Q&A with the Boston Globe Columnist Chad Finn

We were lucky enough to have Boston Globe columnist Chad Finn answer some user submitted questions from sonsofsamhorn.net.

Chad Finn is the sports media columnist for the Boston Globe and writes the Touching All the Bases column on boston.com. He’s been at the forefront of the coverage on NESN firing long-time Red Sox announcer Don Orsillo, and the fallout from the fans. He’s a must-follow on Twitter (@GlobeChadFinn) as he is always interacting with Sox fans. Funny, sarcastic, knowledgeable, a Mainer and one of the two must reads in the Globe sports section. Make sure you congratulate Chad on recently becoming a member of the BBWAA.

We’d like to thank Chad for taking the time to answer our questions and comments that were submitted on sonsofsamhorn.net.

Hey guys – Thanks for the great questions and letting me do this, and sorry it took so long. Little bit of chaos at work in recent weeks that you might have heard about, as if the Orsillo story was all-consuming as it was. Tried to answer as many as a could. If I missed yours, or there’s something else you want to ask, shoot me an email and I’ll be sure to get back to you. Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to go back to lurking in the media thread, thank you.

Do you find it more difficult balancing a family and personal life while working at the Globe than you did working at the Concord Monitor? Can you describe your typical work day? – Al Nipper

It’s changed a lot because my life has changed a lot. When I started in Concord in 1994, I was a year out of college, lived by myself in a $300 a month apartment, my cable bill was $25, I had some great friends mixed with occasional bouts of loneliness, and I wasn’t sure I was good enough to do this. When I went to the Globe in ’03, I was married (to my college girlfriend, who didn’t live with me in NH), our first kid would be born within a year, we were searching for a house, and I still wasn’t sure I was good enough to do this. Nowadays, I still have a lot of moments of self-doubt. I wrote a piece a few months ago about coaching my daughter in basketball. It was about 5,000 words, and after I’d written the last noun, my first thought was, “Well, that was rewarding to write. Now who the hell is going to read this?” But I’ve proven to the people who pay me, I think, that I’m good enough, and the payoff is that I now have a little flexibility schedule-wise. I’m in Boston three days a week and work from home the other two, and pretty much pick the topics I want to write about. So my life is busier, but it’s also more manageable and fulfilling, if that makes sense. Typical day: Bus stop with my nine-year-old, Dunks on Rt. 1 in Maine, commute to Globe, maybe Dunks again in Saugus, get to the Globe around 10, bang out a column, wait for it to be edited, make some calls about media stuff, gossip about media stuff, chat with my editors, figure out what I’ll write tomorrow, head home about 6, fight off urge to hit Dunks again.

What is your favorite Congdon’s donut? – Felix Mantilla

Trick question. There is no favorite Congdon’s donut. They are all equally delicious. (Actually, I usually go with the breakfast sandwich. Best one I’ve had anywhere.) By the way, I love how I’m suddenly an unpaid employee of the Wells, Maine Chamber of Commerce. Especially in regard to the donut joints. It’s a status I’m proud of.

There’s a heavy sense of skepticism/paranoia among Patriots fans as to how ESPN, in particular, has covered the team and the various “gates.” As a media watchdog, do you see specific approaches in that coverage that justifies that concern? Could ESPN, for instance, carry out an “agenda” against a team for this long without one member of its staff airing the network’s dirty laundry? – E5 Yaz

Well, there’s evidence of an agenda on ESPN’s part, sure. The skepticism is justified. Most egregiously, they never corrected Chris Mortensen’s erroneous report about 11 of the 12 footballs in the first half of the AFC Championship Game being underinflated by 2 PSI, the story that turned a minor “huh, that’s weird” story into the ridiculous summer-long drama that it became. Then you see how they keep using Bill Polian — a guy with an agenda if there ever was one; I was in the press box once when he was the Colts GM, Welker got hurt, and he blurted, “Break his —– leg!” — to comment on this while Tedy Bruschi was scarcely seen. Or how Mike Reiss’s innocuous piece reacting to the investigative piece connecting Spygate and Deflategate was edited. Or how Simmons was unceremoniously dumped after taking another bull’s-eye shot at Goodell. I don’t think it’s fair to make a blanket statement that ESPN is biased against the Patriots, because there are some very good people who work there who have comported themselves well in this — starting with Reiss, but Adam Schefter too. But it’s very, very clear that the nerve center of the organization feels some obligation to the NFL to protect it as a business partner.

