Blogging Ethics

You know what I really don’t like? When someone passes other peoples’ work of as their own – and also tries to sell it. It’s just generally wrong behavior. When a blogger does it, it gives every online writer who takes their work seriously and puts real time and effort into it a bad name. When an Orioles’ blogger does it, it hits closer to home. When an Orioles’ blogger does it, and one of my readers brings it to my attention and notes that he got to the offending site through a link on my blog, I really get upset. The blog I’m referring to is OriolesProspects.com. Started by Jordan fairly recently, it has scouting reports of various O’s prospects and occasional posts weighing in on minor league matters. Though some of the writing looked familiar to me – and I saw a few people make similar claims – I largely ignored it. But when it became the case that I was even passively condoning plagiarism (as the reader called it), I could not in good consciousnesses ignore it any further. I really, really don’t like doing this, but I think it’s important.

I realize that Jordan is still only 15, and the good point was made to me by a very smart fellow-blogger that perhaps the best thing to do would be for him to take some time to really learn the skill of scouting instead of pretending to be an expert. He might be good at it in the future, but scouting isn’t that easy and the experience just isn’t there yet. If he is honest with his current abilities in that area and works to improve instead of (as my grandma says – and that’s my grandma, not the advice-giver’s) “trying to run out in-front of the train.” I think that is excellent advice.

The internet surely allows everyone the freedom to express themselves and have their own voice, and I think that Jordan can be a contributor in the Orioles community. That is made much harder when you start things off in the way he did. You lose credibility and respect. My inclination is to give him a break for his age, but the influence he was trying to draw for himself negates that. If one wants to play in this league, so to speak, one needs to be able to handle the responsibilities that go along with. Pitchers in the majors don’t just lob them in there for rookie batters, after all.

I contacted Jordan about the issue and he at first claimed that he wasn’t doing it. He claimed to have attended many games himself, took notes, etc, etc. When I mentioned three scouting reports as particular offenders – the first three I looked at, by the way – he immediately said he’d take them down (which wasn’t done). At that point there was much hand-wringing about feeling bad about possibly having done something wrong (unintentionally, or so he said) and not wanting to offend the Orioles blogging community. I told him that he needed to take that stuff down, but that it could be a growing experience for him if he wrote a post admitting his mistake and correcting his behavior. I was told this would be done, and it finally was today (after a couple of days of knowing he had plagiarized material on his site – and continuing to post other things but not taking the offending stuff down). I realize it’s very hard to admit when you’re wrong, but in a case like this it’s pretty clear to me that honesty is expected and not a bonus.

Here it is:

“I need to share something with all of my loyal readers and followers.

I have used other sources for a few of the players and almost copied exactly what they said. I know that this is not allowed, and I could in fact get in a lot of trouble. I wanted to share this and be honest with my readers. I hope you understand and it will not happen again.

I am taking those specific reports down from the site for now, but they will be back up shortly after I re-write them, using my own knowledge of the players. To name a few, Aaron Wirsch, Ashur Tolliver, Cameron Coffey and Ryan Berry.

I do want to note that only certain reports were compiled from other sources. I have seen all the Norfolk, Bowie, Frederick, Aberdeen and GCL players myself. I have friends who have seen the guys at Delmarva and Bluefield so they should be able to help me out with some of the new and revised reports.”

I don’t think that second paragraph is completely honest, since it contradicts the conversations we had before it went up. I am willing to give him a little bit of the benefit of the doubt, but either (1) he knew he was doing something wrong and did it anyway or (2) didn’t actually know that taking other peoples’ work and passing it off as your own is wrong. Not sure which is worse, but in either case I think (hope?) he’ll actually sticks to his word to stop. And taking down the guide that he was selling with plagiarized material was a must, so I’m glad it was done (after having insisting repeatedly for him to do so).

I realize it is very harsh on my part to still post this after his post and his commitment to taking down the offending reports, but I really wanted to make a point about this. At the Bloggers’ Forum at the Orioles FanFest, they talked both well and at some length about ethics in the age of bloggers in which we live, journalistic standards of the medium, and so on. And they were 100% right that if we don’t hold ourselves to higher standards than we necessarily have to, we lose credibility despite sometimes having the better arguments and the more interesting work. It’s not my job to police this kind of stuff, but sometimes it’s necessary to be the “bad guy” and not just say “whatever”.

