The best attribute of sportswriters is how ignorant they tend to be. When someone writes invective against sabermetrics, or displays a complete lack of understanding of statistics or economics or probability, it is easy to simply laugh them off. A huge number of sportswriters fall into this toss category.
As an aside, if I didn’t come to the table with a pre-conceived dim view of the world view held by most mainstream journalists (non-sports), it would be difficult for me to believe how ignorant they are. When I read news stories about topics on which I am well-informed, it is rare to go through an article that does not contain an outright falsehood, a statement of surprise at something that is blindingly obvious, or a quote from a clearly biased source that is allowed to pass without noting that bias. And when I see this occur in articles about a topic about which you know more than the journalist, it naturally gives me great pause about what I read about topics on which I am seeking to learn more.
Unlike many people inclined to interest in sabermetrics, I am not at all looking forward to the rapidly approaching day in which any aspiring young mainstream baseball scribe will be fluent in sabermetrics and not prone to dismissing non-traditional viewpoints. While this will have a limited positive effect of reducing the amount of idiocy we are all exposed to, it will make it that much harder to simply ignore a writer with cause.
My biggest problem with sportswriters is not that they are ignorant—it’s that they are self-righteous, prone to pop psychology, and often downright nasty to their subjects. The new breed of baseball writer will still display all these traits, but without the casual ignorance of logic when it comes to strategy and evaluation of players. The perfect symbol of this new breed is Jeff Passan. Passan is as smarmy and as prone to being a jackass as your garden variety Murray Chass-era hack. But because Passan incorporates sabermetric statistics and thinking as appropriate, he is much more likely to get a pass for being a jerk than is a sabermetric ignoramus.