Geoff Baker (born December 16, 1968) is an award-winning, Canadian-born journalist and media personality currently working as an investigative sports reporter and sports business columnist for The Seattle Times."Geoff Baker steps into enterprise, investigative job for Seattle Times". The Seattle Times.
Baker currently resides in Seattle, Washington, with his wife, Amy. They also have a second residence in Arizona.
Early life and education
Baker was born Dec. 16, 1968 in Montreal, Que. and raised in the suburb of Laval, Que., where he watched Mario Lemieux play junior hockey in the early 1980s. A graduate of Chomedey High School, Baker was a starting outside linebacker for the Vanier College Cheetahs (CEGEP) 1987 provincial championship football team and attended training camp with the Concordia University Stingers as a slot receiver in 1989 before knee injuries ended his playing career. While playing football, Baker began writing professionally as a weekly news and sports columnist for Hebdo Laval newspaper in 1987-88 and later covered football, hockey and other sports for The Chronicle weekly newspaper in Montreal's West Island from 1988-1991. Upon graduation from Concordia in 1991 (BA, journalism), he received the Cynthia Gunn Award as the school's most promising print journalist. He would later go on to teach the school's Journalism 201 course from 1996-1998, while working as a daily reporter."Vanier Lauded in Gazette as Prime Football Talent Breeding Ground". Vaniercollege.qc.ca. Retrieved 18 February 2015. "All-Time Roster Cheetahs (1971-2014) : Football Collegial AA-AAA" (PDF). Vaniercollege.qc.ca. Retrieved 18 February 2015. Rob Pettapiece. "Out Of Left Field". neatesager.blogspot.com. "Interview with sportwriter Geoff Baker - TalkHumor.com". talkhumor.com. "Homecoming 2005 — Concordia University Magazine". concordia.ca. "Concordia's Thursday Report". concordia.ca.
After summer internships at the Toronto Star in 1990 and The Gazette in Montreal in 1991, Baker was hired full-time by The Gazette as a night police reporter in September 1991. He later became the paper's legal affairs bureau chief, an investigative news reporter and a business writer and broke into daily sports writing covering the CFL's Montreal Alouettes. In June 1998, after winning his second National Newspaper Award, Baker became the Toronto Blue Jays beat writer for the Toronto Star, breaking the story that year about manager Tim Johnson's lies about serving in the Vietnam War. Baker stayed at The Star until September 2006, when hired as Mariners beat-writer by the Seattle Times."The definition of a 'scoop' in media world not what it used to be". The Seattle Times. "La Gazette se vide". Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec.
Awards and recognition
In Canada, Baker won the country's prestigious National Newspaper Award three times in 1994 (spot news), 1997 (sports) and 2005 (sports) and was a top-three finalist for the award in 1992 (spot news). The final award, in 2005, was for a series on steroids use by young baseball players in the Dominican Republic. Those stories also helped Baker become the first Canadian to win an Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) award in the highest-newspaper-circulation category. The awards helped Baker gain an Extraordinary Ability 0-1 Visa and Green Card to work in the United States.
Baker has since been nominated for four more APSE prizes with the Times in 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2013 and has also won multiple regional and local sports writing awards. He remains the only writer to win multiple National Newspaper Awards for sports writing and at least one for news writing in Canada.
In Seattle, Baker created a Mariners Blog which was oft-cited for its pioneer efforts in using photography, audio, video and live-streamed video between 2007 and 2013, as well as its approach to daily writing on a sports beat. The blog twice received Best of the West top-three regional honors for Western U.S. states in 2008 and 2010
Baker was also the host of The Geoff Baker Show on Sports Radio KJR in 2012 and 2013. He was also a regular weekly guest on Talkin' Baseball with KJR host Mitch Levy from 2008-2013. Baker continues to serve as a KJR guest host."Winners since 1949". National Newspaper Awards. "The Seattle Times: Local News: Times sports department recruits 3 top reporters". seattletimes.com. The Dallas Morning News. "APSE - Associated Press Sports Editors". apsportseditors.org. Indiana University School of Journalism. "APSE". apsportseditors.org. "Other Sports - Times reporters Geoff Baker, Larry Stone earn APSE writing awards - Seattle Times Newspaper". The Seattle Times. "Geoff Baker, Seattle Times Sports sections earn honors from APSE". The Seattle Times. "Multiple Winners". National Newspaper Awards. "2008 journalism contest winners for newspapers, magazines, websites -". Best of the West. "2010 contest results with award winners - Best of the West -". Best of the West.
