July 19, 2018

Why Does The Boston Sports Media Want Us To Think A Successful Red Sox Team Is Boring?

I have watched, listened to, and read about a lot of Red Sox games since I turned 12 years old during the 1975 World Series. After almost three decades, I still had no idea if I would ever see my team win a World Series championship. Now there is a serious chance that I could see the Red Sox win their fourth championship in the last 15 seasons. This is amazing.

My entire attitude about the Red Sox was irrevocably altered after 2004. It was a huge change and I had no control over it. The lows are not nearly as low and while the highs certainly have been muted, I think it's a pretty good trade-off.

Here is the thing: I like it when my team wins. Winning is always better than losing. That probably seems obvious, but to judge by their words, I think some members of the Boston sports media would disagree with me. There are people covering the Red Sox who make a real effort to convince fans that (a) winning is not the most important thing, (b) when they win, it is either not fun or no big deal, and (c) if they lose, the only thing to do is panic. (Also, when the team does poorly, there is always at least one writer who sees it as his mission to shit on the fans for following a lousy team.)

What these writers and announcers want is a team that makes their jobs as easy as possible. They are lazy. They don't much care about baseball and they don't care about the Red Sox. They don't care about the fans they are writing for. They simply want to put in the least amount of work possible (maybe that's the real reason why they complain about the length of games).

When there is controversy, their jobs are easier. A circus is easier to cover than a seminar. With a circus, you describe the spectacle around you and give simple, blunt comments. When you cover a seminar, you've got to listen and you've probably got to ask questions. You've got to think. And thinking is Kryptonite to these guys. (P.S. I not really saying baseball is like a seminar.)

On July 8, Dan Shaughnessy wrote that baseball is now boring. It "has become the sanctuary of senior citizens". Its stars are "increasingly anonymous". The 2018 Red Sox:
are winning almost 70 percent of their games, but [they] are studiously bland. Boston's clubhouse is populated by polite young men who are careful with their words, rarely interesting and never provocative. It's as if they are trained to drain the color from their commentary. ... No controversy, No color.
Earlier in the column, he yawned: "Meaningless game after meaningless game ... So much winning. Whoop dee do."

Why, in the age of Twitter, are today's best baseball players so "anonymous"? Why do the current Red Sox players never say anything "provocative"? Why are they so "careful with their words"?

Could it be that they know everything they say is being examined from every possible angle by Shaughnessy and his peers? Have they been told (or seen from a distance) that the Boston sports media has made an art of taking things out of context, blowing things out of proportion, and riling up much of the fan base to hate a particular player? Might those players think, if they vilified a star player, it would be nothing for them to turn on me?

Are there times when Shaughnessy gets a small clue that perhaps HE is the cause of the alleged problems he finds with the Red Sox? (Sidebar: Shaughnessy in 2015: "Boston's Baseball Stars Are Never Boring")

I do not follow baseball because of what the post-game comments might be (though I find Mookie Betts's and J.D. Martinez's comments on hitting extremely fascinating). I would rather watch a very talented team win 100 games and spout cliches than suffer through a 55-win season but know that every crappy player was adept at witty banter or got into trouble on off-days.

Shaughnessy: "Analytics are out of control." Baseball has been "taken over by geeks".

The main reason why many writers hate the newer stats - though some of them certainly are no longer new - is they do not want to put in the time or mental energy to learn about them. They have had more than a decade to get up to speed on these things - they have months of free time during the winter - but they have done next-to-nothing. What they know about baseball is good enough. Because it is easier to call people "geeks" and say they live in their mother's basement.

Again, this is the sports media complaining about having to do its job. They want the players to conform to whatever makes their job less strenuous. Be outrageous, punch a teammate, start a fight in a bar ... do something interesting besides posting a 2.50 ERA or batting .350 or make eye-popping catches. Or being on pace to win more games in a season than any Red Sox team ever. Bo-ring.

