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On Sports Dramatization Masquerading as Sports Journalism

Joe Mauer reacts to being told that his .840 OPS just isn't good enough, which means he must be hurt.
Joe Mauer reacts to being told that his .840 OPS just isn't good enough, which means he must be hurt.

This isn't meant as a direct attack on Jeff Passan.  His article is just the catalyst.

It can be a grind writing about sports everyday.  I imagine that when it's your lifestyle and when you get paid for it, there's pressure to come up with something good and that not everything is going to be a gem.  In spite of all that, as I'm sure you can tell, I've taken exception to parts of Passan's Wednesday morning article.

Simultaneously making excuses for Joe Mauer being hurt and making him a tragic hero, Passan paints Mauer into something of a sad clown:  the guy who dons the uniform and guts it out but, y'know what buddy, he's just a human being and damnit he's in pain...but oh yeah, the Twins owe him a load of money and all of Minnesota north of I-94 too, DANGER!

That's what tricky about Passan's piece.  Under the guise of being a warning that quasi defends Mauer, it ends up being a fear-based article designed to incite panic among the rubes.  There's actually very little that Passan offers in terms of real reporting or analysis, instead leaning on speculation and what a lawyer would object to as leading the witness.

Leading off with the buzz words "Joe Mauer is hurt" should immediately tip you off.  Everybody already knows he's playing through assorted bruises, aches, pains and some level of discomfort, but hell let's just come out and tell everyone he's hurt.  Nobody says he's hurt:  not the manager or the trainers or the organization or the player, but Passan knows.  Does he hurt more than any other catcher in the league?  It doesn't matter, it's good drama.


Without even listing what the question was, he gives Joe's answer to nothing:  "I'm in the lineup."  Out of context quotes are priceless, and a great way to lend unintended meaning, here basically asserting that Mauer doesn't like to complain or admit injury so he just says "I'm in the lineup" because he can't say "I'm super, thanks for asking".   My junior year in college, my roommates and I kept a Quote Book which was full of non-sequiturs and out of context quotes, because they were hilarious.  They were so great I can still remember a few:

  • It smells like bald man sex.
  • Mike, you better take a break from scooping, you're breathing too hard.
  • What was that, does Jesse have a dog in his room?
  • Joe Mauer is hurt.

Wait, not the last one.

After maligning the fact that Mauer hasn't hit home runs like he did in 2009 (while conveniently leaving out the fact that a great deal of those have turned into doubles, as his 33 in '10 already top the 30 he collected in '09) he uses one fact (that the PiPress reported Mauer was receiving treatment on his back and hip) to lend legitimacy to his other claims of injury, including that Mauer's heel hurts (well, yeah, he missed time because of his heel).  Passan then casts suspicion on the organization by saying they refuse to address publicly that Joe is hurt.

So, basically, if Joe is hurt, they're not saying anything.  But if he wasn't hurt, they wouldn't say anything either.  So if Joe isn't hurt, should they come out an announce that he's not hurt?  I'm not sure what's expected here.

Passan goes on to use a Gardenhire quote out of context, which makes it seem like the manager is putting pressure on the player to be on the field regardless of Mauer's health:  "He knows he needs to be out there."  Again, there's no question presented, but the "attitute is frightening", apparently.

For the second time in the piece it's mentioned that Mauer's line in 2010 (as tragic as it is) is only as good as it is because of the series against the Royals.  Because, y'know, full seasons don't count a  player's best streaks.  But I suppose I could cherry pick an argument, too:  In his last ten games, Mauer is hitting .381.  Or, if you remove the four worst games for him this month, he's hitting .408 and slugging .690.  Or maybe we shouldn't count those, either.

This, in a nutshell, is my issue with pieces like this.  The conclusions aren't arrived at through facts or solid supporting evidence, but by

  1. the idea that Joe has been simply great this season, instead of Superman in a Twins uniform if Superman had no kryptonite,
  2. the idea that, because nobody has said something is wrong, it must be, and
  3. the idea that Joe isn't sore, but that he's secretly hurt.

That's really all I wanted to say about this.  As I said at the top, I don't mean it as an attack on Passan, even though I'm sure it comes off like it is.  I'm just disappointed, because articles like this aren't sports journalism and there isn't any value in them.  It's WWE sports journalism--pumped up on drama and distraction but light on substance.

We'll see you in the morning for the latest on the Twins trade front, with the deadline just a few days away.