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If you’re in the opinion business, be prepared to defend your opinions

Nov 16, 2012, 9:46 AM EDT

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I will preface this by saying that I am certain — 100% certain — that a lot of people out there in Internet land said rude, personal and otherwise awful things to baseball writers who argued in favor of Miguel Cabrera for the MVP.  There were also people who likely said rude, personal and otherwise awful things to people who supported Mike Trout. Indeed, people say rude, personal and otherwise awful things to anyone who says anything about anything, because that’s how the Internet works, unfortunately.

But setting aside those rude, personal and otherwise awful sentiments from rude and awful people, I am not going to have much sympathy for baseball writers who are upset that people take issue with their opinions and analysis.

I am not going to link to any specific examples of upset baseball writers because the point is not to go after any specific person today.  But I have seen some pretty unfortunate reactions from professional writers in the past 24 hours. Writers who are shocked, angered or more than mildly annoyed that folks dare criticize them for their opinions about the MVP (and other things). The sentiments range from ruffled feathers and hurt feelings to full-on shock that their views are being questioned. And it’s not just in response to people saying “you’re a jackwagon and I hate you!”  It has also come in response to people saying “that doesn’t make sense, and here’s why …”

Look, folks:  If you put your opinions out into the world, don’t act surprised or offended when people take issue. That’s how discourse works. Saying “I believe what you said is wrong, and here is why I think that” is healthy, despite what a lot of people think. It’s how most institutions get to the bottom of things. Peer review. Political discourse. That kind of thing. I know that sports writers have not traditionally had to deal with that, but in this day and age you cannot pretend that the opinions you put out in the world aren’t subject to criticism.  Especially when it comes to awards and Hall of Fame voting, because in those instances writers are not merely writers. They are news makers too.

By the way: that goes for the bloggy/Internet writers just as much as it goes for the old school people too. One thing I’ve seen a lot more of lately than I used to are blogger types who assert something, catch flak, and then act horrified that people aren’t agreeing with them. That’s pathetic, folks. Bloggy people should, more than anyone, be cool with things getting chippy.

But either way:  If you are going to dish it out, be prepared to take it. And we should — in the interest of furthering knowledge and enlightenment — be dishing it out, as long as we’re not doing so in way that is rude, personal and otherwise awful.

  1. danaking - Nov 16, 2012 at 9:51 AM

    Word.

  2. shaggylocks - Nov 16, 2012 at 9:59 AM

    That was pretty reasoned and reasonable, especially coming from such a jackwagon.

    • heyblueyoustink - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:20 AM

      I know, he’s so very serious this morning. I wonder if the demise of Hostess is bothering him. It’s a tremendous blow to the cake faction.

      • stex52 - Nov 16, 2012 at 12:26 PM

        Oh God, is it true? Where are the Twinkies??????? Gotta Go!!!!!!!!

  3. brandonwarne - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    Your all wrong.

    (sorry just a joke)

    • saints97 - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:14 AM

      “Your all wrong.”

      God I love irony, even when it is meant as a joke.

  4. Detroit Michael - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    Seems to me that if the BBWAA voters knew that the BBWAA was going to release all the inidividual ballot information, then any public reactions were completely foreseeable. If having their inidividual ballots released was a surprise (although it’s been done somewhat sporadically in the past), then their ire should be directed to the BBWAA.

    • kkolchak - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:15 AM

      Their individual ballots SHOULD be released. That’s called accountability. If they can’t stand the heat, then they should give up their vote.

      • historiophiliac - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:11 AM

        Accountability? Do you pay them? Are they expending your tax dollars? Defending the national borders? Are they liable for anything under criminal or civil law depending on their vote? Are you going to call a grand jury?

        People take this waaaaaay to seriously.

      • paperlions - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:29 AM

        I don’t think any writer that votes has the right to be upset at reactions to their vote. If they can’t win an argument to support their opinion (in this case, their votes) based on the facts at hand, then they should re-evaluate how they form their opinions. Getting pissed that your opinion isn’t as well supported as others is childish and the wrong response to being shown you were wrong.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:38 AM

      If having their inidividual ballots released was a surprise (although it’s been done somewhat sporadically in the past), then their ire should be directed to the BBWAA.

