As I type this I'm currently engaged in an argument with a friend of mine regarding BABIP and numerous other sabermetric concepts. This friend is a smart individual and is generally open minded about most things. He reads the paper and usually has a good understanding of what’s going on with the team. But that’s as far as it goes. Anything past what the media – namely the local media – has told him doesn’t exist. If those concepts were so much better than the traditional ways we evaluate players and situations why wouldn’t they be discussed and written about more, he asks? I couldn’t give him a good answer, which only seemed to bolster his point in his mind. That got me to thinking, how much responsibility does the local media have to educate their respective readerships?
I guess it starts with how educated and informed the media is itself. After all, you can’t teach what you don’t know. But in 2010 with all the information that’s readily available, not to mention the access they are provided with, there is no excuse for a columnist or beat writer to not be on top of his or her game. I’m not asking them to spend hours looking through the pages of FanGraphs or Baseball Prospectus. Even without going extremely saber heavy one can provide the reader with something that can open his mind up to a world of other possibilities. It comes back to the writers.
Personally, I think the obligation of a newspaper – be it print or web based – should be to report and educate whenever possible. If you’re in a position where you have a readership in the hundreds of thousands you will no doubt leave an impression on, if not shape the opinions of, a large number of those individuals. Take Geoff Baker, beat writer of the Seattle Times as an example. Yesterday Baker wrote a blog post contesting a Hartford Courant piece stating that C.C. Sabathia "knows how to win games" better than Felix Hernandez. Mr. Baker didn’t use any sabermetric stats to support his case; he instead used sound logic and reason to clearly and easily break down for the reader why the widely accepted adage of "knowing how to win" is foolish. That is something extra that Baker does for his readers. He's under no obligation by the paper to do such a thing, yet he does, and the fan base is better for it. It's no coincidence that with Baker, and his equally as talented collegue Larry Stone, the Mariners have one of the smartest fan bases in the game.
The point of this isn't to disparage any particular member of the Tampa Bay media. Though, one could make a pretty good case that they do not do enough with what is at their disposal, especially considering how progressive the Rays are. One does wonder, especially in this economy, how those who do not go much above the standard are going to keep their jobs. The readers watched the game, they don't need a game story anymore to tell them about the action; the paper can run the AP story for that. Those who do more will benefit, and in turn will the readers.
Maybe I'm totally wrong. Maybe you think that the writers have no responsibility whatsoever to educate. That they are there for reporting and nothing more. And that's fine. No one is wrong. I posed the question at hand to FanGraphs contributor and all around good guy, Carson Cistulli. His response: "I'm gonna say none. I'm also gonna say that I'll refuse to read their work so long as its functioning below a certain threshold of, you know, discourse." That's a totally understandable answer, and I'm sure many of you feel the same. If it's not up to your standards, why read it? But Mr. Cistulli and those reading this site are not your average fan. We make up a tiny percentage of the total baseball readership. The larger portion doesn't know any better, having been constantly shadowed under a cloud of ignorance cast by those too lazy or inept to do otherwise. I think it should be different. Maybe, one day it will.
What do you think?