Monday, July 23, 2007

HuffPo Hackery

The Huffington Post's designated sports blogger Sarah Schorno describes herself as "marginally qualified to write about sports and the social issues it encompasses." Based on this piece about "misbehavior within the major sports leagues," that's being a bit generous.

Her first observation -- that rather than register surprise at the NBA ref scandal, people were more likely to wonder which ref it actually was -- appears to have been lifted from Bill Simmons earlier column on the subject. You can't say it's plagiarism, however, because Schorno doesn't even bother to develop the thought beyond its mere utterance, rendering it impossible to determine whether she has an original thought on the subject.

Maybe that's for the best, however, because the results are much worse when she actually does attempt to go beyond a glib, derivative observation:

Major League Baseball didn't start taking notice of their own steroids problem until federal investigators got involved. Barry Bonds continued to get unnaturally bigger and hit more and more homeruns, [sic] yet MLB commissioner Bud Selig turned his head. It wasn't until outside sources revealed the BALCO scandal and a federal grand jury got involved that Stern [sic] decided to start making statements.


Really? No one noticed when Ken Caminiti admitted to using steroids and called out half the league in May 2002? No one noticed when Jose Canseco announced his book deal two weeks later? Does Schorno not know that the players and owners agreed in late 2002 for survey testing to begin, which, while flawed, did serve as a precursor to the current testing regime? Does she also not know that in November 2003 -- over a year before BALCO broke -- the survey tests that came back triggered actual random testing beginning in 2004?

I don't offer this to suggest that baseball has acted proactively with respect to steroids. Far from it. However, to suggest, like Schorno does, that steroids were ignored by baseball prior to the FBI knocking down the front doors of BALCO is simply not accurate. Though it would take BALCO and an embarrassing day in front of a congressional committee for baseball to get serious about the penalties for steroid use, there was certainly an acknowledgment of the problem at least year before BALCO broke, and even earlier in some quarters.

And even still [Selig] hasn't made any disciplinary decisions. He's taking the easy way out by waiting for the grand jury to make an indictment before taking a stance while Bonds inches closer to breaking baseball's biggest record. Had Selig been paying attention long before, he could have handled the investigation within the league and made a disciplinary decision himself. What happened instead was an embarrassment to baseball.

This is utter bullshit. Selig -- or those acting on his behalf -- have suspended dozens of players under the league's anti-steroid policy. Even though all reasonable people assume Barry Bonds took steroids, he has never failed a drug test for them. The hypothetical indictment of which she speaks would be for perjury, not steroids, and she fails to articulate what, exactly, Selig is supposed to do about players who commit perjury. Even if she had bothered to make a case for Selig policing perjury cases involving his players, I'm at a loss as to why his failure to do so at this point is "an embarrassment" when the U.S. Attorney, a grand jury, and the FBI have yet to find enough evidence to do anything about it themselves.

Schorno is like every other hack journalist out there who believes that the issue of steroids in baseball begins and ends with Barry Bonds, with its impact being felt only as far as the record book. If you see it that way, yes, you are going to be inclined to call Selig a failure, because you are judging his performance by a metric -- how he deals with pre-2004 steroid use in unknowable amounts by an unknowable amount of players -- against which failure is certain. It's a hack's game because it's easy and shallow and eschews discussion of the relevant issues related to performance enhancing drugs in baseball, such as their adverse health effects and the incentives that still remain in place for players -- typically the marginal ones -- to continue to risk such effects, not to mention suspension.

But perhaps the best evidence of Schorno's hackery comes when she, quite predictably, praises the NFL for keeping its house in better order than MLB:

The NFL's commissioner Roger Goodell, while not popular for his strict discipline, is at least taking steps to keep the players and coaches under control. As a second year commissioner he has some inconsistencies to iron out, but the other league heads could take a lesson from his courage to take a stand.

It doesn't require much in the way of courage nor does it constitute "taking a stand" to suspend a player who has been arrested for multiple violent offenses in a span of less than two years, or another for a spectacular violation of probation involving multiple assault weapons and gangland acquaintances who wind up dead two days later. Indeed, the very need to have to take such stands may lead some people to conclude, contrary to Schorno, that the NFL does not, in fact, have its house in such goddamn good order. At the very least, I'd invite Schorno to compare apples to apples and explain why she thinks -- as I assume she does -- the NFL's record on steroids, both past and present, is so much better than Major League Baseball's.

