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Griffey's agent: napping story was an accident; newspaper: baloney

May 14, 2010, 12:21 PM EDT

Ken Griffey Jr. swing.jpgKen Griffey Jr.’s agent took to the media yesterday to fight back on the sleeping story that, at least from where I’m sitting, people had already started to forget. But hey, agents fight for their guy whenever possible, so what say you Mr. Goldberg:

Ken Griffey Jr’s agent says the napping story was
accidentally published before the story was ready.

Brian Goldberg told KIRO Radio Thursday, Tacoma News
Tribune writer Larry LaRue was investigating Griffey’s
performance with the Mariners, but accidentally published
his blog posting before completing the story.

According to Goldberg, LaRue felt horrible for prematurely
making the story public before consulting with Griffey and
Mariners Manager Don Wakamatsu. LaRue immediately called
the newspaper after realizing his mistake to try to
retract the story.

Goldberg said the newspaper declined LaRue’s request. He
said LaRue wrote a retraction, but the editors at the TNT
told him “No, we need to cover this up. We can’t look
foolish.”

Which, if true, is a pretty damning indictment of the Tacoma News-Tribune.  Unfortunately for Goldberg, the Tacoma News-Tribune is saying that Goldberg’s account is completely bogus.

To the contrary, the N-T’s sports editor, Darrin Beene, says that before telling this tale to KIRO radio yesterday, Griffey’s agent called him on Wednesday, “basically threatening to go public with
his ‘information.'”  Beene’s response: “I told him to go ahead, because what we have
published on the blog and in print remains solid.”  Tellingly, Beene says he asked Griffey’s agent if there was any doubt about Griffey sleeping in a chair in the clubhouse during the 7th inning of the game, and the agent would not answer the question.

Beene goes on to refute the agent’s story point-by-point. Considering (a) the agent’s story is all about the inner-workings of the News-Tribune’s editorial process, which he is in no position to know anything about; and (b) the agent has every reason in the world to give this a positive spin from Griffey’s perspective, I see no reason why anyone should believe him over the newspaper. (UPDATE: see below; I was just reminded of one thing that Goldberg’s story has going for it).

Look, I’m not going to go to the mat over LaRue’s original story. It wasn’t exactly the finest act of journalism in history, if for no other reason than, as his editor admits, LaRue didn’t try to get any comment from Griffey before he posted it on the blog.

But that’s an issue of fairness, not basic accuracy, and it’s quite telling that for all of the noise we’ve heard on it this week, no one will deny that Griffey was asleep at some point during the game before Rob Johnson was used to pinch hit in the eighth inning.  LaRue’s editor says he knows the source of the story, and the paper is standing by their reporter, which is by no means a given in this day and age. If it was b.s. they’d throw LaRue over the side.  I’m inclined to believe that he got the facts right, even if he could have done more to give Griffey a chance to defend himself.

As for this latest development: it  seems like a hamfisted attempt by Griffey’s agent to do some damage control, and on the merits alone it fails miserably. And even if not on the merits, than by virtue of the fact that he has once again thrust it out into the fore when it seemed to be dying on its own.

Which is fine for me, because part of my business is writing about media kerfuffles like this one. But it’s bad for his client who, as a result of this whole mess, has been the subject of countless “Ken Griffey Jr. is washed up” articles this week, and those are far more damning than when he does or does not take his naps.

UPDATE:  Just after I posted this, Aaron reminded me of one fact that could possibly give Goldberg’s story some credence. Soon after the story first went live on Monday, the link broke. For a good while — around a half hour when I started clicking it — you couldn’t get to the post.  Then it was posted again with a different URL.  Based on conversations I’ve had with people who read the initial post, the substance was the same. Certainly everything that led to the controversy was and remains in LaRue’s post on the subject.

It’s possible, is it not, that the post was accidental, that it got pulled back, and then the newspaper decided “aw, screw it, people have seen it already” and let it fly later?  If so, that would square with Goldberg’s account of the mechanics of it all. Though, notably, he did not site the deal URL as evidence for his position in the KIRO story.

The biggest problem with this, however, is what would the newspaper possibly have to gain by pulling back an accidental post, only to go with the same substance a few minutes later?  If the story was wrong, why on Earth wouldn’t they change it to be right when given the chance (or since then, for that matter)?  For what reason would they stick their necks out on a bad story like this when it could so easily be stricken or corrected? Again, if LaRue truly screwed it up, why would the paper protect him in such a complicated conspiracy like Goldberg suggests it is?

I think the answer is the same as the one I gave above: the story is accurate. If the the little URL hiccup is evidence of the paper having second thoughts, it may have been over LaRue not having talked to Griffey yet. Or it may have been for some technical reason. Or it may have been for any number of other reasons (I take stuff down several times a week because I misfired on the time stamp or something and I want to relaunch the post later). The fact is, the same story ran both before and after the URL changed.

Anyway, despite whatever distinctions one can make about fairness and accuracy, I’m personally obligated to be fair, and adding this URL business is necessary, I think, to the overall fairness of the thing.

  1. Andrew - May 14, 2010 at 12:27 PM

    6 years from now no one will remember this and Griffey will be in the hall.

