Saturday, April 24, 2010

How I argued with a New York Times writer - and lived to tell about it

Today's New York Times' sports section features a front-page article by new Yankee beat writer Ben Shpigel about Alex Rodriguez . That's not exactly shocking, but the tone of the piece - and the pictures, headlines, and pull quotes to go along with it - is something out of the National Enquirer, not the Gray Lady.

The print edition's headline is entitled "EVERYBODY HATES A-ROD," while the online edition calls him "The Man Baseball Loves to Hate." The print version of the piece features three photos of A-Rod - all unflattering. There are also eight (!) negative pull quotes about Rodriguez from everybody from Joe Torre (of course!) to Curt Schilling to Jose Canseco. The 950-word article continues that negative tone, featuring additional quotes from others, including Paul LoDuca and Matt Mantei. There are exactly two positive quotes in the story - one from Joe Girardi, and one from Torii Hunter.

As I wrote in a piece for The Faster Times criticizing the article, it seems like the writer might have been channeling Earth Day with the way he recycled years-old quotes and grievances to make his point about how, well, everybody hates A-Rod!

And he missed the real story on this - the way that this time around, everybody from Joe Girardi to Derek Jeter to CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain have all had A-Rod's back here.(Read their quotes in my Faster Times piece. Jeter's, in particular, is hilarious!) That is the real news here, not what Trot Nixon said five years ago.

Contrary to Shpigel's insistence that "it has become a fashionable phenomenon to bash Rodriguez, something as popular as the Rally Monkey or the Phillie Phanatic," the reality is that the attacks on A-Rod have decreased over the past few years, due in no small part because he has kept his nose clean - and done fewer stupid things - over that time. Before Dallas Braden, when was the last time an opponent had something bad to say about A-Rod? It's been a while. Heck, with Teixeria spurning Boston for the Yanks last year, A-Rod wasn't even the most hated Yankee at Fenway!

I wondered why Shpigel didn't include the recent quotes, and took such a one-sided - and outdated - tone. So after writing my article about the piece, I joined the many Yankee fans on Twitter who asked him what the deal was:

"Your A-Rod piece is way off base," I wrote. "He has more, not fewer, people in his corner than 5 years ago, especially since Torre is gone." I included a link to my article and also asked him, "Why did you do a 950 (word) piece recycling old quotes, and not new positive ones? Paul LoDuca makes cut, but Jeter/CC/Andy/Joba don't?"

Anyhow, I heard back from Shpigel - I'll give him a lot of credit for that. He responded:

"Story wasn't about right/wrong or bashing/condoning his actions. No one else gets ripped more often than A-Rod. Simple."

Oh, come on now, I thought! How could anybody not think that was a one-sided negative article! So I wrote back, "The headline says EVERYBODY HATES A-ROD. U used every single old negative quote u could find, and only 2 positive. Not bashing?"

Shpigel shortened and retweeted my comment (it actually reads better shorter - thanks, Ben!), and added a statement of his own at the beginning:

Sigh. To each his own. RT@ subwaysquawkers @benshpigel The headline says EVERYBODY HATES A-ROD. Not bashing?

Ha! I made a New York Times reporter sigh! My day is complete!

Although I still disagree with Shpigel, I do appreciate his taking the time to respond to me. But will he be more fair to A-Rod the next time out? If he isn't, I'll be the one doing the sighing.


Mr Lonely said...
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MONDOAS said...

Why would you even write this article? Are we needing to sell papers? Is it that bad over at the Times? This article is why it has to be tough being an athlete in NY. I actually feel sorry for A-Rod because he has been doing a lot right lately so why can't he be left alone? There are a lot of reporters out there who need to lay off of the "Hatorade"!!

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