Morgan Ensberg, a Redondo Union High and USC grad who played Major League Baseball for eight years, mostly for the Houston Astros, and is now an analyst for ESPNU, has been taking on another new role: media critic.
Ensberg, through his blog Morgan Ensberg's Baseball IQ, gives his view on both the game of baseball and the media's way of covering it. In his blog, Ensberg has tackled the issues of the "unwritten rules of baseball" and other on-field matters.
Lately though, Ensberg has roved more into the territory of criticizing the way the game of baseball is covered by the print and online media. Ensberg is not one to use the "they never played the game" card either, but rather looks for biases or unsupported theories passed off as news.
In one of Ensberg's recent posts, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, found himself under scrutiny from Ensberg. The post was in response to Shaikin's article about whether the Dodgers would be making offers to acquire either Houston pitcher Roy Oswalt or Seattle pitcher Cliff Lee in a trade.
After a fairly detailed examination of the article, Ensberg gets to the crux of the matter:
Shaikin Doesn't Backup a Single Statement
Shaikin's title says the Dodgers inquired about Lee and Oswalt and there was ZERO proof.
Shaikin says that the Mariners and Astros responded by saying they aren't going to trade just yet, but they'll get back to you if they do. There is ZERO proof to that as well.
Shaikin says that Joe Torre hopes to acquire a top veteran pitcher and there is ZERO proof of that.
So here is what the article looks like based on facts.
"The Dodgers GM, Ned Colletti, will not comment on trades. But he did say that he believes that owner, Frank McCourt, would consider adding salary on a case-by-case basis."
Here is what the reader is lead to believe
The Dodgers have called the Mariners and Astros to inquire about Lee and Oswalt. But the Mariners and Astros said that they are not going to make any move right now. Then the reader hears that Torre would like to have a veteran pitcher.
In the Twitter world, Ensberg ended up in a debate with writers and bloggers, who mostly either rose to the defense of Shaikin or tried to put the story into a different perspective. Trade speculation stories are the stock in trade of baseball writers. Ensberg seems to enjoy the feedback from readers, and is willing to engage them in thoughtful debates, something that the average pro athlete is usually not equipped for.
If you consider a paper like the Los Angeles Times with its incredibly early deadlines now, people getting an actual print copy of the paper are fortunate to even find any game story for a game being played in the Pacific Time Zone. There is not much to drive eyeballs to newspapers (either in print or online) unless they have information that they cannot get from just watching the game on TV. And that tends to be news about possible trades or free agent signings. One of the best examples of what baseball reporting now has become is the popularity of a website devoted solely to rumors of trades, MLBtraderumors.com.
Ensberg's blog is worth a read even if you don't agree with his media criticism. His post about finding out he was out of a job in baseball showed the range of emotions that players go through when they find out that their boyhood dream of getting paid to play a game is over. Another post explaining how one small mistake by Ensberg, started a series of events that resulted in an Astros loss to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS.
If you get ESPNU on your cable system, look for him on college baseball broadcasts, which there will be a lot of as the college baseball regular season is winding down and the lengthy postseason (it may not end until June 30) will be getting underway.
Ensberg has an East Coast parallel in Doug Glanville, a Penn grad who played in the majors for nine years, who wrote for the New York Times and is now moving over to ESPN.com. Although Ensberg and Glanville have vastly different writing styles, both men are providing a unique insight into baseball, a sport where money has created an enormous disconnect players and fans.