I used to follow almost every Mets beat writer on Twitter. I've whittled that number down to a very manageable few. I grew to find many of them far too snarky and negative. Not that the Mets of recent vintage give cause to feel much of anything positive, but there's a big difference between a fan grumbling and a beat writer grumbling. Difficulties of the job aside, they are being paid to do something that's the exact opposite of heavy lifting, and seeing them gripe about it can angry up my blood. They're all human beings and they're allowed to feel and write whatever they want, but since those feelings and writings were only upsetting me, I felt no obligation to follow the responsible parties.
One writer I've continued to follow is Adam Rubin of ESPN. His tweets are almost exclusively news. He rarely traffics in rumor or editorializing. His tweets generally lack the negative cast of many colleagues. In general, he seemed to exemplify the unglamorous aspects of what a reporter is supposed to do.
That's why I was so blown away by a series of tweets he unleashed last night. The tweets were not only uncharacteristically emotional, but also full of mushroom-cloud details about the idiocy and incompetence the Mets displayed with regard to medical treatment of injured players, most of which had never appeared before in any forum. The tweets raised some huge questions about what gets reported when, and why.
It began when Rubin took slight exception to a statement Sandy Alderson made to Newsday regarding Ike Davis's mysterious ankle ailment. In Rubin's view, this was "spin," and proceeded to tweet why he felt this way. Then, the floodgates opened, as he let forth a torrent of tweets expressing frustration with the Mets' shoddy treatment of injuries in the last few seasons.
Screengrabs of said tweets follow, presented in chronological order, top to bottom. (All are still up there, last I checked.)
Ugly. Damning. Infuriating. Mind-blowing. Use any adjective you like; they all apply. It confirms the worst we feared about how the Mets grossly mishandled injuries, and then some. So why hadn't we heard about these incidents when they happened?
The story Rubin references, a 2009 Daily News feature, does mention some of the items he tweets about here. However, it was in a larger story about the sad state of the Mets at midseason, folded in with observations about their lack of minor league talent and risky reliance on pricey free agents. (As hard as it might be to imagine now, it contains nothing on the team's sorry finances.)
The details about mishandled injuries appear at the end, are couched in much more diplomatic language than this, and are presented in far more oblique terms. The truly damning details you see in these tweets are absent there.
This begs two big questions: 1) Why did he report none of this when it happened? 2) Why is he reporting it now?
At some point, Rubin felt these details were not newsworthy. He wrote a story that partially concerned the Mets' injury woes but didn't include any of this except in broad strokes. Despite the fact that the team's handling of injuries has been a running joke for years, none of this had ever come out before.
Then, Sandy Alderson executes a bit of spin regarding treatment of Ike Davis's ankle (spin that's pretty mild by most standards), and it all comes pouring out in a cathartic rush. Twitter obviously doesn't have the same journalistic cachet or burden of proof of an accredited medium like ESPN.com, but Rubin is still a reporter. He knows that by posting something to his Twitter account, he is essentially reporting it.
Did he just have a Howard Beale moment, throw open the windows and shout out his frustration to the world? Or did something about his work situation change?
Perhaps his bosses at ESPN are more cool with his running this kind of thing than his old bosses at the Daily News. Perhaps everyone involved has been purged from the Alderson front office, so he has no fear of stepping on any toes. Perhaps Omar Minaya's weird accusation that Rubin was angling for a job with the team made him believe reporting details like this would be seen as merely sour grapes.
Maybe Rubin has simply changed his mind about this intel being fit for public consumption and will now write a story about it, or a book, or something else. He wouldn't be the first reporter to hang on to choice info like this for other use later. Even so, it still seems odd that he'd keep them secret, only to put them up on Twitter in flurry of activity late one night years later. All of which would point to these tweets being an emotional reaction to what Rubin took as the last straw in re: the Mets and injuries.
If nothing else, this an object lesson that extends far beyond the sports pages. Even when the MASH Unit Mets became a league-wide gag, none of us knew about any of this, but Rubin (and presumably other beat writers) did. It's certainly not a matter of life and death, even if the Mets seem as if they were just stupid enough to kill an injured player with their ill treatment. Even so, perhaps the previous, grossly incompetent front office regime could have been forced out sooner if info like this had come out earlier.
Granted, that's a big "if," given the Wilpons' traditional loyalty to Their Guys. Still, i always feel more information is better than less, and in this case we had a lot less, for reasons that we don't know and probably can't ever know.
There's no reason to think that's not going on right now, too. Remember how long it took for the true depths of the Wilpons' cratering finances to come to light. Did reporters have info they didn't pass along, or just doubts they didn't pursue? I guess we won't know until three years from now, when some reporter hits Twitter with a flurry of late night revelations.