Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Baseball writing, but make it ethical
If I never see the phrase “in these uncertain times…” again it will be too soon. Yet that’s what the past few months have been—a seemingly endless back-and-forth about whether the season would even happen, and now that things seem to be getting underway, further questions about what that will look like. While it’s nothing compared to what players have been through over the past few months, we at LL have also felt the effects of the uncertainty—first in trying to determine whether or not there would be a season, and then in deciding how to cover it.
We are in a unique place; this isn’t a full-time gig for any of us, even as it’s a most-of-the-time gig for some. But still, unlike the beat writers, our ability to put food on the table isn’t tied to the work we put in here. There is no economic imperative compelling us to cover a season we disagree with the existence and execution of, and we are offered significant editorial latitude by SB Nation to cover the season how we see fit.
Most, if not all, of us on staff have deep-seated concerns about the level of risk involved in playing out the season. We are all struggling with alternately being excited to see our favorite sport return and being worried for the health and safety of players, coaches, support staff, and their families. We have daily conversations as a staff about how to ethically report on and analyze baseball in the time of COVID. Is it journalistically responsible to write about Taijuan Walker’s fastball and not consider his pregnant wife, isolating at their home in Arizona? Is it human? These aren’t questions with easy answers, and we’re muddling through them as best we can, with constant conversation and reflection.
In this respect, we’re very lucky—I, as the editor of this site, am lucky—to be able to vet things among our staff to collect a variety of responses and impressions. As with players, every staff member has the option to opt out of covering the 2020 season, or I have offered alternatives to covering the on-field action (either through alternative season simulations or delving more deeply into Mariners history, for example, as was our plan had there been no season) for any staff member who cannot in good conscience participate in the 2020 baseball season. Our promise is that in covering the 2020 season, we will work diligently to ensure that what we write does not lose sight of the human element at play by dealing only with the cold facts of playoff percentages or reducing players down to their stat lines; that maintains a sense of humor about our subject without being flippant about this ongoing health crisis; and that continues to adhere to our vision of service journalism.
We are also lucky to have a community that we trust will offer us feedback if we stray from any of the above principles. Ultimately, in thinking about how to approach covering this season, the community is what it comes back to. It has been a long, hard, lonely four-plus months for many of us. The idea of sitting around in the sunshine and watching a ballgame with friends has never felt more appealing, nor further away. We have the digital space to get people together, and have been doing so for years, and while we will miss our in-person LL meetups this year, we are thankful to have a space where the only people in the world who care about Tim Lopes edging out Patrick Wisdom for the utility infielder role can have a place to commiserate.
In addition to game threads, Lookout Landing has long been a place that invites the weirder side of baseball in, bravely covering topics like if every Mariners player was a zoo animal or what if you made the entire team out of Vogelbachs or Photo Day short stories or Dollar Store Mariners. We will not lose sight of our love of the weird, because who couldn’t use a good laugh or at least the momentary distraction of imagining the scout who hated Ichiro. In many ways this weirdass 2020 season is a perfect match for our overall ethos. But know that, even when we’re being silly, we’re also aware that we’re a heartbeat away from being the band playing songs on the Titanic, if the songs were about Kendall Graveman’s sinker. It’s an idea and a responsibility we don’t take lightly, and while there is much that’s uncertain in 2020, that is one thing that is a guarantee.