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Bad Information

Mike SteffanosFriday, March 30, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

The last couple of decisions have been made concerning the Mets roster. Prognosticators have prognosticated, the naysayers have said their nays, and now it's just time to play ball. I wrote a piece yesterday on the yin and yang of Mets fandom, which seems to be split between optimism and pessimism. I had some great feedback on that one, and really appreciate it. Whether you walk on the sunny side or in the shadows, if you're a real Mets fan you're welcome here.

Meanwhile, I think the general baseball media -- particularly nationally -- are bunched tightly toward the negative. I read several pieces on Tim Hudson, who has been declining noticeably since 2003, that play up the fact that he looks revitalized in spring training. At the same time, these same folks will caution you not to read too much into what John Maine and Oliver Perez have accomplished this spring. I'm not whining that the national media is somehow against us -- I'll leave that to St. Louis Cardinals fans. They have refined that sort of paranoia into an art form. I do believe, however, that there is a perception in the national media that the Mets will fall on their face, and that perception plays into their reporting. If you are in need of negative reinforcement on the Mets, you don't have to look very hard to find it. As a matter of fact, there were a couple that jumped out at me from the past week.

Chicago sports columnist Phil Rogers was one not to allow the facts to get in the way of a point he was making:

The tone in the Mets' camp has been similarly unsettled, largely because of a starting rotation that has nothing but question marks behind Tom Glavine. Orlando Hernandez went to camp assured of a job but has been horrible. The other spots seem likely to go to John Maine, Oliver Perez and either Aaron Sele or rookie Mike Pelfrey, who has been the one bright spot.

Hernandez pitched poorly his first outing, but he hasn't had a horrible spring. The day before this column ran, El Duque gave up an unearned run in 6 strong innings. Maine and Perez had been pitching great, as you all know, which would hardly qualify Pelfrey as "the one bright spot." If you were looking to pan the Mets, as Rogers obviously was, there certainly are legitimate issues to talk about. Instead, he more or less made up the "facts" he used to make his argument.

If you are one that is worried that the Mets bullpen may take a step back in 2007, FoxSports.com's Gerrit Ritt has an article for you. In ranking all of the MLB 'pens, Ritt rates the Mets a mediocre 16th. The "logic"?

Wagner's a stud for sure, but they lose major points for the rest of the pen. Mota will have to serve a 50-game suspension before ever stepping on the field, and he's their best man. Burgos will be better than he was in Kansas City, but not too much. Schoeneweis is a decent lefty, but nothing special, while Heilman and Park don't frighten anyone but Mets fans.

After two seasons as one of the best setup men in the NL, Aaron Heilman doesn't frighten anyone but Mets fans? This is what gets published today on a major sports web site. For what it's worth, teams that have a knack for building good bullpens have a way of making it work year after year, and Peterson is a pitching coach that works well with relievers. While it might be hard to match 2006's success, I'd be shocked if the bullpen was as shoddy as the research that went into this one.

These two examples are not isolated, but rather common these days. This makes the following piece sent to me yesterday by my colleague NostraDennis somewhat ironic. It's a column by Mike Bianchi that appeared in the Orlando Sentinel ominously titled Tangled Web is no place to get your sports news. I quote, in part:

Newspaper reporters and columnists may be wrong occasionally, but it's not because we're on the team payroll. And it's certainly not because we're accountable to the fans of any particular team.

On Monday, for instance, The Cat's Pause, a Kentucky fan magazine and Web site, reported that Kentucky officials and Florida basketball Coach Billy Donovan had agreed to a seven-year contract that Donovan would sign after the Final Four. The report even had contract details, including a $3.5 million bonus and a $3.5 million annual salary.

After a TV station in Kentucky picked up the story and ran with it, Cat's Pause officials admitted the report was actually just a rumor.

In other words, the Web site was reporting what fans wanted to happen, not what really had happened.

If you want to know what's going on in a dream world, go to the team and fan sites.

If you want to know what's going on in the real world, get the paper.

At 50 cents per day, it's still the best bargain out there.

