Frank Deford laments the passing of journalism that Frank Deford likes (and which hasn’t passed)

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The legendary Frank Deford spoke at an awards ceremony on Friday, and during  his acceptance speech he lamented what he believes to be the death of sports journalism.

He was somewhat vague on what he thinks is causing the death, but he goes after sports writing that is primarily about statistics and “texting,” suggesting that he believes internet writing, sabermetric-style analysis and social media based stuff like Twitter are killing sports writing.

This, he says, is creating a class of readers and reporters who are “optionally illiterate.” Those who can read and write weighty things, but choose not to.

And what is lost?

Like everyone else, I have no idea what’s going to happen to the future of our profession. The great thing about sportswriting is that it’s about storytelling. The drama, the glamor …. I don’t want to see sportswriting be overwhelmed by statistics. I want to read about the heart and blood of athletes and their stories, which has made sportswriting so special.

I worry who is going to pay for the expensive stuff. The long, expensive, investigative pieces, the enterprise journalism. The work that matters more than anything else and justifies the whole experience as journalists.

I understand what Deford is talking about, but I think he (a) misidentifies who the consumer of sports media is; and (b) identifies a false choice with respect to what sports media can be.

Deford has obviously enjoyed the hell out of his career, but since when is sports reporting — or any reporting — about that which “justifies the whole experience as journalists?”

Of course it’s more fun to write an in-depth piece on an athlete or a game that conveys a storyline. A story that communicates pathos. Which tells a rich story. Which requires travel to big events and meetings with exciting people. That makes a reporter’s job fun!  But it’s the readers who matter, right? What they want is what is important, not what the reporter wants, correct?

Statistics and recaps may bore the hell out of Frank Deford, but based on the consumption patterns of readers — and just how many more eyes are reading more things about sports on the Internet these days than ever subscribed to Sports Illustrated — I’d say that the readers like that stuff just fine. Maybe quickly wanting to learn what will help his fantasy team better during his lunch hour renders a given reader “optionally illiterate,” but it also gives that reader what he wants, and that’s the whole point of any consumer product. And, yes, sports media is a consumer product.*

But that leads to the second part: giving the reader tweets, texts, blurbs, charts or blog posts with that less-glamorous, less-drama-filled content does not mean that the reader cannot also enjoy the writing Deford thinks is disappearing. The investigative stuff. The in-depth features. The things that only a reporter with good access, brains, skills and the ability to tell a good story can provide. It may not be considered the flagship of sports writing like it was in Deford’s heyday, but there’s still an awful lot of that around. Amy Nelson and Jeff Passan do it for online outlets. There are still a lot of others who do it too. And, actually, it’s one area where there is a tremendous opportunity for growth in sports media.

I’ve written about this before, but there is a future in substantive sports media, and it’s not about the bits and pieces that get tweeted today. What we’ve come to call “commodity news,” which teams and leagues themselves are taking over. So much of what I suspect Deford hates actually falls under that category. That day’s lineup; official quotes from players and coaches; other things that can be easily disseminated and more effectively controlled by the team’s increasingly sophisticated media arms and which have turned so many reporters into tweet-first, think-later spokespeople, largely against their will.

The media can and should let the teams and leagues have that stuff, because it does nothing to help any given newspaper, blog or website to simply regurgitate things that will be all over the place in seconds. Rather, the media will do better by concentrating its resources on providing content that differentiates it from the competition. This can be in-depth and investigative stuff. It can be opinion writing like we do a lot of here at HBT. It can be gossip like Deadspin. It can be unique statistical analysis like Fangraphs. Anything, really.

The point is for the writer, newspaper or website to put their particular stamp on the product to make readers want to get it from them specifically as opposed from any old place. Once that unique voice or angle has been established, the opportunity for the money, which Deford specifically worries about, arrives, because you’ve created a unique product that people will come back to. One that can’t be easily repeated or replicated or undermined. All it takes is the will to commit to a given model and stick with it even if the immediate financial benefits aren’t apparent. Online media is maturing. Eventually it’s gonna shake out and there will be winners and losers. Making your outlet a winner requires it to have a plan now.

