Opening Night Frustration with the Indians Media

Baseball is timeless and the moments between pitches, quick twitch action, are filled with conversation which can familial, political, perhaps discussing the merits of a micro-brew or gossiping about the neighborhood.

However, many of the moments without action, a large portion of the game, are spent synthesizing those individual moments when action occurs, what happened, what went right, what went wrong.

Sometimes it will be whether the pitch selection was correct, whether a cutoff man should have held the ball or not, whether the third base coach made the right decision.

Whether we like it or not consuming baseball is very centered around our analytical, critical natures as human beings as well as the very human element of a love the narrative.

The contemplative, analytical part of baseball is unavoidable, it is what makes discussing baseball so thought provoking, so detailed, the only divide in our analytical interest of discussing baseball is the information we decide to use, the people and concepts we attempt to appeal to.

If the game wasn't intricate enough, player contracts, market economics and free agency add an additional level of complexity which the average fan who works 40+ hours a week just doesn't have the time to research and understand, unless they are so obsessed that it eats away at their free time to an unhealthy extent which are most of us who blog on our spare time.

I don't wish to write professionally or become a beat writer but I love attempting to understand every layer of this game, though I often don't, which is why I write about a few of the things I may grasp, hoping to illuminate different corners of baseballs darkness.

Which is why the role of beat writer or reporter is so important, these people have access that many of us dream of having, they can devote their time to telling stories and presenting us with information that we don't have time to see.

Beat writers are skilled storytellers and thinkers, who get an opportunity every fan is jealous of with their responsibility being to illuminate and provide information to those who don't have access to it.

With talent, and opportunity comes great responsibility or so it should.

Which brings me to my current frustration, as someone who posts relatively frequently, I am mainly a consumer of baseball writing, I just want to grasp this team, this game a little bit better every day.

Two days ago the Indians signed extension with Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, both financially sound and mutually beneficial, though each contract has differentiated risks. I won't dive too deeply into the implications for the Indians as Steve Orbanek has already covered this quite well.

But a few details about the Corey Kluber deal will illuminate my frustrations: First, Kluber is currently pre-arb which means that no matter the outcome the Indians control him for four more years guaranteed, so there was no possibility of him hitting the market for four more years. Arbitration essentially has salary ceilings tied to player performance. Therefore, the Indians guaranteed a little higher than expected in exchange for team options at the end of the four years for cheaper than expected market value. (Obviously a negotiation of significant complexity)

Arbitration caps the rate of payment to a player significantly lower than the open market, if Kluber was a free agent after last season, he would likely get around 85% of Scherzer's contract.

Essentially each party splits the risk and it protects each side as well.

Last night, Rick Porcello, a very good pitcher but obviously not a Cy Young Award winner signed a contract extension including the 2016-2019 seasons, for $82.5 million.

Which led to tweets like this:

In the hottest of takes which compares two contracts of players who have differentiated skills, the presentation of information would suggest to the fan, consumer, that the contracts stem from similar situations.

The situations being completely different, as the Red Sox purchased four years of free agency that they did not own,  Porcello would have other wise hit the market following the season, and if healthy would have likely been guaranteed more. Guaranteeing four years of Kluber already owned versus buying four years of Porcello, headed to the open market is incredibly different, and incomparable.

Though this appeals to fans who don't have time to understand the pre-free agency contract structure and makes for nice twitter bait, it is a false analogy that provides misinformation from someone whose job it is to inform.

If the tweet had pointed out that Porcello's contract denotes the importance doing what the Indians have done successfully in terms of buying out arbitration in exchange for options it would have been fine, even insightful. 

But that was not clarified, indeed, many Indians fans and followers asked if the reason for the discrepency was Kluber giving a hometown discount.

Of course, Camino could have rectified the deleterious misinformation by merely tweeting the context and explaining the importance of arbitration, team ownership in the process but that would not get many retweets I suppose.

So a few, including myself, pressed him on the matter:

By asking for Mr. Camino to provide proper information, context for his tweet we were told we were taking him too seriously. That it was merely having fun and people who trust in people like him for information should just understand arbitration and player contracts.