It's really great when a blowhard like Mr. Bianchi feels entitled to paint bloggers with a broad brush based on what happened with one web site. I, on the other hand, will resist the urge to hold every instance of sloppy, irresponsible journalism that I run across every week against sportswriters as a whole. I will make the point, however, that if you really believe that everything you read in the traditional media is based on fact, you are sadly mistaken. Yes, you should take everything you read on a blog like mine with a grain of salt, but make sure you bring that skepticism along with you when you are reading from your local paper or national sports magazine.

Great Mets Pics
Gary is a Mets fan who has a talent for photography. Gary's Mets pictures (and other great ones) can be found at www.pbase.com/gsparb51/amazinmets2006. Gary tells me that he just retired last year and wants to add many more Mets pictures in 2007. He enjoys feedback on his pictures.

I love this one of Shea from last year's playoffs.

Burgos and Milledge claim last two spots
As I was wrapping this up, I get the word that Lastings Milledge and Ambiorix Burgos have claimed the last spots on the 25-man roster. Somehow Jon Adkins, who admittedly stunk, cleared waivers and will be in New Orleans as insurance. Chan Ho Park has accepted an option to New Orleans, which is both surprising and very good news. I still think he could play a part for the Mets this season.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (11)

I don't think that Burgos is a major-league ready pitcher at this point, and I'm very, very happy that his inclusion didn't cost us Park, whom I agree will end up playing an important role for us. One need only think back to Lim... no, we need not think back, but suffice to say that Park showed this spring that he still has the ability to miss bats in the bigs, which is more than most teams have ready to fill in for an injured starter.

I'm guessing, based on Willie's remarks about Milledge, that it's Burgos who will go down when Pelf comes up.

I think that Milledge's presence helps keep Green's leash short. Let's hope for a smooth transition when the time comes.

Overall, I really feel like the club's lethargic spring was a bit of a hangover from a crushing playoff defeat. This team lived on energy and passion last season, and I'm hopeful that we'll see that re-emerge, and last season put to rest when the lights come on in St. Louis.

I am surprised, too, that Park chose a minor league assignment over starting for Kansas City or somebody. Perhaps he is counting on someone getting hurt, and Humber NOT getting the call. That is Park's choice, though: get in line for a call to pitch for a contender, or pitch for a .400 team now. I guess is says something about Park that he took that chance.

Phil Rogers....I guess many of youse guys have read Aaron Gleeman's stuff from time to time. I confess I enjoyed him better when he wasn't getting paid; the several for-profit sites he works on now require structure, certain types of articles at certain points in the season, etc. Structure usually limits the silliness, unfortunately. But I am very happy for the kid.

Anyway, Gleeman used to compile frequent examples of Phil Rogers' latest screamers, columns that revealed Rogers' elementary - no, make that "pre-K" - understanding of the game of baseball. Rogers is arithmetically challenged and statistic-adverse, which occasionally leads him to dream up some REALLY irrelevant combinations of numbers and tout them as a new and useful statistic.

Essentially, he doesn't understand that some people are actually trying understand the games they are watching, gain insights, maybe learn how to figure out what comes next, how one can win more games and build better ball clubs. Not knowing any of that, he concludes that anyone can just say anything, and it'll be about as valid as whatever anyone else might say. It doesn't work, any more than I can bang on a keyboard and the result will sound like a Keith Jarret composition.

In short, I don't think the man has an idea worth reading, not a single one; he manages to make the work of slugs such as Detroit's Joe Falls read like a closely reasoned treatise by Bertran Russell in comparison.

And, he is Francesca and Russo's go-to guy for all Chicago baseball matters. Is that perfect?

I think I will hold up the YES sign for the Park accepting N.O.,the way he was pitching the last few times out for us was pretty good and he will be a nice quick fix if we need a fill in starter down the road. I am happy for Lastings, now we have another young player to watch fit in to our "the future is now" Mets. Just no hi-fives with the fans as he hits his 25th homerun. I am ready. I use to go to every opening day when I lived in Queens N.Y.and I start becoming antsy as that day comes near. To all that are going give a shout for me. Lets go Mets.

