We'd like to point out an interesting article by Alan Schwarz and Brad Lefton on Japanese phenom Junichi Tazawa, who is pegged as a potential impact hurler in the Bigs. This article touches on an pertinent and important subject, that of the poaching (or refusal to poach) Japanese amateur pitchers. Unfortunately, the article also trafficks in some blind speculation that we don't care for, and this concerns us.
In this article, the authors point out the "long-established practice for amateurs like [Tazawa] to be strictly off limits to major league clubs", and how there may be several clubs violating this unspoken rule. They speak with some GMs who go on the record, and their stances vary. Omar Minaya equivocates a bit, calling this a "sensitive area". Brian Cashman, to his credit, asserts clearly and plainly that the Yankees are not violating and will not violate this unwritten rule, going as far as to call Tazawa "hands off". The authors, however, aren't so discerning in their own assertions. They state towards the end of the article that, and here are the words that to me are so bothersome, "it is believed that at least a half dozen teams will actively pursue him", and then go on to name three speculated teams out of the "half dozen". They peg the Sox, the Mariners, and the Braves. Notice they do not provide the remaining three of the supposed "half dozen". They do not provide identification of those who supposedly believe these teams will pursue Tazawa. They do not provide on-the-record or even anonymous testimony from front office employees of the teams they name that they may be pursuing or believe that unwritten rules aren't really rules. Nor do they indicate that these teams had been approached yet refused comment to inquiries from the journalists. In other words, "it is believed" is an unsourced claim. Do the authors believe this? Fellow GMs? Who, exactly? In the meantime, Schwarz and Lefton have now planted the idea in the minds of the readers that at least three organizations might knowingly violate unspoken rules of business ethics and etiquette without any sources noting this to be the case. Though this "belief" of pursuit by these teams may eventually be proven true, that is besides the point. Damage, however minimal it might be in the end (and it could be more substantial than that), has been done to certain front offices. Those in the Japanese league, as per the title of the article, are "irked" by this meddling, and now Schwarz and Lefton have put names on the meddlers.
Schwarz and Lefton have framed this article as one about unwritten rules, etiquette, protocol. They then go on to imply that there are teams that will violate this protocol and etiquette knowingly and for competitive advantage. But the authors themselves have, to an extent, done the same thing. They have presented a unique story of interest, made assertions without backup, and as such made their own news supposedly newsworthy, they have gained an advantage over other writers pursuing this story but have exempted themselves from a burden of proof.