I was taught at a young age the following (albeit slightly altered) phrase—opinions are like bassholes. Everyone has one.
In today's age of new media, the traditional media's version of this phrase would be to substitute blogs with bassholes. And their opinion of what is, uh, spewed out from bloggers is much the same as the original phrase.
In the age of new media gaining broader exposure and more mainstream (deserved or not) success, it is time for bloggers to take their craft to a new level of responsibility and professionalism.
“…the 37-year old Ibanez has been so good that it has led to the inevitable speculation that his improvement may be attributable to factors other than his new lineup, playing in a better ballpark for hitters, or additional maturation as a hitter. In this day and age of suspicion at any significant jump in numbers, even over small sample sizes, it is what it is—and such speculation is to be expected.”
Now, I think what JRod posted is what many people have been afraid to admit. Any time a major league baseball player puts up big numbers they will be suspected of steroid use.
It is largely unfair. Nor do I think JRod has an axe to grind against Raul Ibanez, the Phillies, or bald 37-year olds for that matter.
Ibanez is hitting in pitcher's friendly Citizens Bank Park.
He is hitting behind (and for a brief while in front of) big fly basher, RBI machine, and former MVP Ryan Howard. He always has men on base with Shane Victorino and Chase Utley setting the table.
He is in a new league where pitchers do not know him as well. He has played 12 stinking games against the god-awful Washington Nationals!
(Sidebar: David Wright of the New York Mets hit his first home run in 100 at-bats on Tuesday. Because he has a home run drought, is he to be suspected of being on steroids last year?)
There are times when players have a hot hand (I recall watching LeBron James scoring 16 points in less than three minutes in a game back in March), a hot month, or a career year.
There are times when as a hitter you are seeing the ball so well, and it looks like one of those beach balls bouncing around in the crowd at Dodger Stadium.
This white-hot feeling is fleeting and can extend for a short period of time (maybe a few at-bats). Or it can last for a season.
And for bloggers—many of which didn't have any relative success as athletes themselves at a high level—this feeling cannot be related to.
In another posting on this Web site (and many contributing comments), the writer takes a few digs at the traditional media (including ESPN) and why they didn't expose the abuse of steroids and PEDs in the '90s during the home run heyday of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.
Firstly, there wasn't an empirical proof that there was abuse. Everyone mused about it.
People would speculate. When one athlete was jobbed about it, his response was "I've been lifting weights, dude, lifting."
It was part of the culture the same way uppers and greenies and everything else was part of the culture in the NFL in the early '80s.
But let's ponder this a bit more. Say if a beat writer strongly suspected a player of using steroids and expressed his incorrect opinion much like JRod did.
Would said beat writer be able to walk into the clubhouse the next day and be able to interview that player again?
Would he have the trust of the remaining players on the club to get an interview?
Would he be able to hang around the batting cage during pregame to pick the mind of the manger or hitting coach?
Would he be able to continue his job with any level of success and would his newspaper keep him on the beat?
The answer, of course, is a resounding no.
Heck, he may have to get a police escort down the clubhouse walkway for his own safety.
The point is that bloggers—the ire of beat writers—don't have to look anyone in the eye. They don't have to do their due diligence and be accountable.
They can write, click, post, and do it all over again, and it is held as public opinion and open for debate. It is dangerous for all involved.
The beat writers used to aim their displeasure towards the local TV media with their slick hair and tailored suits. They often showed up at the park in the second inning and left in the seventh. They never asked players questions and are seldom inside of a locker room.
Bloggers, welcome yourselves as the newer, tech-savvy version of TV media. You are everything they are without the salary, the suit, and the attractive weather girl to their left.
And besides, the newspapermen are becoming extinct with the industry facing unprecedented challenges. In an industry that lost 9,000 jobs from the first of this year, they might be a bit on edge and concerned they will have to sell insurance for a living.
If bloggers are going to be relevant, then there has to be a heightened sense of responsibility and professionalism. Write your column with a sense of style and correct grammar (I can't stand reading an article on this site that reads like a conversation a guy is having in his frat house).
Understand your article can be found anywhere and some 7-year-old Phillies fan in Bucks County, Penn. thinks Ibanez is on steroids. If you're going to stake a claim, have proof.
If you're going to opine, don't provide paragraphs upon paragraphs and charts to back up one theory of why a guy is having a career year. Having an opinion is integral to being a columnist/blogger, but it has to be done with integrity.
And finally, please, please, please continue to learn the game and not just the numbers behind it. Become credible.
After all of this, there are several facts. No one can say that Raul Ibanez is on steroids. (For the record, I don't think so, and everything I hear is that he is a class individual.)
Bloggers are here to stay. And many of them, unfairly or not, will be continued to be thought of as bassholes.