Nationals Baseball: "This Spring Training reporting is terrible." "And such small portions!"

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"This Spring Training reporting is terrible." "And such small portions!"

We've talked about how literally terrible Spring Training "news" is before but it's true. We're trained to view sports as a daily provider of news topics and for the most part it succeeds in that role.  But Spring Training isn't sports. It's the preparation for sports. There are no meaningful daily results to review. There are no meaningful upcoming games to preview. There is just preparation. Athletes performing mild exercise at medium effort for no stakes. A forty plus day slow shift from "in-shape but not ready" to "in-shape and ready". There is no news concerning 95% of the players here, certainly no news that hasn't been discussed in some other fashion during the offseason.

There are a few players returning from injury for which we are not sure of their status. This is something that demands reporting on but conditions usually don't change rapidly enough to necessitate daily updates. There are also some players fighting for a position. This may be discussed as often as these players perform but we're not at that point yet and as we've often noted Spring Training performance is unreliable. The best coverage on these fights should then be on the management's view of the situation which hopefully isn't changing daily.

All in all Spring Training reporting should be as leisurely as Spring Training is itself portrayed.  A check-in weekly, or perhaps twice a week. Reporters there to break a story, like a new injury, if it happens. But that hasn't been the case for decades I imagine.

The worst thing is that the situation I'm talking about - news being forced to be daily - is antiquated. News is now forced to be immediate. We're taking something that can barely qualify as a bi-weekly news source, punctuated here and there by actual stories, and making it something from which we expect hourly news bites. This is why we get the "Hey, today Johnny Baseball's son was at the park and played catch!" and the "Jim Baseball (no relation) looked real good at the plate today" updates. It's literally the only new thing that has happened since the last time they were asked for news.

Who asked them? We did. It's our own fault. Someone 40-50 years ago found out people liked to hear daily from Spring Training. So they did daily. Everyone read that guy, so then every place had to go daily. When the internet came that moved to a faster pace and with twitter faster still. We want news even if there isn't really news to report. Well we want information, really. Any sort of tidbit that we can pass off to ourselves as news. We are used to this level of baseball news consumption - hard stories daily with endless discussion between them -  and finally we can have a substitute, even if it's so pale as to be transparent. Give us the substitute.

There isn't a cultural solution to this problem. There isn't a going back. The only solution for each person comes down to the themselves. Too much Spring Training nonsense for you? Cut back on the reporters you follow. Check on the baseball news once a week. That's where I am at this point in my life. See what drifts by that looks important, otherwise I'm still in off-season mode.


Conor said...

All this needs is a picture of Howard Beale at the top.

Froggy said...

Have you given any thought to going to Viera and covering the Nats in Spring training?

Harper said...

Conor - That was years ago. I'm stopped taking it anymore. Now - calm as hell. (until someone says "Ian Desmond is hitting .555 in Spring - due for a big comeback!")

Froggy - played with it as a thought experiment. Usually ends with some sort of explosion at a Panera.

Positively Half St. said...

I'm not concerned with how inane it is. I'm just happy that baseball writing occurs every day again. I take particular pleasure in entries on non-roster invitees who probably don't have a prayer of making the team. It is part of spring training that won't occur during the regular season.
I especially am ready for the exhibition games to begin.

JWLumley said...

I think we should use this space to instead judge the Nats new beat writer( or writers if Chelsea Janes at the Washington Compost isn't the only newb). I must say, I will miss Kilgore. Great beat writer. I'd put him up there with Haudricourt in Milwaukee, Baggerly in SF and Pecoro in AZ. Sadly, Baggs is also off the beat and Pecoro has to waste his SABR minded brain, writing about the second least SABR minded team in baseball, which could actually be fun if they weren't so awful.

As for young Chelsea, she seems somewhat experienced having covered the Padres and the O's as an Intern. She went to Yale (Strike one. Wanna lose money in business just go into business with an Ivy League grad, fastest way to lose your shirt.). She also played softball at Yale, so maybe she and FP can swap stories.

So far her reporting has had a bit of irreverence, but I've heard absolutely no mention of fancy stats. She tweets out lots of videos from ST, which is different, but there's nothing--thus far at least--particularly endearing about her. Which sucks, because James Wagner has always struck me as a good, but not great, beat writer. He does a good enough job, but he's pretty vanilla.

