Chin music for Baltimore’s baseball bloggers

May 11, 2010 | Drew Forrester

Of all the bloggers in town who chronicle the daily woes of the Orioles, I know Stacey Long and Camden Chat can handle what they’re about to get.

That’s why I’m writing it.

Lord knows the majority of the baseball bloggers in town aren’t capable of reading or hearing their name and accepting it for what it is…an opinion.  My e-mail inbox is FILLED with dozens of cranky e-mails from a variety of local bloggers who get offended when their name is mentioned (so I won’t mention them here…and therefore, won’t have to deal with the e-mails later today) — yet they write what they write because they WANT people to talk about their work.

That’s the irony of blogging, I suppose.  You write something to get respect.  You write something so people will say, “well, that’s an interesting viewpoint.”  You write something to validate yourself as an expert or a well-versed contributor.

And then when someone disagrees with you or your thoughts, you throw a fit.  That’s how it goes in Baltimore with the baseball blogging community, for the most part.

Of all the local sites devoted to baseball, I like Camden Chat the best.  I find their contributors to be the most level-headed and conversant of any in town and that’s one of the reasons why I asked Stacey Long to join me on The Morning Reaction during spring training and in the first month of the baseball season.  I like her writing style and I found her (and still do) to be witty, funny and capable (very much so) of a unique brand of gallows humor when she opines on the Orioles.  She’s a dyed-in-the-wool O’s fan but also an honest one.  That combination doesn’t live much in the Baltimore baseball blogging world.  I should know.  I read them all – casually – just about every day, and I’m amazed at how transparent most of them are these days.  They’re nothing more than a cheerleading forum.  Rah, rah, rah.  And on the outside chance something happens that deserves an unquestionable volley of criticism, most of the bloggers throw the word “but” in there about 15 times.  ”I’ll point out the wrong…but I have to follow it up with something else that takes the team off the hook a little bit.”

Right.  God forbid you write ONE piece where you actually take the team to task for something and then leave it at that.

Anyway, on Monday, I had Stacey on during her normal 7:30am time slot and I asked her about our “Free The Birds” event on May 17.  We had a delightful 15 minute conversation about it…disguised as a mini-interview on my part.  I asked HER the questions and she gave me her answers. Feel free to go our WNST.net Buy A Toyota.com audio vault and go back to Monday’s show and you can listen to the interview in its entirety.

I brought up Free The Birds with her on Monday because I wrote a piece at WNST.net on Monday morning about my own personal opinion on what Free The Birds represents to me.

Here’s THAT piece if you want to read it. You’ll note, in summary, that I’ve decided to go next Monday not to show my displeasure with Peter Angelos or the losing, but mainly to give the front office “the symbolic-finger” over some of their asinine, archaic ticketing and media relations policies that do nothing except keep fans from going to the ballpark.

I understand the complex nature of running a blog site that is dedicated to discussing a local team.  You can’t be overly harsh on the team your site is dedicated to or you won’t be looked upon by the club itself as an ally.  Therefore, folks who moderate those sites for criticism and tough assessments tend to lead more towards the soft side of things.  As an example, I received an e-mail last week from someone who said, “Drew, just so you know, I’ve been banned from Orioles Hangout because I wrote ‘Andy MacFail’ instead of Andy MacPhail.”  That’s not a shock to me.  I’d say, in fact, it’s fairly typical in the blogging sphere for someone to get the boot over something so trivial.

So I really DO get it when these blogging sites do a slobber job on the baseball team (or the football team too, for that matter…there are several sites in town who should be arrested for public indecency based on the way they oil up the football team and rub them down).  If you beat up the team for stuff like charging fans more money for day-of-game-ticket purchases or shutting down the scalp free zone and then blaming the local city government, you lose readers and contributors.  After all, most of those folks who come to a local baseball blog site do so to live in their own fantasy world where everyone else is wrong about the team’s woes and the team is right.

Back to my blog yesterday that I wrote at WNST.net concerning Free The Birds.

Here, for your review, is the front page of Camden Chat from Tuesday, May 11.  You’ll notice 16 different topics or stories under “Bird Droppings”. Heck, there’s even info in there about John Smoltz trying to qualify for the U.S. Open golf championship.  That’s interesting.

What DON’T you notice?

Here’s the page again if you didn’t click it on the first time around.

What DON’T you notice?

Yep.  My blog from Monday about Free The Birds is nowhere to be found.

Let me say this:  There was a small link on Monday’s site about the conversation I had with Stacey during Monday’s show, but that wound up morphing into a “WNST stinks” conversation because…well…”you just can’t give that station any credit…they don’t like the team, remember?”

