Thursday, March 24, 2005

Just Give Me Some Truth

It looks like the club is setting the stage to announce Jason Bartlett as the Opening Day Shortstop, provided he doesn't cave under the pressure and blow his chance in the next couple weeks. That's probably the idea, too. See what he does with a little weight of expectations on his shoulders. Gardy told the Strib:

"You guys have seen the kid get hits, do everything he has been asked. He has not played himself out of a position on this team. He has done everything we have asked him. We have another 10 days to go or whatever it might be, and if he continues to handle himself very well, then we have to make a big decision. It's not even going to be a big decision if he continues to play well."

It's his job to lose now. Meanwhile, the sly manager also let slip that he's told Nick Punto to consider himself in the running for the 2nd base job. Step up, Rivas, or your days in the regular lineup are numbered. And this time they mean it. Really. See how the local sportswriters have openly taken to writing about you, Luis, as a disappointing underachiever rather than praising your glovework, your quick pivot on the double play, your speed, and your worlds of potential like they used to do? As long as the Twins organization was committed to you, the local scribes would never dare knock you so hard. But somebody has given them the nod now. The word from the inside is getting around.

I also notice that Al Newman and the local writers have started to openly admit that Bartlett has better range than Guzman at SS, recently even noting when Bartlett took away a hit from behind 2nd base that they hardly ever saw Guzman make that play--with a hint of a ho-ho-ho like it's been the joke of the press box for the last five years. So why did they never talk about that while he was in a Twins uniform? Why do we get the frank assessment only after he's gone? Why does it take over 4 years for the local media to tell the truth about Rivas?

Instead, since 2001 we've been served a steady diet of puff pieces about the League of Nations infield with the Future Gold Glove at Shortstop and The Next Robbie Alomar at 2nd base. Late last season the Strib even ran a story on what a good value Guzman was, in performance for the dollar, compared to Derek Jeter. Oh, once in awhile the writers could get in their digs about Guzman or Rivas being "lazy"--which can be media code for Latino players who don't seem to live up to their potential--but that's a poor substitute for an open examination of the strengths and weaknesses in a ballplayer's game.

I believe this sort of thing is at the root of why people don't trust the established media so much anymore. It's not just a problem in sportswriting, but in news coverage generally. I think the local writers knew that Guzy was a mediocre Shortstop, and it couldn't have just occurred to them lately that Rivas is a liability to the lineup. I think they know when the politicians are lying and playing games to divert attention from what's really going on, even as they file their superficial reports of what some official said at a press conference or what another name did at a photo op. But why rock the boat?

Digging for truth and telling it like it is just creates more work and hassle for the journalist, and it might piss off the powerbrokers who control their almighty Access to Important Officials. It's just so much easier to report what the officials tell them. That way the officials who control Access are happy, the corporate advertisers are happy, and those who like reading about political horseraces and tug o' wars are happy. Those who wanted assurance that the Twins had a couple budding stars in the middle infield, I suppose they were happy with the reporting on Guzy & Rivas the last few years. Package those Official Statements with some celebrity scandals on the front page, and everybody's happy, right?

Are we? The blogospheres and bulletin board communities that have been sprouting over the last few years look like evidence to the contrary to me.


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