Friday, August 28, 2015

1 comments Murray Chass No Like the Twitter

I don't really have a baseball nemesis these days. It used to be Joe Morgan, but he was let go by ESPN a few years ago. Murray Chass has intermittently taken Morgan's place on this blog, but he can only temporarily take Morgan's place in my heart. I say "temporarily" because every once in a while Chass becomes my nemesis again. Usually when he goes on one of his "I want to appear to be an old man" rants about service-time, advanced statistics or any other topic that puts a fly in his morning oatmeal. Murray takes his anger out on Twitter in one of the latest columns on his non-blog. Twitter is the bane of his existence and is ruining sports reporting from his point of view. I'm shocked, SHOCKED, that Murray doesn't like Twitter and is coming off as out-of-touch about social media.

Earlier this week six baseball writers – active or once active – gathered for a farewell salute to one of the writers who is moving to Florida after a recent marriage.

Wait, a senior citizen is moving to Florida? You don't say...

As we sat on the patio recalling old writers and old times, an idea struck me. I thought of three questions to ask everyone:

1. Where are we?

2. Who are you all?

3. Where did I leave my car keys?

How many of us had ever tweeted?
How many had texted?
How many had taken selfies?

I think the answers to these three questions are already pretty obvious. Murray wouldn't write a column like this only to conclude,

"We all Tweet constantly, love texting and here is our latest selfie."

So yes, they all do not take part in any of these social media-related activities and are very proud to be stuck in a time when Tweeting, texting and taking a picture of yourself was not possible. By the way, there is a huge difference in the type of people who text and Tweet, as compared to those who take endless selfies. There's more vanity involved with the selfies that isn't necessarily present in the texting and Tweeting.

“How can I take selfies if I don’t have a cell phone?” the group’s eldest member asked.
You could use a thing called "a camera" to take a picture, which is a new-fangled invention that has been around for a couple of centuries now. Don't worry, cameras and pictures are old enough to where it's not scary new technology that you would take pride in not understanding. It's okay to use a camera and not feel like you are being too progressive with your choice in technology.

“You have a cell phone,” someone said.

Murray writes "someone" because he doesn't who said this. Just a voice out of nowhere. It was probably Fay Vincent. 

“But I don’t use it,” he retorted.

Whew, be sure to make that clear. Embrace your outward senior citizenry and never, ever fall victim to progressive tendencies. 

Neither had he tweeted nor texted. None of us had tweeted. One retired writer acknowledged having received and retrieved two text messages, “but I’ve never sent one,” he quickly added.

Those two text messages probably were:

"Found this phone and couldn't get signal to call. Your wife had an accident is headed to the hospital."


"Please answer, she is in grave condition and I can't get a signal to call out right now."

This retired writer got these texts, but the bitch is going to have to die without him around because HE DOESN'T MOTHERFUCKING TEXT. SHE KNOWS THIS!

Dinosaurs all, and all proud of it.

I've never understood the ability to be proud that you don't keep up with modern trends that those in your chosen profession keep up with. It's fine for the retired writers to fall behind, but if an active sportswriter isn't keeping up with current technology that helps him do his job better, then he has no business still being in that field. The world moves fast. If you aren't ready to move with it or at least attempt to do so, then you have to find something else to do. I can't use a typewriter at work just because I am proud to be a dinosaur and hate computers. 

We covered baseball in a different era when being a reporter meant doing something other than tapping out a sentence or two on a cell phone.

It also meant reporting on a story and being several hours behind when the story breaks. The sports world doesn't work this way now. It's not always about being first, but reporting on the story within minutes of the story being confirmed as true. The world changes. Murray has to accept this. 

This is the era of trades by Twitter. As one who reported baseball news the old-fashioned way, I am saddened that it has come to this. The new generation and generations to come will not experience the fun and satisfaction of being a reporter. 

Plenty of sportswriters still get the fun and satisfaction of being a reporter. This is where Murray being uninformed comes back to bite him in the ass. Twitter is just one part of the modern sportswriter's job. There is still reporting to be done and Murray has to understand that part of a sportwriter's job on Twitter is finding out news the old-fashioned way, and THEN Tweeting the information out. 

Being first with a tweet just won’t do it.

Again Murray, modern sportswriters have other jobs that involve reporting. They don't just Tweet nonsensical rumors all day. 

They call and will call themselves reporters, but they are and will really be tweeters. I doubt that I could find half a dozen tweeters who could do the job that the half dozen guys sitting on that patio did.

