It’s Looking Like “Advocacy Journalism” Thursday, Beginning With A Trivial But Troubling Example…

Carter Stewart

The more I examine news reports and even features, the clearer it becomes that what we now generously call “journalists” feel entitled to manipulate, distort and omit facts in order to support their desired narrative while pushing public opinion in the direction they prefer as propagandists. I was taking a break from ethics by reading the sports pages (What was I thinking?), perusing a Times piece about the New York Mets failing to sign their #1 draft pick, and the consequences to both the young player (Kumar Rocker) and the team. The article focused on the similar experience of Carter Stewart, now a pitcher for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league. (And you thought “Cleveland Guardians” was a bad baseball team name!) Carter is the focus of the story, as we learn from Times writer Alex Coffey that he is bitter and angry about the consequences of his failing to sign with the Braves when he was their first pick in 2018. Stewart says that when the 2019 draft arrived after he had amassed impressive statistics pitching in college, he decided to opt out of the system that had, in his view, betrayed him. He signed a six-year contract with Japan’s Hawks for $7 million. “I had no real allegiance to Major League Baseball,” he told the Times. “They hadn’t done anything for me so far, so why did I have to force myself to stay here?”

Wait, what about the United States, Carter? Has the nation of your birth “done anything for you”? Is it all about money? What’s going on here?

There was no explanation in the article, which was written to support the position that the system unjustly favors the teams over the players. Then I noticed something odd about a photo in the article showing Stewart in his Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks T-shirt. It was hard to tell, but he looked Eurasian to me.

Intrigued about what the Time story might have omitted, I checked around the web. There was no mention of his family background at all, other than the fact that Carter was born here. However, I did find a lot of photos like this…

Carter Stewart

I also found a photo of Carter with his family, and there were no apparent Asian-Americans in evidence. Maybe it’s nothing; maybe he was adopted (like my son); maybe playing Japanese baseball makes you start to look Japanese. But especially considering Stewart’s dismissive quote about leaving the country, the existence of any bonds he might feel to Japan is relevant—unless, of course, the reporter would prefer that we not know. The photo of Stewart the Times chose is suspicious in its failure to clearly show the pitcher’s face.

I would expect a competent, curious, trustworthy reporter, having seen photos of Stewart, to at least ask the question or investigate—except that I no longer expect reporters for the New York Times to be competent, curious or trustworthy.

As I said in the title, it’s a trivial issue, but the fact that that such episodes occur at all is significant. We can’t trust reporters, which means that we can’t be sure we are ever getting the whole story, the real story, or the story we need to know in order to understand the world around us.

And that isn’t trivial at all.

34 thoughts on “It’s Looking Like “Advocacy Journalism” Thursday, Beginning With A Trivial But Troubling Example…

  1. Well, let’s see. The team that drafted Stewart failed to come up with an acceptable offer. His agent, Scott Boras, has ties to Japanese baseball. He was given a $7 million contract. He can become an unrestricted free agent at a relatively young age (25).
    But, never mind Hanlon’s razor. There’s one picture available on the internet that, for those with a heightened ability to discern ethnicity, clearly establishes that the reporter failed to highlight the real reason Stewart plays baseball in Japan.

    • Further, let us suppose the reporter had the same thought you had, checked as thoroughly as possible, and determined there was no Japanese or Asian ancestry at all. Would it then make sense to even mention the possibility in the article? I think not. Why inject race where it is not a factor?

      • Because he has slanty eyes, and why on Earth would any blue blooded American choose to take an enormous amount of money overseas for a league that didn’t fuck around with his future?

      • You don’t. My point was and is that with an unreliable journalism practice where the motives of reporters invade their reporting, I can’t trust that it was or was not a factor. Like Humble Talent, your reaction is excessive.

    • Not what I wrote or said. And reporters are supposed to report facts, not decide which part of Hanlon’s Razor applies. Did the fact that the pitcher has ties to Japan beyond money enter into his calculations? It’s a legitimate question. If my son took a job in Russia, where he was born, I would not assume he picked it by throwing a dart at a map, though knowing him, he might.

      Mid-career, Linda Ronstadt started performing Mexican music. Guess why. Would you find it offensive if a reporter looked into her background and discovered she had Hispanic roots? I never knew of her heritage. It’s a legitimate part of the story.

      • The Hanlon’s Razor reference was not for the reporter, it was for any reader who suspects some unsaid reason for Stewart playing in Japan. I’m not convinced it’s a legitimate question, either. I’m trying to imagine how I would phrase such a question. Maybe: “Well, you look a little bit like you may be Asian, so I’m thinking that, and not the 7 million bucks, is why you went to Japan, right?”