How much money do you think Dombrowski has available to him to acquire an ace? Will Henry let him go after a starter such as Price who is approaching 30 and will command a huge contract? The lineup looks to be fairly set everywhere but 1B for 2016. However, what are the odds that Dombrowski tries to trade for an impact middle of the order bat? They have the table setters in Betts, Pedroia, and Bogaerts. They could use another bat with power to stick in the middle of the order. — RedOctober3829

I believe Price will be the No. 1 target, and Dombrowski will be allowed to offer him considerably more than the four years and $70 million Jon Lester was offered in spring training ’14. Hopefully that gets the deal done! In all seriousness, yes, I think he will be allowed to pursue one proven top-of-the-rotation starter and pay the going rate. Considering Max Scherzer, who is a year older than Price, will be getting $42 million per year for his age 36-38 seasons, I think Price ends up well beyond $200 million. I doubt Dombrowski would have taken the job without some assurances that he could build the team, within reason, as he sees fit. As for the middle of the order bat, yeah, that will be a secondary priority, whether it’s Chris Davis or someone else. There’s no way Hanley is the first baseman come April, and Travis Shaw, for all of his success, still strikes me as little more than Mike Carp. (But way better than Pat Dodson.)

How have you developed your strategy for using social media? It seems that you have chosen to use it almost like a personal account, sharing things you enjoy, chatting with people and generally interacting with other real human beings. This obviously works well for you, given the number of people you have following you, but is a stark contrast to some of your colleagues who use it as a platform to broadcast more than interact. Did this develop organically or was it a calculated decision? A follow up: What do you think the most glaring weakness of Twitter is from the perspective of a sports writer? Biggest strength? — Snodgrass’Muff

I wish I had a strategy. I like how Richard Deitsch uses his — he’s sort of like the ombudsman of Twitter in a way, or maybe its curator with his conscious knack for finding and directing his followers to great articles. But it’s pretty much organic for me, I guess. I try to be myself — generally positive, a wiseass but a sentimental one, with random sports info mixed in. If I have a strategy, it’s just one of common sense – try to be relatable and authentic. If people like it, good. If they don’t, at least you’re not pretending to be anything else but what you are. As for the follow up, Muff, I’d say that the repetitiveness can get old (the beat writers all tweeting the same thing at the same moment), and context is often sacrificed when talking about more complicated matters because there are only 140 characters to make a point. Generally, though, I really enjoy Twitter. I found a lot of great writers I’d never have known about on there — Bruce Arthur being the first to come to mind. And it’s easy enough to shape it to a point that it doesn’t annoy you. I block sparingly, but the mute button is a godsend.

Big Daddy’s or Scoop Deck? — Corsi

Scoop Deck, mostly because of proximity. It’s a mile from my house. More than once I’ve gone out for a run with my daughter only to end up there. Man, a lot of you guys know the neighborhood up here in Wells, huh?

Even though the outfield prospects in the minors are a year or two away (at best), do you think that Dombrowski trades one of Mookie, JBJ or Castillo this offseason? If so, who is to go? — John Marzano Olympic Hero

You know, I was wary of Dombrowski initially, then looked deeper at his time in Detroit, and it’s pretty remarkable how few misses he had there (other than rarely developing anything he kept around from the farm system — where have you gone, Ryan Perry?) He won almost every trade he made… and yet, as intrigued and encouraged by him as I am, I can’t give my full endorsement until I see how he sorts out the outfield this offseason. If he trades Betts, I’ll be pissed. I know deals might be presented where trading Bradley would make sense, but from a fan standpoint, I want to see both of these guys in the outfield for the next half-dozen years. I’d be less bummed if Castillo is moved, but given his age, contract, and that there’s still mystery about what he’ll ultimately become, he’s probably not going anywhere. To answer the question, though, Bradley is the most likely to go. And it had better not happen.

