Monthly Archives: July 2008

Running the numbers on the trade

I’ve been listening to WEEI Radio (AM 850) on and off for the last hour, and it seems that one early theme has emerged: it was time for Manny Ramírez to go, but the Red Sox gave up too much.

But did they? I don’t think so. Clearly they weren’t going to get equal value, because the whole world knew that the Sox were trying to dump Ramírez. Even so, they did pretty well — financially, too, despite their agreeing to pay Manny’s salary for the rest of the season.

Let’s start with the money. The Dodgers get Ramírez for free for the final two months of the year, as the Red Sox have agreed to pay the $7 million he’s still owed. Jason Bay makes $7.5 million a year [not quite; see update] and the Sox will have to pay him for the rest of the season, or about $2.5 million. So, in essence, they’re paying $9.5 million to have a left fielder for August and September (and, let’s hope, October). That’s a lot of money.

But turn that around. Bay is under contract for next year — again, at $7.5 million. Up until a few weeks ago, it seemed possible that the Sox would pick up Manny’s option for next year, which would have cost $20 million. Manny turns 37 next May. Bay will be 30. Given that differential, there’s a good chance that Bay will put up numbers as good as Ramírez next year, and at one-third the cost. And the Sox may be able to sign Bay to a long-term contract at far less than they would have paid to keep Manny around.

So the Sox will take a hit for two months this year, but will benefit hugely next year and perhaps beyond.

As for the prospects, well, Craig Hansen has been a monumental bust, and that’s putting it mildly. If he’s ever going to succeed, it’s not going to be here. He needs a fresh start somewhere else. Pittsburgh will be a nice, quiet place for him to develop. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say the Sox were lucky to find a way to get rid of him.

Brandon Moss? He turns 25 in September. Bay was the National League’s Rookie of the Year when he was Moss’ age. Moss might turn into a useful player, but he was never going to be more than a fourth outfielder in Boston. To get a player as good as Bay, you’ve got to give up something other than an aging superstar who’ll walk at the end of the season (and who does the Pirates no good anyway) and a pitcher who is, at best, a reclamation project.

You never know how these things will work out. On paper, though, I’d say this is a good deal with the potential to be better than good.

Manny’s gone after all

And a very good trade it is, given that the Red Sox were not in a position to get equal value:

  • Ramírez is out of the AL, so if he leads someone to a pennant, it won’t be to the detriment of the Sox. (Should be something if the Sox meet the Dodgers in the World Series, though.)
  • Jason Bay’s no Manny, but there have been times the last two years when Manny’s been no Manny, either. The big thing is that Ramírez’s bat has been more or less replaced.
  • It’s possible that we’ll regret this some day, but I’ve gotten tired of waiting for Craig Hansen to develop into something other than a complete stiff. Best of luck, Craig.
  • Too bad about Brandon Moss, but he wasn’t going to play here.

The Dodgers get Ramírez for free, which stinks, but it looks like John Henry has decided paying Manny’s salary the rest of the year is a bargain if it gets him out of town.

And, yes, it’s too bad it had to end this way. It seems like it was only a few weeks ago that everyone was raving about the new, outgoing, talkative Ramírez. That all came apart in a hurry, didn’t it?

Is Ramírez staying?

No links — things are changing too quickly. It’s a few minutes after the trading deadline. Unless the Red Sox have something up their sleeves, it looks like Manny Ramírez is staying.

I think it’s a mistake — it’s different this time. I’d have made just about any deal I could for Manny. Unless everyone suddenly gets healthy, starts performing up to scratch or both, the Sox aren’t going anywhere this year anyway.

Shipping Manny out of town would have sent a message that — if media reports are accurate — a number of Sox players would have liked to hear.

Putting presumption in context

The Boston Phoenix’s Adam Reilly weighs in with a well-timed piece on the Republican meme that Barack Obama is too “presumptuous” to be president — and on the media’s willingness to play along.

