Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sloppy Thinking

There were two pieces in the Post and Times over the last few days that have rubbed me the wrong way, and Distinguished Senators and Federal Baseball have taken cracks at them. The pieces are examples of sloppy thinking (or unthinking). The pros definitely write better than me (lord knows they have better copy editors!), but some of the stuff they write is drivel. It may be pretty-sounding drivel, but if you wrap a pile of dog poo in a pretty little bow, it's still not something you want to give to your mom for Mother's Day.

Let's start with King Homer, Tom Boswell. Last week, he wrote an article extolling the virtues of Soriano. Unfortunately, Boswell's debating style is similar to what you'd expect out of a low-level RNC or DNC toadie. Instead of sticking to the facts (which certainly have made a pretty compelling case for Soriano, right?), he's turned to exaggeration.

Anyone who's watched a game knows that Soriano's weakness is his defense. So Boswell has to massage the facts to fit his case (instead of making the reasonable case that his offense overcomes):
He's misjudged a few difficult fly balls and looked awkward, but has also outrun the ball for a few fine catches. And he hasn't butchered even one simple play.

Hasn't even butchered one simple play? Sure, Boz. Sure.

Meanwhile, Boz was challenged on it in his chat last week, and didn't back down. Barry Svrluga, writing in the same paper, took a shot across Boz' bow last week, devoting the bulk of a column to Soriano's misplays and getting several people, including Soriano himself, to acknowledge his shortcomings.

Distinguished Senators has the complete rundown of all those quotes, but also adds another distortion (which is probably best termed a lie!) in his Barry Bonds column from yesterday. Read the whole freakin' thing.

I just watched Rashomon last night, and it's central theme is that different people can have different interpretations of events, that truth is only what you perceive. I suppose that Boz could be using that as his defense. Rashomon Boz? I kinda like it.

The other article that ticked me off was from the Washington Times. Once a week or so, Mark Zuckerman has taken to writing a column. This week's was on John Patterson's injury and whether he's truly an ace considering all the nagging injuries he's faced.

A big chunk of his column is questioning Patterson's current injury. He asks a series of rhetorical questions:
So what's really going on? Can a strained forearm really keep a pitcher out six weeks? Is the injury perhaps more serious (which may explain why Patterson visited esteemed orthopedic surgeon James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., last week)? Is Patterson's tolerance for pain just not strong enough?

The Fed helpfully asks some follow-up questions:
1. Who knows? That's why the journalists are here, presumably.
2. Who knows? That's pretty similar to what's bothering Ryan Drese, right? Why not compare notes?
3. Who knows? But doesn't a visit to Birmingham sort of imply that? And---not to tangle HIPAA into this or anything---why not contact Andrews and gauge what kind of recovery time is typical for a strained forearm (flexor)?
4. Who knows? Might Bowden or Robinson? They don't appear to have any problem cutting on other players' tolerance for pain, right? Why beat around the bush?

And that's what bothers me about his column. The guy's the beat writer. He should be able to answer some of those questions with his own reporting. Just throwing rhetorical (even though they shouldn't be rhetorical!) questions out there is the kind of thing that lazy bloggers (like me!) who don't have access do.

The questions he asks would contain VALUABLE information. But he only asks them. Why not answer them?

It's especially curious in light of yesterday's revelation that Ryan Drese, who was diagnosed with the EXACT SAME injury as John Patterson, a flexor tendon strain, does have a torn ulnar collateral ligament. They're going to rest Drese another month or so and see if it gets better, which it's likely to not, before deciding whether he needs to have Tommy John surgery. (As another aside, how does an injury that's initially diagnosed as a UCL injury turn into a flexor strain, then back into an UCL injury?)

Is this the same fate that Patterson has? How are Drese's symptoms similar to Patterson's? Are they being overly cautious with Patterson because his long arm history, including a previous Tommy John surgery?

I can only ask the questions. I don't have the ability to walk up to Patterson or the doctors (nor do I really want it.)

But it's troubling that they're only throwing questions out, too. Perhaps they've tried, and they're just not getting answers. But then why ask questions in the column?


  • I especially like Zuckerman's game recaps:

    "What does Frank think about the effort last night? Did Vidro miss a bunt sign? Did the rain cause Patterson to lose his grip on that wild pitch? Did the Nats end up winning the game?"

    By Blogger Harper, at 5/17/2006 9:48 AM  

  • I think it's boring when bloggers simply whine about the MSM. What's the point? Make sure there's no doubt about the envy? I thought this was a blog about DC baseball. Way too much time and energy spent here obsessing with Svrluga, Boswell, et al. It's far more interesting when you provide a *real* alternative to the MSM: unfiltered opinions about the players, management, owners, MLB, etc. You don't have to toe the MSM corporate line or run the editorial gauntlet, so your stuff has a natural appeal to inquisitive minds. The crazy, in-depth statistical stuff is cool, too; you never see anything like that in the MSM.

    Hey, if you wanna do an MSM Watchdog blog, go for it. But your DC Baseball blog is much more entertaining when you write about DC Baseball in the unconstrained way that only a blogger can do. Just my two-cents.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/17/2006 1:17 PM  

  • You're certainly right to a point. I should ban you for using "MSM" though! I'm not one of those people who think that BLOGS!! are going to change the world.

    But these articles bothered me. They are, for most fans, the voice, and we deserve better than these two specific columns.

    Boz is cavalier with the facts. Zuckerman is just asking questions when he's one of the few people in a position to actually GET answers.

    If you've read for more than a day, you know I rip the players, management and team regularly. That goes to the people who cover it. They're all part of the package of fandom.

    Thanks for you comments!

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/17/2006 1:22 PM  

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