Murray Chass makes negative sense

In honor of FJM’s triumphant return to the interwebs today, I want to go ahead and put together my own FJM-style piece (call it Ken Tremendous Karaoke, if you will) on the one and the only, Murray Chass. After reading Dak’s whooping of the guy earlier today, I felt compelled to check out Chass’s not-blog and see what he was up to. He did not let down.

As the season dwindles down to a precious few weeks, attention is focused on remaining races – not that there are any –

I love those non-existent races. Go, the eventual end of the season, go!

and the playoffs ahead. But pause for a moment in your excited anticipation and think of how Pittsburgh Pirates fans approach the post-season.

Getting ready to watch their defending champ Steelers kick some ass, all the while waiting for the also defending champ Penguins to hit the ice again?

They may actually look forward to it eagerly because once they get beyond Oct. 4, the Pirates can’t lose any more games this year. They probably can’t make any more trades either because they have already traded everybody of value.

First off, don’t forget the 1894 Cubs, who were so bad they lost three games after the season ended. But I’m pretty sure the Pirates have guys of value, and that they can trade anyone they want, even if guys don’t have your subjective definition of value.

On second thought they have Andrew McCutchen on their roster, and if they traded Nyjer Morgan they can trade Andrew McCutchen.

Ohhhh yessss….I forgot the rule about how trading one player means you can trade anyone. Ya know the Cardinals traded Chris Duncan two months ago. Hey Albert, you’re next.

Simply put, the Pirates are an embarrassment to Pittsburgh and an embarrassment to Major League Baseball. It’s not just that the Pirates are a poor team, a losing team, but they are an embarrassment because of the way they have become a worse team than they already were and how they are trying to hoodwink their fans.

I had to read that last sentence about three times before it hit me: Murray Chass has no understanding of the English language.

The Pirates this year traded Nate McLouth, Morgan, Adam LaRoche, Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, Eric Hinske, Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny, John Grabow and Sean Burnett. You could almost put a team on the field with that lineup.

Yeah, the Pirates did to that in real life, Murray. And they sucked.

The team the Pirates were left with on the field has been far worse than that one would be, and that’s what prompts this mid-September look at this terrible team.

How will Neal Huntington ever explain to the fans that the team will be thirty games under .500 rather than twenty??? You got ’em there, Murr-dog.

When the Pirates completed their roster cleansing July 30, they had a 43-58 record (.426) and were 11 ½ games from first place. Since then, through Monday’s games, they had a 12-29 record (.293) and had tumbled 28 ½ games from first.

The “R” in WAR
How a person can be a hero by being a zero.

Yeah, they went from crappy to really crappy. Your point?

In the interim they set a major league record by insuring their 17th successive losing season, but they were going to get that record with the players they traded away; it would just have taken them longer.

Oh, your point is to…contradict yourself by admitting they sucked anyway?

If the Pirates incur losses in their last 20 games at the same rate they have lost since July 30, they will finish with a 60-102 record (.370), their worst record in the 17-season stretch and their second worst record since the early 1950s and the days of Vic Janowicz, the O’Brien twins Johnny and Eddie and Joe Garagiola.

I only know who that last guy is, but don’t blame me, as I was born when you were turning 147.

Also, Pirates are going to get a nice draft pick, eh?

At least those teams had Ralph Kiner, the perennial National League home run champion, who gave the fans a reason to go to Forbes Field. Why fans go to PNC Park is beyond me. For their last home stand, six games with the Cardinals and the Cubs, the Pirates drew a total of 105,000 fans.To get 17,500 fans a game is remarkable. I would speculate that the fans went to the games because they had previously bought tickets, but why do Pittsburgh fans have to buy tickets in advance when there are plenty of seats available the day of a game?

I don’t know, maybe the fans go because the Pirates have a beautiful ballpark? Because they like baseball?

Maybe the fans go to games just to see PNC Park, the nicest new park in my opinion. Or maybe they just like baseball.

Murray, I’m supposed to be saying these things. I don’t even know what to boldface anymore!

Also, the Pirates have the nicest new park that exists in Murray Chass’s opinion? Huh, misplaced modifiers are funny.

But do these Pirates play a credible game of baseball? Maybe it doesn’t matter. The Pirates of the early ‘50s didn’t play a credible game of baseball, but I frequently paid a dollar for a seat in the left field bleachers at Forbes Field nevertheless and not just for the chance to see Kiner hit a home run. I was not one of those fans who left after Kiner had batted for the last time.

I can’t…this is just too much, people. Murray, you are perplexed as to why people do something to the point where you find it compelling to write a non-blog non-post about it, then give extremely plausible reasons as to why this phenomenon happens, and then admit you proudly did it too! FTW?!?!

