Recap: Writing & Talking Baseball

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Recap: Writing & Talking Baseball
Feb 6, 2018

By Kate Yanchulis

With spring training on the horizon, a trio of Major League Baseball reporters joined the Povich Center on Feb. 5 to discuss the storylines surrounding the game.

ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian (’78), The Baltimore Sun’s Eduardo Encina (’98) and The Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo drew a large crowd to Gaylord Library at Knight Hall for “Writing & Talking Baseball.”

The MLB offseason, known as the hot stove league, has fizzled this year, but the ice-cold state of the free agent market sparked the panel.

Many of the top players to hit free agency remain unsigned, which has resulted in friction between the league and the MLB Players Association – and even whispers of collusion, Kurkjian noted. Still, the ESPN reporter sees something less sinister in the current state of affairs.

“I see this as a market correction,” Kurkjian said.

Teams’ strategies are catching up with sabermetrics, Encina agreed.

Front offices are seeking more bang for their buck, so they have started to prioritize younger, cheaper players. As a result, big name players such as 30-year-old outfielder J.D. Martinez and 31-year-old starting pitcher Yu Darvish are still available.

“Having said that, I don’t think there’s been a market quite like this one in our recent memory,” Encina said.

The reporters also looked toward next offseason, when Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and Baltimore Orioles shortstop Manny Machado are scheduled to become free agents.

“When you talk about storylines, in my world, that’s the biggest one,” said Castillo, who covers the Nationals as a beat reporter.

These 25-year-old superstars could be contributing to the lack of splashy signings this year, Castillo said. Teams may be saving their money in hopes of landing a franchise player next time around.

In addition to contemplating the future has in store for baseball, the panel also discussed the future for sports journalism.

Encina started covering the MLB in 2006 as a Tampa Bay Rays beat reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, and he now serves as the lead Baltimore Orioles beat reporter for the Sun.

In that time, “the print product has become almost an afterthought,” Encina said. He now gears his coverage for the web.

“All of us like to be optimistic about it, like there’s some kind of wave that’s going to bring us back, but I don’t know what that is,” Encina said.

Much as the MLB is seeing a market correction, traditional news organizations also are trying to correct their course and steer into the digital age, Kurkjian said.

“We’re in trouble at ESPN, we’re in trouble in TV, we’re in trouble in print,” Kurkjian said. “Five years from now I have no idea what we’re going to be doing.”

With the changes in store for the sports media industry, Kurkjian offered this advice to aspiring baseball reporters: “You’d better love the game. If you don’t love the game, it’s going to kill you.”

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