Day two of the war to end all wars: sports writers from the Inquirer and Daily News, trying to protect their medium and existence, fire more shots at Phillies’ gestapo.
Yesterday, we told you about articles written by Inquirer reporters Frank Fitzpatrick, Bob Brookover and Phil Sheridan. The latter questioned the Phillies’ player development decisions, but it was Fitzpatrick and Brookover who went after the team the hardest. They took direct aim at the Phillies’ decision to let Ryan Howard receive a cortisone shot near his Achilles last September and the team’s ensuing transparency relating to that procedure, Howard’s Achilles surgery, and continuing rehab.
The Big Poker took exception to the articles.
For the second time this season, Ruben Amaro held a press conference to tell reporters that he and the Phillies don’t lie, don’t have anything to hide, and have the players’ best interests in mind.
Here’s what Amaro had to say, as captured by Howard Eskin, via CSN Philly:
If you were unable to watch:
“I think that there was an insinuation that maybe the organization didn’t have the best interest of the player, and that’s not true at all. Obviously, we have a tremendous investment in Ryan, and to be frank with you, we’re probably the most conservative when it comes to cortisone shots. Probably the most conservative club in baseball.”
Amaro also made it clear that Phillies doctors were well aware of the risks of giving Howard a cortisone shot – something that many medical professionals say can weaken tendons – near his Achilles.
Reporters, of course, had some thoughts about the odd, impromptu in-game media scrum:
Today, Sheridan and Daily News beat writer David Murphy continued to go after the Phillies.
First up, Sheridan:
This became an issue Sunday when Amaro chose to call an in-game news conference, assembling a couple of dozen reporters in a tiny room behind the press box at Citizens Bank Park, to complain about "innuendo and insinuations" in the article. He proceeded to give the Phillies' side of the decision to give Howard a cortisone shot.
This explanation would have been a great help several weeks ago, when the Phillies told The Inquirer's Frank Fitzpatrick they would "take a pass" on cooperating with his report. The lesson, if anyone is willing to learn it, is that it would have helped the Phillies as well as the paper. It also would have helped that future athlete looking for all the information possible to make a similar decision.
But there is plenty in their history to illustrate that they choose secrecy and a kind of condescending disdain when dealing with the media, who in turn convey information to the millions of fans who pump millions of dollars of revenue into this franchise. The decision to "take a pass" on answering reasonable questions was consistent with their history. So is disliking the outcome.
And Murphy, who added nothing new to the conversation but wanted to throw his hat into the ring anyway:
The Phillies’ biggest problem is not with their medical expertise, but with their media expertise, and their glaring inexperience with life as the No. 1 show in town, especially when the No. 1 show in town is underachieving. After Howard’s surgery in October, the club published a press release that quoted Amaro as saying that it would be “five to six months from the surgery until he can play at his accustomed level,” a timetable so optimistic that anybody with any degree of knowledge about Achilles’ injuries should have ignored it. It has been a little more than 7 months post-op , which is still in the early part of most announced timetables for returns from the injury. But those 7 months included the appearance of a projected timetable flip-flop, the appearance of an infection setback flip-flop, and, of course, the “Chase Utley is going to be ready for Opening Day … oh wait, no he’s not” flip-flop, which can make 7 months feel a lot like perpetuity.
Their points are mostly good ones. Still, after seeing your comments, it’s clear that most of you don’t care what the Phillies do and say as long as they win. But I’m not sure I agree with that.
This isn’t about the Phillies not playing nice with the media. It’s about them being so disconnected that they (and this includes many of the players– ahem, Chase Utley) scoff at fans’ interest in the team. The media is there to gather information for you (even though there often exists a wild disconnect between what they write and what you care about).
It’s safe to say that nearly all of us are very interested in the health and progress of Howard and Utley, arguably the team’s two best hitters, who are making a combined $35 million this season and are owed roughly $155 million on their contracts. Yet, as with most things, the Phillies are overly protective and downright disdainful, often for no reason other than to be difficult, when the topics come up.
Had Amaro told reporters two weeks ago what he did yesterday, or had Brookover been allowed to watch Howard take batting practice last week, this would probably be a non-issue right now. Instead, the Phillies are getting slammed… for the second day in a row.
Then again, maybe you can't blame them for being so standoffish with the media when nonsense like this on Philly.com runs alongside articles criticizing the team: