Generalist columnists: a vanishing breed. Probably for good reason.

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This isn’t about baseball, but it does touch on what we do around here and at the NBC “Talk” blogs in general. If you don’t care for my media analysis you may want to just skip this one.

Dan Shaughnessy, who I’m pretty sure most of you loathe anyway, wrote a World Cup column. As Deadspin notes, however, it’s basically the same, recycled World Cup column he has been writing every four years for the past 24 years. Really. And, since it’s Shaughnessy, of course, it’s an ankles-deep-at-best dismissive gripe of a column.

I’m not much of a soccer fan myself — I’ve been following the World Cup with some curiosity but from a pretty far distance — but the column and the topic is nonetheless of significance to me. Not because it’s a basis for Shaughnessy-bashing (that’s sort of beside the point here) but because it shows the limits and, often, the absurdity of the old newspaper model of the generalist sports columnist.

To be clear: there are still a lot of excellent generalist sports columnists. I think we happen to have the best one in the business working for us here.* But for the most part, having one person serve as the voice and/or expert of your publication for all sports is outmoded and obsolete in this day and age and does little to serve readers. Or, at the very least, the readers you want to serve.

The amount of information and content available to even the most casual fan of any given sport is pretty staggering. Anyone more-than-moderately interested in a given sport has the means to watch a ton the actual games or events. This is true be it for big sports like football and baseball or more niche sports like cricket or equestrian events. Seriously: if you’re in Iowa and you want to watch The Ashes or, say, the FTI consulting WEF Grand Prix, you can with minimal effort. Likewise, if you are into cricket or show jumping (or football or baseball for that matter), there is no end of pre-and post event analysis, stats, profiles, and anything else you can imagine being produced about it, be it from primary sources (leagues or sanctioning authorities releasing information, produced or otherwise) or from specialized media.

This state of affairs robs the general columnist — at least most of them — of their raison d’etre. If they are writing one to three times a week there is little they can tell the enthusiast of a given sport that which they haven’t already seen. If they are writing in 800-word columns, there isn’t much room for the depth of analysis enthusiasts would find useful. Your content can come a few days after the fact if it’s useful and your content can be short or shallow if it’s quick, but old and short doesn’t serve anyone.

Looking at that Shaugnessy column, I find myself wondering who it’s supposed to serve. Certainly not soccer fans, who probably don’t wish to be informed about why the sport they love is dumb. But even if Shaughnessy wasn’t using his column inches to bash soccer, what is he providing for Boston Globe readers? Filler for the hard copy, I suppose. And raw meat for that certain breed of misanthrope who wants to nod their head along with him as they get off on his negativity. Maybe Shaughnessy has a large enough constituency where that works for him and the Globe, but I’m guessing he’s rare in that regard. For the most part, the generalist who neither works fast nor works in depth is caught in the increasingly vanishing middle-ground of sports media.

We certainly don’t go deep very often here at HardballTalk. Well, we do on some narrow subjects with which we are idiosyncratically obsessed, but it’s not like we’re doing 5,000-word breakdowns with graphs and stuff. But we do work quickly, providing a digest of what’s going on to baseball fans who want to quickly get updated about what’s going on. Tyler Kepner of the New York Times, for example, does not update 35 times a day, but he is an absolute expert when it comes to baseball and provides in-depth stories about the people and events which shape it. FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus and other similar sites provide all of the in-depth, hardcore analysis anyone could reasonably want. The same general setup can be found in football (Florio, Peter King and whoever crunches football numbers), basketball and everything else.

All of that serves the fans who want to know a lot about the sport. In this increasingly specialized age, it’d be journalistic malpractice not to serve the fans who want to know a lot about a sport. The business model of media (and sports in general) does not reward those who seek out the dabblers and tourists who aren’t going to spend a lot of time reading or watching content and who lack the commitment to put up with the little barriers like ads, commercials and, occasionally, pay-walls that help us keep the lights on. We have to give those readers and viewers what they want and have to avoid providing content which makes them wonder, well, what was the point of that?

When I read 800 words of shallow rambling which appear ten days after an event begins, I have to wonder who that’s serving other than the guy who is being paid to write the 800 words of shallow rambling.

*Joe is a rare one, in that he can write in depth and insightfully about many sports and, if he were told tomorrow that he had to be, say, just a baseball guy or just a football guy or just a golf guy, he could do it and be at the top of the business in any of them, I reckon. Also: being on the web instead of in a newspaper means that he can write at whatever length his story requires. All of that said: he’s a better baseball columnist than just about any baseball-only guy working today. Put less politely, Joe is a freak, in the best sense of the term and stands as the exception which proves the rule.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Yankees 4, Rays 1: The Yankees used an opener and made this a bullpen game, trotting out eight pitchers who combined to give up only two hits and to strike out 13 in this one. Given that the Rays invented the opener thing, that was all rather rude, frankly. 🎵Anything you can do I can do better/I can do anything better than you🎵 etc. New York’s win eliminated the Rays from postseason contention and kept themselves a game and a half up on Oakland for home field in the Wild Card game.

