Harold Reynolds created content for everyone on MLB Network’s Hot Stove Tuesday when he showed a fundamental misunderstanding of slugging percentage. Discussing Manny Machado and Michael Brantley with Ken Rosenthal, Reynolds stepped into it, and let it be known that he thought doubles and home runs had the same impact on slugging percentage.
This is an odd thing for a baseball analyst to believe. And it’s not as if slugging percentage and OPS are obscure sabremetrics recently created out of thin air. So this was a bad gaffe. No one will deny that.
But here’s the thing about Reynolds. He’s excellent on-air. He is well-liked by his co-workers. He is, in my mind, the MVP at MLB Network. His ability to bring excitement and knowledge every night is genuinely impressive.
This led me to think about context and how it’s so often missing from these viral flubs. Just last week, I posted a blog about Stephen A. Smith’s regrettable and extremely inaccurate Chargers-Chiefs preview. Dozens of other outlets did as well.
Smith obviously messed up. But he’s incredibly valuable to ESPN and performs his job (being entertaining) better than most people on the planet. If you thought he was deeply versed in the roster of every football team, that’s on you. It’s not his bag.
Reynolds obviously screwed up. He should know about slugging percentage. At the same time, he is an incredibly valuable asset. Additionally, he knows so much more about the inner machinations of the game than most of the people calling him out on the gaffe.
So what’s the point? That these awkward moments are newsworthy. They should be shared and chucked about. Viewers should take them into account when consuming future takes. They shouldn’t, however, be used as irrefutable evidence that the person messing up doesn’t know what they’re doing. In Reynolds’ case, such an assumption would be foolish.
Generally, I don’t think that’s the implication when these posts are written, though some writers explicitly say as much. More often than not, it’s lightly piling on for a chuckle, not an avalanche of personal indictment. At least it shouldn’t be.