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Oh look. The Mystery Team got its man

Dec 14, 2010, 7:43 AM EST

mystery man

Yesterday Jon Heyman said there was a “Mystery Team” in on Cliff Lee. Many mocked, but we mocked harder than anyone. Indeed, if you do a Google search for “Heyman Cliff Lee Mystery Team,” HardballTalk posts take the top three spots. And you know what happened next. There was a Mystery Team. And it actually signed the guy they were rumored to be courting.

How … awkward.

In light of this, many have asked me since last night if I believe Heyman is owed an apology.  My answer: yes. But a qualified one, as I shall explain.

To the extent that we cast doubt on the very existence of the Mystery Team — which we did until sometime mid-yesterday afternoon — we certainly owe him an apology for that. To the extent our tone was snotty and dismissive, we absolutely owe him an apology for that. In the former case we were wrong and in the latter case we were rude, and when one is wrong or rude, one must stand accountable for that. We hereby apologize for both of those things. No matter who may be the source of information or the target of our barbs, and no matter what our own history is with that person, they are owed better than that. Mr. Heyman is no exception.

That said, our apology to Mr. Heyman is not unequivocal. For one thing, it should not be taken as an acknowledgment that Heyman was completely omniscient here. His original report of the Mystery Team had him saying “hear it’s not the Phillies.” It was other reporters such as Jayson Stark,  Jerry Crasnick, Jim Salisbury and Ken Rosenthal who uncovered the identity of the team. It was Jack Curry who reported on the sense of Lee’s actual intentions. Minutes after Heyman reported that a decision was unlikely last night, Lee decided to go to Philly. The decision was reported by T.R. Sullivan. The terms of the deal were first reported by Crasnick. I don’t believe that who got something first is the most important thing on Earth — scoops are ephemeral things — but to the extent the media story that comes out of this is “Heyman was right all along,” that’s simply not accurate. He was right about one small, detail-light part of it and he was unfairly maligned for that, but this was not Heyman’s story by any reasonable estimate.

And we must also weigh the significance and implication of the portion of the story about which Heyman was correct. One of the reasons Heyman was not believed in this instance — and not just by us, but by multiple mainstream reporters and fans — was because he has made frequent use of the Mystery Team thing over the years, and this is the first time anyone can recall that it was actually borne out.  Aesop has covered this territory. If we disbelieved Mr. Heyman here, well, we had good reason to do so.

Moreover, we must ask what is really being accomplished when one puts out a report of a Mystery Team. However correct the report was, it only existed because someone — likely the agent — told him there was such a team but wouldn’t tell him who it was. If Heyman didn’t ask who it was, he wasn’t doing the basic job of a reporter. If Heyman did ask and the agent simply wouldn’t tell him, Heyman had a decision to make: deal with the information critically given the extreme lack of detail provided and/or dig for more, or merely parrot it and move on to the next thing. He chose the latter here and invariably chooses the latter when this sort of thing comes up, leaving the heavy lifting to others. In doing so he is either an unwitting or an active accomplice of PR.  Which is his prerogative — I would never suggest that Heyman has an obligation to report in just such a way that makes others happy — but which also means that one must still take his reports along these lines with an extreme dose of skepticism. Which we long have and which we will continue to do in the future.

But again, there’s a difference between skepticism and rudeness. I believe we crossed that line at some point with Heyman yesterday.  That was unfair to him and unprofessional. And for that, again, we apologize.

  1. Brian - Dec 14, 2010 at 7:51 AM

    Bravo Craig. I feel sorry for your Braves.

  2. mcsnide - Dec 14, 2010 at 7:56 AM

    Even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut. While the tone around here was worthy of an apology, the skepticism was not.

  3. largebill - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:01 AM

    Craig,

    Well done. Many public figures (and likely some of us private ones) could do well to contact for apology assistance. The essence that is usually missing in apologies is a specific acknowledgment of what one has done wrong.

    Aside from that, I think you hit on another issue that deserves more attention. Whether talking sports or other areas of journalism the worst mistakes of the recent past have occurred during the rush to be first. The competitive instinct that leads folks to drive to get the story before others is not a problem. The problem is when that desire leads to lowering standards. In sports it is a minor silliness of a retraction. In the real world misreporting can lead to major consequences.

  4. cnitkowski - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:06 AM

    You have a good blog here, lots of great reading.

    A sincere apology is short and to the point. The title and unneccesary long explanation takes away from it. it feels like you’re saying sorry just to save face but you don’t really mean it. You were wrong, no big deal, it happens. Don’t explain it, just apologize.

