As a former and quasi-current member of the media, I always pay attention not only to what is reported, but how it is reported. So often reporters manipulate or exaggerate facts and figures to help them support their point of view. Sometimes it is just nonsense, other times it is purposely misleading.
I started thinking about this during Game 1 of this year’s ALCS. Joe Buck was shocked, just shocked that this was the first meeting in the post season between the Tigers and Red Sox in the 113 years of their respective existences. Pretty impressive, until you realize that between 1901 and 1968, they could not have possibly met in the playoffs because there were no playoffs — the league champions went directly to the World Series.
Okay, so still, they haven’t met in 46 years. That’s still a lot, right?. Well, the Tigers and Red Sox were in the same division from 1969-1993 and with no Wild Card, once again they could not have possibly met in the post season.
In fact, the first time they could have played each other in the playoffs was 1995 (1994 was canceled by the strike). So in reality, these two teams have not met in the post season in 19 years. That’s a far cry from 113 years, and thus, a bunch of nonsense.
Speaking of nonsense, we often hear things like, “John Smith is the only player in baseball with 25 homers, 20 steals, 30 doubles and 85 RBIs.” Yeah, so? Lower it to 80 RBIs or 25 doubles and there might be a dozen players who qualify, making it not so special. These combination stats are usually meaningless because you can pick any random number for any random stat you’d like.
Statistics are often unfairly manipulated to suit the situation. A couple of years ago a reporter for ESPN.com wrote an article to disparage Alex Rodriguez, specifically claiming A-Rod was a player in decline. He wrote that Rodriguez “Has not hit more than 30 homers since 2008.” Technically that was true, but what the writer did not say was that A-Rod hit exactly 30 home runs in 2009 and 2010. This report was not fair because the reader could walk away thinking Rodriguez was no longer slugging home runs at a high rate, when in fact he still was. The writer was being purposely deceptive.
Full disclosure — you’re old pal here at Blogging Mets has done that, too. In a recent article advocating signing Jhonny Peralta (when I still thought he could be had for a reasonable price) and not Nelson Cruz, I wrote that “(Peralta) is still only 31… Cruz turns 34 during the 2014 season.” I was not lying, but Peralta turn will 32 during the 2014 season. I was implying that there was a three-year difference in their ages, when actually it is fewer than two years. I was playing around with the truth to make my argument. In the words of Bart Simpson, “I can’t promise I’ll try (not do that again), but I promise I’ll try to try.”
The media likes to use “since” a lot. “This is the first time a player has hit four home runs in a game since…” This type of statement should only be used for achievements if they have not happened in a long time. But if it is “the first time since April…” and we are in June, well, then, it might not be so uncommon.
“Since” is another word that can easily be manipulated. When denigrating by beloved Cowboys, reporters like to say, “The Cowboys have won one playoff game since 1996.” Once again, this is technically true, but that victory came in 2009. It is much more fair to say, “The Cowboys have won one playoff game since 2009.” Before that win, it was perfectly appropriate to point out the lack of victories since 1996. But once the streak is broken, that should be the end of it. It is only used to make the franchise look worse.
My point is be wary of things like this that you hear in the media; it is likely someone just playing around with the truth to prove their point.