And the end result of that: a world in which people can read their fantasy updates, their statistical analysis, their in-depth reporting, their rumor mongering, their human interest features, their texts, their tweets, and their long form whatever from anyplace they want.

Not a world like Deford fears in which it’s either this or that, either good or bad, either glamorous and drama-filled or “illiterate.”

*I am aware that there are those who like to think of the press as The Fourth Estate. That it speaks truth to power and all of that stuff. Well, that’s admirable and it may be what has been taught in J-school for the past 40 years or so, but the notion of the press being some greater institution than a mere business is a relatively recent, relatively short-lived and approaching obsolete one. There have always been examples of great journalism rising above mere product and serving a social good — and reporters should clearly strive to write good important stories — but as an overarching purpose of the press, that notion flourished in the 60s and 70s and has been dying pretty slowly for several years.

And it hasn’t been the bloggers and tweeters that killed it. It’s the people and companies who own the newspapers that have done so. If you don’t believe this, ask why your local paper is smaller than it used to be and the newsroom emptier than it used to be. Papers themselves believe that they’re for-profit businesses, and they act accordingly. We pretend that’s an aberration at our peril.    

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Rockies 18, Padres 4: Nolan Arenado hit an RBI single in the first, another RBI single in the second, a solo homer in the fourth, another solo homer in the fifth and a two-run homer in the sixth. He’s the seventh player this season to hit at least three home runs in a game, joining Yoenis CespedesMatt KempAnthony RendonScooter GennettEddie Rosario, and Corey Seager. And my word we’ve had a lot of big blowouts in the past week or so, have we not?

Mets 7, Cardinals 3: Jacob deGrom allowed one run on seven hits in six and two-thirds innings, winning his seventh straight start. He’s about the only bright spot for the Mets this season, so of course there are rumors that he might be traded.

Giants 5, Indians 4: Buster Posey was supposed to have the day off. And he did until the bottom of the eighth when he came off the bench as a pinch-hitter and smacked a two-out, two-run double as part of a three-run rally that inning. The Indians have lost six of seven. Oh, and Bruce Bochy gave his postgame presser in the “Game of Thrones” throne:

Winter is coming. A lot sooner for the 37-59 Giants than a lot of other teams.

Cubs 8, Braves 2: A few days ago everyone was wondering what the heck was wrong with the Cubs. A few days ago at least a few people were looking at the surprisingly frisky Braves and thinking that they could be a stealth Wild Card contender. What a difference a few days makes, eh? The Cubs win their sixth straight and the Braves drop their third in a row. Mike Montgomery allowed one run on two hits in six innings and hit his first career homer to boot. Javier Baez hit a three-run shot. Kris Bryant left in the first inning after hurting his finger and his replacement, Tommy La Stella, hit a homer. That kind of day for Chicago.

Phillies 10, Marlins 3: Philly woke up early for this early game with their hitting shoes on already. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first and racked up 10 runs on 20 hits before it was all over. Nick Williams tripled twice and drove in two. Daniel Nava had four hits and Tommy Joseph socked a homer. Giancarlo Stanton hit his 30th homer in the loss, tying him for the major league lead with Aaron Judge. But if you were expecting him to be happy about that, think again. Giancarlo: I just finished a cool book about people who fake their own death and start over again someplace else. Not saying you should read it or anything, but I’m not saying you should not read it, ya know?

Twins 6, Yankees 1: The Twins scored six runs in the game. All came in the second inning and all came with two outs, with Miguel Sano‘s three-run homer the big blow. Meanwhile, the Yankees couldn’t get much of anything off of Jose Berrios. The Yankees lose the series. They’ve lost eight of ten series, in fact. The other two were splits. Mercy.

