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Whaddaya Say to an Irritated Ball Player?

Dave Randall

Posted on April 29, 2018 22:21

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The media and ball players have jobs to do. Neither is easy.

The subject for this piece popped into my head as the Los Angeles Dodgers limped to the end of April. Under .500, with injuries starting to mount, a bullpen more like a squad of pyromaniacs, and a fusillade of post game cliches to explain it all.

First and foremost, the reporter's job is to get those clubhouse quotes, win or lose, ask tough, sometimes redundant questions, game after game. If you're a Major League player, you know that, as you strip down to your cup, to have to provide some sort of answer. Over the course of 162 games (plus spring exhibitions and that much desired post-season participation), this becomes a grind for both the media and the teams.

There can be impatience on both sides of the IPhone. Reporters must dig past the pat replies from players who don't want to get into trouble. They tax their tired, sometimes not so facile brains to keep what they say from, perhaps, being taken out of context. 

Though understandable, it's grating to hear the same responses over and over again, by rote. As a very young radio reporter at Dodger Stadium, I once saw a veteran CBS stringer, in the press box, completely frustrated, waving his arms around like the late Peter Boyle as Young Frankenstein.

He'd been in the clubhouse talking to an All-Star infielder about his role in the winning the game, and got nothing he could use. "If he could just put together a complete sentence, " the CBS guy fumed, in his aging, New York accent. "If he couldn't hit like he hits, he'd be workin' the 5 A.M. garbage run through the Bronx!" (Note: as fate would have it, that same player wound up doing some TV color commentary when his career was over. It didn't last long. The CBS vet was proven prescient).

When a ball player is petulant or reticent, and perceived to be uncooperative, it's no secret the media, writers especially, can make him pay for his sins, repeatedly. It's a daily dance the public doesn't lay eyes on, but we do view the results, good and bad. Maybe we should be grateful for inarticulateness, or the cavalcade of platitudes, as opposed to some of the post-game dust-ups of the past that made it to highlight shows, way, way before the internet.

New Comiskey Park, Chicago, 1991. The A's and the White Sox brawled following the beaning of Oakland catcher Terry Steinbach. After his team came back to win, A's Manager Tony La Russa didn't want to talk about the beaning or the brawl.

An ancient Associated Press reporter challenged him, told La Russa to stop yelling at him and to "Be a man!" La Russa flipped out, getting right in the old guy's face, and most of the A's team rained verbal abuse down on him until the clubhouse doors were slammed on all the working media. Cliches and P.R., in that respect, would be a welcome alternative. 

Dave Randall

Posted on April 29, 2018 22:21

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