[Bumped to front page for Appeal to Reason During Trade Deadline Madness - RtP]
I saw a couple of articles today which present a very nice case study in how our beloved sportswriters shape their narratives through simply omitting a few select comments made by a player during a post-game interview. This isn't anything groundbreaking, so SBN doesn't have to dust off a shelf on the mantle for a Pulitzer or anything, but I think it's illustrative of how a lot of the beats work, and shows why viewing a lot of what they say with a skeptical eye is often the correct strategy.
First, we have last night's article from Mandy Housenick, entitled, "A Hamels return to Philadelphia doesn't sound promising." We might be inclined to give a little latitude here, because newspaper writers often don't write their own headlines and as such they're often misleading and/or not indicative of what the author of the article intended to say. In this case, however, the headline is entirely accurate, as we encounter this passage:
Everyone wants to know is if Hamels will be here not only through the end of the 2012 season, but for six or seven years to come.
It didn't sound promising after the game.
"You don't like playing for a team that loses," Hamels said bluntly.
"But unfortunately, it takes all of us. If I'm not winning my ball games, then I'm obviously a culprit, too. I know the atmosphere here is they want to win and they want to win now. So that's always the key to anything. The organization wants to win; the fans want to win; players want to win. That's ultimately what we have to stick with, and that's kind of the decision that I would ever revert to."
So, if that's what we're left with, we might think something along the lines of, "Hrm, that sounds less than encouraging," as Mandy has conveniently prefaced the entire quotation with her own pessimistic interpretation of the following quote, effectively coloring the lens through which most readers are going to interpret the subsequent passage. Although those taking a little more time might take a moment to consider what, exactly, Cole means in that larger block quote after the highlighted portion. It's not entirely clear from the context there, and so we're kind of left with that hanging, with a comment about the team wanting to win, but Cole feeling he's not doing his part, and not wanting to lose. Or something.
Fortunately, that's not all we have to go by. This brings us to Jayson Stark's article from earlier this evening. Stark runs down the various options for Cole and for the Phillies, closing the article with a version of the same quote Mandy used above. This time we get a little more context to the comment, with a lead-in that seems much more neutral:
It also appears likely the Phillies (now 41-54) will finish with a losing record for the first time since Hamels debuted in 2006. When he was asked whether that would affect his desire to sign with a winner, Hamels again tried to answer as diplomatically as possible.
"You don't like playing for a team that loses," he said. "But ... I know the atmosphere here is that they want to win and they want to win now. So that's always the key. The organization wants to win. The fans want to win. The players want to win. So that's ultimately what we want to stick with, and that's kind of the decision I would look to."
Again, emphasis mine. See how the second uses a more complete, coherent version of Hamels' sound bite to paint a picture of a guy who wants to play for a winner AND understands that this organization is committed to winning? That entire second portion--in which Hamels enunciates his belief that the Phillies are a winning organization despite this season's failures--is completely neglected in Housenick's article, and it entirely changes the tenor of his Cole's remarks. The first article makes you think Cole's got a foot out the door because this team is a loser, while the second, obviously using the same quotations, doesn't give that impression at all.
I don't know how much added value this adds, as TGPers are generally pretty savvy bunch, and many may or may not already consider one of these writers extraordinarily hacky, but the contrast between the two articles using and emphasizing differing portions of the same post-game quotes struck me as unusually stark in this instance.