And if and when you do, Sarah, don't forget to include the corpses.

16 comments:

Kevin said...

It's also worth noting that in the first excerpt she refers to baseball's commissioner as Stern.

Diesel said...

Well said.

Jon Pyle said...

Shyster,
Disagreeing with someone is one thing, critiquing someone's work is another, but calling Sarah a hack is petty. She's far from that and as someone that's read her blog daily and worked with her directly, I feel qualified to say that. Have you even read her other work?

Not only are you wrong, attacking another blogger reeks of pretentiousness and douchebaggery. You're a good writer, you don't need to resort to flaming for a good post.

theoriginaljd said...

I believe when Sarah claimed that major league baseball did not begin to take notice of steroids until the FBI got involved she doesn't mean that Selig and Co. never knew about steroids. You reference the Caminiti and Canseco incidents but do you remember what happened when those cases came up? I seem to recall both of them being blasted as overinflating the numbers, and as being disgruntled ex-players who were trying to bring down baseball by creating stories that would make the game and Selig look bad.

It wasn't until some reporters got ahold of some leaked Grand Jury testimony (including confessions by Gary Sheffield, Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi that they had in fact used steroids) that major league baseball determined it might be time to take a harder stance on the issue.

You can talk about how the testing was in place in 2002 - and yeah sending Manny Alexander on an extended vacation was a big powerplay by the commissioners office but just knowing something is happening, and actually doing something to stop it is two different things.

You're right the story doesn't begin and end with Bonds and the record book. However, when minor league guys and insignificant bench players are the only ones being caught by the MLB testing policy - I have a hard time believing that it's very effective.

It's true - steroids were not ignored prior to the BALCO incident. Then again I know that Lisa at the massage parlor goes by Lee during the week but until someone catches me in the act I'll keep going to see her.

Looking the other way is not necessarily ignoring something. But like Sarah said - and I agree with her on this one - it wasn't until the FBI started knocking on some doors that major league baseball made a concerted effort to clean up the game. Just ask Sammy Sosa how that year off was last season - you can find him behind the bleachers taking a "B-12" shot in the ass.

Doberman on the Diamond said...

The thing about your laughably inconsistent rant is that you contradict yourself:

"I'm at a loss as to why Selig's failure to do so at this point is 'an embarrassment' when the U.S. Attorney, a grand jury, and the FBI have yet to find enough evidence to do anything about it themselves."

Then, your mouthbreathing article says this:

"It doesn't require much in the way of courage nor does it constitute 'taking a stand' to suspend a player who has been arrested for multiple violent offenses in a span of less than two years"

First of all, you're wrong about Jones. He was arrested for one violent crime in two years, a felony assault. In his other "assault", a misdemeanor, he was arrested for was spitting on someone. Not violence. He has not been arrested in connection to the strip club incident. So, get your facts right.

Second - You defend Selig for not having done anything to Bonds because the FBI have "yet to have found enough evidence" to do so, then say Goodell was right to suspend Jones even though he has yet to be convicted of anything at all. So, the evidence hasn't done much against him, has it?

You're not a media critic, but your blog reads like it. Shyster is an appropriate name in that regard. Then again, with your involvement with the incredible douchebags at the Baseball Think Factory, that doesn't surprise me

The Ghosts of Wayne Fontes said...

Personally, I thought it read more like like a lease. I lost interest by the third paragraph.

I guess I'm biased, but I feel that attacking other bloggers is just a pathetic attempt at gaining traffic, b/c you can't get it yourself.

Shyster said...

Jon,

Before writing this post, I went and read several of Schorno's blog posts, both on HuffPo and on her own blogs. I didn't intend for this piece to be a blanket criticism of all of her work (my opinions of her other work aren't relevant), but the fact is that this piece in particular was sloppy and not well-reasoned, and I stand by my criticisms of it. In an of itself the piece is hackery, no matter what Schorno's normal standard of quality. The opinions contained therein are no different than the hack opinions in so many pieces by poor writers who wail about Bonds and steroids because, well, they won't tell us why exactly.

Being the latest echo of a vast echo chamber does not, in my opinion, entitle one to praise. Add something new to the argument. Explain what, exactly, Selig was supposed to do about all of this a few years ago. Schorno does none of that, and I think it worth commenting on.

