This One Belongs To … Who, Exactly?

I am a torn man as I sit here at my keyboard today.  On the one hand, I love the Cincinnati Reds.  I mean, in ways that may not even be healthy.  I know I shouldn’t lose sleep when Jumbo Diaz blows a two run eighth inning lead. But I do.  If I did not know that the Reds chose Chad Mottola over Derek Jeter I would probably have more room in my brain for useful information.  But I am cursed with that knowledge.   

On the other hand, I love journalism and I respect reporters, especially beat writers like C. Trent Rosecrans, who has to write honestly about the very people he’s forced to live with for 8 months a year.  That can’t be easy.

And so, given my competing impulses, what to make of Bryan Price’s performance Monday night?  I like Price.  He did a phenomenal job as the Reds pitching coach, and he seems like an even tempered, smart guy.  And I hate to see the national press piling on.  And I suggest you listen to what he said.  Despite many people calling it a “rant” it’s actually pretty measured and he doesn’t shout.  It’s the 77 f-bombs that have caught everyone’s attention.   

But I don’t like what he did. And I’m not thrilled with his apology.  Because I don’t agree with the content of his message to C. Trent.  And while I understand his frustration, I still think he’s off base.  

It seems to me that Price had two basic beefs – first, that Rosecrans published information about Devon Mesoraco’s absence from the team, and second, that Rosecrans tweeted that backup catcher Tucker Barnhart was on his way to St. Louis.  The tweet went out before the Reds told Kyle Skipworth – the player Barnhart was replacing – that he was headed back to the minors.  

In the story about Mesoraco, Rosecrans quoted an unnamed source, presumably someone in the clubhouse, who confirmed that Mesoraco was not in the dugout for the Sunday night game against the Cardinals. That was contrary to Price’s pregame comments that Mesoraco could pinch hit.   Price has a right to be upset about the unnamed source, but he shouldn’t be upset with the reporter.  If he wants to control information, the way to do it is to make sure his team speaks with one voice, and deal with the leaker.  But the reporter has a job to do, and that does not include self-censorship for the good of the Reds.   

His beef with the Twitter leak is also misplaced.  There is tremendous pressure on the media not only to get it right, but to get it out quickly.  Back in the day, the Barnhart sighting wouldn’t have been much of an issue, because it wouldn’t have run until the next morning’s paper came out. And by then, Skipworth would have known his fate.  But social media creates this scenario.  And it can be heartbreaking.  We had a family friend die in a car accident, and the young man’s brother got a text – “sorry about your brother” – before he’s heard about the accident.  

The news media tries hard to hold a story on a death until the next of kin are notified, but the fact that a backup catcher is headed back to the minors is not in the same league.  And the media shouldn’t hold off reporting what they observe first hand to make sure the Reds have delivered the news to their player.     There was a time when beat writers were in the team’s pocket – the teams picked up their expenses for crying out loud.  And most writers toed the company line.  The reserve clause was great.  Guys who the owners didn’t like got labeled “trouble makers.”  Thankfully those days are long gone and the game is as popular as it’s ever been.  And sports writers who put out honest, compelling stories are part of the reason for that success.   

At some point, I hope Price comes to regret the substance of his comments as much as the profanity.