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February 7, 2004

By the way, this whole blog is off the record
by Larry Mahnken

A few days ago, Überblogger David Pinto responded on Baseball Musings to some comments Curt Schilling made about Rob Neyer and Sabermetrics at the Sons of Sam Horn message board a couple of weeks ago. Schilling feels that statistical analysis has gone "too far in some instances". He takes it a little personally when you say that his friend Kevin Jordan is a crappy ballplayer, because even though he's a crappy ballplayer, he's really good at helping out other players, which is value in and of itself.

Great. Make him a coach, and put someone who can actually play well on the roster.

Pinto's post was about Schilling's attitude towards Neyer (and Schilling's idea about fans booing because a player's stats), which really doesn't matter to me. Schilling is a ballplayer, not someone making actual personnel decisions, so how he evaluates players is, frankly, irrelevant. Great response by David, as always, but what happened next has gotten everyone's attention:
no comment on the topic, but gleaning quotes from SoSH deemed off-the-record is a poor display of ethics. if there was no disclaimer in that thread then i would have no issue with it.

this is yet another reason why SoSH has toyed with the idea of closing public viewing.

feel free to link/discuss the material, but please remove the direct quotes from the site or you may jeopardize further candid commentaries from a major leaguer on a topic that -- i think we all agree -- is quite engaging.

feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

best regards,
SoSH founder

I would say the appropriate response to this type of request, made in this tone would be something along the lines of "feel free to go to hell." It's not the request that's way out of line, it's the attitude that the request was made in, specifically accusing Pinto of "a poor display of ethics".

To my knowledge (and correct me if I'm wrong, and provide a link), this is the pertinent statement Schilling made about his comments being "off the record":
Got no problem with BDD posting this stuff to his site, but as I have asked before I would ask members of the media to keep this stuff here. If you are in the media and really actually care about this kinda thing then you will have 7 months to actually ask me any of these questions if you want, no problem.
So, Curt has no problem with the comments he made in a publicly viewable forum being reprinted in a specific publicly viewable weblog (Boston Dirt Dogs), and he asks the regular media to ask him during the season, and he'll answer. And I'm sure I'll ask him as soon as they send me my clubhouse pass.

Well, first of all, this doesn't say it's off the record. Maybe he said it before, but he didn't say it here. Further, regardless of whether or not he said "this is off the record", it's not off the record. It's LITERALLY "on the record". There's a record of it, right there, that you can read for free. And more than that, it was republished on Boston Dirt Dogs, which is, again, public, free, and recorded for posterity.

Baseball Musings didn't display poor ethics in quoting Schilling. Indeed, in quoting Schilling directly, rather than summarizing his statements as I did, he made sure that he wasn't twisting Schilling's words, and that the reader wouldn't have to jump through hoops to read precisely what Schilling said. That was quite fair to Schilling.

Alex Belth, Jay Jaffe, and Ed Cossette have all weighed in on the issue; Will Carroll sent out an email to some other bloggers (But not me! Where's the love, Will?), suggesting an open letter protesting SoSH's request, which Boston Dirt Dogs decided to publish on their site, because it adds so much to the debate.

The reactions of BDD and Eric since this controversy started make it clear that their interest is in preserving their relationship with Schilling, while professing their desire to keep "a good thing going" for all baseball fans. Indeed, being able to see a star baseball player candidly answer the types of questions we might want to ask is a good thing for all baseball fans. But it's an especially good thing for SoSH and it's members, who actually get to ask the questions. We don't. SoSH is a closed message board; you can read it, but you can't post there, unless you're invited. There's a good reason for this: keeping out the trolls. I'm sure Curt doesn't want to be asked 100 times if he's the biggest idiot ever.

However, while seeing other regular baseball fans talking to Curt Schilling has that initial "cool" factor, ultimately, it becomes no more interesting than reading a regular interview with a regular journalist. For me, at least, there's no especial reason to treat Schilling's comments any differently than I would any other public comments. If he stops posting because of it, it's no big deal to me, he's just another ballplayer. It's not my job to protect him.

If SoSH wants to pull down the blinds so we can't read Curt's comments without being members, that's their prerogative (although anything republished on BDD becomes public record), but they should know that doing so is an admission that their chief concern is maintaining their relationship with Curt Schilling and John Henry, rather than Red Sox fans, and before they scoff at that accusation, they should ask themselves this:

If any other "Average Joe" member of SoSH asked to not be quoted, and outside sites were quoting them, would they close off the site to public viewing?