A few examples of what I was talking about, that have since been taken down (or altered, as additional instances were discovered by others):

Randy Henry

“Hailing from Arnett, Okla., Henry was slated to attend Texas Tech after high school. But he blew out his elbow, missed his senior season after having Tommy John surgery and ended up at South Mountain CC. He’s played second base for the Cougars this year, but his future is likely on the mound. At 6-foot-3, Henry has clean mechanics from a three-quarter arm slot. Just 18 months removed from surgery, head coach Todd Eastin gave Henry a very soft landing this year, allowing him to pitch out of the bullpen. Over nine games, Henry pitched just 11 innings this season. Because of his limited time on the mound this year, Henry has been tough to see, but those that have seen him walked away impressed. His fastball has shown good life, sitting at 90 mph every time out and even touching 94-96 late in the year. While Henry threw mostly fastballs and changeups this year, when he regained the confidence to throw a breaking ball, scouts said it was an above-average pitch with great tilt and snap.” – Baseball America

“Henry has a plus fastball in the 92-95 mph range with good life on it. He has a change up that sits in the 80-82 mph range. In 2009 he rarely used his breaking ball although it was an above average pitch with great tilt and snap. Henry has an athletic body and stands at 6’3”. He has clean mechanics from a three-quarter arm slot and has an easy release.” – Jordan

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Ryan Berry:

“Curve: Was a plus pitch, thrown 80-84 mph. It had late break and he buried it for a true out pitch. He throws it with two grips — a knuckle grip and a spiked grip.” – MLB.com

“Berry has a good fastball in the 89-92 mph range with quality movement on it. He has a plus curveball in the 80-83 mph range that he throws in two different grips, knuckle and spike. Berry has excellent command of all his pitches.” – Jordan

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Michael Ohlman:

“Yet another prep catcher from Florida, Ohlman started to get national attention last fall playing for North Carolina’s “Dirtbags” travel team, which featured Tar Heel State prep stars Brian Goodwin and Wil Myers. Ohlman showed premium power potential in the summer and fall and was snapped up in the early signing period by Miami. He’s tall for a catcher at 6-foot-4, and his slender 200-pound body doesn’t seem suited to the position for the long-term, scouts worry. But he has shown excellent athletic ability, and he should be able to remain a catcher at least through college. He has excellent arm strength, but his receiving skills are less advanced than his Florida prep rivals. He has improved his skills behind the plate but has a long way to go in terms of blocking, framing pitches and learning other nuances behind the plate. He’s tall so he has some holes in his swing but has a good feel for hitting and hand-eye coordination. His best tool is his raw power, which might be sufficient for a move to a corner. Ohlman should be athletic enough to give outfield a try if catching doesn’t take. He could go in the fourth-to-sixth round range.” – Baseball America

Ohlman has great hand eye coordination and a great feel for hitting. His best tool is his plus power and it may be sufficient for a move to first or third base. Ohlman has 25-30 home run power potential and has the athletic ability to handle an outfield corner if needed.” – Jordan

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Cameron Coffey:

A 6’4″ left-hander with a strong build and good frame, Coffey touched 92 several times in his Friday outing, sitting 89-90 early but dropping to 85-89 by the 5th inning. His best pitch is his changeup, which he turns over very well, getting good tumbling action. He has good feel for when to use his changeup, and showed enough confidence in the pitch to double up on it. His slider is well below-average right now; it’s a pitch he rarely used before this year, and it showed, as he struggled to find a consistent release point on it and had several back up on him.

His arm works well and he generates good arm speed; he can overthrow a little on fastballs and plant his front foot hard enough to make him snap upwards in his finish, which is going to limit his fastball command. Reducing his stride length a little would probably mitigate this issue. Coffey’s committed to Duke but all indications are that he wants to play pro ball; he’s not first-round material but is high day one material, and if he can show more stamina and arm strength he will be a top 100 pick. ” – Baseball America

“Coffey has a fastball that sits in 90-92 mph range, sometimes touching 94-95 mph. He is 6’5” with strong build and a nice frame. His change up is his best pitch and it has some good tumbling action on it.

Weaknesses: His velocity drops as he goes deeper into games and he struggles to throw a slider right now and can’t find the right release point when throwing it. He tends to overthrow a bit on fastballs but reducing his stride could help that problem.” – Jordan

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Brian Matusz:

“Weaknesses: While his command is advanced for his level of pro experience, sharpening it will be Matusz’s final task. He has great control and usually is able to keep the ball low and work both sides of the plate at will, so he just needs more experience against big league hitters to develop the pinpoint command he’ll require to get them out consistently” – Baseball America

Weaknesses: Matusz already has plus command but sharpening it will be his final job. He already controls the ball to both sides of the plate and developing pinpoint command will help him get big league hitters out consistently.” – Jordan

[This last one I didn't notice until almost having finished the post, when someone brought it to my attention. Jordan said he thought he had taken all the offending material down, but he missed the O's #1 prospect? Someone who he very easily could have written up on his own? Come one. I was greatly waffling about whether or not to post this, but the Matusz rip-off sold it for me.]