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January 29, 2008 at 8:45 AM

Jones not the scapegoat

UPDATE (2:15 p.m.): I’ve added some stuff at the bottom of the post
Just got caught up on all my reading from last night and it seems we’ve had ourselves quite the journalistic debate on this baseball blog. Hey, that’s OK. Whatever turns your crank. Let’s just make a few things clear this morning, so we can all move forward:
1. The Erik Bedard-Adam Jones deal is not dead
2. Jones is not to be blamed for the deal being hung-up
OK, so it’s only a couple of things. About Jones, no I was not happy with him yesterday for implying that Augusto Cardenas of Diario Panorama had lost something in translation and misquoted him about going to Baltimore for a physical. Here is last night’s game story by Cardenas from Venezuela. He is a professional reporter — not some creative writing supermarket tabloid type. The audio of the Jones interview shows it was not off-the-record. It was legit. And as I said, I don’t like it when people try to cover mistakes by throwing someone else, and their credibility, to the wolves.
That said, Jones is not a bad person. He was trying to be as helpful as he could to Cardenas and inadvertently set off a chain of events that the Mariners are now unable to stash away from view. Jones is only 22 and, like I said, as a media member, I like that he takes the time to speak to Cardenas honestly and that he emails Shannon Drayer with updates for her blog.
In this case, he made a mistake by talking too soon. He made another one by trying to pass the blame off to Cardenas instead of saying “no comment”. And I called him on it. But he is not a “clown” as a person, he’s actually fairly mature for his age. Jones comes off looking funny and clown-like in this particular instance, as do the three other main players — Peter Angelos, Bill Bavasi and Andy MacPhail — trying to cover-up a trade that was obviously about to happen.
But please, let’s not heap all of this on Jones. We’ve all made mistakes in our early 20s. When I was 22, in the infancy of electronic messaging, I was frustrated at having to work the graveyard shift covering homicides for my first daily paper and sent a missive to someone about how our senior political reporter (from a very wealthy family) got to sit around all day sucking her thumb and writing haughty think-pieces from above. Well, one of her friends, with editor sign-on privileges (read: spying privileges), got a gander at the message and forwarded it on to the writer and many others.
Talk about a potential career-killer.

