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Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Geoff Baker ReduxNote: I'm giving this post from yesterday a bump for two reasons: First, it was posted kind of late, and a lot of people don't scroll back past ATH on a given day, so it's "new" to a lot of readers; Second, because Geoff Baker his ownself waded into the comments thread last night. I think that's kind of cool and think that maybe some folks would like to read that too.
Geoff Baker got mad last week when a blogger waded into waters he feels that only professionals like Geoff Baker should be wading. Today he wades into my waters:
Here's a primer on U.S. libel law and how it relates to blogging, in case you're interested. It should be required reading for any blogger in this country.
I was going to write about 1000 words aping his piece from last week, substituting the dangers of amateurs engaging in the business of lawyering for his take on amateurs engaging in the business of professional journalism, but I couldn't keep a straight face. I'm actually fine with Baker writing about this stuff because (a) it's not rocket science; and (b) he's right. Like I said last week, you've got to get your facts right if you're going to get into the accusation business. That goes for bloggers too, and like Baker, I am similarly not impressed with the argument that a blogger can be looser with things if he's only writing for a small, friendly audience (not that Jerrod Morris was being "loose" in my estimation).
But beyond that, Baker remains off his nut. Last week I (and many others) noted that Baker himself seemed to be doing far worse than Jerod Morris was doing when he suggested that the entire 2003 Seattle Mariners team had been on steroids. Today he defends himself:
Now, this may seem like the same thing to a lot of you, but there are important differences. The most obvious is that no individual was singled out. Believe me, this was intentional. There are ways to approach topics like this, to hint at stuff that may or may not have been going on, but it requires subtlety, not a sledgehammer.
I suppose that's fine if all you care about is avoiding legal liability for defamation -- and even then I'm not sure that the Mariners as a team wouldn't have an action for some sort for business disparagement or something -- but certainly that's not the operative ethical standard, is it? Anything is fair game as long as there's an "out?" That's not what Baker seemed to be all worked up about in his original piece. It was all about being tough and accountable and writing with integrity and credibility and all of that. Something greater than mere lawsuit avoidance, at any rate. If anything, Baker's pained rationalization of his February piece directly contradicts his stated belief that looking one's target in the eye matters. His accusation of non-specific Mariners with an "out" built-in is exactly the opposite of looking someone in the eye. It's cowardly ass-covering.
Baker's next point is the freakin' cake topper:
Some of you have asked why I -- and my colleagues -- failed to denounce Rick Reilly for publishing similar things about ballplayers that Morris did. Well, the first answer is, many of my colleagues did denounce Reilly several years back when he challenged Sammy Sosa to take a drug test. Many thought he was unfairly singling Sosa out.
Sorry, I don't cotton to any system with exceptions that so thoroughly swallow the rules as the one Baker sketches out, and that's even when the rules are weak moving targets like those he's proposing. If we are to take Baker seriously, there's a bogey that all of us writing about baseball need to hit -- about thirty years of puff pieces, if I reckon correctly -- and once we hit it, anything is fair game. If I'm wrong about this -- if, for example, I get my license to be irresponsible at, say, 25 years -- I hope that Baker lets me know, because I have a lot of garbage I want to fling at people.
Finally, Baker responds to criticism of his "White Jays" piece from a couple of years ago:
I've had people write in to ask me about my so-called "White Jays'' series of three stories written for the Toronto Star six years ago. What those stories were supposed to be about was how the Blue Jays, after years of pipelining talent from Latin America, had suddenly become a team with the fewest amount of minority players in baseball. At a time when the number of Latin Americans in the game was exploding.
I'm somewhat sympathetic here, because his "White Jays" story, while not his finest hour, wasn't as bad as a lot of people made it out to be. But his explanation of this is instructive: other chefs in the kitchen screwed it up, not Geoff Baker. Kind of undercuts that whole notion he's pushing about the importance and value of all of those editorial layers that separate the pros from the amateurs, doesn't it?
Baker goes on and on and so could I, but we'd never come to agreement on everything. I do hope, however, that we can agree on this: people who write non-fiction for a living need to be accurate and take responsibility for their words no matter who they are and where they write.
Posted by Craig Calcaterra at 8:20am
Slugger O'Toole said...
I can only assume that when he says Jerrod Morris is not Rick Rielly he means that Morris is familiar with the basic facts about which he is writing, because that is the most basic difference. “Balls that hit the foul poles should be foul balls” - I mean come on! A five year could explain that one to Mr. Rielly.
