Rule number one when reading the sports section: never trust a sports writer. Sports writers are much like tabloid writers in a number of ways: 1) we need something to write about, and 2) we need to write every day. So what happens when there is no exciting news to report and we need to publish an article? . . . Bingo! We exaggerate the hell out of something.
For example, there are a number of sources who are complaining about Anthony Rizzo and how he’s in a dreadful slump and his average has fallen 40 points and he’s not going to lead the Cubs to a pennant unless he plays like the reincarnation of Babe Ruth. Stop. The facts of the story are that, yeah, Rizzo is going through a down period in comparison with the way that he started out the year. About three weeks ago Rizzo was hitting over .300 and now his average is down to .267. But if you’re asking my opinion, I don’t think Rizzo is a .300 hitter anyway. Rizzo is the kind of guy who is going to hit between .260 and .280 for his career so don’t get bent out of shape because he has cooled off from his hot start. But here in lies our dilemma as writers . . . who is going to want to read an article with the title: “Rizzo finally doing what we realistically expect of him” . . . the answer to that question is no one.
But, luckily, finding things to actually freak out about is relatively easy when the team you write for is in last place. For example, Edwin Jackson is by far the most disappointing Cub of the Theo Epstein era. At the time of his signing, it seemed like a good move. Four years and 52 million dollars, seemed a little steep but with the need for a veteran starting pitcher and having just missed out on Anibal Sanchez, it was the right move. No one feels that way anymore. Here we are in the middle of year two of his contract and Edwin Jackson has posted an 11-23 record with a 4.93 ERA to date. Take a moment to be properly outraged by this.
Now, it’s not worth writing an article bashing Edwin Jackson because, again, what did we really expect? When the Cubs signed him back in January of 2013, there was excitement and fist pumping. People thought that his arrival would certainly help the Cubs out of last place and, who knows, maybe even help them make a playoff push. But all that was media driven. I want you to pretend that you never read any of those articles. Pretend it is January of 2013 and that the Cubs just signed a new starting pitcher. I’ll tell you a little bit about him. This 29-year-old pitcher has pitched for eight other teams prior to his arrival in Chicago, and has a career record of 70-71 with an ERA of 4.40 in 10 professional season. This pitcher has had an ERA over 5.00 in five different seasons and has been an all-star only once before. Also, he will be making 13 million dollars each year for the next four seasons. Now, knowing that, is anyone terribly surprised that the Cubs lost 96 games last year and Edwin Jackson led the league in losses with 18? You shouldn’t be. Despite getting caught up in the buzz created by those deceitful sports writers, the facts are that the Cubs, a poor team, signed a mediocre pitcher and neither one exceeded expectations.
So going forward I have this advice to pass on. Always look at the facts in the article (we have to include them and they add length to our work, so they will be there) and ignore any implications in the title because we will try and make anything into a story to get you fired up about. I encourage you to challenge your local sports writers, if you feel so inclined. Maybe comment on their article or ask them a difficult question on their company facebook page. Perhaps you could even submit your own take on the information. But the bottom line is this, never trust a sports writer.
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