ESPN is running a promo where Chris Mortensen would come to your house and help you with your fantasy draft. I’m not sure why anyone would want to win this (can you imagine Mort sitting at your house with your buddies, throwing down a beer, and ‘advising’ you on your fantasy draft? How weird would that be? And would he wear that sweater thingie that makes him look like one of the members of Bushwood Country Club?)
So anyway, it got me thinking… would you ever want to hang out with a sports writer? And that lead me to thinking about Jay Mariotti for some reason… and if I were to make a list of the worst sports writers, you wouldn’t find Jay Mariotti at the top of that list because, well, Mariotti is a troll. And while I hate his guts and have since I was in 6th grade (yes, that means Jay Mariotti has been in my life for over ten years since we got the Chicago Sun-Times growing up). I learned to just not read Mariotti. I’d look at the head line, smile, and move on. He was either a moron or just your classic “I’m going to say it to get you fired up” kind of guy. I always believed that Mariotti wasn’t an idiot, he knew how far to push the envelope, and then let the people who read him get relied up. It sold newspapers, Jay made money, and the Sun-Times blew the Trib out of the water for years when it came to sports coverage.
(I should mention that the real reason, at the end of the day, of why the Trib had bad sports coverage and continues to have bad coverage is because they own the Chicago Cubs. As if you couldn’t have guessed it, the Cubs were/are shown favoritism, the writers were/are less critical of the Cubs, and when they were/are it always came across as forced and neatly edited. And the Trib couldn’t/can’t find a lead writer to save their lives. Pretty much everyone who has ever appeared on Around the Horn has written for the Trib at some point and failed).
But anyway, Mariotti never bothered me. He was who he was, and he allowed his readers (and Hawk Harrison) to get fired up and do most of his job for him (much like TO is doing every single day with the media, but that’s another story). In other words, Jay wasn’t the problem; it was the people that allowed him to get to them that were the problem. And there was a point in time where Mariotti wasn’t that bad of a writer either.
Where am I going with this? Not sure… so let’s make a list!!! The Three Worst Sports Writers in America!!!!!
(General Rule of Thumb: you know you’re a bad sports writer when it comes to the point where the reader KNOWS what the writer is going to say before even reading the article. Basically, when the sports writer either writes the same effing thing or takes the same effing stance on a subject, and I know you’re going to take the stance… you suck. What this means for the Sports Guy over the last month, I’m not sure).
Scoop Jackson – I’m not sure where to begin. He can write some cool shit, he wrote what I felt was one of the best pieces of sports writing last summer when he captured Hyde Park (South Side of Chicago) near perfectly. We here at VFLOAB were living in Hyde Park at the time, and Scoop nailed it the mood and vibe from the South Side. Since then, it seems like everything he writes is crap. Go figure.
Jay Mariotti – Read above. Better yet, read Eric Zorn’s fantastic job of ‘capturing’ what it’s like to read Mariotti over the course of a year. Here it is and here’s a great little example:
May 21 --It should surprise no one.. that the Sox would rise impressively.... the Sox seem poised for glory.
May 25 -- The Sox are the biggest overachievers in baseball.
May 30--You can't chip and dink out runs for 162 games and expect your starting pitchers to bail out the cause every time. ...Excuse me, but are those the Minnesota Twins only 3 1/2 games back now? Pardon me, but have the Sox sunk to ninth in the American League in runs scored after managing 17 in their last seven games?
June 7 -- I can safely say the Sox won't win a World Series as long as (Jerry Reinsdorf) owns them.
Woody Paige – I haven’t read much of Paige, but his “work” on Around the Horn speaks for itself. Should not be allowed to pro-create.
Bill Plaschke – Again, like Paige, haven’t read a ton of his work. But his “work” on Around the Horn gives me a good idea that he’s absolute crap. He also lacks articulation skills, why they allow him on TV is beyond me.
