Sunday, March 3, 2013

ESPN's wretched baseball coverage

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you've probably noticed that it has devolved into pretty much just me posting about Simmons, Easterbrook, and the occasional generic rant against ESPN.  And since Easterbrook only writes about the NFL (and the pathetic lack of realism in TV's most watched show, Last Resort) and Simmons only writes about the NFL and the NBA, posts about those two leagues end up making up about 80% of what goes on around here. Things weren't always this way.  Back when we launched we were focused mainly on baseball, because that's Chris's, Dan's, PNoles's and my favorite sport.  Nothing has changed in that department--it's still certainly my favorite sport to read about/watch--I've just blogged about it a lot less.  Maybe that will change this summer.  Earlier tonight Chris sent me a screenshot of's main MLB page and broke down how worthless their online coverage is.  (Not that it needs to be said, but their televised MLB coverage is also utterly worthless.)  I'm lazy, so I'm going to steal his idea and in some cases more or less steal his exact words.  He'll deal with it.  But enough context/introduction: just look at this fucking mess.

Let's run through all the content here, keeping in mind that there are only about five thousand other places you can find baseball news and analysis online.  It's really too bad that the articles I'm about to summarize/mock are so terrible, because as I'll indicate in a number of parentheticals, I really genuinely like many of ESPN's baseball writers.  They're not exactly producing top notch content, though.

These are the featured stories, the ones with corresponding slides below the main video box:

1.) A saccharine-sweet article by Jayson Stark (who is not a bad writer, but also not exactly known for producing hard hitting analysis) about how Max Scherzer could be great if absolutely everything possible goes right for him, and then given that Justin Verlander is good, those two together could give the Tigers good pitching, which, yeah, no fucking dogshit.

2.) A substance-free puff piece by Tim Kurkjian (again, a writer who I generally approve of, but who also is not really known for coming up with interesting analysis) about how unfair it is that people are skeptical about RA Dickey's chances for repeating his 2012 season.  The chosen angle: people are so darn mean to knuckleballers!

3.) Another substance-free article/video, this time about Chase Headley.  I've actually got to give them props for actually doing an article about Chase Headley, a guy 75% of baseball fans only know of as "that guy who plays for some west coast them that we should have traded for at the deadline last season."  No further snark here.

4.) A slide about the WBC that seems like it might have some decent and available content. Nope, nevermind, it's just a photo gallery and three ESPN Insider articles (who the hell is going to buy Insider to read about the WBC?).

5.) Horseshit "future rankings," a totally worthless exercise in trying to rank all franchises based on the votes of smart genius baseball minds like Jim Bowden (yes, I know, lol Jim Bowden).  When you're borrowing ideas from the fuckheads over at FanGraphs and somehow executing their ideas worse than they execute them, you truly are out of ideas.

Next, we have the news in brief items from the right sidebar:

1.) A lie about Mike Trout taking the high road in negotiations--since apparently Trout and his agent are dumb enough to think fans will believe that the agent popped off at the mouth without being directed to by Trout.  Buster Olney provides Insider analysis on this already excruciating "story."
2.) Generic sensationalist news that is certainly scary but also certainly uninteresting if you came to this page hoping to read about baseball
3.) Actual baseball news peppered with absolutely unnecessary video (fantasy related, since many people only care about baseball because they play fantasy baseball, a symptom of the fact that ESPN's baseball coverage blows)
4.) Actual baseball news (fantasy related)
5.) Actual baseball news (fantasy related)
6.) Actual baseball news
7.) Actual baseball news
8.) More or less actual baseball news, sort of (fantasy related)
9.) Non-news, but baseball related
10.) Actual baseball news
11.) Another Buster Olney Insider article that may or may not be actual baseball news, but is definitely not worth paying for

Finally, the featured columns, from the bottom of the page, running from left to right:

1.) Jason Giambi is giving out life lessons Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
2.) Human interest piece on Brian McCann Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
3.) Sportsnation article (puke)
4.) Insider article about the realigned AL West from the biggest asshole in the world of baseball analysis (to his credit, at least when he writes he's usually actually trying to provide insight, which makes him woefully out of place at ESPN)
5.) Article on analytics I might actually consider clicking on but probably won't
6.) Endless talk about the Mike Trout non-issue, which is essentially tabloid shit, but yes, please, let 's keep breaking down all the nothingness
7.) Puff piece on an Iraq veteran who got to try out for the Dodgers, certainly heartwarming but also tabloid
8.) The same Olney Insider article as referenced in #1 on the sidebar stories, about a story that should have died 15 seconds after it hit the wire

So yeah, what a fucking wasteland.  Especially the news and featured columns.  I'll say it again because part of me feels bad ripping on them here--Stark, Crasnick and Kurkjian are all enjoyable writers who don't take themselves too seriously.  But they shouldn't be anchoring the baseball coverage of the world's largest sports network with this dreck.  Here's hoping they find a way to step their game up as the season goes along.  Nothing would make me happier than to do an apology post in a few months that says "Well, ESPN is still a tabloid tub of elephant shit, but at least they've got their main columnists covering interesting and worthwhile subjects!"


pnoles said...

Wish I could read that Cameron article that just went up that says that the Cardinals could have the best offense in baseball.

Because that just 100% completely and totally doesn't seem right to me.

Chris W said...

Well they don't have lousy non-prospects like Robinson Cano nor did they ever make the mistake of not trading John Danks for Jose Lopez and table scraps ( that redundant?)

Biggie Rat said...

Larry, what free baseball sites would you recommend. I've been saying I am going to start being Saber savvy this season for the last six years or so. I better start before senility sets in.

Larry B said...

Chris and PNoles are better recommenders than I, Rat, but I would start with Hardball Talk for news and quick/dirty analysis of the day's biggest stories. The downside there is that the commenters are mouthbreathers. So you can also check Baseball Think Factory for (mostly) high-level banter among (mostly) informed commenters about current stories. So that keeps you up to date with everything going on in MLB on a day to day basis, and both of those sites have a pretty strong advanced statistical leaning in most of their statistical analysis.

For good solid long term/high level analysis, I have had good luck with SBNation. Their generic MLB-wide page is excellent and has a lot of good analysis. Your mileage may vary as far as the utility presented by your favorite team's SBNation site (mine has excellent authors/contributors/editors and moronic commenters, so I usually skip the comments). They also have a site called Beyond the Box Score that is all about SABR thinking and analysis which is really good.

Chris W said...

Hardball Times is also excellent. Also, team specific blogs are great--Crashburn Alley, Amazin' Avenue, It is all about the money stupid, etc. And of course: SOUTHSIDE SOX

Simon, Simple said...

Thanks for the tips, gents.