Archive for Media

I’d Like to Play Poker with These Guys

I don’t play poker. I’ve tried a few times, but I had to give it up. It’s the human element that gets me. I am so easy to read that I might as well turn my cards around so everyone can see them. But, even I could bluff the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners.

One part of the agreement that hasn’t gotten much attention is that the County is responsible for the capital maintenance of the stadium. Tim Tucker explains the details in the AJC.

The agreement requires Gwinnett County, which will own the stadium, to pay for all capital maintenance, improvements and repairs. An attachment to the agreement provides a long list of examples of Gwinnett’s responsibilities — everything from seats to scoreboards, from structural components to repainting.

The deal requires the county to maintain a minimum balance of $500,000 in a capital maintenance fund, with the amount to increase over time. Because all revenue Gwinnett receives from the stadium and a new rental-car tax likely will go toward paying off the $33 million the county will borrow to build the ballpark, the county probably will have to find the capital-fund money elsewhere. County Administrator Jock Connell said that, if not from excess revenue, it could come from Gwinnett Convention & Visitors Bureau funds.

This is the same Jock Connell who insisted, “we anticipate it paying for itself from day one.” Yet, once again, we see more Gwinnett tax dollars coming to the aid of poor Liberty Media shareholders. But, it gets even better.

Moreover, the agreement makes clear that the $500,000 minimum balance is not a cap on the county’s annual obligation to keep up the stadium.

There is no cap, nor at this point a detailed projection of what the costs might be over time. The Braves will submit an annual list of proposed expenditures, subject to county approval.

How did the Braves pull this off? Apparently, the Braves said they wouldn’t commit to a 30-year lease—and in fact they still have not—without this concession.

The Braves initially offered to sign only a 15-year lease. Gwinnett countered that the agreement had to run for 30 years because construction would be financed with 30-year bonds. The Braves relented to a 30-year lease, with provisions that the county fund all capital improvements needed over time and that the Braves have an escape clause if the stadium were to deteriorate significantly.

That means the county will be on the hook not just for paying off the debt, but also for future costs to keep Braves minor leaguers in the stadium beyond 2023.

“One of the things the Braves were real sensitive about was not finding themselves, 20 years down the road, in a situation like in Richmond,” said Gwinnett County Commissioner Bert Nasuti, a driving force behind the deal.

Oh, boo who: how terrible that the Braves might have a majority of their facility expenditures covered by someone else for a paltry 20 years! Perhaps Braves officials became wise to the desperation of Commissioner Bert Nasuti as he virtually prostrated himself at their feet handing away even the concessions revenues to the county’s own events.

The out-clause doesn’t set a high bar for terminating the lease.

The deal then gives the Braves the option of terminating at any point after the 2023 season if the team and the county “are unable to reach agreement . . . with respect to any item to be included within Capital Maintenance and Repairs . . . and which is material to the operation of the stadium or otherwise unreasonably interferes” with use of the stadium.

Both sides say the wording is intended to give the Braves an escape only in a worst-case scenario.

“It’s just to make sure that if the stadium wasn’t being kept up to a standard and started falling into disrepair, there’s an out,” the Braves’ Plant said. “I don’t see that happening, but in this day and age, you need to protect yourself.”

What does “up to a standard” really mean? It’s hard to say, but don’t be surprised if the Braves expect more than new curtains. In 1990, MLB agreed to Attachment 58, which required its minor league baseball stadiums to meet new minimum standards of stadium size and quality. It was a list of unfunded mandates, and many teams used these standards demand more funds from host communities.

What is new and state-of-art today may be outdated in 15 years, especially when it comes to sports stadiums. As a junior high student in Charlotte, I remember when the Charlotte Coliseum was unveiled with much fanfare about its future prospects in 1988. It would host the Charlotte Hornets and boasted the world’s largest indoor scoreboard at the time—it crashed to the floor before the first game, an ominous sign of things to come. After selling out 358 consecutive NBA games and hosting the NBA All-Star Game (1991) and the NCAA Final Four (1994), the building began to show its age, due to is lack of luxury amenities. Hornets owner George Shinn wanted a new arena. He didn’t get it; thus, the Hornets left for New Orleans in 2002 and the arena was demolished just last year.