1998 Tim Johnson controversy and firing
Upon joining the Toronto Star in June 1998, Baker became aware that manager Tim Johnson had talked to players about serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and fighting overseas during the Vietnam War. But Baker knew Johnson had not served overseas and the manager quickly claimed he'd never told such stories to players or coaches. On Sept. 23, 1998, Baker wrote an initial story describing a rift amongst team coaches and a heated bar argument between them over Johnson's fake Vietnam stories. A much-larger, feature-length follow-up story on Oct. 18, 1998 quoted players on and off the record about having been told Vietnam stories by Johnson. The most damaging quotes came from former Cy Young Award winner Pat Hentgen, who described Johnson telling him about his Vietnam hardships while on the field at Fenway Park before a series with the Red Sox. Johnson had just told Hentgen he would not be starting in what was then a crucial series for the Blue Jays.
Johnson continued to deny he'd told such stories until a Boston Globe column by Will McDonough in November 1998 mentioned that Johnson had told such war stories while serving as a Red Sox bench coach a few years earlier. A few weeks later, at the 1998 baseball winter meetings in Nashville, Johnson held a press conference admitting he'd lied about serving in the war. The Blue Jays allowed Johnson to stay on as manager (he'd won 88 games his only season in 1998) but fired him in spring training when it became clear players no longer respected him."100 Things Blue Jays Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die". google.com.
2003 White Jays controversy
On June 28, 2003, the Toronto Star ran a Baker story and accompanying sidebar under an A-1 front page banner titled "The White Jays?" along with accompanying headshots of the 25 players on the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team. The stories themselves were about how the team had taken a decisive turn away from Latin American players and towards U.S.-born products after international scouting cutbacks under the regime of GM J.P. Ricciardi.
The front-page treatment of the stories sparked a widespread outcry in Toronto and more than 2,000 letters to the editor, to this day a record for Canada's largest newspaper. Moneyball author Michael Lewis wrote about the series as part of a Sports Illustrated feature that was later re-published as an afterward in the paperback version of his best-selling book.
The Toronto Star's ombudsman investigated and found no issue with the content of Baker's stories, but did criticize the paper's editors for their packaging of the story and front page treatment. Baker later wrote a follow up feature on the Blue Jays and their Latin American cutbacks in October 2005. This time, without the racially-charged front-page treatment of the 2003 "White Jays" stories, the work by Baker was well-received, despite containing much the same subject matter."ARTICLE...TORONTO BLUE JAYS: Whitest team in the majors - MajorWager Forums". majorwager.com. "Big Push, Big Error". Ryerson Review of Journalism :: The Ryerson School of Journalism. "Out Of Their Tree The author wrote a book, Moneyball, that drove baseball's clubby traditionalists crazy. They fought back. Now he does too". SI.com. "Pitch at Jays: High and wide…". newsombudsmen.org.
2004 Carlos Delgado controversy
On July 4, 2004, the Toronto Star published "Citizen Carlos": a Baker-penned feature from Puerto Rico about how Blue Jays slugger Carlos Delgado was no longer standing on the field during the playing of God Bless America. Delgado had shared with Baker that he was silently protesting the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Baker feature described Delgado's work with activists on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques and the fact that it had been the testing ground for uranium depleted shells dropped by the U.S. military on Iraq.
The story was later picked up by the New York Times and other U.S. news outlets, causing Delgado to be booed on subsequent trips to New York to play the Yankees or Mets. Upon joining the Mets in 2006, Delgado addressed the situation and agreed to stand on the field with teammates when God Bless America was played, saying he'd made his point and did not wish to cause distractions."Citizen Carlos; Jays' Delgado Fights For Justice For The People Of A Small Puerto Rican Island Vieques Ravaged By Six Decades Of U.S. Weapons Testing, Writes Geoff Baker". Puerto Rico Herald. Retrieved 2015-02-18. "Delgado Makes a Stand by Taking a Seat". nytimes.com. 21 July 2004. "Blue Jays Slugger Carlos Delgado Stands Up to War". politicalaffairs.net. "Patriotism, Protest at Yankee Stadium". Los Angeles Times. "The Silencing of Carlos Delgado". thenation.com.
2005 Dominican steroids stories
In April 2005, Baker and Toronto Star photographer Peter Power traveled to the Dominican Republic, where they spent a week touring the country's needle-ridden baseball fields to do a pair of feature stories on PED use by teenage prospects from that country. The groundbreaking series described the use of cheaper farm animal supplements as steroids alternatives and also produced an expose of the country's "buscones"—street-level hustlers grooming prospects for bigger paydays in the U.S.