    Your content here is more than good enough, you guys definitely don’t need to take on the blogger tone or do things that would never fly in the real media.

  5. sknut - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:14 AM

    Craig,
    My thoughts exactly-I was wondering if a post of this vein was going to happen today and it did and I give you a hat tip for apologizing. I think we are all guility of reading too much into ‘mysterious reports’ and I know its the nature of the beast with the media being what it is, but I think there is a lesson for all to learn and that is sometimes we just need the process to play out and not jump on every report to contradict earlier reports to try to be first. In the end it doesn’t really matter who reports the story first, its more about the journey than the destination.

  6. yankeesfanlen - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:15 AM

    We will continue to question Heyman’s work around here because it is only one example of generally uneven reporting. He gets ONE right (without much in the way of specifics as well) which puts his average at .025.
    Moving on to the disappointment in the Universe, it seems that with an improved Sox and a gutted Rays, we only have to make our current roster DO THEIR JOB., This means YOU!- AJ. Nova-here’s your chance, don’t make this ’07 again.Andy- come back and fiddley-fart your heart out, no one ever said we don’t need you.
    Montero, step up and put in a ROY performance.Earn your money, Beep-beep, you whined enough for it.. Grandy and Brett continue improving, Swish stay just lkike you are.
    ARod, I’m leaving you and Tex alone- but hit 40HR each.
    That’ll settle our hash.
    Congrats to Jonny and Hair- see you in October

  7. flyerscup2010 - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:24 AM

    yankeesfanlen, i’m not sure any of those people you’re talking to are going to read your comment…

    • yankeesfanlen - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:25 AM

      They’ll get the news second hand.

  8. Jonny 5 - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:44 AM

    A broken clock is right twice a day.

    Last night I said this could only happen if Lee was willing to go all “Roy Halladay” on us and Ruben would be rearranged if he didn’t do it.” and “I don’t see that happening”. Then I went to bed. Apparently I owe Cliff Lee an apology since I severely underestimated him. I also didn’t think the Phills would roll back on their “policy” of signing pitchers to more than 3 seasons. Again I was wrong. Well, Cliff, and his wife obviously love Philly. Plus the draw of being a part of that rotation. Wow.

    “Merry Christmas Philadelphia”

    Love, Cliff Lee and Family.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:51 AM

      Congrats to you, Fiorentino and Hair. Should be a fun time next year. Question though, while everyone is singing the praises of Amaro, do you think he screwed you guys out of a 2010 WS by not keeping Lee all along?

      • Jonny 5 - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:57 AM

        I can’t think on that level Copo. Honestly. This is Philly, and I’m still just happy as can be that we did get to see our team win the WS in 08, then go again in 09 with Lee even though they lost. I’m also happy as heck they got Lee back. I can’t get bent about it. And when you think about it? The Phills wouldn’t have even thought about picking up Oswalt if Lee were still here, and I think the team is better for it now, and for at least a few more seasons going forward.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 14, 2010 at 10:47 AM

        Don’t worry about the negative, enjoy the happiness of the signing. You guys deserve it. As Fiorentino mentions in another thread, it’s going to be fun watching those guys pitch this year. Hopefully no one gets hurt though. A seven game NLCS between the Giants and Phillies could be some of the best pitching matchups in a long time in ’11. /fingers crossed

      • Chris Fiorentino - Dec 14, 2010 at 10:53 AM

        Yeah, I agree with Jonny here. Had he not given Lee away, the Phillies would never have traded for Oswalt, no matter how much Fast Eddie Wade wanted to give him to them. No, this thing worked out perfectly for everyone who likes the Phillies. And Amaro gets the credit because he beat out the Yankers. No matter what anyone says…Amaro got it done. Did Lee want to come here? Yeah. But he wouldn’t have taken much less money. And as is proven on a couple of the posts here, he really didn’t take much if any less money to come here. Bravo Amaro.

      • Utley's Hair - Dec 14, 2010 at 11:16 AM

        I will say that the rotation is one of the—if not THE—best I have ever seen. Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, etc., MAY have been better, though I hope this one is more successful.

        That said, we’d better be prepared for lots and lots of low-scoring wins unless Ruben can dig up a stellar RF and/or bat or two for a trip to Chickie’s and Pete’s or something.

        As for whether Rube cost the Phightins a WS win, if Lee was here, Oswalt wouldn’t be. They (Lee included) ran into a San Fran buzzsaw. So, my answer to that would be no. And I was ripping into RAJ like a lot of others—but some of that is for the crap he got for Cliffy.