I hope that Gwinnett heeds the experience of its neighbor up I-85 when it crafts the words in the final contract. Because, in 15 years, one side is going to have all of the bargaining power. The Braves have territorial rights over Gwinnett County, and the team can prevent any other MLB-affiliated minor league club from playing in the area. As I say in the story,

“A 15-year out clause is not abnormal,” said J.C. Bradbury, a Kennesaw State University sports economist who has been a critic of the Gwinnett deal. “But it certainly is problematic for Gwinnett in this case because basically you have a stadium that serves one and only one tenant.”

Don’t think that the Braves won’t flex their muscles in 15 years. And who can blame them? The County Commission has given the Braves everything they asked for, possibly more.

Media Bias

Headline from The New York Daily News:

Roger Clemens’ attorney: Maybe Rocket was at Jose Canseco’s party

Article opening:

Roger Clemens may be backpedaling on his long-time stance that he never attended a 1998 party at Jose Canseco’s house.

In the wake of the Daily News’ report Friday that a photograph exists of Clemens posing with a young man at Canseco’s Florida home – a photo said to have been taken on June 9, 1998 – the Rocket’s attorney issued a statement that seems to suggest Clemens may have attended the party after all.

Clemens’s congressional testimony:

In his testimony before Congress, Clemens told ranking member Tom Davis (R-Va.), “So could I have gone by (Canseco’s) house later that afternoon and dropped my wife or her brother-in-law, the people that golfed with me? Sure, I could have. But at the time of the day that I would have expressed it to be, I was on my way to the ballpark. I know one thing. I wasn’t there having huddled up with somebody trying to do a drug deal. I know that for sure.”

And the “backpedaling”:

Clemens attorney Rusty Hardin issued a statement Friday that in part reverses course. “We know that baseball announcers broadcasting the games at the time said Roger was not at the party. Jose Canseco has said Roger was not at the party, as has Canseco’s former wife. Roger was playing golf at the time of the party, and has stated that he may have stopped by the Canseco house after playing golf before heading to the ballpark for the game,” read Hardin’s statement.

Hardin’s statement merely reiterates the Clemens’s testimony. I see no backpedaling or change in the story. And people accuse me of being biased? Sheesh!

Interview with On Baseball and the Reds

Justin Inaz interviews me over at On Baseball and the Reds. Here is an excerpt.

Question: I’ve seen reports critiquing the use of public funds for MLB stadium projects. Hamilton county (through a half-cent sales tax increase) has invested an enormous amount of money into revitalizing the Riverfront area, which has included the construction of the Reds’ and the Bengals’ new stadiums. How do you view these sorts of stadium projects, from the perspective of economic return to the cities or counties that pay for them?

JCB: The economic return is zero. I have not seen a single study that shows a positive impact from such efforts. The state of the research is such that if an economist attempted to publish another economic impact study, that journal editor would reject the study for being redundant. Spending on sports replaces spending that would have happened anyway. The idea that these projects confer financial benefits is a myth. Any positive return to taxpayers is non-monetary.

And you don’t need studies to understand this. I go to about five Braves games a year. It’s been 10 years since the Braves started playing at Turner Field (which was the 1996 Olympic Stadium). The area surrounding the stadium is a dump. It’s the type of place where at night, you run red lights just to get out of the area faster. There are no restaurants, bars, or shops. Those things are inside the stadium. The same is true for many stadiums around the country.

I have no problem with a community reaching a political decision that it will chose to raise taxes because its citizens value having a sports team. But, it really bothers me when people argue that these projects are beneficial. It is time to be honest and say, “if you want to pay $5 more in taxes a year, we can host a team or have a nicer stadium.” As long as everyone agrees that this will cost money, not make it, I have no problem with government choosing to fund such projects.

Thanks to Justin for asking me the questions.

Official Clemens Response to the NY Times Article

I have received the official response to the NY Times study I discuss below.

