Hi. My name’s Murray. I’m addicted to writing about the Red Sox.

September 8th, 2006 → 9:33 am @

There are many joys of living in New York. The Village Vanguard is half a block away from my apartment. The Shake Shack is within walking distance. The subways run all night. The mayor doesn’t mumble.

There’s also the Times. Most of the time, I count myself as lucky that the Times is the newspaper delivered to my door (er, lobby) every morning.

When I see Murray Chass’s byline, it is not one of those days.

Today, Chass has column about the Marlins. Sort of: the headline is “Raves for the Daffy Marlins, Gibes for the Red Sox.” It’s not surprising that Chass — the man who recently acknowledged that, for him, a labor negotiation without a work stoppage was akin to a baseball season with the World Series (never mind that a work stoppage would actually result in a baseball season without a World Series) — can’t manage a column about the Marlins’ run towards the playoffs without starting off with some digs at the Jeff Loria/Joe Girardi situation. It’s also not surprising that Chass appears incapable of writing anything without it turning into a rant about how much the Sox suck ass; Chass, after all, is the guy who wrote that for the Sox to truly overcome the Yankees, they had to win the AL East…ALCS humilation be damned.

But even Chass seems to be treading dangerously towards white whale territory. Times folks (and I know a fair number of them) are almost universally embarrassed by Chass’s jeremiads. It’s time to stop being embarrassed; this is a man who needs an intervention. Addiction is never pretty, and it’s time for the Times to stop acting as an enabler. Step in and support the poor guy. He’s crying out for help.

Post Categories: Murray Chass & New York Times

Murray Chass admits he hates apple pie, full seasons of baseball

September 5th, 2006 → 8:35 am @

“The 2002 deal was surprising because it left a void for those of us who had become accustomed to writing about work stoppages. It’s as if the entire season were played, and suddenly there was no World Series.”

— “Baseball Without Strikes? Talks Could Make it Happen.
Murray Chass
The New York Times
September 5, 2006

Chass was writing about an August 30, 2002 deal between the players union and baseball owners that averted a September strike.

Post Categories: Murray Chass

Today’s game set for 1:05 pm; ML tryouts set for 4

September 2nd, 2006 → 8:27 am @

So what’s the latest? Ah, yes: Curt Schilling will miss his next start with a strained lat. Papelbon left the game with pain in his shoulder. And Papi won’t be coming back until next week at the earliest. Look at it this way: the Sox could field a pretty decent team with guys who are injured plus some AAA-scrubs. For those keeping score out home, the folks currently out of commission are:

Matt Clement
Jon Lester
Jonathan Papelbon
Curt Schilling
Tim Wakefield

Jason Varitek

Alex Gonzalez

Manny Ramirez
Trot Nixon
Wily Mo Pena

Designated hitter
David Ortiz

Check out tomorrow’s Times for the obligatory Murray Chass column about how those whiney Red Sox need to suck it up and start winning some ballgames.)

Post Categories: Injuries & Murray Chass

Murr–ey. Murr–ey. (Moby Dick edition)

August 29th, 2006 → 9:05 am @

The last time Murray Chass lost all touch with reality, there were those who contacted one of the Times‘s sports editors, essentially asking “What the hell is up with this freak?” (I wasn’t one of those people.) The editors responded — wearily, it must be said — with half-hearted defenses, and it wasn’t hard to sense a feeling of frustrated resignation. A job at the Times is basically the same as getting tenure. Which means we — and they — are stuck with the guy. (His articles almost never appear on the first page of Sports — according to a Nexis search, only five of the 73 pieces he’s written since the beginning of the baseball season have been on the section front.) So let’s make it fun!

Like in today’s column, ostensibly about the Tigers’ tired pitching staff. Somehow, Chass brings this back to the Red Sox, his own personal white whale: “The possibility of a Tigers collapse was first raised here two weeks ago, when they had a five-and-a-half-game lead. If the Tigers wanted to take a positive approach, they could say they had lost only half a game from their lead in two weeks. At that rate, with five weeks left, they would make it. There is nothing positive in the Red Sox’ recent play to buoy their postseason hopes.” Chass also writes, “Imagine the Red Sox’ stress when they discover there’s no room for them in the playoffs.” Or imagine Chass’s stress: what will he write about in October?

