ESPN and Baseball Bias

Matthew JonesContributor ISeptember 25, 2009

MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 31:  Announcer Peter Gammons on the field during the Civil Rights Game between the Cleveland Indians and the St. Louis Cardinals on March 31, 2007 at AutoZone Park in Memphis, Tennessee. The Cardinals won 5-1. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Being the baseball fan that I am, this time of year really gets exciting. The playoffs are just around the corner and division races are in full swing. I start searching the web, for as much insight into how the end of the season and playoffs might unfold.

My search is past Monday took me to ESPN.com, the world wide leader in sports. I stumbled upon an article written by Baseball Tonight analyst John Kruk entitled "Plenty of question marks for potential playoff teams". Naturally, my interest was sparked and I started to read.

What I found, is just another example of the rather overwhelming bias of America's undeniable leader in sports news and information.

The first sentence reads as follows:

Which of the teams likely headed to the playoffs have the most to figure out in the next two weeks? All of them except the Boston Red Sox.

Bam! There it is, right off the bat. The Red Sox having an issue? Nah, it's not possible.

As you read on, Kruk brings up some good and fair points about other teams. The Yankees have questions with consistency in their rotation. The Cardinals' and Phillies' bullpens are a bit shaky. The Dodgers' starting pitching and the Rockies' relief  corps leave a little to be desired.

And that's when this hits.

"Boston is really the only team heading into the postseason that you can look at and say, 'This team is ready for the playoffs.' Aside from the middle relief, which hasn't been too good, Jon Lester is pitching well and Daisuke Matsuzaka has looked good."

John, isn't that saying they have an issue that is a concern?

Winning in the playoffs is all about pitching, the Yankees have proved that the past five to six years. The Sox have three top of the line starters in Beckett, Lester, and Buchholz. Beckett has proved himself in the playoffs, but Lester and Buchholz are still relatively new to playoff pressure. Along with Dice-K, who has only made two starts since June 19th, you can't be sure that in a series against the two top hitting teams in the league (Angels and Yankees) that sub-par middle relief could very well become a problem.

So is it really Red Sox bias, or Yankee bashing?

Even in making a fair point about how inconsistent the Yankees starters have been the past few weeks, he does so in a way that makes it seem like AJ Burnett is having the worst year of his career.

Overall, A.J Burnett has been awful, excluding some of his recent starts,

AJ is 14-9, has a 4.19 ERA, 184 strike outs, and the Yankees are 19-12 in his starts. Awful? I don't think so. Take out the month of August and he's having a great year.

What they've done in monitoring Joba Chamberlain's workload has been unbelievable, but he's not even in the equation to start.

So what you're saying John, is the Yankees publicly saying that he's going to be part of their playoff rotation, building his innings per game back up to that six inning range means he's not in the equation to start? Sure the "Joba Rules" have not been the most productive thing for him, but he's very much in the equation.

What is very apparent with ESPN's reporting on baseball is that Boston is put on a pedestal that no other team can reach. Kruk's article is a prime example of such journalism.

I remember flipping on ESPN the day that David Ortiz's positive steroid test came out, and the drastic difference between that day and when A-Rod's name was leaked. What turned into bashing for A-Rod, was essentially understanding Ortiz's actions. Alex said he didn't do: they say he's lying. Ortiz said he didn't do it: they give him a pass.

For the most part, ESPN has employees that are very good at what they do. Their SportsCenter anchors are class acts. Rick Reilly is a fantastic columnist. Kenny Mayne might be the funniest person on TV. Chris Berman is an football icon. PTI is, well, PTI.

So what changes with their baseball coverage? 

Peter Gammons is a great man and a good journalist. He knows good baseball, and good baseball players when he sees it. Despite that, it's hard to watch or read anything he does because his bias towards Boston tarnishes his work.

For an organization such as ESPN, that prides itself on being the gold standard for sports news, why allow SportsCenter anchor Josh Elliot to yell "boli boli boli" (a steroid nickname) during a highlight of Alex Rodriquez hitting a home run?

Is it Red Sox bias or Yankee bashing? I'm not sure, but I do know it is enough to keep me away from their baseball coverage for a long time. Watch the the game this Sunday between the Yankees and Sox this weekend on ESPN and decide for yourself.


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