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Earlier this week, there were various reports that teams, including the Red Sox and Yankees, were interested in Chicago Cubs starter Matt Garza. Whether the Cubs would actually, ultimately trade Garza was in doubt, but the fact that there was outside interest was legit.

But now at least a couple writers are taking the opportunity to squash any Garza trade rumors.

First, Bruce Levine, in his weekly chat at ESPN Chicago, stated flatly that “[t]he Cubs will not trade Garza,” offering the amount that the Cubs gave up to get him as the reason Garza won’t be traded. (Um, what? A stark counterexample: the Phillies gave up a ton to get Cliff Lee in mid-2009 and then turned around and traded him five months later. It happens.)

Then, CSN’s Patrick Mooney went even further, claiming that “[t]here is absolutely nothing to the speculation that the Cubs could move Matt Garza.”

I think both Levine and Mooney are playing the low risk prediction game, and are doing a disservice to completeness and accuracy in the process.

Saying Matt Garza unequivocally will not be traded is a pretty low risk proposition. The chances that the Cubs are sufficiently steamrolled on a trade offer to actually move him are small. Very small.

So, you say “Garza will not be traded,” and, when July 31 rolls around, you’re proved right. Hooray! Genius!

And, what do you know? If you ask the Cubs’ front office, they’ll give you a quote to back up your guess! “We never had any intention of trading Matt Garza, and any speculation to the contrary was made up.” Hooray! Double genius!

But, even if plays out that way, allow me to submit that you were wrong all along.

There is a fundamental difference between saying “the Cubs will not trade Garza,” or “there is absolutely nothing to the speculation that the Cubs could move Matt Garza,” and saying “it’s extremely unlikely that Garza will be traded, but of course the Cubs will listen if a team wants to try and bowl them over with an offer.” The former two are lazy. The latter is accurate.

Of course there’s *something* to the Garza trade speculation.

The reason there is something to the Garza trade speculation? Other teams want him. And as long as that remains true, it remains theoretically possible that he could be traded – especially when those other teams have contacted, or are considering contacting, the Cubs. An MLB front office source confirms to me that it’s true, and it sounds like Phil Rogers and Nick Cafardo have heard the same.

The Chicago Cubs’ organization has proved inept at times over the past decade. But even I am not willing to suggest – as other writers are apparently willing to do – that the Cubs would not at least listen to offers for Garza. The trade market for starting pitchers is particularly thin this year, and Garza would be quite a haul in even a deep market. The offers could be significant.

Let me be clear: I’m not advocating that the Cubs trade Matt Garza. I do think he has number one stuff, and I do think trading him – even for a couple of incredible pitching prospects – is more likely to create another hole than to fill two. But I am advocating that the Cubs listen to all offers, something I believe they are absolutely doing.

And spare me the quotes from management about how much they love Matt Garza and how they don’t intend to trade him. First of all, those quotes are almost always parseable down to tiny bits that actually suggest the opposite. Second, do you really think the Cubs are going to say anything else? They know a trade isn’t likely. They know Garza is likely to be a fixture in the rotation for years.

So, allow me to be the first to tell it to you straight, because, frankly, I’m pretty miffed:

The Cubs do not affirmatively want to trade Matt Garza. The Cubs are highly, highly unlikely to trade Matt Garza. But other teams are calling, and the Cubs are listening.

As they should be.

  • MichiganGoat

    At the heart of this discussion is the fundamental problem with sports journalism: They feel obligated to make concrete predictions vs. reporting actual news. It’s one thing to speculate/discuss rumors (it’s actually quite fun) but it goes against the essence of journalism (reporting factual, accurate news) by reporting predictions and assumptions as news. For these reasons, blogs are becoming the destination for many people getting the actual news and specially getting the honesty that is behind the headline seeking news that is wildly reported. Good work Brett.

    • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

      I think a distinction needs to be made between sports columnists (who are obnoxious, self-important prognosticators and rumor mongers interested in obtaining/retaining their readership by hyperinflating their opinions and “analysis” to the realm of concrete facts – and likely contradicting themselves the next day), and sports journalists/beat writers (who are *ostensibly* interested in reporting the facts of the day’s matchup, getting feedback from players/managers, etc.).

