Posted at 1:15 PM on May 27, 2005
by Bob Collins
It is with only a bit of jealously that I note that BatGirl is featured in this week's Rake magazine. She is truly an amazing writer and the give-and-take and participation with the readers is, as Brad Zellar points out, the envy of many a political blog.
But there was a note in there that gave me a moment of fright; Batgirl is read by Ron Gardenhire and most of the players. My first reaction was "holy smokes, what if they click a link to this blog and find out I said Shannon Stewart has a lousy arm?" This was followed mere seconds later by two thoughts: (1) they won't and (2) so what if they do?
However, the fact I was momentarily concerned goes a long way toward explaining why local baseball writers in almost every town -- including this one -- stink so much. They're afraid the people they cover every day will find out what they said. And they're afraid that asking the questions we baseball fans have when we're watching decisions made in the game will upset them.
So they don't.
And I'm not talking Sid Hartmann here. I'm not from here originally so I don't get the Sid Hartmann vibe. I think his stuff is a perfect example of everything that is wrong with just cause clauses in union contracts. I'm talking about regular beat writers.
Allow me to use an example and I'll pick an out of market case just in case the local scribes are, you know, reading this (love ya, guys!)
A week ago in Cleveland, Jake Westbrook, who is the closest example of how a few bad games really mask the kind of season you're having (look at the game log), was pitching a fairly typical marvelous game against the Los Angeles-Anaheim-Disney-30 degrees N latitude-40 degrees west longitude Angels.
He took a two-hit shutout into the 9th inning. He'd thrown just-under 100 pitches and his team was leading 1-0 (it is now illegal in Cuyahoga County, Ohio for the Indians to score more than 3 runs in a game).
OK, you tell me. What would any manager do here? I submit he'd do one of the following.
-1- Thank Jake for 8 innings of great work and turn the game over to the bullpen, which just happens to be rated the best in the American League.
-2- Send Jake to the mound but have your closer warming up.
Manager Eric Wedge, who would be considered a decent manager if he weren't dead from the neck up when it comes to matters of baseball, did neither. He sent Westbrook out and he had his closer, Bob Wickman, sitting on his robust tukus.
Westbrook got the first out, but Adam Kennedy singled after working Westbrook to a full count. Not a creature stirred in the Indians bullpen. That's your tying run, folks.
Westbrook was now over 100 pitches. On the first pitch, Chone Figgins singled.
Now Wedge awoke from his deep slumber, having been kissed apparently by a beautiful princess or hitting coach Eddie Murray. Wickman starts to warm up.
Pitching coach Carl Willis, a former Twin, buys some time by running to the mound, and then running back to the dugout.
Westbrook then gave up a first-pitch single to Darrin Erstad. One run scores -- tie game-- Figgins scores, Angels up 2-1.
Wedge takes Westbrook out and brings in, well, it doesn't really matter now does it?
Indians, mindful of the Cuyahoga County authorities, go out 1-2-3.
After the game, the scribes gather around Wedge, who reeks of Eddie Murray's cologne, but I digress. And Wedge offers this up:
"you've got to give Jake a chance to win the game in that situation."
Oh, so many follow-up questions to ask. One that occurs to me is, well, why? followed by did you know that if Wickman comes into the game and saves it, Westbrook gets credit for the win?
But nobody asked that question. Not the Cleveland Plain Dealer, not the radio folks, not ESPN (which featured the comeback). Nothing. Nobody.
Why? I think it's because they're afraid of making angry, the very people who read their material.
Are you listening, Sid?
you might be right regarding the local media and their fear... but let's look at reality. How well can you cover the Twins if you upset them? KFAN upset the Twins several years ago, and they are STILL being left in the dark. No newspaper in the country wants to be the one that can't cover the local team, so their reporting looses any edge it would have had.
Oh, and I should add, while Stew has a weak arm, at least he hits the cutoff man... I'm looking your direction Jacque Jones. My question is, why isn't Lew Ford in the outfield? His speed matches Stewarts, and while his defense isn't perfect, the one thing he has shown is an ability to adapt and learn (asset #1 for big leaguers). Your thoughts?