— — —

Hendricks Sports Management Response to New York Times Article
Dated February 10, 2008 by Bradlow, Jensen, Wolfers, and Wyner

The most important statements made by the four professors who authored the New York Times article are these: “Our reading is that the available data on Clemens’s career strongly hint that some unusual factors may have been at play in producing his excellent late-career statistics. In any analysis of his career statistics, it is impossible to say whether this unusual factor was performance-enhancing drugs.”

The Clemens Report does not state that the statistics “prove” anything, something missed by the four professors. The purpose of the report is to provide the statistical background of Roger Clemens’ career and to correct misconceptions about his career in the public forum. For example, it was being widely reported that Clemens was “washed up” when he left Boston in 1996. In fact, Clemens led the American League in strikeouts in 1996, tied his record of 20 strikeouts in a single game, and was a leader in many pitching categories.

* Criteria: The criteria the authors of the Clemens Report used to select pitchers for comparison were 2,000 innings pitched, high strikeout rates and high-quality performance as a starting pitcher. The Wharton professors, in their selection of pitchers to analyze, make the fundamental assumption that all pitchers with 10 or more starts for 15 years and 3000 innings pitched are roughly equal. Roger Clemens is not like every other pitcher in this group. He is considered perhaps the best pitcher of his generation. The professors make the mistake of thinking that his career arc should look like the arc of every other pitcher in their selected group.

Clemens, Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson, and Nolan Ryan were all highly successful in the second halves of their careers, and cannot properly be compared to pitchers who did not pitch effectively into their late 30’s and 40’s. The professors readily admit that Schilling, Johnson, and Ryan pitched well late in their careers. The professors state that there is no way to relate career performance trends to performance enhancing drugs. But they state that Clemens’ late-career performance ‘raises suspicion’. Therefore these ‘statisticians’ are engaging in precisely the kind of insinuation with their words that they say cannot be proven by statistics.

* Variables: There are many variables at work that affect a starting pitcher’s longevity. For example, Roger Clemens¹ workout regimen, which has been often cited as a significant factor in his success, has certainly extended his career. Nolan Ryan was also known for his dedication to a challenging workout regimen, and, like Clemens, he enjoyed late career success. Just because it is difficult to measure the impact of a challenging workout regimen does not mean it does not favorably impact performance. Another factor that helped Clemens remain effective was his ability to adjust his pitching style over time, something the professors choose to disregard because pitch selection is not quantified in the report. Factors like Clemens’ workout regimen and his effective use of the split-finger fastball are not subject to easy statistical analysis. This does not mean that these factors should be ignored. Clemens’ intense workout regimen and his use of the split-finger fastball have been extensively observed and commented on over the course of his career. This is why baseball clubs employ scouts in addition to statisticians – because there are elements of the game of baseball that are extremely relevant to performance, even if they are not easily reduced to statistics.

* ERA: The professors say ERA can be unreliable as a basis for analysis because of the impact defense has on ERA. First, the Clemens Report uses ERA Margin, which is an advanced version of ERA that takes into account league differences. Second, ERA Margin and similar versions of ERA are widely accepted throughout baseball as superior measures of the quality of starting pitchers, something ignored by the Wharton professors. Third, the Clemens Report additionally provides thorough analyses of strikeouts, innings pitched, and pitch counts.

In using hits plus walks per innings pitched, the professors substitute a less comprehensive measure for ERA-based statistics by choosing to analyze just one of the many subcomponents of ERA. Furthermore, they make the mistake of not recognizing that hits are more dependent on defense than any other subcomponent of ERA. Hits are heavily dependent on the skills of the fielders, especially their range in the field. A shortstop with more range will reach more balls and prevent more hits than a fielder with poor range. So the statistic the professors choose to apply in their analysis is, ironically, more affected by the very factor they criticize in ERA.