It appears that all of this is being brought to a head right now. At the moment, it’s looking like this year’s version of Al Gore’s lies that weren’t, or of John Kerry’s flip-flopping and failure to respond adequately to the Swift Boat attacks.

You can talk about the liberal media all you want, and there’s no doubt that most mainstream journalists are liberals. But there’s also no doubt that there’s a tendency among nominally liberal journalists, especially opinion-mongers, to make their bones by mocking liberal politicians.

Exhibit A is Dana Milbank’s piece in Wednesday’s Washington Post, which begins, “Barack Obama has long been his party’s presumptive nominee. Now he’s becoming its presumptuous nominee.” That might have been the moment when this particular line of attack finally jumped the shark. Or perhaps not.

Adam rushes in where others have feared to tread, writing that criticism of Obama as being narcissistic and presumptuous is, among other things, “a crafty way of playing the race card — of essentially calling Obama an uppity black man without actually using those words.” Exactly. Show me someone who’s won a major-party presidential nomination and I’ll show you someone who’s presumptuous. But some of Obama’s detractors sound like they’re ready to walk right up to the brink of suggesting that, well, he just doesn’t know his place.

(Disclosures: Adam’s a friend, he cites Media Nation and we talked through some of this while he was doing his reporting.)

Obama’s not perfect. As is the case with many ambitious people (like, for instance, John McCain), he has an unattractive tendency to use people and move on. His longstanding association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright remains troubling, and you can be sure we’ll be hearing more about it.

But by hitting him with the Republican Party’s sneering talking points, the media are not just doing the opposition’s dirty work. They’re flirting with something quite a bit uglier as well.

Photo (cc) by Jack Thielepape and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Shopping Manny

Evan Brunell of MVN.com rounds up the trade rumors involving Manny Ramírez: Phillies, Dodgers, Mets and Marlins. He concedes that “the odds that Manny actually moves is rather low. It won’t be for lack of trying, though, as Manny has worn his welcome out in Boston.”

As always, the first casualty

In my latest for the Guardian, I consider the plight of Zoriah Miller, a freelance photographer who’s been banned from covering U.S. Marines in Iraq because his images are too graphic. And I argue that the Bush administration’s ongoing censorship of the war’s photographic record is giving John McCain an unfair advantage.

The pros and cons of Google Reader

Summer is the time for media experimentation, so I’m giving Google Reader a whirl as my RSS aggregator.

Aesthetically it’s a much nicer experience than NewsFire. But the disadvantage of a Web-based aggregator is that you don’t get to choose how frequently it scours the Web for new material. Stuff I put up a while ago still isn’t visible — which makes me wonder about my other subscriptions.

Anyone know how often Google Reader updates your feeds?

A closer look at Obama and the media

No doubt you’ve noticed that the media are giving Barack Obama far more coverage than John McCain. According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ), Obama’s trip to the Middle East and Europe last week ate up 51 percent of all campaign coverage. The PEJ adds:

The trip also helped Obama, for the seventh consecutive week, dominate John McCain in the contest for media exposure. The Democrat was a significant or dominant factor in 81% of the campaign stories studied compared with 53% for McCain. Interestingly, even with all the attention to Obama’s trip, those numbers dovetail closely with the weekly coverage averages since the general election campaign began in June. In that period, Obama has factored in 79% of the coverage with McCain at 52%.

(PEJ director Tom Rosenstiel discusses the findings on this week’s “On the Media.”)

It’s no wonder that the McCain campaign has taken to making videos that mock the media’s supposed love of Obama.

But hold on. More coverage doesn’t necessarily translate into favorable coverage. As it turns out, a new study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA), at George Mason University, shows that coverage of both Obama and McCain has been more negative than positive — but that Obama has clearly gotten the worst of it. (“Media Bash Barack — Not a Typo” is the headline of the center’s press release, reproduced in full below.)

The study’s findings, reported by James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times, show that of 249 campaign stories airing on the three network nightly newscasts and the first half-hour of Fox News’ “Special Report with Brit Hume,” Obama’s coverage has been 72 percent negative and 28 percent positive, whereas McCain’s has been 57 percent negative and 43 percent positive.

