Shea Bridge Report: Bauer, Nightengale, Journalism

How does this guy still have a job?

Are the Mets signing Trevor Bauer? Who can say, really? As best I can tell, the answer is…probably? Maybe? All signs point to yes?

If you listen to Bob Nightengale, though, you have a completely different answer: they already have. Bauer is a Met. Deal is done. Signed, sealed, and delivered.

Nightengale, USA Today’s baseball insider, reported on Twitter last night that “Trevor Bauer and the Mets have a deal.” Minutes later, various reliable Mets beat reporters were forced to tweet out that no, they don’t, they’re not done yet, Bob, go back to bed. 

All I can say is that there are people who actually care about journalism and getting things right and checking sources and things like that, and for *cough cough* those people, this is especially frustrating. How has Bob Nightengale been able to do what he does for so long without a single solitary consequence? He once tweeted that the Athletics were optimistic that Kyler Murray would choose baseball — only three minutes before Murray announced that he was choosing football. He once tweeted that Cleveland was trading Mike Clevinger, but “NOT” to the Padres. In a two-hour flurry of word salad, in June 2020 he announced that MLB would play a 60-game season if the players agreed, but that Rob Manfred had no plans to implement a season, but that there would definitely be a season, but that actually Manfred did have plans to implement a season. He wrongly reported that the Cubs had traded Javier Baez to the Braves, that Edwin Encarnacion had been traded to the Rays, and, hours before Bryce Harper signed with the Phillies, that the Phillies were no longer a favorite. And, of course, he issued a grandiose pronouncement that Alex Rodriguez and Jenifer Lopez were the frontrunners in the Mets ownership sweepstakes, when all other public reporting directly contradicted the claim and it ended up being unquestionably wrong.

In 2017, Brian Ross of ABC News reported on-air that President Trump had told Michael Flynn to make contact with Russian officials. The report turned out to be misleading, and ABC suspended Ross for four weeks. He later left the network. In 2015, Brian Williams was suspended from NBC for six months after it turned out that he’d told some misleading stories on-air. How has Bob Nightengale managed to keep doing what he does, time after time after time, and somehow not suffered any consequences besides being the laughingstock of the internet? How does this guy still have a job?

As Jesse Spector wrote on Twitter:

“There are parody accounts that report news more accurately than Bob Nightengale. It’s fun to joke about, but it’s embarrassing. How many people work their asses off in the business and never get even one chance to succeed, let alone the dozens of chances this guy has had to fail? Like, it’s (messed) up to be like, ‘well, USA Today is reporting this, but I better hold off on believing it until someone else comes through.’ It’s USA Today!”

The only explanation I can think of is that it’s sports journalism, which has a different perception than political reporting. It’s “low impact,” so who really cares if Bob Nightengale got one thing wrong, or another thing, or another? It’s not like anyone died.

On the other hand, he’s uniquely bad, which actually says a good thing about the industry. It’s not like there’s a Bob Nightengale at every paper in America. Lots of sports reporters work hard and do the job well. Lots of baseball writers are also good reporters. USA Today should hire one of them.


Meanwhile, the Mets’ pursuit of Trevor Bauer apparently continues. It’s hard to say where the parties actually stand, but it does seem, at the very least, like the Mets are the favorites or co-favorites to land him.

Apparently, their offer is for three years and between $90 million and $100 million, which illustrates a lot of the weirdness at work on the free agent market. Usually, contract length and Average Annual Value are at least somewhat correlated. You’re probably not going to get a superstar for two years at $39 million a year, because if they’re that good they can probably get a longer deal. You probably won’t give a utility player a 12-year contract for $2 million a year, because that would just be a strange thing to do. Why should Bauer make more than $30 million a year, but get fewer years than James McCann?

Well, as I wrote last week for MetsMerized, the answer is basically that he’s worth whatever teams want to pay him. Apparently, the market has decided that he’s worth a lot, but not for all that long. Whatever. It’s 2021. There’s a pandemic. Everything is weird.