I arrived home from my West Coast sojourn just in time to watch Tuesday night's Yankees game get interesting, via Nick Swisher's eighth-inning three-run homer, and then infuriating, via Derek Jeter's ninth-inning bunt. Steve's headline on the latter matter ("Why Did Joe Girardi Play for One Run in a Two-Run Game?") sums up my feelings well enough that I won't bother flogging that particular horse any further, as it will just angry up the blood.
As I scramble to find my bearings, allow me to provide a pointer to an excellent interview of Newark Star-Ledger Yankees beat writer Marc Carig, done by Moshe Mandel over at The Yankee Analysts. Carig rates as one of the Bronx beat's go-to guys because he's fair, open-minded, and willing to use advanced statistics to augment his work while still remaining accessible to a broader audience. Back in the spring, he was the one who ran the Yankees' various lineups through David Pinto's lineup optimization tool, a hot topic around here. More recently, he's discussed the Yankee offense's reliance upon home runs and brought WAR into the AL MVP discussion around Curtis Granderson, much as we've done around here. Earlier this season, he began contributing to Baseball Prospectus, where he's brought a bit of clubhouse flavor to the stathead stuff.
Carig has been quite helpful to me in my own forays into the press box, where I've quickly been forced to confront some of the same issues he deals with and discusses at length in his interview with Mandel. Here's a taste of what he had to say:
TYA: On that note, sometimes fans see beat writers complaining about their jobs and have a hard time reconciling that with their fandom. I guess the question is, do you enjoy your job? Do you think fans overestimated how much fun being on the beat and getting to watch baseball for a living is?
It’s simple: most fans don’t understand the job. We don’t get paid to watch baseball for a living. We get paid to cover it. We’re not fans. That’s an important distinction. Do I enjoy my job? Absolutely. I am fascinated by the game and by the people and by the work that comes with covering a team. Is it fun? If you follow my Twitter feed for a game, you’ll know what I think. But it is still work, and it’s no different from any other job in that there are parts that aren’t much fun.
The tradeoffs are extreme. For instance, I’ve watched baseball history with my own eyes, and I’ve had the good fortune of being able to write about it. I know what a ballpark sounds like when a World Series has just been won. But I also know what it’s like to answer a 4 am wake-up call, what it’s like to spend months on the road, and what it’s like to wonder if my girlfriend’s going to stop calling one day because I’m away so much. Getting beat on a story still feels terrible. And there are few things that make me more sick to my stomach than picking up the paper and discovering that I made a stupid mistake. Now, I realize nobody gives a shit, which is why I avoid the topic on Twitter. Nobody likes a whiner.
I don’t think fans overestimate how much fun it is being on the beat — there are a lot of days when this is the coolest job ever. But I do think that hey might underestimate the parts of this job that can be demanding.
TYA: Is it possible for a beat guy to be entirely objective? I’d think personal feelings about players and teams have to enter at least a bit, you folks are human. In that case, what is the reporter’s obligation to his reader, in terms of informing the reader as to were he is coming from? Should complete objectivity be the ideal, or do we want the writer’s personality and feelings in the work?
Philosophically, I don’t believe it’s possible to be entirely objective. We’re all going to be colored by our own experiences. The key is being mindful of what that means, which is why I shoot for a different standard. My obligation is to go about my job with a basic sense of fairness. For me, that means remaining vigilant about what you’re writing and why, and challenging yourself when there are instances that this sense of fairness might be in doubt. My obligation is to have that conversation with myself whenever it’s necessary — without exception.
Check out the rest of the interview, and if you aren't already following Carig on Twitter (@Ledger_Yankees), do so at your earliest convenience.