Various accent marks.

Accent’s Ahoy

I enjoy writing about baseball, it’s my hobby and a way I release stress while also keeping my mind engaged. When I write for Baseball Prospectus or other sites/publications I am getting paid. Still, I don’t need money to write with professionalism. This doesn’t mean I’m not going to write in a manner I find to be fun and more attention-grabbing. However, it does mean that I will do my best to present information in a professional manner.

For the most part, all of us who write about baseball have the professionalism of writing side down. We check and recheck our facts, give credit where credit is due for information/rumors, and treat the people we cover with respect. The baseball writing community is really good at getting things right and wanting to present a product that passes muster. However, we continue to be awful at accurately representing the players in a very important way, their names.

Víctor Robles is Víctor Robles, not Victor Robles. Roberto Clemente is not Bob Clemente, and so on and so forth. If we are going to cover professional athletes then we deserve to do our best to accurately represent them. Part of being a professional, heck make that a decent human being is respecting those you are writing about. If a player uses an accent mark, tilde, etc. then include that in their name because their name deserves that basic modicum of respect.

I completely understand that there are times when mistakes will be made. If a writer has made every effort to learn the proper spelling of a player’s name and they are under the impression that it is Robel Garcia and then he debuts as Robel García, well, there’s not much that can be done about that. Admit that a mistake was made, apologize for getting his name wrong, and vow to keep doing your best to get players’ names right. If we adhere to that process then good outcomes will continue to happen.

Or, we can choose to remain ignorant and remove the accent marks and special characters that help to accurately pronounce a players name. By making that choice we are sending a clear message to the players we cover that we don’t actually care about them and are not to be trusted. If you are someone being paid to write about baseball and you can’t take the very minor steps to add accent marks where necessary then you shouldn’t be paid to write about baseball. You refuse to act like a professional and as such, you shouldn’t be treated as a professional yourself.

When it comes to integrating links and such I understand that change doesn’t come fast. For years the accepted method was to simply remove accent marks. This guaranteed that links would go where needed and not instead be broken or there would be different links for Hernández versus Hernandez. At Baseball Prospectus this is a problem we are attempting to tackle because the player linker is a huge part of the site. Everyone at BP knows that we owe it to the players that we cover to get their names right and for that reason one of our biggest projects is updating the player linker so that it will correctly link when accent marks are used. Respect is key in the baseball business and players will get the respect they deserve from those of us who write at BP.

If you’re someone who thinks accent marks don’t matter I’m not sure we have much to talk about. I respect the players I write about and I recognize that it is a requirement that I write the player’s names as they want them written. If I can’t be bothered to do the bare minimum when it comes to the people I write about then why should anyone care what I have to write about them in the first place?

Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – The Common Reader

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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