red Sox.

Today’s column, “Talk of Misconduct Is Swirling Around Red Sox,” is a case in point. “People in baseball,” Chass writes, “seem to view the Red Sox as a team that feels it can operate outside the rules.” Proof of this is the fact that “executives at several clubs” said the Sox were “a hot topic of private conversation at the general managers’ meeting” and the winter meetings. “Several” MLB officials agreed with this assessment. “Others,” Chass writes, “described Colletti as angry about the Drew development and said that relations between Colletti and Theo Epstein, Boston’s general manager, had become strained to the point where Colletti wasn’t returning Epstein’s telephone calls.” Now that, I buy. I mean, except for the fact that Colletti and Theo were actively discussing a Manny trade as recently as a couple of days ago.

What’s Murray’s proof for all this? The fact that J.D. Drew opted out of his three-year, $33 million deal with the Dodgers and went on to sign a five-year, $70 million deal with the Sox. An “executive of one club” — not the Dodgers, obviously — said “the Dodgers’ owner, Frank McCourt, was certain tampering had occured.” (McCourt, Chass said, couldn’t be reached for comment because he was “traveling” — apparently in an alternate universe in which cell phones don’t exist.) What’s more, “at various times last season, Drew displayed what appeared to be positive feelings about playing in Los Angeles.”

Now let’s check out those Times guidelines:

“The use of unidentified sources is reserved for situations in which the newspaper could not otherwise print information it considers reliable and newsworthy. When we use such sources, we accept an obligation not only to convince a reader of their reliability but also to convey what we can learn of their motivation — as much as we can supply to let a reader know whether the sources have a clear point of view on the issue under discussion.”

* In the period between November 1 and today, exactly one writer has raised specific speculation concerning the possibility of Red Sox tampering in relation to Drew (according to a Nexis search of “Red Sox” and “tampering” for all U.S. news sources): Murray Chass.

* Frank McCourt lost out on his bid to buy the Red Sox.

* He’s also a bit of, shall we say, a nut.

* As far as reliability goes, we have a) Scott Boras, an agent who’s known to squeeze every last dollar out of every player’s contract…to the point where he convinces players (such as, say, J.D. Drew) to sit out and miss a year of MLB service rather than sign a deal he doesn’t like; and b) a market in which Juan Pierre is worth $9 million a year. Of course, you wouldn’t learn this from Chass’s piece.

“Confidential sources must have direct knowledge of the information they are giving us — or they must be the authorized representatives of an authority, known to us, who has such knowledge.”

We do not grant anonymity to people who are engaged in speculation, unless the very act of speculating is newsworthy and can be clearly labeled for what it is.”

* The fact that some GMs are club executives are griping about other GMs and club executives is about as speculative and newsworthy as the John McCain’s campaign advisor speculating that Rudy Giuliani isn’t as nice as everyone thinks he is.

“Anonymity should not be invoked for a trivial comment, or to make an unremarkable comment appear portentous.”

That one pretty much speaks for itself.

Maybe the Red Sox did sit Scott Boras down and tell him that if Drew opted out of his Dodgers contract they’d guarantee a better deals; maybe Boras simply realized the Sox needed an outfielder, they had some money to spend, and had expressed interest in Drew in the past. I have no idea (although I do have some speculations). But there’s nothing in Chass’s article that offers up a shred of evidence in support of what he’s claiming…and there’s a lot of pertinent information he left out.


In the two years, one month, and several weeks since the Red Sox won the World Series, Chass (again, according to a Nexis search), has written 195 columns that refer to the Red Sox by name; that’s compared to 271 columns that deal with the Yankees and 231 that refer to the Mets. Thirty of Chass’s columns have ID’d Theo Epstein by name; 36 have dealt with Brian Cashman, the general manager of the Yankees. Which means the baseball columnist for the largest paper in New York City has dealt with the Red Sox just 16 percent less than he’s dealt with one New York team and 28 percent less than he’s written about the other. The GM of the Sox has appeared in Chass’s columns a mere 17 less than the GM of the Yankees.

Those kind of figures make it worthwhile quoting the Times‘s ethics policy:

“Conflicts of interest, real or apparent, may arise in many areas. They may involve tensions between journalists’ professional obligations to our audience and their relationships with news sources, advocacy groups, advertisers, or competitors; with one another; or with the company or one of its units. And at a time when two-career families are the norm, the civic and professional activities of spouses, household members and other relatives can create conflicts or the appearance of them.”

Sow what’s going on? Those guidelines — combined with Murray Chass’s frequent disregard for reality and common sense, his clear obsession with the Red Sox, and the many e-mails I get from Times employees complaining about Chass’s reporting have resulted in a new theory: the Times is continuing to print Chass’s columns so that they can be used in a future workshop designed to show reporters what they should not do in their own work. Honestly, it’s the only explanation that makes any sense.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Media ethics & Murray Chass & New York Times

I just can’t quit you

November 19th, 2006 → 9:54 am @

Seriously, the man is just taunting me.

