How @SouhanStrib could silence his critics

The so-called Greener's Law advises, "Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel." As any old farmhand can tell you, when you pick a fight with chickens, eventually you get egg on your face. (I made this up.)

Star Tribune scribe Jim Souhan recently authored a screed against baseball bloggers, calling them "plagiarists, amateurs, [sic] cowards and professional liars" who don't "have to have the courage and work ethic to show their faces in the clubhouse every 10 years or so." A prudent reminder here to readers that Souhan continues to insinuate that bilateral leg weakness, the diagnosed condition which afflicted Twins star Joe Mauer in 2011, does not exist. Souhan's professional biography does not indicate he holds advanced medical or athletic training degrees.

In his anti-blogger invective, Souhan details the groups of people he believes are and are not trustworthy sources of information about baseball. He includes himself in the former category, along with beat writers and "tethered bloggers," while team broadcasters, "untethered bloggers," and Sid Hartman your grandpa the late Jim Ed Poole are in the latter group. (One wonders where ESPN-era Hunter S. Thompson falls in this taxonomy.) Souhan draws a stark contrast between his fellow Anna Politkovskayas of sports truth and the "local trolls and national know-nothings," who he accuses of being professional chickens:

[T}hey have the opportunity to get credentials and talk to people face to face and defend what they write, especially the many untrue things they write, and they never show up. They are afraid to. They are actual trolls, unwilling to do the work or look people in the eye and justify or defend what they’ve written.

There is a reason they take this approach. Their stuff wouldn’t stand up to the scrutiny of players and team officials. They’re afraid. And they would have to face the traditional journalists they’re trying to push aside so they have a place at the table.


These untethered-from-reality bloggers are trolls, liars, plagiarists and frauds. But mostly, they’re cowards.

Souhan's churlish defense of the unwavering bravery of the beat writer and the noble courage of the newspaper columnist has been echoing in my mind for the last few days. How could anyone doubt the stones of the guy who has to hear from Minnesotans who don't like how he does his job? What better way, I thought, for Souhan to show just how much juice he really has in this town, and just how unfettered by jeopardy to professional relationships his reporting is, than to write a series of columns on subjects that put his courage on display and show bloggers how the pros do it? Remember, this is the guy who claims he is one of "two columnists in town ... who can call up Tom Kelly or Hrbek or Torii Hunter whenever we like[.]"

So, I drafted ten suggestions for Souhan's column requiring the all access pass & intestinal fortitude of a real sports journalist:

  • Souhan should ask his buddy Torii Hunter to go on the record about whether he still thinks Twins like Miguel Sanó, Rod Carew, & Tony Oliva are race "imposters." Has Torii ever apologized to Carew, Oliva, or Sanó for his bigotry?
  • During the Nineties Souhan was a Twins beat reporter for the Star Tribune. Which Twins were steroid users when he was a beat reporter? What do clean teammates think of the PED users in the clubhouse during that time? Why didn't Souhan write about steroids in the organization then?
  • What does Jim Pohlad think about his father Carl's failed attempt to take a payout from Major League Baseball to contract one of the American League's original franchises? What did the family hear from its former stars like Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, & Kent Hrbek? What did Tom Kelly say to the Pohlads?
  • What do Pohlad & St. Peter think the Twins owe the fans financing their taxpayer-funded ballpark after the worst stretch of on-field & front office incompetence during the club's half-century tenure in Minnesota? How high is Pohlad willing to raise the payroll to win the World Series and make good on the promises made to fans about championship-caliber baseball at their new ballpark?
  • How do Jim Pohlad & Dave St. Peter justify the Twins' ongoing corporate partnership with Kwik Trip, a company run by enthusiastic Trump supporters, in light of Trump's policies on immigration and his detestable rhetorical footsie with white supremacists? Does that connection reflect the values of the Minnesota Twins and its leadership group?
  • In light of recent movements to remove statues in public spaces that memorialize figures who professed significant racial prejudice, do the Twins plan to remove the statue of former owner Calvin Griffith, who told an audience that includesd a reporter for Souhan's own paper he moved his club because Minnesota "only had 15,000 blacks here"? Get a response from Pohlad or St. Peter on the record.
  • Interview Bert Blyleven and ask how he feels about the "untethered bloggers" who were the staunchest & most persistent advocates for his election to the Hall of Fame. What does Bert think old-school sportswriters missed in his career, and what can they learn from bloggers like those who supported his candidacy? What has Bert learned in his broadcasting career that has given him new insight on pitching or playing the game?
  • What is the full, real story behind the firing of former head trainer Dick Martin? What does Martin think motivated his dismissal? And why have the Twins, who once had such a good reputation for injury prevention that Martin had an athletic training award named after him, been so plagued by injury problems since Martin left?
  • Next time Souhan passes Derek Falvey & Thad Levine in the hallway, he should ask them which websites they would  recommend to Twins fans who want to learn more about evaluating players, then provide links to & descriptions of their recommendations.
  • Ask Glen Perkins for his on the record comment on Souhan's claims about his conditioning and when he plans to announce his retirement; report his response, word for word.

