Another Failure In Journalistic Integrity

This goes beyond the simple act of freely casting aspersions about. It also manages to deal with the difference in reaction to a measured, considerate, and lightly philosophical read from a blogger to that of a journalist who bandies about steroid accusations while even contradicting himself.

Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk brings these issues up in his reaction to Yahoo! Sports’ Steve Henson and his attack on Nomar Garciaparra. Recently retired, Nomar Garciaparra.

So we learn that the world of journalism is hypocritical. In summary, Calcaterra bemoans the fact that Henson gets off being called a journalist while bloggers get reamed by the mainstream media…bringing us the case of Jerrod Morris.

Raul Ibanez got off to a ridiculously hot start in 2009. Morris, a blogger, had Ibanez in his fantasy league and a leaguemate called Ibanez out citing HR per AB and so on as a case for steroid use. Morris decided to investigate before making his counter argument and this is what he came up with for his blog post.

So let’s do a quick rundown of the differences between these two articles:

Henson: Garciaparra mysteriously broke down into injury problems following his 29th year of existence. Speculation abound without much proof or investigation. Look at this picture! Mention of a genetic condition that affects muscular contractions (which would explain repeated injuries) and then completely disregard it for further steroid speculation.

Morris: Mounting a defense against a fantasy baseball colleague over Ibanez’s power surge (19 HR in first 55 games of ’09 vs 23 in 162 in ’08). Use statistics (HR/AB, lineup, career splits) and ballpark dimensions (CBP-hitter’s park vs Safeco-pitcher’s park) and pitcher match-ups (punishing ppor Nat and Padre pitchers) to try to account for uptick. Even mentions that Ibanez could slow down and projects him to finish with 30-35 HR (ding-ding! 34 HR in ’09). Points made: Ibanez is great fantasy pick (and sell-high candidate), 55 games is still a small sample size, we are in a different era of baseball and the change of league and home park doesn’t fully account for power surge of a 37 year old. Shane Monahan used steroids as a Mariner and Ibanez denied using them, but all players deny use even if they’ve used them.

Which one seems like more of a credible journalist?

My beef isn’t so much that Henson is raising the possibilty of Garciaparra using steroids(hey, why not, with his retirement he just became newsworthy again…ah, easy way out for a story), but the fact that he plows into it headfirst claiming that Nomar has this big secret. The “proof” he gives is flimsy and insubstantial…the most important thing mentioned is something which gives light to Nomar’s injury troubles and detracts from his insane attack. It’s a pathetic attempt at an article.

What happened next for Jerrod Morris is something bordering along the lines of lunacy. Journalists from all outlets and hosts of ESPN shows glazed over it and never seemed to get it’s point (or origin). Unfortunately this led to Morris getting severely reamed by the MSM and when he appeared on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” he was presented in a poor light (pale, no makeup, no suit) and since he doesn’t appear TV was torn to shreds by these drooling, illiterate dickheads.

John Gonzalez of the Philly Inquirer tore into Morris without getting the gist of the article (you can search for it on philly.com “A Cheap Shot At Ibanez) as does Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. Baker hops up on his high horse to point out the differences between journalism and blogging (there’s a difference? no way!) and spends a good time stroking his ego instead of getting to the point (real journalists are narcissists). Another difference between journalists and bloggers? Bloggers don’t get to go to baseball games for free, much less meet the players for free. So we can’t really “look the players in the eye.”

Of course when one of their own releases a weaker version of the same thing they probably assume it’s a work of art in the realm of their craft.

Luckily there were some guys defending Morris against this excessive and unwarranted backlash. Progressive thinkers/writers such as Joe Posnanski and Rob Neyer. Posnanski brings to light Ibanez’s tendency to go on hot streaks in his SI article and it makes an excellent case for Ibanez just being like he is every other season. Neyer defends Morris even further and says that bloggers can be maniacal at times (even if Morris wasn’t, but it’s true, WAHAHAHA!) Both bring up Ibanez defending himself, which is good for him, he should, but he brings up that annoying “mother’s basement” stereotype…so Raul Ibanez, maybe you were caught up being pissed, but that was still a dick move. Even more important: We are in a different era were everyone is a suspect and regardless of innocence will refute allegations until scientifically proven true (and even then, continue). So how can we believe that we’re always told the truth?