Athletics 7, Mariners 3: The Yankees win over Tampa Bay clinched the Wild Card for Oakland, but his win allowed them to avoid that awkward thing where they spray champagne all over each other after losing a game. Khris DavisJonathan LucroyJed Lowrie and Matt Chapman all went deep for Oakland. The A’s finished in last place for three straight seasons and now they are 95-game winners heading for the playoffs. What a season.

Nationals 7, Marlins 3: Anthony Rendon hit a two-run homer and a two-run double and Matt Wieters and Juan Soto each homered. Bryce Harper hit a sac fly that gave him his 100th RBI on the year. It’s a year that so many people have labeled as disappointing for Harper, but he’s going to finish it with at least 34 homers, those 100+ driven in, 126+ walks and 100 or so runs scores while posting an OBP of close to .400. It’s not the dynamic year a lot of people expected to see — he’s hitting .245 and hasn’t been slashing doubles and triples all over the place — but he’s done all of that and has been in the lineup all year long, which was one of the big knocks on him before. Not too shabby.

Astros 5, Blue Jays 3: Brian McCann and Josh Reddick hit back-to-back homers. Dallas Keuchel allowed three runs and seven hits in five innings for the win and pushed his season innings total over 200. Roberto Osuna got the save, but did so to a chorus of boos before his former hometown fans in Toronto thanks to them seeing him for the first time since his arrest for domestic violence. I would bet decent money, however, that had he not been traded to the Astros, he would’ve received a far warmer welcome by Jays fans on his first appearance there following his suspension, because that’s how fandom, unfortunately, works. Houston’s magic number for clinching the division is now two.

Red Sox 6, Orioles 2: Mookie Betts hit a two-run homer in the Sox’ four-run second inning and Nate Eovaldi struck out ten in five innings of work, allowing only one run. Fun Fact: last night I was at some social event on this here business trip I’m on and met a couple from Baltimore who are longtime Orioles season ticket holders. I asked them what they think about this year. They made great efforts to change the subject to the Ravens, for whom they are also season ticket holders. When we did eventually talk about the Orioles, one of them asked me what I thought of Chris Davis‘ contract. Remembering that everyone at this thing was an accountant, I used the term “sunk costs” and hoped for the best. They all thought it was cute that a guy with no accounting background understood what a sunk cost was. I don’t think any of that means anything. I’m just happy I found something to talk about with a bunch of accountants.

Pirates 5, Cubs 1: Cole Hamels hit a homer but that was the only run support he got while giving up three runs, two earned, of his own. His counterpart, Jameson Taillon, meanwhile, went 0-for-2 at the plate but gave up only one run over seven innings. There’s a lesson in there somewhere. Do your job and don’t fart around with secondary tasks, maybe? I don’t know. My whole life has been based on farting around, basically, so I can’t really fault Hamels here.

Indians 4, White Sox 0: Corey Kluber has likely heard me and everyone else saying that the Cy Young should go to Blake Snell and decided to flip us all the bird with a seven shutout inning, 11-strikeout performance. I don’t think that changes the equation really, but it was strong all the same. Brandon Guyer and Adam Rosales each went deep for Cleveland.

Brewers 6, Cardinals 4: Ryan Braun homered and Christian Yelich drove in two as Milwaukee expands its Wild Card lead over the Cardinals and pulls to within a game and a half of the Cubs in the Central. St. Louis had a one-run lead heading into the seventh, but the wheels fell off, with Yelich tying things up on a fielder’s choice before Eric Thames tripled and then came home on a wild pitch. I was going to say that it was probably rare for him to triple, but it was actually his third this year. Bryce Harper, mentioned above, has zero. Weird.

Rockies 10, Phillies 1: Jon Gray was moved up a day in the rotation but it didn’t seem to bug him as he allowed one run in seven innings of work, striking out seven, against the mailing-it-in Phillies, who have now lost five in a row. Colorado has won four straight and pulls to within a half game of the Cardinals for that second Wild Card slot. David Dahl hit a two-run homer and Trevor Story made his return after missing a week of action with a bum elbow, hitting two doubles and turning a couple of double plays.

Dodgers 7, Diamondbacks 4: The Rockies did not gain ground on Los Angeles, however, as the Dodgers came from behind late to win for the sixth time in seven games. David Freese homered and went 3-for-4, Manny Machado knocked in a couple and Clayton Kershaw struck out six and walked one in six innings of work.

Angels 5, Rangers 4: Jose Briceno hit a pinch-hit walkoff homer in the 11th to power the Angels to victory. Shohei Ohtani and Michael Hermosillo also went deep for Los Angeles. Ohtani, by the way, now has a batting line of .280/.361/.546 with 21 homers and 56 RBI in only 99 games as a hitter. His looming Tommy John surgery is obviously a big concern for his pitching prospects, but we’re getting to the point to where you wanna ask if it’s gonna cause more disruption for his batting.

Padres 5, Giants 0: Bryan Mitchell took a shutout eight and two-thirds innings of the way and Jose Pirela homered as the Padres hand the Giants their fifth straight loss. The Giants are 4-17 in September and, last night, fired their general manager. So, yeah, this is gonna be a heck of an offseason in San Francisco.