Sherman says Pujols can’t handle New York

No, it means he needs to give the media material to write about. That’s. All. This. Is. It has nothing to do with “the fans,” and it definitely has nothing to do with the other players on the Cardinals. It’s all about the reporters.

The open secret no one ever wants to talk about is this; beat reporters really don’t provide much in the way of added value to a story. That’s not a knock on individual reporters, mind you, but on the job itself. In the modern age with so many mediums for interacting with the game and so many ways to disseminate news, you really don’t need any function the beat writer provides. Missed the game? Watch the highlights on SportsCenter, or check out the condensed game through MLB TV (or watch the entire game after it’s archived, for that matter). Wondering where Albert Pujols is going to sign? Well, it’s not exactly Watergate, they’re going to announce it. They have big fancy press conferences and everything!

This is basically the right way of looking at it. Once upon a time, baseball teams were dependent upon the local print media for promotion and keeping fans engaged. Now they’re not. Now the teams have a variety of means to achieve their goals, and the media is dependent upon the teams to set them apart. Because the only thing a beat writer has that everyone else lacks is access, and that access is granted by the team and the players. Even the best beat writers aren’t getting scoops by staking out Brian Cashman’s trash or tailing Scott Boras around the country, they’re being fed information by the teams and the agents because it’s in their interest to do so. If beat writers as we know them ceased to exist tomorrow, someone would still be doing that function.

Of course, that’s a pretty frightening reality to the writers themselves, and that’s ultimately the issue here. When players skip out on talking to reporters, it punctures the myth that the reporters matter. If that’s allowed to happen too many times, more people might start to notice that fact, including the reporters bosses, and they might re-think the amount of money they’re dedicating to that job. So everytime this happens in a high profile manner, this is the response you get. Yankee fans are familiar with the routine by now; the media throws a fit, with pretty much everyone coming out of the woodwork to wag their fingers, the team wants to take the path of least resistance with the media, the agent doesn’t want the player getting bad press, so everyone tells him to be sure to apologize before the next game, the player issues some empty apology, acts contrite, and goes on without it affecting their life at all. And the media gets to have it reinforced that they’re really important, and that you’ll have to answer for it if you cross them.

Of course, the charade doesn’t change the underlying state of things, which is why the script has to play out over and over again. I can’t say that I blame the writers for that, considering that their relatively cushy jobs are at stake in the long run, and the degree of solidarity they show on the matter is actually pretty impressive, but it is what it is. The current state of the industry represents a very inefficient allocation of resources, which should mean that it’s just a matter of time before the industry re-organizes their resources. Incumbent reporters aren’t really crazy about that idea, and understandably so, so they create these media scandals from time to time to keep up the appearance that they’re really an important class in the game.

But don’t be fooled by the rhetoric about “accountability;” media scandals are always about the media.

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

8 thoughts on “Sherman says Pujols can’t handle New York

  1. hugh

    I'd feel more for the reporters if I felt that, never mind modern changes in the way sports are covered, they had ever provided a worthwhile service that genuinely enhanced anyone's real understanding of the game or the people who participate in it. Instead, I have always felt that, especially in New York and in my own home, the UK, they simply run with whatever narrative they think will play best with their readership and seek out some quotes that they can use to pad out a piece putting that point of view.

    Not a big fan of popular media journalism on the whole!

    • BrienJackson

      I think that's what annoys me more than anything about this, the idea that I was somehow deprived by Pujols not talking. Please, I've seen enough of these (to say nothing of Bull Durham) to know exactly what he was going to say, and it certainly wasn't going to be insightful in any way. The only people deprived of anything were the reporters who lost a writes-itself paragraph in their story and thought, for the most fleeting of seconds, that they might be forced to come up with something original to fill space.

  2. boon

    Pujols, a big fish in a small pond. He won't adjust in a large market with the media. Stay in hicks-ville Albert!

    • hugh

      Please be joking.

  3. Boni

    I think it is generally felt to be true that Pujols has crumbled under any slight amount of pressure. His regular and post season successes, his incredible ability to consistently live up to huge contracts and his willingness to play through injury are the textbook symptoms of a shrinking violet. Seeing him com to new york would definitely make me suspicous of the intellectual capacity of the Yankees front office. I mean, he's only the best player in the bigs, after all…

  4. John

    Great piece Brien. I think the thing I like least about beat reporters is it seems that 9 times out of 10 they go for the negative piece. Throwing athletes under the bus so they can write a piece about them that has that little bit shock factor is regular routine and it makes me nauseated. I mean, yes, athletes get sick amounts of money, and yes they do some pretty ridiculous things at times, but they are people too. They have feelings and families. I'd hate to be a ball player that gets some outlandish thing said about him in the media and then have to sit with his child and explain why people seem to hate him. It's not fair even though its the nom de plume. That doesn't make it right. In no other profession could you take the person who is essentially the reason you even have the cushy job you have, drag his name through the mud, and then keep the job. Just once I'd like to see a beat reporter say "Enough is enough." and take the other mudslingers to task. But it will never happen. If it did then the reporter brave enough to do it would probably be the next one having that talk with his kid. Who would want to bring that on themselves?

  5. Michael

    Handle New York? We'll never know but he sure handled the game 3 Rangers pitching staff! Wow

  6. ChipBuck

    Sherman's article was completely ridiculous for sure. This idea that players can't handle Boston or New York is laughable. Most of the players that fail after moving to either situation is because they're past their primes. This is the case with nearly every free agent.

    As for reporters having value, I can only think of two things: (1) Twitter is more fun with them around and (2) we would have less to write/rage/correct as a result. I know it's a major stretch, but at least there's that, right?

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