The Burden Of Proof

Apologies for going to the well yet again with this SpyDome story (aka Shittiest Cheaters Ever-gate), but something still irks me about the response to it– and, while it could be, it’s not my being called out for posting a reader’s comment that paralleled and satirized The Article Which Shall Not Be Linked, as though I endorsed what it said, as opposed to its very obvious underlying point: that the words were horribly unfair and the devices used shady and completely uncompelling, just as they were in the piece.

No, what bothers me is what I think is a fundamental misunderstanding of basic journalism that’s been casually slipped through a couple times in the post-hoc defense of the piece: first, when co-author Peter Keating defended himself on Tim and Sid: Uncut, saying that “we hear stuff from other GMs and other players, but if I could tell you what they were saying on the record I’d put it in the story.” Also, Keith Law told his readers in yesterday’s chat at ESPN that “in general” he buys the story because “I also know more of the background info than appeared in the article, too.”

I don’t at all doubt that either of them is telling the truth, but I’m sorry, saying “we also know a lot more than we said but we can’t say what it is or how we know it, just trust us” is not journalism, and is not an adequate defense of bad journalism, or incomplete journalism. [I'm pretty sure that's what Roger Cossack and Greta Van Susteren meant when they coined the phrase "burden of proof"-- because it's a pain in the ass to lay out evidence in a compelling-enough way as to make an allegation believable.*]

And let’s be clear about a few things here: I believe the White Sox think they saw something fishy happening with the Man in White, I believe Steal Of Home has shown that whoever it is was there during the game in question, I believe the allegations on their own are newsworthy, and I believe it’s certainly possible that the Jays have been stealing signs, or at least trying to steal signs.

The reaction here isn’t simply a “how dare you say this about my team!” kind of thing– if someone could actually lay out for me how the fuck a fourth place, thirteenth-best-in-baseball team was cheating (and maybe get precise about when the fuck they were supposedly doing it), I’d be all ears. It’s just… they haven’t.

ESPN’s article offered a completely incoherent timeline and nothing in the way of compelling statistical evidence in what was, ultimately, a poorly-researched and intentionally misleading report. Let’s not lose sight of that.

* This aside may include some inaccuracies.

Comments (17)

  1. ESPN is a Sports tabloid. Don’t expect great journalism. Accept it when it comes but don’t expect it. You are getting shit on right now, not because of your opinion on the piece, but for glorifying misogyny in the immediate follow-up. 

  2. Who the fuck let this guy in here?

  3. I cringed at a couple of the comments you used in the initial post, but I thought they were more reflective of the corporate culture at ESPN toward women than anything directed specifically at Amy K. Nelson. I got that it was satire. In poor taste, sure. Misogynous, not so much.

    A lot of the stuff idiots posted on Twitter is indefensible, though.

  4. Is it bothering anyone else that in these “interviews” with Keating, people refer to the holes in the piece, and the cherry-picked stats, but no one really holds his feet to the fire and calls him on specifics? We get the idea that people are complaining, Keating explains why he’s insulted that anyone might suggest that he cherry picks stats, and that’s it? He looks noble and victimized and we look like animals?

  5. Steoten, I agree with you. With regard to Keith Law’s comments, it seems to me like he brings up the sexist comments at the expense of actually addressing the content of the article. He took the lazy way out…

  6. You left the door wide open

  7. I kid, I kid. I do bristle, though, at your blunt “glorifying misogyny,” as though it’s cut-and-dried that’s what I did. That’s what Goldstein seems to think I did, but I very much disagree.

    The only misogyny I would glorify is by Rusty.

  8. Because, as I’ve said many times, it’s not my article. I haven’t done the research Amy & Peter did. They are the ones to address the criticisms. I was done with the subject the day it ran until the misogynistic comments started.

  9. There’s one more point about the poor journalism that I haven’t seen addressed yet. The article describes how ESPN journalists have been investigating this story for over a year. The conclusion leads the reader to believe that it is possible that sign stealing is still happening.

    The story relies on dicey statistical evidence and unnamed sources. Why would an honest journalist go to press with that standard of evidence? They aren’t trying to unravel a complex financial fraud. They are accusing a man of sitting in public seats at every Blue Jays home game and overtly relaying stolen signs? Before publishing the story, why would you not just buy a ticket for the outfield seats, establish whether anyone is relaying signs and take video of him doing it? You could then march right up to him and call him on it to see how he responds. That’s a story worth writing.

    Oh yeah, I forgot…it’s really difficult to get tickets for the outfield seats at Rogers Centre, what with the constant sell outs and all.

  10. Ok, but surely you have an opinion. Putting aside the anecdotal stuff (since you have access and have obviously heard the rumours firsthand), what did you think of the analysis they presented? Do you think anything can be inferred based on those numbers alone?

  11. shut the fuck up you company man. many (including yours truly) lost a ton of respect for you. you’re a fucking good source for prospect porn but a fucking pussy who has no balls to call a spade a spade and continued to tow the company’s line when even a fucking 13 year old knows what bullshit that article was. FUCK YOU KLAW.

  12. seriously just fuck espn. it’s the fox news of the sports world. its a FUCKIN TABLOID FOR FUCKS SAKES

  13. That seems like an overreaction.

  14. and just who the fuck are you? an espn intern? suck a fat cock you cockmuncher

  15. “Misogynist” was not the first thought I had when reading anything Stoeten has written in response to the bullshit article. Keep your chin up Stoeten.

  16. Yeah I agree with what you have to say.  If there really was a ‘man in white’ in the outfield seats relaying signs to the hitters, there is no doubt at all in my mind that as soon as it was suspected they would have been able to get video proof. 

    Let’s just say, though, that when the white sox busted the jays in spring 2010 that it scared them off and they stopped doing it that way, so ESPN couldn’t just buy tickets and go get proof.  They would still go through months (years?) of oldtape to try and find proof.  The fact that none was ever found tells me that the story is bogus.

    I do think the blue jays steal signs 100%, these kind of stories dont just fall out of thin air, but I dont think they’re stealing signs via a ‘man in white’or there would be proof by now forsure.

    I lol’d a little@ The only misogyny I would glorify is by Rusty.  Thanks for that.

  17. I agree with the scenario you lay out completely.

    It’s just tragic that professional journalists at ESPN would publish a story that anyone can poke huge holes in after a couple of minutes of logical thought.

    It seems that they had some anecdotal evidence of sign stealing. Then they found some statistical evidence that supported the anecdotes, but the timelines didn’t match up. Instead of investigating further, they just discarded the discrepancy and pretended that the timelines overlapped.

    There are so many people who would love to have that type job at ESPN and it’s such a shame that people are employed there who are either incapable of identifying critical flaws in their research or who have the dishonesty to try to cover up them up. The editor should be particularly ashamed and it is good to see so many people demanding a higher standard of journalism.

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