Perhaps he is right, maybe it was unfair but Camino's responsibilities include hosting a show on WTAM and coverage of the Cleveland Indians. Is it unfair to expect transparency and clarity from those given the opportunity to interact with and cover the Cleveland Indians?

I don't think so. Further, it galls me that fans whose jobs are demanding, whose respite is baseball are to be shamed for not understanding something which is Camino's job to explain.

Camino is talented, his work is likely demanding and I have not been in his shoes. But hundreds of people would love to have his opportunity, and the responsibility to providing fans with clarity and information rather than taking advantage of what he understands and they don't is frustrating. 

Those people with data don't understand baseball!!
After getting shutout by a pitcher who by almost any measure was one of the 20 best pitchers in baseball last season, in the season opener it became time to criticize the number of left handed hitters in the Indians lineup, especially if your name is Paul Hoynes.

So let's get one thing straight, this arrangement isn't going to vanish. Not when GM Chris Antonetti has spread sheets full of numbers that say lefties hit better than righties at Progressive Field.
The arrangement Hoynes is addressing is the number of left handed hitters in the Indians lineup being the root cause of last nights run scoring problems rather than the quality of pitcher. I must concede to Hoynes that platoon advantage matters, but unfortunately for him these people like Chris Antonetti and their sheets of numbers tell us about how good they are at using platoon advantage.

 Nick Wheatley-Schaller now a scribe at EHC wrote an impeccable piece at Baseball Prospectus which discusses the Indians and platoon advantage(platoon advantage being pitchers facing the handed hitter which they struggle with most), Nick looks at the data which shows that the Indians, thanks to Terry Francona are the best at creating platoon advantage at bats in baseball.

A key part of their platoon advantage is due to boasting a lefty heavy roster, as starting pitchers are dominantly right handed.

Darn these sheets of data, also simple data known as park factor says that Progressive Field is indeed favorable to left handed power. Also, since Hoynes has been to Progressive many times if you look at the left field wall, the toughness on right handed hitters should be pretty apparent.

So the Indians are the best in baseball at getting platoon advantages, and the park is clearly favorable to left handed hitters but one can agree with Hoynes if they frequently utter the following: "Darn all this information and these spreadsheets, I watched last nights game and that is good enough for me to draw overarching conclusion."

It may appear uncouth for me to post such honest discontent with those who have incredible influence on the information Indians fans have access to but I think those who hold these jobs must be held accountable for their coverage.

Craig Calcaterra wrote a piece today, lamenting about an unrelated Opening Day media stupidity, which states more effectively than I can the importance of holding our sportswriters accountable. Calcaterra was annoyed with the Washington Times' overraction to Max Scherzer's start, but his critique is worth heeding:
A big reason I criticize stuff like this is because I simply won’t surrender to the notion that sports are so unimportant that there’s no harm in sports journalism being bad. Bull. We’ve all seen great sports journalism. We know how edifying and enjoyable it can be. We know how, at times, it can even enhance our enjoyment of the game itself by its very existence. Not everything has to read like Roger Angell, but there’s no reason we shouldn’t at least aim higher.
But I also criticize such things because I hate that so much conversation about sports is dumb and that, as noted above, so many of the conversations we have about sports become monstrous pains. I’d love to sit down in a bar in Washington and have someone say “Scherzer pitched well, but the defense stunk and stuff happens, ya know?” Then move on to other, less-dumb things. We should all want that.
Every other part of media is subject to media criticism, often by dedicated media critics, which everyone accepts. Sports journalism should not be singularly immune. 
I respect Hoynes and Camino, and this is not a representation of all their work as each has offered work of quality and I cannot imagine producing as much product on a daily basis. The quantity of work may have been the root cause but as readers we have to demand more, it has to get better than this.

Baseball is an inordinately complex game, the complexity is where many of us draw joy, the aspect which engages our mind and forces out, just for a moment the pieces of every day life which we wish to escape. The dumb aspects of life shouldn't have to necessarily follow the dumb hobbies we escape to, and hopefully sportswriters, particularly those covering our Cleveland teams, can take this into consideration with their work.
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