Levine: Too much information


Levine: Too much information

By Rich Levine

For the most part, I love technology.

And when I say "for the most part," that's a wide understatement 999 out of 1,000 times, I'm all for technology. Anything that enhances our lives, improves our world. Whatever it is. I'm in.

Why not, right? As I type this, I'm sitting in a random terminal at JFK with a wireless five-pound computer on my lap, which allows me to not only write this column, but also track my fantasy football team, follow the RavensSteelers game, listen to any song I've ever downloaded and watch videos of monkeys doing weird things to frogs . . . all at the same time!

I love technology. I'm completely whipped. I'm Tom. It's Gisele. I'm at its mercy.

But like I said, every once in a while it rubs me the wrong way; really wrong. Like the way Cameron's mom touches Mitchell on Modern Family. And it's times like that when I find myself pining for a time machine hot tub, Delorian, San Dimas telephone booth, anything that can bring me back to a simpler time, when not only the technology, but as a result, we weren't so damn crazy.

It doesn't happen very often, but when it does . . . well, it does.

And it happened this weekend.

Honestly, this Adrian Gonzalez trade should have been one of the happiest moments in recent Red Sox history. Can you think of anything that's happened since the 2007 World Series that tops this? This guy is an absolute superstar. He changes everything, even if the Sox don't make another impact move this winter. Essentially, Theo's bridge is now complete; it's time to get back to business, and this news should have been met with nothing but sheer adulation.

Instead, at least in this very moment, it feels a little dirty. It's not quite as happy. And it's because of technology. It's because of Twitter.

On one hand, I see the benefits of how everything played out. The way this story was reported with second-by-second updates on everything from how many years apart they were to what movie Gonzalez watched on his cross-country flight really makes the fan feel like he or she is a part of the process; it's like you're actually sitting at the negotiating table. The frustration you feel over which prospects the Padres are asking for or how many years Gonzalez is demanding, are the same frustrations that Theo feels. Never before have fans been so in tuned to the details and emotions of these multimillion dollar negotiations.

On paper, that's pretty cool. But if it actually is, then why was Saturday and especially Sunday such a miserable online experience? Why was the constant flow of absolutes the deal is DONE, the trade is OFF, Gonzalez is GONE and the berserk reactions that followed, all day, so unsettling, chaotic and off-putting? How did everything get so out of hand?

I'm still not sure, but at the very least, I hope it can serve as a lesson. And I don't mean that in a finger-wagging way. I was just as bad as anyone. I was riding the emotional roller coaster from the second the trade was announced until the moment it was murdered until the moment there were signs of life and until the moment I got the e-mail about Monday's press conference. I was yelling, and screaming like I was Tito going off on Joe West.

But when I take a second and look back at the day that was, it slows down and makes a little more sense.

It's just negotiation. That's all it is. It's two sides going back and forth. Each wanting to make a deal, but each also wanting to get the best deal they can. Nothing is brief or absolute, even though it's hard to take it any other way when presented in 140-character tweets.

In reality, what we saw Sunday was two parties come to a relative agreement on a multi-year, nine-figure contract in less than 48 hours. That's pretty remarkable. Have you ever tried to make a fantasy trade? Think about how frustrating and unstable those negotiations can be. Hell, in October I spent an entire week intensely negotiating a trade that revolved around Justin Forsett and JerMichael Finley. And it got UGLY. And we expect smooth sailing on a deal that could be worth around 160 mullin? Negotiation is never easy. The two sides never agree on everything at first. But we forgot. We overreacted. Did we think this stuff never happened before Twitter existed? That big-time deals used to be easy?

Of course they weren't. The difference was how quickly that information came out. Twenty years ago, all the same drama would have happened with Gonzalez, and would have eventually been reported, too. But it would have all appeared in Monday morning's paper, under the headline: RED SOX FINALIZE TRADE FOR ADRIAN GONZALEZ. We would have read it with the knowledge that it was already taken care of; that it was old news. It would have been fun and gossipy, but in the end insignificant.

Remember when ESPN did that special on Dan Duquette's courtship of Manny Ramirez? Remember how crazy that was? Can you imagine following that saga on Twitter? The Internet would have imploded. Which is almost what happened with Gonzalez.

The whole thing turned into this giant debate where moderators Heyman, Gammons, McAdam and Rosenthal would throw out a piece of information and then 500,000 people would all scream at the same time. That is, until the most recent piece of information proved false and it was time to move on to the next temporary fact. You had fans threatening never to attend games again. You had a Sox beat writer triumphantly calling his readers nitwits. You had people RTing RTs of RTs about Adrian Gonzalez RTs.

And in the end, it was all for not. It was a waste of energy. A lot.

It made people so mad. It had everyone so stressed. For me, it just took the fun out of a moment that should have been memorable for different reason. Maybe that can still be salvaged with Monday's press conference, although I have a feeling that until that extension is signed, nothing will be sacred.

And, really, I'm not saying it should be.

I understand why it's like this. And I'm not saying that we move away from this kind of coverage, or that the best and brightest baseball minds should put a cap on how much information they divulge or the immediacy with which they divulge it. That's the world we live in right now. I accept that. I think that world brings so many advantages, and provides so many benefits to the fan experience. I wouldn't change it for the world.

