Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Closure: The Matsuzaka Sweepstakes

This is officially over.

"The highest bid amount was submitted by the Boston Red Sox...they should have negotiating rights for 30 continuous days." -- Opening line from the Major League Baseball Official Matsuzaka Press Conference.

"We are pleased and excited to acquire the rights to Mr. Matsuzaka." - Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein

So, let's review my recently one-dimensional blog. Who had the best sources and who had the worst?

Buster Olney, part journalist, part analyst, for ESPN is the clear "winner" as he scooped everyone and broke the story, as I wrote last Friday: "Buster Olney blogged (subscriber-only) on ESPN about a 'bit of speculation heard yesterday -- and it was nothing more than speculation -- was that maybe Boston had made an enormous bid, in the range of $45 million.'"

ESPN gets credit for trusting Olney enough to use his blog as source material for their news release later that day. Clearly Olney was hedging his bets and protecting his sources by qualifying his blog report with double doses of "speculation."

So, Olney gets extra credit for breaking the story with the correct information, and his employer gets credit for recognizing the strength of Olney's moles enough to turn it into an actual news story, which was later picked up by most other outlets.

Who lost? Earlier last week Source Diverse compared a video news segment alongside message board fodder alongside speculation from a blog (not Olney's). In the video Boston Globe sportswriter Jackie MacMullan nonchalantly offered that Matsuzaka "is going to go out west to the Angels...they've got the sealed bid that's going to put them over the top."

In the future, I'll read MacMullan's work with more of a skeptical eye.

The blog, Matsuzaka Watch, was careful not to opine as matter-of-factly as MacMullan, but did posit that the Yankees will win the bidding, saying "rumors abound...the Yankees at $27 million, the Rangers at $25 million, but nothing concrete or from a remotely reliable source."

It's hard to "score" the blog anything more than neutral (which I'd say is quite valuable).

Now to the much-maligned, oft-deemed-unreliable message board: One poster, while he did qualify his declaration with some insecurity, stated "I have a source telling me that the Yankees won with 27 million. He is reliable but I still have some doubts as that seems a little low."

In sum, Buster Olney gained my trust this week. Jackie MacMullen lost some credibility, but nothing major. If you followed along on the Matsuzaka Watch blog, you know the blog was at least decent, and updated frequently. Rumors and speculation were disclosed as such. And one poster on a message board had a chance to shine, but instead came up empty.

I'd also like to draw attention to how relatively leak-proof this whole process ended up. Kudos to Major League Baseball, the teams thereof, and the officials and entities of Nippon Professional Baseball.

I will now refrain from writing about sports for at least 7 days.


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