Sunday, June 14, 2009

Those Darn Bloggers!

Albert Pujols hit 2 home runs, and the Cardinals beat Cleveland 3-1 Saturday. Amazingly, or perhaps because Milwaukee's achilles heel (starting pitching) has returned to haunt them, St Louis finds itself only a half game out of first in the division.

The Redbirds are also only a half game out of the wild card (behind the Giants of all teams), even though its still too early to start tracking their position relative to the wild card. I typically don't start paying attention there until August 1.

We get to watch them play tonight in the nationally televised game against Cleveland. Carpenter vs Lee. Should be a good one.

Let's talk about blogging for a minute, as it was thrust into the national limelight this past week. I'm referring to the article speculating about Raul Ibanez steroid use, immediate reaction, the 'Outside the Lines' appearance by the author, and the subsequent fall out.

First, the fact that something written in a blog became a national story in less than 24 hours is exciting for all those who toil online (even this author, although I don't live with my mother and I don't have a basement). Much like the actress yearning to be discovered, or Roy Hobbs, this incident points out there is still a chance other people outside our immediate families and friend circles are reading what we write, and who knows where that will lead.

Second, the position that one should be very careful about accusing someone else in a concrete way (either on the air or in print) is valid, and correct. Hard evidence better be what I have before I make a statement like "Albert Pujols uses steroids", because if I can't back that up once the spotlight hits me, my credibility is gone forever - not to mention the punitive costs I will have to pay.

However, the prevailing opinion of the mainstream media that bloggers should be held to the same journalistic standards as they are is ridiculous. I am not compensated in any way for what I publish here. I don't get to sit in the press box game after game inhaling hot dogs and soda. I don't get to prowl the sidelines or dugouts of professional games, looking for snippets of information and getting 30 second sound bites every few innings. I don't have the funding to get tan sprayed on a regular basis and buy John Phillips suits.

I do this because I want to, and when I can fit it in around family and work responsibilities.

And, because the First Amendment guarantees me the right to free speech.

What was expressed by Jerrod Morris, and what you find in spades on this site, and on thousands of sites around the blog-o-sphere, is opinion. That's all it is. And I am entitled to my opinion. If you don't like my opinion, that's fine - read something else. But don't get 'holier than thou' about journalistic standards and responsibility. And don't tell me I have to attend courses on journalism before I can start posting, as if that would guarantee I'll follow moral and ethical codes of conduct. I'm sure most of the political correspondents on the New York Times staff went to journalism school, but they sure conveniently ignored those guidelines while repeatedly compromising national security with articles during the Bush Adminstration.

Specifically on steriod use. Did you know allegations of steroid use surfaced as early as 1988? Yep, surrounding Jose Canseco (see Rob Rains' book Tony LaRussa: Man On A Mission). Someone asked the question, then it was ignored by the mainstream media for 10 years, until someone saw a can of andro in Mark McGwire's locker and asked "Hmm, is that legal?". If the media in 1988 had the same courage that Jerrod Morris had this week, to at least put some thought into the question, the history of the last 21 years might have been different.

Oops, someone will probably take the preceeding paragraph and extrapolate I'm accusing Raul Ibanez of steroid use. I'm not. I'm pointing out those who seek to muzzle the blogger community do so not because they believe they do the job better, but because they're worried about job security and the status quo. That's it.

Ibanez's reaction to the story makes more sense if you understand his experience with the blogger community in Seattle. USS Mariner made no secret of their opinions regarding Ibanez's defense, which they backed up with defensive metrics (UZR, for example) widely accepted by the baseball community. Ibanez's '42-year old blogging in his mother's basement' comment is something he had said before about that website's authors. I think Raul is really sensitive to criticism from bloggers, which he believes is unjustified. For the record, USS Mariner had high opinions of Ibanez's hitting skill.

In short: we're here, and we're staying. If Ken Rosenthal, Geoff Baker, or any other writer doesn't like it, too bad. And if players like Raul Ibanez don't like the innuendo they could be using steroids when their offensive numbers show drastic improvement from one year to the next, then start demanding the Player's Union stop stonewalling on drug testing and make it more open - and public. Something that would go a long way to restoring the public's trust would be publishing the names of the 103 players who popped positive with Alex Rodriguez, then publicly testing every player in MLB - and releasing the results. At least then we would have a better feel for who used, and who is currently using, in MLB.

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