Mariners 4, Astros 1: Ben Gamel hit a two-run homer and James Paxton allowed one run over seven. Paxton has 20 strikeouts in two wins over the Astros this year. The Mariners have won six of seven.

Athletics 7, Rays 2: Sonny Gray is getting hot at the right time: right before the trade deadlines, when many expect him to change addresses. Gray won his third straight start, striking out six while pitching into the seventh. The A’s avoid a sweep.

Orioles 10, Rangers 2Kevin Gausman pitched six innings of four-hit ball, giving up one runs, striking out eight and walking two. Not sure where this good O’s pitching has come from lately but I suppose there are small miracles happening all around us, always. O’s starters in this series have combined to allow three runs over 18 innings in three games and the O’s have outscored Texas 25-4 in that span.

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 1: Drew Pomeranz pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning and Dustin Pedroia drove in three. The Red Sox are 9-3 in Pomeranz’s past 12 starts. Pedroia did commit an error, though, breaking his streak of 114 games without a fielding error, stretching back to last August.

Pirates 3, Brewers 2: Rookie Max Moroff entered the game as a pinch runner in the ninth, scoring the tying run to force extras, then he came to the plate in the 10th and hit a walkoff single. The Pirates have won three games in the ninth or in extras since the All-Star break. They have won 10 of 12 overall.

Reds 4, Diamondbacks 3:  Adam Duvall hit a bases-loaded walkoff single in the 11th inning to give the Reds and to end a frustrating night for the Dbacks. Frustrating in that J.D. Martinez, who had just arrived a few hours before and was playing in his first game, was hit on the hand by a pitch forcing him out. X-rays are negative — it’s just a bruise — but that kind of thing has to feel like a sign from Zeus or something.

Dodgers 9, White Sox 1: Chris Taylor led the game off with a homer, Kiké Hernandez homered in the second and fourth and Corey Seager homered in the fourth as well. That’s 11 straight for the Dodgers, who win this mercifully rain-shortened game. Yoan Moncada went 0-for-2 with a walk in his White Sox debut.

Royals 4, Tigers 3: Detroit trailed 2-1 in the ninth when Mike Mahtook hit a two-run homer to give the Tigers the lead. The Royals answered back in the bottom of the ninth, however, when Brandon Moss doubled in Alcides Escobar to tie it and then hustled to third base on the throw home. Then up came Alex Gordon who hit a sac fly to score Moss for the walkoff win. Moss also homered in the third inning. All of that obscured a pretty decent duel between Justin Verlander (7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 8K) and Jason Hammel (6.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER).

Angels 7, Nationals 0: Bryce Harper took the night off but Mike Trout didn’t, hitting a two-run homer. That was just gravy, though, as the Angels’ bats had built up a 5-0 lead by then and Alex Meyer allowed only one hit over seven shutout innings, striking out seven.

Nolan Arenado goes 5-for-6 with three homers, seven RBI in rout of Padres

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The Rockies trounced the Padres 18-4 on Wednesday afternoon, thanks in large part to third baseman Nolan Arenado‘s three home runs and seven RBI. The Rockies scored in every inning except the eighth.

Arenado kicked things off with an RBI single in the first inning. He added another RBI single in the second, then went on a homer binge. He hit a solo shot in the fourth, the first of four homers the Rockies would hit in that inning. He hit another solo dinger in the fifth and tacked on a two-run blast in the sixth.

Here’s the first of his three homers:

Arenado is the seventh player this season to hit at least three home runs in a game, joining Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Kemp, Anthony Rendon, Scooter Gennett, Eddie Rosario, and Corey Seager. Arenado’s seven RBI are more than all but Gennett and Rendon and his five hits matched him with Gennett and trailed only Rendon’s six.

After his productive afternoon, the three-time All-Star is batting .309/.356/.584 with 21 home runs, 80 RBI, and 63 runs scored in 411 plate appearances.