Exactly right. It's a problem for the newspapers, but so is the 45% drop in circulation in the last two years and that -- besides the do-not-call list -- can only be attributed to content. Seriously, don't all the write-ups of the Twins games sound weird.
And now this personal attack on KFAN. You'll recall that the Twins got made because the sidekick in the morning, Jeff Dubay or whatever his name is, was quoted in Sports Illustrated's article on Kirby Pucket as saying "With the exception of guys who were devout Christians, virtually everybody had someone on the side. I would walk past the wives and think, They are either the dumbest or the most naive people in the world. I mean, everybody knew it was going on."
After the article appeared, he was talking about the column on his show when he started going off on Tonya Puckett, basically saying that she knew Kirby was playing around, but went along with it in exchange for the ka-ching.
When Tonya hit the roof, Dubay did what any hack would do in similar circumstances: he denied saying it. Only I heard it too and what are the odds that thousands of people suddenly made up his words at the same time?
KFAN then played victim for the next year or so that the Twins wouldn't talk to them.
The whole scene was pathetic; which is the word that best describes things.
Now also over at KFAN is a guy who didn't mind taking on these folks or at least asking legitimate question about the games themselves. But all that got Dan Barreiro was, basically, fired from the Strib (yeah, I know, he resigned to pursue other interests. Chuckle.).
Watching the Twins last night we got another dose of the stadium infommerical as Marty Gellner sat in a near-empty Jacob's Field with someone from Minnesota and asked, "wouldn't this be a great atmosphere with a stadium like this in Minnesota?"
Yeah, nothing raises the hair on the back of your neck like 8,000 silent fans sitting in a ballpark that holds 42,000 watching a team 11 1/2 games out on May 27th.
Normally when I hear techno-utopians predicting the end of traditional media in the wake of the 'blog assault', I simply chuckle inwardly. In most cases, blogs simply don't have the ability or interest to do the sort of investigative work that more traditional news media do as a matter of course.
But in sports, the argument is extremely persuasive that blogs can replace mainstream coverage. I like reading Lavelle E. Neal, and from what I see in the Strib he seems knowledgable about baseball, but if I'm looking for analysis, I'll go check out John Bonnes's site before I open the Strib. Some of it is exactly the point you raise above - it's not Neal's job to be an analyst, really, but to be a conduit between the organization (particularly the players) and the fans. The freedom to focus on analysis over 'color' and the freedom not to care what folks in the organization think of what you write make Bonnes, in my mind, a more obvious choice for readers looking for analysis rather than what Johan Santana thought of his teammates scoring seven runs for him. Neal might have things to say that are every bit as insightful as Bonnes, but the nature of his job means that he doesn't get as many opportunities to say them. And that means people who want that level of insightfulness will pull away from traditional sports media and gravitate towards bloggers like Bonnes, Aaron Gleeman, and others. You simply don't get the chance to see guys like Neal, or even Pat Reusse, really get to publish something on the same analytical level.
Heck, for all I know Sid Hartman might be the greatest analytical baseball thinker who ever lived. You'd never know it from his columns, though.
I'm with you almost to a T. I don't see blogs replacing mainstream media where news is concerned. But blogs are clearly where it's at in sports, at least some sort of fan communication. I know that a bunch of Cleveland fans started Cleveland Sports Mailing List back in 1994 and at the time it was the only way to get out-of-town news.
And the mix of people that contribute to baseball blogs tend to be pretty savvy and darned intelligent .
I agree with you on LaVelle. Although I hard him on KFAN a few weeks ago when someone was pointing out that John Gordon is simply horrible with his inflections and he wouldn't even bite at that.
\I don't have an URL for Boness's site. Which one is it?
John Bonnes is better known as the Twins Geek. I wish I could dig up the blog entry he wrote shortly after he finished his brief stint as a paid blogger for the Strib. It had a lot of interesting insights on tensions between different writing styles, varying definitions of "professional," etc. between bloggers and journalists. Good stuff, but I think it might have been lost in all the site shuffles he's gone through recently.