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WRITERS’ VERSION OF FANTASY BASEBALL

By Murray Chass

July 31, 2014

As I write this, only 24 hours remain before we reach the non-waiver trading deadline. The clock can’t go quickly enough as far as I’m concerned.

In my view, this is one of the three worst times of the baseball year. The others are the general managers meetings in November and the winter meetings in December. All three times give my colleagues in the field of baseball writing license to indulge in creative writing rather than in legitimate reporting.

The two sets of meetings probably bring out the worst in writers. The weeks leading to the trading deadline are bad but not as bad as the creative fiction writers inflict on their readers from the two sets of meetings.

At one time the winter meetings were the only ones writers covered. The general managers meetings were ignored for the most part. Initially, Hal Bodley of USA Today was the only reporter who attended the meetings. Then I began going, not to drum up daily stories about possible trades but to gather comments from general managers for general stories. When the meetings were in western cities, Ross Newhan of the Los Angeles Times would attend.

At that time, the meetings didn’t produce trades. They gave the general managers an opportunity to explore trade possibilities to be continued at the winter meetings.

After Barry Bonds and other free agents signed exorbitant contracts at the 1992 winter meetings, Commissioner Bud Selig decided agents were dominating the meetings and ended major league participation in them. Newspapers switched their attention and their coverage to the general managers meetings, and reporters wrote their speculative stories there.

When Selig lifted the boycott of the winter meetings in 1998, reporters returned, too, but didn’t end their coverage of the general managers meetings, meaning they get twice as many chances to float questionable trade reports.

Why do they do it? Their newspapers and Internet companies spend a lot of money on their coverage, and reporters feel compelled to …

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LA RUSSA LAPSE OF GOOD JUDGMENT

By Murray Chass

July 27, 2014

What people have been saying (not all of it intelligently):

On the eve of Hall of Fame weekend, one inductee used his new status to comment on the status of steroids-tainted candidates. In my opinion, Tony La Russa would have been wiser to keep his thoughts to himself.

“Treat them all the same,” La Russa said in an interview in Cooperstown with Willie Weinbaum of ESPN, speaking of players suspected of having used performance-enhancing substances.

“If you were a Hall of Famer during that period as far as your pitching and playing, I would …

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MORE MANIPULATION OF THE MARKET

By Murray Chass

July 24, 2014

Have Major League Baseball clubs found yet another way of manipulating players’ pay? They have if the union is correct in its suspicions about the Houston Astros’ contract negotiations with three of their selections in last month’s draft.

The union filed a grievance against the Astros this week, contending the Astros tried to manipulate the signings of pitcher Brady Aiken, the No. 1 player picked in the June draft, and two players selected in lower rounds, pitchers Jacob Nix and Mac Marshall.

Tony Clark, the head of the union, declined to talk about the issue because a grievance had been filed. Dan Halem, MLB’s chief labor executive, and Jeff Luhnow, the Houston general manager, did not return telephone calls seeking comment. In the messages I left, I mentioned the reason why I was calling.

However, a person familiar with the dispute said of the Astros’ treatment of the players …

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