Jim Caple – I have a theory that Caple’s goal in life is to come up with as many lame gimmick writing topics in a five year period, write about them, and then kill himself… or at least that’s what I’m hoping for. And if he isn’t writing about some lame event in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, he’s writing about how he hates the Yankees. We get it Jim. You don’t like the Yanks.
Joe Sheehan – He writes for Baseball Prospectus, and he’s probably one of the biggest statheads on Earth. Classic guy of doesn’t watch the game, watches the numbers, and then gets pissed when the numbers don’t reflect what happens on the field. I hate these guys.
On to the Three Worst Sports Writers in America:
3) Gregg Easterbrook
Writes For: ESPN.com Page2
Also can be found at: Editor at the New Republic
Strengths: He can write a lot, and he can write a lot about a lot of different things. Easterbrook has come up with some funny names for NFL teams (the best being New Jersey A and New Jersey B), is sort of funny, writes about current events and other socially conscious topics in a football column, which I enjoy at times. He can be brutally honest and will make fun of himself. And the actual football writing is usually interesting, some what insightful, and enjoyable.
History: He’s written a few books, a few novels, and has written about a bunch of different topics for various publications, mostly The New Republic. Also was fired from ESPN.com after writing something about Jews and Hollywood… frankly, I’m not sure what was said and I wouldn’t be shocked if it was this country being overly PC, but here it is if you care.
Why He Stinks: Hey look! It’s the Self Proclaimed Smartest Guy in the Room writing a somewhat witty column about football and his ‘wacky’ observations from a Sunday on the couch! That’s right, it’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback!
Easterbrook’s running ‘gags’ that are flat out lame and get old after a week or two (how many times is he going to point out that the New York Times never predicts the final score correctly? And why would anyone care that much to think twice about it?). The cheerleader stuff can get creepy at times and some of his names for NFL teams are a bit ridiculous.
But what always, always, always gets me is his ‘commentary’ of current events and how often times his logic is near impossible to follow… for example:
All commentators have denounced the Enron executives, but many have added another claim that isn't right: that the actions of Lay, Skilling and Andrew Fastow were doubly bad because they wiped out the stock gains of Enron workers. But if Enron was a snake-oil enterprise whose valuation was inflated by securities fraud, then Enron workers' stock gains were ill-gotten, too. When the company filed for bankruptcy in December 2001, "CBS Evening News" sympathetically interviewed an Enron secretary who declared that her $400,000 in retirement savings, all Enron stock, had been wiped out. When Lay and Skilling were convicted in May 2006, CNN sympathetically interviewed an Enron worker who declared that his $1 million in savings, all Enron stock, had been wiped out. But Enron was using fraud to boost its trading price, meaning workers' stock gains were obtained via deception, exactly as were executives' gains. The workers' stock gains did not come from out of the air, they came from the pockets of equity buyers -- including other average people and average people's pension funds. Of course, the Enron workers played no role in the company's lying, and so were not culpable. And Enron mistreated its workers by requiring them to invest all company-paid 401(k) contributions in the firm's stock, then limiting their ability to sell that stock. But the $1.3 billion in Enron shares that Enron workers lost during the bankruptcy was money the workers did not deserve. The media have never gotten this point straight.
Ummm, Mr. Easterbrook… yes those stock gains were ‘faulty’ but those people had no clue at the time and really it wasn’t until the stock was worthless that they ‘figured out’ that they actually had nothing. Meanwhile, guys like Lay and Skilling were selling the stock at the higher prices all the while they KNEW that the stock wasn’t worth that much money. Basically if Lay, Skilling, and others at Enron had been upfront about the actual financial situation at Enron, odds are employees at Enron would have at least something to show for their work for Enron (which I might add was lying to their own employees this entire time). So how can you say that the workers do not deserve this money? They had no clue what was going on! That’s like blaming the good people of Lebanon for the violence in the south… saying that all Lebanese are violent because Hezbollah is violent.