Additionally, ERA Margin adjusts for the changes in the game over time by comparing a pitcher’s performance to the rest of the league at the time he played. The professors make no adjustments for any of the changes that have taken place in baseball over the last forty years, treating every hit and walk exactly the same, despite the lowering of the pitching mound, the tightening of the strike zone, the changes in equipment, the addition of the designated hitter, the introduction of modern ballparks, and other factors that have affected the game over the years. As a result, the professors are not correctly evaluating the statistics they have chosen to use for their comparisons.

* Roger’s age: The Wharton professors state that “his performance declines as he enters his late 20’s.” This statement is demonstrably false. After the 1990 season, at age 28, Clemens was second in voting for the A.L. Cy Young Award behind Bob Welch, a season in which Clemens’ ERA was 1.93. The next year, at age 29, he won the Cy Young Award. Pitching from the age of 27 to the age of 30, Clemens was an All Star in 1990, 1991 and 1992, and he achieved an ERA below 3.00 in each year. He turned 30 in August of 1992. These are clear indications that Clemens was not in a ‘decline’ in his late 20’s, as asserted by the professors.

As Bill James stated in a salary arbitration case while working with Hendricks Sports Management, “Anyone can make a chart.” The professors have proven this axiom, but they have not added anything substantive to a discussion of Roger Clemens’ career.

The Anatomy of the Gwinnett Stadium Deal

We are now learning more details about how Gwinnett County plans to pay for the Triple-A Braves new stadium. The county is still pushing the line that this is a sound business deal that won’t be a burden to taxpayers.

County Commissioner Bert Nasuti, who started the movement to bring baseball to the county, said the stadium financing is based on highly conservative estimates and is about as risk-free as it could be.

“We wouldn’t be doing it otherwise,” he said.

Really, Bert? Let’s take a look at look at the financing plan as it is listed in todays AJC (Gwinnett edition).

WHAT IT WILL COST

* Land: $5 million
* Stadium: $40 million
* Total: $45 million

The land has already been paid for, but the stadium has yet to be built. And given its need to be built quickly, it is likely that the the $40 million price tag will go up. The underestimation of construction costs is common for publicly-financed stadiums, and the county is responsible for all cost overruns. It is possible that the construction will come in under budget, but I doubt it.

Next, let’s look at the revenues.

* County recreation fund $12 million
* Revenue bonds (borrowing) $33 million

The $12 million is gone. What is lost from these funds is the opportunity cost of what these funds could have been used for: park improvements, special programs, security, etc. Whether taxpayers of Gwinnett preferred these things or a Braves stadium is an open question. It’s too bad the County Commission didn’t let the voters have a say.

Paying off the debt is where the county truly becomes creative. In some areas, I believe the county is being realistic, but in others the projections are outrageously optimistic.

YEARLY REVENUES TO PAY OFF DEBT

* Stadium rent $250,000
* Ticket fees $400,000
* Parking fees $200,000
* Car rental tax $600,000
* Naming rights $500,000
* GCVB contribution $400,000
* TOTAL $2,350,000

In regard to rent, ticket fees, and parking, I think these estimates are accurate.

The Braves are required to pay $250,000 a year in rent for the first five years, after that time the rent payment will rise with the consumer price index. Assuming an average CPI growth of 3%, these averages out to about $350,000 year over the next 30 years.

The ticket fees come from a $1 fee per ticket that the Braves must pay to the county for every ticket sold. $400,000 is the minimum the team must pay the county, and given the size of the stadium, it is not likely that attendance will generate much more than this.

The Braves must split net parking revenues with the county. Assuming an average attendance between 6,000 and 7,0000, one car per three fans, and a $3 parking fee, $200,000 seems to be a reasonable estimate of the county’s parking share.

Next, let’s jump to the naming rights, the last source of funding that does not require taxpayer assistance. Gwinnett can sell the rights to the stadium, but it must pay the Braves $350,000 annually from this revenue. Should naming rights sell for more in the future, the county must pay a higher share to the Braves. The county is projecting that it will earn $500,000 a year ($850,000 total — $350,000 to the Braves).

Two experts interviewed for the story state that they feel the projection is reasonable.

Adam Zimmerman, executive vice president of the Marietta sports management firm Career Sports and Entertainment, believes Gwinnett should be able to leverage the county’s wealthy population and the stadium’s relationship to the major-league Atlanta Braves to score a healthy deal. After all, he said, the stadium’s sponsor would be attaching its name to the next generation of major-league talent in Atlanta.

“It’s almost a catch-the-rising-star platform that a corporation could own,” Zimmerman said. “There’s something that could really be had from owning that gateway to the majors.”

Jeffrey Grill, who has helped build naming-rights deals as a partner with the law firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in Washington. Stadiums in heavily-populated, affluent areas have the best chance of getting a big contract, he said.

“Gwinnett County has been one of the fastest-growing counties in the country for the past 20 years. I would believe that the annual value of the naming rights should be significantly in excess of the national average and that $850,000 per year is a possibility,” he said.

I won’t dispute the qualitative assessments of these gentlemen. There is no disputing that Gwinnett is a growing area that many corporations would like to be associated with. However, that doesn’t mean any number is possible. The quantitative evidence is not favorable, as I say in the story.

The anticipated $850,000 deal would be the second-highest naming rights deal for a Triple-A team behind Chuchanski Park in Fresno ($1.1 million) and ahead of Raley Field in Sacramento ($750,000) and PGE Park in Portland ($710,000). No other naming rights deal comes close to these. The top-three stadiums are on the more-expensive west coast and serve as the host to the top-level baseball club in a major metropolitan area (not a suburb)—two of these cities host NBA teams. The Fresno and Portland facilities host other sports teams (minor league soccer and college football). Everyone knows where Fresno and Portland are. Have people outside of Georgia ever heard of Gwinnett County? I find it hard to believe that Gwinnett is comparable to these other markets.

The average Triple-A naming rights deal is $338,000. The most recent stadium naming rights deal for a Triple-A stadium occurred in Lackawanna County, PA for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, for which PNC will pay $365,000 per year. I think Gwinnett will be lucky to get $450,000 from any naming rights deal, which nets the county $100,000—$400,000 less than the county anticipates. If the county doesn’t get that money from naming rights, it will get it from taxpayers.

This brings me to the only official tax that Gwinnett county officials admit to. Though they operate on the erroneous assumption that the tax will not be paid by its own citizens, it is most certainly will be.

“It takes the burden off the local taxpayers,” Commissioner Bert Nasuti said of the car rental tax, which is also in place in Atlanta to fund improvements made to Philips Arena in the late 1990s. “The reason you do that is so you don’t raise taxes.

I cannot comment on how much revenue that the tax will raise, but it will most certainly be paid Gwinnett County residents—the people who rent cars in Gwinnett County—not outsiders lured in by the existence of a Triple-A team.

As for the last revenue item, the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau will contribute $400,000. This revenue will mainly come from the Arena at Gwinnett Center, another taxpayer-funded facility. Even if that facility is earning a profit—and I doubt that it is—the excess revenue going to the Braves stadium still represents a cost to Gwinnett taxpayers. Instead of funding roads or schools, the revenue now subsidizes a stadium that hands over a large portion of its earnings to a sports franchise. Using revenues from a taxpayer-funded arena to pay for a baseball stadium is like plugging a power strip into itself to generate power.

Thus, when we add up the tax liability to Gwinnett citizens to cover the $2.35 million annual debt payments, taxpayers are left to cover $1.4 million—approximately 60% of the debt.

When the deal was announced, county administrator Jock Connell stated, “We anticipate it paying for itself from day one.” This plan doesn’t come close to meeting this standard, and it is a shame that county officials have been so deceptive in presenting their plan to the public.

Also in the AJC, as a sidebar to the story, there is a story on my discussion of the stadium deal on Sabernomics. Thanks to Michael Pearson for covering the story so well, so as to make my job easier.

Gammons Likes Sabernomics

ESPN’s Peter Gammons has something nice to say about Sabernomics in his roundup of blogs that he reads.

