|Not the only one with credibility issues
Steve Goldman of the Pinstriped Bible joins Jason Whitlock and another clever fellow in wondering why, in light of her track record, Selena Roberts' new book is being given the presumption of truthfulness and relevance. Goldman cites Roberts' ignorantly dismissive words about Billy Beane and Bill James in the New York Times back in 2004, her curious preference for Tony Clark over Jason Giambi as the Yankees' first baseman and like Whitlock and me, notes her shameful track record with the Duke lacrosse case. The upshot:
Anti-intellectualism and schoolyard, ad hominem attacks aren't deserving of professional courtesy, and if she thinks Bill James is a fringe writer (those "stapled baseball abstracts" quickly gave way to bestselling mass market paperbacks and hardcovers), well, she is fringe ignorant . . . I don't trust Roberts' judgment, I don't trust her understanding of baseball, and I don't trust her motives in writing a book about Alex Rodriguez that surely would not exist were it not intended to be a hit piece.
Since I wrote my piece last Thursday, I've received a lot of pushback from people wondering why I'm "attacking" Roberts, and I'm sure that Whitlock and Goldman have gotten the same stuff in the wake of their pieces. My answer to this is simple: I "attack" Roberts' credibility because she has voluntarily placed her credibility at issue by writing the kind of book she has written. And by this I don't mean a negative book. Lots of books are negative. Indeed any interesting book about a big star or famous person is bound to be negative, lest it look like a publicist's press release. Who wants that? And make no mistake, Alex Rodriguez, as the best and highest paid player on the game's most famous team is fair game as a target, and Lord knows he's got his issues. An unflattering book about him is as expected as the morning sun and probably as justified as any other book out there.
No, Roberts deserves this, because Roberts has chosen, for whatever reason, to go with almost exclusively unnamed sources. And while that's her prerogative as a reporter, it requires that we trust her and her sources, because if we can't, the whole thing falls apart.
As noted above, however, Roberts' track record on trust is frankly terrible. She was willfully and ridiculously ignorant in assessing sabermetrics as they emerged into popular understanding. She serially and defiantly got the facts wrong with the Duke stuff (for a detailed takedown, check this out). She also has a track record of numerous anti-Alex Rodriguez stories, many of which are pegged to zero in the way of facts or substantive reportage.
All of that said, it's entirely possible that she hasn't reported a single erroneous fact in her new book. Alex Rodriguez may have tipped pitches. He may have used steroids since the first grade and until last Saturday night. He may, in fact, be history's greatest monster.
But if Roberts can't provide any evidence of this other than her word -- if she simply insists on saying, as she said over the weekend, that her sources are "irrefutable" without providing anyone the basis for refuting them -- how, based on her track record, can we trust her? Because Alex Rodriguez himself was caught in a lie? Well, from where I'm sitting, the two of them are no different in that regard, so why does Roberts get the benefit of the doubt?