  2. ecp - May 14, 2010 at 12:50 PM

    You’re coming up with some funny typos of late:
    “…he got the facts write”

  3. Tom from HotStove.com - May 14, 2010 at 12:58 PM

    Wait a minute, a sports agent may have spread positive falsehoods regarding one of his players? Say it ain’t so!

  4. Michael - May 14, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    Goldberg’s story seems to square with the fact that the “two witnesses” wouldn’t come forward either publicly or privately, to the point where they’re actually participating in the boycott of LaRue.
    I choose to believe that they’re actually not the two most cowardly men in America and that in fact they don’t exist.

  5. Craig Calcaterra - May 14, 2010 at 1:04 PM

    A lot of people have said that, but really, what do you think would happen to them if they did? I don’t think reporters should give anonymity to every single person who asks it, but if the source’s contribution to the story could lead to retaliation taken against them, then I have no problem with them being anonymous.
    Here Mike Sweeney challenged them to a fist fight for crying out loud, and the team seems fine with it. If they came forward they’d probably be sent down to a-ball.

  6. hardjuge - May 14, 2010 at 1:14 PM

    Who can blame Griffey if he slept through a Mariner’s game.

  7. Professor Dave - May 14, 2010 at 1:14 PM

    You can “choose” to believe whatever you want, but I’d recommend applying Occam’s Razor here.
    1) It didn’t happen, LaRue invented it, because he wanted to get in trouble with a clubhouse he relies on for his livelihood.
    2) Some guys actually wanted to send the message that Griffey was sleeping on the job, in hopes of embarrassing him off the team.
    3) LaRue asked some players, “Hey, what happened in the 7th? Why didn’t Griffey PH? Was he hurt,” “No man, he was asleep!” And it snowballed from there.
    I’m voting 3.

  8. ecp - May 14, 2010 at 1:16 PM

    Michael, why would they come forward? Just because Mike Sweeney says so? And why is the fact that they haven’t mean that they don’t exist? There would only be negative repercussions for them. I think at this point that they have realized that sometimes silence is golden – something they should have known BEFORE talking to LaRue.

  9. hardjuge - May 14, 2010 at 1:18 PM

    Professor shame on you applying logic and good sense to a sport’s blog. LOL

  10. Steve B - May 14, 2010 at 1:35 PM

    Man there are a lot of bullets being fired by people in the media on this story. Griffey was asleep, 2 dudes feel really bad about saying something to the press, they’re not talking because they feel guilty and don’t want to make crap worse, and LaRue’s getting hammered for no reason.
    That’s pretty effing simple.

  11. Paul - May 14, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    It’s fall out from MLB banning amphetamines.

  12. Wondering - May 14, 2010 at 1:41 PM

    If I remember right back in the mid 1990’s there was a left handed pitcher for the Atlanta Braves named Steve Avery who was like 24 or somthing and he went to sleep in a playoff game while in the dugout. All I remember was people saying how stable and comfortable he was and that was a sign of not letting the situation get after him….. Odd how a few years change how people are viewed. I would have expected a playoff game to be more important and people be awake but what do I know…

  13. Joey B - May 14, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    “I choose to believe that they’re actually not the two most cowardly men in America and that in fact they don’t exist.”
    And I’m sure you’d be the first one to possibly sacrifice a $350k job to return to a $20k job. Thought so.

  14. Bill - May 14, 2010 at 2:00 PM

    “6 years from now no one will remember this”
    Try 6 minutes from now, I already don’t give a fvck about it.

  15. Joey B - May 14, 2010 at 2:16 PM

    “I would have expected a playoff game to be more important and people be awake but what do I know…”
    I don’t remember it, but I agree. Relaxed is good. But if you are falling asleep during a PO game, it just sounds like something is wrong.

  16. Michael - May 14, 2010 at 3:56 PM

    C’mon. You know they don’t have to “come out” to the cameras. They only have to speak privately with their manager, who has frequently reinforced his desire to keep this sort of thing in the clubhouse.
    At that point Wak can speak with the players, let them know he’s taking care of it privately, and I guarantee you Sweeney will lay off.
    Yes, there may be a couple of moves to get rid of said players, but that would happen no matter what kind of “secret inside information” they offered.
    Say what you will about the Geoff Baker-fanned Ichiro-is-cancer mess, but at least the guys involved stood up and were counted with their manager.

  17. Michael - May 14, 2010 at 3:58 PM

    “And I’m sure you’d be the first one to possibly sacrifice a $350k job to return to a $20k job.”
    Actually, they did that when they spoke to LaRue in the first place. Like our mamas told us, compounding it with a lie only makes it worse.

  18. Sean - May 14, 2010 at 4:21 PM

    Where is it written that a star athlete must talk to the press? Steve Carlton is the prime example of a star athlete whose career really took off after he stopped granting interviews.

  19. Jeff - May 14, 2010 at 7:00 PM

    Griffey’s play puts me to sleep.

  20. Mike G. - May 15, 2010 at 1:58 AM

    We can end the speculation about Larry LaRue lying:
    http://www.mynorthwest.com/?nid=374&sid=264859
    Shannon Drayer reported on Griffey Jr. sleeping in the Mariners clubhouse over four months ago.
    As the Mariners beat reporter, LaRue should have known that this story was four months old. The “crime” he seems be guilty of throughout this whole ordeal is being shoddy, shoddy, shoddy. Here’s one more piece of evidence to add to this particular dossier.

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