Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Don't Expect A Christmas Card, Dave

Dave Sheinin does what someone should've done a long time ago: eviscerate Cristian Guzman.
He has a lower slugging percentage than Esteban Loaiza, a lower on-base percentage than Josh Beckett and a lower batting average than Tomo Ohka, so Cristian Guzman, the starting shortstop for the entire existence of the Washington Nationals, is now being treated like a starting pitcher: He will receive a few days off between starts. At this point, what other choice do the Nationals have?

And that's the most friendly paragraph!

Obviously I concur with the article, so instead of the Amen chorus, there were two things that struck me about the article.

1) This is an example of how to write an article using statistics. One of my earliest rants on this blog was how writers, particularly statheads, misuse stats and don't know how to write with them. To me, stats and their usage in a story are simply adjectives; they're different ways of describing things. And a good writer needs to be as selective and careful with the stats he'd present as he is with the choices of the words he uses in a sentence.

Sheinin, who was an excellent beat writer for the Orioles, does a great job, illuminating the problem by using the stats, but not overwhelming us with them.

He finds that great mixture between the chart-heavy Baseball Prospectus articles and the overly-saccharine homerism of Boswell.

2) Notice who wrote the article. It wasn't Barry Svrluga, who covers the team on a daily basis. You have to believe that that's deliberate, and it shows one of the interesting things about covering a pro team, especially in a media market that lacks the competition of NY or Boston.

Barry has made similar observations in some of his Washington Post chats, yet he's never written an article like this. It was left up to the roving reporter, who isn't in the clubhouse on a daily basis. That way, Barry doesn't have to deal with any of the wrath that might (and might is the right word) pop up.

It's the journalistic equivalent of Good Cop/Bad Cop.

This isn't a criticism of Barry or of the Post's coverage, but it does affect how you need to read Barry's excellent stories.

As a reporter, Barry can't inject much opinion, but the choices of story lines and descriptions can hint at how he feels about issues. While he's never been overly negative about the team, there have been times where you can read frustration and hints of displeasure in his words.

He's very good about coding them. Think about some of the allusions to Jose Guillen's issues, and his role in the team.

Sometimes it's only a sentence or two, but he's good about dropping hints.

All you need to do is read closely, and they'll sometimes appear.


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