I cross the streams, discussing Hated Yankees and journalism

11 12 2012

“Don’t cross the streams,” we were warned in “Ghostbuster.” It can be bad.

But I crossed the streams today, mentioning this Hated Yankees blog in a journalism workshop today, then continuing the discussion later on the Twitter account I usually use for discussions of journalism and not for my opinions about the New York Yankees. That’s the topic of this blog and the related @hatedyankees Twitter account.

My Hated Yankees identity creeps into my journalism workshops occasionally for two reasons:

  1. As an example of why a journalist would use a personal Twitter account separate from the account you use for work, I mention that I launched @hatedyankees because I didn’t want to annoy or bore journalists who hated the Yankees or didn’t care about baseball with my tweets about the Yankees. But I did want to tweet about the Yankees (it was October 2009 when I launched the Twitter account and this blog, chronicling and celebrating the Yankees’ drive to the World Series title that year.)
  2. I mention my 2009 blog post about why Don Mattingly belongs in the Hall of Fame as an example of a bad headline for search engines. I didn’t understand SEO well then and my headline, “You be the judge: Who’s a Hall of Famer?” didn’t help people find my blog because it didn’t include the name most likely to be used in a Google search by someone who would be interested in my post.

I was doing workshops on social media and blogging today at the New Haven Register and mentioned both points. Ben Doody, who was tweeting some of my key points from the workshop, tweeted this one:

Soon my streams were crossed. Jondi Gumz asked a journalism question and Jeff Edelstein made a baseball observation. You can guess which turned into a full-scale debate (or as full-scale as you can debate 140 characters at a time):

I’ll get to the baseball question(s) shortly, but first the journalism question: I regard the Mattingly post as one of the three or four most insightful things I’ve written in this blog (recognizing that “insightful” is a relative term when your whole blog is about something as trivial as baseball players being snubbed). But that post is only the 13th most-read post on this blog (and that’s after getting more views as a result of today’s workshop and Twitter discussion than in all of 2009 and 2010 combined).

This is a really tiny niche blog that’s never going to get a lot of traffic, but I should at least write headlines good enough to help people using Google find my posts in they are interested in reading about Mattingly (or Roger Maris or Ron Guidry or Thurman Munson or Tommy John or …). Ten of my 12 blog posts that have been viewed more often than that Mattingly post have a player’s name in the headline. The other two headlines have good keywords people might search on (Yankees and Hall of Famers in one, strategy and National League in the other).

My journalism point was that bloggers need to think how someone interested in the content you’re producing might search for it and include those keywords in the headline. My headline was fine for a print edition where it would appear in a sports section, possibly with photos of Mattingly and Puckett. But it was bad for search traffic. “Hall of Fame” was a relevant term that was in the headline, but countless pieces on the web refer to the Hall of Fame. I needed Mattingly’s name in the headline with “Hall of Fame” to have a shot at search traffic.

As for Jeff’s baseball question, he missed my point. Cecil Cooper has some similarities to Mattingly (and Puckett) but he’s nowhere close to as nearly identical in career achievements to either of them as Mattingly and Puckett are. (All my stats come from Baseball-Reference.com.)

Mattingly played just two more games than Puckett, so their careers were nearly identical in length. Cooper played 111 more games than Mattingly, more than half a season more. So his season totals generally topped Mattingly (but not by a half-season’s worth: just five more runs, 39 more hits, 26 more RBI; only his 19 more homers reflect his longer career very closely).

Again and again and again, Mattingly and Puckett are just points apart in their career achievements: ..360 to .358 in on-base percentage, 477 to .471 in slugging, .837 to .830 in OPS (both advantages to Puckett). Their biggest split in averages was 11 points (.318 to .307 in batting, with Puckett again ahead). Cooper’s more than 20 points behind Mattingly in both slugging and OPS.

The Mattingly-Puckett comparisons are amazingly close in career batting totals, peak figures and other measures, as I noted in the first piece. I won’t repeat them all here, but some examples that show the similarities were much closer with Mattingly and Puckett than with Cooper (with the advantage in their favor) was that Mattingly’s best single-season hit total (238) was just four better than Puckett’s best but 21 better than Cooper’s and that Mattingly and Puckett each won a Most Valuable Player  award, but Cooper never did. Mattingly and Puckett both led their leagues in batting, RBI and hits, Cooper just in RBI. Cooper played until he was 37, while Puckett finished his career at age 35 and Mattingly at 34. Mattingly won nine Gold Gloves, Puckett six and Cooper two. About the only notable differences are speed (advantage Puckett) and strikeouts (advantage Mattingly). Also Puckett’s World Series titles and performance, but if that’s irrelevant for all the Yankees who aren’t in the Hall of Fame, it has to be irrelevant for Puckett, too.

My point in the Mattingly-Puckett piece was not that they were kind of similar, but that they were, in career achievements and profiles (both played whole career for the same team, etc.) as close to identical as any two great players I can think of. For one of them to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one to never get a whiff of Cooperstown is ridiculous and exposes two biases in Hall of Fame selection (against the Yankees and in favor of longevity) and that a tragic end to your career (glaucoma in Puckett’s case) gets you an exception to the longevity rule but wear-and-tear injuries (bad back in Mattingly’s case) don’t get you an exception.

Mattingly’s career peak, as I noted in a more recent post, was notably better than most of the Hall of Famers of his era. So only longevity is keeping him out.

Jeff and I continued the discussion, with a few contributions from another journalist whose tweets aren’t public:

Of course, I have to agree with the first part of this tweet by Jeff (not that it stops me from blogging about Hall of Fame arguments):

I pondered taking on the Clemens-Bonds question on Twitter or here in the blog. And I might someday. But I decided this would be enough for now.

OK, now I need to separate the streams: Journalism on @stevebuttry and The Buttry Diary, Yankees on @hatedyankees and the Hated Yankees blog. Except that I do need to post a link to this there, right?

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