Among certain of my friends, the phenomenon of “Sarah’s Angry Emails” is not unknown. Something sets me off (usually involving politics, sports, ex-boyfriends, feminism, a particular downstairs neighbor, or some combination thereof) and before I can stop myself, I’ve seized my keyboard and pounded out a single-spaced screed. This happened recently in regard to a post I wrote that got picked up by Deadspin (always interesting, the folks that wander over here from Deadspin). Only instead of Sarah’s Angry Email, it was Sarah’s Angry Blog Comment, and instead of going only to an ex-boyfriend/my e-mail drafts folder/the spam filter of one of these columnists, it ended up on the Interwebs for all to see.

Though the ranting began because of a particularly limp Bob Ryan column, the weakness rampant throughout sports journalism had actually been a topic of discussion between Nick and myself for some time. (And of course, it’s been a frequent topic on UmpBump is well, thanks to the provocations of Murray Chass, Jay Mariotti and other MSM folks and their questionable writings or uninspiring broadcasts.) So after a recent spate of emailing between us, Nick and I decided what the heck, let’s post this private conversation and open it up for public comment.

In this case, it began not with baseball but with the “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” columns of Gregg Easterbrook, better known for his political reportage.

Sarah to Nick:

1. Easterbrook writes inflammatory, hearsay-imbued screed on the Patriots and videogate.

2. Easterbrook does it again, with even more paranoia.

3. Then the ombud calls him out.

4. But he continues with the general theme anyway.

The most annoying thing about the last piece is that having been chastened by the ombud, he seems to be using code phrasing, with the overused word “creepy” standing in for “I assume they are still cheating but I have no proof, so I am not legally allowed to write that, so I will just call them creepy, wink wink, nudge nudge.”

Nick to Sarah:

Yeah, all this is pretty bad. But worst of all, these are just boring, over-long, poorly written articles that are really hard to get through. More than ever these days, I find myself enraged by the fact that all these idiots get to keep their jobs forever in some sort of weird tenure system that is far more unfair than the unversity one ever was.

Part of it is “articles” like these, part of it is having to listen to Tim McCarver for yet another postseason despite the fact that he is terrible and everyone hates him, and and a big part of it is that the Dodgers just extended the contracts of announcers Rick Monday and Charlie Steiner, who are two of the most inarticulate broadcasters in all of sports. I mean, I have at least heard some people who like McCarver, but I have never in my entire life heard anyone say a good word about Monday or Steiner – they are openly mocked in the LA Newspapers and radio shows, and when they are on the radio I never even know what the score or the count is. Who makes these decisions, and what planet are they on?


Sarah to Nick:

And the more I think about the people who commented on my post defending Bob Ryan’s inalienable right to “mail it in,” the more angry it makes me! I mean, in Boston, Manny Ramirez gets ripped for not running hard on every ball, right? And among those ripping him are the sports journalists! But it’s okay for those same journalists to slack off every now and then because they are “legends”?? That’s just such hypocrisy. Manny Ramirez is a #$%^&@! legend!!!! Raaaaah!

I would hope if I ever wrote something so terrible, my editor would just tell me. It’s like how Britney Spears needs a friend who is willing to say, “Yes, Brit, that outfit does make you look fat.” The rest of Ryan’s column, as I recall, wasn’t even *bad.* Why couldn’t his editor just be like, “Bob, this first part? You need to re-write that.” Probably because Bob Ryan has been there longer than the editor….sigh indeed.

I was thinking about what I consider must-read sportswriting. And I realized that none of the newspaper columnists make that list. Bill Simmons is always fun. Verducci is always interesting. And the Baseball Prospectus guys are always informative. But though I read the Globe sports pages religiously, I really only read the reported articles with any attention (especially Gordon Edes and the Sunday Baseball Notes, which Peter Gammons pioneered, and which is eerily blog-like in its presentation—-it was way ahead of its time, and Gammons continues to do fine work; now there’s a legend) . I might skim Ryan and Shaugnessy to see what they’re up to, but that’s it. It’s sad.

