Baseball and the Media: How Fans Lose in Today's Coverage of the Game

By George Castle | Go to book overview

EIGHT
All the News That's Not Fit to Print

“Number twenty-one is the biggest asshole in baseball.” That evaluation from a source inside the Cubs clubhouse at midsummer 2004 did it for me. I had to write a lengthy feature about the increasingly fractious relationship between slugger Sammy Sosa and manager Dusty Baker and his coaching staff. I had remembered a former Cub, known as a good citizen in baseball, remarking a year before that Sosa “was the worst teammate you could possibly have.”

I approached another Cubs source, who confirmed my suspicions that the slumping Sosa did not want to be moved down in the batting order and resisted moving closer to the plate. He described Sosa as “sensitive and selfish.” A catcher with another National League team then confirmed that he no longer had to “bust Sosa inside” and instead called for pitches off the outside corner, which Sosa could scarcely reach from his outer-limits batting stance.

The end result, displayed on the front sports page of the Times of Northwest Indiana, featured only one on-the-record comment— from Sosa himself. The subject was such a lightning rod—the fall of Chicago's greatest modern-day baseball idol—that anonymity had to be guaranteed to get the information needed. A week later, the Sosa issue blew up publicly and raged through his eventual trade to the Baltimore Orioles the following February.

The manner in which the Sosa story was assembled tapped into the accepted manner in which “inside-baseball” tales are now crafted by the media in far greater quantity than during the mid-twentieth century. The basic tenet is there's no such thing as a free lunch in obtaining such information.

An intricate web of relationships, quid pro quos, understanding

-101-

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