It’s stunning to see Price’s 77-expletive tirade explode all over the Internet. During his six seasons as Mariners pitching coach, Price became a favorite to deal with.
Until Monday, the “f-word” I most closely associated with Bryan Price was “friendly.” Maybe also “fair” and “frank.”
It’s not stretching things to say that during his six seasons as Mariners pitching coach, he became one of my favorite guys to deal with ever in baseball.
For starters, you have to have tremendous personal skills to thrive as a first-time major-league pitching coach under Lou Piniella, who was notoriously impatient when it came to anything to do with pitching.
Price won over Lou and continued on the job as Mariners pitching coach when Bob Melvin took over as manager. He even stayed for one season with Mike Hargrove before leaving to join Melvin in Arizona.
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You’d be hard-pressed to find one Seattle media member who has less than glowing reports of Price, who was as accessible, accommodating and enlightening as you could ever hope for.
Which is why it was so stunning to see Price’s 77-expletive tirade explode all over the Internet. Although “tirade” is probably not the right word. He never raised his voice. This wasn’t Mike Gundy (“I’m a man! I’m 40!”) or Dennis Green (“The Bears are who we thought they were!”) losing their minds. It was more a case of controlled rage, and absolutely misguided indignation.
The cauldron of professional sports can do strange things to people. I think we in the media sometimes underestimate not only how much pressure athletes and coaches are under, but how much they are emotionally invested. Especially when we confront them after a hotly contested event.
It’s no wonder that blowups occur, especially in times of duress. John McLaren falls in Price’s category of classy, helpful individuals during his long stint on Piniella’s coaching staff. But when he took over as manager and the losses mounted, it wore on him.
I was standing right there in June 2008 when he self-destructed after a loss. McLaren was fired two weeks later, and his outburst went into the vault of unforgettable blowups.
Who hasn’t heard Tommy Lasorda’s volcanic (and hilarious) reaction when asked what he thought of Dave Kingman’s performance. Cubs manager Lee Elia raving about Cubs fans is legendary: “Eighty-five percent of the world’s working; the other 15 come out here.”
You probably have your own favorite. I happened to be covering the Oakland A’s for my San Francisco newspaper in 1995 when pitcher Todd Stottlemyre went ballistic. Todd was a high-strung fellow and he didn’t like being asked about his reaction to an umpire’s call that seemed to unnerve him.
I’ve never seen anyone come unglued like Stottlemyre. He was screaming at the top of his lungs, to the extent manager Tony La Russa came out of his office to see what was going on. Stottlemyre left, only to come back screaming again. He threw chairs.
The small group of reporters who were there that day watched it all, dumbfounded. In my game story, I wrote: “Stottlemyre sprinkled 27 full-volume repetitions of the f-word, believed to be a modern-day record.”
Well, Price shattered that record. It’s not surprising that the Reds had lost seven of eight games. Last year, in his debut season, Price guided them to a 76-86 record after inheriting a 90-win playoff team from Dusty Baker.
Price is clearly feeling the heat. That is the backdrop to his outburst, which was precipitated by the Cincinnati Enquirer reporting that All-Star catcher Devin Mesoraco wasn’t with the ballclub and thus unavailable to pinch-hit. Price was also peeved that the same reporter, C. Trent Rosencrans, wrote about a player being called up before they could inform the player he was replacing.
“I just want to know how we benefit from these people (knowing) we don’t have a player here?’’ Price asked (with the expletives removed). ”Can you answer that? How is that good for the Reds?”
Later, Price said to Rosencrans, “Your job is not to sniff out everything about the Reds and put it out there for every other guy to hear. It’s not your job.”
That’s exactly his job, as Price should know after all this time in the game. It’s most certainly not to ponder whether that news is good for the Reds. Though the trend is for sports teams (and political figures) increasingly to try to control the news, the job of an independent journalist is to find out what they can, without using underhanded methods, and letting their readers or viewers know.
The fact that a player the caliber of Mesoraco was not only unavailable, but not even in the ballpark, was certainly fair game, and Price should realize that. He asks at one point, “Has it always been this way where we just tell everybody everything?”
Yes, in fact, that has always been the goal of beat writers, at least in my 30 years in the profession. And it has often been the goal of managers to manipulate those efforts, which isn’t always easy in a sport with as much access as baseball. It’s a constant cat-and-mouse game.
I’m well aware that managers aren’t always forthright about injuries for the very reason that they don’t want to give opponents a competitive advantage. But if a reporter digs out that information, well, that’s their job. The manager can be annoyed, but to be surprised by it is incredibly naive.
I hope Price will learn from this incident. I always thought he’d make a great manager. But if Price doesn’t get a better grip of the manager-media relationship, he’ll have to deal with two more F words: A fragile future.