Murray Chass defends his right to be ignorant, uninformed

February 27th, 2007 → 10:04 am @

In today’s cranky old man column, Murray Chass pulls a move that surprises even me. (Close readers of this blog will know it’s hard for Murray to shock me; they’ll also know I’ve only put up one Chass-related post this month, which is truly a sign of how hard I’m trying to keep from getting crazy about that ol’ coot.)

Anyway, here’s Chass on VORP:

“To me, VORP epitomized the new-age nonsense. For the longest time, I had no idea what VORP meant and didn’t care enough to go to any great lengths to find out. I asked some colleagues whose work I respect, and they didn’t know what it meant either. Finally, not long ago, I came across VORP spelled out. It stands for value over replacement player. How thrilling. How absurd. Value over replacement player. Don’t ask what it means. I don’t know.

I suppose that if stats mongers want to sit at their computers and play with these things all day long, that’s their prerogative. But their attempt to introduce these new-age statistics into the game threatens to undermine most fans’ enjoyment of baseball and the human factor therein.

People play baseball. Numbers don’t.”

It’s been a good long time since I’ve heard a reporter actually brag about his total and utter lack of curiosity regarding his work. One of the biggest changes in baseball over the last decade has been the emphasis on using everything possible to understand the game. This doesn’t undermine enjoyment of the game any more than learning the historical references contained in Shakespeare plays leeches the enjoyment out of a night at the theatre. Information is knowledge, as that hoary old cliche goes. Lord knows Murray ain’t much one for knowledge — he practically shouts his ignorance from the rooftops every time he puts pen to paper — but it’s embarrassing for him to beat his chest about it. If a fan doesn’t want to get bogged down in the minutia of VORP or OPS or equivalent averages, that’s all well and good; I loved watching baseball in the days when I couldn’t identify a breaking ball from high and tight heat. But if it was my job to watch baseball games and then inform the public about these very same games, I’d sure as shit make sure I knew everything I could about the sport, regardless of what language I used to write about what was taking place on the field. And anyone who thinks that being better informed makes for a less enjoyable day at the ballpark clearly hasn’t ever watched a game with Bill James.

Post Categories: Murray Chass & New York Times

OK, fine, so I’m not adding anything here…but read the damn articles anyway

February 6th, 2007 → 8:54 pm @

There are a lot of great sports reporters out there. With that caveat out of the way, the reason Eagle-Tribune Sox beat writer Rob Bradford‘s stuff stands out so much is that he’s always coming up with new angles and new ways to approach stories and then reporting the crap out of them. He had a pair of doozies in the paper over the weekend, both about J.D. Drew. If anyone missed his piece on Drew’s, um, unusual regimen for staying healthy, do yourself a favor and check it out. And in this story, Bradford explains — or helps explain, anyway — why Drew’s contract got held up. (If only Murray “call me Woodward and Bernstein” Chass had half the initiative and a third of the reporting chops of Bradford, Times readers might have known this a while back…and been spared a whole slew of insane jeremiads. Oh well.)

Post Categories: J.D. Drew & Murray Chass & New York Times & Rob Bradford

The chance to read this dreck in your daily paper? Um…priceless?

January 31st, 2007 → 10:25 am @

Murray Chass articles about the not-yetness of J.D. Drew’s contract with the Red Sox in the three weeks before January 25: five.

Articles in the week since the final details of the contract were announced: one.

Nonsensical, logically inconsistent suppositions (based, naturally, on anonymous sources) contained in said article by the only baseball beat writer on record who has compared himself to Woodward and Bernstein: one. (“Word out of the Drew camp was it agreed to the out clause to allow the Red Sox’ doctor to save face after a second opinion supposedly found nothing suspicious about Drew’s shoulder. But the final structure of the contract seems to enable Boras to save face because he recommended that Drew walk away from the Dodgers’ deal. Had the Red Sox contract extended the out clause to the final three years, Drew could have wound up with only $28 million.”)

Corrections attached to any of Chass’s Drew-Red Sox articles, despite the on-the-record insistence by the story’s main characters that Chass’s unnamed sources are completely incorrect: Zero.

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

There’s blood in the streets…and Ben Stein is manning the barricades

January 29th, 2007 → 10:51 am @

I’ve already come clean about my man love for Ben Stein, especially as it relates to his column in the New York Times‘s Sunday business section. The current state of American capitalism has been depressed ol’ Ben as of late despite the fact that, as he often reminds us, he’s been incredibly lucky in life, love, and business.