Of course this ‘logic’ happens at least once in every single Easterbrook column. He forces his thoughts and smugness upon every single reader… there is no debate, his word is final. While he at times backs his arguments with facts and strong arguments… he rarely even examines the other side of an argument. What Easterbrook says is right… And while I enjoy most of what TMQB writes, its crap like above that drives me nuts. He comes across as a condescending, (which means to talk down to people) smug, I’m smarter than you AND THE ENTIRE MEDIA, jagbag. And for that, he comes in as the third worst sports writer in America.
2) Skip Bayless
Writes For: ESPN.com Page2
Also can be found at: On the wild and crazy Cold Pizza (that is if wild means dull and crazy means lame.)
Strengths: Talking about himself, asking obvious questions, speaking in absolutes, making outrageous claims, saying nothing and everything at the same time. To be frank, no one else out there does it quite like Skip.
History: I’m pretty sure Skip has written for every major newspaper in America, been fired or let go from that publication, and then picked up somewhere else (here is the list: The Miami Herald, The Dallas Morning News, Dallas Times Herald, Chicago Tribune, and San Jose Mercury News). Job security is not a strength for the Skipper, but his brother is a chef.
Why He Stinks: For two seconds, let’s forget that his name is Skip. Now, lets look at a recent ‘byline’ (I think that’s what they’re called) on Page2 from Skip’s column: Skip Bayless is still having a hard time believing Troy Aikman made the Hall of Fame. At one time, it didn't seem possible.
What does this even mean? I mean, before even reading the article I’m confused. Is he suggesting that Aikman is a bad quarterback? Or is this going to be a story about how Aikman once over came some sort of ‘difficulty’ in his life? Did sports writers hate Aikman? What the hell is Skip going to talk about? And better yet, since I know it’s by Skip Bayless, why would I want to read this?
I don’t think Skip has written an article/column that didn’t revolve around him in his life. And lo and behold, in the first sentence, there is Skip dropping the “I” in the column. And that’s the case in pretty much ever Skip Bayless column. It’s about him and his moronic ideas.
Yes, I realize that a lot of writers talk about themselves in their writing, but here’s the thing… Skip doesn’t even tell a story. He’s basically writing as if he’s the subject of the column… of what he remembers from ten years ago and how that means something now. Read a Skip column sometime, it’s painful, just him talking about how he once saw (in this case) Aikman play poorly. [which btw, is a great reason to question someone’s Hall of Fame career/potential, one bad game as a rookie; nice job Skip!] He tells bad stories, he tells lame stories, he comes across as a moron, and he’s a bad writer on top of that. He isn’t funny, he generalizes, he complains about the stupidest things, he’s suck in the 1950s, he may hate black people (a theory I can’t confirm), he takes the obvious counter argument (classic example, LeBron misses a game winning shot, Skip is claiming LeBron isn’t clutch; next day LeBron wins game by himself, Skip is calling him the greatest ever), and he always always always takes the opposite position of everyone else. Does matter what the subject matter is, Skip says things to say it. Not to get you or me rellied up, just to get his ugly mug on TV. And once again, he’s a shitty writer. Nothing he writes flows, and every time it might start flowing, he throws in some ‘observation’ that isn’t an observation. Basically reading a Skip Bayless column is probably what it’s like to read a high school newspaper.
1) Rob Neyer
Writes For: ESPN.com (Insider)
Also can be found at: I heard him on the ESPN Radio Up All Night show a few years back. Apparently he lives on the West Coast. I’m sure he also eats prunes, so your local food store.
Strengths: He’s sort of good with numbers. Also really good at annoying the shit out of VFLOAB yet getting us to continually read him. (BTW, I know I know, I’m the main subscriber to the “If you hate something, then don’t do it, Moron” school of thought. I never understand why people bitch about Around the Horn or other lame ESPN shows (or any channel). Don’t watch if you don’t like it. Don’t read the guy if you don’t like him. It’s that easy. No one is making you read/watch/listen to these guys. That’s how my life works with Skip and Mariotti… but Neyer… he’s my kryptonite. And I hate him because of this.)