  9. wonkypenguin - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:49 AM

    Nice apology, Craig. In your defense, when you find a funny schtick (and “Mystery Team” is worth continuing), it’s easy to take off on it.

    I think the length is required in order to specifically apologize for that which you are sorry. It’s not “saving face” to go into detail. Way too many “Oh, yeah, sorry” apologies just feel empty. So, just thought I would weigh in with that.

    ~Kelly

  10. metalhead65 - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:56 AM

    what a great way to say you are sorry,why bother saying your sorry then trashing the guy anyway. doesn’t matter how many times he was wrong before he was right on this one and you were wrong get over it! ok now comes the sarcastic trashing of me and my post.let’s see spelling, grammer,punctuation anything else I did wrong?nevermind I don’t come to these blogs for educational purposes anyway,I come for the rumors and stories. but I guess if it guess gives a feeling of moral superiorority to point all my flaws then good for you!hope you feel great about yourself. I will still love the game and it’s traditional stats I grew up with anyway.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:27 AM

      doesn’t matter how many times he was wrong before he was right on this one and you were wrong get over it!

      I’m going to ignore all the ignorant comments as well as terrible grammar and just focus on this. Are you seriously saying that a guy can be wrong ninety-nine times out of one hundred, and we should praise him for the one time the sh!t stuck to the wall? If so, maybe you should read Perez Hilton’s blog or the National Enquirer as most people come here for facts and not rumormongering.

  11. macjacmccoy - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:04 AM

    I dunno I think it is common sense that when someone says there is a mystery team that it is coming from someone who has interest in hyping the deal up(most of the time its from an agent). Any reasonable person should already know that. ( And dont say well the casual fan wouldnt know that bc the casual fan wouldnt be reading articles about which team might or might not sign a player in the middle of Decemeber when the baseball season is so far away.) So why should Heyman have to say , everytime he gets a report from an agent or someone else about a mystery team, that I heard this from someone with interest in seeing this get reported so take it with a grain of salt.

    I mean come on Craig, Buster etc. are you children? Do you need everything spelled out for you or do you just think we do? It is common sense and the fact that you attack a guy for not treating the public like children shows us what you guys really think of the mental capability of your readers or anyone whos not you.

  12. proudlycanadian - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:15 AM

    I wonder which team he actually had in mind if it wasn’t Philadelphia. Perhaps there was another “mystery team” out there such as Boston trying to make life difficult for New York. So far, Boston has had a much better off season than New York.

    • mcsnide - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:19 AM

      Boston’s old news. They were one of the two “mystery teams” earlier on. Supposedly, they offered 7 years at a low salary in an attempt to drive up the number of years the Yankees would have to offer.

  13. macjacmccoy - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:20 AM

    Besides all that will you Please write an article about how Cliff Lee signing with the Phillies is no where near similiar to Lebron going to the Heat.

    All morning that is all Ive been hearing on Espn and on the internet and its ridicolous. Lebron left his home the city he grew up in and the team he was drafted by to play in Miami. Cliff Lee left a team that he spent a half a season with to go to another team he spent half a season with that he obviously preferred. It would be 1 thing if he left the indians to play for the Phillies but he didnt they got rid of him. So any comparison between what Lee did and what Lebron did is asinine. Yes they both left for argueably a better team but thats where it ends. Cliff lee didnt hold a tv special for his decision. Its a totally different sport for god sakes it cant be compared. Basketball stars play with 5 teammates every night who barely come out of the game Aces pitch once every 5 days. So the whole he didnt want to be the man with the Rangers like Lebron stuff is none sense.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:23 AM

      I just did. Go see the “Winners and Losers” post that I just put up.

  14. Jack Marshall - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:26 AM

    I think it is admirable to apologize to Heyman for the tone of yesterday’s articles—though if the tone is the issue, the apology was due whether he turned out to be right or not. But if, as seems to be likely, Heyman reported what he was told by Lee’s agent without knowing for sure whether he was being used to further an unethical negotiation ploy, and without checking the story before he reported it, then he deserved the criticism then and deserves it now. He was the beneficiary of “moral luck”—like the drunk driver who gets home without incident.

  15. Jonny 5 - Dec 14, 2010 at 10:25 AM

    I guess, I like the apology. It shows Craig has humility which is rare in today’s day and age. But seriously, I think this was just Heyman being himself once again. And he had no clue what was going on. My guess is he was just lucky this time around that such a team actually existed.

  16. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Dec 14, 2010 at 10:41 AM

    Sweet: Yanks didn’t get him. Bitter: Phils did. I will have to drink real hard on this one while listening to The Verve.

