The other day, Buster Olney over at ESPN.com (and their television station) "broke" a story that the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies were having "internal discussions" concerning swapping the two players in a trade. Since then, Mr. Olney has been under fire for reporting a supposed "non-story." His blog on Tuesday continued to defend the story and its commenters were particularly vicious in response. If you are an "Insider" at ESPN.com* then click this link to read the blog entry.
*Doing the Posnanski asterisk thing: The "Insider" moniker is killer marketing-speak. Everyone wants to be an insider right? The marketing is brilliant because it speaks to the desire many of us have to be part of the "in" crowd. Brilliant.
Anyway, here is the Fan's take on the whole thing. The Fan would bet that many of the comments were from bloggers who really envy the job Mr. Olney (or any of his cohorts) have. Imagine getting paid to write about baseball and be given the carte blanche to talk to people in the game that we love s much! Of course we all want that job. But Mr. Olney has it. So when any crack appears in his writing, the wannabe crowd goes wild with abandon.
Not that this Fan is immune to envy, and not that this space hasn't devoted any time to Mr. Olney's writing in the past, but a blogger should put any kind of pride off to the side when evaluating such things. Otherwise, we come off as unprofessional when it is our goal to be professional alternatives to pay sites that report the news.
It has been noted in this space that Mr. Olney can be a bit sanctimonious. His dictums on steroid users are notorious. He is a black and white guy from Vermont who has a bit of Norman Rockwell in his psyche. The Fan gets that. Unfortunately, there is little in this world that is black and white. Gray abounds everywhere. Judge for example, when many folks in this country are struggling like crazy, the former Cheers actress is getting paid for yet another reality program because she again put on a bunch of weight. That's pretty gray right there.
And the steroids issue will never be a black and white subject. It will be debated until the cows come home (Egads! A cliche!). The only black and white seems to be that many journalists like Mr. Olney will preach against the people known to have used and the fans will continue to not care a whit or at most, will give the known users a pass because so many used that will never get caught.
But this issue at hand is a tricky one. What exactly is news? Is a bunch of golfers speculating on when Tiger Woods will return to the PGA Tour news or is it only news when an official announcement is made that he is returning at the Masters? Depends on your interest threshold, the Fan imagines.
So is it news that internally, the Cardinals and the Phillies "thinktanked" such a deal? Or is it news only when the trade actually happens? Mr. Olney explained that it is news because it was indeed talked about and that the internal talks included such big stars. That would not be the case on the thousands of other internal discussions such as would Ceasar Izturis be a better fit for a team than Macir Izturis. Fair enough. Though some would seem interested in the smallest detail of such internal workings. The Fan would be interested in how those things worked.
So the bashing of Mr. Olney seems a bit unfair as his argument is fair enough. The discussions did take place and they involved two of the biggest names in the sport. Some of the more polite comments also have a point that needless pain and indigestion can occur when speculation becomes the news. Got that point too.
Mr. Olney's blog is entertaining and useful for the links he includes (maybe someday the Fan might see his name in there) and he is an earnest and thoughtful scribe. That is appreciated almost as much as him actually giving us something to read on the weekends when all other writers take them off (why exactly? - it's not like it's overly taxing work, no?). This Fan is glad Mr. Olney is around, warts and all.