History: A former research assistant to Bill James, Neyer started writing about baseball and numbers. A true blooded Stathead, Neyer may also be the Village Idiot where ever he lives.
Why He Stinks: This is from January of 2006:
To measure how they really played, we can look at "second-order wins," as seen in the Baseball Prospectus standings. Second-order wins show us how many games each team "should" have won, considering its batting and pitching statistics (except runs scored and allowed).Some of you won't like these next numbers, so feel free to skip ahead (or read somebody else's column; we're always posting new ones)...
Team Real 2W
Cardinals 100 91
White Sox 99 87
Yankees 95 93
Angels 95 88
Red Sox 95 90
(Indians 93 98)
Well, that was easy. We didn't even have to play the 2006 schedule, and five of the six teams are already worse than their 2005 record -- and it's not even Opening Day yet!
And if we're looking for 2005 division winners who seem unlikely to repeat, we've got a couple of prime candidates in the White Sox and the Angels.
If you believe in second-order wins -- and I think that you do – the White Sox were 11 games worse than the Indians last season, and only three games better than the Twins. No, the Indians probably won't play as well in 2006. Yes, the White Sox might be the best team in the Central Division (particularly if Jim Thome is healthy). But if given a choice between betting on the White Sox or the field, you have to take the field, because there's a pretty good chance that the Indians or the Twins -- both of whom strengthened their rosters this winter -- will knock off the Sox.
What SHOULD have happened? And what SHOULD have happened in 2005 will effect what will happen in 2006? And that’s what it’s come down to for statheads like Neyer. They’re reduced to writing about what should have happened in 2005 (let’s forget the White Sox won 99 games, because they should have won 87 games), not what actually happened. What should have happened. Let’s base what will happen in 2006 on what SHOULD have happened in 2005. Now someone tell me why someone like this is even allowed to write, let alone pro-create, with insane thinking like this?
I could go on. I could point out that Neyer writes crap like this all the time, stuff like ‘what if the Indians bullpen wasn’t bad’ (and Neyer even admits “It's sort of a silly exercise”… so why do it Rob?) or “deadline deals don’t matter”.
But I was absolutely shocked to discover how few deadline deals did make a real difference. Remember: 126 deals. How many really mattered?
And that number is generous. When in doubt, I scored a deal as "yes" even though my natural inclination went the other way. For example, in 1997 the Giants -- then in a first-place tie -- acquired pitchers Wilson Alvarez, Danny Darwin and Roberto Hernandez from the White Sox. The ex-Sox combined for 143 innings, 10 wins, eight losses and gave up 4.47 runs per nine innings. The Giants finished in first place, two games ahead of the Dodgers. Did those three pitchers mean the difference between first place and second? It's not obvious that they did, but it's close enough that we can't say with any confidence that they did not. So I was charitable.
First of all… 18? That’s it? What about in 2004 when the White Sox traded for Freddy Garcia? Sure things didn’t work out in 2004, but along comes 2005 and Freddy Garcia helps pitch the White Sox to the World Series. I’d say that’s a dead line deal that worked out. And there are others like that. The Mets traded Scott Kazmir away a few years back… don’t you think a deal like that impacts future playoff races of the future Mr. Neyer?
Neyer lives in some sort of fantasy world where numbers matter more than the actual game. Back in May of this year he wrote: "Which is fine, because -- and for all the youngsters out there, here is today's take-home message -- six weeks don't mean much. Oh, they surely mean something. A little more than five weeks, a little less than seven."
Which of course raises the question, when does a sample size become large enough for a stathead? For Neyer, the answer is it can never be big enough; a sample size will always be too small, unless it proves him right, then the size is PERFECT! And if you don’t believe me, this is the same guy who predicated what would happen in 2006 by using numbers of what SHOULD have happened in 2005. Reality is way too real for guys like Rob Neyer.
And that is why Rob Neyer is the worst sports writer in America… at least in the eyes of us at VFLOAB.