Even further: Baseball players are overpaid. They make millions for a game and we have a right to be skeptical because they are grown men and can deal with it and their Player’s Association had held up testing for a long time because so many of them were cheating and now so many of them are lying.

If Steve Henson had managed to touch on any of these points I would have respected his article more, but since he appears to have thrown spaghetti at a wall and called it work I have absolutely no qualm about calling him unprofessional, lazy, and an utter douche (maniacal blogging!).

Expect more of your professionals. Request that journalists display the “journalistic integrity” they always harp on about especially in relation to blogging. We bloggers have integrity, but we don’ always have to display it because we’re doing this for fun and usually just for our friends…AND FOR FREE. Suck it up and write something decent to read.

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Why Do The Eloquent Guys Never Do Drugs?

A wordsmith he ain't

Mark McGwire’s interview with Bob Ley on ESPN is a poor performance.  Ley is by no means aggressive or hostile, but he puts out some fundamental questions which McGwire should answer if he wants this media blitz to settle the steroid issue once and for all.

One of the more basic questions (pharaphrasing here): “If steroids don’t help performance, why have you been apologizing for using them?  And why apologize to the Maris family?”

McGwire doesn’t answer either question well.  And I really want to be forgiving (see my previous post).

Baseball needs more Grandersons

It’s funny how we have such low standards for athletes’ speaking abilities in general.  If they say anything in a post-game interview beyond, “Well Joe I just went out there and played hard and this is a big win for us,” color us impressed.  But when an athlete is on a tight spot like this, we suddenly expect them to be rhetorical masters and are disappointed by anything less.

Curtis Granderson would know how to satisfy us in a steroids interview.  But then again, Curtis Granderson wouldn’t take steroids (I’m pretty sure).  Maybe that’s the problem.  The eloquent ones don’t do drugs.

Amen, Joe

In yet another example of why he is one of the best baseball writers working today, Joe Posnanski reacts to the reaction to Mark McGwire’s day of apologies.

Seriously – since 2005 McGwire has been pummeled whenever people found it convenient or cathartic to do so.  That means he was ripped a lot.  He never defended himself.  Now he comes out and offers his apology, one of the more thorough and believable mea culpas in the sorry steroid saga, and columnists flip out on him again.

If there’s something that makes me more mad than a player using steroids, it’s a writer assuming the righteous mantle of victimized baseball fans worldwide and throwing spears.

My Imaginary McGwire Steroid Press Conference

He had a good swing, which steroids don't give you

Mark McGwire issued a statement to the Associated Press today in which he addresses his link to steroids.  He admits using them.  This ESPN article contains the full text of his statement.  At the end of his statement he says that he will be willing to take questions about his steroid use.

I like McGwire.  I think he is a kind-hearted man, in part because of his notable record in charity work.  I also think he is genuinely not an attention hound, whether the flashbulbs be coming from the stands or congressional hearing reporters.  And, after all, we’re talking about steroids in baseball, not financial theft, rape, or misleading nations into war (high-profile Americans have done all three since 1998 and gotten better treatment than McGwire has received).

Here is a transcript of the Q&A session I would like McGwire to have with reporters.  The real thing would take 3 hours, but this is my condensed fantasy version.

McGwire: I am holding this press conference to answer any questions the media may have about my steroid use.  I am now the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, and despite what Tony LaRussa says, I won’t be playing the game again.  I think an honest, good faith conversation may go a long way to restoring fans’ confidence in the last 20 years of baseball.

There are only two rules.  I will not say where I got the steroids from.  It took me five years to admit my usage, and I will not drag others out of the closet.  Second, once spring training starts, I will not discuss this with anyone.  The regular season belongs to the Cardinals.

Reporter:  When did you take steroids?

McGwire: I took them [lists seasons in which he took them, or off-seasons in which he took them]

Reporter:  What steroids did you take?

McGwire:  I took [lists the steroids he knows, and says there are some he no longer remembers the name of]

Reporter:  Why did you take steroids?  Did you feel you were cheating?

McGwire:  I dabbled in steroids during the 1988 off season, as they were a supplement I had heard would help my workouts.  I did not seriously consider them until I started getting hurt, repeatedly, in 1993.

