Nationals Baseball: Headline writing comes to the fore!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Headline writing comes to the fore!

As you know if you've read this blog for... well for a while, I guess, I have a thing for good and bad headline writing. So I couldn't let this Jeremy Lin thing pass without comment. Besides it's pitchers and catchers which is slightly more meaningless than regular Spring Training which itself is slightly more meaningless than this blog.  (and you know what I think of this blog) Here's my annual quick take on the time in Florida: "Yay baseball is starting!  Now call me back when a Bryce Harper decision has been definitively made and when the rotation has been decided on and please don't use ST stats to decide either one of these things."

Anyway there is absolutely NO chance that the headline written was just coincidence. There just isn't. You either go bland or you try for something clever.  If you were going for a bland headline "chink in the armor" is an odd one to use for a basketball player.Any copy editor with a bit of experience would equate "armor" with defense or possibly reference to knights and that time period.  You'd be far more likely to use the phrase when taking about a stout run stopping line getting a key injury, or describing a great goalie that seemed to feel the pressure in big games. And that's what you see if you browse the "3000" references made by ESPN, more football than anything else.  It's also a phrase used far more to talk about a team, group, or idea than an individual, especially an individual in a team sport. Even if you get past this point and believe that he slapped down a weak headline in general, he's then supposed to look at it in context. That's his job. That's why a "Ruby Tuesday for Dmitri" or the "ooh-ooh that smell" Strawberry Shortcake headlines bother me so much. It takes no effort in this day and age to check that the reference you are making makes sense beyond "it sounds good".  This Lin headline is at best a guy that can't do his job properly, and at worst (and far far far more likely) someone making a stupid joke in a position that allows for no tolerance of such things.

There you go, more baseball tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Good post, though I have to admit I came here today expecting an lament on the end of the Mike Cameron era.

Harper said...

Giving his age and performance over the past 2 years it really seemed like Cameron was a defense only bench type player. Did the Nats really want to carry a 40 yr old defensive replacement?

Of course he still probably gives the Nats more than Mark Teahan...

michael k said...

Up until now, I thought that ESPN made a real lapse in judgment here. Not in the "oh no PC police!" sort of way, but in the "that's obviously not what he meant, and drawing attention to it just makes it worse" sort of way. Remember they also suspended someone for 30 days for saying the words "chink in the armor", when he actually HAD said it in regards to basketball before, and had an Asian wife. To me, freaking out about accidental puns like that (as well as accusing accidental puns as being purposeful) does more to highlight racial differences than ignoring them.

Your post has made me change my mind a bit, though. Mostly because you did the research on the other headlines. I'm still not fully convinced, though.

michael k said...

As for Cameron - all offseason I've been happy that Rizzo hasn't jumped the gun on finding a CF, and is waiting for the right offer to come along. No sense shooting yourselves in the foot for someone who you're not going to want in two years. I've loved his patience, particularly in the face of a fandom who doesn't understand why he's "waited all off-season without doing anything" *coughBoswellcough*.

But now I'm all "oh my god the season's starting and we have no CF our pitching core is awesome and we have no CF please don't put Ankiel there and please please don't put Werth there and oh my god we have no CF." You get the idea. My heart wants what my brain knows is a bad idea.

Harper said...

michael k - Knowing what I do about the way headlines get written it just seems so very unlikely it was an accident. I'm not saying it's impossible, but what was written fails mildly in the sports context and wildly in the greater one. So why else would it be there? A small chance of extreme laziness where he didn't care to make even more sensible lazy pass at headline writing (like the replacement headline which I believe was "All Good Things...") and didn't care to think about the greater meaning of what he put down. Given the size of the mistake though I think that's fireable as well. No out for this guy.

(My headline? "Can't Lin 'em all" - obvious, fun, mildly lame)

The suspended guy is another matter entirely. I think that could have been an accident, but just as likely could have been a "watch me sneak this in" situation. No way to really know and given that they had to come down on the copy editor it made it hard for them to do nothing to the sportscaster. I think without the headline flap this goes to "internal review" and nothing comes of it.

And CF - I think there's a lot of assuming on what's available. Fowler, Bourjos, Gardner and the Twins have all been off the market (or more realistically - on the "OK, Wow me" Market). Beyond that it becomes a question of is it worth it? Detwiler + Desmond isn't getting you a Upton. Purke + Rendon should. Do you do it?

