Before the internet provided us the opportunity to just click to a team’s local beat writer and even before USA Today came along giving a little bit of info on each team on a daily basis, the place most baseball junkies went to have their fix satiated was The Sporting News. Until USA Today came along, one of the most important features to the sabermetrically-inclined was the listing of box scores for every game played the week before. While The Sporting News covered football and basketball, its main focus was baseball.
I have subscribed to the magazine now for 30 years and I can remember the excitement I would have looking into my mailbox on Friday, looking forward to reading what the new issue would offer. I used to get them all, Sports Illustrated, Sport, and Inside Sports, but The Sporting News was my favorite because it focused so strongly on Major League Baseball.
Of course, with the advent of ESPN, USA Today, and especially the internet, The Sporting News was going to have to change its formula to service its readers. By hiring top-notch writers like Mike DeCourcy (college basketball), Tom Dienhart (college football), and Dan Pompeii (NFL) to cover each sport, The Sporting News gives an excellent overview of these respective sports.
The best baseball writer at breaking big stories about the game over the past 5 years has been Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal was a must-read at The Sporting News and kept much of the magazine’s reputation as a major source for baseball information intact. Last year, Rosenthal left TSN for Fox Sports. I’m sure that the money he was offered to do a mix of TV, radio, and website reporting for Fox made it impossible for The Sporting News to compete, but they needed to bring in someone who could be on the level of a DeCourcy or a Pompeii.
I’m not here to slam Rosenthal’s replacement, but The Sporting News needs to at least supplement him with another writer. If they wanted to get some increased interest at their website, they would hire someone like Joe Sheehan, who does such a great job of covering the game at Baseball Prospectus. Just by hiring one of the good baseball columnists at one of the major dailies would at least help. With Foxsports.com having Rosenthal and Sports Illustrated with a bevy of good baseball writers led by Tom Verducci, The Sporting News has become a baseball afterthought.
The Sporting News is still something I read in depth every week, because of the great writers who I have mentioned above. Sadly though, I only give a cursory glance to TSN’s baseball coverage, as I go to other places for that. I’m sure it has left Alfred Spink rolling in his grave.