Including the minors, can you list the five players that you would most be unwilling to trade in the current Sox organization? – AlNipper49

Hmmm. Are there five? I mean, I adore Bogaerts. His incredible growth this season has been vindicating in some weird way for those of us who believed in him through his miserable summer of ’14. Remember seeing him tailing John McDonald like a puppy during the 2013 World Series and thought, “Damn, this kid is serious — he’s going to do everything he can to stay at shortstop,’’ but I never expected him to be this good this soon. And there’s obviously still so much growth potential with his power and on-base skills. But if Jeff Luhnow called Dombrowski in January and said, “Correa for Bogaerts, straight up,’’ you’ve got to do it, right, presuming Correa didn’t suddenly require a glass eye or some other tragedy? Everyone is available for the right price. But the five players, all things being equal, that I want to see stay, who are as untouchable as it gets? Bogaerts, Betts, Anderson Espinoza (enough with the Pedro comps, though), and … well, I’d really hate to see E-Rod, Moncada or Devers go, but I figure they may have to part with one somewhere along the line. So I guess it’s a list of three. Don’t want to see Bradley go anywhere either, simply because he’s such a joy to watch on defense.

Now that you’re a BBWAA member, what is your stance on “steroid era” players? Are they on your ballot or not? — Lars The Wanderer

Yeah, they are. I hate what happened to the record book, but the further we get away from the peak of the PED era, the clearer it becomes that the shattering of records did nothing to diminish the perception of what Hank Aaron, Roger Maris and so on accomplished. I look at it as one more era in baseball – a shameful one in a lot of ways, but an entertaining one as well (’98 was a hell of a fun fraud), and the Hall of Fame would be incomplete without an acknowledgement of the superstars of that time. Further, we only know a small percentage of what actually happened. There are absolutely players in the Hall now who did PEDs — do the math on the eras in which the last dozen or so electees played, and you have to figure at least a couple dabbled. (And more than a couple had ridiculous late-career outlier seasons.) I’d rather put in known PED users — hell, note it on their plaques if you must — than leave someone out who didn’t do anything because of unjust suspicions, or allow a couple of users in simply because they never got caught. So, yeah, I’d vote for them. And Papi has one vote here, in case you were wondering.

Is there any way to get the genie back into the bottle in terms of the widespread use of anonymous sources in sportswriting? It’s pretty clear at this point that the extremely widespread practice of using anonymous sources and single-sourcing has had a catastrophic impact on the quality of sports journalism and the regard in which fans hold it. Why would I ever believe another word said by Peter King or Mort that relies on an “anonymous source”?

You shouldn’t, because it’s been proven with those two that they are indebted to sources who mislead them. You almost have to keep a scorecard — OK, this guy used an anonymous source here, but he has the information right. I can trust him. I hate anonymous sources, but I have to use them fairly frequently with my media stuff, because I want to get the correct info out there, and yet often those who know what is really going on would get in trouble if they speak with me. When I do use them, I’m obligated to let an editor know who they are, and then the decision is made as to whether it’s something I can say. But I’ve built up trust in that regard, I think. My editors know I wouldn’t go that route unless it’s essential information from a source I know and trust 100 percent.

Do you think it was a coincidence that SI and ESPN released articles that largely retread old ground about the Pats’ “cheating” on the same day? — nattysez

I do think it was, actually. I talked to Chris Stone, one of the editors of SI, about it. The story was released via their standard procedure nowadays — it’s on the web on a Tuesday, which is the day the print edition goes to bed. I actually wondered whether theirs was rushed out that day after ESPN’s became the story of the morning. They denied that as well, but their story wasn’t nearly as detailed. Now, if you want conspiracy theories, I completely believe that the ESPN story was timed to coincide with Goodell’s appearance on Mike and Mike that morning. I also believe that the general revelation of the story was missed or underplayed by ESPN — yeah, it rehashed the History of Spygate, but the real truth in the story is that Goodell turned Deflategate into the absurdity it became because some key ownership constituents believed he went easy on the Pats during Spygate. We knew he was an incompetent, favor-swapping sleaze. This story offered more evidence. That was the real revelation lost in the PATRIOTS ARE BAD national narrative.