Post Categories: Murray Chass

Murray Chass: Reality is not my friend

August 8th, 2006 → 11:00 am @

On those days in which Murray Chass isn’t whining about the fact that George Steinbrenner won’t talk to him, he’s apparently trying to see if anyone at The New York Times is paying attention to anything he writes.

Take today’s piece on the Red Sox. As far as I can tell, the point is that the Red Sox should have a “commanding” lead in the AL East. Why? Because the Yankees have been “bruised and bloodied,” while the Red Sox, “until catcher Jason Varitek had knee surgery last week, had not dealt with the extended absence of an everyday player.” Which is true…so long as you don’t count center and right fielders as everyday players: Coco Crisp landed on the DL on April 11, and Trot Nixon has been out of commission with a strained right bicep since late last month. (Wily Mo Pena, the team’s fourth outfielder, was also on the DL for about three weeks earlier this year.) Still, at least the Sox have had a healthy pitching staff…except for Keith Foulke, Mike Timlin, Lenny DiNardo, Tim Wakefield, David Wells, and Matt Clement, all of whom are on or have been on the DL. (Clement and DiNardo are both on the 60-day list, while Wells has been on the 15-day list three separate times already.) In fact, the Red Sox have put a player on the DL 15 times thus far this year, compared to 11 for the Yankees.

This kind of fact-challenged pique is Chass’s specialty. Almost exactly a year ago, he directed his whining toward Carlos Delgado, who had the nerve to sign with a team other than the Mets after the 2004 season; that piece was headlined “Delgado Gets an E-3 for Picking the Marlins.” “The man made a mistake,” Chass wrote. “It’s that simple. Carlos Delgado said in January that he signed with Florida rather than the Mets because he thought the Marlins had a better chance of going to the World Series. He thought wrong.” On September 15, about a month after Chass’s column ran, the Marlins were .5 games behind the wild-card leaders and 6.5 games ahead of the Mets. (A Marlins collapse in the season’s final two weeks meant the teams ended up with identical 83-79 records, 7 games back of the division-winning Braves and 5.5 games behind the wild-card winning Astros. Using WARP, Delgado was worth about three more wins than the collection of folks the Mets had manning first…which still wouldn’t have been enough to propel the Mets into the playoffs.)

Any columnist can state the obvious, so Chass shouldn’t be knocked for telling us that teams would be better with a a two-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger winner closing in on 400 home runs than without him: “[Delgado’s] bat would have looked good in the middle of the Mets’ batting order. And with his bat absent from the Florida lineup, the Marlins might have had an offensive shortage.” And it’s a columnist’s perogative to ignore his pre-season predictions while chastising players for theirs. (Last year, Chass had the Twins winning the AL Central and the World Series-winning White Sox coming in third; he picked the wild-card winning, NL champion Astros to come in fourth in the NL Central. This year, he ranked the Detroit Tigers behind the Twins, White Sox, and Indians in the AL Central.)

Chass can, however, be knocked for ignoring reality. Columnists at the Times are given lots of latitude (most the time, anyway). At what point do columns that are contradicted by facts become an issue? Keep reading the paper’s sports section to find out…

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

Murray Chass puts world on notice: Talk to me or be mocked in my columns

July 28th, 2006 → 12:23 pm @

If we’re really lucky, we’ll get several more first-person pieces before the season’s over in which Chass complains about his lack of access.

From the Talk of the Town to Hardly Talking
The New York Times
April 12, 2006
By Murray Chass

This is about the day that George Steinbrenner almost talked to me.

George always used to talk to me. … [W]e talked more often than not, then he disappeared…

I called [Steinbrenner spokesman Howard] Rubenstein yesterday morning and told him I would like to talk to George at Yankee Stadium before or during the Yankees’ home opener with Kansas City…

I said there would be reporters there who hadn’t even been born at the time Steinbrenner saw his first home opener as the Yankees’ principal owner. Indeed, four of the Yankees’ nine beat reporters had not made their appearance in the world.

”I’ll ask him when I get to the Stadium,” Rubenstein replied.

Early in the game Rubenstein called and said: ”George will talk to you on the telephone. Is that O.K.?”

