It was not a banner week for those in the baseball media. MLB’s trade deadline is one of the more frenzied days of the year with insiders, reporters and pundits all jockeying to be the first to report any kind of news on who might be going where, but there’s no excuse for professionals to simply toss aside the basic rules of journalism. Twitter has reduced things down to essentially a high-tech version of a game of Telephone where wild speculation, innuendo, and half truths are passed on as news.
False reports abounded Thursday with wild deals being re-reported by supposedly reputable journalist who failed Journalism 101 by not checking their sources. Even MLB Network wasn’t immune, getting repeatedly duped by fake Twitter accounts throughout the day including one by a Ken Rosenthal impostor, and went to air without even bothering to notice the extra underscore at the end of the Twitter handle or that “he” had less than 50 followers.
Shoddy reporting practices weren’t limited to the trade deadline fiasco. Outlets such as Deadspin got into trouble for being gullible and then doing little to remedy their poor judgement. The snarky sports website got a taste of it’s own medicine Saturday as readers ridiculed them for falling for a fake Lou Piniella radio interview and reported it as news. But instead of removing the post once they finally figured it out, Deadspin merely chose to edit their headline and post “Update: This is not Lou Piniella, it’s a dumb radio bit. My mistake,” essentially making it a story of a lame radio prank.
But the most egregious example of bad journalism had nothing to do with being tricked. ESPN’s new statistical analysis blog FiveThirtyEight, posted an analysis of the Jon Lester/Yoenis Cespedes trade that exposed a fundamental misunderstanding of the deal by it’s author, Benjamin Morris. Morris argues that:
“the Oakland A’s and Boston Red Sox helped each other out in the usual fashion: One got to clear millions in salaries off the books while gaining a few parts, and the other obtained a high-impact starter for its championship run. The wrinkle in this case is that the team doing the dumping is big-market, big-payroll Boston, and the one gearing up for the post-season is small market, small-payroll Oakland.”
What the fuck is he talking about?? It seems in his rush to heap praise upon his obvious hero, Billy Beane and to unleash his endless mathematical diatribe about, Morris completely mischaracterized the deal. Boston actually increased it’s financial obligation by adding Cespedes’ $10.5 million salary for 2015 while Lester and Jonny Gomes would’ve come off the books after this season as free agents. Furthermore, to characterize Cespedes as “a few parts” is strange enough (does he think Cespedes is plural??), but it hardly characterizes the impact Cespedes’ power bat represents to the Red Sox lineup. And It’s bad enough he fell victim to the common misconception that a Oakland is operating in a “small market” when in fact, there are over 7 million people in the Bay Area to draw from (the 5th largest region in the United States), but to not understand why people were so astonished by how much proven Major League production Beane gave up instead of prospects usually involved in what Morris characterized as a “fire sale” is reason to question his capacity to continue to function as a human, let alone his credentials as a sports writer.
Not a good week for journalism.