This is important because Ladsen is terrible, pretty much a dumpster fire. Maybe the worst beat writer in baseball he should definitely work for the Phillies. Comak was very solid in her one season, but now she writes more a blog than anything else and it's somewhat sporadic. Then there's the guy who kind of follows the Nats, has his own website who's name escapes me, but is quick to remind everyone that he's covered the Nats since day one. He's so awesome, I can't even remember his name. Then there's the blogs, Harper is good with a ton of upside, although sometimes wrong, he quickly admits it when I correct him. NatsGMdotcom, Red Porch Report, Nats Enquirer and Nationals Arms Race are all solid, not as good as Harper, but not bad either. Then there's Federal Baseball which puts out a ton of content, but Patrick Reddington's writing is like reading a junior high school book report and usually is just regurgitating what someone else wrote. Which sucks, because SBNation has the best commenting software.

Despite a dearth of options, there's not a ton of great content out there about the Nationals on a daily basis. The loss of Kilgore is probably the biggest setback the Nationals suffered this year. Who knows maybe James Wagner will take a step forward or Ms. Janes will show that she learned how to do math at Yale, but the Nats have a huge void in the beat writing department.

JWLumley said...

Also, I just wrote a lot of words about beat writers. The season needs to start soon and it needs to quit flipping snowing here in Virginia's largest city or I may lose it...okay, okay, lose it even more-er.

Zimmerman11 said...

Ah... our new beat writer...

Chelsea Janes @chelsea_janes

By the way, the Matt Williams quote of the day: "Good to go." In my case, didn't apply until after the coffee run.

Yes, Chelsea... Coffee makes me good to go too :) All the news that's fit to print.

Chaz R said...

I just read your blog in the off season Harper.


JWLumley said...

Ding, ding, ding and we have a winner. Congratulations Chaz for the real quote of the day.

Anonymous said...

I agree with JWL that Kilgore was atypically good. Besides being a very good, if at times melodramatic, writer, you could tell that he had solid sources in the clubhouse and front office (e.g., Werth giving him a one-on-one about his time in the pokey). He also had some understanding of fancy stats.

So far both Janes and Wagner seem very pedestrian. I don't mind Boz as much as Harper (in fact without Boz we wouldn't have some of Harper's best rants). For those in the D.C. area, I would definitely take the ComPost's Nats coverage over its Redskins coverage. Jason Reid is perhaps the worst columnist I've ever read--lousy writer who has written the same column maybe 30 times over the past year ("Fact is, RGIII must leave the weight room and hit the film room.").

Anonymous said...

Who in their right mind criticizes a sportswriter boondoggle like Spring training? Of course we need daily coverage, because without daily coverage, sportswriters wouldn't have to go on assignment to warm sunny Florida and they'd be stuck in cold icy DC with the rest of us.

More power to the reporters, forced to scrounge out a story from the stretching exercises, wind sprints and games of long toss. Hard work, but somebody's got to do it, while working on their suntan.

John C. said...

I'm with Positively Half St. - I'm just glad there are actual baseball stories going up daily. It's been a long winter, so I'm glad that the end is in sight.

As for columnists, like JWL I'll miss Kilgore. Heck, even some of the MASN people (Goessling, Kolko) were decent. It looks like Chris Johnson is going to be prolific at least. I think it's too early to reach a conclusion about Janes. Wagner is a solid professional. Ladson I almost never read. Loverro used to be good but seems to have gotten lazy and knee jerk - maybe it's from hanging out with the idiots at WTEM.

As for the web sites, I'm partial to both NI and Federal Baseball. Both have a solid community of commenters as well as some good material. NI obviously has tons more resources - I cut Reddington a lot of slack because its not like he has any budget to work with. The daily "wire taps" roundup there is invaluable for catching up on all things Nats, and there are a couple of guys on the masthead (Garrett Hooe especially) who post some analytic stuff on the site. Luke Erickson's site is essential for anyone interested in following the Nats' minor league system.

Samuel Clemens said...

Spring training news for today. The Blue Jays Michael Saunders is out until at least June because he injured his knee when he stepped on a sprinkler while shagging fly balls.

See Harper there is noteworthy news occasionally in Spring Training.

I agree with the fact that it is overcovered.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Kilgore is a big loss. You could tell he knew/thought about advanced stats even if he didn't reference them as much in his writing as I would have liked.

I've been very encouraged by Janes so far. Reason #1 is that I am impressed by the quality of her prose. Reason #2 is that there have been some inklings that she likes the fancy stats too. This post from yesterday on Blake Treinen shows that she has some understanding of DIPS concepts, even if she doesn't use the terminology:

Anonymous said...

I figured the explosion in spring training coverage was due to the fact that all the beat writers for the northern teams finally figured out they could spend the worst parts of winter in Florida and Arizona.

Anonymous said...

Harper is in the best shape of his life! He put on 10 pounds of muscle in his typing fingers!

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