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The Sad Decline of The Sporting News
2007-02-26 17:11
by Scott Long
Notes:
Scott Long is now blogging at NSFWsports.com.
Will Carroll can still be found at Baseball Prospectus.

Before the internet provided us the opportunity to just click to a team's local beat writer and even before USA Today came along giving a little bit of info on each team on a daily basis, the place most baseball junkies went to have their fix satiated was The Sporting News. Until USA Today came along, one of the most important features to the sabermetrically-inclined was the listing of box scores for every game played the week before. While The Sporting News covered football and basketball, its main focus was baseball.

I have subscribed to the magazine now for 30 years and I can remember the excitement I would have looking into my mailbox on Friday, looking forward to reading what the new issue would offer. I used to get them all, Sports Illustrated, Sport, and Inside Sports, but The Sporting News was my favorite because it focused so strongly on Major League Baseball.

Of course, with the advent of ESPN, USA Today, and especially the internet, The Sporting News was going to have to change its formula to service its readers. By hiring top-notch writers like Mike DeCourcy (college basketball), Tom Dienhart (college football), and Dan Pompeii (NFL) to cover each sport, The Sporting News gives an excellent overview of these respective sports.

The best baseball writer at breaking big stories about the game over the past 5 years has been Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal was a must-read at The Sporting News and kept much of the magazine's reputation as a major source for baseball information intact. Last year, Rosenthal left TSN for Fox Sports. I'm sure that the money he was offered to do a mix of TV, radio, and website reporting for Fox made it impossible for The Sporting News to compete, but they needed to bring in someone who could be on the level of a DeCourcy or a Pompeii.

I'm not here to slam Rosenthal's replacement, but The Sporting News needs to at least supplement him with another writer. If they wanted to get some increased interest at their website, they would hire someone like Joe Sheehan, who does such a great job of covering the game at Baseball Prospectus. Just by hiring one of the good baseball columnists at one of the major dailies would at least help. With Foxsports.com having Rosenthal and Sports Illustrated with a bevy of good baseball writers led by Tom Verducci, The Sporting News has become a baseball afterthought.

The Sporting News is still something I read in depth every week, because of the great writers who I have mentioned above. Sadly though, I only give a cursory glance to TSN's baseball coverage, as I go to other places for that. I'm sure it has left Alfred Spink rolling in his grave.

Comments
2007-02-26 18:11:16
1.   Bob Timmermann
TSN is also not publishing its annual baseball guide this year or its annual record book.

I think they will both be online publications.

2007-02-26 18:58:55
2.   Scott Long
The Baseball Register and all of TSN's other annual baseball publications lost interest for me when Bill James' Abstract started being sold in book stores. When STATS joined in with its statistical guides, I really wondered who was actually buying the TSN baseball annuals.
2007-02-26 18:59:30
3.   Vishal
for whatever reason my school seems to subscribe to the sporting news, and so there are copies lying about in the academic village (a grad student study lounge). the other day i picked up the most recent one with the baseball preview and found it completely lacking in substantive information. i felt like i knew more than the writers, and i don't really know all that much.
2007-02-26 19:19:32
4.   dianagramr
Back in the day, I used to love reading the capsule summaries of all the past weeks ballgames.

(sigh)

2007-02-26 19:35:19
5.   Scott Long
Typical of the TSN Spring Training Preview.

Worst Offseason Move

1. Red Sox sign JD Drew.
2. Giants sign Barry Bonds

Have they ever even considered a stat like OPS? Sure both guys have some issues, but the Red Sox have some financial outs on the deal, where the Giants make a 1 year deal with the devil who has been the most dominating player over the past 10 years.

How about all the crazy long-term contracts given to pretty average starting pitchers?

Best Off-season moves

2. Cubs sign Alfonso Soriano
3. Phillies trade for Freddy Garcia

While TSN's no. 1 im this category (Tigers getting Sheffield) was a decent choice, 2 and 3 I would argue were bad moves. Soriano will need to play like 2006 for him to be worth anywhere near what the Cubs gave him.
Garcia might be a decent 3rd starter in a NL rotation, but I suspect he will get lit up in Philly's launch zone. At best this will be an okay move for 2007, but there was a reason why the White sox would trade Ozzie Guillen's son-in-law.

In the TSN pre-season power poll they rate the Twins No. 1.

Considering the Twins have such a big question mark at the starting pitching spot, I really have to question this choice, especially when the Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox, A's, Angels, Indians, and White Sox have at least 4 solid starting pitchers, if not more.

2007-02-26 20:14:03
6.   Bob Timmermann
The Twins pitching staff is in such flux that the management is very, very worried about Sidney Ponson's visa problems.
2007-02-26 20:22:47
7.   El Lay Dave
Ponson's main Visa problem is that he uses it too many St. Paul smörgåsbords.
2007-02-26 21:01:37
8.   Ken Arneson
7 Bonus points for using proper Swedish diacritics!
2007-02-27 08:13:47
9.   dianagramr
8

I swoon for diacritical marks ...

the umlaut
the tilde
the schwa

(contented sigh)

2007-02-27 10:26:03
10.   tigers1901
TSN. Didn't USA Today's Baseball Weekly take over their lead in newspaper magazine format.

Ernie Harwell got his start in baseball by writing (at the age of 17?) the paper to cover the Atlanta Crackers. Said he was still contributing and drawing a check until the 1960's.

Have a handwritten reply from the late Hal Lebovitz (Ask Hal column)on the TSN stationery.

2007-02-27 11:15:20
11.   Greg Brock
TSN was great, but it's decline doesn't bother me as much as the broken dream that was Frank DeFord's The National.
2007-02-27 22:32:46
12.   BklynBmr
11 Hear, hear! I loved that publication. It was almost too good to survive, and hence it was. I didn't care for the trickle of political and news content toward the end, but it was a breath of fresh air at the time. I still have a few in safe keeping — one of my favorites is the Tyson-Douglas bout coverage: the big "49-1" on the cover. Classic.
2007-02-27 23:07:18
13.   Scott Long
The National was great. I purchased it every day.
2007-02-28 23:04:27
14.   mikeplugh
I used to read all the aforementioned periodicals as well. (I just wanted to use the word periodical.) I think I was responsible for keeping those magazines in circulation during the late-90's. My father was a career newspaper man, and I grew up in the pressroom during the summers of my youth. Print is dead. My father is out of the business. There is no more room for those magazines, tragically.

I'd love to see someone like Joe do TSN, but it's a ship that's sailed. The internet is king, and the only room left for published material is books and newspapers in commuter cities like NY or Chicago.

Alas.

2007-02-28 23:05:15
15.   mikeplugh
BTW...BA was also a great piece of paper, but that's now unnecessary as well. Their on-line stuff is way more unpalatable.

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