        • That’s a reporter’s job—find out the facts. In a typical sports story, his background would be part of the story. We know Aaron Judge’s family background, which is unusual. If, as I suspect, the pitcher is adopted from Asian-American or Japanese-American parents, the fact the he decided to play in Japan has additional resonance. Or do you think reporters should just not ask awkward questions?

          • Awkward questions (Hunter Biden fits in here somewhere) are appropriate when they are relevant.
            Palpebral slant may be caused by Down’s syndrome, Freeman-Sheldon syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, certain genetic disorders, Native American heritage, Russian heritage, and northern Europe or Scandinavian heritage. Oh yeah, Asian heritage, too. A really thoroughgoing reporter would, of course, have pursued each of these possibilities (and Coffey may have, so far as we know) because, well, inquiring minds want to know.
            But, it’s worth noting that the article wasn’t even primarily about Stewart, so fleshing out his background was not all that important to the story.
            There seems to be a syllogism being promoted here: reporters sometimes lie by omission; Coffey is a reporter; therefore, Coffey left out an important part of the story. Maybe true, maybe not.

            • The article began with Stewart, had two photos of Stewrat in the online version (neither suggesting that he might have Japanese heritage,) had more quotes from him than Rocker…It was as much about one pitcher as the other.

      • Linda Ronstadt sang pop, rock, country, jazz, roots music, Latin, mariachi, musical theater, operetta, and “standards” (i.e. traditional pop or the Great American Songbook).

        Maybe there’s something here, Jack, but gosh.

        Also, as someone else mentioned, Scott Boras.

  2. I don’t understand your take here… Americans have a duty to play for American teams? Why on Earth would they? And what exactly would change if he was in fact the most caricaturized version of someone with Japanese heritage? What would it say if he were in fact Japanese?

    He doesn’t owe the MLB or “America” his employment. MLB dicked him around, his agent got him a better offer, he took it. He’s bitter, I don’t blame him. This idea that your heritage should determine at least a portion of your loyalty is exactly the train of thought that led to the Japanese internment and follows Jews around with loaded terms like “dual loyalty”. It’s ugly wherever it pops up, and I feel like I need to point out that this is particularly stupid in context because we’re talking about sports teams.

    Send 3% of your football players back to where they came from. 20% of your basketball players, 27% of your soccer players, 28% of your baseball players, and 72% of your NHL players. Then, once your sports teams are sufficiently American and pure, you can talk about the expectation that all of your players show loyalty to their nation.

    • If 72% of NHL players had to play in their country of origin, maybe the Toronto Maple Leafs could actually win a playoff series… Not saying Stanley Cup, just a playoff series win.

    • Who said “Americans have a duty to play for American teams”? I didn’t, and I don’t think that. I do think the vast majority of Americans are not eager to go work and spend half the year at least in other countries. I don’t understand such Americans, which is not to say there’s anything wrong with them or their decisions. I also don’t understand Americans in the foreign service, of whom I have met and known quite a few. They are permanent expatriates, and I’ve never had one explain why.

      The article’s point of view was that the pitcher left the country because MLB, in his view, was unfair to him. OK, but the fact that he left the US for Japan on that basis may have been based on other factors, one at least suggested itself, and the reporter didn’t think it was worth investigating, or deliberately kept those facts out of the article. My post was critical of the reporter, not the player.

      Your reaction is in the “protests too much” category.

      • “Who said “Americans have a duty to play for American teams”? I didn’t, and I don’t think that.”

        Square the circle for me then: If The Mets had actually signed their first round draft pick, Carter would have been playing for the MLB. The J-League wasn’t his first choice. And once the MLB failed to sign him and he got bitter at them; How many other domestic leagues are there that’d give a seven figure contract to a rookie pitcher?

        So when he says: ““I had no real allegiance to Major League Baseball. […] They hadn’t done anything for me so far, so why did I have to force myself to stay here?”

        And you say: “Wait, what about the United States, Carter? Has the nation of your birth “done anything for you”? Is it all about money? What’s going on here?”

        I fail to see this as anything other than the expectation that American players should accept sub-market contracts in order to stay domestic. With some healthy undertones of: “Well, he looks kind of Asian, so he’s probably playing for his people, the journalist should have dug into that angle.”

        Make it make sense otherwise.

        • He doesn’t look “sort of Asian,” he looks like he’s Eurasian. I had to train myself to look for these things, because I was once really obtuse about it. Everyone but me, apparently, knew that Olivia Hussey was Eurasian. I cast a Vietnamese-American as a Jewish woman, and she thought it was hilarious that I never picked up on her racial mix.

          I don’t know what he was offered by US teams: he was very good. Presumably it was something South of 7 million and North of one million. Would I go to Japan to work, at 20 or any age, for 7 million? Nope. I would never consider it. I might be more inclined if I had some connection to Japan. Gee, I wonder if he did?

