Baseball is an everyday sport, and an incredibly human one. Errors and judgement calls are a regular part of every game—sometimes infuriatingly, and it's the human element that gives baseball its life.
The same could be said about baseball journalism. When there were two newspapers in Tampa Bay, the majority of the work done by the two beat writers, Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay TImes) and Roger Mooney (Tampa Tribune), was to recap the game and provide daily notes from the manager.
They watched the same game, they uncovered the same facts, and heard the same quotes. Outside of small nuances, the daily baseball reports rarely varied except for in the special interest pieces.
But it's those special interest pieces that make baseball great. Not the game recap, not the quote from the manager, but the human element put on display in writing. The good journalism.
As the Times absorbs the Tribune, there will be layoffs of at least 40% of their staff, or something like 100 employees. It could be more. But what the Times gains in this acquisition could and should be seen as an asset.
Roger Mooney is a veteran on a beat that has very few writers, and in my opinion his strength lies in writing such human interest pieces.
It's at this point that I would have liked to go through some pieces written by him in detail, and to provide quotes and examples, but the Tribune site has been down this morning, with TBO.com re-directing to tampabay.com. I hope you can remember his work as I have.
There are some important Rays stories, like the struggle of Robinson Chirinos to recover from a debilitating concussion. When I think of that story, I remember the reporting by Mooney.*
The Tampa Bay Times generally practices high-quality journalism, and claims that this consolidation will elevate all journalism in the area, as it expands its reach to become the fifth-widest distributed newspaper in the country. They can do that by expanding the already meager coverage of the Tampa Bay Rays.
What we the Rays fans—both casual and dedicated— want is not two guys doing daily notes from the beat, but a more regular combination of those notes and more in-depth pieces. Focus on good writing, and on the finer, more human points of the game.
This consolidation is an incredible opportunity. As the Times considers who will stay and who will go, I sincerely hope they retain Roger Mooney's services with this goal in mind.
Tribune's closing made for a gut-wrenching day. I have enormous respect for @RMooneyTBO & many others who pour their lives into their craft.— Dave Haller (@HallerDave) May 4, 2016
I should add that @RMooneyTBO is a really talented writer and an irreplaceable road trip museum buddy. Excited to see what's next for him.— Dave Haller (@HallerDave) May 4, 2016
*Should the links ever work again, you can find the Chirinos story here. If you have your own Mooney pieces to share, please do so in the comment section below.