How do you judge your own job performance? How do you think sportswriters in general should evaluate themselves? — MyDaughterLovesTomGordon

I judge it by whether I’m happy with what I’ve written, whether I’m accurate as can be based on the information I have, and whether the direct deposit checks still show up in my account. Less facetiously, I’m trying to appeal to an audience that loves sports, thinks a lot about sports beyond the obvious, and yet doesn’t take it too seriously. Maybe that’s too narrow a focus, but it’s how I view myself as a fan, and I’m trying to write things I would want to read. Positive feedback is always nice, though, especially if it’s regarding something I’ve put a lot of time into, such as a personal piece I wrote about coaching my daughter in basketball or an oral history of Larry Bird’s 60-point game. If something is fulfilling to me, I hope that means it’s satisfying to the reader. As far as others go, depends on the writer — Shaughnessy and Speier are trying to do different things, you know? We’ve all got our flaws, and sometimes readers pick up on them before we do. It does suck that trolling generally equals traffic, no matter the quality of the work. You’ve got to be really good or have very supportive readers and editors to write thoughtful, occasionally offbeat, nuanced stuff (like Alex does) and still draw a loyal audience. It’s so much easier just to write, HANLEY IS HUMAN RAT POISON GET HIM GONE. I tell people, they keep clicking on that stuff, it’s all they’re going to have left.

How do you see the Sports Hub vs. WEEI battle shaking out in the future? TSH was great counter-programming to a complacent EEI, and that’s shown itself in the ratings, but can the pendulum swing back (especially since a show like Felger and Mazz has become a victim of its own success)? Or does it even matter, since the market has shown it can support two sports talk stations? — The Allented Mr. Ripley

How far in the future are we going? Because in the present, the Sports Hub is winning big. The summer numbers come out Sept. 30 and from what I hear, the Sports Hub is crushing them in mornings and middays – that will be the biggest gap in any day part, actually — and given Felger and Mazz have seen no dip in their huge numbers even with the deliberate antagonism of their listeners on most days, I assume they’ll still be No. 1 by a lot. Down the road, maybe there’s some backlash in afternoon drive, but there are no hints of it now. And I think Felger won’t let his ego get in the way like Ordway did — if what they do affects numbers, they’ll change what they do to some degree.

Any sense that the decision to move on from Don Orsillo was based on anything more than a general effort to “re-energize” the broadcast? In other words, any sense that NESN had done surveys or focus groups and pegged (empirically) some portion of the declining ratings to Orsillo and Remy? Or was it a simple equation of “Don is very good, but OB is great and so let’s go with ‘great'”? Or something else? — Ipswich Sox

I think it was Tom Werner deciding to flex his TV muscles and make a change with absolutely no idea that fans would respond the way they did. No clue. None. NESN was utterly unprepared for the backlash. I heard one of their PR guys had to ask who Bill Simmons was, incredulous that this guy with 4.5 million followers would actually tweet about Orsillo. Focus groups might have given Werner a clue that “re-energizing” the broadcast wasn’t something viewers were clamoring for, but as far as I know there was nothing like that. I can’t exaggerate how unprepared they were for the response.

Chad, I enjoy your writing and appreciate you doing this. Do you think Ben C. was treated fairly at the end of his tenure by ownership? Screwing up the Lester negotiations was a monumental blunder, one that seemingly had ownership’s fingerprints all over it. It feels like they have been content to let Cherington take the brunt of the 2015 criticism without ever really acknowledging the role of Lucchino and others in driving Jon out of town. — Jim D.

Thanks, Jim. I appreciate you reading my nonsense. You know, I think we’re all still trying to put the Cherington era in context. I’ll never call ’13 a fluke, because you don’t win a World Series — what was it, 108 wins in the end — by accident. It’s too goddamn hard. But it sure looks like he used up all of his personnel good fortune that previous winter, going a Stennett-like 7 for 7 in free-agent signings. And this past offseason hasn’t been fully explained. I will always believe Sandoval was a NESN signing, not a baseball OPS decision, no matter what Cherington has said. I liked the Hanley move, but what a mess that was. And I understand why they liked Porcello — they were trying to catch a young, experienced pitcher hitting his peak. But giving him $80-something million before he threw a real pitch for the Sox made about as much sense as the decision to shelve his sinker. Those three deals were arguably the three worst decisions of the offseason (trading Josh Donaldson with his arb years still ahead doesn’t look so great right now for Billy Beane, I suppose), and no matter who truly was responsible for each of them, the bottom line is that it’s totally justified for the GM to take the fall. It sucks, because I think he’s a really bright, decent guy who left the Sox in remarkably good shape in some crucial spots. But the string of failings is tough to live down.