This is just one of those rare moments when I want to get away and unfortunately, I'm not flying Southwest.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

As if there weren’t enough storylines with the 2017 Red Sox, there figures to be the lingering possibility that, at any point, one of the franchise’s greatest hitters will return to make a push for his fourth World Series title.

As Pedro Martinez keeps saying, he won’t believe David Ortiz is retired until season’s end.

And with that possibility comes a good ol’ fashioned sports debate: You’re maybe the biggest lunatic in the whole wide world if you’re hoping for the latter.

There are exactly two potential downsides to Ortiz coming back. One is that the team would be worse defensively if it puts Hanley Ramirez in the field, a tradeoff that seemingly anyone would take if it meant adding Ortiz’ offense to the middle of the order. The other is that we would probably have to see Kenan Thompson’s Ortiz impression again . . . which, come to think of it, would be the worst. Actually, I might kill myself if that happens.  

All the other drawbacks are varying degrees of noise. It basically boils down to the “what if he isn’t good?” fear. Which may be valid, but it shouldn’t be reason enough to not want him to attempt a comeback.

Ortiz is coming off a 38-homer, 127-RBI 2016 in which he hit .315 with a league-best 1.021 OPS. It's probably the best final season of any hitter over the last 50 years.

We also know Ortiz is 41 and dealt with ankle and heel injuries so vast in recent years that he was “playing on stumps,” according to Red Sox coordinator of sports medicine services Dan Dyrek. There is the possibility that he was almost literally on his last legs in 2016 and that he doesn’t have another great season in him.

Unless Ortiz is medically incapable and/or not interested in returning, what would the harm be in rolling the dice? Is it a money thing? It really depends on just how intent the Sox are on staying under the luxury-tax threshold, but it’s hard to imagine that holding them up given that they’ve bobbed over and under the line throughout the years.

The one unacceptable argument is the legacy stuff, which expresses concern that Ortiz would tarnish his overall body of work if he came back for one last season and was relatively ineffective.  

If you think that five years after Ortiz is done playing, a single person will say, “Yeah, he’s a Hall of Famer; it’s just a shame he came back that for one last season,” you’re absolutely crazy. The fact that one could dwell that much on a legacy shows how much they romanticize the player, meaning that in however many years it's the 40-homer seasons, and not the potentially underwhelming few months in 2017, that will stand the test of time.

But he’ll have thrown away having one of the best final seasons ever for a hitter.

Oh man. That’s a life-ruiner right there. A 10-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion totally becomes just another guy if you take that away.

Plus, the fact that he’s a DH limits how bad it could really be. You won’t get the sight of an over-the-hill Willie Mays misplaying fly balls in the 1973 World Series after hitting .211 in the regular season. Ortiz will either be able to hit or he won’t, and if it’s the latter they’ll chalk it up to age and injuries and sit him down. Any potential decision to put him on the field in a World Series would likely mean his bat was worth it enough to get them to that point.

The Red Sox, on paper at least, have a real shot at another title. Teams in such a position should always go for broke. Ortiz has absolutely nothing left to prove, but if he thinks he has anything left to give, nobody but the fans who dropped 30-something bucks on T-shirts commemorating his retirement should have a problem with that.

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

PHOENIX - Major League Baseball intends to push forward with the process that could lead to possible rule changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound. While baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope the ongoing process would lead to an agreement, he said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Union head Tony Clark said last weekend he did not foresee players agreeing to proposed changes for 2017. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, management can alter playing rules only with agreement from the union - unless it gives one year notice. With the one year of notice, management can make changes on its own.

"Unfortunately it now appears that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said Tuesday during a news conference. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested, and I think last season was the kind of demonstration of the potential of our league to captivate the nation and of the game's unique place in American culture."

Yet, he also added: "I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."

Manfred said while he prefers an agreement, "I'm also not willing to walk away." He said he will send a letter to the union in the coming days and plans to continue dialogue with Clark and others in hopes of reaching agreement.

Clark met with Cactus League teams last week, five at a time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before departing Monday for Florida to visit each Grapefruit League club - and proposed rules changes were a topic.

"I have great respect for the labor relations process, and I have a pretty good track record for getting things done with the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I have to admit, however, that I am disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to modest rule changes like limits on trips to the mound that have little effect on the competitive character of the game."

Clark saw talks differently.

"Unless your definition of `cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the commissioner's office on these issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this offseason we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened. I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open."

Clark added "my understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2-minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of game warning/fine adjustments."

Manfred said he didn't want to share specifics of his priorities for alterations.

"There's a variety of changes that can be undertaken," Manfred said. "I'm committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private."

MLB has studied whether to restore the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level - at the top of the kneecap. Management would like to install 20-second pitch clocks in an attempt to speed the pace of play - they have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons.

Players also have been against limiting mound meetings. The least controversial change appears to be allowing a team to call for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw pitches. In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union's agreement- such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.

"Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don't think it would have been a major adjustment for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule "beneficial in developmental leagues."

Manfred also said Tuesday that a renovated Wrigley Field would be a great choice to host an All-Star Game and Las Vegas could be a "viable market for us."

"I don't think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city," Manfred said.