Friday, June 12, 2009

Geoff Baker Condescends To Us, Misses The Point

In light of the Raul Ibanez blow-up where the red-hot Phillies LFer lashed out (rightly) against more or less baseless steroids accusations and more saliently (and less rightly) against "people who live in their parents' basements" or whatever, Geoff Baker, a Mariners "legitimate-blogger" has submitted this overly facile, self-aggrandizing and utterly beside the point "explanation" of the blogger-vs-journalist scrum.

Take a few seconds to read it, because I'm not going to quote extensively from it.

Let's skip to the part after Baker spends half his word-count waxing grandiloquent about the myriad "consequences" that his stories held for their subjects (Particularly re: former Blue Jays manager cum Vietnam war liar Tim Johnson) and get right to this quotation re: the Ibanez blogger:

In the end, [Johnson] suffered far greater than I did. Why? Because I was right.

Now, can the blogger who wrote about Ibanez say the same thing? No, he cannot. Because he never really takes a position.

He throws some innuendo out there, under a provocative headline, then couches it with a bunch of well-researched statistics on park factors, and the like. Makes it all look like a fact-finding mission.

Do you see the obvious, stupefying disjunct on Baker's part? He's confusing investigative journalism with editorial journalism. What on earth does some blogger saying "Hmmm...Ibanez is putting up record numbers. Let me crunch some statistical models and see if I can find a logical reason why this could be" have to do with Baker interviewing sources in order to write a standard lead story?

A: Nothing.

Why are people are so incapable of recognizing the internet's various outlets for sports writing for what they are?

Blogs are generally opinion. They are that by nature. On the other hand, journalism like that which Geoff Baker is thumping his chest about by nature aspires to be objective fact. There is little to no relation between the two. Just because bloggers add statistics to their posts doesn't mean they're trying to make a factual, investigative claim.

If you want to compare them to journalists (which seems a foolish venture to begin with, since they're independent in their operations for the most part whereas journalists are part of a for-profit conglom.) compare them to the Dan Shaughnessy's and Jay Mariotti's of the world--people who have almost no access beyond that of the average fan and yet who expound from a position of authority (whatever that position of authority might be).

Don't hold Deadspin to the standards of Sportscenter or Sports Illustrated. From the snarky nature of the posts to the ultra-snarky nature of the comments, it's clear that Deadspin was always built to model radio call-in shows like Jim Rome's The Jungle.

Are sports opinion columnists an inherently bad thing? The title of this blog suggests they might be--but only when they're completely uninformed. Why on earth should anyone be pitching a fit because a blogger suggested--however foolishly--that he would like to examine statistically whether it was possible that Raul Ibanez might be exploiting PED's. Why is this a bigger deal than when Jay Mariotti says "Jerry Reinsdorf is only doing __________ because he is cheap."

At least the former wasn't selling sensationalism and tabloid journalism.

Why on earth would you hold either to the standards of investigative journalism? Unless, of course, you just plain missed the point.

Baker spends the rest of the article grandstanding about what a tough guy he has to be to hobnob with "Killers, or Hell's Angels, or major leaguers and steroids" as if that's at all relevant to the topic at hand, thumping his chest about how "he has to look the players in the eye, and bloggers aren't ready to do that." Snooze.

Look--If you want to make some sweeping judgments on how sports bloggers relate to "legitimate journalists," don't compare them to investigative journalists. It's clear from their inherent lack of access that they simply can not be nor aspire to be that. Compare them to editorial journalists. And you know what? For the most part, sports bloggers compare pretty fucking favorably to those. I'll take the bloggers at Hardball Times, Baseball Daily Digest, and Ump Bump (flawed as they all are--hell, opinions are like assholes, etc) over the Mike Celizic's of the world any old day.

Too bad Baker--and everyone else, it seems--wants to compare them to Tom Verducci. Ridiculous.


cs said...

I think you could have posted his link and just wrote your "Snooze." right after it and called it a day. But, anyway, great post.

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Larry said...

Has there even been a "blogger" that was named in the Ibanez diatribe? I'm sorry but as much as I post on forums and sites like this you can't really take anything that me or others like me say seriously (not that anyone would). Just because some random guy that might or might not run a "blog" says something negative about an athlete does not mean it needs to be national news or that the athlete even needs to respond to it. I am actually very suspicious if Ibanez even read this "blog" first hand or if someone told him about it.