At that point you're probably better off trying to sweeten that pot. Maybe Solis, Purke, and Rendon or something close brings back McCutchen. Whatever it is you are going to trade more potential for the actual you get back. Rizzo already did that once - I'm not sure he's ready to do that again

Ollie said...

@Harper: Completely agree---which is why I wish we'd used the Gio Gonzalez trade package to go after a CF rather than another starter. Not that I regret having Gio, I think they're in wildcard contention now, but that package possibly retooled slightly (maybe a position player instead of Milone) brings back McCutcheon I would think. Hindsight's always 20-20 though, and I don't begrudge Rizzo for taking a risk.

Can't wait for the season to actually start at this point. Hope they can flip Detwiler or Lannan for something useful at this point, even if it's just restocking their farm system a bit. And here's a throw-anything-against-the-wall idea for CF: see what Desmond can do out there this Spring. He's got the speed and the arm, maybe they can teach him to play a less rigorous but still important position while maximizing their infield potential, or at least readying him to be a super-utility which would maximize his potential. The odds of him achieving above-averageness day in and day out at SS seem slim at this point.

Donald said...

I think there are a lot of ifs still out there, which makes me think it makes sense to take it slow on finding a CF. If, for instance, Desmond preforms adequately in the lead-off spot, say a continuation from September... And if the Nats are winning more than losing to start the season... And if Harper joins the team and Werth shifts to CF in May... At that point, I don't think the lack of a CF is a big storyline. Everyone will be fine waiting for next year's free agents.

On the other hand, if Werth and LaRoche struggle... And they don't bring Harper up until August or September... And they suffer a key injury or two... If the Nats are 5 - 10 games under .500 and well out of the WC hunt, then 2012 looks wasted regardless, so better to wait on a CF anyway.

The only case where the lack of a CF is really damning is if the Nats pitching excels but suffers badly from lack of run support, leaving them a game or two shy of the WC. At that point, we'll all be saying that Rizzo should have pulled the trigger to get Upton at any cost.

Any guesses as to which of these scenarios is most likely?

michael k said...

@Harper - if what the sportscaster did was an accident, then they should not have suspended him. It doesn't matter that they "had to" because someone else did something racist. I won't (or is it that I...Kant) get into legal philosophy here on a baseball blog, but if it really was an accident then I find ESPN's actions to be unethical and immoral, and that they do more to spread racial differences than if they didn't punish him at all.

@ollie - I don't really see how they could've used the same or similar package to get a CF, especially McCutchen. I don't think the Pirates, an up and coming organization with several million extra in their budget, want to trade a key player with several years of team control. If Rizzo was able to flip the same players to fill a glaring hole, don't you think he would have done so? I agree with Harper that it would have taken the top guys to get a CF, which is why Rizzo didn't do it.

@Donald - unfortunately I think your third scenario is far more likely than the other two. That doesn't mean Rizzo should have sold the future for a mediocre, temporary solution, though.

Anonymous said...

I am completely lost on your "Ruby Tuesday for Dmitri" and "ooh-ooh that smell Strawberry Shortcake" references. Some sort of Rolling Stones / Lynyrd Skynyrd / Mets / Russian reference? Beyond me - please explain!

Harper said...

Ollie - how did we know he didn't try it? I doubt it, but we can't be sure.

Desmond in CF? Only worth it if he can play it well. Athletically he might be able to but it'll waste a year figuring it out probably.

Donald - You really want me to guess what I think is more likely? Because I do think it's the last one.

mk - "if it really was an accident " This is the key phrase. There is no way to know if it was really an accident. Probably? I think so, but since when is probably good enough? I think he would have been punished anyway if there was no headline gaff but something more mild than suspension. That may not see fair, but part of what dictates punishment is the damage it causes. By itself the damage is minimal, with the headline gaff it is greater. Think of the sportscaster as the getaway driver in a bank robbery. If they shoot someone, even if he doesn't know they were going to, the crime and punishment becomes more severe.

Harper said...

Anon - "Ruby Tuesday for Dmitiri" was a headline that went along with his All-Star selection. "Ooh-ooh that smell" was a headline that went along with the 30th? anniversary of Strawberry Shortcake. Neither make sense in the context of the songs, though I think the latter one is far worse. you can see that here :

Anonymous said...

Thanks - the most confusing jokes are usually also the lamest....