All week, AP Baseball Writer Ron Blum knew that a new labor contract between Major League Baseball and its players was close. Each day, he stayed on the phone, talking to both sides, figuring out how far apart they were. Wednesday night, they were close. Then, the call came: They had a deal. “You’re the only person we trust to get it right,” the source told Blum about why he got the story.
Over the next few hours, Blum got more. The terms of the deal began to emerge. New players would not be able to use smokeless tobacco. The league that won the All-Star Game would no longer get home-field advantage in the World Series.
For those scoops – and more – Blum earns the Beat of the Week.
“Ron’s dominance of the MLB beat leads to dozens of newsbreaks a year, and many are so difficult to match that competitors don’t even make the effort, instead simply ceding the news to AP.”
After reporting that Major League Baseball and the players’ union had reached a deal, Blum worked with reporter Stephen Hawkins, who was on site at the talks in Irving, Texas, and produced an exclusive on the new smokeless tobacco rule. That break formed the foundation for a next-day story looking at the changes to chew over time in the sport.
Then, Blum broke out a separate story on the All-Star Game decision, and desk editor Jake Seiner got to work promoting it on AP Sports social media accounts. Despite the late hour, within a few minutes, it was one of the top-performing stories of the day.
The next day, Blum’s phone rang again. The general manager of a team had a question. Blum's break was so exclusive, not even GMs knew all the terms of the deal yet. Could he share what was in the contract?
But Blum still wasn’t done. In an exclusive interview with baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, he found out what the union and MLB didn’t agree to: a deal to expand rosters to 26 players. Another APNewsBreak.
“Exclusives on major developments in the top U.S. sports are exceedingly rare and have a short shelf-life. Ron’s dominance of the MLB beat leads to dozens of newsbreaks a year, and many are so difficult to match that competitors don’t even make the effort, instead simply ceding the news to AP,” said Michael Giarrusso, AP’s sports editor.
The stories got wide play and retweets and posts from AP’s largest sports customers, including ESPN. Internal metrics showed the stories were top performers for the AP that day. The All-Star Game story alone got more than 30,000 clicks on @AP_Sports, making it the top story for the week. The story also showed that readers had an average engaged time of 28 seconds per reader, contributing to an aggregate 127,000 engaged minutes overall, or 2,190 hours. That made it the most successful story for APNews.com overall.
The story about the contract kept readers engaged for 1.18 minutes and had 689 customer uses, making it the most engaged story AP offered that day.
For his rapid-fire scoops at a highly competitive moment in the baseball world, Blum wins this week’s $500 prize.