Scenes from Spring Training: We hate your favorite team
I ate that thing pictured to the right last night. It’s a chilaquiles verde, and yeah it has a fried egg on top. Between that and the In-N-Out the other night I realize I’m going to die soon, but it’s worth it. I’ve lived a good life.
Dinner last night was with Keith Law of ESPN and Jonah Keri of Grantland. You can probably guess the reason for our dinner meeting: to plan this year’s strategy of hating your team and cultivating our overall biases in such a way as to be unfair in anything we write. It’s a pretty good system, actually: Keith handles the prospects and postseason awards voting bias, Jonah handles the long form, in-depth team-specific bias and I handle the day-to-day bias. Summit meetings are great.
But I did have some actually serious thoughts about bias yesterday. It came after I interviewed Orlando Hudson. He, like Torii Hunter the day before, was so nice and so accommodating, making what for me is kind of a nerve-inducing task -- interviewing someone -- much, much easier. When I left their presence each time I thought “man, what a great guy.”
But then I thought “now that I’ve had a nice personal interaction with them, if one of those guys did something bone-headed or worthy of criticism, I wonder if I’d go after him the way I go after someone else.”
This thought matched up with what I’ve heard and observed while in the presence of beat writers over the years. Most of them -- even the best of them whose writing never seems to be infected with any kind of bias at all -- talk openly about who is nice, who is surly, who makes time for interviews, who gives you good quotes, who tries to be a wise ass and all manner of thing that affects only how easy it is for the reporter to do his job. How can those considerations not color the coverage? It has to, right? Even a little, even on an unconscious level?
All of which makes me question -- as I think I do every year around this time -- the nature of baseball writing and the desirability of access. I like going into the clubhouse and sitting in the press box some because (a) it’s cool; and (b) I feel like I should at least have some presence and accountability given how often I rip people.
But I don’t think I’d be able to do the sort of writing I do while working as close to ballplayers as the beat guys do. And if I were running a newspaper’s sports section, I’d think hard about how deep into the clubhouse I’d want my columnists and opinion writers to be, lest they pull punches in the same way I, even after five minutes around them, worry that I might pull my punches regarding Torii Hunter or Orlando Hudson.
Anyway: off to Goodyear today to visit the Cleveland Indians and to take in the Angels-Indians game.