I'm starting this off with an assumption: something tells me that you read this site. I think that you read this site quite often, maybe at first for the lively discussion and in-depth analysis, then perhaps somewhere along the way, it became the site that you went to as a way to prepare your counter arguments both before and after your columns. If it's not the case that you visit this site, then the second assumption would obviously be false, in which case I apologize to everyone else here for taking up the space, because I'm not going to actually talk about the Pirates. Rather I'm going to talk about how we talk about the Pirates.
Dejan, I've read your work for years. I considered your time at the PG in the mid-oughts to be without peer. My family is from Pittsburgh, but for the most part I've grown up in California, absolutely loving anything and everything about the Pirates. As a result, your work was the link that brought context to the numbers that I saw everyday, before MLB.TV allowed me to see it for myself. You were sharp, informative, engaging and genuinely curious about both large and small matters surrounding the team and organization. These traits made you a great reporter. I'm speaking in the past tense here because, while you may still be all of these things, that's not your job anymore. You're a columnist. And what a columnist does, is write his or her opinion. Now when one writes said opinion, one uses facts to support one's case to sway the reader. So of course, one is going to use the facts that best support that case, as opposed to those that weaken it. But I don't need to tell you that. Because you just told everyone else that. (And here I'll use up my one bit of snark: if you're having to constantly define what your job is, there's a decent chance you're not doing it very well.)
See when you listed such bullet point opinions as:
- Bob Nutting would be better served by a different front office
- that a sixth year is too many for a management team that has failed for this long
- that their draft results weren't commensurate with the money spent
- their inability to evaluate or acquire talent in free agency and trades
… you didn't need to expound because you had already done so in the past. When you tweeted about Melancon's ERA you don't have to provide context, because you are your own context. Your persona imbues that tweet with meaning. Why, you ask, when you are simply passing on a fact? Because you're a columnist. See above. Passing on the tidbit that the new guy no one has heard of has a 6+ ERA furthers your narrative/agenda. If it's not the case that this is furthering of your narrative, then do you know how you can clear up this sort of confusion despite 140 character restrictions? Send two tweets.
Because here's the rub: Dejan, you can't have it both ways. I mean you can, but you're going to create a lot of confusion and indignation, like in the Melancon thread. Was that you reporting, were you giving us your opinion, or both? Let's look at your Hoka hey columns. It seems that much, if not all, of the investigation into those columns came from your work. So you, as the reporter, broke the story, but really it's a column, so you infused it with opinion because you're a columnist… or was it a column that was really a news story? Shouldn't news come before opinion, not with it? What was that, Dejan? A news story or a column? I still don't know.
If it's any consolation I agree with you on all the above bullet points, and thought specifically that NH should have been replaced prior to last year's draft. We have arrived at the same conclusions. But it was what I saw on my twitter feed regarding Melancon and the subsequent back and forth that prompted me to reach out directly to you, obviously for a few reasons, but in this instance it was because I'm not sure what it is that you think we 'bloggers' do here.
Now there are quite a few people on this site and others that do prefer to use advanced metrics (how about we call them rationalists). And they use those numbers, and debate their importance, and how those numbers relate to players directly and indirectly, and how sometimes those numbers tell us things that our eyes sometimes can't. There are others who watch the games and form their opinions based on a collection of data acquired through sight and instinct, weighed against previous data acquired through the same means (for the sake of analogy, we'll call them empiricists). They do so while still maintaining a healthy regard for the stats, as stats are the lifeblood of this game. Now these rationalists and empiricists argue all the time about how to interpret what we're seeing, why it's happening, and what to do next. But collectively, we 'bloggers' aren't strictly one thing or the other, because that whole idea is a false binary. It isn't a 'pro vs. anti' either/or anymore than it's a 'rationalist/stat geek' vs. 'empiricist/old school' either/or. Frankly it's obfuscation to portray it as such. The point of blogs like these are to create a conversation. A conversation to promote a furthering of our understanding about a subject that we all agree is important to us. To get as many opinions as possible through discourse. That's it. Most of the people who frequently comment on this site are of the opinion that the entire front office should have been replaced months, if not years ago. But they haven't been. So we've moved on, if in no other way than simply by trying to progress the dialogue to something like, "ok, well I guess we're still stuck with them… so let's keep talking about what they're doing and how they can improve. Any ideas?", or "What exact mistakes did they make in methodology and what should they do instead?"
Now juxtapose that with what's going on with commenters on the two major newspaper sites and you simply get things like, "Nutting please sell the team. You're so cheap!!!", "Well there's another crappy pitcher," and "This front office sucks!!" This does absolutely nothing to further the knowledge of the majority of casual readers who either comment or read up on this team, and simply stops the dialogue dead in its tracks. In fact, one can make the argument that it's sullied the water to such an extent that there's nothing that this front office can do that wouldn't receive a vast majority of negative reaction, in the absence of the critical thinking necessitated by having to logically justify one's opinion. Whether they hire or fire a scout, sign an AA player for depth or cut an AAAA one, it's all bad, all the time. Every decision is wrong because the persons making the decisions are incapable of doing so. But let me take it a step further. Is there even a small chance that a free agent didn't sign here because of something like 'Hoka hey'? That because the Pirates are the punchline to a joke that you started, a legitimately decent free agent or draftee has or will chose a different team? That by trying so earnestly to be a part of the solution, you inadvertently became part of the problem? Because while I agree that for all those bullet points above that this front office should be terminated, 'Hoka hey' isn't one of them. This was barely a story.
Dejan, I'm talking to you directly because, whether you know it or not, you lead the conversation, perhaps both locally and nationally, about how we talk about the Pirates. You have the largest audience, and that audience is less prepared to talk about baseball in 2013 than they should be. With everything we know about advanced stats, market inefficiencies, and disparate revenue streams we still see fans getting legitimately upset that we didn't sign Greinke and Hamilton, that .211 is the best way to describe a catcher, or that we should trade Taillon and Cole because they're not in the bigs yet. So please, I implore you to help make the conversation that we have about the Pirates more intelligent, more civil and more thoughtful. Stop by more often to debate. Allow more of us to debate with you on your site. Be less dismissive, more tolerant to dissenting opinions about your opinions. Take the time to provide context. Aim for dialectic. The Pirates' problems over the course of the last two decades are an historically unfortunate blend of bad personnel decision-making and an ever increasing economic disparity brought about by a broken system. The latter part of that sentence is a discussion that we apparently need to continue to have, because it does provide a necessary backdrop for our discussions about the perpetual cycle of the former, one that many of your readers tend to forget, or at the very least, continue to conveniently overlook.
There are a couple reasons I didn't email you this privately. The first is that I realize that this has to work both ways. Some of the commenters here could stand to temper their responses in regards to your writing style. To acknowledge that this your job, and that your job, by it's very nature, must have some trace elements of sensationalism in it. And not to confuse the job with the man. So I would hope that this could start a trend that holds everyone here more accountable. The other reason this is an open letter, is because I think many of your readers come here as well. And I feel like they deserve a reasoned explanation as to what the 'other side' is thinking when these debates invariably arise.
Thanks for taking the time,