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The Card Matters
2006-02-22 13:47
by Will Carroll
Notes:
Scott Long is now blogging at NSFWsports.com.
Will Carroll can still be found at Baseball Prospectus.

How is this article any different than what I wrote about Mark Prior? I'm not picking on Bob Klapisch, who wrote one of my favorite pieces in recent years over on Baseball Analysts.

Here's the differences:
1. Klapisch is in Mets camp. That makes a difference. I rely on sources.
2. Klapisch has a BBWAA card, having written for the Bergen Record for years before moving over to ESPN.com. I guess you could say that anyone with an internet site can pretend to be a journalist, but that some internet based writers are different since they have ink on their resumes. Now again, I'm not picking on Klapisch or the Record, by all accounts a fine newspaper, but with its sister paper, the Herald News, they have a combined daily circulation of 181,000. If you believe Alexa and the theory that newspapers are moving more to the web, here's an interesting graph. 3. Klapisch's colleagues don't attack him. Even in the competitive New York press, there's no defensive backlash when anyone gets a scoop. When's the last time you heard someone say "Anyone in Jersey with access to a typewriter can pretend to be a journalist"?

Just like there's no stats vs scouts, there's no ink vs internet as far as I'm concerned. I have no problem with most people in the press and there are far more internet sites doing crap work than there are newspapers. Of course, there are lazy, embittered writers who are worried that somehow, they're getting scooped and lashing out, not at me personally, but at the .com they think is part of my name.

When Dan Rather and CBS put out a questionable memo, the right-wing bloggers came out in force, so fast that many thought that Rather had been set up. Turns out that they had ol' Dan over a barrel and he's been shunted aside despite a mostly stellar, if occasionally bizarre career. When someone from the net makes a move, the mainstream circles the wagons. It doesn't work the other way around.

The net would rather eat its own. The sheer democracy of any asshole having the ability to become a widely read asshole is both freeing and dangerous. Watch any thread descend and go off on tangent, no matter the subject, giving rise to the Hitler Rule. It's easier to attack than to do something original, easier to react than improve, and far easier to remain static than move forward.

The baseball writers have their BBWAA and I've written far more than I'd like to in the past about that subject. Internet writers -- the ones concerned about professionalism and standards -- have nothing and on the few occasions where something started to move, it got bogged down in minutaie, definitions, and personality conflicts. I know I have this personality that comes off on-line as arrogant and that I can be an all-fired asshole pretty regularly.

The funny thing about the Prior commotion is that no one remembers that I'm a lifelong Cubs fan. No one remembers all the times I defended Prior when he was attacked. No one notices that Prior was the model in my book Saving The Pitcher and that more than almost any other player, I want him to succeed.

If you read what I wrote, I simply pointed out that I'd heard something. Beat writers and columnists do this all the time. They're right sometimes and wrong sometimes, just like me.

Its my duty to report information and give it context. That's what I do; that's what I'm paid for. It's my full-time job. All I ask is that next time, when I point to the smoke, don't say I yelled "fire."

Comments
2006-02-22 16:46:17
1.   Todd S
The thing is, they are getting scooped. Or rather, they already have been. I get almost zero baseball information from any newspaper. I get almost zero from ESPN. And people younger than me, who grew up with the Internet, will probably only continue the trend.

There's no way to know for sure, of course. And I freely admit to being in the minority on many of my opinions. And the "mainstream" fan may never stop getting info from those two sources. But I suspect, or rather, hope, that the ratio continues to swing towards the Internet and more intelligent baseball analysis.

2006-02-22 19:51:33
2.   djf
Will --

There are key differences between what you wrote and Klapisch's column, and it has nothing to do with his being a member of the BBWAA and nothing to do with your being attacked by the other media (though I will observe that the Chicago radio media has treated you quite favorably).

In his column, Klapisch simply (a) observes that Pedro has yet to throw off a mound; (b) observes that he has chronic pain in his foot; (c) observes there is no timetable for his return; and (d) talks at length about how valuable Pedro is and how important it is that he is healthy.

Your notes differed in a few key respects. First and foremost, unlike Pedro's case, both the Cubs and Prior himself have vigorously denied that he's having any shoulder problems whatsoever. They may be obfuscating the truth, but the point is that when it comes to the issue of "is Prior having shoulder problems," it's their word against yours (or your source's). That's not true for Klapisch; Pedro himself admits he's in pain.

Second, and just as importantly, when you claim that "Prior is having shoulder problems," you claim to be relying on a source for your information. This takes your column beyond the realm of simply being one columnist's speculation; citing a source (a) implies that you have a contact with inside knowledge and (b) attempts to give your statement some air of credibility and legitimacy beyond just speculation that anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection can make (to borrow from Paul Sullivan).

To add insult to injury (pun intended), you then write "I don't say that my favorite Cub is hurt; I say there's a report." This is a cop-out and you should know it. When you mention you have a source -- a reliable source -- saying Prior has a shoulder problem, you are vouching for the credibility of the source and the claim he/she is making. If you didn't believe it, you should have said so (or not written about the issue at all). You can't now choose to duck behind it and pass it off as simply a "report." To do so is not only leaving your source hanging out to dry, but it makes you little more than a rumormonger, not an alleged journalist.

At the end of the day, Will, you and your source may be right -- Prior may be hurt and the Cubs may be continuing to deny and cover up the truth. Still, there are huge differences to what you did -- going out on a limb based on a "reliable source" -- and what Klapisch did.

You should seriously consider these points in the future; your credibility depends on it.

2006-02-23 08:57:50
3.   Brian H
djf makes some very good points. If Will is distancing himself from his source, saying I don't necessarily believe it but I heard this from someone I trust but take it with a grain of salt, then he is rumormongering. You either believe what your source says or you just don't spread it around.

The fact that Will likes Prior and is a Cubs fan is irrelevant, except to the extent that Will should know that injury reports about Prior and/or Wood are going to get a lot of attention. Prior's achilles injury/elbow injury of 2004 was a major, major drama that no Cubs fan wants to live through again (the starts and stops pissed everyone off and probably cost the Cubs a playoff appearance in what was the most disappointing season of my Cubs memory). Will's tying of this latest report to the source that brought him the news of the 2004 injury (which, as Will now states, was not true) made it worse.

The problem is that Will's mistakes bring on a lot of schadenfreude. His "all-fired asshole" personality rubs people the wrong way, and when he is shown to be wrong on something, that's when "your editor" shows up. Will's interview with Teddy Greenstein will brighten some people's day.

2006-02-23 11:45:06
4.   RyanM
"that's when "your editor" shows up."

Oh yeah, Your Editor. He seems to have been disappeared.

2006-02-23 15:06:30
5.   Blah Blah Blah
Will is simply unusually thin-skinned for somebody in this line of work. That's just a fact in my observation.

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