Shyster said...

OriginalJD:

Unless you have a basis for thinking that the testing was a sham pre-BALCO, you can't contend that baseball was looking the other way. The testing regime was in place then. As I admit in the piece, baseball got stricter with the penalties post-BALCO, but the testing was there. Anyone who knows about the historic stubborness of the player's union on testing, and who knows just how damn contentious the summer 2002 CBA negotiations were, should know how much effort it took on MLB's part to get that testing passed and approved.

Did they do everything they could when they could? Of course not. Is it fair to compare baseball's steroids problem to the NBA ref scandal? No way, nor is it accurate to say that it took law enforcement to get MLB's attention.

Shyster said...

Doberman:

You're right. Pacman is a saint. It was certainly brave and proactive for Goodell to suspend him for his participation in the incident that left someone paralyzed. They should all get medals of freedom.

dswinder said...

"Schorno is like every other hack journalist"

I'm just going to leave this mirror here...Get it back to me when you're done with it...

Sooze said...

Shyster, would you care to expand on your most recent comment? I sensed a hint of sarcasm, but I'm not really sure.

P.S. Don't lawyers have more important and better-paying things to do than attack a blogger's matter of opinion?

Just a thought.

Shyster said...

Sooze --

Everyone is entitled to a hobby.

With Malice said...

"...the best evidence of Schorno's hackery comes when she, quite predictably.."
Then...
"I didn't intend for this piece to be a blanket criticism of all of her work"

Errr... isn't asserting that someone's a 'hack' making "blanket criticism" of someone's writing?

@the ghosts of wayne fontes - well he's certainly getting the traffic, not sure it's the stuff he wants tho'.

Shyster, the only thing this 'rant' (does it even rate as a 'rant'?) achieves (for me) is that I'll add Sarah's blog to my blogroll. Now.

Shyster said...

@ with malice (and others):

"Shyster, the only thing this 'rant' (does it even rate as a 'rant'?) achieves (for me) is that I'll add Sarah's blog to my blogroll. Now. "

Seeing how every single negative comment to this article comes from someone from the Epic Carnival crew, I'd be surprised if Schorno wasn't already on all of your blog rolls.

Guys -- Love your stuff (for the most part) and love it anytime sports bloggers get together to build something like Epic Carnival. It's good for the blogoshpere.

But seriously -- the pack mentality and name calling seems a bit juvenile. Based on what I've seen of all of your blogs, none of you have a shortage of opinions. How about instead of circling the wagons and hurling insults when someone criticizes them, you offer a defense of those opinions instead?

Just a thought.

Doberman on the Diamond said...

I did that, Shyster. And you went to the typical "Pac Man is a saint" defense, when I called you on your contradiction. As such, there is far more evidence of Bonds doing roids (including his admittance of "unknowingly" using the cream and clear) than there is of Pac Man's involvement in the shooting spree. We know Pac Man made it rain and might have fought someone. But nothing further.

Shyster said...

Doberman,

Calling the BTF folks douchebags for no apparant reason provides a strong incentive to ignore you. That said, you did provide some arguement, and your point is taken.

I don't think anyone who is sane is suggesting that Bonds didn't do roids. Yes, there are Bonds apologists out there (many at BTF, in fact) but for the most part they base their defense on "other people were doing it to" or some other principal rather than a silly "he didn't do it and you can't prove he did" argument. While we do know he has never tested positive and that complicates baseball's ability to discipline him, it takes a real moron to honestly say he didn't use.

I don't undersand the defense of Pacman, especially the "nothing further" comment. His rap sheet has the following (from wiki):

July 2005: arrested for assault and felnoy vandalism; he was previously on probation in WV for something else

September 2005: police called when he disrupts a lunch banquet (no arrest);

October 2005: complaint filed in WV for him failing to contract his probation officer and failing to disclose the July arrest;

November 2005: arrested for disorderly conduct and public intoxication; pleads guilty or no contest (can't tell) and is given more probation;

October 2006: cited for misdemeanor assault for spitting on someone, and subsequently booked for it in November;

February 2007: the Vegas thing. No charges yet, but he's obviously involved on some level and it has been a serious black eye for the team and league.

There are other incidents as well as suggestions that he may have gambling trouble.