Wednesday, March 17, 2010

News judgment, or lack thereof, and the inability to read

Question No. 1: Is a trade that never happened news?

Question No. 2: Is a trade that was never even proposed news?

Question No. 3: If the answers to 1 and 2 are "yes," and the item is widely misconstrued, did reporting it do any good?

These questions are prompted by a couple of reports the past few days.

The on that cranked up the biggest, and most meaningless, furor was a Buster Olney item that said the Phillies front office had had "internal discussions" about offering St. Louis a Ryan Howard for Albert Pujols trade.

Not only did such a trade not happen, Olney doesn't even say that the Phillies broached the notion with the Cardinals. "Internal discussions" can mean (and probably does) that in a meeting aimed at plotting out budgets for future years — essential when doing long-term contracts — someday eyed the number assigned to Ryan Howard and said: Geez, for that money we ought to have Pujols. Followed by a brief discussion of how much Pujols would cost, followed by a "not gonna happen," and on to figuring out if they can afford both Doc Halladay and Cole Hamels in 2012.

Meaningless. But ESPN decided to overplay this "scoop," and Tony LaRussa acted like Tony LaRussa — meaning that he put on a performance that makes one wonder if this Hall of Fame-bound manager with a law degree is secretly functionally illiterate:

It's the media. They can be really useful and they can be really abusive. But to come up with that one is abusive. ... The person who came up with that one should be tracked down and you'd say, 'Hmmm, their credibility just took a big hit.'

Well, unless Tony LaRussa is sitting in on the Phillies front office meetings, he doesn't know what he's talking about. And if he is sitting in on those meetings, there's a bigger problem.

Then there's the New York Post item — in the context of how little faith the Yankees have in Brett Gardner — that the Yankees tried to trade for Denard Span last summer.

Well sure. The Yankees figured they needed a center fielder and leadoff hitter; they weren't going to hitch their wagon to Johnny Damon long term; so they made an offer for Span. The Twins turned them down; the Yankees ultimately made a trade with Detroit for Curtis Granderson.

The Post writer says he thought a Span for Phil Hughes trade was possible this spring. That's his thought, and now even he has tossed the notion aside.

Still, this item triggered e-mail messages and blog comments to me that took this way too seriously.

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