The fun starts Nov. 14. Mark it down on your calendars.
That is the day that teams can begin negotiations with free agents. Until then, free agents can only negotiate with their current teams. Players can file for free agency now and we’ll likely get the first batch any time. But the actual dollars and lack of sense talk doesn’t get going until Nov. 14.
In the meantime, prepare for the usual herd of hot stove stories. This is how they tend to break down:
1. Agent says his client loves the Yankees: This is a popular one. Editor tells reporter he needs a story. Reporter calls agent and asks whether Player X likes the Yankees. Agent says of course he does. Presto, you have a story. This method usually shows little regard to whether the Yankees actually want the player or whether the player actually wants to play for the Yankees. But every agent wants their client involved with the Yankees to try and drive up the price.
2. “Friend” of a player says he likes (or doesn’t like) the Yankees: This “friend” could be just about anybody, his agent, a former coach, a teammate, a reporter from another city, etc. Usually these stories are covers for rank speculation.
3. Player X isn’t about the money: This is a popular story as well. Man, that Player X, he loves living in California. He loves his mom. He loves playing in the National League. It’s always nonsense. I’ve yet to find a player who left a substantial amount of money on the table.
4. “Industry sources” say Player X is leaning this way: I like when baseball is referred to as an industry. Like they’re building radios at the parks in their spare time. As for “industry sources” that covers a wide range of folks. These vaunted sources are usually wrong half the time.
5. A person from another team says this is what the Yankees are doing: Another go-to story. Call up a friendly assistant GM with another team and ask him what the Yankees are up to. This works sometimes. But the other guy usually has his own agenda, too.
6. “Team officials” say this is what the Yankees are doing: Ever since Brian Cashman flushed out some of the rats, this is a less valid story than it used to be. The Yankees have more leaks than most teams, but less than they used to.
7. Hank Steinbrenner spouts: The Associated Press has a part-time reporter in Tampa named Mark. Nice guy. His job at this time of the year is to literally go stand outside of Steinbrenner Field and wait for Hank to come out on the balcony for a smoke. When he does, he shouts questions at him. Then around 9 p.m. a story moves on the wire that says “Steinbrenner: Yankees want Sabathia” and everybody runs with it like it means something.
8. Charity or promotional events: New York is the scene for many of these. Reporters flock to them to get face time with Brian Cashman or one of the players. Makes for a good story in the winter.
Just remember, New York is different than the other markets. Everywhere else, the baseball writers are on cruise control now, waiting for something to happen. They might check in on their teams every few days. Their papers are more concerned with the NBA, NFL or college sports. But baseball is a 365-day topic in New York. Because of the fan interest, editors want a constant flow of stories.
Some are good, some are nonsense. So enjoy the hot stove, but read with a skeptical eye because most everybody out there has an agenda and the truth is often not part of it.