Posted 06/16 at 06:22 PM
Geoff Baker is right, Jerrod Morris is not Rick Reilly.
By this I can only assume he means that someone widely published in Sports Illustrated and ESPN: The Magazine should be held to a much higher journalistic standard than an unknown blogger vis a vis making specific unfounded accusations. Right?
Posted 06/16 at 06:36 PM
Well, yeah, he’s technically right, but he’s leaving off approximately a crapton of pertinent info, all of which would essentially destroy any case Ibanez might make. It’s almost impossible for a “public figure” like Ibanez to win a lawsuit for defamation. It IS impossible for him to win a suit where the writer out-and-out acknowledges that all he’s doing was speculating. NY Times v. Sullivan and all that. Morris, or any of us, would basically have to say, “Raul Ibanez is on steroids,” in a way that led one to believe s/he actually knew it to be true.
You’d think that a veteran newspaper guy would be *more* up on this than Baker seems to be, actually.
Posted 06/16 at 06:42 PM
Sara K said...
Fabulous break-down, CC. For me, the real jaw-dropper was when he says that the responsible way to raise suspicion about specific players is by aiming innuendo at the whole group. Yikes.
Posted 06/16 at 08:51 PM
dude, seriously….get a friggin life. If all you have time for in life is to sit back and nitpick others with your condescenfding tone…...repeatedly….then you are a huge failure.
Instead of criticizing others, why dont you try writing about BASEBALL? Novel concept, I understand….but I see the header, which says “The Hardball Times”, and I get confused when I scroll down and see the TMZ quality work.
Posted 06/16 at 09:20 PM
Capper: nail on the head, man. Baker really needs to do the job he was hired for instead of raking muck.
Of course, the Seattle Times has a long history of hiring writers who value reaction over substance. They’ve kept Steve Kelley and Nicole Brodeur (who both showed their gratitude by crossing the union picket line during the strike) and hired the borderline insane Michelle Malkin before she hit syndication.
...oh wait, you meant Craig? Sorry, dude’s doing a great job.
“Jerod Morris is not Rick Reilly”: thank God. I would NOT want two Rick Reillys out there.
Posted 06/16 at 09:31 PM
Craig Calcaterra said...
Capper—last I checked it was a free country. There are lots of great things being written at THT. If you don’t like my contributions, there are many others.
Posted 06/16 at 09:33 PM
Oh, and more Baker:
His story on how “chemistry” seems to be helping Ichiro:
Note the quote-free nature of the piece. Now look at this from the Tacoma News-Tribune’s Larry La Rue:
Note that it includes copious amounts of incredibly forthcoming quotes.
Both of these men travel with the team and should have equal access to the players. It’s starting to look like Baker may have lost the clubhouse’s trust after his stories last season, meaning he HAS to write stuff such as the blogger-evisceration piece to keep his job.
Posted 06/16 at 09:45 PM
Nothing is more laughably spineless than blaming the poor reception of one’s work on the headline writer.
Posted 06/16 at 10:15 PM
Sara K said...
@Capper - The guys at THT knew quite well what Craig wrote about and how he wrote it before they invited him to be part of the website. If that’s “failure,” may I be just as pathetic in my pursuits.
Posted 06/16 at 10:47 PM
what does being a douchebag have to do with free speech and a “free country”?
Look, I said it with your last piece, and I’ll say it again…..if you dont like someone, or their articles, disregard it. If people stop drawing attention to stuff thats crap, then it doesnt get page views, followers, etc….its called being the bigger man….something I’m thinking is pretty novel to you.
I am really tired of the “free speech” crap used whenever someone gets called out for crap journalism like this…...maybe Bakers stuff isn’t great…..so what? Who elected you as content Czar?
Look, my point is…..write about the game….enough with the calling other writers on the carpet over your values and views…...remember, thats a slippery slope you are climbing, and someday you might end up on the receiving end of crap journalism like this.
“It’s starting to look like Baker may have lost the clubhouse’s trust after his stories last season, meaning he HAS to write stuff such as the blogger-evisceration piece to keep his job.”
Good solid rumor mongering there…..
If thats what you aspire to, you have achieved your goal of being pathetic…...I’m sure you could get a gig over at TMZ or the Weekly World news.
Posted 06/17 at 12:16 AM
If you don’t like it here, there’s the door, don’t let it hit your ass on the way out.