However…Tuesday rolls around and the powers-that-be (and frankly, I don’t know who makes the front-page decisions and never asked Stacey) list 16 different stories about the baseball team but none of them were worthy of being replaced by my piece on Free The Birds.

And that’s what you get when you deal with bloggers.   Afraid to let “the other side” have their say.  Because if you do that – some folks who read the piece might even think, “hmmm…that’s a valid point or two.”

Now, to HER credit, Stacey has offered some occasional luke-warm compliments about me during our 6 weeks together.  I didn’t know Stacey before she started coming on the show in February and I’ve seen her exactly three times since then.  I know she’s a great fan of the team and, like I wrote above, I like her writing style.  That’s why I had her on the show, even though I knew going in she would be coming to me as a potential WNST-hater.  I’d read enough of her stuff prior to February – at Camden Chat – to know she wasn’t going to come to me with the warm and fuzzies for either me OR WNST.  There were LOTS and LOTS of occasions where she roasted me, Nestor and the station in previous years.

But that’s part of the charm of bringing her on board.  I don’t mind talking to my critics, as long as I know who they REALLY are.  Some of the idiots who post comments here and try to buffalo me with a fake name and/or e-mail address — critics with no backbone — I give them no time and no access to me.  If you can’t write your real name, you’re a loser.  That’s MY opinion, anyway, and if that’s harsh, that’s a shame.  If you’re a size 10 shoe and I give you a size 10, wear it.

In Stacey’s case, specifically, I read what she wrote about me and at least KNEW who she was because she attached her name to it.  Fair game. And I respected her for that…and, ultimately, gave her 10 minutes or so three times a week to come on and talk Orioles baseball with her.  And I gave her a forum to question ME if she liked, the same way I questioned HER on Monday.

Today, though, was an interesting tell-tale indicator of how things work in the Baltimore baseball blogging community.

When the guy at WNST.net who “doesn’t like the team” writes a piece and beats them up for their stupid tickets and media relations policies, that doesn’t get linked or posted at Camden Chat or ANY OTHER SITE IN TOWN (of course).

But John Smoltz trying to make the cut at the first round of the U.S. Open qualifier?  Now that there is some big news.

Matt Wieters wanted to wear a pink chest protector on Mother’s Day but the folks at MLB said “you can’t”.  Big story there, too.

I get it.

The baseball blogging community – in Baltimore at least – is there for fantasy-land purposes, mainly.  ”Let’s just deal with the favorable realities and the negative ones we’ll cast aside and act as if they’re not only unimportant, but not worth considering whether or not they could, in fact, have some validity to them.”

As for Camden Chat, I still contend they’re the best you’ll find out there.  The rest of them, mostly, are nothing more than wanna-be Walt Whitman’s trying to combine their passion for writing with some deep-seeded need to be respected by the professional teams and the community they service.  But they can’t get respect — and some deserve it, frankly — if they only sit on one side of the see-saw.  You have to be willing to go UP and DOWN in order to say you’ve experienced the ride from every imaginable position.

Oddly enough, if you’re not willing to let your critics and adversaries have their say, you’re not really giving your followers enough room to decide just how important and legitimate your opinions really are…and this morning, at Camden Chat, you saw that sort of thinking on full display.

“When Drew says something good about the team, he’s ‘coming around’…when he says something bad about the team, we put him back on the ‘hater list’ and forget he’s around.”

I got that treatment at Orioles Hangout last year.  I had Scott Hoffman on for the better part of a month and gave him and the Hangout more free publicity than they could ever buy somewhere else.  Then, one day, when I posted on their site about having Zach Britton on MY show (which, you would assume, their readers would want to know), I was kicked off for “self promoting”.

And that’s the way it is with all the baseball blogging sites in town:  You’re either WITH them or AGAINST them.

There’s never in any between.

And in the case of WNST, they all seem to think we’re AGAINST them, when, in fact, we’re in the same boat they are…frustrated by losing, frustrated by having the team’s front office take a leak on us whenever they can and, mainly, frustrated because it appears like the Orioles don’t make an effort to correct their mistakes.

The truth is, we’re WITH the baseball blogging community much more than they realize.

And that’s why I’m always willing to have them on the air and post their work at WNST.net.

For me, there IS an in-between.  You can still love the team AND be critical of them.  You can still love the team and demand they treat the fans better.  You can still love the team and expect them to be successul and not be willing to settle for mediocrity.

That’s how I treat the Ravens AND the Orioles.

And it’s OK to treat them that way.

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