After everything that has gone on in baseball the last decade I don't think it's unfair for someone that is having a seemingly unusual season like this to be looked at in a suspicious light. I'm surprised how journalists are blasting bloggers for making accusations when these journalists should have been bringing up the exact same things back in 1998 and maybe Major League Baseball would have taken measures to prevent the sport from falling into the spiral of rampant PED use that it did.

Chris W said...


What happened was a semi-reputable blogger broke down Ibanez's season, ostensibly "looking for a reason to believe he's not on steroids" and came to the conclusion that there wasn't any exonerating evidence.

A Philadelphia reporter wrote an article about this blog entry and another reporter went to Ibanez and asked him what he thought of the blog entry.

Hope that clears things up.

Tonus said...

I feel bad for the blogger, it was a story that really blew up over nothing. He has Ibanez on his fantasy team, and someone whined about Ibanez' numbers, so the guy decided to take a look in order to prove that the numbers were legit, and after some superficial study, didn't reach a conclusion. The numbers didn't convince him one way or the other, and he admitted that in this day and age, it's impossible not to wonder if Ibanez wasn't using PEDs.

He made sure to point out that his 'research' wasn't very deep and that he wasn't making an accusation of PED use, and that he hoped that Ibanez was clean. But just mentioning the possibility was enough to cause a shitstorm. Did anyone really need to give a damn that some anonymous doof posted a blog item without thinking it through?

I just don't see how people can become so indignant when what the guy said is 100% true-- in a sport where a number of the top stars have been either strongly suspected or outright caught using PEDs, nearly every outlier is going to generate some suspicion. Some people responding to the guy whined that they wished people would stop talking about PEDs. As if Manny Ramirez hadn't been suspended just a few weeks ago or something.

Chris W said...

I don't see why looking at objective statistical data and using that to make an inferential suggestion is so fucking bad, but when Selena Roberts makes fucking psychological and criminal claims about A-Rod UNDER THE GUISE OF LEGITIMATE INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM all while USING NOTHING BUT ANONYMOUS HEARSAY AND INFERENTIAL CONJECTURE all the cocksuckers in the journalism community come out of the woodworks to defend her.

Alex said...

I'm just fed up listening to Costas, Wilbon et al take smug potshots at us. As if, we're pipi, caca. I feel so inadequate.

Seriously. If they think sport blogs are rough they should check out the nightmare of political blogs.

Larry B said...

I don't care what anyone says, living in a basement is great.

dan-bob said...

Just read the original post which caused all this hubbub - and it's pretty fucking calm, level-headed, thoroughly researched (statistically researched, not investigatively researched)...

It's worth reading. Actually - it's pretty damn good stat research.

Alex said...

Dan-bob, I agree. When I read it, I screamed "what a bunch of fucking smug assholes for making this bigger than it really is"! Then I ate some cherries.

Here in Montreal we have our own fink journalist who does nothing but attack athletes without proof. He goes on and on about cyclists and Armstrong even though he admits he can't prove it. How about when people questioned the 73 dingers Bonds hit? People, logically, looked at his stats and began to wonder.

I've seen far worse on both blogs and the media.

I also saw the video with Rosenthal and the guy from the Philly paper gang up on that poor Midwest shlep.

What made it all the more annoying is watching Rosenthal (who I really have nothing against) ask the tiresome "how important was it" question after the Yankees/Mets game earlier today.

Great, heavy hitting journalism.

Have these people lost their minds? A blog is at its roots a PERSONAL DIARY. Or a log of personal thoughts.

Everyone's an asshole.

Larry said...

It just really blows my mind how journalists act like blogs (and to a lesser extent message boards) are the news. They are opinion pieces and most of the time nothing else. It is just pure laziness on the part of major news outlets to report something a blogger says as news.

Larry said...

Oh one more thing. Journalists have dogged on bloggers for the past few years because they are scared to death about losing their jobs to them so they try to discredit them every chance they get. But they are too stupid to realize they are giving them more credit because they report on what they say! Fucking morons.

Tonus said...

As a postscript to this, today Howard Bryant blamed everyone except the "traditional media" for the steroid era in baseball. Fans, players, bloggers, you name it, everyone... except the mainstream media. What an ass.