Page 2 and current SI
scribe Jeff Pearlman was kind enough to answer some questions for me in an email
exchange. Pearlman, the author of three
books, frequently provides updates at his blog,
which is a daily morning read for me.
Our electronic conversation is below:
Jeff, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. Let's get right into it.
Your "Not for you, bud" post discussing Jayson Werth's rude response to one of your writing colleagues generated quite a buzz. While I agree with you that Werth was out of line, I had a different reaction to the piece overall. Are player quotes that important, I kept thinking, that beat writers should spend "60% of their life devoted to standing in a corner" waiting for a few minutes of player's time?
Jeff: Fair question. For most of us, it's not about the quotes, per
se, but the insight. That's something a lot of media bashers don't understand.
Sure, you're always looking for a good quote. But what I always enjoyed most was
getting inside a ballplayer's head, often just to improve my own knowledge in
order to cover the game. For example, one of the best baseball conversations I
ever had came back when Shawn Green and Shawn Estes were with
In a sense, Werth's words sum up a primary reason I left Sports Illustrated as a baseball writer back in 2002. I just couldn't handle chasing around these guys on a weekly basis. Others in the profession rave about the access that comes with covering the diamond, but the 3 1/2-hour clubhouse window is truly a blessing (time to talk) and a curse (time to talk). Literally, a solid 60% of a baseball writer's life is devoted to standing in a corner of a room, waiting ... waiting ... waiting ... waiting ... waiting ... waiting for, oh, Derek Jeter or Brian Giles to put down the Maxim so the scribe can slink over and ask a few questions (guaranteed to be answered in banal cliches).
I completely agree about the cliché responses. Beat writers can certainly break the cliché mold by asking the right questions, but often times it seems as if a writer could insert a regurgitated player quote into an article and no one would seem to notice or care. Which brings me back to the last question: do writers need to put it up with that kind of abuse, solely to add a few sentences about how a certain player think he is doing better because of some frivolous reason that in reality probably has only a minimal correlation to his success?
Jeff: Well, I'd say bad reporters embrace bad quotes--and they're usually the ones who work for TV and radio stations and are just looking to fill that 30-second gap in air time. The good print reporters dig and dig and dig for unique and in-depth answers. And they put up with the crap because, for every 100 lame, regurgitated insights, there's one brilliant one that knocks your socks off.
Jeff: More than anything, I thought it was silly. Ken is a friend, and he's one of the absolute best out there. But a few days before this all happened he wrote a column questioning David Ortiz and performance enhancers. He obviously saw it as a different circumstance--but I didn't. Without question, Morris had a perfect right to write what he did. It was fair and honest and a realistic response to what's been going on. Hell, everyone was thinking it about Ibanez. I'm glad someone wrote it.
Jeff: My thing is (and this is obviously not a viewpoint shared by many) ... professional baseball is soooo limiting on the brain. It really, really is, and I don't care how snobby I sound saying that. It doesn't lend itself to thought or introspection or selflessness. I don't know how many times I've heard people make excuses for a ballplayer's horrible behavior with, "Well, you'd be that way too if you had this sort of high-pressure job." Weird, but true. So I guess, for me, it comes down to this: Play baseball as a career, have fun, do it well. But don't rush your kid into the lifestyle. Let him develop into a human being; let him have his childhood and teenage years. Let him live. I guess I say that as a parent more than anything else, but it's how I feel.
Well, I've seen that life up close.
Yes, the money is good, and the perks are nice. But it's a profession I pray
neither of my kids pursue. The sports world frowns upon curiosity and
free-thought. You are a robot--show up at 2, lift at 3, run at 4, stretch at
, etc ... etc. Yes, you might get to
Personally, I want my kids to crave life; to see everything, experience everything; try this; try that. Athletes rarely follow such a path.
They're too busy being, well, athletes.
Is it fair to label all athletes/baseball players with such a broad brush?
Jeff: No. Just most.
Jeff: Definitely. It's made writing about the game less fun, because I'm always suspicious and I'm no longer dazzled. I covered Bonds' pursuit of McGwire's single-season record, and it was a joyless trip from hell. Everyone knew it was bull----, so what was the point? Even now, I look at Raul Ibanez and Ryan Howard and guys like that and think, 'Hmmm.' I trust no one.
