Fire Jim Tracy

Monday, February 28, 2005

Bill Plaschke: Media Tool

I am not going to undertake a line-by-line fisking of Bill Plaschke's latest half-baked attempt to eulogize the Dodger offseason. One reason is that Plaschke is plagiarizing himself ("Dodger lingo?" And now your host...Chuck Woolery!), so we've been over most of it before. But who can let this opening sentence go?

"His stoic eyes grow strangely heavy. His soft voice suddenly thickens."

His firm muscles quake. Whatever.

But, as always, the point is agenda-filling rather than actual reporting, and the Beltre piece, surprise, has a glaring example.

Here is Adrian Beltre on his desire to stay with Dodgers:

"The bottom line is, the Dodgers didn't want to sign me," he says. "If they had only talked to me and told me their plan, I would have signed for less money to stay there. I needed to hear it from them. We could have worked it out. But they never even talked to me."

The size of the Dodgers' offer:

"But it wasn't about the money, and that offer would have been fine," Beltre says. "But they never explained their strategy to me. They never told me what they were doing. They never let me feel I was part of things."

On...apparently...the size of the Dodgers' offer:

"But it was the whole idea of it," Beltre says. "To me, if I'm your priority, you call me and tell me what is going on. Nobody ever did that. To me, their offer was not a serious one, it was only to make them look good."

So, given that Adrian Beltre was willing to sign for "less money," was the Dodgers' offer "fine" or "not a serious one?" A real reporter, without a pre-determined point to make (the thesis, hidden in the middle of the article, and about 27 one-sentence paragraphs below the part where Beltre is on the verge of a Barbara Walters moment, appears to be that "Dodger officials had not been around the team long enough to realize, this wasn't a freak show, it was a maturity show"), might have pressed the point a little bit, trying to sort through this series of incompatible statements to get at the truth.

But not at the Times, where the cocoon remains intact.


  • I was going to say something about this, but decided not to; in December, I might have agreed with Plaschke. Now, I'm not so sure. Beltre's walks as a percentage of OBP have been terrible since 2001, and that's a legitimate concern. The thrust of Plaschke's overly-lachrimose article is probably correct -- DePodesta wasn't really serious about keeping Beltre in the lineup.

    By Blogger Rob, at 2/28/2005 12:10:00 PM  

  • plaschke obviously has an agenda, and objective, critical analysis is obviously something he is either unwilling or unable to do... and so i hesitate to defend the story, but even given all that, his thesis isn't all that unreasonable. maybe beltre would have given the dodgers a discount, if he felt they really wanted to keep him, and had been at all communicative with him over the course of the offseason. so, assuming beltre's telling the truth (and i don't see why he wouldn't be), i can understand if he saw the dodgers' final offer, when it did come, at the last minute, as perfunctory, so he went with seattle's.

    and given what we know about depodesta, where he did invest, and what we assume his plan to be, it seems the dodgers probably didn't really want to sign beltre after all, so the story makes some sense.

    so, yes, plaschke's a horrible journalist and this is a good example of that, but the article isn't too far off base i don't think.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/28/2005 01:23:00 PM  

  • I think that DePodesta was as serious about signing Beltre as he needed to be, given the many factors that went into what happened, some of which were out of the Dodgers' control completely. I am simply happy that we have a GM who refuses to get run over by "have to do" situations and fan pressure. In the long run (and possibly in the short run, but who knows?), we will come out ahead for that. I expressed my disappointment over losing Beltre at the time it happened, but sometimes, these things just...happen.

    Since the Times does not have the creativity to break out of this rut on its own, here are some decidedly under-explored questions and/or issues surrounding the Beltre signing, so that Plaschke doesn't have to continually revisit the same territory Tim Brown covered six weeks ago:

    1) For years, teams have been absurdly backloading contracts, turning them into individual pension plans. In this case, Bill Bavasi went the other way, frontloading the contract for an incredible sum (given present value) of $17 million a year. This is a very risky proposition on one side, since that year is a very, very expensive year. On the other side, the risk is mitigated by the fact that Beltre is 26 and that this is the very first year of the contract -- if you get one good year out of Beltre, you maximize the value of that part of the contract. Was this a good risk to take? If so, should other teams be looking at structuring contracts this way? And how strong a factor was that in the Beltre signing, anyway?

    2) Frequent commenter Lloyd has brought up a couple of times that the Dodgers are strong at 3B (something Plaschke completely ignored with his pseudo-argument regarding how hard it is to find a 3B) and weakest in the OF. Could this have had anything to do with how things shook out? If not, why not?

    3) If Beltre didn't like the contract the Dodgers offered, why didn't he tell them the number he did like? Or did he? And was that number greater or smaller than 5 at 64? There was nothing that kept Beltre from dealing directly with the Dodgers to the exclusion of other teams, nor was there anything keeping him from picking up the phone himself. Certainly that question and answer would be enlightening.

    (P.S. Even if Beltre's teary-eyed plea about not getting called is true, it does not speak highly of that alleged "maturity show" Plaschke is selling. The Dodgers are not a prom date, and a $60 million plus contract is not a cheap corsage. Just ask Jayson Stark, who simply couldn't believe that the Dodgers would throw $55 million at a player with just one great year under his belt.)

    When The Times starts to tackle topics like this (which will be never), then we'll be reading something worthwhile.

    By Blogger Steve, at 2/28/2005 02:47:00 PM  

  • Actually Steve, the contract Beltre signed with Boras probably prevented him from directly negotiating with the Dodgers. Who can argue with Boras about getting the best deal? Though you make a valid point that Beltre could have been more savvy or direct, the fact remains that Boras is a better negotiator than any of us here, and did what he could to get the highest deal from every team interested. It's pretty obvious that the Dodgers didn't care about Beltre.

    Replacing him isn't necessarily a bad thing, replacing him with J.D. Drew who is an obvious trouble maker, injury prone primadonna who two teams with great winning records have given up on. You are right that Plaschke is a terrible writer, but face it, he's right on this one.

    By Blogger Rick, at 2/28/2005 11:48:00 PM  

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