      The problem seems to be that sports journalists are given greater latitude in letting their opinions/prognosticating encroach into their writing than the journalists on the other pages are — most likely because they want to move from their beats into the cushy 3-day/week columnist jobs. Talk radio, blogs, twitter, etc., have all provided sports journalists with places to predict/analyze/provoke, inflating egos in the process, confusing the reporting with the opining.

      It really shocks me to read that pasty twit Wittenmeyer’s “beat reports”, which often read like junior columnist trash compared to Muskat’s actual level reporting of the facts. Of course, I don’t read her stuff all that much, mostly because I’m not interested in facts. I’m interested in pictures of hot women, which is why I come here.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        And isn’t it crazy how much guff Muskat gets from some folks around the ‘net? I think she is one of the best at straight-reporting the facts. I very much enjoy reading Muskat, and if that makes me crazy, so be it.

        That said, I am conflicted about the whole journalist/beat writer/columnist thing as a broader issue. Yes, I’ll level my criticism here in the way I have, but I try to stop short of criticizing “beat reporters” or “journalists” for offering opinions or speculation in the way you would expect from a traditional columnist. Why? I’d think the answer is obvious: doing just that is my trade here. I blend facts and opinions like it’s nothing to do so. Maybe that’s what makes the blog style so appealing to me and others, but I have a hard time believing it places me in a position to criticize others for doing the same thing.

        So, instead, I settle for criticizing lazy writing/reporting/whatever, which lacks just a few moments of critical thought. We can all inject critical thinking into our pieces, whatever our nominal title. Bruce Miles is the perfect example – he never gets flack from anyone for injecting his opinion into his “beat reporting” because it always has clear thought behind it.

        Great discussion, by the way.

        • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

          I haven’t spent more than an errant minute or two here and there reading the comments on the mlb.com site, but she certainly does catch an awful lot of unnecessary flack there. What gives? And I agree with you about Bruce Miles, mostly because he keeps the hyperbole to the side and doesn’t confuse his opinion with fact.

          Thing about BN is that you are neither a journalist or a columnist. You’re a blogger. You would — and should — be held to a set of different ethics and standards were you to be one of the former. I’m a landscape architect. If a couple of my neighbors got together to redo one of their backyards, I’m not going to hold them to the same standards that one of my clients would hold me to, no matter how awesome (or awful) their design ended up. I have responsibilities to approach things in a way that is a standard in my profession. My neighbors are only responsible to their whims and the half case of Bud Light left in the cooler.

          Now there certainly is an argument to be made about the convergence of ‘non-traditional media’ with traditional journalism, and what sets one apart from another. I don’t know the answer to that. I’m sure there are a lot of opinions, most likely falling along the blogger/traditional journalist divide. I don’t think this is at all a knock on your (or others’) dedication, abilities, craft, or quality. I read BN daily, and read the others (Trib/Sun Times/Herald) occasionally. But there are different standards and responsibilities at issue.

          What bothers me the most about the sports pages is that there seems to be different standards and responsibilities between the sports page and the business/news/etc pages. I don’t think that should be the case.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            Well put.

            And I think the fact that this can come from the same man who openly pines for a man sling simply proves what an excellent space the blog world has become.

            • MichiganGoat

              Wait a man can want the snug support of a slong thong AND be an awesome poster?

              • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

                Thank. You.

                • Michigan Goat

                  You know having a thong ride up ones ass is the perfect image for this year.

                  • Fishin Phil

                    MG, make that a barbed-wire thong and you are right on the money!

                    • http://calebshreves.blogspot.com Caleb

                      I love you all.

        • http://Bleachernation Bric

          Msucat’s problem is the same as every beat reporter- affiliation. I always chuckle during spring training when there are so many games that the beat reporters get assigned a game to recap for both teams’ websites. the bias toward the team they work for (which is understandable) is pretty funny. The difference between pitcher X “getting shelled” and “working on some pitches” often depends on the affiliation of the writer.

          The fact is Carrie Muscat is a publicist, nothing more and nothing less. She has no thoughts of her own. Everything she says or prints comes straight from her bosses, the Cubs administration. Finding fault with her is finding fault with hendry, Ricketts, Bush, Fleita, and Wilken. Like the old saying goes- don’t shoot the messenger.

          • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

            The mlb.com reporters aren’t employees of their respective teams, but of the league itself. I think that’s a distinction worth making. And it may not be the affiliation, but the *access* that’s the issue (and I think this is true with nearly all reporters/journalists). If you don’t have access, it’s hard to make your story. It’s hard to get or maintain access if you’re thrashing your subjects, fairly or unfairly.

            For what it’s worth, I don’t want the beat reporter to be writing thoughts of her own. I want the facts/quotes/etc. served up directly. Her reports should read like a narrated box score, and any analysis should occur within quotation marks. If I want opinion/analysis, I go elsewhere. Most often here.

      • MichiganGoat

        Great clarification TWC. There is a difference between the beat writers and the columnist, but I don’t think the the average/causual fan sees a difference- hell I dont think the columnist see a difference. I like Muskat because she just reports the facts, reports the comments by the front office (which are rarely truthful), and avoids the muckraking of other sports “journalist.”. I really blame the whole ESPN-ing of modern sports reporting- the catch-phrase, speculative, headline grabbing that is ESPN and its clones. As for bloggers, it is a new media, and because it’s so new there is plenty of shit that makes the Colin Cowherds of the world look like pulitizer worth journalist. It is the job of the consumer to find blogs that report the news, give a spin, and speculate in a responsible, ethical manner. It’s why I love BN because although Brett may not be a journalist in the traditional sense, he does a stellar job finding a respectable balance, and the responsible, educated posters that frequent this site support that direction beautiful.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Thanks, MG. As always, you guys are obviously a huge part of why this place works.

          • http://Bleachernation Bric

            TWC, interesting distinction in the fact that the beat writers working for MLB, not their own teams. Clearly they do, or they wouldn’t be assigned to do a recap on some other team’s website. But since this America, you gotta figure their performance is based on reader feed back, website hits, opinion rating, etc. All factor into whether she keeps a job or not. So it’s a more a case of CYA than jus fair reporting.

            It’s just like politics. Most people don’t trust politicians- just ask them. But when it comes down to THEIR politician- “Oh no, he’s (or she’s) clean. It’s all the other politicians that are dirty.” Again, she’s just a publicist. And if the ship’s going down, she’s going down with it.

            • jstraw

              Would it kill you to just admit you were wrong and didn’t know what you were talking about?

              • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

                Derp?

                Bric may have assumed incorrectly, but I certainly can understand the assumption. Kasper, Brenly, Caray, etc. were all Cubs employees (right?).

                While I don’t know what all goes in to the MLB reporters’ performance reviews, Muskat has been covering the Cubs for a decade, and has covered baseball for 25 years or so. If Bric’s ass-covering hypothesis is correct, so far her ass has been well covered.

              • http://Bleachernation Bric

                Sure, I’ll be happy to. Here’s the exact statement next to her name: “Carrie Muskat has been the Cubs beat reporter for MLB.com since 2001 and has been covering the club since 1987″. Holy fuck! she’s works for MLB and not just the Cubs?!!! I never noticed that before?!!! It’s the same thing dude, it’s like saying which McDonald’s do you work for?…

  • RY34

    Trading Garza would be absolutely stupid to do; hey right up Hendry’s alley. i can just see it now a rotation of demp, z, lopez, russell, and joe blow off the street!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Joe Blow had a league average VORP last year, so he’s really not that bad.

  • BT

    But following your reasoning Ace, you could apply this pretty universally. I think the statement “The Cubs are not going to trade Starlin Castro” is pretty accurate. However, if the Rays call up and say “Here’s David Price and Evan Longoria”, of course they would trade him. But for all intents and purposes, he’s not available. The same applies, to a lesser degree, to Garza.

    So in theory, you can never say anyone is untouchable, but there are varying degrees of “touchable”. When I read something like “There is nothing to the speculation the Cubs could move Garza”, I assume it means the Cubs aren’t contacting anyone about him (unlike, say Fuk and Pena), and anyone contacting them are told it would take a kings ransom.

    The statement “it’s extremely unlikely that Garza will be traded, but of course the Cubs will listen if a team wants to try and bowl them over with an offer” is technically accurate. However it applies to virtually every player in baseball.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That’s an excellent point, BT. I have two responses:

      (1) To your statement that the line of reasoning applies (or, at least, should apply, in my opinion) to virtually every player in baseball, my response would be: “yes, yes it does.”