Re prognostications, palpitations and permutations, I'd still say: "That's why they play the games." I like who we've got, and have faith in the people running the club who are far more baseball savvy than any fan alive. These last few games (being Met wins) lowered my blood pressure considerably, and the roster moves were pretty much in line with what I've been thinking since Dec '06.

I don't remember the month of April being any great predictor of the WS champion; if somebody else would like to run the numbers, have a nut. Meanwhile, Sunday night can't come fast enough!!

Mike - I thought you'd get a kick out of Bianchi's rant. It's got to be frightening to be working in an industry whose revenue base is melting away like an ice floe underneath AlGore's favorite polar bear.

To make matters worse, Orlando is a one-paper town (not sure, but I think it's the largest U.S. city that can make such a claim). If you want sports opinion, you get one front-page column per day from Bianchi and two other writers who rotate the chore daily.

There's a decent Page 2 in the Sentinel, with a nice random stew full of bits of tid, usually from a guy named Jerry Greene, a very good writer with a much less inflated ego than Bianchi. The remaining four and a half pages are ads, wire stories, and box scores. Live in Orlando and want to read an opinion other than Mike Bianchi's? No other choice than to save your 50 cents and hit the Net.

I'm surprised that Burgos goes north and Park does not. Peterson must see something in Amby that I haven't seen yet. I'm not about to empty my 401-K and put it all on the Mets to win the '07 Series, but I feel good about 'em.

I've got a background in military history, so imagine how I feel about the drive-by media in regards to civil-military relations? They're even more pathetic at that than they are with sports reporting. And what's scary is that the public goes to them for information about policy, when they know so damn little about it- be it about Mets baseball or about counterinsurgency warfare. The only things I hate more than the media are lawyers, Yankees fans, and Larry "Chipper" Jones.

Burgos looked better in the last two weeks of spring training, but I think he's a reclamation project that Willie might see blow up in his face; if anything, he's this year's Jorge Julio. Watch him get traded by June 1st. Park going to New Orleans sounds like his way of fully and thoroughly apologizing to Willie for breaking his major NO-NO of selfish temper tantrums. If Burgos doesn't show any improvement within the first two weeks, watch Park come up. As for Adkins, well, it was nice knowing him.

As for Milledge, it's great that he made the team, but A)his hand injury would have warranted enough for me to consider AAA for him and B)how will Shawn Green and Moises Alou handle Milledge breathing down their necks, if he indeed is for real? I don't want him languishing on the bench- he'd be more productive in AAA otherwise. Give him at least two spot starts a week in the OF- and let Beltran, Alou, or Green rest (or have Green at 1st, and Delgado get a day off). Otherwise, he should get some late-innings work in as well. That should hopefully get him 3-4 full games of work in a 7 day workweek. Time will tell if he's for real, and if Alou or Green bomb.

ajsmith - For what it's worth, I'd be surprised if the Mets didn't carry 7 relievers even after Pelfrey comes up, unless the starters are going regularly at least through 6. I think Burgos can pitch himself to New Orleans if he struggles, though.
dd - It's not the first dumb thing I've read by the guy, that's for sure. He's not the only guy making a living writing about sports who feels that he can make up his own facts. Some of them are in NYC. M&TMD are 2 of them. Now wonder they get along.
Al - I was willing to give Green the benefit of the doubt, but now I'm beginning to wonder if young Lastings is starting RF by Mother's Day. I was certainly impressed by Park.
Geezer - I'm with you. Bring on the season.
NostraDennis - Our local Waterbury paper is like that, too. I used to use it to line the litter box but the cat was offended. She demands better.
Jason - I don't think Burgos is emotionally fragile like Julio. He has a lot to learn, but he doesn't give off that sulking vibe. I think he has a chance, though I won't bet the farm on him. As I said to Rev Al above, I'm starting to think Green is done and Milledge could be the starting RF shortly.

Great article, Mike. Like the Geico caveman says, maybe these folks should do a little research next time.

Thanks, Anthony.

Like usual, you always come through with a good butt whipping Mike. Way to call all of these hacks out.

Chris - I really don't have a personal vendetta against print guys. I just hate the sloppy sports journalism you see today.

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