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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Both Papers Question Abreu’s Honesty

Today, both the Inquirer and Daily News questioned Phillies’ outfielder Bobby Abreu’s assertion upon arriving at Spring Training that he wasn’t offended by trade rumors surrounding him this off-season. One overriding thought has entered my mind after hearing so much this winter about Abreu’s sensitivities on the issue:

Who cares?

The Inquirer’s Jim Salisbury’s sarcastic “The winner for best actor in a trade drama is...” starts off with my favorite aspect of any newspaper article — conjecture, wrapped in bravado:

Here's what we know: The Phillies tried to trade Abreu this winter. (Take that to the bank.) Abreu was ticked off about it. (Take that to your local branch, too.) Of course, none of the principals will admit to any of this.

I’ll admit I’ve read quotes from other teams substantiating the trade rumors, but not in Salisbury’s column. So, ok, maybe columnists’ get away with pushing opinion as fact. But Salisbury goes beyond that:

Abreu won't admit that he was disappointed, upset, angered, bothered or affected in any way, even though his agent, Peter Greenberg, told at the winter meetings: "Initially, when [Abreu] heard all the rumors, he was hurt." In recent weeks, two friends of Abreu's have told this newspaper that all the trade talk had left Abreu feeling hurt, upset and rejected.

Abreu denied all of the above, saying the reports were untrue.

Later, he goes even further:

The Phillies keep saying they never asked Abreu to waive his no-trade clause, as if that means anything. That conversation would have taken place only when a deal was agreed upon. There was no need to have it during the time when proposals were exchanged.

I’m no GM, but that’s bogus. It’s bad enough Salisbury is telling readers that he knows how Abreu feels regardless of what the outfielder says. Dismissing a reasonable point is ridiculous. Any sports fan knows how complicated trades can get. The Phillies saying that nothing ever got serious enough to discuss a no-trade isn’t just propaganda. Unless it’s a lie, which Salisbury only suggests (likely because he can’t support it enough), it’s a legit point. Why bother if there’s no deal to be made? The Phillies would only potentially alienate their own player in doing so, and clearly the press had that covered.

The Daily News’ Marcus Hayes wasn’t quite as bad, but had the same message. His “A B.A. in harmony,” read, in part:

Believe what you want.

The Phillies said they didn't shop All-Star rightfielder Bobby Abreu in the offseason... though they might have if the price was right.

"We never got to that point," general manager Pat Gillick said. "What they had didn't interest us."

Abreu, who reported yesterday, said he believed Gillick.

Abreu, a sensitive sort, denied reports that he was upset that his name arose in trade talks.

The story goes on to be fairly straightforward, but the opening “Believe what you want” (repeated at the end) clearly implies Abreu and Gillick are lying. It implies that the reporters are the only ones who speak the truth.

Besides that, this smacks of reporters creating a story based on other reports. These stories essentially “report” that Abreu denied “reports” that he was upset about “reports” that the Phils tried to trade him. Salisbury almost admits this is a non-story:

In some ways, this matter is silly. Why can't the Phillies admit they looked to reshape their team and gain payroll flexibility? Why can't they admit they dangled Abreu because he's a tremendous talent who would bring big value (like a desperately needed top pitcher) in return? Why can't they say no team met their high price, and if no one was willing to do that, they were happy to keep Abreu?

Gillick basically did say Abreu was involved in trade talks and that the Phils valued him more than what the other teams offered by saying no other team got close to the price for Abreu. So we’re left a “story” Abreu’s sensitivity about being traded, which he denies. Even if he’s lying . . . I repeat, who cares?

It’s sports. People get traded. Guys a hell of a lot better than Abreu get traded.

I admire most reporters and what they do. The idea that they are the watchdog of truth and honesty — albeit in societal issues more than sports, but you get the idea — is something I genuinely believe in.

Despite this being my second of two (non-introductory) posts on this site criticizing writers, that is not the intention of this blog. I haven’t read much of Salisbury, and basically like Hayes’ writing.

But I’m tired of writers who think readers just swallow whatever they say as unquestioned truth. It seems to be a trend Philadelphia doesn’t need.

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