The Fox effect does not appear to be too pronounced, as the study finds that “Special Report” was only slightly more negative to both candidates than the three broadcast networks.

How can this be? Well, think about the tone of the coverage in recent weeks. Obama has regularly been criticized for “presumptiveness” and “arrogance” because he has acted as though he might actually be elected president this November.

And think about how many times Obama has been asked if he was wrong about the surge in Iraq. In fact, it appears that he was wrong — but not nearly as wrong as McCain was about the war, which has now resulted in the deaths of more than 4,000 Americans and nearly 100,000 Iraqi civilians. Yet it is rare when McCain is grilled about the single most important issue of the campaign.

All this is having an effect. According to the latest USA Today/Gallup poll, McCain now leads Obama among likely voters by a margin of 49 percent to 45 percent, a swing of nine points over the past month.

McCain is not Hillary Clinton, who, along with her husband, have been despised by the media for years. Rather, McCain has been a media favorite for the past decade-plus. Remember, he once half-jokingly referred to the press as his “base.”

The CMPA study is not yet on the organization’s Web site. Here is the full text of its press release:

MEDIA BASH BARACK (NOT A TYPO)
Study Finds Obama Faring Worse On TV News Than McCain

Barack Obama is getting more negative coverage than John McCain on TV network evening news shows, reversing Obama’s lead in good press during the primaries, according to a new study by Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA). The study also finds that a majority of both candidates’ coverage is unfavorable for the first time this year. According to CMPA President Dr. S. Robert Lichter, “Obama replaced McCain as the media’s favorite candidate after New Hampshire. But now the networks are voting no on both candidates.”

These results are from the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) 2008 Election News Watch Project. They are based on a scientific content analysis of 249 election news stories (7 hours 38 minutes of airtime) that aired on ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and Fox Special Report (first half hour) from June 8, 2008 to July 21, 2008. Previously we analyzed 2144 stories (43 hrs 30 min airtime) during the primary campaign from December 16, 2007 through June 7, 2008. We report on all on-air evaluations of the candidates by sources and reporters, after excluding comments by the campaigns about each other.

MAJOR FINDINGS:

Since the primaries ended, on-air evaluations of Barack Obama have been 72% negative (vs. 28% positive). That’s worse than John McCain’s coverage, which has been 57% negative (vs. 43% positive) during the same time period.

This is a major turnaround since McCain and Obama emerged as front-runners in the early primaries. From the New Hampshire primary on January 8 until Hillary Clinton dropped out on June 7, Obama’s coverage was 62% positive (v. 38% negative) on the broadcast networks; by contrast, McCain’s coverage during this period was only 34% positive (v. 66% negative).

Obama ran even farther behind McCain on Fox News Channel’s Special Report with 79% negative comments (v. 21% positive), compared to 61% negative comments (v. 39% positive) for McCain since June 8. During the primaries Obama had a slight lead in good press on Fox, with 52% favorable comments (v. 48 % unfavorable), compared to 48% favorable (v. 52% unfavorable) for McCain.

Obama’s bad press has come at a time when he was much more visible than McCain. Since June 8, he has been the subject of 120 stories on the three network evening news shows, 50% more than John McCain’s 80 stories.

Examples of Obama’s evaluations:

Positive: “Obama came to Baghdad and he brought his star power with him … hundreds of U.S. troops and State Department personnel mobbed Obama at the embassy here.” — Terry Moran, ABC

Negative: “You raised a lot of eyebrows on this trip saying, even knowing what you know now, you still would not have supported the surge. People may be scratching their heads and saying, ‘why’?” — Katie Couric, CBS

Negative: “Far more Americans say John McCain would be a good commander in chief than Obama.” — Jake Tapper, ABC

CMPA has monitored every presidential election since 1988 using the same methodology, in which trained coders tally all mentions of candidates and issues and all evaluations of candidates. For previous CMPA findings on the 2008 elections: http://cmpa.com/Studies/Election08/election08.htm