Truth is, however, most of the passion I've lost--and I've lost a lot-comes from repetition. Every year is the same: A dominant team, a disappointing team, a hot rookie, a fading veteran. It gets sorta old. So, nowadays, my favorite thing about sports is the nostalgia. I like looking back 1,000,000 times more than looking at the present.
Jeff: I don't think this generation is more predisposed to dishonesty
than, say, the 1970s or 1890s. But, to me, that's irrelevant. It reminds me of
when George Bush would justify invading
Jeff: I hope not. I hope voters give a big, fat middle finger to the entire era. I really do. Look, the players who used are, by far, the most guilty. But what about all the cowards who knew their game was being corrupted and did nothing? Let's say Derek Jeter knew all this was going on, but didn't use PHD and said nothing. Well, he's certainly not nearly as guilty as a Giambi or Clemens, but he's not entirely off the hook. Someone needed to step up and say, "This is bull----! This is ruining my game!" Nobody did.
Jeff: No way, but the same goes for Clemens, Giambi, Sosa, McGwire. Bonds isn't evil because he used steroids--he is evil because he treats everyone like dog crap and cares only about himself. The reason I wouldn't vote him in is this: The Hall of Fame lists several criterion for enshrinement--one of which is GOOD OF THE GAME. What these guys have done by cheating far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far outweighs their statistics. They have voided an era. I mean, think about that--they have literally made an entire era statistically irrelevant. Or, as I always say, I wrote a biography on Barry Bonds, and right now I don't know what the all-time home run record is. That was the biggest mark in sports. Now? Meaningless. Totally meaningless.
Jeff: Certainly, most of what he did for the players was in their best interests. That's undeniable. But in relation to PHD, he failed hugely. He always seemed to see this in a very narrow scope--'We don't want the players to have to face invasive drug testing.' Well, what about the health risks of all these drugs? What about the long-term life impact? If Fehr really cared about the health of his legions, he would have said to them that, first and foremost, the goal must be to rid the game of drugs. If not for the good of the sport, then for the personal good of the athletes themselves.
Jeff: I don't, because I don't think what she wrote was nearly as terrible as people made it out to be. If you read her work at the time, it's more an attack of the culture, not the athletes themselves. And she was right, in that regard. That said, would I have handled the aftermath differently? Probably. The one thing I've learned the hard way in this business: Acknowledging shortcomings almost always goes well in the long run. Again, I didn't think her stuff was nearly as offensive as many do. But clearly it was taken in a certain way--one I don't think she intended.
Jeff: The best media job I ever have came in the early-2000s, when I
went to work for Newsday. I was tired of writing sports on a weekly basis, and
Newsday came to me with this: You can write about anything you find in
Jeff: The surging Texas Rangers, the (early) surging Toronto Blue Jays, David Wright losing his power, all the Met injuries, fans rebelling at the new Yankee Stadium, the Dodgers not really needing Manny Ramirez.
Jeff: When I was a kid, I loved Rick Telander at Sports Illustrated,
Dave Anderson at the New York Times, Dick Schaap. I went to the
Jeff: Not one iota.
Jeff: No, because I was always able to find a place to write. If it wasn't my high school paper, it was the local weekly where I interned. I enjoy my blog--it's fun and cool, and the feedback and interest has surprised me. That said, it's very self-indulgent-me rambling on about whatever enters my brain. That's fine at age 37, when I sorta know what I'm doing and can see it for what it is. But I think a lot of bloggers could use editors, and don't realize it. I recently attended the Blogs with Balls conference. It was tons of sports bloggers--fun and cool. But a lot of these guys were patting one another on the back, saying how great this blog was or that blog was. Most of these guys are 24, 25, 26, 27. They're learning--hell, we're all learning. But they have nobody ever editing them, and often it shows. You see the talent, but you also think, "What is this?" So I'm glad I didn't have a blog back in the day, because the editing I received was invaluable.
Tyler Hissey is the editor of Around The Majors and a frequent contributor to Philly Baseball News.