Spring training is almost over. In addition to learning something from spring training about the Twins players, we also can learn something about where to get information and commentary about what is happening. As Twins fans, our major source of information about the team and its players are three beat writers. There are a handful of other sports writers/ talk radio personalities who also throw in their two cents worth, but the primary burden falls on Lavelle Neal of the STRIB, John Shipley from the Pioneer-Press and Rhett Bolinger from majorleaguebaseball.com. Here are my rankings and comments:
Bollinger reports seem to be based on talking to Twins officials and reporting what they say. The result is that we often get quotes from Twins officials we might not hear elsewhere. But, more importantly, the information we get isn't infiltrated with his own opinions. The result is a much clearer idea of what the guys making decisions think and plan, rather than press-box chatter and speculation. Because he is posting to the web, his reports on the the Twins web site often provide the most complete and timely coverage of events, in addition to regular twitter updates with links to his stories. There is no paywall around any of his content. If you get your news online, this is the place to start.
Shipley does a pretty good job of getting the story and filling it out with a lot of details. He has a regular twitter feed that he updates often and interacts with fans. Press-box chatter sometimes leaks into stories, but he obviously spends a lot of time talking to Twins players and management. He occasionally has quotes you won't see elsewhere.
I used to think Neal was the best beat guy out there. But its been a long time since that was the case. He writes for the biggest circulation paper and, as such, he has the highest profile. But mostly he seems to have a hard time reporting without injecting his own story. Some people like that, but it makes it hard to know when you are getting the Twins management's plans and when you are hearing Neal and the other press corps' own ideas. If you like gonzo journalism, where the reporter is the story, Neal's your guy. His stories are behind the STRIB paywall.
There are some other regular contributors from spring training this year. Joe Christenson, the other STRIB reporter, is the most prominent. He isn't the "personality" that Neal is, but he provides similar coverage. Again, his offerings are behind the STRIB paywall.
Talk radio personalities also took Florida vacations and reported on spring training. Since I don't listen, I don't know what they had to say. From the tweets and occasional online stuff, it seemed like the usual banter of opinion and posturing designed to attract listeners rather than be informative. I'd take it all with a grain of salt. Which is probably why I never listen...
One of those radio personalities, Pat Reusse, did a few pieces in his role as STRIB columnist. They were the usual mix of knowledgeable baseball commentary, while sustaining the hyper-critical media persona he adopted as the apparent successor to Don Riley in that role when he started at the St. Paul newspapers. Reusse is probably the most knowledgeable of any of the folks. His years of covering the Twins give him a perspective on a lot of the hype that goes on that is useful, if you can separate it from all the chaff self-conciously designed to sustain his media image. Like all the STRIB content, his commentaries are behind its paywall.
There are a number of bloggers who provided first hand accounts from spring training. But for those fans and bloggers stuck in the frozen (or thawing) northland, the beat writers provide the kind of access to the Twins management and details of spring training even the bloggers and fans on the ground in Fort Myers don't really have.