      The BBWAA kept the ballots secret until this year. However, many writers like Keith Law choose to inform the public about who they voted for, and why. Klaw even mentioned that if there were an announcement about making the ballots public, he must have missed it because it caught him completely by surprise.

      • Detroit Michael - Nov 16, 2012 at 12:51 PM

        There was at least one prior election when all the AL MVP ballots were made public, not just selected writers publicizing their own ballots..

  5. hushbrother - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    Spoken like a true douchelord.

  6. albertmn - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    I can’t disagree with your point. But, do you realize that you just created the one page that will be linked to most often if/when you argue your point in the face of any future criticism on your opinions?

    • Craig Calcaterra - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:17 AM

      Why should that bother me? I will NEVER take issue with someone simply BECAUSE they disagree with me. I am not immune from this. I will push back to defend my position as long as I still hold it, but I would hope and expect that people treat me the same way I treat them. The only limitation I’d put on it is that I would expect civility. As anyone should.

      • proudlycanadian - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:27 AM

        The key word is civility.

      • Gamera the Brave - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:57 AM

        It’s so awesome that even when you say something so above-board, so obviously reasonable, you still get a thumbs-down. I actually laughed out loud when I saw it.

        Trolls are funny!

      • Bill Parker - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:23 AM

        That’s a really important distinction, I think. The nameless piece that created this didn’t make any effort to engage the criticism. It acknowledged the counterarguments, proving that the author HAD actually paid attention, but then made no effort to refute them AT ALL, basically just said “nyah nyah we won and you lost!”

      • albertmn - Nov 16, 2012 at 2:12 PM

        I may not have been clear. I don’t expect it to bother you. I just figured that if you rant, someone will link to this later, even if it doesn’t really apply. With the internet, people seem to be able to dredge up anything and everything ever said and try to use it against someone.

  7. illcomm - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:15 AM

    Craig I wholeheartedly agree with you. nice rant!

  8. kiwicricket - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    And it’s not just in response to people saying “you’re a jackwagon and I hate you!”

    Wow, I didn’t know my ex-girlfriend followed baseball?

    • historiophiliac - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:13 AM

      Well, then, you were the gift that keeps on giving.

  9. darthicarus - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    I’m actually curious what today’s articles would have been like if Trout had won. Based on the negative reaction of the Trout crowd to him losing, I sense there would’ve been large amounts of self-congratulating & finger pointing at the Cabrera crowd with a few “TOLD YOU SO’S” thrown in for fun.

    Of course, whining & complaining about not getting what you want is something I deal with every day with my kids so I find those articles rather entertaining since my 3 year olds act the exact same way as grown men/women.

    • indaburg - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:14 AM

      Even though I was a member of the “Trout crowd”, I thought Cabrera would ultimately win because he was heavy on the stats and narrative that the BBWAA is keen on. So, no, I would not have said “I told you so.” I would have been too surprised. Had Trout won, the headlines would have read something like “Not Your Father’s MVP.” It would have been seen as mainstream acceptance of non-traditional stats.

      If my 3 year old could fashion an articulate argument with supporting statistics about why she should have a lollipop before dinner, I wouldn’t call it whining or complaining.

  10. willclarkgameface - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    The angry BBWAA reaction generally comes from the fact that all of their jobs are in jeopardy and they refuse to move into the world of new media. They will take it out on all of the fans of the game because they want you to believe they are highly important individuals, all that talking they do about games and stories.

    Newspapers suck.

    • stex52 - Nov 16, 2012 at 12:24 PM

      I don’t free with everything you say, but you are on to the key point. They feel threatened in their livelihoods. That can make people borderline deadly. And certainly civility goes first.

      • stex52 - Nov 16, 2012 at 12:24 PM

        damned correction “agree” not “free”

  11. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:28 AM

    To be read in the voice of the lisping Sicilian from The Princess Bride: “Accountability for my published opinions, for which I am paid? Inconceivable!”

  12. Carl Hancock - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    I noticed Trout supports were far more abusive with their arguments. They were talking down to anyone who disagreed, acted as if Cabrera didn’t have a great season and anything other than a Trout MVP would be a crime. It was absurd. Both players were worthy. There wasn’t a wrong winner no matter which one of them ended up winning.

