In a recent guest column for ESPN, former Major League Baseball All-Star Morgan Ensberg said his dream wasn’t to be a ballplayer, it was to be a husband and father. He achieved his goal while spending eight seasons in the big leagues. After Ensberg retired in 2009, he set out to become baseball’s new best analyst. But, it turned out that analyst jobs are tough to get, so Ensberg did the next best thing: he started a blog.
The first post on “Morgan Ensberg’s IQ” came on Feb. 26, was entitled “Hey Yo!” The post reads, “I am Morgan Ensberg and this is a blog that teaches you about baseball. Not crap, but solid fundamentally based strategy and teaching. Each week I will teach you something about the game either at the professional or amateur level.”
Ensberg’s original goal of teaching readers about the game has taken all sorts of twists and turns. He’s featured posts on steroids, leadership, Sabermetrics and perhaps most intriguingly, the media. Posts are written from behind the eyes of a big league ballplayer, they are often biased, at times condescending, but always strikingly honest and interesting. Ensberg’s blog lays the cards on the table and if you don’t agree with his take, he’ll battle you like your comment was 3-2 count.
Though the rudimentary presentation lets readers know Ensberg is new to the blog game, his site offers something rarely found outside of the occasional 140 characters: The opportunity to get to know and interact with a professional athlete. Some posts have near 200 comments, many of them are back-n-forths between Ensberg and readers. But what prompted Ensberg to want to communicate with baseball fans?
Biz of Baseball decided to chat with Morgan Ensberg about his experiences blogging and the relationships between players, fans and the media.
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Matthew Coller for The Biz of Baseball: What prompted you to start a blog? It seems you often discuss media/ player relationships and issues but also on-field stuff, how do you decide what stories to cover?
Morgan Ensberg: I started the blog to get a job. This last off-season I sent my resume to all of the teams in MLB. I received responses that said, "Thank you for your resume. We don't have anything right now, but we will file your resume for future consideration. When I read that, it struck me. How do the teams know if I understand the game or not? So in an attempt to answer that question, I started a blog. The surprise of the experience was the response. I had spoken to ESPN about really teaching the game to viewers, but I don't think I was able to convey what I was talking about. Fortunately, this blog has helped confirm my ideas. Fans want honesty and they are tired of hearing rhetoric. If you look at a game covered today on TV, most people could do what the "color" analyst can do. They don't teach fans a thing...most of the time they are talking about "how great they were." It's embarrassing to me as a ball player. But, that is all you fans know so you are getting horrible information that wouldn't be said on the bench or in a clubhouse. This blog is about being honest and being accessible to readers. I want to teach fans how to watch the game. You would have to hear me to understand. My goal is to teach.
As for topics there is usually something I see during a game that reminds me to explain that to fans. As for off-field topics, I scan the news. If you don't know, I have a big problems with headlines that don't match the article. So when I see something that just doesn't look right, I read it to see if the story makes sense. The other option is from readers. They send me questions or articles to check out. It is a fun group we have. I have been so happy that fans participate in the discussions. It is a really incredible team we have over here.
Coller: If media is the only way we get to know players personalities, how well do fans really get to know the players they cheer for? Do you think many players use social media in attempt to be understood
Ensberg: Fans don't know a thing about players. They know a "character" out on the field. They read their comments and they listen to their interviews and think that they know them. It is so far from the truth. Fans think that because they see guys every night in a game that they somehow have a understanding of if a guy is considered a "good guy or bad guy." The reality is that most fans think the "good players" are good guys, and the "bad players" are bad guys. It's easy to trick fans.
Coller: We've seen all sorts of things happen since the invention of Twitter, everything from players accidentally breaking news, to trash talking to more positive things players promoting their charities etc. If you were managing a big league club, what types of Twitter guidelines or social media advice would you give to your players?
Ensberg: I wouldn't give any rules for what they want to say. Who cares? If they want to talk poorly or do something stupid then it is on them to account for their comments. If they are leaking information then it will eventually catch up to them. If it doesn't catch up to them then so be it. My job as a manager would be to clearly define what we as an organization expect out of the player. My goal would be to understand what makes our players tick and show them that I care about them as people. Outside of that, I am not going to be a "Hall Monitor." I don't know the reasons why a player uses social media. I use it to actually talk with readers and to ask for help. It is an amazing resource to get opinions and help on things that I have zero idea about.
It (social media) gives them more information about a person’s character. If anything, players should tread cautiously and understand that social media could hurt their career if they slip.
Coller: How can fans know who to cheer for? Or who's the good guys / bad guys?
Ensberg : Fans should cheer for players who are trying. They shouldn't pretend like they know a player's personality.
Coller: You and I recently argued via Twitter about an issue involving "unnamed sources" and volatile club houses...the incident with Mets players talking about the Perez issue is somewhat similar to the
Griffey asleep in the clubhouse deal.... do you think players sometimes use reporters to send a message, knowing that the reporter won't put their name in the article?
Ensberg: My belief is that this "anonymous" comment stuff is abused. Players who gossip are cowards. People shouldn't use the newspapers as a form of personal communication. Reporters should hold players accountable for their comments. The fact is that a reporter who isn't willing to get fired over the comment shouldn't print it. That just seems obvious to me. Anonimity should be treated with respect and used only in extreme cases.
Coller: Where’s Morgan Ensberg’s blog headed? Trying to grow into a business or show the world you can be a good analyst?
Ensberg: I would like to grow the blog and make it a business. It has been fun talking with the readers and it is fun learning from them. By constantly talking with the readers, I am able to learn what information they seek. It is incredible the amount of participation that goes on and I hope that grows.
Matthew Coller is a senior staff member of the Business of Sports Network, and is a freelance writer. He can be followed on Twitter
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