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‘Without any substance and flat out wrong’

Report on White Sox lowballing Harper and Machado doesn’t pass the sniff test

Kyler Murray Signs Contract
Sleeps with fishes: Something stinks about a recent report on the White Sox’s free agency pursuits.
Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

Same as it ever was.

The Chicago White Sox are playing their customary timid toe-dipping with this offseason’s crop of once-in-a-lifetime free agents, according to a trusted local source for baseball news.

In the early afternoon on Wednesday, the Score’s Bruce Levine issued a pretty shocking, and damning, tweet:

The report came on the heels of newest ESPN catch Jeff Passan’s assertion/assumption that the White Sox are willing to meet the upper reaches of Bryce Harper or Manny Machado’s contract demands, in a debut column taking on the free agency clog created by the concrete-footed effect of the Harpchado delays:

Harper has met multiple times with representatives of the Washington Nationals, according to a club source, and the possibility of a return to the place he spent the first seven years of his career persists, despite Nationals owner Mark Lerner’s insistence that Washington would not stretch beyond the $300 million offer Harper rejected near season’s end. The Phillies and White Sox are the other two teams known to be willing to guarantee Harper the decade-plus-long deal he and Machado, each 26 years old, are seeking. Harper’s willingness to wait for a contract he deems suitable is real, according to a source who said he could see Harper’s free agency stretching into February.

When Passan’s premise got some traction on Twitter, Levine’s initial tweet seemed to — and his column later specifically contradicted — Passan’s notion.

In contrast to his tweet, Levine’s column is not all that damning. His take, amidst all the breathless logging of hours the White Sox have spent with either FA candidate, is that the White Sox haven’t offered 10 years. The money (for argument’s sake, $30 million per year) is there, just not the long-term commitment.

In an effort to clean up some of the clickbait shitstorm he stirred, Levine farted out another tweet a few hours later that really failed the sniff test:

And at some point, someone’s gotta push back:

So, OK, we’re at the point in the offseason where we’re parsing tweets and diagramming sentences in desperation for real, promising news and developments. And yeah, it’s a fool’s folly.

But let’s mine these “new developments” for just a moment, as your very last interest in Bryce Harper or Manny Machado withers away due to sheer, mindless rumor fatigue.

First, let’s just call Levine out for mindlessly (or cravenly) parroting his source(s).

We’ve seen this happen more than once this offseason. When Jon Morosi broke some Adam Ottavino news

he backpedaled before the day was through, presumably after getting a few !!! texts/threats from Ottavino’s agent

Levine’s second tweet on Wednesday, reinforcing the notion that Harper has gotten offers — again, presuming 10/$300 — that (in tweet context, at least) dwarf that of the what the White Sox are offering, reeks of Scott Boras.

If Levine had asserted that White Sox sources were telling him the team wasn’t going 10 years, OK, curious — but perhaps there’s something to work with there, factually.

That “high-ranking industry sources” say same ... what the hell?

The initial take, looking at Levine’s first tweet alone, is that Levine is serving someone’s agenda — certainly not the White Sox’s. Levine takes some text chattering from a team exec source or two — dunno, the Wash Nats and Cuuuuuuuuubbies, let’s say — and ignores those sources’ own, obvious self-interests, simply to dump cold water on the White Sox.

Levine’s second text is where Harper has gotten all the big offers. And, just for extra acid effect on the South Siders, Levine inserts a judgy “that should go with a 5 WAR player” bit. That tweet sounds like some direct follow-up from Boras, Inc.

So, to review Levine’s busybody Wednesday:

  1. Tweet “specifically” contradicting a fresh report of the White Sox being real factors at the negotiating table.
  2. Online article fleshing out the story, amending tweet assertion into something a little more toothless (yes on money, no on 10-year commitment).
  3. Follow-up tweet rubbing White Sox faces in it, by mentioning the team by name (in a relative vacuum) and letting the presumption remain (incorrect, per his own article) that the team is willing to go the distance neither in years (10) nor dollars ($30 million).

The question you’re left with, as a White Sox fan, or just a baseball fan, is: why?

Without presuming plenty about Levine’s biases, his desperation to stay in the good graces of a key source, or some sheer anti-Sox conspiracy, there isn’t a clear answer.

What can be said is that Levine’s information — these two Wednesday tweets more so than his actual column on the proceedings — is ludicrous.

Specifically, it’s absurd. As many fans have already responded, the notion that the White Sox would even have their calls received by Harpchado camps with first/final offers of, uh, seven years/$175 million is just plain wrong. For as much posturing and empty reporting (we’re all guilty of it) as goes on in our oversaturated media world, the idea that what has been reported as fact by scores of sources, reputable and barstooly alike — the White Sox are in on both Harper and Machado, are in heavy, and are among both players’ final few candidates to sign with — is somehow untrue because of unnamed “industry sources” is not only wrong, it’s offensive.

And generally, it’s naive. Let’s say that Rick Hahn had only spoken conservatively with either player or his agent without, say, giving away the entire Reinsdorf mint on first meeting. What the hell is wrong with that? I’m not an art of the deal maven, but it’s clear that crafty negotiation — for a 10-year deal, no less — isn’t simply backing a Brinks up to a player’s house and dropping coin.

Somehow, when word “leaks” that the northsiders, despite having no room in the budget and no roster space for Harper, have told Scott Boras to “check in” with them before making a final decision on where to sign, it’s breathlessly reported without a single fact or logic check. The White Sox spend weeks dancing with these two delightful divas — with interest in Machado dating back to last offseason’s trade rumor mill, mind you — and we get pins in balloons before the new year’s slush turns brown.

Something stinks, and once again, it’s one-source, unvetted, clickbait reporting.

Whether the White Sox win or lose on Harper, Machado, Ottavino, Yasmani Grandal or Alejandro De Aza, let’s hope legit writing and proper sourcing win the day.