When I first started covering the Kansas City Royals, I tried to interview every player – save for the handful of Latino players who didn’t have enough command of the English language to allow for a passable radio interview – for my pre-game show. However, one player kept rebuffing me every time I asked him for an interview. What frustrated me most was he would never flat out say “I don’t want to talk to you” or “I don’t do interviews” or even “I will never talk to you because I think you’re a hack and a disgrace to the broadcasting profession.” At least then, there would’ve been closure and I would’ve known not to approach him ever again. Instead, it was always responses like “Not now, I’m busy” or “maybe later” or “not today.” Eventually, though, I got the hint and stopped asking him.
My role covering the Royals also provides me with plenty of on-air time. In addition to my 30-minute pre-game show, which goes by fast because it’s filled with interviews and sponsored content, I also host a post-game show that lasts anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes. Therefore, I had plenty of opportunities to criticize this player for repeatedly giving me the brush off. But, I never mentioned it for three reasons: calling a player out for avoiding me could lead to other Royals players choosing not to talk to me because I went after one of their own, I didn’t think the majority of fans cared that a certain player wouldn’t talk to me and players aren’t required to talk to media.
That last point was the most important to me. It’s one thing when you should do something and something entirely different when you have to do something. Fortunately, most players see benefit in talking to media. It can help burnish a player’s image and it’s the best and easiest way for a player to make sure his side of the story gets out there, preventing speculation and erroneous reporting regarding a player’s motives and/or actions. And, even though they aren’t required to talk with media, it is frustrating when players choose to avoid you.
I don’t know why Albert Pujols chose not to talk to media after Game 2 of the World Series last Thursday. And, while I’m not covering the World Series, I do know many media members overstated their importance and blew the situation out of proportion.
Pujols, the superstar first baseman on the St. Louis Cardinals, was charged with an error in the ninth inning of Game 2 that allowed Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers to advance to second after he singled. Pujols’ error proved to be significant when Andrus scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly in the Rangers’ come-from-behind, 2-1 victory. Jon Jay (the outfielder who made the throw that Pujols deflected for the error) and Jason Motte (the losing pitcher) both made themselves available to media after the game. But, whither Pujols?
I understand media’s frustration with Pujols’ post-game no-show. Not only was he charged with an error on a game-changing play, but he is also a veteran and the unquestioned clubhouse leader of the Cardinals. Team leaders and veterans are expected to be more accountable to the media than anyone else on the roster. In addition to getting clarification on what went wrong on the play – there was some doubt regarding how much Pujols altered the flight of Jay’s throw from right-center and it appeared Pujols didn’t get into proper position quickly enough to cut off the throw – media were also looking for Pujols to put the gut-wrenching loss into perspective and serve as the de facto spokesperson for the team. Jay and Motte are good players who have been big keys to the Cardinals’ success this season, but they aren’t veterans and shouldn’t have to spend as much time dealing with the media – especially the scores of additional media on hand for the World Series – as a veteran and team leader like Pujols should. They shouldn’t be the ones asked to put the loss in perspective when, unlike Pujols, they’d never played in a World Series before this season.
While Major League Baseball players should answer to media and the fans, ultimately, they are beholden only to two groups: management (i.e., their field manager, general manager and ownership) and their teammates. Without a doubt, Pujols’ actions after Game 2 put Jay and Motte in a compromising position they probably shouldn’t have been in. And, if others in the Cardinals clubhouse and/or members of Cardinals management have a problem with what Pujols did, they’ll handle it internally. There is absolutely no need for the media to get involved and, frankly, media involvement won’t affect how the situation is handled, nor will it decrease the chances of another post-game no show by Pujols or any other player, since players aren’t beholden to media. It’s up to the player – with help from management and from his teammates – to determine the proper course of action to take when it comes to granting interviews and dealing with media. It isn’t media’s job to determine the proper course of action for how players should deal with them.
When you work in any profession – especially one that’s all-consuming, like covering Major League Baseball – it’s easy to find yourself in a bubble, relating to the world only through the prism of your job. Every job has daily struggles and frequent hardships, but those outside that profession generally don’t care. If an accountant walked up to you and started complaining about the complicated tax code and the difficulties of understanding and implementing its yearly changes, you might nod your head in sympathy, but you’d forget about it the next day. If a schoolteacher sat next to you at a bar and told you how difficult it is to deal with clueless parents and an insensitive principal, you might say “wow, that’s gotta be tough” a few times, but it probably won’t provoke you to go out and tell everyone we need more compassion for the schoolteachers of the world. Everyone, and every profession, has its problems and issues. And, unless they’re related to you, are close friends of yours or work in the same industry, people don’t want to hear about your problems and issues. The difference between media and other professions is media have very visible forums with which to voice their complaints: newspapers, sports radio, Twitter – where many media members have thousands of followers – and the like. So when media are collectively pissed – as they were after Game 2 – we hear and read about it. But, just like most of us don’t care about the problems facing the accountant or the schoolteacher, most fans don’t care about the issues associated with players talking or not talking to media. A sentence along the lines of “Pujols wasn’t available for comment after the game” is sufficient and speaks for itself. Nothing more needs to be said.
While it bothered me that one particular Royals player chose not to talk to me my first season, it didn’t prevent me from doing my job. Same thing is true in this situation with Pujols. It would be easier for the media if Pujols talked to them but, instead, media were left to guess as to what Pujols was doing on that key play. Some will guess right, some will guess wrong. Regardless, Pujols and every other player who doesn’t grant an interview can’t complain about the media coverage of them if they don’t contribute to it. There was no need for media covering the World Series to resort to newspapers, Twitter and other venues to complain about Pujols not talking to them after Game 2. Media should’ve kept their frustration to themselves.Follow @raford3