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

By George Castle | Go to book overview

TWELVE
No-Shows in the Press Box
and Clubhouse

Starting about 1990, the same complaint repeatedly was uttered, whether by players I regularly covered or those visiting Chicago. You'd be deaf, dumb, and blind if you didn't spot the trend.

Covered every day by newspaper beat writers, Major Leaguers were upset that these same publications' sports columnists would rarely come down to the clubhouse, if they even showed up at the ballpark in the first place. Yet at the same time, the columnists were offering critiques of individuals and teams without doing any necessary background information, without talking to any of the parties firsthand.

The complaints then shifted to a new genre of commentator as the 1990s wore on: radio sports-talk-show hosts. While more columnists were spotted here and there, only a small fraction of airwaves gabbers bothered to show their faces in press boxes and clubhouses, even though they usually did not put in a full eight hours at the office, factoring in their three- or four-hour broadcast shifts and “show prep time.”

“There's no question that players get upset when criticized by people who aren't around,” said Drew Olson, former baseball writer with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “The 'hit and run' method employed by many columnists and most talk-radio hosts probably has played a role in eroding some players' relationships with the media.”

And as a new century really got rolling, the two genres merged, almost akin to a cross-pollination of media. Image-hungry sportstalk stations and ESPN began hiring the top columnists in major cities to handle either daily three- or four-hour radio shows or video shoutfests. A few, like the Chicago Sun-Times's JayMariotti, did all

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