So far, The Kansas City Star’s factual coverage of the Yordano Ventura tragedy is wanting.
Sure, columnist Vahe Gregorian, whom The Star dispatched to the Dominican Republic, did a good job of tracking the lead-up to the funeral and related events, and photographer John Sleezer, who’s also there, has been delivering good photos and video.
It was a good idea to send those two, but The Star screwed up, in my opinion, by not sending one other person — an experienced reporter.
And I don’t mean a sports reporter, I mean a news reporter.
Instead, The Star has had Royals’ beat writer Rustin Dodd sitting at his desk here in Kansas City trying to sort out what happened in the early hours of Sunday morning in the Dominican Republic.
As we all know, there are plenty of questions about what happened, including:
:: Was Ventura alive when people first got to him after his Jeep went off the road and flipped onto its side?
:: Was he robbed of cash and perhaps his World Series ring while he was dying or after he died?
:: And what the heck was he doing leaving a party about 4 a.m. or after and embarking on a relatively long drive, on mountain roads, in the fog?
I’m not asking for perfect answers right now to all those questions; the answers to at least a couple should unfold in due time. But having an actual reporter on the scene — preferably one who speaks Spanish — would help get to the answers, and perhaps unearth new ones.
In addition, there is one important question that we should have had the answer to by now, but haven’t for want of good basic reporting:
:: Exactly where was Ventura going and how long should it have taken him to get to his destination?
On that key point, Rustin Dodd’s reporting has been muddled and perhaps inaccurate. He reported in Tuesday’s paper that Ventura was intending to travel “about 80 miles” — from the province of San Jose de Ocoa “toward Cibao.”
I went to Google maps today to try to get an idea of his possible route.
If Ventura was going from San Jose de Ocoa (bottom right on the map) to the city of El Cibao (upper right), the trip would have been 122 miles. Google pegs the duration of that trip at 3 hours, 43 minutes. If, on the other hand, he was headed somewhere in the El Cibao Valley, the trip might have been closer to the 80 miles Dodd reported.
What we know for sure is that Ventura was an hour and 15 minutes (29 miles, according to Google) into his trip when he crashed in the town of Juan Adrian, which is not shown on the map. (And, by the way, as far as I can tell, The Star has yet to publish a map — a major omission.)
Exactly where Ventura was headed is very important because it means he might have embarked on a nearly four-hour trip, at or about 4 a.m., after being at a party that ran into the wee hours.
It would have been bad enough had he left at 4 a.m. on an 80-mile trip on mountain roads and in fog. But if, indeed, it was a 122-mile, nearly four-hour trip, it casts even more serious question on Ventura’s judgment. (Not to mention the fact he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.)
In any event, The Star would have better served its readers if management had sent an experienced news reporter to the Dominican Republic Sunday. We look to sports writers to tell us things like how fast Ventura could throw a baseball and how he gets along with his teammates. But we don’t look to them to sort out the facts of a news story with many tentacles.
If Star editors made a decision not to send a news reporter, they made a mistake. If they did propose sending a reporter but were rebuffed by upper management because of the cost, upper management made a mistake.
To paraphrase the late Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Caray, it could have been…it should have been….a home run! But, alas, the ball came down at the warning track.