Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pujols right about the sad state of journalism

In a roundly-criticized exclusive story, ESPN's Buster Olney reported that the Phillies have held internal discussions about the possibility of swapping All-Star/MVP first basemen Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols. The story has a lot of people upset, including Pujols, who, without naming Olney, criticized stupid people who like to write stories that aren't true and are always trying to speculate and start a story so they can say that they had it first.

Pujols is angry, for sure, but his comments are remarkably insightful and an accurate reflection of the sad state of journalism, including sports journalism. This is the type of story that happens when sportswriters face too much pressure from their editors, publishers and yes, their readers, to come up with instant scoops. So you end up with overworked, underpaid reporters desperately trying to find something, anything, remotely newsworthy to file.

Teams have internal discussions about pretty much every aspect of their operations and roster, much of it speculative as staffers are encouraged to throw out any and all ideas to improve their ballclubs. So it is entirely possible that the Phillies tossed around the idea of trading for Pujols. That discussion could have easily happened in the offices of the New York Yankees or any other baseball team. Really, who wouldn't want Pujols, widely considered to be one of the best, if not the best player in the game today? But that doesn't mean the Phillies actually took any action. It just means they talked about it. And if they didn't take any steps toward making it a reality, such as a conversation to feel out the Cardinals on a possible trade, then it's a non-story.

Olney is a very good sports reporter and writer (he used to cover the Yankees for the New York Times) so I don't doubt that there is some truth to his story, even if the Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. denied it. But Olney himself has become a major part of the story, something no journalist wants. This could even hurt him going forward in his reporting, not only with Pujols and the Cardinals, but with any baseball people salivating at the prospect of Pujols hitting the free-agent market.

If a Pujols for Howard trade actually happens, Olney will be vindicated. But right now, he finds himself in a bad place, right in the middle of this story.

Thanks to Rafael Amado Deras via Wikipedia for the photo.

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