But today’s fans should not be so kind to the Pirates because management is cheating them and trying to fool them. Club executives justify the trades by saying they have to start over by accumulating good minor league prospects and building with them.

Yes, and these club execs aren’t just saying that for lip service, either. That is how you build a team.

But what was Morgan? He was a rookie who showed he was ready to play in the majors. He was hitting .271 when he was traded, and he has hit .351 for Washington for a .307 season average.

A rookie? Murray, what in the hell are you talking about? Morgan was 29 years-old and played in 28 games in 2007 and more than one-third of the season last year. Huh?

They didn’t need to trade Morgan to make room in the outfield for McCutchen because McCutchen was already there and hitting .295 in his first month. They didn’t need to trade Morgan to get Lastings Milledge, another young outfielder, because they didn’t need Milledge, who in trials with the Mets and the Nationals had failed to demonstrate major league maturity.

But they did want to trade Morgan for Milledge, Murray. We can argue the merits of the trade (which intelligent analysts have ), but this wasn’t the tipping point in the Pirates season by any means.

“The bottom line for us is upside and potential,” general manager Neal Huntington said at the time he made the trade. “The two players we are getting in return are guys that we think can play quality roles for us as we return to winning baseball here in Pittsburgh. Both players, we feel, have the upside to be above-average Major League players, and that’s why the trade happened.”

Gracias, Neal.

The Pirates, however, already had those players in Morgan and Burnett. Trading them was bizarre judgment at best and poor judgment at worst.

The belief among officials of other clubs is that the Pirates traded Morgan because of his age. At 29, he is five years older than Milledge. The Pirates, though, shouldn’t be concerned about having a 35-year-old Morgan playing center field for them. They would have traded him well before they reached that juncture.

When the Pirates projected themselves to be competitive once again, they felt that Morgan would be past his peak and Milledge would be hitting his. Besides, Hanrahan was an undervalued commodity thanks to his robust ERA, but his 2009 FIP is 3.22 and his tRA is 4.21 (Murray has no idea what those numbers mean).

C’mon, Chass. Are you even going to mention the billion other deals Pittsburgh made?

There is more. The Pirates traded their middle infield, Sanchez and Wilson, not to stockpile minor league talent but because Sanchez and Wilson, who had expressed a desire to stay in Pittsburgh, rejected woefully underpriced contract offers designed for effect.

Wrong. Absolutely terrible reasoning skills. They traded Sanchez and Wilson because they A) were aging, B) have expensive contracts, C) were reaching the decline of their careers, and D) were valued highly.

The offers were designed (1) to show fans that the Pirates tried to sign Sanchez and Wilson and (2) to induce them to say no so that the Pirates could then justify trading them because they did not plan on exercising their contract options totaling $16.4 million for next year.

Yes, that is called good PR! You’re getting it, Murray!

Perhaps the most striking figures are the payroll numbers. The Pirates opened the season with a $48.7 million payroll. They are closing it with a payroll (based on the Aug. 31 roster and disabled list) of $20 million. The players they traded during the season have salaries totaling $31 million.

Wow, that’s an extremely impressive way of saving money by the Pirates, which I am sure they will use to make the team better.

Now for the kicker. The Pirates, one of the smallest revenue teams in the majors, received approximately $40 million in revenue sharing last year and most likely will get at least that much, despite the economy, for this year. One thing we know for sure. They aren’t spending the money to pay players.

Actually, they are. They can now use that money to sign free agents, for player development and scouting, to lure international teenagers (like Sano) over, to resign current young players (like McCutchen) to long-term, reasonably-priced contracts, to sign high-end draft picks. Revenue sharing money doesn’t go into a piggy bank.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, teams that receive money have to notify the commissioner’s office each April what they did with the money the previous year. “They’re going to have some explaining to do,” a baseball official said. “It’s going to be difficult for them absent some substantial moves between now and April.”

How much do we want to bet that the “baseball official” is either:

A) Murray Chass
B) Murray Chass’s neighbor
C) Murray Chass’s dog
D) No, c’mon, it’s just probably Murray Chass

High-revenue teams don’t appreciate revenue recipients that don’t spend the money to improve themselves but pocket it instead.

Huh? Why not? The money is already sunk; the owners can’t get it back. Wouldn’t they then rather it be spent on rival teams not improving rather than improving?

The commissioner’s office is supposed to monitor the spending to make sure teams use the money as they’re supposed to, but no team has ever been disciplined or even reprimanded for not using it correctly.

The Pirates might be a good place for the commissioner to start. It would be the best win for the fans all year.

Oh, that’s right, the Commissioner’s Office should step in and tell the Pirates how to run the team in the year in which they decide to rebuild for a better future (but not the sixteen terrible seasons previous).

But here’s the kicker. Who just happens to be the President of the Pittsburgh Pirates? Frank Coonelly. And what was Mr. Coonelly’s job before that? He was a Senior Vice President in the Commissioner’s Office! And what did he run? Labor Relations!

