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

14 Comments

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?

The Mets are a mess

Al Bello/Getty Images
1 Comment

The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.

Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.

Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.

By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.

Joey Votto isn’t on board with the latest fly ball trend among hitters

Dylan Buell/Getty Images
1 Comment

If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:

Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.

Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.

Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”

So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.