          • A good college friend has absolutely what I’d call almond-shaped eyes and can look absolutely Japanese or Chinese, but she descends from plain old vanilla midwestern U.S. stock. I suspect these photos just pick up on some oriental looking eyes that have appeared on this guy for who knows what reason. Lee Westwood has slanty eyes and has always struck me as looking as if he’s a down syndrome person. I think if this pitcher were of some amount of Asian descent, it would have been reported. If he was any amount Japanese, the Japanese press would have been all over it. And frankly the U.S. press would have been so as well. He’d have been diverse, after all, and only half American, which is better than being a full-blooded American, right? Every other country in the world is superior to the the U.S, right? Remember the tennis player Osaka? She’s perfect: she’s a woman, she’s only half American but she’s half black. Perfect! And she’s a powerful female athlete. Who knows, she may even hit the trifecta by being a lesbian!

          • He was offered 2, and he got 7. So the question is: Would you move to Japan to work for six years for 5 million dollars on top of your offered domestic salary?

            Make that a poll. I guess your choice is your choice, but me? Sure, there are places you couldn’t pay me to go to… North Korea, one of the countries where I’d be liable to be thrown off a building, Los Angeles… But Japan? Sign me up. Immediately. Is it too late?

            And I don’t think I’m special.

          • I bet his comments about not owing anything to MLB were the result of him being pumped up by Scott Boras. Ex post facto bluffing and posturing. Agent talk. He must have been marinated in it and it sunk in.

            Besides which, if you can afford it, Japan can be a really pleasant, calm, clean, well run place to live.

            • Japan, unlike Germany, has yet to acknowledge its atrocities and genocide in WWII. My wife would rather move into the ocean than go there, and I would be dishonoring my father by embracing a country that has yet to make amends for so much blood on its hands.

              Of course, if he’s like most athletes of his generation, Stewart might not know which side Japan fought on in WWII.

    • I am not seeing the controversy here. Why is the reporter required to investigate this guy’s background. The bigger issue is that he feels MLB hosed him on a contract so he when overseas to play baseball. Where, then, is the problem? Baseball is popular in Japan, as it is in Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. Ethnic or racial heritage is irrelevant.

      I have been watching the response to the US wrestler winning gold in Tokyo, contrasting her statements to those of the hammer-thrower and the other one who raised her arms in a “V” or “X” or something. The response is: “See?! This is how blacks should respond to show their commitment to the country.” They are missing the bigger picture.

      Tamyra Mensah-Stock never made her race an issue in any of her statements – the right and left commentariate did, to their everlasting shame. She simply stated that she was proud to represent the US and win the gold medal, with a huge smile on her face, through tears of joy. If you watch her and listen to her, you will see a happy person, gushing with joy. She is excited, chuckling, and giggling, jumping around in celebration. I suspect that, outside of sports, she is a happy person. Angry people don’t act like that.

      Here is a link to her post gold-match interview (ignore the captions though):

      More athletes should watch this and take notice.

      jvb

      PS: Anyone who uses “frickin” or “freaking” in a sentence the way she did makes me happy.

      • According to Jason Whitlock, her father and mother immigrated from Ghana. I think this explains her attitude. It seems recent immigrants from Africa to the United States and their children are delighted to have been given the opportunity to come here and flourish. Those who sre descendants of slaves seem often to be not happy to be here.

  3. All of the teams in NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball, also called the J-League) have corporate sponsors… Funniest ones are Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and Hiroshima Toyo Carp. Tokyo has two teams… the Tokyo Yakult Swallows (those little bottles of probiotic drinks, that I admit to having every day) and Yomiuri Giants (basically the Yankees of the J-League).
    So, if you thought SoftBank Hawks was funny…
    And just image if MLB had corporate sponsors in each city… The jokes write themselves (Philadelphia Pats King of Steaks Phillies, anyone…)
    Cheers, Mike

  4. “the system unjustly favors the teams over the players.”

    This isn’t exactly right. The terms of the draft are negotiated by MLB and the players association, as part of the collective bargaining agreement. MLB only cares about how much it pays out as compensation. It doesn’t care what players that money goes to.

    The players association does care. It has chosen only to represent major league players. Within that group, it has also chosen to favor veteran players. Thus, the players association has agreed with MLB to restrict or limit spending on certain classes of players. Among them are: young Latin players of 16 or 17, American players just leaving school (like Stewart), professional players in foreign leagues, professional players in the American minor leagues, and young major leaguers of between one and about seven years of experience. I suppose that as a necessary party to the agreements that chisel money out of these players MLB gets some cut of the savings, but the union is the main culprit.

  5. I’m with a few other people here. I’m not really sure what you’re trying to say. I’ve read this story twice and the best I can figure it has something to do with his race or not his race. Perhaps this is just the way you wrote it down, but I’m not sure your message is clearly communicated here.

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