Nick to Sarah:

Sportswriting today is just so mediocre (when it’s not downright terrible) compared to the past. The same goes for sportscasting. I mean, I know people are always saying the past was better than the present, but I don’t think I’m being hopelessly nostalgic. You can read the stuff written on baseball back in the day by Red Smith or Grantland Rice or Roger Khan or pretty much anyone, and it was so much better than the stuff today.

So. Much.

I mean, Roger Khan was just the beat reporter for the third best paper in New York, but he was great. Back then the sole criterion was that you could write really really well. Now the criteria seem to be many and sundry – pretty much everything *except* that you can write better than anyone else around. And sportscasting – is there any young sportscaster in the Majors today who even has a chance of becoming anywhere close to something like a Vin Scully?

I mean, the problem is more than just blocking young guys with old people who refuse to retire or die. It’s that even the young people they hire are just not all that articulate. They’d rather hire former players than people who can put words together. As a fan, I want to hear people describe sports in ways that make the game more meaningful and more poignant. I don’t care if John Kruk or Eric Karros or Dave Justice or whoever it was really played the game. Who cares, if all they can spout are meaningless cliches?

I think the real problem in sports reporting these days, and in other areas of journalism, is that it’s so ratings driven, and the ratings are measured over such short periods. So even if you know some young person is a great writer or a great broadcaster, the problem is, they are not famous *yet*. And nobody is willing to give these young people two or three or 5 years to get famous while their ratings or subscriptions or whatever are declining. So they’d rather play it safe and keep a senile Big Name til he’s 92 because he’s already famous rather than turning it over to a young person who can write 10 times better but who nobody has heard of yet. There’s no patience.

Sarah to Nick:

I just thought of another must-read for the list. Somewhat ironically, FireJoeMorgan.

Nick to Sarah:

I was just thinking of FJM just now when you were asking who are the good sportswriters of today! Ken Tremendous is tremendous.

UPDATE Nick to Sarah:

Actually, you know who is my new favorite sportswriter? Deadspin’s own Will Leitch. I started reading these little mini-columns he writes for the New York Times, and they were all so good, I couldn’t stop reading them until I got to the bottom of the whole page and it was nearly 2 am here in Yokohama.

Man, THIS is what Murray Chass is blocking? I weep for the world.

No one is saying that certain announcers or columnists are bad people. I think they’re all basically decent human beings. (Except maybe Gregg Easterbrook, and even he isn’t a total ass, just slightly douchey.) And we could go on forever about the “macro” reasons for this trend of sucktitude. And heck, maybe to some out there, UmpBump is certainly no better, and possibly even worse. But at least we don’t get paid for writing this crap.

16 Responses to “Dialogue or diatribe? You decide!”

  1. Urgh.

    The most demoralizing part was watching all the fans begin to file out of the ballpark as the runs mounted. I have never seen Fenway so empty during a game as in the bottom of the eleventh. You got the sense that even if there had been a rally, the black cloud of despair would have crushed it.

    Also, the game didn’t end until almost 2 am.

    Whoever decided on an 820pm start time needs to be nutpunched. Repeatedly.

  2. Good stuff. Mets’ fans like myself have it good, as Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez work very well together. Gary was much better when he was on the radio, though.

    The big six-foot-five right-hander looks in the for the sign. He shakes it off. Now he’s got one he likes. He toes the rubber, looking to his left at the runner at first. Now he’s ready. He winds, kicks and delivers. It’s a slider, low and away. The count is two-and-two.

    That’s all I ask for. I don’t need to have sabermetrics or anything. I just want some people who are seriously good at their jobs and haven’t had it handed to them by some bizarre system of entitlement.

  3. Alejandro Leal says:

    How meta… a picture of the newspaper in which your column is published, on the blog where you write about sports writing, in which you’ve linked to the electronic version of your column…

  4. Sarah Green says:

    I couldn’t resist! One of my coworkers went to ALCS Game 7 (she actually won that chance-to-buy-tickets lottery that the Sox have—this gives me hope for future postseasons) and that was the day that my column ran in GameDay. So she took this picture, and now I feel like I was almost there!

