dangerous-bloggersYesterday was quite a day for the guy at Bleacher Nation, Brett Taylor.  It started innocently enough:

  • a recap of the exploits of the Cubs minor leaguers–written by a guy named Luke they are infinitely better than the ones at Al Yellon’s House of Dumbassedry
  • Dale Sveum is trying to ruin Darwin Barney the way Lou “ruined” Ryan Theriot (there’s so much wrong with all of this that I’m not going to even bother)
  • News about how the neighborhood assholes are slowly starting to realize the Cubs are going to be able to ram this whole renovation thing down their throats (insert your own Lakeview joke here) starting with the increase in night games
  • News that one of my all-time favorite Cubs has signed a minor league deal with the Phillies (no, not Brian Dayett (but that would have been cool)
  • Update of the Tommy John Disease ward the Cubs are running in Mesa
  • That “Lukewarm Stove” thing where he plays MLB Trade Rumors

Then a post about a reader who lives in the same apartment complex as Cubs current whipping boy Carlos Marmol overheard Marmol telling his agents he wants “out of” Chicago.  The guy lingered for a while and took photos of Marmol and his agents hanging around the lobby.  One of the agents even said it’s too bad the Brewers are so lousy this year because that might have been a place the Cubs could have traded him.  Milwaukee already has a Marmol, his name is John Axford (actually, Axford’s been even worse.)

The reader tweeted this info to Brett for the world to see, and then Brett wrote a post about it.  In the post he qualified the information so many times it made it hard to follow.  He said the reader may have misheard or misinterpreted the information, and he went as far as to remind his readers that things are “always more complicated than a few tweets, and, indeed, an entire conversation, can possibly convey.”

So that’s a pretty good post.  Got a tip of a rumored conversation with a couple photos, posted it with plenty of provisos, and move on.  It’s not surprising that Marmol would want to get out, considering the Cubs already traded him once in the last six months only to pull out at the last second, he’s pitched poorly, he lost his closer job to Kevin F’ing Gregg, fans and media have been over the top batshit crazy in reaction to his outings this year and Dave Kaplan goes through panic orgasms on Twitter every time Marmol is seen warming up in the bullpen.

So anyway, Brett posts the rumor, and people do what people do on the Interwebs.  They go crazy.  Some pile on Marmol for wanting to leave, most post that of course he wants out and that Cubs fans would gladly help him pack, but some start criticizing Brett for posting the information.  A few even proclaim that Marmol will sue him for defamation.

Yes, Marmol’s reputation and career have been irrevocably harmed by a blog post that maybe he said that possibly he’d like to play for a different team.  If only Johnnie Cochran were around to take this case.  Jackie Chiles is, though.

It’s a testament to the readership numbers at Bleacher Nation that the regular media felt compelled to ask Marmol about the conversation.  Marmol claimed he never said he wanted out, but otherwise basically confirmed that the conversation took place, even taking issue with being “spied” on.

And then, what does Brett do?  He apologizes.  To everyone.

He apologizes to Marmol.  He apologizes to the Cubs.  He apologizes to his readers.

At one point he writes, “When I write something like that, I have to understand that it will be read as ‘Marmol did say these things, because I’m a professional writer and I wouldn’t write it if he didn’t say it.’ It was read that way by many people, in large part because, after weighing the evidence, I said I had no reason to doubt that Marmol had actually said these things or had this meeting. The truth, of course, is that I don’t *really* know it, and I said as much. I know only that someone Tweeted it. And shouldn’t I hold myself to a higher standard than that?”

That falls in an interesting place on the self-immolation–self-promotion scale.  He begs for forgiveness while categorizing himself as a “professional writer” and proclaims his standards should be higher than writing about something someone else told him.

In the article our good friend Paul Sullivan wrote about this last night, Sullivan took great satisfaction in characterizing Brett’s site as “a popular website that aggregates Cubs news and gossip from various media outlets.”  Aggregates is the key word there.

That’s not basically what Bleacher Nation does, it is what Bleacher Nation does, and what most blogs do.  Bleacher Nation finds news and reposts it with some analysis.  Nothing wrong with that.  It’s valuable.  Aggregation is valuable.  Of course newspapers get angry, they feel like they’re doing all the legwork, and some smartass with a blog just picks and chooses what they want to use to populate their own site.  I know that, because for nearly 16 years that’s exactly what Desipio has done (you know, when we’re not busy not writing or yakking on a video podcast.)

I don’t understand why Brett apologized.  I can’t see anything he needed to apologize for.  He didn’t recklessly pass along the information.  As far as I can tell, his mistake was he paid way too much attention to the comments on his own blog.

And that is a big problem.  I know that all too well.  There’s a real lifecycle of a blog.  At the beginning you are writing mostly for yourself (let’s call that phase A), and any attention you get is a mystery.  Then, if you’re any good you get a little bit of a following and that’s fun (phase B).  It’s usually like-minded people.  Then, if you keep at it, your following grows beyond that and you get more of the like-mindeds and just enough of the irrational douchebags that it makes you start to question why you’re doing it (phase C).  Eventually the irrational douchebags start to take over the comments (phase Douchebag), and while your site content is the same, the comments have run amuck.  Bleacher Nation is in the process of going from phase C to phase Douchebag.

Apologizing to them doesn’t seem like the best strategy.  Ignoring them is a better one.  Probably not ignoring them to the extent that I did, but to some extent.

Brett Taylor didn’t make a mistake posting the rumors about Carlos Marmol. So he shouldn’t have apologized for it.

If anybody should apologize it’s Marmol for wearing those awful shorts.