His latest masterpiece (punnily titled “A Hard Rain That’s Falling on Capitalism,” and yes, there are Dylan references throughout) has Stein saying he “feels queasy” as the behavior of the country’s CEO’s. “These misdeeds and many, many more are hammer blows at the granite foundation of trust we built in the 1940s and ’50s. How long democratic capitalism can survive these blows before it gives in and gives birth to revolution or to an out-and-out aristocracy, I am not sure,” he writes. “Empires come and go. Economic systems come and go. There is no heavenly guarantee that capitalism will last forever as we know it. It’s built on man’s notion that he can trust his neighbor with his money, and that if the neighbor misbehaves, the law will chase him and catch him, and that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom, that even the nobles get properly handled (Bob Dylan again) once they have been caught. If that trust disappears — if the system is no longer a system for the ordinary citizen but only for the tough guys — how much longer can the miracle last?”

Yeow. Stein thinks that trust is disappearing. And it scares him. “Each day’s newspaper, it seems, brings more tidings of unrestrained selfishness and self-dealing and rafts of powerful people saying it’s good for us to be robbed if only we truly understood the system,” he says towards the end of the piece. “The problem is, we’re getting to understand it all too well. And there is no one in Washington — absolutely no one — to help.”

Let this sink in for a minute. Ben Stein — capitalism stooge, former Nixon speechwriter, longtime insider — is so disgusted as the state of our current economic system he fears for its future. And this is despite the fact that he’s done well enough to reach this epiphany while floating on his back in his Malibu pool.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Post Categories: Ben Stein & New York Times

I can’t quit you.

January 23rd, 2007 → 8:46 am @

One more bit of Murray funness before we get on with our day. Last Sunday, apropos of absolutely nothing, Murray wrote one of the odder (even for him) pieces I’ve ever seen. Since I’d never be able to do it justice, I’ll just reprint it here in full:

Kicking About the Evil Empire

A report here last week about Devern Hansack, a Nicaraguan pitcher for the Red Sox, prompted an e-mail message from Sergio Maltez of Managua in which he recalled the head-to-head competition the Red Sox and the Yankees waged for José Contreras four years ago. Contreras had defected from Cuba and had established residence in Nicaragua so he could be a free agent.

The Yankees won the bidding, prompting severe vocal reaction from Larry Lucchino, the Red Sox’ chief executive, and severe physical reaction from Theo Epstein, the Red Sox’ general manager. Lucchino called the Yankees the evil empire. Epstein chose a different response.

‘It was true,’ Maltez wrote, ‘that Theo Epstein broke the door of the hotel with a kick when the Yankees signed Contreras and not the Red Sox.'”

Besides the fact that a Google search of Sergio Maltez turns up pretty much nothing (in English, anyway), this piece is weird because a) nobody had been talking about 2003, and b) Murray himself knows it’s not true! On December 29, 2002, in an early article in what became an ongoing series in which Chass condescended to Theo Epstein, the Times baseball columnist wrote, “Theo Epstein is the youngest general manager in baseball history, even if he does age a year today, but in his month on the job with the Boston Red Sox, not one of his fellow general managers has accused him of throwing toys across the table at them. Nor, he said, has he broken doors or windows or chairs, not in Nashville, not in Nicaragua. ‘I’ve never broken a piece of furniture in my life,’ said Epstein, who turns 29 today. Why the stories then? ‘It started in Nashville,’ he related, referring to the winter meetings earlier this month. ‘There was a chair in our suite that was broken when we got there. We placed it outside the room. One of the writers asked about it. I said we came close to a deal and it didn’t happen. It was an attempt at humor. One writer didn’t get the humor.’ The image of Epstein as El Destructo emerged, too, from his failed pursuit of Jose Contreras in Nicaragua last week. This time, the tale went, he broke a door and a window. The Red Sox attributed it to Yankee propaganda, not as in ‘Yankee, go home,’ but as in the New York Yankees’ dirty tricks.”

Somehow, this managed to shock even me. In desperately casting about for his latest piece of irrelevance, Murray Chass actually printed something that he himself knew was a lie. Did someone mention the lax ethic of the sports section?

