Thursday, May 12, 2011

Devolution?

The primary benefits of the rise of online journalism -- relative immediacy and increased coverage space -- are also its greatest drawbacks. What's the line between "news" and "dreck"? It's hard to discern sometimes, so you assume the risk by clicking on a link that you'll end up wasting a minute or two of your life reading the content therein. "Sure, go around and wade in that sea of seemingly endless information; just look out for the barges hauling around the sewage." It's not a terrible dilemma, as Faustian bargains go, but sometimes you're tempted to wish you never dipped your toes in the water.

Only a few years ago, when the print media outlets were still mainly "print" outlets, a manager's reluctance to bestow the actual title of "closer" on a young pitcher essentially serving that role might have been addressed as a throwaway line deep inside an article, or perhaps as a short item inserted into a notebook column, if it was mentioned at all. An astute reader might notice this detail and assign from it some sort of strange reluctance on the part of the manager, but the item would not seem much of a story in itself.

Even more recently, a blogger probably would notice the same item -- and then proceed, on his/her own blog, to magnify the item's significance by spinning the issue into some sort of analytical direction. For instance: "Hmmmm, what does this mean about Manager's confidence in Pitcher or Pitcher's 'make-up'? {Insert five paragraphs of armchair psychology}" Or, more likely: "Abner H Doubleday, who the hell cares? The 'closer' role is some sort of stupid made-up thing that didn't really even exist until very recently. {Insert eight paragraphs summarizing stuff Bill James has written a dozen times by now}"

Now, however, the writers themselves are in on this sort of caterwauling -- or at least are paid to drive the fans' caterwauling. Very few details or quotations can be left unmagnified, for fear that a subject that might resonate with the readership (for whatever reason) and generate page views might remain unexploited. I don't know if the writers particularly want this role, but it is certainly a part of their job. The writers covering the Nationals all seem to perform the core functions of the job very well; the problem is that the job now requires that they toss a lot of dreck our way, too.

Consequently, we are exposed to non-stories like this. Keep in mind I'm not insulting Goessling by calling this article (post?) a non-story; hell, Goessling more than tacitly acnknowledges the same. Goessling writes, "Even if Riggleman wants to stay away from bestowing the closer's title, and whatever pressure goes along with that, on Storen, he's effectively serving in that role." Therefore, since MASN must think that driving some sort of "discussion" is a component of the "maximum access" it advertises, Nationals fans are treated to nearly 350 words covering a point of semantics.

Basically, the writers are taking the bloggers' jobs. And there was so much fear of the reverse happening!

* * * * * * *

Beyond the "Who cares?" component of Goessling's submission here, well . . . I'm having a hard time thinking of anything other than who cares. If Riggleman doesn't want to call Storen the closer, then fine. Riggleman's the manager. He could call Storen the point-forward, or the barrista, or the axe-wielding manic, and it wouldn't necessarily be wrong -- those might just be Riggleman's terms describing the role he's assigned to Storen. What matters is how Riggleman uses Storen (and, of course, whether Storen makes that usage pay off), not what Riggleman calls that usage pattern.

And, as for Storen's usage, I could go either way. On the one hand, using Storen in "traditional" closer-type increments seems a little bit unsatisfying when I scan certain box scores like this one. On the other hand, using Storen as the closer places a restraint on Storen's usage and might minimize the risk of burning him out if he's asked to be a heavy-duty firearm for the short-term benefit of the team. That's why you have Tyler Clippard around, after all.

3 Comments:

  • I haven't run the math, but Clippard seems to be getting the most high-leverage innings, which is as it should be, IMHO. Since that's the most important thing, I could care less whether Riggs designates a closer, a closer by committee or a closer by roulette wheel.

    I suppose there's something to the idea that if Storen is named "the closer" but Jim decides to use Burnett or Clippard in the ninth inning, that could damage Drew's confidence. In that case, just call them all relievers and tell them to go get their 3-6 outs.

    By Blogger Nate, at 5/12/2011 2:21 PM  

  • Great point, was thinking the same thing earlier today.

    And I'd add, everyone's desire to fall over themselves to create these stupid scenarios leads to the inevitable hiccup for Storen (or then Burnett) in performance and the follow up "Is XXX still the closer? CONTROVERSY!"


    Second item: Do you feel as I do that the print media types are interchangeable? They almost always write the same stories, at the same time, using nearly the exact same headline. Yet I read WaPo, WaTi and MASN. Same stuff, different author. Rarely a different take. Kilgore to his credit mixes is "advanced" stats more frequently.

    By Blogger ckstevenson, at 5/12/2011 2:47 PM  

  • For me, the issue is more that I'm not interested in sifting through 12 posts a day to find the good stories.

    And I don't have time to do so. It might be fun if watching and reading about baseball were my full-time job, but it's not. I understand that beat reporters face pressure to post constantly and every little thing, but this reader prefers it when they sort through the information they have and focus on news and analysis.

    By Blogger Jenn Jenson, at 5/14/2011 7:39 AM  

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