What to make of beat reporters stumping for players they cover come award season

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I wondered about this on Twitter earlier and figured I’d expand on it a little more here.

As the season winds down we’re seeing tons of articles touting various players for various awards and there’s often a location-based angle. Beat writers in Detroit think Miguel Cabrera should be the MVP. Beat writers in Baltimore think Jim Johnson should get some Cy Young attention. Beat writers in Dallas think Ron Washington should get more Manager of the Year consideration.

And on and on and on. You get the idea.

To be clear I’m not necessarily even saying it’s a bad thing, let alone trying to accuse anyone of something serious, but it just got me wondering about what is now the very common practice of beat reporters publicly stumping for players and managers they cover to get award consideration (and, earlier in the season, All-Star consideration).

At this point no one seems to give it a second thought in the baseball world and the same is probably true of other sports too, but do reporters on non-sports beats do anything similar? I’m asking that as an honest question, because I truly have no idea. And before you shout out “FOX News” or “MSNBC” or the like, keep in mind that I’m talking specifically about reporters covering a beat as journalists. Not critics or talking heads or columnists or anything except beat reporters.

It’s probably worth noting that in baseball the beat reporters are the people who actually vote on most major awards, which in itself is uncommon relative to other areas of coverage. In some cases media outlets have banned their reporters from participating in award voting, which is a whole different but perhaps related issue.

And it’s also probably worth noting that “stumping” could be viewed as merely “awareness raising” in the sense that, say, a beat reporter who covers the Pirates every day may feel that those who don’t cover Andrew McCutchen on a daily basis and might not pay a ton of attention to the Pirates in general could allow his great season to get somewhat lost in the shuffle. So, again, I’m not necessarily even saying it’s a negative thing.

Still, when trying to imagine reporters on tradition non-sports news beats–crime or schools or local government or whatever–touting someone or something they cover for awards and recognition … well, the whole notion seems odd. Or am I wrong about that?

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

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On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”

There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.

It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:

On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.

“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”

One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.

None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”