Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Adventures in Bad Journalism

when the sentence wielded its wit towards it-
the sentence, relentlessly, kept firing,
not satisfied & not feeling safe,
until the paragraph, with all of its fellow sentences within,
crumbled to the page,
a mere pile of
sentence fragments & misplaced
words & punctuation.
"bad writing," Andrew Delapruch

Poetry in Pros has stooped to bully some bad writing here and there already, be it haughty tweets or the negative predilections of the Sun-Times. But the examples are coming faster and furiouser, so here we go, into what could, sadly, become a regular feature.

Cy Young Wins and A.J. = MVP?
Exhibit A is a pair of placemarker ESPNChicago features from Bruce Levine that beget his blessedly and vaguely apt monicker of “Chicago baseball beat reporter.”

The first—disguised as a game story but revealed as an advocacy feature yet hardly scratching the surface of either—touted Chris Sale as a Cy Young candidate. This would have been notable or prescient in May, say. In August, after he essentially missed starting the All-Star Game at the behest of a White Sox club guarding his arm? Boring filler. Bonus points for Levine citing wins—hardscrabble harrumpher of a beat man he is—as the first evidence for Sale (apparently just now) bullying his way into the discussion:
The 23-year-old left-hander won his 14th game of the season on Sunday. He now trails only Jered Weaver of the Angels and David Price of Tampa Bay who have 15 victories apiece this year.
A.J. will not--and should not--come close to sniffing an
MVP this year. Even on his own team. (Brad Penner/USP)
And in the popular ESPN category of covering a team from 500 miles away, Levine emerged with an even more puzzling piece on Monday,
With just seven weeks left in the baseball season, White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski is making a case for MVP honors. 
touting A.J. Pierzynski at the Chicago White Sox’s team MVP, a controversial stance to be sure given the presence of Alex Rios, Sale, Jake Peavy, and even Jose Quintana.
Normally the smart money is on a position player who puts up 40 home runs and 115 RBIs to be the eventual winner. This season, the list of top players in the American League is short, with Los Angeles Angels rookie Mike Trout leading the way. 

The 21-year-old Trout is leading the league in batting average, runs scored and stolen bases, the Texas Rangers’ Josh Hamilton is the home run and RBI leader and Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera is a legit triple crown threat, but none of the three have had bigger or more productive hits then [sic] the White Sox catcher. 
Oh … wait. Levine isn’t pimping A.J. for White Sox MVP. He’s pimping him for AL MVP. Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick, with bonus grammatical incongruity to boot.

Even if you were to grant Levine’s nonsense notion that A.J.’s hits have been somehow bigger and more clutch than Hamilton (!), Trout (!!) or Cabrera (!!!), there’s no evidence, again, that Pierzynski’s hits are the most clutch on his own friggin’ team. In fact, employing the “clutch” stat (a delicious mashup of Win Probability Added and Leverage Index) with just one click it’s easy to see that A.J. is not only not the most clutch hitter in the American League, only Adam Dunn (-0.8) on his own team ranks worse in the clutch than Pierzynski’s -0.6 (FYI most clutch on the club are Missile, Yolk and Rios).

Levine’s shoddy work is exacerbated by supporting quotes from Pierzynski’s understudy, Tyler Flowers, who praises A.J.’s work ethic. 
“A.J. is at the ballpark working out early every day,” backup catcher Tyler Flowers said. “He has been a great example to me the way he prepares himself doing his cardio work and yoga both before and after games. I have learned a lot from him.”
This article, short and harmless as it may appear, is something I’d wince over if it was written by an MLB.com intern, giddy with a first one-one-one with a player. That is comes from Levine, the dean of baseball media in town, is utterly reprehensible.

Updates … unless there are none
Over on the other side of the web comes a mystery update from CSNChicago.

