What Bryan Price’s rant was really all about

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Hearing the manager of a major league baseball team drop 77 f-bombs in five minutes is pretty hilarious. And if you were on Twitter last night when the Bryan Price rant broke, you were party to all manner of great jokes about Price’s unhinged moment. But now that the dust and excrement (both bovine and equine) has settled, let us note that Price’s rant was more telling than it was profane.

Telling in that it shows that the manager of a major league baseball team thinks the media works for him and is outraged that it’s not doing what he wants it to do.

Let’s scrub the hilarious profanity and slightly edit for clarity and see what Price is really saying:

I don’t get why it’s got to be this way. Has it always been this way where the media just reports everything? It’s nobody’s business. It’s certainly not the opponent’s business . . . The media’s job is not to sniff out everything about the Reds and put it out there for everyone to hear. It’s not your job. I’ve been candid with you. I tell you what is going on with the team, and you write about it? I have to read tweets about the things I told you? How does that benefit the Reds? It doesn’t benefit us. We try to go out there and win games and I have to deal with you guys telling everyone what players we have available?

I don’t think the media needs to know everything. How do the Reds benefit from the opponent knowing we don’t have Devin Mesoraco? How do we benefit from that? They benefit from it. I just want to know how we benefit from that. Can you answer that? How is that good for the Reds?

Setting aside the fact that Price does not, apparently, realize that it is the media’s job to tell readers and viewers what on-the-record, relevant information it learns, I am struck by the larger framing of Price’s rant: that it’s the media’s job to do things to benefit the Reds somehow. To do their bidding or, at the very least, to not say anything harmful.

It’s possible to conclude that this is just an instance of a manager who is overwhelmed, out of his depth and starting to lose his composure in a season that has started poorly and could only get worse. But it’s also possible — and I suspect probable — that Price’s mindset here is informed by the way professional sports teams, large businesses and governments approach media these days. As something to be manipulated. A mere outgrowth of public relations.

Price, unlike a lot of managers, was not a major league player, and in his playing career didn’t likely have to deal with the media too much. Same goes for his time as a pitching coach, as pitching coaches don’t answer to the press every single night. He was likely in something of a bubble for many years and did not have to really become conversant with the media game until the 2014 season.

And what’s the media landscape like in 2014? Way different than it was when, say, Dusty Baker learned the media ropes. Teams have sophisticated p.r. teams. Heck, they have their own media. As we’ve noted several times around these parts, teams and leagues can break their own news, bypassing the independent news media that cover them. Sports teams aren’t just news sources, they’re in the news business, too, with their own radio, TV and Internet operations. And, to the extent there is still an independent media around, they are far more tightly controlled by that p.r. staff, with less access than they used to have. And some even have taken to self-censoring to some degree, avoiding being critical in ways that their predecessors may have been in the interest of maintaining good relationships and access. A significant chunk of the media is, in many ways, now either part of the organization or has been cowed by the organization.

Throw a new manager into that mix — especially one in a relatively small media market, not used to dealing with a dozen hungry reporters covering his club — and it’s not hard to imagine a situation in which, at least for one evening, he forgets that the media doesn’t work for him and his team. That it isn’t the job of the annoying people who show up in his office after a game to do his bidding. To be offended when, heaven forbid, some piece of information he freely tells them isn’t vetted by a couple of p.r. people before being released to the public.

For the most part, this new media environment is desirable for teams and other businesses that exploit it. And governments too, it should be noted. They get greater control of the message and less criticism. It’s quite a good deal. But, occasionally, this arrangement creates issues for the newsmakers. Issues like one of their own forgetting that, while they can go a long way toward shaping their own reality, they can’t go all the way. At least not yet.

Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg’s status for 2023 ‘a mystery’

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Stephen Strasburg‘s status for 2023 is up in the air after a series of injuries that limited him to one start this season, Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said.

“It’s still a little bit of a mystery,” Rizzo said about the 2019 World Series MVP before the Nationals were scheduled to play a doubleheader at the New York Mets. “I know that he’s working hard strengthening his core and the other parts of his body. We’re just going to have to see. With the type of surgery and rehab that he’s had, it’s unfamiliar to us. It’s unfamiliar to a lot of people. We’re going to have to take it day by day.”

The 34-year-old right-hander has thrown a total of 31 1/3 innings across just eight starts over the past three seasons combined. He had carpal tunnel surgery in 2020, then needed an operation to correct thoracic outlet syndrome in 2021.

After his only start of 2022, he went back on the injured list with a stress reaction of the ribs.

“We’ll have to see where the rehab process takes us later on in the winter,” Rizzo said. “We’re going to monitor him. He’s local, so we’ll see him all the time and we’ll see where he’s at going into spring training mode.”

Strasburg is a three-time All-Star who signed a $245 million contract after helping Washington win a championship in 2019.

He is 113-62 with a 3.24 ERA for his career.

Meeting with reporters toward the end of a rough season – Washington entered with a majors-worst and Nationals-worst record of 55-104 and shipped away the team’s best player, outfielder Juan Soto, at the trade deadline – Rizzo talked about doing “an autopsy of the organization.”

“I look at the season as a disappointment. I’ve always said that you are what your record says you are, and our record says we’re the worst team in the league right now. It’s hard to argue with that,” Rizzo said. “The flip side of that is we’re in a process.”

Rizzo and manager Dave Martinez were given contract extensions during the season. Martinez said his entire coaching staff will return next year.