With 500 HR, but also with writers like Sean McAdam saying they won’t vote for him because of the 2003 leaked “off-the-record” PED test, how many years do you think it will take David Ortiz to get into the Hall of Fame? — Buzzkill Pauley

Presuming he plays two more years, that puts him on the ballot for the first time in, what, 2023? Bet he gets in either that year or the next. Circumstances will have changed. The voting body is getting younger now that the BBWAA is paring out voters who haven’t covered baseball in a while, and the younger voters I believe tend to be much more open-minded on their ballots, particularly in regard to the PED era. The DH argument is silly now, and will be regarded as sillier then. (Plus, Edgar Martinez could be in by then.) I also think there’s a chance that someone in the Hall is revealed to be a PED user in the interim before Papi is eligible, or more information comes to light about that 2003 list. I mean, four of 103 names were leaked, by someone who clearly had an agenda. Don’t you think the revelation of those other 99 names would change the perception of so many careers? Perhaps even of someone in the Hall? I do. Papi is the Reggie Jackson of his time, other than that he’s not a raging a-hole like Reggie. Reggie got in on the first ballot. Papi will get in, someday.

With the return of Ordway, WEEI is basically the same lineup (albeit a little shuffled) that it was 5 years ago. It’s not getting any younger. Bringing in ESPN-lite guys like Benz and Salk hasn’t worked. When do we see someone like Christian Arcand get his shot? — Trautwein’s Degree

That’s a good question. They sort of stumbled into Minihane being a revelation in terms of a radio personality. He was writing the backs of baseball cards a decade or so ago and came to WEEI as a writer because Rob Bradford knew him and recognized his talent. I don’t think they initially knew what they had. Arcand is very good (full disclosure, I go on his NH show with Pete Sheppard fairly often) and Chris Villani is as well. A lot of people like Danny Picard. But since moving Mut into middays six or so years go, they really haven’t promoted their own younger talent. They definitely need to pay more attention to the farm system over there.

For years the Sox approach to relief pitching, especially middle relief, has been to gather together a bunch of mediocre pitchers and hope that enough of them will perform adequately to get through the season. It seem that other teams are starting to focus on having pitchers who specialize in middle relief, rather than just grab pitchers who have failed at other roles. Do you think this is an accurate take, or is it just a few teams getting lucky? Are the Sox going to re-evaluate their approach to middle relief? — Iayork

That’s probably one of the biggest mysteries regarding what’s to come with Dombrowski. He tended to bring in name guys – or at least guys who were past closers — during the recent seasons in Detroit, but it didn’t often work out. Joe Nathan was a bust, Joakim Soria took longer than usual to come back to usefulness after his TJ surgery, Benoit was pretty good but wildly overpaid, Jose Veras was a Victorino victim. I imagine that might be a hint that he takes the same approach here, but it’s tough to tell now. I do think we were reminded this year that it’s really hard to find those Wade Davis types, so-so starters with good stuff who become lights-out relievers. I really thought Matt Barnes could do it, and he was brutal. Man, if they’d just been able to bring Andrew Miller back.

The manager of the 2016 Boston Red Sox will be? — JackLamabe65

Farrell, until the All-Star break, at least. I just can’t see how Dombrowski can make a change now given what Farrell is going through unless Farrell agrees or decides that a move into the front office would be better for his mental and physical health. Lovullo seems to have done a great job in the interim, but it’s impossible to tell whether Porcello and Kelly’s troubles had anything to do with the manager. And Farrell had to deal with Castillo’s growing pains, and Bradley was still in Pawtucket repairing his bat, and Hanley was in left field… I just can’t see how they make a change now. There are too many variables. God, I hope it’s not Leyland. (By the way, underrated mistake of the Cherington era, probably because it didn’t actually happen — wanting to hire Dale Sveum as a manager. He’d have been better than Bobby V., but not by much.)

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