Saturday, February 12, 2005

Tempest in a Teapot?

Murray Chass has a followup article in which he describes a conference call between three Yankees bigwigs (Levine, Cashman, Rubenstein) and him.

So first off, they admit he is technically correct -- the word "steroids" was in fact struck from the contract. But they say the word was "illustrative", not specific, and other news organizations are quoting Levine saying they expanded the language.

Secondly, they quoted from the contract! (Apparently they weren't allowed to fax it but could read it over the phone.) They wouldn't have to pay him if he couldn't play because of physical impairment or mental incapacity "directly due to or approximately caused by...the intentional use or abuse of any type of illegal substance."

Okay, so steroids clearly fall under that category. So Chass's original article is a non-story, right? I'm not so sure. Two things:

1) If their eliminating of the word "steroids" allowed them to expand the language of the contract, did they do the same to their other big-name signings? Sheffield? Mussica? RJ? If not, why do it to only Giambi?

2) The "illegal substance" clause, is, of course, full of loopholes. The MLBPA lawyers would be all over it ("How do you know the pituitary gland tumor was in any way related to alleged steroid use?"), and no way could the Yanks get out of the $80M they owe. So what exactly did the clause they eliminated (the one with the word "steroids") say? If leaving it in would've made it any easier for the Yanks to stop paying Giambi, they're guilty of (a) looking the other way or (b) stupidity. This is just speculation of course, but I'd like to see the text before letting the Yankees off the hook.

In any case, I ask again: what is up with Murray Chass? He used to be for the Yankees what Fox News is for the Bush Administration: mouthpieces who thinks their subject can Do No Wrong. Now he's their biggest headache. What happened? I see three possibilities:

1) the HOF selection made him realize he maybe should graduate from being a provincial small-minded cheerleader;
2) Olney -- 25 years his junior and once seen as his successor at the Times -- is now making the Big Bucks;
3) His terrible record of predictions during the 2004 season ("Even if the Red Sox somehow come back against the Yankees, they will somehow find a way to fail in the World Series.")

Any others?


  1. Yeah I read the follow up today and it made my hair hurt. It definitely seemed there was something going on. I regretfully retract my initial assumption that the original Chass piece was a non-story. There is something there. I think everything going on now is spin control by both sides. I'm not sure it will matter in the end, but it is still very intersting that it took so long for it to come out.

    It sounds like the Yankees made some changes (which are probably made to the big deals) and now they are just covering their asses with to respect to not knowing (wink, wink) that Giambi was a steroid user. In the end, you are absolutely correct in that the Yanks will never get out of the $80MM.

    One interesting thought is what if they agree to a buyout? Say 50 cents orf 60 cents on the dollar. Will the union allow that? They say they don't allow players to reduce the value of their deals without something in return. Even if the player wants it to happen (remember A-Rod). I guess they could say the "value" he would receive is that he immediately would become a free agent.

    I did find that funny that they could not fax the contract but they could read from it. Maybe they were only reading from the standard language? Seems odd.

    As for Chass - I think we have touched on that a bit before. I say he is bitter that Olney is now getting all the attention. Plus I think these NY writers realize how arrogant the Yankees are and they know they can write this stuff now since the Yankees have not won lately. Olney wrote in his book - winning is all that matters.

    In the long run this kind of coverage may be bad for the Sox. If the media keep ripping Steinbrenner he may get a little conservative in his moves and let the smart people (Gene Michael and to a lesser degree, Brian Cashman) in the org make the decisions - kind of like he did in the early 90s (of course he was also suspended then, but I'm sure he still had a lot of say).

    Oh well (getting back on topic), I can't wait to see the reaction during the season. Especially if Giambi is hitting .230 with 5 HR on May 21. Good times. Good times.

  2. Regarding the Yankees and the signing of Giambi.

    If the Yankees knew for certain that he was using steroids, why would they strike those things out of his contract knowing that steroid users are prone to long term injury? Wouldn't that just be sort of ridiculous?

    I am not saying they didn't know exactly what they were doing, but that is a terrible business move for a long term, huge money contract...

    Anyway, I am looking forward to a league where players have to know how to play the all around game (hitting, running, fielding, etc...).

    Just to show some of the effects or 'roids and how they can help someone's game. Look at Maguire. His first four or five years in the league he ranged between 220-225 pounds and his numbers were not good. Not even contact hitter numbers. Not huge power numbers. In the year he gained 25 pounds in the off-season, he jumps up in power and average...then keeps that up through his record breaking year...

    He's not the only one.

    My question is this...As men, we know how difficult it is to gain muscle mass even when working out 4-5 times a week. At that pace, I'd say we'd be hard pressed to gain 25 pounds of muscle in a year or more. In the meantime, we'd be dropping fat weight...So, to put on the muscle AND gain weight in THREE MONTHS is ludicrous. So, what's the question? How did we think for a second that ANY of these guys could put on the kind of muscle naturally? And most of us just accepted it...Talk about being gullible...

    Anyone not fall for it at the time??? Let me know...

  3. Matt, I agree with the contract not making business sense, but sense when do the Yankees do things that make sense. If people say now that there were whispers, my guess is that they knew.

    On McGwire, I totally disagree. are we even talking about the same guy.

    "Look at Maguire. His first four or five years in the league he ranged between 220-225 pounds and his numbers were not good. Not even contact hitter numbers. Not huge power numbers. In the year he gained 25 pounds in the off-season, he jumps up in power and average."

    He won the ROY in 87 or 86 (the year after Cansecon did) and he hit 49HR that year - the most ever by a Rookie. He followed that up with some damn impressive years until he got bitten by the injury bug. Plus he had a low batting average all the time - he never hit over .300 in a season he had more than 400 AB.