Baseball has been going through so many changes over the past couple of years. Time clocks, shifts, “bullpenning”, launch angles, high-speed cameras, length of games and more.
There’s one other change happening, but it’s not on the field.
And the Tigers were one of the first teams to practice this strategy. Imagine that! Finally, this organization is at the forefront of implementing new ideas instead of consistently being one of the last.
And they do it very well.
….controlling the message via the media.
(Insert rim shot here.)
Whaatt? You were expecting some new analytical discoveries?
We’ve all seen it. The articles by the local media that read like press releases. Often the same information in both major city papers at the same time. Articles meant to soothe the fans’ frustration and gloss over the mistakes of the organization. All for the purpose of deflecting criticism and maximizing attendance figures.
The same articles that deflect attention away from the bunglers and instead, accuse the fans of having “bad attitudes”, “misplaced beliefs” or being “shriekers.”
The “articles” that make us go back to the byline to see if it includes the team’s media department.
But you know what? There are a significant number of other teams starting to do it, too.
My ears perked up the other day when I listened to a conversation between 2 former GMs on the radio. They were discussing how there are so many more leaks of information in baseball. Players rumored to be traded to other teams before it becomes official, managers getting extension contracts, managers on their way out and potential trade conversations.
When Dave Dombrowski first came to the Tigers, he was victimized by leaks but able to effectively shut everyone down within months. No one was more secretive than Dave. We never heard a peep about anything he was doing until it happened. I hear he was so good that the CIA tried to recruit him.
But his successor, Al Avila, is not even in the same orbit as Dave. He’s good, but the leaks have been happening sporadically. And often, his non-stop public confessions have been the primary agent of information.
And the reason this is happening more and more within the baseball world is because those within the Front Office have found it to be a necessary tool in helping them navigate their jobs successfully.
One of the former GMs mentioned that those on their way up the baseball ladder feel it crucial to develop relationships with members of the media. By giving them information in advance, they curry favor with that journalist. And when the time comes, and that executive needs someone in their corner, it’s time for the reporter to return the favor.
As a result, blunders are conveniently either ignored or soft-peddled. Favorable reviews that deflect analysis and minimize criticism may also be written.
And the writers most likely to do this are the ones assigned to regularly cover local teams. Less likely are those who cover a team infrequently or primarily address the national baseball picture.
We’ve all read stories about how hard it is for some hard-hitting journalists to get press passes. And how allegedly, a local writer, considered to be one of the area’s finest, was removed from covering the Tigers regularly.
And things can get rather complicated when two organizations have relationships with each other that involve advertising dollars and clubhouse access.
Are you uncomfortable yet? Are you surprised that this is happening?
Should we be surprised that during the last crucial 4 years of the Tigers’ infamous “window”, that hard-hitting analysis of what was wrong was completely missing?
That Brad Ausmus was given a free pass, and staunchly defended, until he left his managerial position?
That at least one reporter knew Ausmus was leaving weeks before he did and wrote nothing about it?
Should we be surprised that multiple reporters are now admitting that they witnessed in-house fighting among players, clubhouse dysfunction and open dissention between a number of the players and their former manager? And that they didn’t say anything to their readers for 4 years? In fact, that some went out of their way to quell the rumors and discount the unhappy events we saw on the tv broadcasts?
It all, conveniently, is only coming out this year.
I know I’m not the only one who believes that if the media had done their due diligence, we would have seen changes made at least 2 years ago. Especially when it comes to the Big One – who’s to blame for wasting all those years and all that incredible talent for just 1 game win in the World Series.
The Society of Professional Journalists established their Code of Ethics back in 1909. It lists 4 principles of ethical journalism which is the exchange of information that ensures it is “fair, accurate and thorough” and supports the integrity of the reporter. Those principles are:
– Seek Truth and Report It
– Minimize Harm
– Act Independently
– Be Accountable and Transparent
But in the end, no matter the team, no matter the city, no matter the media organization, when information is withheld, discounted or manipulated, the trust factor is gone. And as well, performance accountability. Look no further than the shockingly bad professional sports situation across the board in Detroit with the Lions, Pistons, Red Wings and Tigers.
Simply a coincidence that all 4 teams have been in performance droughts for years?
You know the answer to this one.
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