MLB’s Winter Meetings Offer Plenty Of Hype, But That’s Pretty Much It

Several years ago I thought I’d come up with the most brilliant idea for sports.

No matter if it’s football (professional or college), basketball (professional or college) or baseball, what if the games were televised somewhere like HBO, or Showtime, or some other form of a pay channel? What if they had announcers who could call games honestly — curse when they felt like it, criticize players and franchises without stepping out of line with their network’s relationship with the leagues — instead of what it’s like now, which is basically a perpetual display of ass-kissing.

Those are the broadcasts I want to see, where people like me call the sports I love for, well, other people like me.

That is what is missing from sports in 2014: Honesty. It’s why I’ve gravitated away from the television screen and onto the Internet as years have gone by, because I can’t find what I’m looking for on DirecTV.

During MLB’s Winter Meetings, specifically, MLB Network paraded around for a week reporting about teams that had interest in certain players, players that had interest in certain teams, and very little ever came of anything. Which I think is the point: At the end of the day it’s just a show, just a source of entertainment.

Yeah, Matt Kemp got traded to the Padres, Mat Latos got moved from the Reds to the Marlins, Rick Porcello and Yoenis Cespedas switched uniforms, and of course Jon Lester signed with the Cubs. That’s great.

The funniest part — the hilarious part — is no matter what time of the day you tuned in, you’d hear “analysts” discussing how great the trades were — for both teams — every single time. Dee Gordon to the Marlins for four prospects… great trade! Matt Kemp to the Padres for Yasmani Grandal and Joe Wieland? Great trade! Mat Latos to the Marlins for peanuts? Great trade!

FOR BOTH SIDES.

See, what MLB Network is great at is choosing the one aspect of a player’s game he does really well, and turning that into the reason for why he is so valuable. When they talk about Dee Gordon, they aren’t talking about the lifetime .272/.314/.345 triple slash line he’s produced (hint: that isn’t good); they’re talking about OMG he stole 64 bases in 2014! So valuable! He produced +3.1 fWAR last year, bringing his career WAR total up to… wait for it… +2.2. Yes, heading into 2014 Gordan was a below replacement-level player.

And here are two of the players the Dodgers are getting in return for Gordon. Notice how they are both projected to be more valuable in 2014 than Dee.

Somehow lost in all this mess is the idea that the Marlins are actually set on competing in 2015 with Dee Gordon as their everyday shortstop. Unless you can hide him on a loaded roster — like he was with the Dodgers last year — Gordon is a late-inning pinch-runner on most serious playoff-contending teams.

It’s the same with the Matt Kemp trade. Heading into the Winter Meetings the prevailing logic was why would the Dodgers want to trade their best hitter? Yet, once the trade with San Diego materialized, they changed the narrative into this is a solid baseball trade by the Dodgers because they get some salary relief. On the flip side, heading into the process the thought was why would the Padres want Matt Kemp when they don’t figure to be competitive in 2015? After the trade, it was changed to the Padres finally have their middle of the order bat they were looking for.

See, it works both ways.

And this is why I turn to the Internet for real baseball information. MLB Network makes vague attempts at poisoning its audience by the whole idea that Sabermetrics don’t mean anything, that whoever is into them is living in their parents’ basement and all that nonsense that isn’t true. They sell the thought that it isn’t really baseball. In reality, I argue that people who are into the metrics do so because they abandoned television, because they want to know what’s really happening instead of attaching themselves to the intangibles of “leadership” and “clubhouse presence”.

Just once this week I would have appreciated some critical thought from these MLB Network guys. Even Bryan Kenney has gotten soft since being with MLBN. People tune in because they love baseball, obviously, but what they get is an entertainment show filled with laughter and gimmicks, with nothing meaningful to absorb.

No, I’ve never played baseball professionally, so I don’t know a lot about what it’s like to be in a clubhouse, or what it’s like to have a leader. I’m so far removed from that lifestyle that I can see clearly when a team fucks up.

What I do know is not every trade is good for both sides. If every trade was as it’s been presented this week, then we should expect almost every team to be balanced in 2015, which of course isn’t going to happen. Teams like the Marlins are “winning” the offseason by grabbing the headlines, players like Giancarlo Stanton to his below-market $325 million contract and Dee Gordon who looks good and sounds good. But if I had to bet on it, Miami will be good for about 75 wins in 2015.

I’m sure MLB Network can spin something around and explain it by this point next year though.

 

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