    • hisgirlgotburrelled - Nov 16, 2012 at 12:03 PM

      I saw a lot of comments about stat-heads not understanding the game of baseball and just going by advanced statistics. It went both ways.

      • Carl Hancock - Nov 16, 2012 at 1:17 PM

        Indeed it does. I never said the Cabrera supporters weren’t abusive either. I just noticed that the Trout supporters tending to be more so. They were very condescending and would insinuate anyone who didn’t agree with the analytics behind their argument was a moron.

        I like both players and thought they both had amazing seasons. They were both worthy of the award. I wouldn’t have complained no matter which one took him the award. Trying to act as if Trout was robbed is just silly considering the season both players had.

        They both took him awards and I’m sure they are both very happy and don’t have any gripes about how it panned out.

  13. bluburt - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    It’s my opinion and you MUST, MUST, MUST agree…!!!

  14. APBA Guy - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    There’s a lot of “echo chamber” in people’s lives, especially among those who have a vested stake in the positions they take. We’re seeing it in politics, particularly among those whose prognostications were way off base in this last election. And now in the sports world, among those whose opinions (and MVP votes) were based less on reason and more on emotion.

    If you surround yourself and only listen to those who agree with you, you cease to be as informed as you could be. That’s why your boss is most likely a dickhead. When was the last time someone said “no” to your boss? And that’s why those people get push back from other people who don’t have to agree with them.

    Instead of getting mad or defensive, these old school sportswriters should use this as an opportunity to learn something.

  15. a125125125 - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    I have an idea….let’s all act like this pointless award really matters. Then let’s visit blogs and buy newspapers that discuss this topic.

    #We’reGettingPlayedByReporters

  16. hisgirlgotburrelled - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    I think a lot of why Cabrera won by such a large margin is because a lot of people looked at Trout winning as a win for WAR and a loss for voting and opinions. What would be the point of expressing your opinion and voting for the award if you just gave the award to the player with the highest WAR?

  17. stevejeltzjehricurl - Nov 16, 2012 at 12:18 PM

    There have been worse travesties than this one in MVP voting; Trout deserved to win, but Cabrera’s season is far from being unworthy of the award.

    The real issue here is what Craig noted — people seem to be offended by others taking apart their arguments, even in a civil tone, for why they voted for Cabrera. They’re trying to play off their alleged expertise — “how dare these amateurs question my judgement, when I have so much more knowledge than them!” It even shows up in the quality of the arguments, when they make them — I think a lot of people making arguments on behalf of Cabrera, because they’ve focused on issues like the Triple Crown and the Tigers winning the AL Central, failed to make stronger arguments that might be more helpful to his case, such as noting how many more games he played than Trout (which is not Trout’s fault, but it is a factor).

    Bottom line, even if you have years of experience doing something, that doesn’t mean your authority should be unquestioned or that you shouldn’t be subjected to criticism. Criticism should strengthen and sharpen your arguments, if you actually take the time to address the issues raised by critics. And if you can’t answer their arguments, it may be because you’re wrong.

  18. schlom - Nov 16, 2012 at 1:12 PM

    I don’t know why anyone would take an award seriously when Raul Ibanez got a vote.

  19. hushbrother - Nov 16, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    Since this blog post is directed at media members and other bloggers there’s not much for a commenter to say, other than, I agree, keep it civil. It’s friggin’ baseball, after all.

  20. Just a Fan - Nov 16, 2012 at 1:32 PM

    Don’t forget the part where posts don’t make it to the page, because people like you Craig don’t allow criticism your own post to be viewed.

    This probably won’t make it on the page either…..at least your consistent.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Nov 16, 2012 at 1:35 PM

      We don’t block or pre-screen any comments here. If something does not show up it’s either because the user has been blocked — which rarely happens — or because the spam filter has picked it up. Legit comments picked up by the spam filter (again, rare) that are not spam are approved by us in a very short time. Occasionally the WP comments engine gets overloaded and some comments have trouble getting up, but that too is rare.

      At no time, ever, have we blocked critical comments that don’t otherwise violate our very liberal terms of use..

      But hey, you know this, because your comments make it to the page all the time.

