Baseless speculation only bad when bloggers do it

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Yesterday Aaron wrote about Raul Ibanez
taking on the blogger who speculated that he may be on steroids. Since
then, the blogger went on TV with Ken Rosenthal to defend his claims,
such as they were, and the issue still continues to rattle around the
Internet, as these things tend to do. I don’t really have any opinion
about the whole Ibanez affair and nothing I’m about to write is
specific to the claims made about him. Rather, it’s about the curious
reaction to the claims. Or at least one curious reaction.

This morning the Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker writes about the Ibanez thing,
and in doing so, he has offered one of the more self-aggrandizing posts
I’ve seen from a member of the mainstream media in some time. By all
means read it all for yourself, but the short version is this: “sports
writing is deadly serious business and I, Geoff Baker, am personally
responsible for the ruined lives and careers of many a man. There are
dead bodies and broken dreams left in my horrible tracks. If you’re
gonna shoot the devil in the back, baby, you had better not miss, and
unlike the bloggers of the world, I don’t freakin’ miss, punks.” At
least that’s the effect he’s obviously going for.

Of course, just because he’s being dramatic doesn’t mean that he’s wrong. You do
have to have the goods if you’re going to accuse someone of something,
and that goes for bloggers and traditional reporters alike. Blogging is
just a medium, not a whole new realm of existence, and to think that
you’re subject to a lower standard just because you’re a blogger is
silliness. Credibility is bestowed on you by the readers, and the
readers don’t care what club you like to think you belong to. Which
makes this passage from Baker so curious:

But when you go
all-in, you’ve got to go all in. He didn’t do that. When you write
about topics like killers, or Hell’s Angels, or major leaguers and
steroids, you can’t pussy foot around. You’ve got to go at it hard,
directly, with no b.s. and be able to defend yourself afterwards. This
blogger couldn’t because in went in only halfway. He tried to raise the
“steroids issue” then claimed he really wasn’t pointing a finger at
Ibanez . . . I taught journalism at Concordia University in Montreal
from 1996 through 1998, before things like blogs were even envisioned.
Much of what I see written in the blogosphere today would have failed
my very rigid course.

Just in the past few months I have read
dozens if not scores of articles from honest to goodness newspaper
writers trafficking in steroid speculation and ending with words like
“I hate to make such broad statements, but unfortunately, that’s the
world in which we live.” I don’t recall Baker or anyone else for that
matter taking any of those guys to task. Likewise, I don’t see anyone
taking issue with the countless articles that have lumped Sammy Sosa in
with confirmed steroids users. The Sammy Sosa who, no matter what you
think of him, has never had a credible fact-based allegation hurled at
him. The Sammy Sosa who, in all likelihood, won’t get into the Hall of
Fame precisely because of this evidence-free speculation in which Baker
and his mainstream journalist brethren have so readily engaged.

So
yes, it’s fair to excoriate a blogger who hurls evidence-free
accusations. But please, mainstream media, do not pretend that you
don’t do the very same thing, and do not pretend that your vitriol for
this blogger has nothing to do with his medium as opposed to his
message.

Angels fire GM Billy Eppler after 5 straight losing seasons

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Los Angeles Angels fired general manager Billy Eppler on Sunday after the long-struggling franchise finished its fifth consecutive losing season under his watch.

Eppler was under contract for one more year with the Angels in an extension he signed in July with no public announcement, but team president John Carpino said the franchise will seek new baseball leadership after missing the playoffs for the sixth straight year.

The Angels have endured a historically bad half-decade during Eppler’s tenure despite many positive moves made by the former New York Yankees executive, all while dealing with the spending whims of owner Arte Moreno.

But Eppler was dismissed when the Angels couldn’t even make the eight-team AL playoff field this month. Los Angeles finished 26-34 in the pandemic-shortened season with a star-studded roster including three-time AL MVP Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols and Shohei Ohtani playing for manager Joe Maddon.

Eppler’s teams went 332-376 (.469) under three managers with a rotating cast of supporting players around Trout and Pujols.

Eppler didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.

The 45-year-old Eppler took the fall for a decade of mostly miserable baseball under Moreno, whose penchant for handing out big-money contracts to older veteran players has repeatedly hurt his club since its last playoff victory in 2009.

Eppler began each of his seasons working around the 10-year, $240 million deal given by Moreno to Pujols, whose performance hasn’t come close to justifying the huge chunk of payroll taken up by the 40-year-old superstar for many years. Moreno also interfered in other areas, such as firing Eppler’s hand-picked manager, Brad Ausmus, after one season and installing Maddon last fall.

Eppler rebuilt a farm system that was left barren by former GM Jerry Dipoto, and he both signed Trout to a massive contract extension and persuaded Ohtani to bring his two-way talents to the Angels. Eppler’s farm system is finally bearing fruit recently, with blue-chip prospect Jo Adell, slugger Jared Walsh and infielder David Fletcher making impacts on the Angels this season with other prospects on the way.

Yet Eppler never managed to sign enough quality pitchers to prevent Trout’s Angels from being a perennial also-ran. Eppler repeatedly guessed wrong in his acquisitions from Tim Lincecum and Trevor Cahill to Matt Harvey and Julio Teheran, leaving the Angels with one of the majors’ worst starting rotations for much of his tenure.

The Angels still haven’t won a playoff game with Trout, who will turn 30 years old next August. The Halos finished the season by losing 5-0 to the crosstown Dodgers, who have won eight straight NL West titles.

Moreno doesn’t plan to discuss his latest franchise reboot publicly until Wednesday.