Posted 06/17 at 01:25 AM
Geoff Baker said...
Just to clear up some inaccuracies, Craig:
1. Nobody suggested/implied/intonated that the entire 2003 Seattle Mariners team was on steroids. Any more than any blog writer such as yourself has suggested that all of MLB is on PEDs when they note that some players have tested positive have there may be others yet unnamed. What I suggested was that some 2003 Mariners may have been on steroids, which is very likely given that one has already been susepnded for it, Ryan Franklin, and his 2004 Mariners teammate, Ron Villone, was named in the Mitchell Report. So, given that at least one player from that 2003 team has been suspended and two from the 2004 team that collapsed have been linked by an independant investigation, you’re hardly violating any ethical grounds by suggesting—without naming—that there may have been others.
No different from you suggesting that, after today’s news about Sammy Sosa, there may be other MLB players who used. Quite different from picking a player like Raul Ibanez, never implicated in steroids and saying in a headline that “steroid speculation” is “perhaps” (the default implication also being “perhaps not”) unfair simply because it’s “raising eyebrows” of fans in no position to know one way or the other.
I hope you can see the difference now. But then again, I don’t know you at all.
2. Your speculation about me somehow losing clubhouse access because of the Ichiro stories is also false. My access is as good as it’s always been, despite constant criticism of the team’s underperforming players. The one way you gain and keep your access in this business is to be a straight-shooter and write the truth as best you can determine it, no matter how uncomfortable it may make things for you in the short-term. And if you do lose some players, there are always others on a 25-man team. I find the whole “access’’ thing vastly overplayed by some fans, but that’s just me.
You may be unaware, but I have technically been “off duty’’ since last Thursday, when Larry Stone took over the NL part of the Mariners’ road trip as scheduled months ago. You may not know this, but writers do tend to break up long trips, especially in this era of doing double-duty on blogs. Larry LaRue was still on the road when he interviewed Ichiro and covered the trip through Colorado before his time off. It was his turn to do today’s off-day story, whereas Stone did ours. The Mariners Blog is extra work that we do—even on most days off—and I thought that Ichiro would make a nice blog topic (even without quotes) given his sudden spike in numbers. The fact that LaRue picked today to address Ichiro in an off-day story is irrelevant. When I wrote a Russell Branyan story about his special vision training six weeks ago, it wasn’t our excolusive because Branyan was snubbing LaRue. We’d just picked different topics for that off-day’s story, as independant-thinking reporters tend to do.
Life’s really not always a conspiracy. You can be a funny writer when you stick to things you know. If in doubt, just write and ask beforehand. I’m usually very receptive to bloggers asking me questions in good faith. I’m just not in the habit of telling people things they want to hear just so it will play well to an audience. Some call that “condescention’’ but I call it “honesty”. If I think a guy’s wrong, I won’t write that he’s right just because some people might feel condescended to when disagreed with. I call it as I see it. I may be wrong at times, but at least this way, you never have to guess about me and any hidden agendas. Take care.
Posted 06/17 at 01:38 AM
Geoff Baker said...
Make that “condescension’’ and not “condescention’‘. My bad. But it’s my day off.
Posted 06/17 at 02:03 AM
Craig Calcaterra said...
Thank you for coming over here and commenting. A couple of respones:
1. Just to be clear, it wasn’t my speculation that you have lost clubhouse access because of the Ichiro stories. That was a commenter above. For what it’s worth, I agree with you overall about he value of access.
2. I’m trying to understand what you’re saying about the 2003 Mariners, but I can’t see how observing that (a) Ryan Franklin and Ron Villone had been implicated; gets you to (b) others on the Mariners may have done steroids in any different a way than Morris’ observation that (a) Ibanez has had a relatively unusual late-career power and performance spike leads to (b) he may have done steroids. Each takes a fact (F&V on PEDs; Ibanez’s power) and extrapolates a to an unknown (other Mariners may be on PEDs; Ibanez may be on PEDs) while allowing for the possibility that it’s not true (“may”).
And to be clear—my issue with your February piece isn’t its content as such, just as I don’t have any issue with what Morris said. It’s that I perceive the statements as being held to different standards, with the basis for those standards being a fiction: that you, as a result of your paper’s editorial lawyer and your training have somehow earned the right to do something different than Morris.
As I said: I agree with you that one had better be correct when one gets into heavy stuff like this. I simply believe that everyone, blogger or columnist, professional or amateur, has to hew to the same standard.