The fact is that we all know more about baseball because of the proliferation of creative thought. Run through Baseball Think Factory, The Baseball Analysts, Squawking Baseball, Sabernomics, Beyond the Box Score, Dan Agonistes, John Sickels’ minorleagueball.com. For everything, Deadspin. [Emphasis added]

Cool! Thanks, Peter. I like your stuff, too. :-)

Why Move the Triple-A Braves to Gwinnett County?

The Richmond Braves are moving to Gwinnett County. This is an interesting development. The organization has been upset with the arrangement in Richmond for several years, so a move is not surprising. However, I did not expect the team to move so close to the parent club. On my way home from work yesterday evening, most of the feedback I heard on the radio was negative, which surprised me. The main concern was that the Triple-A club would draw fans away from Turner Field. However, I’m not concerned about this for a few reasons.

— If fans in Atlanta have a cheaper and more convenient option for watching baseball, isn’t that a good thing? I don’t cheer for the Braves to be a more successful business, I want baseball. There is the possible downside that a poor business decision will harm the team’s ability to win, but I don’t think there is much danger of that.

— The map below highlights three points of interest: Turner Field (A), an approximate location of the Gwinnett Braves (B), and Marietta (C) the city where I live—my grandfather was once the coroner here. While I am more likely to see a Triple-A game in Gwinnett than Richmond, the probability does not improve all that much. I’m about 40 miles away—about 45 minutes without traffic. Going to a weekday night game would probably take me two hours, if I am lucky, and I know the back roads (they don’t help). It would take me less time to go to Rome, to see the Low-A Braves. Like most other Braves fans outside of Gwinnett county, Turner Field is a superior option for me. This team will truly be the Gwinnett Braves. Gwinnett has been successful in supporting a minor league hockey team and an arena league football team. I think the baseball team will survive.



View Larger Map

— As for the team’s affect on Gwinnett residents attending MLB games, I think the result will be positive, not negative. As I told Thomas Stinson of the AJC,

“What the minor league fan wants is an affordable ticket, eat a hot dog, watch three or four innings and then take his kids home and put them to bed,” said J.C. Bradbury, a Kennesaw State associate professor and author of “The Baseball Economist.”

“You just can’t take your kid to a mid-week major league game. It’s just too expensive. But this could enhance your desire to go to a Braves game over the weekend.”

I consider major and minor league sports to be complements not substitutes. While I am sure there will be some families that will choose to attend more Gwinnett games at the expense of Braves games, I think this loss will be minimal. The opportunity cost of going to a Gwinnett Braves game is most likely doing something at home, not going to a Braves game. The proposed stadium site is nearly 40 miles from Turner Field. My guess is that most fans will switch from doing something else in Gwinnett rather than canceling trips to Turner Field; thus, this will be a net gain to the big club.

I also think that a minor league team will increase the fanbase of the big-league club, not decrease it. Fans who never visited Turner Field before might be more inclined to do so after making the easy trip to see the Triple-A players. It will likely increase television ratings as well.

I also think moving the club to the Atlanta MSA has a few other benefits.

— The geographic consolidation of the organization is a benefit that should not be overlooked. Scouts, coaches, and doctors can easily get quick looks at players. Plus, the organization can employ fewer people by using individuals to work for both the major and minor league clubs. And travel time is reduced significantly.

— There will be some gains from shuttling players between levels; however, I think these benefits are not so great. With both teams traveling quite a bit, my guess is that transferring players will still be a pain. I do actually worry that the proximity of clubhouses could create some awkward situations with clubhouse culture. Triple-A veterans may spend more time with their friends on the big-league club rather than grooming the younger guys.

Mark McGwire and the Hall of Fame

Today, the Hall of Fame will announce its new inductees. Once again, Mark McGwire will not be welcomed into the club. Personally, I think it’s wrong. McGwire is being singled out for his potential use of performance-enhancing drugs, despite the fact that even if someone could prove that he used something besides andro—andro was clearly legal at the time, and has not been shown to have any ergogenic benefits—whatever it was would not have been against baseball rules. While some may argue that baseball has expressly forbidden the use of illegal drugs since the 1970s, it lacks the power to make such a pronouncement unilaterally. Not until after the players association and the owners agreed to the Joint Drug Treatment Program in 2002—after McGwire had left the game—were performance-enhancers expressly prohibited from the game.

