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In which I am accused of being part of the problem in modern sports writing

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Remember that stuff I wrote the other day about the future of sports writing?  Well, not everyone’s buying it.  Particularly not Andrew Humphries of the Let’s Go Tribe blog, who argues that the sort of blogging I do here at HBT is not in keeping with the “meaning-building pieces” that Jason Fry described in his excellent column that launched this conversation. Rather, I’m accused of trafficking in the “me-too tweets and blog bits” that Fry identified as the problem with modern sports writing.

Hurm.

While I obviously don’t agree that I’m part of the problem, Humphries’ piece is worth a read if you care about the subject because it covers a lot of territory and adds depth to the discussion even as it criticizes me. And it should also be noted that Humphries was good enough to send me a copy of his post before he published it to ask me for my thoughts.  That’s both admirable and gutsy. Would that everyone who went after someone be so damn decent about it.

My defense, to the extent I have one, is that I think Humphries is focused too much on the “long-form features are what’s important” part of Fry’s original analysis and less on the “readers want someone to tell them what the news means” part Fry mentioned.  I don’t profess — at all — to be a long form feature writer or to get into the kinds of in-depth feature reporting that Humphries cites.  But I do endeavor to do more than merely link-and-snark the bloggy bits, as it were.

I’m obviously not an objective viewer of my own work, but the goal is that, if you read my stuff most days, you’ll come away with an understanding of the topics I cover and  my take on how I feel about them. The idea: that no matter where you get the news item, you’ll still want to come to HBT to see what I have to say about it. It is my hope — as it is the hope of any opinion writer — that my opinions will help influence general opinion.   In this, I fancy my function as being roughly similar to that of a traditional sports columnist. Except I’m hitting more subjects and, rather than doing it in one or two 750 word columns a week, I’m doing it with 90+ blog posts a week.

I shot that defense to Humphries in an email last night.  His response in the addendum to his piece is that “a writer covering a dozen topics a day is writing too much” to be really adding meaning to anything.  I don’t know that I agree with that, but he may have a point. The signal-to-noise ratio of a machine gun blogger like me is probably a worthy offshoot of this discussion, actually, and it’s one I haven’t seriously considered before he mentioned it. Consider me to be considering it now.

However you come down on all of this, Humphries’ piece is food for thought in a broader discussion that I find quite important.  I know media stuff isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I hope you find it somewhat important too, if for no other reason than because the kind of discussion Fry, Humphries and I are having is what is going to shape the sports writing you read going forward.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

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Associated Press
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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.