Are “Real” Sportswriters Any Better Than Bloggers?

baseballBefore I joined the ranks of bloggers a couple of months ago, I had a very low opinion of such so called “writers.” The rare sports blogs I read were filled with grammatical and spelling errors. The content was lame at best, libelous at worst, consisting mostly of trashing players and offering ridiculous opinions. I admit I do some of that,  just without the errors and the libel.

Perhaps my opinion was formed by such “credible” writers as Murray Chass, whose “About” page on his website smugly claims:

“This is a site for baseball columns, not for baseball blogs. The proprietor of the site is not a fan of blogs. He made that abundantly clear on a radio show with Charley Steiner when Steiner asked him what he thought of blogs and he replied, ‘I hate blogs.’ He later heartily applauded Buzz Bissinger when the best-selling author denounced bloggers on a Bob Costas HBO show.”

Bloggers don’t do their credibility any good when they post things that are just plain wrong and irresponsible. For example, this past summer a blogger speculated that a certain player (whose name I won’t mention here) was on steroids. Word quickly spread, and the player actually had to issue a formal denial. All because some guy sitting on his couch decided that the player was on the juice.

But the more I read sports blogs, the more respect I have for many of them. The writing is not at all bad, and the analysis is often sharp and insightful.

Now that we are in the post-season, many bloggers are speculating on what trades or free agent signings they’d like their teams to make. Since we have no inside information, it is clear we are offering our opinions, or quoting a story we’ve seen in the “legitimate” media. But how legitimate are those sources? Are they any better than the opinions we offer?

curtisFor example, a recent headline in the New York Post read “Yankees Could Trade for Tigers’ Granderson.”  Since it’s from “real” sportswriter Joel Sherman in a “real” newspaper (well, the Post), you’d think he spoke to a source with the Yankees or Tigers, who told him a deal is being discussed. The reality is that an NL team executive told Sherman that Granderson (left) is available. The Yankees angle? — just speculation on Sherman’s part. So when he writes that, he is just offering his opinion, which is exactly what bloggers do. Why does Sherman’s opinion deserve any more credibility than a blogger’s?

Then there’s this nugget from the eternally-wrong Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports — a three-way deal that would send Luis Castillo to the Cubs, Lyle Overbay to the Mets, and Milton Bradley to the Blue Jays. Here’s what Rosenthal writes about his own “scoop:”

— “The idea, while described as a longshot…”
— “The teams indeed have discussed the framework of such a deal, though not in direct fashion…”
— “The three-team possibility, according to one source, has ‘some legs, but not much.'”

So basically Rosenthal is saying that the trade he’s writing about is almost certainly not going to happen. Yet he writes about it anyway. And he has more credibility than any blogger out there.

As Mets fans, we eat up any article that talks about the Mets signing one of the big free agents out there. On November 11th, John Harper of the New York Daily News advocated signing both John Lackey and Matt Holliday. But he says they probably won’t:

“Word filtering out from the organization is that they are not willing to pay what it will take to get such players…”

On the same day, the Post reported Omar Minaya spoke with Scott Boras about Holliday. But…

“A Mets executive said that if the club cannot land a significant left fielder they could spend more on a starter such as free agent John Lackey.”

writerSo one guy writes that the Mets won’t sign any of the big players, while another says they could sign one. Whom to believe? Probably both, probably neither. Because the fact of the matter is, when it comes to writing about trades or free agent signings, no one knows what they’re talking about. Whether it’s bloggers or “real” sportswriters, it’s all speculation. It’s just bothersome that sportswriters’ speculation is treated as news, while  speculation from us bloggers gets no respect. Don’t get me wrong, we probably don’t deserve much respect. But neither do they.

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