In professional sports, however, athletes are employees of their clubs and are represented for collective bargaining purposes by unions. The clubs must therefore bargain over terms and conditions of employment, including and drug policies for, and drug testing of, athletes.

This is Bud Selig (Commissioner) and Robert Manfred (Executive VP, Labor Relations and Human Resources) in the Stanford Law and Policy Review (2004). You can find this quote on pages 258 and 259 of the Mitchell Report. Also, the history of arbitrator rulings on MLB’s drug policies make it clear that the league’s unilateral mandates are not binding.

It is also not clear that McGwire used anything. We only have the testimony of Conseco and the fact that he hit a lot of home runs. As I am quoted in the National Post today, I don’t think this is enough to convict him of steroid use. I do wish that he had spoken in his testimony before Congress, but I can understand why he would remain silent. It’s an all-or-nothing choice. Once you agree to testify, you cannot pick and chose what you want to reveal.

It looks as though McGwire will get enough votes to remain on the ballot for a while, and I hope that eventually the writers will get over their moral indignation and put him in the Hall. However, I won’t be surprised if McGwire declines his invitation.

Interview in Chicago Sports Weekly

You can read my interview with economist-sabermetrician Cyril Morong in the latest issue of Chicago Sports Weekly.

Why We Should Be Wary of Leaks

From The New York Times.

The judge who unsealed the Grimsley affidavit had harsh words for The Los Angeles Times, which printed a report in October 2006 headlined “Clemens Is Named in Drug Affidavit.” Clemens was not named in the affidavit, although he was named last week by Mitchell.

The newspaper had been challenged on the accuracy of its story by the United States attorney in 2006. It had said its report was based on two sources and that its reporter, Lance Pugmire, had seen the affidavit, and the newspaper stood by the report. In fact, the Los Angeles Times got four of the five people it named wrong.

Edward C. Voss, a United States magistrate judge, wrote in the unsealing order signed Thursday: “A review of the disclosed affidavit proves that the Times never saw the unredacted affidavit. Roger Clemens is not named in the affidavit and Grimsley makes no reference to Roger Clemens in any context. At best, the article is an example of irresponsible reporting. At worst, the ‘facts’ reported were simply manufactured.”

Voss wrote he was “compelled to point out what appears to be an example of abusive reporting.”

The Los Angeles Times said it planned to run a correction Friday. “We acknowledge the inaccuracies of the report and deeply regret the mistake,” Stephan Pechdimaldji, a spokesman for The Times, wrote in an e-mail message.

Clemens’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, seized on the error as an indication of Clemens’s veracity, since he has denied accusations in the Mitchell report.

“When this grossly inaccurate story broke in 2006, Roger said it was untrue and the Los Angeles Times chose not to believe him,” Hardin wrote in a statement. “As the record now proves, Roger was telling the truth then just as he continues to tell the truth today.”

The Los Angeles Times report listed five names it said a reporter had seen when shown the unredacted affidavit by “a source with authorized access” to the affidavit. Of those five, it got four wrong: Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons were not named in the affidavit.

The newspaper correctly identified Tejada.

Ouch! Here is the correction by the LA Times; though, the tone is hardly apologetic. While I understand the the newspaper wanted clarification of claimed inaccuracies, the point is that the newspaper wrongly believed its personnel had seen the actual affidavit, which it had not.

This is one of the issues that scares me about Game of Shadows. It’s an interesting read, and I will not be surprised if it turns out to be 100% correct in its reporting of grand jury testimony—after all, the guy who leaked it is in jail. I believe it is highly irresponsible for media organizations to leak documents from legal proceedings when the legal process is still ongoing. There is a reason these proceedings are sealed. How are the accused supposed to respond to these accusations? They can deny it, but both the guilty and innocent have incentives to deny; therefore, it is hard to believe such claims.