Mar 13, 2014, 9:49 AM EDT
I usually have super strong and certain opinions about things. Especially when they concern the media. But this situation has me waffling and wondering all over the place, and I feel like just talking through it. Cool? Cool.
Yesterday a story by Stu Woo of the Wall Street Journal was published in which he described Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen using a racial slur in the Mets’ clubhouse. Last night the Mets and Warthan issued statements apologizing. End of story?
I didn’t think it would be at the time. Mostly because I assumed that there would be some blowback at Woo for writing the story to begin with. Blowback from either reporters or the Mets about Woo repeating or describing things which took place in the clubhouse and perhaps some quibbling about what is and what is not off the record. The first instance of it came a few minutes ago:
Jon Niese to a group of reporters: “Stop Tweeting about our clubhouse. That —-‘s got to stop.”
— Anthony Rieber (@therealarieber) March 13, 2014
We are definitely in an interesting, gray and/or fine line area with all of this. I can see both sides of it.
On the one hand, the clubhouse was open to reporters at the time. It’s not open that much. An hour or so in the morning and then for a while after game time. Players and coaches have several hours in the morning when the clubhouse is, most definitely, their castle and sanctuary. And heck, even when it is open to the press, there are several places players can and often do go to avoid the media. Workout rooms, lounges, breakfast/lunch areas, trainer’s rooms, offices and the like, all marked clearly with “no media beyond this point” signs. While they may say the media is intruding on their space and privacy, it’s a very small intrusion for a very short amount of time for a reason their team and most players and coaches are perfectly fine with.
On the other hand: even if one spends as little time in a clubhouse as I do, the vibe and, dare I say it, unwritten rules of the place become almost immediately apparent. As a reporter you’re a guest there and you just get a feeling that some stuff is fair game and some isn’t. I’ve heard players tell the most crude jokes ever. Make comments about the news or whatever is on the clubhouse TV that one does not say in polite company. Look at videos on their iPads that make it very clear there are no filters on the team’s internet connection. Stuff that, if it was on the record in a newspaper, would turn these players and coaches into public enemy number one. My personal feeling about that is that most of that stuff is not really newsworthy in and of itself; and it feels wrong to put it out there for it’s own sake without some sort of compelling reason.
Certainly not just to put the player or coach in a bad light. I mean, last week I talked about a poster in Clint Hurdle’s office and the particular arrangement Brad Ausmus’ office supplies. Those things, I felt, provided some flavor and insight into these guys’ character. And, unless I’ve greatly miscalculated, are not things that would make any reasonable person think poorly of those two. Quite the opposite, actually. Not that I care so much about what people think of them. I mean, it’s not my job to protect their images. It’s just that making a positive or neutral observation about someone from a subjective position feels OK to me. If you’re wrong about what you observed, well, no harm, you made them look better, actually. If you’re going to pass along subjective observations of potential negative things, however, it’s way more important to make sure you’ve gotten all sides and all of the context and everything because you don’t want to misrepresent anyone.
And of course, trumping all of those concerns is newsworthiness. When AP reporter Steve Wilstein reported about PEDs sitting in Mark McGwire’s locker as he assaulted Roger Maris’ home run record in 1998, well, that was newsworthy. It was newsworthy because of McGwire’s comments about it, the way in which power hitting and pumped-up sluggers had taken over the game, and everything else that surrounded Big Mac and baseball at the time. Wilstein got a TON of blowback from players, coaches and other reporters about what he reported from inside the Cardinals’ clubhouse (and what he probably would have Tweeted from there had Twitter been around back then), but balancing his legitimate presence in the clubhouse at the time, his lack of violation of any clubhouse rules (he didn’t take a photo of it, as photos are strictly prohibited) and the newsworthiness of the subject, he was in the right.
Which brings us back to Warthen and Woo. Warthen was in a place where the media was properly present and either knew or didn’t take the time to figure out if he was around reporters. And what he said — his use of a racial slur and reference to previous use of it — was more notable in that particular context than it would be if I overheard some players telling dirty jokes. Woo and the translator to whom he was speaking are both Asian and the interaction at least suggests that maybe Warthen isn’t racially sensitive around team employees or media members of other races. Could be newsworthy, may not be. Hard to say. It’s at least worth thinking about.