Did I feel I was cheating?  Yes, sort of.  I knew they were illegal, but I wasn’t doing heroin or coke, which I felt were and are a more grave category of illegal drug.  My usage, in my mind, was personal and revolved around baseball.  Baseball did not prohibit them, nor was there any mechanism for baseball discovering my usage or disciplining me for it.  Major League Baseball was not interested, as a body, in discovering that players were using steroids.  Many players I knew were also taking steroids, and I was batting against them and my team was battling their teams for the playoffs.

I was hurt, and I was told that steroids and HGH would help me heal and prevent further injuries.  I desperately wanted to play ball, to contribute to my team, and to be healthy.  I was afraid that my career would sputter out, and I acted out of that fear.  Other teams’ hitters were juicing.  I didn’t want to do less than I was capable of to help my team win.  It’s a decision I now regret, but I want you to understand that decision.

If I did not take them, my injuries continued, my team lost, and my career ended, no one would admire or even know about my actions.  Or so I thought.  I would be a failed big slugger.  I did not feel up to the challenge of being the righteous avatar for pure baseball.  I did not feel it was my responsibility, nor one I could bear.  What was important was to play the game I loved, in the environment in which I found it.  Baseball at the time was an environment in which I could use steroids without serious consequence except to my health and conscience.

Reporter:  Did you talk to your team mates or coaches about steroids?  Were there players who told you that you were cheating them, or cheating the game?

McGwire: There were occasional comments, yeah.  But people mostly kept their usage, or lack thereof, to themselves.  Everyone had team mates who used, or who probably used, so there were no collective teams who could throw stones.  And remember, steroids were leading to health, and health was leading to better performance, and better performance was leading to more money.

I can’t say for sure which home runs, or even singles, I hit because I was jucing.  But I was paid more money because I was hitting more home runs.  Which meant that the guys hitting fewer home runs also made more money.  Same with the pitchers.  I hope I did not end any pitcher’s career by hitting him hard, but you can say the same about juicing pitchers ending hitters’ careers.  An all-star getting a big contract raises everybody’s salaries.  It was true in the 1970s, the 1990s, and today.

Reporter:  So you don’t deserve the millions of dollars you were paid.

McGwire:  Teachers in Philadelphia make $40,000 a year.  “Deserve” isn’t a word that makes a lot of sense when talking about professional athletes’ salaries.  My salaries were a result of the vast amounts of money baseball owners were making from our play.  That play was tainted by steroids.  If you are flirting with the idea of fans and “clean” players deserving to be paid back, you need to talk to owners as well.

Reporter:  You are active in charity work, and whether you ask for it or not, baseball players are role models to children around the country.  How did you rectify your steroid use with your position as a role model?

McGwire:  That was a very difficult part of my life.  I guess I feel that mistakes can be, if not undone, then atoned for by hard work and good deeds.  If I did not take steroids, and my career ended, I would not have been in a position to do much charity work or be a role model.

I have tried to help the lives of children through my charity work, and I believe some of their lives are better despite my steroid usage.  What’s more, although it may seem like cold logic, my steroid usage paid me the money with which I funded that work.  I think one’s moral judgement on that fact is pretty subjective.

What would I say to children aspiring to be athletes?  Do not take performance enhancing drugs of any kind.  You short change yourself and your accomplishments.  I am sorry I took them, and if I could do things over I would avoid them completely.  They have caused me immeasurable grief.  But I do hope I can be an example, not of decision making, but of how to, eventually, own up to your mistakes.

Reporter:  Do you think people who used steroids should be in the Hall of Fame?

McGwire: That isn’t for me to decide.  I will not name names and I don’t want to be seen as a finger pointer.  But what should be made clear is that everyone, from owners to managers to players to union officials, was complicit in the steroids era.  Everyone but umpires and fans participated in some way, either by using steroids or encouraging their use or turning a blind eye.  Steroid users were not isolated bandits terrorizing the good people of Baseball Town.

Does the Hall of Fame represent the best baseball players who ever played?  Or some more idealized image of how we think of the game?  That, I think, is the fundamental question.  I know some of the best players to ever play used steroids, and I believe they would be Hall of Famers if they had not used them.  I think baseball, as a whole, needs to decide if the Hall is for baseball as it is, or baseball as we want it to be.

Reporter:  What are your thoughts on players who test positive but say they did not knowingly take steroids?