Well, considering those half dozen guys don't text or Tweet I'm wondering how they will even get the information required to break a story? Remember, anonymous sources and GM's text and Tweet these days. So to get information, reporters have to play the technology game. Those half dozen guys may be great at their if judged 20 years ago (though better than today's reporters?...there's no way of saying that in any accurate way), but they would be beaten to every scoop and every column would be written before the half dozen on the patio had fired up their Gateway computer. These half dozen guys on the patio couldn't do the job that the half dozen Tweeters do, because those on the patio refuse to use modern technology to do their job.

Reporting requires gathering pertinent information and using it to write a comprehensive story. It requires more than 140 characters.

Right, and modern reporters gather pertinent information and write a comprehensive story. One perusal of shows that Ken Rosenthal Tweets, but then follows up his Tweets with a story on the subject matter.

This is part of the problem with Murray's anti-Twitter rant. He doesn't know what he's talking about and doesn't care to know what he's talking about. He knows how it used to be and that was when sports reporting was the best. That's all he knows and all he wants to know.

When I was a reporter for the Associated Press decades ago, speed counted, but we couldn’t just be fast; we had to be right.

And 95% of the time the reporter is Tweeting out correct information. There are times when Tweets go out that end up being inaccurate. It happened in the newspaper industry too. Remember "Dewey Defeats Truman"? 

In the Twitter era, it seems as though it doesn’t matter if you’re right. Being first with a trade or a free-agent signing is what counts. If a reporter is first to report a trade but has it wrong, he can always delete the tweet or send another tweet, saying “oops.”

The reporter can send out a correction to this thousands of followers. This is as opposed to printing a retraction in the lower left hand corner of 6C where those who are looking for the retraction can see it? 

The error of tweeters’ ways is what prompted this column. A couple of days before the non-waiver trading deadline last week, tweeters reported a trade between the New York Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers. Outfielder Carlos Gomez had been traded to the New York Mets, the tweeting reporters announced, for disabled pitcher Zack Wheeler and infielder Wilmer Flores.

Apparently Zack Wheeler isn't just injured, he's "disabled." No wonder the Mets-Brewers trade didn't go through. The Brewers found out that Wheeler's last name is just a nickname given to him due to the fact he's in a wheelchair. 

The teams, though, had not announced the trade and never did. The Mets balked at taking Gomez, saying their doctors had found that he had a hip problem.

But this happened after all of the other parameters of the deal were agreed to and the only barrier was the health of the players in the trade. How often do players fail a physical and a trade doesn't go through? Not very often, so even a newspaper could have reported on the trade in order to meet the 11pm deadline for printing and then have to publish a retraction in the lower left hand corner of 6C two days later. 

The premature report affected Flores in an unusual way.

He became disabled like Zach Wheeler?

Because of social media, the false news spread quickly and widely. Flores learned about it during the Mets’ game with San Diego and at one point stood on the field at his shortstop position noticeably crying at the thought of leaving the Mets.

This is an outlying situation that hasn't happened often and doesn't happen often. It's the first time I can remember this type of thing happening, where a player in a trade was still on the field, found out he was being traded and then the trade fell through.

By reporting the trade prematurely, the tweeting press corps, in such a hurry to get the news out and be No. 1 with it, ignored a basic part of the trade, the last part: the requirement of the traded players to pass the medical test.

It wasn't ignored, it was widely assumed that the players involved with the trade who had no known injuries that were preventing them from playing baseball at the present time indeed had no known injuries.

"Hey look, Carlos Gomez doesn't appear to be hurt and got traded! I wonder if he is hurt? I better not report on this trade just in case of the 2% chance all of the outward signs he isn't injured aren't true."

Writing about the off-track Twitter reports, Ken Rosenthal said on, “Not all reports included a reference to ‘pending medicals.’ Even the ones that did left the impression that the deal was fait accompli. Many followers interpreted the deal as done, if only because such deals almost always get done.”

This is very true. Rosenthal is correct here. 

I have long respected Rosenthal for his work, since before he began tweeting, but I disagree with him on two points. I wouldn’t call tweeters journalists, and there’s no need to provide minute-by-minute accounts because that’s when tweeters get in trouble.

Son of a bitch. Tweeters aren't journalists, but there are those who report on stories who also Tweet. This doesn't make them unless less of a journalist because they have a Twitter account. And yes, if nothing has changed then there is no need to provide updates. If something has changed, then an update would be needed. 