Baker won his third National Newspaper Award in Canada for the stories. He also became the first Canadian to win an APSE Award in the United States, in the highest newspaper circulation category, for Explanatory Reporting.
The aftermath of the series led to Baker being hired by the Seattle Times. He has since traveled to Venezuela to write about steroids testing there and was invited to speak at an October 2006 sports conference in Caracas about the exploitation faced by Latin American ballplayers.
A photograph by Power from the Toronto Star series, of a young Dominican throwing a baseball in a sugar cane field, his bicycle perched against a tree in the foreground, was used by filmmaker Ken Burns to illustrate the opening of the Dominican portion of his 2010 baseball documentary, The Tenth Inning. Power and Baker were in a car traveling along the road from San Pedro de Macoris to Santo Domingo when Power spotted the young player, asked the drvier to pull over, and quickly snapped the image from the side of the road.Marty York (17 October 2014). "Baker’s insight will be missed by fans". Metro. "zReportage ~ Story 063 - Complete Text". zreportage.com. Citizen, Ottawa (2006-05-26). "Citizen wins National Newspaper Awards". Canada.com. Retrieved 2015-02-18. The Dallas Morning News. "APSE - Associated Press Sports Editors". apsportseditors.org. "The Seattle Times: Mariners: Growing pains: Venezuela deals with steroid testing". seattletimes.com. "Only surprise in Wilson Ramos kidnapping is that it doesn't happen more often". The Seattle Times. "165322118 Pictures & News Photos - Getty Images". gettyimages.com.
2010 Josh Lueke controversy
The Mariners made a blockbuster July 2010 trade of ace pitcher Cliff Lee to the Texas Rangers for Justin Smoak and three prospects, one of them a relief pitcher named Josh Lueke. There were reports all over Google about how Lueke had pleaded no contest to a charge of false imprisonment with violence after being arrested for rape and sodomy in 2008. At first, the Mariners, known for their "family friendly" image and support of a "Refuse to Abuse" campaign pertaining to violence against women, denied knowing about Lueke's background and added it was too late to reverse the trade or do anything further other than let Lueke play.
But on September 1, 2010, Baker published an A-1 story disputing that version of events. Baker quoted Rick Adair, a former Mariners pitching coach—who'd also been in charge of minor league pitchers in Texas in 2008—saying he'd warned GM Jack Zduriencik all about Lueke's troubled past before the trade was made. The story also quoted Rangers GM Jon Daniels saying he'd offered Zduriencik a chance to give Lueke back and take another player, but that he refused to do so.
The Mariners have never commented on the discrepancy between their initial statements and the version presented by the sources named in Baker's story. In September 2010, they fired Carmen Fusco, their head of professional scouting. Fusco has since said he was made a scapegoat in the affair.
The story finished in 4th place in voting for an APSE award for Explanatory Reporting. It won a regional SPJ award for Sports Reporting in the Pacific Northwest."Mariners - Coach says Mariners were told of Josh Lueke's criminal past - Seattle Times Newspaper". The Seattle Times. "Mariners". The Seattle Times. "Thiel: Is there a bottom to Mariners’ free-fall?". Sportspress Northwest. "Local News - SPJ Awards - Seattle Times Newspaper". The Seattle Times.
2013 Eric Wedge/Mariners controversy
After a 16-year career as an MLB beat writer, Baker launched his new career as a sports investigative reporter with a Dec. 8, 2013 feature story about the dysfunction permeating the upper levels of the Seattle Mariners hierarchy. Baker specifically addressed the reasons why manager Eric Wedge had walked out on the team in September, leaving a $2 million contract extension on the table. Using on-the-record quotes from Wedge, Baker painted a dysfunctional situation brought about by Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln, resident Chuck Armstrong and GM Jack Zduriencik. The story also quoted former Mariners GM assistant Tony Blengino saying he'd drawn up Zduriencik's entire resume and had helped falsely portray him as an expert in advanced statistics in order to get the job.
The story was nominated for an APSE award for Explanatory Reporting. It won a regional SPJ Award for Sports Reporting in the Pacific Northwest."Dysfunction at the top: Eric Wedge, others point to trouble in Mariners’ front office". The Seattle Times. Indiana University School of Journalism. "APSE". apsportseditors.org. "2013 SPJ Northwest awards". health-city.com.