Monday, January 03, 2011

Boston and Baseball: A New Standard in Homerism

If you like to follow Twitter, there was quite a buzz going around about this article from Eric Ortiz, the senior editor for NESN. For those of you who don't know, NESN stands for New England Sports Network and is the host of the Boston Red Sox. If you don't want to read the article linked above, the crux is that the 2011 Red Sox should win 112 games and could be a greater team than the 1927 Yankees. Yes, the article literally said that.

The flack Mr. Ortiz is experiencing is an interesting dilemma. Networks like NESN for the Red Sox, YES for the Yankees, TBS for the Braves and others represent and sell those team brands. A certain amount of "homerism" (a non-word that means rooting for the home team) is expected. Broadcasts of games root for the home team and live and die with the results on the field. That is to be expected. But you also expect a bit of reserve since these networks are, after all, news outlets as well. They all have sport shows that cover the wide range of sports alongside others that feature the home teams. So where is the line?

Most people think Eric Ortiz crossed the line. And this Fan can't argue. Any piece that optimistic written without a single game yet played in the 2011 season is a bit over the top. If Oritz was simply a staff writer for NESN and the piece was listed as an opinion piece (or propaganda if you will), then perhaps that can be acceptable. But Ortiz is the senior editor at NESN...that's what the piece tells us at the bottom. A senior editor should at least stick to some sort of editorial standards.

The comments to his post are hysterical and that's got to be an embarrassment to NESN. The fact that the post was put up on New Years Day led many to assume Ortiz was drunk when he wrote it. Ouch. Others mentioned that Ortiz gave locker room fodder for opposing teams. The Fan doesn't put much stock in that as players and managers pay attention to what other players and managers say and not so much what a writer will say.

The tone of writing seems different this off season. Most baseball fans understand that the off season is about making your home team as competitive as possible but also that the proof in the pudding will be when the games are actually played on the field. But many Yankee writers and blogs have already written off the Yankees this year while many other mainstream writers have already written the Red Sox and Phillies into the World Series. This Fan doesn't ever recall such nonsense before.

The proper take is that the Red Sox and Phillies have greatly improved their teams and their chances at competing in the coming season. The rest is up to chance and the eventual outcomes. A lot can happen between here and October. In much the same way, this Fan doesn't take much stock in projections that will begin to appear from organizations like CHONE and Baseball Prospectus. They are fun to contemplate, but again, the season is a long one and a lot can happen. Some time in March, the Fan will make his yearly predictions. Only about a third of them will come true, just like always. Derek Jeter might get to 3,000 hits by June says Buster Olney, but the truth is that Jeter could get hurt (God Forbid). One never knows.

Eric Ortiz crossed the line. If he is going to post such a "homeristic" piece, he should get his own blog and not use his lofty perch at such a large and influential media outlet to publish such...uhh...stuff. He made NESN a laughingstock and that's never a good thing. Rooting for the home team and building a team's brand is part of what a team-owned network should do. But if they insist on also being a news outlet, they need to be much more careful in what they put out there for the world to see.

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