For those of us who read way too much online about the Pirates, you know that ESPN's "Sweet Spot Blog Network" has long been missing a Pirates Blog. No more. This season marks the addition of "PittPlank." I was instantly curious as I had been waiting for quite some time and was wondering who they got to write it. I didn't recognize the name of the blog, nor the writer from anywhere and was thrown for a loop, as I had expected someone from the existing online Pirates blog community to be brought aboard.
My initial reaction to reading the "about" section quoted below was confusion, and judging by the comments it appeared that others had negative reactions to reading that the author was a lifetime Tigers fan, about which he was very quick to defend himself in that same comments section. Additionally, it seemed as though he was a baseball fan who just said to himself "hey ESPN doesn't have a Pirates guy, that could be me."
I admittedly became a Pirates fan in 2008 and am by no means one who can claim decades of fandom. However, I was not writing about the team on ESPN. As Paul stated in the comments, he is not being paid. However, given the exposure of ESPN, he will now be the voice of Pirates news for a large amount of baseball fans who visit that site by default.
Paul is diehard baseball fan who spent his first 14 years in the greater Detroit area cheering on the Tigers before moving to Texas where he remained a fan from afar (really far. Living in Austin after graduating from the University of Texas (in 2005), Paul runs paulsporer.com and writes for RotoHardball.com. The Tigers are still his favorite team, so much so that he named his named his beagle Curtis after former Tiger star Curtis Granderson. No, he never considered changing the pup’s name even after Granderson’s trade to the Yankees.
Paul became interested in the Pirates when they finally changed front office regimes and has been following them closely since 2008. When he saw that ESPN’s SweetSpot network lacked Pirates representation he reached out to SS headmaster David Schoenfield and voila, Pitt Plank was born. Soon after, he called on long-time friend (via the Rotojunkie message board turned RJ Bullpen)John Franco to sign on as a contributor. He has a long history with the Pirates that you will no doubt learn about in his bio.
I suppose what really threw me was that I expected that the person chosen to fill this role would be someone who had followed the Pirates for a long time and was an authority on the subject, or a professional who could gather insight and provide opinions and information even if he had not closely followed the organization in the past. Writers are assigned to beats in cities all the time, and as we have seen with Langosch for example, get re-assigned or take different jobs all the time. Often, as is the case with Dejan, they fit both of these descriptions, and Paul appeared to be neither.
A deeper assessment of his writing, at his personal site and in the blog did provide what appears to be well thought out writing, though the Pirates stuff seems to lack depth and is more just reporting the obvious to date. I am curious to see if this changes once the season starts and there is real news, developments, and observations to be made.
I know Pirates fans have long felt shafted by ESPN for its lack of coverage, and for some of its personalities using the Pirates for the same lazy jokes that are made by many national writers. However as stated above, Paul seems so far to be better than that, so I will reserve judgement on him for the time being.
I will say that after my initial skepticism, I am cautiously optimistic overall as Paul seems to have it more or less together when it comes to baseball. I was wondering if anyone else had read his stuff, there and otherwise, or had thoughts, concerns, optimism etc.