Trade talks and free-agent negotiations can change by the minute, and by the time a tweeter tweets a development he has learned, it can be three developments old.

It reminds me of Pete Rose’s free agency in 1978. In a matter of hours on the same day, from about late morning to late afternoon, Milton Richman of United Press International, a good baseball reporter, had Rose signing with three different teams, actually running three different stories on the UPI wire. The third was Philadelphia, which was the right one.

What a day that would have been had Twitter existed then. Richman would have had tweeters wearing out their thumbs.

In the modern day, Richman would have Tweeted three teams were in the running for Rose's services and then eventually broken the story on who Rose chose. That's how a story like this gets reported in the modern day. No specifics are given unless there are specifics to be given. Murray isn't even on Twitter, yet he acts like he knows ALL that happens on the social media platform. 

In January 2006 the Orioles reached agreement with Jeromy Burnitz on a two-year, $12 million deal, but the outfielder’s agent, Howard Simon, balked at language about a physical in a letter of agreement the club sent him.
The language, Simon said, gave the Orioles too much latitude for killing the deal after other teams interested in Burnitz had signed other players.

When he couldn’t negotiate a change in the language and before Burnitz took the obligatory physical, Simon rejected the Orioles’ deal and went elsewhere, gaining a one-year, $6.7 million contract with Pittsburgh, which included a mutual option for a second year that would raise the value of the contract to the same $12 million Burnitz would have had with Baltimore.

By the way, 2006 was the last year Burnitz played in the majors, so his option wasn't picked up for the 2007 season. So basically, Burnitz's agent may have cost him $5.3 million. Remember this when Murray is using contractual language about a physical as an example of how Peter Angelos is evil. I mean, Angelos is evil, but Simons balking at the language ended up meaning that Burnitz took a one year deal instead of a two year deal. 

In another episode about a year later the Orioles reached agreement with Aaron Sele on a three-year, $21 million contract. A physical preceded the announcement of the deal, and the Orioles’ doctors were concerned about the pitcher’s labrum. They said he had only 400 innings left in it, and Angelos wanted to reduce the contract to two years.

What? Angelos listened to the team doctors that got paid to evaluate players and give their opinion on that player's health? Why in the hell would he do that? Inconceivable. 

Was the concern legitimate, or was it Angelos’s way of reducing the value of the contract? 

Who knows? I'm kidding, of course. Murray Chass thinks he knows. Murray doesn't even use Twitter and knows all about it to the point that there is no doubt in his mind that someone who Tweets is not a reporter.

Whatever the owner’s reason, Sele signed instead with Seattle for two years and $15 million. In those two years, he posted records of 17-10 in 212 innings and 15-5 in 215 innings.

The Orioles doctor was wrong. This has never happened before. 

In six more major league seasons Sele never pitched as well as he did in those two seasons in Seattle, but contrary to the prognosis of the Orioles’ doctors, according to Angelos, that is, Sele pitched an additional 1,113 innings.

I don't know what this has to do with Tweeting and whether sportswriters jump the gun on trades that have happened when none of the players have taken their physical yet. It really has nothing to do with it of course and there isn't a listen to be learned other than, "Sometimes doctors are wrong and a trade isn't complete until all players take a physical."

If the players in a trade are not on the DL or aren't currently missing time due to injury, then the safe assumption would be they are all healthy. Obviously the Mets-Brewers trade was the outlier that started this screed against Twitter and any form of modern technology which Murray doesn't understand, doesn't care to understand, yet seems to believe he knows everything about how it's used by modern sportswriters. 

In an interview at the time of the Burnitz episode, Wren told me, “That’s how Peter plays general manager. He uses medical reasons to kill or change a deal if he doesn’t like it.”

When did this column go from a column about the evils of Twitter to the evils of Peter Angelos? This column on Murray's non-blog is like the delusional train-of-thought ramblings and observations a person might have on a given day while jumping from subject to subject. You know, the sort of thing you see on Twitter. 


Snarf said...

One thing he fails mention is that traditional reporting often includes the words "PENDING PHYSICAL." The mets-Brewers reporting was not wrong. A trade was agreed to. One of the terms of the trade was not satisfied thus it fell through. This was new news or a development in an existing story that was immediately disseminated, rather than waiting 24 hours to show up in an inconspicuous correction (as you mentioned). Keep up the good work!