So yes, the Commissioner’s Office should waste their time investigating a team heading in the right direction, under a new front office, which just so happens to be run by the guy who used to be pretty high up in the Commissioner’s Office.

Sounds like a plan, Murray. Maybe you could do something about it if you weren’t stuck not-blogging in your not-mom’s basement.

Big thanks to FJM for making my childhood infinitely better.


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Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at Patrick.Andriola@tufts.edu or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat

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9 Comments on "Murray Chass makes negative sense"

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Lou
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Lou
My favorite part about Chass’ non-blog weblog site is there is both a bio section, and an “about.” Mr. Tufts just my opinion, but Chass can both be a very nice man in person (I am sure he is) and incorrect as a writer. Nice to hear he can admit in person he has been a bull in a china shop, but I don’t have very much respect for him because even if he does feel that we he continues in public to express similar views. (Check out the “about” section of the site.) It doesn’t take much to act… Read more »
Bob Tufts
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Bob Tufts
How was “Fire Joe Moragn” triumphant? Joe Morgan is still ruining our Sunday Night Baseball! Chass was the first columnist to analyze union/management issues in great detail. The spending of revenue sahring dollars may or may not constitute a violation of MLB agreements. He eventually gets to that point. As for the ridicule, I’ll bite my tongue. In conversations with him he has told me that all of his friends told him that he was wrong about blogging (the column that started the dump on Chass club). He admitted to me that he was out of line during a lunch… Read more »
Pat Andriola
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Pat Andriola
Mr. Tufts, Thanks so much for responding to my post, and I hope your cancer scare is completely behind you. I can only judge Murray Chass by what I’ve seen him write pertaining to blogging and baseball, and I just haven’t liked any of it. I’m sure he’s a nice guy in person, but in the 21st century I think he should have higher standards than what he is currently producing. Relating to FJM’s return…you’re right, it is bittersweet. But with Steve Phillips there anyway, maybe Joe not getting fired is a blessing in disguise, as even his dribble isn’t… Read more »
DJC
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DJC
Pat, As a fellow Tufts alum I have to tell you that you’re a moron.  You’re trying so hard to be cute and pick apart the column you ignore the point of it. I won’t go line by line but I’ll make a few comments: * Your first interjection – do you disagree with what Chass wrote about the “non-existant races”?  Your comment seems pointless. * Chass makes a comment saying that if the Pirates traded Nyjer than anyone, including McCutchen, is tradeable.  The point is the Pirates, unlike most teams, don’t consider anyone untradeable.  Again, do you disagree?  Your… Read more »
Matt Bandi
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Matt Bandi

Just thought I would point out that most of Murray’s numbers are very wrong.  The Pirates’ 2009 payroll is around $48 million (not $20 million) and reports have them receiving about $27 million in revenue sharing (not 4$0 million).

Matt Bandi
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Matt Bandi
DJC, *Comparing Nyjer Morgan and Andrew McCutchen is like comparing apples and desk chairs.  McCutchen is a young impact talent.  Nyjer is a mediocre player having a career year.  At 29, he is probably about to start declining.  Perfect sell-high candidate.  Very few players in baseball are untouchable.  Pujols is (probably) one.  Nyjer definitely is not.  Nobody on a 90-loss team is. *Speaking as a fan, I see no difference between the team losing 90 or 100 games.  I want to see them build a champion, not a 75-win team.  Management’s job is to build a winner, not a team… Read more »
Pat Andriola
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Pat Andriola

DJC, I’d reply to you, but I think Mr.Bandi did an exceptional job doing so already.You didn’t get the article properly, I’m sorry.

DJC
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DJC
Mr. Bandi, Per your original post I think if you go back and re-read Chass’ column you’ll see that addresses your point.  Yes, the Pirates STARTED the season with a $40 million payroll.  But after the trades the will END the season with a payroll of only $27 million. And I’m not sure what “reports” you refer to regarding the revenue sharing figures but I would trust Chass on this point.  Ask anyone in baseball, he pioneered coverage of salary and collective bargaining figures. No MLB official, team executive or player has ever suggested he had his numbers wrong. To… Read more »
Matt Bandi
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Matt Bandi
That is a total misrepresentation of the salary numbers, though.  There is only one relevant number: total salary paid during the year.  The $20 million figure ignores the fact that the Pirates paid each of the traded players up until the time they were dealt.  In addition, the Pirates are paying the full salary for Jack Wilson and Ian Snell, and half of Eric Hinske’s post-trade salary.  The Nyjer Morgan trade that Chass hated so much was essentially a wash salary-wise.  $31 million worth of salary was not “traded” away, because the Pirates have already paid about $23 million of… Read more »
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