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Outrage at Olney’s Pujols/Howard Story Misguided

Posted on March 16, 2010 by Don Spieles

Yesterday, Buster Olney of ESPN became the story when he posted an article stating that a “sources” had informed him that there had been internal discussion within the Phillies organization about trading Ryan Howard to get Albert Pujols. Since then, lesser media outlets and the blogosphere has erupted with everything from “professional” condemnations to personal insults and attacks leveled at Olney.

So, we have journalists, both amateur and quasi-professional, accusing Olney of being unprofessional by casting insults at him?  That’s the kind of  irony that inspires Alanis Morissette songs!

The reaction over an utterly reasonable article seems to be prompted more by the fact that Olney is a nationally read writer for ESPN, the network that is the undisputed king of sports news.  The story, in and of itself, lends nothing incredible and is, in fact, much more professional than many of the rebuttals.

St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols breaks record

While evidently not likely, a trade of Pujols for Howard is not without it's logic, regardless of which side of the table one looks from.

Some points to be clear on:

  • Olney did not say there was discussion between the Cardinals and Phillies.

“It’s not fully clear whether the Phillies actually have approached the Cardinals with the idea”

  • Olney immediately contacted Ruben Amaro, Jr., the Phillies GM and included his denial in the article.

“Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro flatly denied that the internal discussions have taken place. “Lies,” he said. “That’s a lie. I don’t know who you’re talking to, but that’s a lie.”"

  • If such a trade were to happen, it would be easy to explain both sides motivation. St. Louis just laid out a massive amount of money on Matt Holiday, leaving many wondering how they will come up with the A-Rod type money Pujols will be looking for in free agency. Philly wants to get another World Series ring while the tide is still high and then they can decide whether they want to shell out to resign Pujols or simply allow him to be swept up by the usual suspects (i.e. Boston of New York).  Also, as Olney points out, Howard is from St. Louis.  Why would he not like that move?
  • Many of the response articles misquote Olney in their scathing reviews.  Here’s a sample from Rob Parent of the Daily Times (Delaware County, PA):

“Why write it then? Why “report” that the Phillies “actually have approached the Cardinals with the idea” of trading superstar for superstar for no apparent (or reported) reason?”

  • Interviewing Pujols, LaRussa, or anyone from the Cardinals was pretty pointless. If the discussions were internal in Philadelphia, why would Albert Pujols know about them?
  • The scope of the story is neither accusatory nor particularly important.  If Olney ran with “sources” on a story about Albert Pujols being implicated in PED use, or is he posted that Ryan Howard was arrested based only in an anonymous source in the Philly clubhouse, the reactions would be warranted.  This is a trade rumor during Spring training.  The amount of emotion displayed is much more indicative of Buster Olney’s respected position with the sports news outlet that, if offered, every lambasting writer would work for in a heartbeat.  Yet in the context, Olney is said to be a hack who works for, as one blogger put it:

“…The Extremely Stupid People Network…”

But it’s Buster Olney who’s the hack?  Sure it is.

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