If Souhan has the cast iron drawers of a seasoned journalist, surely he won't balk at this small list. Since he has Access, why doesn't he show us he's not afraid to use it?

36 thoughts on “How @SouhanStrib could silence his critics”

  1. This really gets to the flip side of access. You write too many "difficult" articles and all of a sudden that access dries up. It also ignores the fact that many times that access is used by the insiders to get their version of a story out. Sure, the Souhan's of the world may get a juicy scoop, but many times those scoops are strategic. Souhan and his ilk will gladly be used that way to maintain that access.

    Finally the one thing that the Souhan article misses is that for the most part the bloggers and "stat nerds" aren't as concerned about scoops. It's more about analysis. I can't remember the last time Gleeman, Parker Hageman, et. al.. "broke a story." Not because they don't have access, its because that's not what they do.

    1. These are both good points. If Access is an asset, then it must be something that is – at some extent – protected. (I think Bonnes made that point in his piece linked above, but I don't remember for certain.) If Souhan's the bare-knuckled journo he postures to be, then where's the proof that he's not afraid to really cross the people in the organization willing to talk to him? Or, on the other hand, what does he not report because it would jeopardize his standing with the organization?

      I think you're also pointing to a useful distinction in the classes of folks doing sports writing – beat writers, analysts, and columnists. There's some overlap, of course, but I think there's also some clear distinction between those sub-fields.

      1. To Souhan, they are all basement dwellers. There's no distinction between those sub-fields; if you're writing for a MLB/team-sanctioned outlet or an establishment media outlet, you're kosher. If not, you and your work don't merit a second glance.

    2. That's a good point. Souhan is essentially a tool for anonymous sources to use to negotiate the next contract, grind an axe, etc.

      When is the last time Souhan had a scoop that went on the record? Who are these Twins officials that claim they're worried about Sano's weight?

      1. Souhan basically said the worry was expressed to him by someone within the organization he's known for a long time, which suggests it wasn't Falvey or Levine. There are a fair number of people who could fit his description, but I'd start my list with Dave St. Peter & Rob Antony and work my way down. A comment like that coming from someone in the clubhouse closely involved with Sanó (like the athletic trainer) would seem like a pretty public betrayal, even if related as an anonymous source.

    1. Because his twitter handle was in the title, he would have had a notification about the mention if he hasn't disabled that (would not be surprised if he did disable them).

      1. I figured that the plugin would convert the plain text to his handle when it posted the title to Twitter, but I lack the access to know if he gets the notifications or not.

  2. "two columnists in town ... who can call up Tom Kelly or Hrbek or Torii Hunter whenever we like[.]"

    When I read the initial piece this quote stuck out more than anything to me. Torii has a vested interest in maintaining his position within the organization, and therefore would almost certainly be an anonymous, close personal friend kind of source. The other guys mentioned in his Rolodex are so far removed from the day to day that I wonder what they'd have to offer a hard hitting journalist that wouldn't be better reported from a source that is playing / managing / making decisions today.

  3. MInor quibble: the injury that Souhan questioned the existence of was "stress reaction," the very injury to Sano that prompted this whole flurry.

    Also, he sat on the questions re: Sano's fitness until he got hurt. If he had an ounce of courage, he'd have written about his weight when Sano was mashing.

    1. Also, he sat on the questions re: Sano's fitness until he got hurt. If he had an ounce of courage, he'd have written about his weight when Sano was mashing.

      I think some of the issue with the original article is that it seemed to be pre-written with the instructions: "publish when Sano goes on DL."

      1. The people defending Souhan aren't looking at the big picture. He consistently tries to bury any player/coach with a health issue. Mauer, Kill, Sano, etc. It's the definition of cowardice.

        1. Yep. Souhan loves to create this false equivalency between physical health and personal character — as if brain injuries or epilepsy are indicative of some absence or erosion of personal ethics or moral rectitude — and then uses that as a justification to pillory people he doesn't like.

          1. Reusse dipped into that, too, with his inane comparison to games played between Mauer and Prince Fielder.

  4. Had the opportunity to casually drop the Souhan article in a conversation with Trueblood tonight. He laughed for a good minute. Then I reminded him specifically of the TK/ii part of it and he laughed for another. That was pretty fun.

    1. Trueblood is exactly the kind of writer I want to see succeed in the modern environment as the Souhans of the world rage against entropy & extinction. If Trueblood were to, say, join The Athletic and write about the Twins on the regular, that'd be sufficient grounds for me to sign up for a subscription.

    2. You know, for someone who has ragged on Sid for years, this reference to his access to ii/TK sounded suspiciously similar to Sid's "close personal friends" BS.

    1. great quote. Buuuut also of note: she's currently shilling her book. Access journalism is making her career. The twisted irony is that there is a Faustian bargain in the access game -- short-term silence begets longer-term tell-all (or tell-most) cash-in opportunities.

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