Originally, Dan Hayes’ game story, with clubhouse quotes, featured a lede so inane it begged a scolding. The story was edited and postgame video embedded, and I don’t have the ability to conjure up the original lede, but I recall it as something to the effect of: “Adam Dunn was the only White Sox player to get much done tonight.” (If you think my memory is treating Dan unfairly, trust me, the original was even less enlightening and was a bigger grammatical mess.) The lede now stands acceptably:
TORONTO - Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy did plenty for the White Sox on Monday night.
But it was a bunch of unheralded youngsters who helped lead the injury-sacked Toronto Blue Jays to a 3-2 victory over the White Sox in 11 innings in front of 16,828 at the Rogers Centre.
But there lies the problem. The original timestamp remains on the story: 8:30 p.m. (that in itself seems a specious stamp given a three-hour game, extra-inning game). No one is required to note the edits made on a story with an “updated” timestamp—although it is universal practice as far as I know—and not the entirety of the intestinal tracts of the media need to be transparent. But for the benefit of all readers, transparency should be the default.

For the record, and just to offer that not all stories need be so very dry and unenlightening as CSN’s timestamped 8:30 from Monday, here are the ledes from last year’s gamers in Toronto:

TORONTO – Contrary to reports, Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen was not seen mouthing “there’s your run” to White Sox starter Phil Humber after Juan Pierre drove in the first, go-ahead, Pale Hose run of the night.

The young righthander—who could find himself on the outside looking in when Chicago’s rotation narrows back down to five in a week’s time—was again brilliant. And again, he fell short of a much-deserved victory, in spite of 7 2/3 innings of six-hit, one-run ball. 
TORONTO – If you listen very closely, you can hear it. The sound is faint, weak, dying.

It’s the sound of the White Sox’s season dripping away, aided by a toothless offensive attack that mustered a mere three hits against wild and combustible Toronto Blue Jays righthander Kyle Drabek.

Drabek was saved from himself by the Pale Hose’s usual combination of failure in the clutch, bad luck and negative-value foot speed. The rookie didn’t pick up the win, but was allowed to live into the seventh inning of Toronto’s 4-2 win.
TORONTO – Last night, the White Sox struggled to score, when they weren’t getting smacked in the eye with baseballs or pitching through traffic.

On Saturday afternoon, the Pale Hose offense awoke from spring slumber to the tune of eight runs on 11 hits, not all attributed to the batting-practice hurler gumption of Blue Jays starter Carlos Villanueva. But in spite of fighting their way back to ties three times, Chicago fell short, dropping the third game of a quartet in 14 innings, 9-8.

Ozzie Guillen was beside himself with disgust.

“It went from a very good game to a very horses--- game,” said the manager, head down as if in pain. “It was a good game because we battled back, but after the ninth inning, we (expletive) stunk---flat-out stunk. We come back, very excited in the ninth inning, a base hit with two out from PK … after that we’re horsebleep. Our offense (expletive) sucks after the ninth.

“[The hitters] can say whatever they (expletive) want to say. For nine innings, they battled, 3-0 battled back into the game … after the ninth inning, they all sucked. Next question.”
Photo: Chris McPherson/GQ
May 29 (getaway game lede)
TORONTO – White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, as he’s wont to do, stole thunder from his club this weekend, his frustration boiling over in comments following Saturday’s extra-inning loss and spilling over into pregame Sunday.

With the precedent set, there was cause to brace for an explosion after the two-hour festival of ugly that passed for the finale of a four-game set in Toronto that saw his Chicago 9 wilt at the Rogers Centre, 13-4.

But if Saturday Ozzie was Angry Dad, busting coffeemakers and searching for someone who cared, Sunday’s manager smoked a pipe and was mild-manned, philosophical even. 
Teaser time
There’s a third and most egregious media offender to report on, my old pal Dan McGrath, in the Sun-Times. But there is absolutely no way to address his utterly abominable piece from last week without extending today's post interminably. So Dan, who apparently has dragged his biases from the Tribune with him through the rocky and tumultuous terrain that led, improbably, to the Sun-Times, will be featured separately.

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