04.27.09

Joe Posnanski on Bannister, Bias, Bloggery

Posted in Baseball, Blogged Down, Sports Journalism at 3:23 pm by

For the generation of writers who came of age recently enough for blogs to inform the way we writer, the challenge of splitting a bloggy voice from the professional-writer voice is weirdly simple. I write bloggy prose in the same way that I write email prose, whereas when I know someone’s going to be editing or fact-checking or (to get right to it) paying me for something, I have to kind of tamp things down a bit. Editorial imperative can tend to sort of flatten things a bit, too, but by and large I don’t really mind that something like this — which I’m proud of and worked hard on and so forth — doesn’t necessarily sound that much like me. I expect as much and don’t have much say in it, finally, and so look to venues like CSTB as outlets for writing in my actual voice. I’m not necessarily a young dude anymore, but switching between voices and perspectives and approaches comes pretty naturally. This isn’t because I’m a brilliant prose stylist (although that obviously doesn’t hurt) so much as it’s because I grew up when I grew up.

For older writers who are being asked to get their blog on by publications eager to get the sort of constant-update pace that the internet apparently demands, it’s not necessarily so easy. For every Dave D’Allessandro who takes naturally to it, there’s either someone who takes to it too much and gets rambly, lazy and weird (Peter King would be a good example here) or who takes to it not at all. (Witness the painfulness of sixtysomething newspaperman-turned-MLB.com-writer Marty Noble’s blogging, which could only be more awkward if he were wearing a baseball hat backwards and rapping or something). Or Murray Chass, who seems to have taken his worst and most ill-informed impressions of what a blog is — it’s a basement-smelling place where people make unsubstatiated arguments and rip dudes without mercy, right? — and made it his own bloggy reality, without ever actually having read any other blogs to see whether there was anyone else serving his particular flavor of awful.

But while I can’t always get through the torrent of words that defines his bloggy style, I think the Kansas City Star’s Joe Posnanski might have the best relationship of any veteran writer to the bifurcated blog/not-blog writing experience. He’s still turning out very professional, very excellent newspaper work — I love this profile of Zack Greinke, for instance — but also using his blog in the right way. Some of this is just to blow off steam in a goofy way, but some of it is to explore things that are probably a bit too navel-gazey or plain-bloggy to work as newspaper columns. His recent rumination on Brian Bannister (above) and sportswriterly allegiances to players and teams is, I think, an example of this stuff at its best. Even the excesses work, because Posnanski has so fully bought-in to the medium and its style, and so seriously approached this (less-offical, presumably un-compensated) assignment. Here’s some:

I might with enough effort myself as a hard-working second baseman who dives for every ground ball, and I might imagine myself as a weak-armed quarterback who could inspire a team in the final minutes, and I might even envision spending hundreds and hundreds of hours in a driveway shooting jump shots until I was so good at it that I could make it to the NBA.

And so it is with Banny. He™s really more talented than he lets on ” his fastball was in the lower 90s on Wednesday and he can get good movement on it and much of the time he has well-above average command. And let™s face it: You can™t pitch in the big leagues ” and pitch successfully ” without other-worldly talent. But, in context, the basic story is true: Bannister does not have a killer fastball or a devastating out pitch. He is not imposing.* He did not have many people believe in him along the way.

*He is listed at 6-foot-2 on his Baseball Reference Page ¦ and I say with affection in my heart as a 5-foot-9 sportswriter who sometimes claims to be 5-foot-10 that there™s no way. None.

…It just so happened, because of a variety of coincidences, that I was in Cleveland for Bannister™s start (last Wednesday). He was really good. He threw six shutout innings. He gave up just four hits, walked two, struck out one.

And when the game ended, he was not especially happy. He was not unhappy, of course. I think he was proud of the way he pitched, even if he knew that throwing shutout innings with so few strikeouts is not really sustainable. But ” and this is the part I could really associate with ” he knows the situation…I would say that the feeling he had was something closer to relief. He had pitched his heart out, and it worked out on this night, and he could live to fight another day. That™s what it™s all about to me: Sure, I admire talent, and I appreciate genius, and I enjoy dominating performances. But I identify with this kind of struggle. There™s nothing easy for Brian ¦ and that™s a big reason why I root for him.

4 Responses to “Joe Posnanski on Bannister, Bias, Bloggery”

  1. Jason Cohen says:

    I also think Posnanski’s become the best translator of sabrmetrics for the average “I don’t need stats, I watch the game” fan (or sportswriter).

  2. David Roth says:

    The guy is good. I kind of wonder how Kansas City got so many terrific baseball writers, relative to similarly sized markets — they’ve got Bob Dutton and Posnanski, who are both really good, Rob Neyer has Royals roots, Rany Jazayerli from Baseball Prospectus. Jason Whitlock’s also written for KC papers, I think, I’m not sure he belongs in this comment.

  3. WeWanttheFunk says:

    “But while I can’t always get through the torrent of words that defines his bloggy style,…”

    Paging Mr. Pot, The Kettle is on line 1 and he would like a word (or a couple thousand).

  4. David Roth says:

    800 and change, man. Every one of them the hot shit. But yeah, point taken. Still, you should check out one of P-nanski’s longer posts if you want to know what the big leagues really look like: check out this rambletronic masterpiece on meeting David Eggers to see what I mean. There is another level.

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