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.

Cubs won’t make Kyle Schwarber available in trade talks

Kyle Schwarber
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.

The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.

Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.

Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”