  5. Sarah Green says:

    Oh, and Blastings, yes…Red Sox fans are lucky too. Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy are not only very good, they have great chemistry together. I frequently end up laughing out loud (with them, not at them) while also learning new things over the course of the season. And actually, just watching the pre-game commentary before Game 2 of the Series, I have to say I was mightily impressed with the commentary of Eric Byrnes. Sure, I was comparing him with Kevin Kennedy, Jeanne Zelasko, and that guy with the lisp and the hair plugs, and sure, my expectations were extremely low, but I thought Byrnes did a good job. After he’s done with the whole left fielder thing, he should give broadcasting a chance. He certainly has the hair gel for it.

  6. Alejandro Leal says:

    I dunno… I think Byrnes is trying too damn hard. But I must say, he\’s at least tolerable… unlike a certain Taco-Bell-promo-announcing woman… man, i hate her…

  7. Sarah Green says:

    Yes Leal, your disdain for Zelasko is well-documented. I don’t think she adds anything, but at least she doesn’t say things like, and I quote, “After you drop the bat, base-running is the most important factor in determining whether you will score.” What does that even mean?? Thank you, Tim McCarver! I mean, it’s like they’re just talking and not thinking. The brain and the mouth are not connected.

    But Byrnes….I dunno. He had interesting things to say! I felt edumacated.

  8. For my money, there is no better entertainment than Eric Byrnes in a kayak in McCovey Cove with his dog.

  9. Also, the Mets’ broadcasters and in particular Kieth Hernandez are only enjoyable if you’re a Mets fan. Their homerism goes way beyond what is normal and acceptable.

  10. Coley, I have to disagree to a certain extent. Obviously, Mets broadcasts are targetted for Mets fans. So yes, Keith and Ron Darling are going to spend time talking about their experiences as players on the Mets, and Gary Cohen grew up a Mets fan, which doesn’t interest many people aside from their fanbase.

    But do you actually listen to the things Keith says? I’m not saying that he has neutral interest in the team’s success (he obviously wants them to do well), but he is very critical in comparison to other broadcasters. Down the stretch, he pretty much said flat out on air that the Mets were mailing it in. He doesn’t try at all to make players seem better than they are. But he picks them apart.

    Check this article:

    Basically, you need to give rival broadcasters a break. No Philly fan is going to enjoy listening to mets broadcasts as much as they do Philly’s. And the same is true vice versa.

  11. Paul, I don’t think all rival broadcasters are as bad as Hernandez. In fact, I don’t think any are as bad as Hernandez. Maybe you’re right. Maybe he is critical of the Mets, in addition to being critical of the visiting team.

    But the last game that I watched, Hernandez went on and on about how the Phillies bullpen turned in the worst game he’d ever seen. Which may have been true, but probably not. After all, how bad could it have possibly been, since the Phils won that game?

  12. Well Coley, based on your gripe from that game you saw – not sure which one you’re talking about – I’m not convinced that this is an example of homerism. Criticizing an aspect of the opposing team isn’t homerism. You can disagree with his analysis, but it’s different than bias. Suzy Waldman is a homer. Keith has been known to rip into Mets players constantly.

    Here’s a bit from an ariticle from

    “The SNY trio is funny, insightful, and — most importantly — brutally honest. When the Mets blew yet another pennant race game to the Washington Nationals Tuesday night, Hernandez trashed stars Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes, holding little back as their defensive gaffes helped New York lose yet another critical contest. Darling willingly chimed in that pitcher Jorge Sosa was inexplicably, inexcusably out of position on a play. It’s the sort of stuff fans need to hear” – Jeff Pearlman

  13. Sarah Green says:

    Well, my problem with Keith Hernandez is his knuckle-dragging views on women.

  14. Paul Moro says:

    Sarah, you win the prize for most “indisputable argument”.

    To this day, I’m still mortified over what he said on air about the Padres physical therapist.

  15. Coley Ward says:

    Sarah, I hope you typed that comment from the kitchen. Because the blogosphere is no place for a woman.

  16. Sarah Green says:

    Coley, not only was I in the the kitchen, I was barefoot, pregnant, and making my famous Backlash Apple Pie (a pinch of machismo and a dash of raw chauvinism is the key to a good crust). Now I plan to massage my boyfriend’s feet while he watches porn.

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