The fall of the mainstream media in baseball

The game's out there, and it's play or get played – Omar Little

When I first started blogging after the 2003 season on an old Cubs blog and then later on Another Cubs Blog, there weren't many places you could go to get breaking news. If you wanted to read what's up with the Cubs, you were still stuck with the traditional sources. Sources like Paul Sullivan and the other talent-less Chicago Tribune sportswriters were a necessary evil. So too was Gordon Whittenmeyer and whatever else the Chicago Sun-Times offered. The same is also true for the more talented Bruce Miles. Cubs.com was relatively new and ESPN didn't have regular coverage of the Cubs in the same ways that the local Chicago papers did.

Even back then, if you wanted information on Cubs prospects, you weren't going to find that information in the major sources. You'd have to comb through the box scores yourself, read Baseball America or find the rare blog that regularly covered minor league prospects.

The landscape has changed significantly since then. So much so that I have not had to go to the Chicago Tribune, Sun-Times or Daily Herald in well over a year to find news about the Cubs. If I'm interested in post-game notes, Carrie Muskat has proven herself more than capable of providing the details I want. In the offseason ESPN is a bit more interesting, but I rarely visit the place during the season.

While a lot of people will point to social media and how it has made reading the news we're interested in a lot easier, but as far as baseball goes, nothing changed it more than MLB Trade Rumors did. That site, at the time it launched, was a baseball junkie's dream. Early on it was essentially a collection of the rumors posted by sources just like Paul Sullivan, but as it grew they developed their own sources and would almost always be the first to report a rumor.

Twitter started a few months later, but as soon as MLBTR launched, the need for reading Paul Sullivan, Gordon Whittenmeyer and others declined significantly. They did for me anyway. I never needed those guys to tell me how to think and that's what they're especially good at. The only use I ever had for them was news that I couldn't get elsewhere and now the combination of MLBTR and Carrie Muskat was bringing me just about everything I was interested in reading about the Cubs.

There were still times where reading the hacks was necessary, but over time it's become almost irrelevant to even check out what they're writing.

Twitter also provided an avenue for the players to speak directly with their fans. Even the desire to read something as simple as player quotes following a game is less important because of this. The fans had no access to the players. They now do on twitter.

MLBTR and the fast pace at which people had breaking news thanks to Twitter changed baseball blogs. What was once more about commentary and occasionally analysis, was now also about news. Check out Brett's Bleacher Nation for a fantastic example. Aisle424 said awhile back that he goes to BN to get his news before most other sources and it's true. You can get up to the minute news coverage of the Chicago Cubs on a baseball blog now. It's amazing. Some do it better than others and Brett is an example of one of them doing it exceptionally well. He has helped make the mainstream sportswriters even more obsolete than they were.

People's interest in the sport has evolved over the years too. I already mentioned that few blogs and almost no one in the media covered the minor leagues. Once a few blogs started doing it, and no one covered or still covers Cubs prospects better than The Cub Reporter's Arizona Phil, the media had to get on board though they never did it well. Once that happened every team specific blog on the planet had to get on board. Prospect information is readily available at nearly every blog you visit. The fantastic thing is that it almost doesn't even matter which blog it is, you are going to get more information than you'll find by a major source.

Again, MLBTR can be partially thanked for the growing interest in prospects. The trade rumors and transactions in general are a huge business and MLBTR has done it well. If you read your team is going to trade a player you want to know who they'll get. They provide that info, link to sources who have written about them and that information is then reposted on numerous other blogs. I don't always like what MLBTR does, but their influence cannot be denied. Whether intentional or not, they have made baseball fans more informed than ever.

Then there is sabermetrics. Like prospects, few team specific blogs discussed sabermetrics early on. That was after the time they had become more accepted in the game, but outside the game the fans were very reluctant to embrace it. Some fought hard against it. They lost.

Some blogs cover it more than others and some are more knowledgeable than others, but you don't have to go far to find a blog listing a player's wOBA, wRC+, FIP or WAR. 5 years ago it was his batting average, maybe his OBP and SLG and the number of RBI, runs, the ERA and errors the player had. The advanced metrics have found their way into broadcasts, news networks like ESPN and MLB Network, and down to hundreds and maybe thousands of blogs.

The media? They were the last to accept it. Some are still fighting a battle long lost.

I don't share in the outrage that fans feel over performance enhancing drugs, but neither did the media until it was convenient. The media, along with Major League Baseball, helped cover up the use of performance enhancing drugs. The fans were outraged at the use and when it became clear the media had no alternative, they were merely ready to get in line.

The BBWAA has tried for years to protect their sacred group and continue voting for awards in the same silly manner they always did. Some well deserving writers outside the mainstream media forced their way into the BBWAA because they had proven more capable of covering baseball than the ones trying to keep the doors locked.

At every step the major media has been one-upped by its previous readers. They watch the games in more detail. They know more about their favorite team, their favorite players, the ballpark and even the city. They better understand in which direction the club is headed. They more accurately assess the quality of the farm system, MLB team and its front office. They're often ahead of the journalists when it comes to transactions. They have far superior analysis of those transactions. They don't need Paul Sullivan to know what's being said by the players, coaches or executives.

Almost every advantage the media once had has been stolen from them. Stolen in part because of technology and in part because others were just better at their passion than the journalists were at their job.

You know those sporstwriters who thought they did something that was difficult no one else could do it? Yeah, they were wrong. The internet has proven that there are hundreds of people who can not only do their job, but do it better.

No wonder the media has such contempt for bloggers. It's like the bloggers went into their houses and stole the very things they prize most. They got played, yo.

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