      (2) Overall, though, I would say that this point is actually a fair bit narrower – because I’m speaking of Garza, specifically. I have reason to believe – both by way of the Cafardo and Rosenthal blurbs, as well as my own source – teams are contacting the Cubs about Garza. I understand that one way to interpret the Cubs asking for the moon in return is that “there is nothing to the speculation,” but it seems like a pretty lazy description to me. First, it’s not “speculation” – it’s actually happening. And, two, there’s not “nothing” to it. Clearly, there’s something.

    • MichiganGoat

      I wonder what Q thinks is Campy’s touchabilty, with his NAMBLA crush and all.

  • Coal

    Ace-
    Love your stuff. But this post irks, me, in particular that you take such a hard stance against people for writing stuff that is laziness more than it is news, while in the same breath offering that “other teams are calling, and the Cubs are listening.” If I’m a GM for any club in the top half of the league (and actually probably if I’m any GM not named Jim Hendry) I’m not doing my job this summer if I’m not calling every team that is out of contention. Of course teams are calling the Cubs. About Garza and probably another 6-7 players, most likely. The Cubs, of course, are listening. To say that like you know it to be fact (which you may) is kinda stating the obvious, is it not?

    Coal

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, Coal. Eh. The difference, I suppose, is that I’m saying the obvious IS happening (the Cubs are talking to teams about Garza, which I do believe I know), but that doesn’t mean a trade is likely. They are suggesting the obvious ISN’T happening (the Cubs aren’t talking to teams about Garza), and using that to justify their prediction that no trade will happen (which is a really, really easy guess to make). It’s incomplete. They’re not telling the whole story, and they’re doing it in a way that suggests that anyone who says differently – as I am – is uninformed. Worse, come August, they’ll be “right,” and they can stand in glorious victory. It just stinks. Even if it seems semantic, I want them to say “a Garza trade is unlikely, but that doesn’t mean the Cubs won’t listen if teams call.” It’s such an obvious point, as you correctly note, but they aren’t making it. Instead, they opt to make easy predictions.

      • http://calebshreves.blogspot.com Caleb

        Yes.

        And, they’re professional, hired, and paid writers and columnists. If they did a great job, sites like BN would be less needed. Still loved, to be sure, but more of a fun-destination than a “this is the only place I can get actual news about the Cubs”

        Brett saying “Other teams are calling, and the Cubs are listening” isn’t an example of the laziness he’s chastising, it’s him saying what the sports writers should have said in the first place.

  • jstraw

    Like the piece a lot, Ace. Parts of it I *love*.

    In a nutshell, it’s the difference between “would not deal” and “will not deal” for Garza. For the sun and the moon he’s for sale…until Hendry says otherwise. Will he be offered the sun and the moon for him? Hell no…which is why it’s a safe prediction. But the problem is that the journos aren’t willing to limit it to a prediction. They’re saying the Cubs “would not,” rather than “will not.” Where’s the evidence of this?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, straw. It’s a fine distinction, but one I think worth making.

  • Butcher

    But how will we ever know if the Red Sox would be interested in Garza if they don’t trade for him?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Ha, oh man. That is actually perfect right here.

      (inside joke, and almost all of you are on the outside – neener neener)

    • Jeff

      The presence of Red Sox and Yankee’s scouts at Cub’s games should tell you there’s interest. Also, common sense might come in handy. I don’t understand why anyone would say a team “would not” trade someone. I never thought someone would put together a package good enough to get A-Rod and it happened twice. So the “would not” trade argument (or prediction) gets thrown out the window to anyone who knows baseball history, and kind of makes you look foolish like Ace just did.

      Also, I’m not an insider, so I don’t get the joke, if there was a way to flip you off on the internet, I might consider it here- neener, neener.

  • http://None Blinda

    Good I think he is awesome a guy who really just wants to win. Exactly what this team needs now we just need a real ace.

  • awesome

    Peter Gammons is the guy who said Quade was a leader while Sandberg was a quiet person.

  • ottocub

    well… i was going to write something about how Garza should be in the small group of “no way they should trade” players, but after tonight’s game he’s probably begging to be traded! ugh. this team is hard to watch.

  • http://BleacherNation Ramy16

    Ottocub I totally agree with you..it’s hard being a cubs fan

  • http://BleacherNation Ramy16

    Some days feel like “hanging” myself..this team down right drives me nuts

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