Post Categories: Murray Chass & New York Times

Since you’ve been gone

January 23rd, 2007 → 8:38 am @

Apparently not satisfied with the correspondences with his readers that I’ve been printing, Murray Chass devotes todays column to making fun of “Red Sox fans” who failed to grasp the humor of an earlier piece, which suggested that the Red Sox sign Barry Bonds, put him in left, and move Manny Ramirez to right. (Chass didn’t actually print any of his responses, perhaps because a) they’re oddly churlish, and b) they’re full of spelling mistakes. In fact, here’s the latest response forwarded along to me: “Perhaos (sic) in your ignorance you are unaware that The New York Times Company is an owner of the Red Sox. If you didn’t know that, it doesn’t day (sic) much for you and your view of things. And you obvioudly (sic) are so blinded by what I write about the Red Sox that you don’t know a joke when you see one. Maybe you are the one who is pathetic.” But I digress…)

The mere fact that so many people didn’t get Murray’s joke (including me) seems to indicate not that said readers are pathetic, but that Chass is as poor a humorist as he is a speller, a writer, and a baseball analyst. What’s more, ironic humor tends to work better when there’s a track record of prescient intelligence, not one of blinding incomprehensiveness. (To wit: nobody thought Steve Phillips was joking when he brought up the notion of Barry playing in Boston, either.)

Today’s column is one in a long line in which Murray, who, honest, has absolutely no bone to pick with the Red Sox or their fans, goes after Crimson Hose supporters. Some other recent examples. August 22, 2006: “Red Sox fans are hurting.” “Red Sox fans…don’t take kindly to criticism of their heroes — unless they level it themselves.” October 4, 2005: “For Boston Fans, a Case of Pinstripe Blues.” (This whole column was about Sox fans. Seriously.) Sept 11, 2005: “Not because I am a Yankees fan, as Red Sox fans believe incorrectly in their mixed-up, Red Sox-motivated minds, but because they have been so smug all season in their belief that last year’s World Series champions would finish ahead of the Yankees this season.” August 2, 2005: “Red Sox fans shouldn’t assume that the wild card, if not first place, was theirs. … If the Red Sox fail to outlast the Yankees…they squandered their best chance to drive a stake into the dark heart of the Evil Empire.” At this point, he should be happy he’s still getting emails. It shows someone cares.

Post Categories: Murray Chass & New York Times

More Murray Mail (and mucho Melendez)

January 18th, 2007 → 8:33 am @

More readers send in their email correspondences with Murray Chass. This one is a gem.

“I would prefer not replying to your e-mail, but I need to tell you that you know nothing about journalism.It’s also questionable that you know anything about baseball, but I’ll leave that for you and your buddies to decide. If you want to talk about unhealthy obsessions, what about your obsessive need to comment on what I write? At least I get paid for what I write.

From a journalistic standpoint, it would have been remiss of me to write about the unusually long delay in Bonds signing his contract without noting that there was another such case. Had that other case involved Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Lee, you would not have given it a second’s thought. But when ‘Red Sox’ appeared on your radar, you could not let it go without responding. That, my friend, is obsessive.

Murray Chass”

From a journalistic standpoint, it would also be remiss not to, at the very, very, very least, correct a glaring, blatant mistake that Chass printed one month ago: that the tension between Theo and Dodgers GM Ned Colletti resulted in a stony silence throughout the winter meetings. (I’ve written before about what Chass’s original article said about the questionable ethics of the sports section.) Within days of Chass’s original article, the Globe wrote that, “Through a Dodgers spokesman, Colletti also 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.”

But apparently, as Murray’s said before, he’d stake his “nearly 40 years at the Times” against other news outlets…even if those other news outlets actually, you know, talk to sources and stuff: “Ask anybody in the business, and he will tell you my reporting is always correct, whether I’m quoting people by name or not. You don’t have to believe what I have reported, but that’s your problem, not mine.” And, apparently, Ned Colletti’s.

Also, from a baseball standpoint, the notion that Manny would be patrol perhaps the most spacious right field in baseball…well, it’s pretty moronic. Almost as moronic as suggesting Barry Bonds might end up wearing a Red Sox uniform, both of which Murray did yesterday.

Finally, if you’re interested in someone who knows something about both journalism (or at least writing) and baseball, check out Jose Melendez’s Keys to the Game. Astute readers will know that Jose has one of my coveted (and almost never updated) links on the left-hand rail of this page. Jose is also recogized in the acknowledgments of my first book. And, as Jose has said, I’m the only person ever to have bought a Keys to the Game thong. (Don’t ask.)

Post Categories: Jose Melendez & Murray Chass & New York Times