Alan Siegel, writing in Boston Magazine (2013):
The Boston sports media, once considered one of the country's best and most influential press corps, is stumbling toward irrelevance. To put it bluntly, [the Boston sports media] is clogged with stale reporters, crotchety columnists, and shameless blowhards. ... [T]here's a conspicuous lack of creative analysis, which is compounded by the local media's apparent allergy to the type of advanced statistics that other outlets have used to shine new, interesting light on old sports.
I do not have the ability to watch the Red Sox pre- or post-game shows, but Jere does. And he often tweets about the negative spin - sometimes subtle, sometimes overt - on just about anything the Red Sox do:
May 22: Steve Lyons just said, "you gotta be a little bit worried that the only reason [the Red Sox] score runs is because someone hits a HR." Classic Boston media: "You shitty (division-winning) 2017 team, you don't hit HRs!" "You shitty (first place) 2018 team, all you do is hit HRs!"

May 24: TC was saying "believe me, if they had lost, we'd have spent a LOT of time on this play." Almost like a "you're on notice" thing. But they don't need that, all they need is a player getting a funny haircut or doing too many push-ups or whatever ...

June 7: I stopped reading 108 Stitches when it turned into the "here's the latest Cafardo/Shaughnessey article" report. But after skimming the subject line each day, I went back and found the following awesome phrases. (These are from JUST subject lines!) Keep in mind, the Sox are 43-19.

July 12: Boston writers: Maybe just once write about tonight's amazing moment at Fenway. Don't preface it with your backhanded bullshit like "they weren't likeable until this moment" or "the fans HATED the Red Sox except for this one time." Just describe what you saw ... Will this shit EVER end?
No. ... Or maybe when the dinosaurs finally retire, their replacements will be people who grew up on these "new ways" to think about the game and have little or no reason to shove a "gloom-and-doom" mindset down the throats of their readers and listeners. Maybe.

Steve Buckley's column on Monday was headlined: "There's A Lot Of Character In These Play Ball! Red Sox". However, his main point was: "The 2018 Red Sox have zero characters."
At 68-30, the Red Sox have the best record in baseball. ...

And yet it's funny: The Red Sox don't shake the room as they did in days of old, with Big Papi's bombast, Ramirez' goofiness, Pedro Martinez' swagger.

They just go out and . . . win.
Could someone please point out the "funny" to me?

Buckley complained that Mookie Betts's level-headed comments about his increased popularity are "the equivalent of eating all his vegetables and finishing his homework". Again, leaving the media to report on the games is not what the media wants.

(Also: Is it a requirement that any pop culture reference used by a sportswriter be wildly out-dated? Buckley checks that box when he gets all hip by referring to a movie from 35 years ago: "Tom Cruise may have had all the right moves, but Mookie Betts says all the right things." (Only one player on the Red Sox 25-man roster was alive when that movie was released. Steve Pearce was a six-month-old baby. Rafael Devers's parents were probably in the first or second grade!))

I want to point out - even if it is buried towards the end of this post - that there are exceptions. Alex Speier seems is relentlessly curious and driven by a real love of the game. I have always liked Michael Silverman and Sean McAdam. I'm sure there are others about which I am unaware.

Buckley seems sad when he closes by saying that the 2018 Red Sox don't have Pedro "talking about drilling the Bambino" or Kevin Millar "talking about downing pregame shots" or David Ortiz "complain[ing] about a scorekeeper's pen stroke that cost him" an RBI. These are all presumably cool things in Buckley's mind now, but back then, Ortiz was ripped as "selfish" and no writer praised Millar for pouring whiskey before playoff games.

Interestingly, in August 2003, a Daily News article reported that Millar was "keeping a list of writers who disparaged the team." I mentioned this in my very first post on this blog!
Now this is what the players should have been doing for at least the last 3 seasons. Identify the a-holes and simply shut them out, and give the fair and balanced© writers a scoop or two. That way, you punish the idiots, you show that being an objective journalist has its rewards and the players can still connect with the fans through the daily papers.
But I never heard about Millar's "list" again.

Buckley did grudgingly admit that the Red Sox do have a 68-30 record, "so there's that".

Treating how the Red Sox do on the field as an afterthought, as some sort of consolation prize. Silly me, I thought it was the whole point.


SJJ said...


Zenslinger said...

"A circus is easier to cover than a seminar." That's a nice, sharp metaphor.

I can avoid CHB and Cafardo, but it's true that a "oh shit, this is why you should be worried" was very prevalent in 108 Stitches.