February 17, 2005

All Olney, All The Time

So I'm sitting in my "Magazine Editing and Production" class yesterday afternoon, listening to a guest speaker from the Minneapolis Star Tribune talk to us about developing story ideas. She asks a guy in the front row what sort of stuff he reads and he tells her he likes Sports Illustrated and ESPN Magazine. Hearing that he likes sports writing, she immediately says to him, "Have you heard of a baseball writer named Buster Olney? He has written for the New York Times and ESPN ... he's a really outstanding writer ... fantastic."

I wasn't sure whether to start laughing, throw up, or get up from my seat to look for the hidden camera crew from Punk'd. Yes, the very day I was, I don't know, let's say "very critical" of Olney's ESPN.com work in this space, I was told by someone brought in to teach me about journalism that Olney is "a really outstanding writer" and "fantastic." It was a surreal experience.

Actually though, I can see why people enjoy Olney's work. He is, stylistically at least, a fine writer, and his reporting skills are clearly excellent. Where he gets in trouble is when he injects his opinions and biases into his pieces, or more simply when he tries to be an analyst instead of a reporter. However, someone with just a passing knowledge of baseball (the guest speaker who sang Olney's praises, for instance), won't necessarily notice things that go beyond his writing and reporting skills.

Continuing on the now two-day-old theme that has somehow overtaken this blog, after I got home from class yesterday I had several e-mails from readers telling me to check out Olney's latest article at ESPN.com. I broke my "No Olney" rule for the second day in a row and read his "Around the National League" article that is a companion piece to his "Around the American League" article that I discussed yesterday.

In it, Olney writes the following about the St. Louis Cardinals (I've put the notable section in bold):

But Albert Pujols complained during the offseason about nagging injuries, Jim Edmonds turns 41 this season, and Edgar Renteria -- an underrated member of this attack -- is gone. It's possible the Cardinals won't be able to support the pitching the way they did last year.

In reality, Jim Edmonds was born on June 27, 1970, which means he turns 35 years old in about four months. So Olney was only off by six years.

Wait, there's more. On the New York Mets, Olney writes:

Beltran already has five seasons of 100 or more runs, five seasons of 100 or more RBI, five seasons of 20 or more homers, five seasons of 27 or more stolen bases. And he's just 26 years old.

The only problem, of course, is that Carlos Beltran was born on April 24, 1977, which means he is currently 27 years old and will be turning 28 in approximately two months.

Olney also got Alex Rodriguez's age wrong in the American League version of the article, although ESPN.com appears to have corrected the mistake. Actually, considering how quickly ESPN.com got rid of the link to this blog the other day, I'm guessing someone over there will eventually notice Olney's latest batch of mistakes and fix those as well. And yes, this qualifies as nit-picking, but sometimes it's just too damn hard not to.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- An In-Depth Look at Dodger Stadium's Effects (by Tom Meagher)

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