But I also can’t help but think that this snapshot of Warthen is something I wouldn’t have reported. Or reported in this particular way. I’m not saying Woo was wrong to report it. I can’t put myself in his shoes here, both because I wasn’t there and because the slur Warthen uttered is not something I’ve ever had to live with or hear directed at me. I’m just saying that, were I in his shoes, I wouldn’t have. I feel like if you asked 50 different reporters you’d get tons of different approaches here.
The general point here is that I can see why Woo reported what he reported. But I can also see why Niese is bristling. It’s a fascinating situation in that it speaks to just how weird and oftentimes uncertain player-media interaction really is. The uneasy relationship between the covered and those who cover them. It also gets to the heart of a subject I wonder about often: why do we care about these players beyond what they do on the field and why do we cover them the way in which we cover them? I have some strong opinions about this in certain narrow areas — I think most player on-the-record-quotes are less-than illuminating — and I have nothing but uncertainty about others — I love to know what makes these guys tick, but have no confidence that anyone can really know, no matter how good a reporter they are.
Anyway, food for thought. And debate.
Sep 5, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
While the move largely went ignored amid perhaps the craziest trade deadline ever, the Pirates’ acquisition of left-hander J.A. Happ continues to pay off big.
Sep 5, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT
After slugging two home runs in back-to-back games, Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez only hit one last night. He’s slipping.
Sep 5, 2015, 11:01 AM EDT
The Yankees plan to utilize a six-man rotation upon Sabathia’s return.
Sep 5, 2015, 10:05 AM EDT
Duda has been sidelined since August 21 with a thoracic herniation in his back.
Sep 5, 2015, 9:35 AM EDT
Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki thought fast to avoid being tagged in last night’s game against the Orioles.
Sep 5, 2015, 8:49 AM EDT
A quick recap of a busy Friday around MLB, including a walk-off win for the Nationals.
Sep 4, 2015, 11:40 PM EDT
A.J. Burnett feels great and wants to pitch again for the Pirates before the end of the season.
Sep 4, 2015, 11:05 PM EDT
Chris Davis homered twice against the Blue Jays on Friday to move past Nelson Cruz for the major league home run lead.
Sep 4, 2015, 10:15 PM EDT
Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton will rehab at Double-A and should rejoin the big league squad soon.
Sep 4, 2015, 9:25 PM EDT
Wil Myers will make his long awaited return to the Padres’ lineup on Friday night after missing nearly three months with a wrist injury.
Sep 4, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT
The Astros want to sign Dallas Keuchel to at least a four-year extension, but the two sides won’t negotiate until the season is over.
Sep 4, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT
James Paxton will sit for a few days while his fingernail heals, then resume rehabbing with Triple-A Tacoma.
Sep 4, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT
Corey Kluber will miss 10 days after tweaking his hamstring in a side session.
Sep 4, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT
Brad Ausmus could soon be out of a job as the Tigers sink in the AL Central.
Sep 4, 2015, 5:03 PM EDT
Brown may be done for the year.
Sep 4, 2015, 4:47 PM EDT
Any further concussion-related problems could force the former MVP into retirement
Sep 4, 2015, 3:48 PM EDT
Jay missed the past two months with a wrist injury.
Sep 4, 2015, 3:23 PM EDT
Viva abuse of the forfeiture laws
Sep 4, 2015, 2:13 PM EDT
The Matt Harvey controversy is a lot like the Stephen Strasburg shutdown of 2012. But Sandy Alderson is not going to do what Mike Rizzo did, someone close to him says.
Sep 4, 2015, 1:38 PM EDT
Gloves? Who needs a glove?
- J.A. Happ is thriving with the Pirates 0
- Settling the Score: Friday’s results 44
- Sandy Alderson is not going to “roll over” for Scott Boras and shut down Matt Harvey 68
- Dodgers are already fed up with 6.56 ERA-pitching, excuse-making Mat Latos 57
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights 59
- Bryce Harper walks in all four of his plate appearances, scores four runs 24
- ESPN pulls Curt Schilling off broadcasts for rest of regular season and Wild Card game 149
- David Ortiz is more likely to be boned in Hall of Fame voting for being a DH than for PED stuff 145
- ESPN pulls Curt Schilling off broadcasts for rest of regular season and Wild Card game (150)
- David Ortiz is more likely to be boned in Hall of Fame voting for being a DH than for PED stuff (145)
- Matt Williams puts up another strong performance in his quest to get himself fired (107)
- David Ortiz tweets his happiness about the Deflategate decision (101)
- Why Mike Mussina keeps getting hosed in the Hall of Fame voting (90)