McGwire:  That is certainly possible.  You have to understand that, particularly with Latin American players, there is a lot of misinformation and exploitation out there.  Imagine you are living in a poor Dominican Republic town, 18 years old.  Baseball skills are your only feasible route to a life not dominated by poverty.  You’ve heard about steroids, but you are far from sound medical advice, you don’t know how bad they can be for you.  Some recruiter or coach says that he can make you into a major league player if you train with him and give him some of your earnings.  Would you take medicine he tells you to take?

That is obviously a hypothetical, but those sorts of situations and pressures exist.  The media has said that ignorance is an easy excuse, or that it is no excuse.  That’s probably right.  But I’ve met or heard of unscrupulous handlers who would not blink about talking a young, naive kid into taking HGH if it meant a pro contract from which the guy will get his take.

Reporter:  It sounds like you are saying that steroids, in the 1990s, were a personal failing and that you should not be held accountable to fans or the league more generally.

McGwire:  I avoided discussing steroids in Congress because I was not personally or mentally ready to do so.  Because of that decision, and because of the decision I am making by speaking to you all, I think I have received my fair share of punishment.  Taking steroids was more than a personal failing, it was an undermining of the trust between fan and athlete which pays all of our salaries and provides magic for millions.  I am very sorry for the role I played in tarnishing that magic.  But I am not a person who believes that guilty people are beyond contribution or meaningful contrition.

What I want to offer is an honest, frank look at why a successful baseball player could take steroids, and at the circumstances in the game which allowed such a problem to flourish.  I want to help curtail the speculation and accusation that detracts from the game.  I believe that players, like myself, who took steroids have an apology to make to baseball fans, but that they are not proof that baseball is no longer the best sport in the world.

Reporter:  The home run race between you and Sammy Sosa was credited with saving baseball after the 1994 strike.  Surely you heard that hype during and after that season.  Did you feel like you had defrauded America into believing in a game that was actually fundamentally rotten?

McGwire: Ouch.   And not really.  I love baseball, and I’m sorry for the role I’ve played in tarnishing its reputation.  But to love something and be terribly upset with it is better than to not care about it at all.  If I helped reinvest people in baseball, if fans found a love for the game they did not previously possess because of my home runs, I’m glad to have helped that.  Of course, I betrayed their trust by juicing, but I want to help repair that trust.  Baseball is bigger, grander, and older than any one player, or even a generation of players.  The steroids era will be a black mark on the game, but we can hand it off to a new generation of clean, classy, exciting players.  That is, I feel, what I have to offer now.  The ability to help answer nagging questions about the past, and the ability, in part as the Cardinals hitting coach, to guide the next generation of players into fans’ hearts.

Andy Pettite’s Judgement Day

While Roger Clemens surged into Congress to defend himself against the allegations leveled at him concerning steroidal abuse, Pettite took a different route. Initially coming off as humble and sheepishly guilty, comparable to a kid who finally comes forward to tell Mom and Dad that he broke the cookie jar, Pettite will escape any stigmas that Clemens will now have to absorb. However, Pettite’s words during his apology, kind of threw me a curve ball.

“I know in my heart why I did things. I know that God knows that. I know that I’m going to have to stand before him one day. The truth hurts sometimes and you don’t want to share it. The truth will set you free. I’m going to be able to sleep a lot better.”

Can we pause for one second? Since when was God pissed at Andy? “And Thou shalt not use HGH, quoth the Lord” (Leviticus 14:2). Pettite is referring more than anything to his cheating, and I am glad he came forward. However, I am always made uncomfortable when people invoke God for forgiveness, as if God was at the moment was sitting in His easy chair (divine throne), a heartbroken Yankees fan. Like alcoholism, “God” is a good word to utter if you want forgiveness. So while Clemens chugs through the US government’s resources (hoping that “shock and awe” will force people to forgive him), Andy Pettite is the opposite: so humble that people will forgive him of his primary sin: making us question the game we love.

Special Valentine’s Day Article: Misremembering the Women in Our Lies

Can you imagine the conversation between Roger Clemens’ and his wife before the testimony on Capitol Hill? It was certainly a surprise, to me at least, that Clemens’ would find it plausible that the public would believe his account of the steroid use in his family. Maybe if he denied it one thing, but I know I am having a hard time trusting a man like Clemens, who find it’s permissable to indict his wife in his stead. “Oh Andy Petitte must have mixed us up,” I can hear him reasoning. “She also has a few Cy Youngs awards and a couple of World Series Rings.” Continue reading