Posted 06/17 at 05:27 AM
Irony, thy name is Capper…
“Look, I said it with your last piece, and I’ll say it again…..if you dont like someone, or their articles, disregard it. If people stop drawing attention to stuff thats crap, then it doesnt get page views, followers, etc….its called being the bigger man….something I’m thinking is pretty novel to you.”
You should probably take you own advice, Caps.
Posted 06/17 at 08:25 AM
A few things.
1) Geoff, this is why blogs work. We can now ACTUALLY ENTER INTO A DISCOURSE - w/ the writer, w/ other readers. There is actually a CONVERSATION, not just a lecture by someone who thinks he’s fantastic because he went to journalism school.
2) Shyster, I find it HILARIOUS that I nominated whoever started the Sammy Sosa rumors for the GBR Awards last week. I guess it was Reilly. And I guess he was right. What that means to me is this . . . perhaps many of these rumors have started or have been started by MSM members PRECISELY because they are true, except in the MSM member’s undying sense of cowardly loyalty to the player or misguided sense of fraternal bond to the player’s world, the MSM member just leaks a “rumor.” That way, he doesn’t officially call anyone out, and can maintain is (often incorrect) “buddy” status with those players. Except now, b/c of blogs, even greater distance b/w players and media over the last 10-20 years, that wall is even higher, so that these leaks become stories b/c the MSM member says to him/herself, “Screw it, I hate that SOB, so what if I never get access to him again! He’s coming out of the PED closet! Sucker!”
3) Um, Geoff, the post about Ibanez isn’t libel. I won’t bring up the legal aspects of it, but he ALSO purposely didn’t say “Raul did HgH.” He speculated. That alone, an OPINION, is what is protected and anyone, rightly or wrongly, inane or not, can spout off his/her opinion. We wouldn’t have the OP/ED page if one couldn’t . . .
Posted 06/17 at 08:40 AM
Craig Calcaterra said...
Bigcat: My view on the Sosa stuff was never that he wasn’t fair game for speculation. Indeed, I don’t think anyone is terribly surprised about yesterday’s news.
What burned me up about it was the failure on the part of many writers to acknowledge that it was, indeed, speculation. In lists of would-be Hall of Famers who are supposed to be steroids-tainted, Sosa was typically named alongside those with positive tests or who were named in the Mitchell Report. Many things were written about him simply assuming as fact that Sosa was a confirmed steroids user.
Call me old fashioned, but I think there’s a distinction to be made between cautious speculation that acknowledges the possibility of alternative explanations and the fact-free assertion of something as a given.
Now that there appears to be actual evidence that Sosa used PEDs, he is fair game for the same discussions we’ve put everyone else through. Before yesterday, however, he was not.
So I’m not going to accept Rick Reilly or anyone else for that matter saying “I told you so.” You don’t get points for wild-ass guesses, even if they come true. And if you now claim they weren’t wild ass guesses, why didn’t you actually do some reporting on it before, hotshot?
Posted 06/17 at 08:50 AM
Ibanez wasn’t on the Mariners squad in 2003, but he was in 2004. Since their were 18 players who appeared for the Mariners in both seasons, there obviously was a little continuity in the clubhouse.
It’s asinine to assume that the Mariners all stopped using during the off season. Since he implicates all Mariners in 2003, should Baker be pointing fingers at all the Mariners in 2004, to include Ibanez?
Could it be that Baker is mad because he got scooped on something by a blogger that he failed to mention himself at the time?
Not suggesting any of them were doing anything, but it’s silly to think there was a day when everyone was dirty and the next day everyone was clean.
If the Mariners were all dirty, and Baker implicated them all, how does he justify leaving out Ibanez?
Posted 06/17 at 08:51 AM
Geoff - Glad to see you entered the conversation - hopefully the dialogue will be informative to all.
bigcatasroma - I agree that the ability to have such a discourse is one of the great benefits of blogs, especially when discussing interesting or challenging topics. Unfortunately the open door nature of blogs also allows folks in who do not/can not have such a discourse without making it personal by taking shots at others.
Civil discussion and discourse can challenge and change opinions while verbal/personal attacks changes the dynamic and degrades the conversation. As one who likes to offer snarky comments at times I must acknowledge that I can occasionally slide across the line and must be prepared to offer mea culpas when necessary as I value civilty more than a need to feel right.
Posted 06/17 at 09:14 AM