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 29, 2014, 11:36 PM EDT
Rodriguez had to settle for a one-year, $3.25 million contract before the beginning of spring training and began the season in a set-up role, but he ended up with a 3.04 ERA with 73/18 K/BB ratio over 68 innings while going 44-for-49 in save chances.
Sep 29, 2014, 10:25 PM EDT
After being limited to 16 starts last season, Buchholz managed to make 28 starts this year, but he saw his ERA jump from 1.74 to 5.34 in the process.
Sep 29, 2014, 9:20 PM EDT
Castillo landed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with Boston in August and batted .333 (12-for-36) with two home runs, one double, and three stolen bases during his first taste of the majors earlier this month.
Sep 29, 2014, 8:40 PM EDT
Roark has a 2.57 ERA in 252 innings as a big leaguer.
Sep 29, 2014, 8:14 PM EDT
The Mariners gave Hart a one-year, $6 million deal last winter in hopes that he would be able to get his career back on track after multiple knee surgeries cost him the entire 2013 season, but he batted just .203 with six home runs and a .590 OPS over 68 games this season.
Sep 29, 2014, 7:49 PM EDT
Joe Girardi says “we have to see where he’s at.”
Sep 29, 2014, 7:29 PM EDT
Plouffe is expected to be ready for spring training.
Sep 29, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Gardenhire will be paid by the Twins in 2015 as part of a two-year contract signed exactly one year ago tomorrow.
Sep 29, 2014, 6:21 PM EDT
Josh Hamilton has been limited to just one game since September 4 due to right shoulder, chest, and rib cage injuries, but he’s still hopes to be ready for the upcoming division series.
Sep 29, 2014, 5:47 PM EDT
Lewis has been with the Rangers since 2010.
Sep 29, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
Hey, Joe. Whaddaya know!
Sep 29, 2014, 5:05 PM EDT
A good attendance season for MLB. Not the best, but still strong.
Sep 29, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
Roenicke has a 335-313 (.517) record in four seasons as the Brewers’ manager.
Sep 29, 2014, 4:36 PM EDT
The former Diamondbacks manager gets a second chance.
Sep 29, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT
Craig had a season unlike any other first baseman or corner outfielder in 70 years.
Sep 29, 2014, 4:01 PM EDT
Here’s how far Edinson Volquez has come in one year: Last season he posted a 5.71 ERA and allowed the most earned runs in the league.
Sep 29, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT
Part Two of our handy guide to help you pick a team to root for in the event your team is not in the playoffs.
Sep 29, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
For a few years there, I saw it as my personal mission to the spread the gospel of Ron Gardenhire.
Sep 29, 2014, 3:05 PM EDT
If your team is eliminated, what do you do? Let us help.
Sep 29, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT
“I’ve been playing this game since I was five years old.”
- REPORT: The Astros to name A.J. Hinch their new manager today 15
- Twins fire manager Ron Gardenhire 33
- Pouliot’s 2014 American League awards picks 15
- Previewing the 2014 Playoffs 79
- And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights 83
- Reds beat Pirates behind Johnny Cueto, hand National League Central title to St. Louis 20
- Video: Steven Souza Jr. makes sensational catch to secure Jordan Zimmermann’s no-no 24
- David Price dominates Twins as Tigers win AL Central 30
- Hunter Pence dropped a bunch of F-bombs in his postgame speech. Good. (116)
- Derek Jeter’s final game in Yankee Stadium could be cancelled because of rain (85)
- And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights (84)
- Previewing the 2014 Playoffs (79)
- Bud Selig says A-Rod will “have a clean slate” once his suspension is over (78)