    • Utley's Hair - Dec 14, 2010 at 11:23 AM

      I’ll join you—but for different reasons.

    • mcsnide - Dec 14, 2010 at 11:54 AM

      Thanks for getting that song stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

  17. Loren - Dec 14, 2010 at 11:46 AM

    I don’t know. This seems like the type of apology Craig would slam if someone else wrote it. One part apology, nine parts “but not really”. I think there are legitimate reasons for a qualified apology here, but it should have been more balanced. This posts reads like the apology part is just a jumping off point to bash Heyman again. This is more than I expect from most bloggers, but I have come to hold Craig to a higher standard after all his years of being a decent human being on his blogs.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Dec 14, 2010 at 11:59 AM

      Which part of the apology seems disingenuous to you? Which part of it is logically inconsistent? Which transgression of mine have I not apologized for? What am I criticizing Heyman for here that is not actually true?

      • Loren - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:00 PM

        The whole thing is logically consistent and you outright owned up to and apologized for your transgressions. As I said, that’s more than I expect from a run of the mill blogger. But when I read the post it has the feel of getting the required apology out of the way quickly so you can get right into why his story wasn’t a big deal even though it was right and why Heyman’s reporting is still so flawed. By the time you get to the end of the post there’s been more negative stuff than apology and I think it’s hard to claim you’ve done something noble and taken the high road. Maybe you’ve got more bad blood with Heyman that I realize and you can’t just say sorry and leave it at that, but I would have been more impressed if the last three paragraphs had turned into three sentences of brief equivocation so that the post came off as an apology in spirit as well. That said, I do not think an apology for the apology is in order, even from a blogger I respect as much as you.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:05 PM

        But what does one do when one does not feel he owes a blanket apology? Because I only feel I owed Heyman an apology for a couple of very discrete things. Should not context be offered to explain the breadth of the apology? For what, specifically, I am apologizing for?

        Because if I were to simply say “sorry,” it would have the effect of apologizing for my criticism of his use of Mystery Teams in the first place. Which I have no intention of doing because I think it’s bad journalism. My ungracious statements about Heyman and tone were problematic, but the subject matter was not. How is one to separate the two when they are so intertwined?

      • Loren - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:51 PM

        This is getting too subtle and unwieldy for a comments dialogue, but I am compelled to continue… You absolutely needed to point what you were and weren’t apologizing for, I don’t begrudge you that. It’s the balance of it where I take issue (though it is a fairly minor issue). I think you could have apologized as you did in the beginning and then briefly mentioned that his initial report wasn’t entirely accurate and that you stand by your earlier statements that he should have done more to figure out the mystery of the team involved. If you really wanted to pick apart the reporting in detail the way you did, maybe it could have been in a follow up post. Thanks for your time Craig.

  18. sickabod - Dec 14, 2010 at 2:57 PM

    Here is a video I made about this Cliff Lee Decision: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6WTxJkwimA

  19. tomemos - Dec 14, 2010 at 4:00 PM

    I don’t think I understand the apology for the snotty tone. Did you know you were being snotty at the time? Did you think it was wrong at the time? Or is it only wrong now that Heyman has been (kind of) vindicated? If Lee had signed with the Yankees, would Heyman not be owed an apology for the tone?

    My personal feeling is that snottiness and rudeness have their place, so I don’t think that apology is necessary. But necessary or not, it confuses me in this instance.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:07 PM

      I think the snotty tone was hard to separate from whether he was right or wrong on the merits. Indeed, I was snotty because I so thoroughly believed he was wrong.

      But yeah, there’s some hindsight here too. I’m not sure how I would have felt about it all if he was wrong. I might not have thought anything about it all. Which is another problem, but one I must deal with myself when I write irrespective of what I’m writing about.

  20. lordd99 - Dec 15, 2010 at 3:19 AM

    I was one of the posters who commented yesterday that I thought things had gone a bit too far, so I do appreciate your perspective, and I agree with what you apologized for and what you didn’t apologize for above.

    So if you see Heyman at a coming conference, do you say hi or walk to the other side of the carpet? :-)

    • Craig Calcaterra - Dec 15, 2010 at 5:34 AM

      Just saw him at the Winter Meetings last week. Didn’t avoid him. Didn’t talk to him either. We don’t have much to say to one another, really.

  21. mvd513 - Dec 15, 2010 at 6:11 AM

    No one, including you, owed Heyman anything. He’s spouted so much mystery team BS, he brought this on himself. Really, someone else was interested in Johnny Damon last year? Ok….

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