Not much else to do at that point but eat crow, apologize, put your nose to the grindstone and wait for time to pass. It did, rather quickly. She was pretty forgiving of a naive, youthful mistake. Nowadays, she’s a big-time magazine writer and it was because of her recommendation (some 15 years later) that I’ve helped judge the annual Canadian Magazine Awards two years running.
Jones likely feels very badly about what’s happened. I’ve said my piece about him and now it’s time to move on. If this deal falls apart, the folks to blame will be the Baltimore Orioles and their owner. Yes, M’s general manager Bill Bavasi should have drilled the secrecy bit into Jones — maybe. After all, as some of you have pointed out, this deal has been in the public eye for two months running. At some point, it’s time to pull the trigger on it or admit you’re not happy and walk away. The longer you keep it going, the more stuff gets leaked out.
But the Orioles just can’t seem to do this. MacPhail is actually a very respected baseball official who helped assemble the Minnesota Twins’ playoff teams pre-Terry Ryan. But in this case, as I pointed out yesterday with his repeated denials of knowing anything, he comes off looking very clown-like in a three-ring circus that has the eyes of the baseball world fixated squarely on his franchise.
As Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports points out, this has become “a litmus test for the authority of MacPhail.” Make no mistake, if this deal falls through, it will be the Orioles — not Adam Jones — who take the biggest PR hit and suffer the consequences when they try to make good faith deals down the road. Whatever the true motives Orioles’ owner Peter Angelos has for holding up the deal (and he could have a legitimate personal matter to attend to), somebody has to speed up the trade’s timetable and clear the franchise’s name. Otherwise, even fewer people will take him, the Orioles, or MacPhail, seriously. Orioles fans, predictably, are already freaking out at their teams’ ownership.
Because the one thing now crystal clear is that the Mariners thought they had a deal and a physical for Jones was scheduled in Baltimore yesterday. If something’s happened to change that, the O’s should be clear about what it is.
As I mentioned yesterday, I feel badly for Bavasi in all of this. He did add to the hilarity of this circus by suggesting he only pulled Jones out of Game 4 of a best-of-seven championship series because he’d met some unspecified goals down in Venezuela. But other than that, he’s on the cusp of a truly impressive makeover of his starting rotation and likely felt he’d met his winter objectives before this deal was put on hold.
Regardless of what we all think about the merits of his deal, there is no denying it will be a major one that could ultimately decide Bavasi’s legacy — not only in Seattle, but as a baseball man. Think of how he must feel at this moment as he nervously awaits the outcome of this process.
Here’s my take on it all: as a writer, you can’t make stuff up that’s as good as any of this. I personally don’t care whether the deal goes through or not. Yes, I like what a Bedard trade would do for the Mariners. But win-or-lose, I get paid by a third party to cover the team. I’ve told you this before. I don’t get a playoff share if the M’s win the division. Yeah, it’ll be more interesting if they do win. But believe me, it gets pretty interesting when they lose too, or things don’t go right — just look at all the interest after this trade got put on hold.
We’re trying to get you the news as it happens. Some of you have noted, very correctly, that in the old, pre-internet days, these types of deals would be reported on strictly in the morning paper and all the drama and hang-ups would have been largely overlooked. You’re right about that. But it’s 2008 now, not 1988. Online sites like ESPN, Fox and CNNSI are now widely read, as are blogs by newspapers and fans alike. Things have changed. You as readers have demanded the changes. The number of hits and comments on this blog the past two days shows that there is a demand for this type of news. So, you’re getting it. That’s life.
So, while I know many of you are frustrated by what’s happened, you should sit tight. I don’t really think Bedard is about to sign a contract extension with an O’s team that will probably finish dead last in the AL East the next three years running. I’m pretty sure that once all the dust settles, this deal gets done and everyone breathes a sigh of relief and gets on to the next step of evaluating the trade for its merits.
Those of you defending me on this blog, thanks, but you don’t have to waste so much energy doing it. People are entitled to their opinions (I gave a pretty strong one about Jones and the Venezuelan reporter yesterday) and I’m a big boy. And please, the U.S.S. Mariner was in no way critical of me yesterday. They can’t tell their readers what to say anymore than I can order you to cease your opinions.
We all have to do a better job of getting along, without namecalling. Whether you’re tradition-minded, statistics-minded, or in-between. As fans, you’re all in the same boat on this one as you wait to see how it all plays out.
As for me, other than not wanting to waste an entire week on standby for a deal, I’m finding it all pretty entertaining.
EXTENDED ENTRY (2:15 p.m.): For those of you emailing in about Peter Angelos being gravely ill in a Baltimore hospital yesterday, I can tell you this: he had a minor procedure done, but was alert, talkative and functional by day’s end. So, it doesn’t explain the delay last night and today, or the cancellation of a scheduled Adam Jones physical.
As for the rumor about Jones having a degenerative hip, treat it as just that. It’s been making the rounds in Baltimore all day because some guy went on a radio station and threw it out there. We’ve stuck to the facts and what we know on this story thus far and I’d like to keep it that way. From a logic perspective, I doubt Jones would be playing winter ball if he had a degenerative hip. Anyway, that’s the kind of thing you schedule a physical for. You don’t cancel one. This one goes in my rubbish bin for now.
On what Jones told Shannon Drayer yesterday: my issue isn’t over whether he or she said his words were “lost in translation”. It’s that he said he never told any Venezuelan media he’d been traded when he clearly did — and apparently not just Cardenas. “I feel comfortable in Seattle,” Jones told Ignacio Serrano of on Sunday night, “but I will assume my trade to Baltimore as another challenge. I’m in the best moment of my life, although it will be strange to start with a new organization again.”
So, that’s the issue. By claiming he didn’t say anything, Jones is implying that his words were misconstrued, misused, or misinterpreted by professional journalists in Venezuela who do this interview stuff for a living. They weren’t. They were his words, in English.
For Turp in the comments thread, my clubhouse interviews are going just fine, thanks. But for the record, if it comes to setting things straight, or safeguarding some type of “insider” access, I’ll go with the former.



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