Over at Baseball Think Factory, a heated debate has centered on Rafael Soriano’s decision to leave the clubhouse early on Tuesday night, before he could be grilled by reporters about his eighth inning blow-up at the hands of the Twins. Some posters have defended Soriano, saying that they do not want to listen to the media whine about the difficulty of doing their job. The Soriano defenders sympathize with him, saying that it’s understandable that he didn’t want to talk after such a poor performance. Others have criticized Soriano for failing to “face the music” after walking three batters, all of whom scored during Minnesota’s rally from a 4-0 deficit.
As someone who has worked in the media and has had to conduct interviews in locker rooms and clubhouses, I’ll always take the writers’ side on this issue. First off, those that think it is fun or glamorous to conduct interviews in a losing clubhouse, talking to guys who are probably not in the best of moods, are horribly mistaken. Reporters who venture into clubhouses do so because they are expected to by their bosses, whether it’s to pick up a good quote or two for the next day’s newspaper, or to come up with a sound bite that can be used on radio or TV. To me, it’s one of the least pleasant aspects of being a reporter/writer. So I figure that if I have to go into the clubhouse to do an interview, then athletes should shoulder a similar responsibility and make themselves available with a reasonable degree of civility.
Players who don’t stick around after wearing goat horns also place an unfair burden on their teammates, who are left trying to make explanations for the players who avoid the media. Do you really think that Russell Martin wants to sit there trying to explain what Soriano was doing wrong on the mound, or speculating about how he felt after blowing a four-run lead and essentially the game? A report in the New York Daily News indicated that several of the Yankee players were indeed upset with Soriano for leaving the clubhouse early and making them have to do the talking for him. We can be sure that at least one Yankee player pulled Soriano aside the next day and informed the temperamental reliever that he had made a bad choice. So it wasn’t just the Yankee front office that expressed its displeasure to Scott Boras, the agent for Soriano.
I’m not saying that it’s the law, or even a rule, that players must do this: I think it’s just the decent and ethical thing to do. Joe Sheehan and other Sabermetric Internet writers don’t care about players making themselves available because the kind of writing they do doesn’t depend on player interviews or quotes. They’re writing as analysts, and their writing is largely dependent on statistics and the evaluation of what they mean in regard to player performance. So how would Joe Sheehan and other writers react if teams and leagues didn’t make statistics available to the mass media? How would they feel if boxscores were not printed and statistics like on-base percentage or WHIP were not released to the public, but were instead treated as proprietary information? Would they be as quick to give teams a free pass for such a policy? After all, there’s no law or rule that says teams have to make this information available to the public for free. But once again, it’s the right thing to do.
As a fan, I don’t feel that I absolutely have to hear from the players after every game. A lot of what they say is clichéd and trite balderdash. If I hear “It is what it is” one more time, I may not be held responsible for my actions. But if a Yankee player screws up a game, I’d like to hear why it happened, or at least how it happened. And if a Yankee player blasts a game-winning home run, I’d like to hear him talk about it, even if it’s just for a moment.
The Yankee players seem to agree with that philosophy. For years now, their players have made a policy of always talking to reporters, even after losses and even after they themselves endured bad games. Yankee players believe in being accountable, and being willing to answer tough questions after difficult defeats. And they’re absolutely right about it. It’s called being a professional.
Last night on the MLB Network, Mitch Williams called for the Phillies to replace injured closer Brad Lidge, who could be out until the All-Star break with a rotator cuff strain, by aggressively making a trade. His suggestion? Go get Joba Chamberlain.
A few years back, the idea of trading Chamberlain would have been preposterous, but at this point, he’s become a mid-level reliever who happens to throw hard. So if you’re the Yankees, whom do you want in return for Chamberlain? I could see the Phillies offering Joe Blanton, and that’s simply not good enough. At best, Blanton is a No. 4 starter, a mediocre journeyman who would likely not fare well against the lineups of the American League East. He’s also 30, and not likely to encounter a career renaissance. No, I’d have to have either a package of at least two prospects, or someone else from the 25-man roster who can help right now.
Obviously, the Phillies won’t give up Roy Oswalt or Cole Hamels for Chamberlain, not unless Ruben Amaro, Jr. has decided to concede the NL East to the Braves. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a good match off the Phillies’ major league roster, unless the Yankees have interest in a Placido Polanco as a super utility man or want to take back an older reliever, like Ryan Madson. So that leaves the Yankees asking for prospects? But how likely are they to make such a trade in the middle of the season? I can’t remember the last time the Yankees traded a veteran for legitimate prospects during the season.
At this point, I just don’t see a suitable match involving Chamberlain and the Phillies.
Bruce Markusen also writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for The Hardball Times.