  21. normcash - Nov 16, 2012 at 2:29 PM

    My sense of things, from reading various blogs and baseball sites and columns, is that the sabermatricians are much more emotional over the Cabrera vs. Trout issue than the other side.
    And more numerous, which is probably a function of their greater affinity for and comfort with
    computers. My problem with their arguments is that they purport to base their position on statistical analysis—math. 2 + 2 equals 4—you can’t argue with that! And, if you do, you’re obviously an
    idiot! But, of course, these analysis are riddled with assumptions, especially the WAR metric, most
    of which and not only unstated but treated as though they don’t exist at all. Thus, we’re supposed to
    take it as science that Trout was responsible for 10 more Angels wins while Cabrera was only
    responsible for 4 more Tigers wins. Nobody who actually watched the Tigers this year would believe that. Without Cabrera, the Tigers are the White Sox or Blue Jays, not the AL pennant-winners.
    What sabermatricians lack is a sense of the limitations of their methodology. A little humility would do them good.

    • stevejeltzjehricurl - Nov 16, 2012 at 2:53 PM

      Sorry, Norm, but I’d say both sides are pretty emotional at times, and my unbiased view (I’m not from Detroit or SoCal) is that the folks defending Cabrera’s selection are more likely to get into the name-calling (see Mitch Albom).

      I’m a Phillies fan, and I recall when Ryan Howard won the MVP in 2006 and Rollins in 2007. I celebrated both selections because it was a great thing for a player who played for my favorite team. I could, if I had chosen to do so at that time, have figured out countless reasons why such a selection seemed right to me. And as I noted earlier, I don’t think Cabrera’s suggestion is one of the worst MVP calls ever. But one problem I suspect I would have had in 2006 and 2007, and I think a lot of Cabrera backers have right now, is that it’s difficult to answer or undercut the arguments being made in favor of Trout as MVP over Cabrera.

      You seem to have an objection to WAR as a metric, but you don’t really explain why you think it’s flawed, other than to say it’s “riddled with assumptions” which are unstated. I’m not sure what that means, since anyone who wants to take 10 minutes using Google could figure out how WAR is calculated. I agree that the calculations for WAR are more complicated than the ones for traditional metrics, but that doesn’t make them wrong, and it doesn’t make the assumptions that you refer to incorrect.

      You’re perfectly free to argue that Cabrera was more valuable (whatever that actually means) and base the argument on traditional metrics, but keep in mind that those traditional metrics have their flaws as well. The reason more complex metrics like WAR have been developed is so that people involved in baseball can try to find more effective ways to quantify and value performance. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

  22. normcash - Nov 16, 2012 at 5:13 PM

    I agree with you. I wasn’t saying these measures are worthless–I think they add value. All I was trying to say is that they aren’t perfect. I didn’t want to get into the nitty gritty of it here, but
    an example would be the fact that WAR is actually calculation based on other calculations
    (such as wOBA, UZR and FIP) all of which make “adjustments” for various factors (the ballparks,
    for example) that are quite subjective. So you have assumptions piled on assumptions. I got a kick
    out of one of the people on the MLB network making a big deal of how many DPs Cabrera hits into vs. Trout. Well, Trout bats lead off, so in about 25% of his ABs it’s impossible for him to hit into a DP.
    To the extent sabermetrics adds insight to the game, great! But it has limitations, as even its advocates will admit—that’s why they constantly tinker with it. It’s probably a fool’s errand to think
    one could ever get it perfectly right. My main point is that the folks who advocate its use should be
    more honest about it and less emotional. I haven’t counted it up, of course, but the outraged posts
    and columns and whatnot from the sabermetricians sure seem to outweigh the folks on the other side. Let me ask you: do you believe that if Inge played third for the Tigers this year and Cabrera
    wasn’t on the team they would have won 84 games instead of 88?

  23. Jonny 5 - Nov 17, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    There is enough of a reasonable argument for both Trout and Miggy (it’s Trout for me) that I couldn’t demean the opposing opinion at all. I put more importance on some aspects of the game, while others put more on other aspects. Oh well, it’s nice to hear your point of view. Some folks have good reasons for why wine is better than beer. I think they’re lacking something in the sensory department that I was lucky enough to be born with, but I don’t tell them they’re an idiot for not seeing it my way. I appreciate the same respect back, although I don’t expect it or let it get my feathers ruffled because it is to be expected in this format.

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