“The Chicago Cubs must live in a fantasy world. They keep fantasizing that Kerry Wood and Mark Prior will stay healthy some season and pitch them to a pennant.

The Cubs re-signed Wood as a free agent last week despite his injury history. He has been on the disabled list 10 times in eight seasons for a total of 397 days, or 27 percent of his major league career. Last season, when he started only four games, the fewest in his career, he was on the disabled list twice for a total of 162 days out of 182.”

— Murray Chass
On Baseball
The New York Times
November 19, 2006

This, in response to a one-year, $1.75 million deal, incentive-laden deal for Wood, whom the Cubs intend to transform into a closer. (In August 2005, when Wood was used as a reliever, he averaged 1.4 K/9 and posted a .75 WHIP.) And this, during an offseason in which pitching is at a premium and career journeyman Jamie Walker landed a 3-year, $11.5 million contract from the Orioles.

OK, that’s it about Murray. (For today, anyway.)

Post Categories: Murray Chass

All you’ll ever need to know about Murray Chass: he thinks Kevin Millar is a good first baseman*

November 17th, 2006 → 3:45 pm @

“There are other free-agent candidates for the job, including Shea Hillenbrand, Phil Nevin and Kevin Millar, who was instrumental in Boston’s success in 2004. None of the three is strictly a first baseman, but they all played the position well last season.

While Giambi made 7 errors in 477 chances for a .985 fielding percentage, Nevin made no errors in 303 chances (1.000), Hillenbrand 3 errors in 609 chances (.995) and Millar 4 errors in 830 chances (.995).”

Slashing Payroll May Be No Bargain
By Murray Chass
The New York Times
November 17, 2006

At this point, you need to at least entertain the notion that Chass is conducting some sort of grand, sadistic experiment in which he writes increasingly preposterous things in an effort to figure out when someone will finally be forced to make him stop.

* Alright, alright: the collective wisdom of the commenters has won out. No more on Murray.** Zoowah: I’m done. And PatsFanDK: No run ins; I’ve never even met the guy.

** But I reserve the right for very tempered comments if he writes something that really can’t be ignored.

Post Categories: Murray Chass & New York Times & Sports Reporters

Today in Matsuzaka land

November 14th, 2006 → 11:10 am @

More reports (these coming from Peter Gammons) that the Sox won the bidding for the right to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka; the latest reports tab that bid at $42 million. At this point, there’s not a lot to say until the official announcement is made at 8 pm tonight…and after that point, there won’t be much to say until the Sox (or whichever team managed to outbid Boston and fly completely under the radar) sign/fail to sign Matsuzaka to a deal.

That’s not all that’s going on in Boston: in today’s Globe, Nick Cafardo reports that Theo has made offers to two other unnamed free agent pitchers; there’s also lots of discussion about what a Matsuzaka signing would mean for the Red Sox’s presence in Japan.

In other Matsuzaka-related news, Murray Chass tries to outdo his recent boneheadedness with today’s column, in which he demonstrates that:

* He sucks at math: Chass says the Red Sox bid is in the “$45 million range” and that that figure (according to an “official”), “would be perhaps 50 percent higher than the other bids. … [which] were either slightly above or slightly below $30 million.” Regardless of what an anonymous official says, 30 is not half of 45.^
^ Dammit all, it turns out that I’m the one who sucks at math: as three posters pointed out in short order, 45 is actually 50 percent higher than 30…even if 45 is not twice as much as 30, which is what I ended up saying. Alas. I’ll leave this up here so as not to whitewash my sins…

* He’s still pissed that George Steinbrenner won’t talk to him, although this anger is now couched as condescending pity: the Boss’s refusal to get on the blower with our man Murray is “sad.” “In the past, Steinbrenner would not have passed up an opportunity to comment caustically on what the Red Sox bid, especially with the evil empire label still in his mind. Those who have heard many of his comments can only shake our heads in sorrow and accept that an era has passed.”

* His irrational hatred of the Red Sox continues unabated: Chass asks — apparently in all seriousness — if the Sox’s bid for Matsuzaka is “evil” and decides it’s “[m]ind boggling perhaps, but not evil. Stunning perhaps, but not evil. Incredulous maybe, but not evil. Obscene, as an executive of another club said, but not evil.”

* Related to this, the inconsistency of his internal logic is as skewed as ever: After spanking Steinbrenner for not dishing out some incendiary quotes, prompted by Chass’s regurgitating of Larry Lucchino’s “evil empire” comments vis a vis the Jose Contreras signing, Chass takes those same comments at face value and tries to throw them back in Boston’s face.

* And finally, Chass’s understanding of baseball is as shakey as ever: the Contreras signing was a pure-payroll play; Lucchino’s evil empire comment was explicitly referring to New York’s seeming endless capacity to add payroll, luxury tax and repercussions be damned. The Matsuzaka posting bid, as many, many people have pointed out, is both a one-time cost and is unrelated to the luxury tax or total payroll.

That’s it for now. More on the post story post-8 pm tonight.

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Murray Chass