Not really. With Steinbrenner in his loge-level office and me in the loge-level press box, we were no farther apart than home plate from first base. But with my editors waiting for a ”George talks” column, I couldn’t very well turn down a telephone interview, so I said yes…

”He decided he’s not going to do it today,” Rubenstein said. ”He’s entertaining up here. Maybe he’ll do it tomorrow.”

I will not sit by the telephone waiting for the call.

Wilpon Joins Steinbrenner’s Vow of Silence
The New York Times
July 28, 2006 Friday
By Murray Chass

Now New York has two owners of baseball teams who are incommunicado. We know what George Steinbrenner’s reason is. He’s aging and ailing, and his ego is too large to let his public see him as less than the man he was for his first 30 years or so as owner of the Yankees.

On the day the Yankees opened at home this season, I was in the press box at Yankee Stadium and told Howard Rubenstein, the owner’s spokesman, that I would like to speak with Steinbrenner, who was in his office not 100 feet away.

”George will talk to you on the telephone. Is that O.K.?” Rubenstein responded after relaying the request.

Three and a half months later, I am still waiting for the phone call.

Post Categories: Murray Chass & New York Times

Players union fights for right to drive bus off cliff

June 22nd, 2006 → 4:54 pm @

In an article in today’s Globe, Paxton Crawford explains why he doesn’t want to discuss his first-person account, printed in ESPN The Magazine, detailing steroid, HGH, and speed use while playing with the Red Sox in 2000 and 2001. (The article is available online, but only if you’re a subscriber to ESPN Insider.) “I thought it was a one-time story deal, bro,” Crawford tells the Globe‘s Gordon Edes. “If any other reporter called, I was not interested.”

Paxton’s use of the word “deal” is intriguing. Was he saying that he got paid for the ESPN piece?* Perhaps, and as far as journalistic ethics goes, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that: the subject of first-person “as told to’s” are not infrequently paid for their efforts. Or maybe, after a taste of the limelight, he wanted the world’s attention focused back on him, even if it was only for a moment and even if it was because he was telling the world he was a cheat.

There’s powerful incentive for both current and past major leaguers to stay silent about what they’ve seen or know; breaking omerta results in a lifetime banishment from the only fraternity many of them have ever known. (Off the top of my head, Ken Caminiti, Jose Canseco, and Jeremy Giambi are the only players or former players who’ve publicly admitted knowingly using steroids without being caught.) But Crawford’s story raises the specter of any number of fringe former major leaguers deciding they have nothing to lose (and perhaps some spending cash to gain) by coming clean.

There’s a fear within baseball that these trickling revelations will start a witchhunt, and indeed, there’s a guilty-until-proven-innocent attitude that’s begun to attach itself to anyone who’s had a breakout year or one or two seasons that seem statistically aberrant. But the only reason anyone’s interested in Paxton Crawford’s story is that pretty much everyone–fans, the media, the feds, Congress–knows the current testing program, while better than nothing, is embarrassingly porous. If there’s only the slimmest of chances juicers will be caught, the thinking goes, perhaps the fear of a future unmasking at the hands of some dude who spent a day in the bigs will keep folks from shooting up the latest designer steroid. One obvious way to deal with this would be for MLB and the players union to actually implement a real testing program–one that can’t be beaten by anyone who knows how to read.

Right now, that doesn’t seem likely, mainly because the power-drunk players union refuses to allow blood testing (or actual random testing, or storing of samples) because any of those steps would be an “invasion of privacy.” That’s a load of crap. Playing professional baseball is not a right afforded to citizens under the Constitution; it’s a privilege. Workplaces implement all sorts of policies–regarding drug testing or dress codes or proper language or decorum–that aren’t (and can’t be) mandated by the government. Unless the players union takes off its blinders and starts to see the big picture, a lot of its members are going to find themselves in a world of hurt.

* EDIT: Amy K. Nelson, a veteran reporter for ESPN and the writer who worked with Paxton on the story in ESPN The Magazine, wrote to say Paxton was not paid for sharing his story. I did not contact Nelson prior to posting this item. Even though I didn’t see anything wrong with the possibility of someone being paid to collaborate on an “as told to” story, I should have made an effort to contact Nelson and ESPN.

Post Categories: Amy K. Nelson & Baseball & Daisuke Matsuzaka & ESPN The Magazine & Murray Chass & Paxton Crawford & Players Union & Red Sox & Sports Reporters & Steroids