One of the problems with being in the public eye is that people expect you’ll live your life publicly. They expect that you’ll share your every move, your every thought, that you’ll explain every choice you make. Basically, you’re under a microscope.
Some people don’t ask for fame. But pro athletes know what they’re getting into. You want to make millions of dollars playing games for work? There has to be, pun intended, a catch.
Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier, apparently, did not know this and seemingly found that out the hard way last weekend, when he refused to address the media after practically throwing the series finale away on Sunday. After the Red Sox avoided a sweep, a spokesman for the Yankees announced to reporters that Frazier would not speak to them.
Interestingly enough, a similar situation occurred on the Boston side after the first rivalry series of the season in April. After Brandon Workman and Ryan Brasier combined to load the bases and give up a grand slam to Brett Gardner, they did not make themselves available to the media after blowing the game. Manager Cora was far from pleased, saying, “We always say that players have to be responsible, transparent, and accountable. I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Over on the west coast, Dodgers pitcher Scott Alexander faced the music after a rough outing on June 5. According to Dodgers reporter Alanna Rizzo, he was “visibly upset,” but “stayed and answered every question.”
Meanwhile, Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly did the opposite last night, after pitching a single inning in which he didn’t give up a single hit, but walked three, struck out three, and allowed two runs. He became the first pitcher in Dodgers history to have an outing of one inning consisting of three walks, three strikeouts, and two wild pitches. In 21 1/3 innings, he has 18 earned runs. By comparison, Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu has 13 earned runs in 86 innings. After the game, Kelly found a way to make the night worse for his team and their fans, when he told the media, “It looks worse than what it really is.” As someone who witnessed it firsthand at Angel Stadium, I can tell you it actually was even worse than it looked.
To an extent, I can empathize with players who have done this in the past. It can’t be easy to face your mistakes in the public eye, especially when you play for the Yankees, a team whose fans regularly boo their own players. But only to an extent, because let’s be realistic about the situation: these are grown men, getting paid millions of dollars to play a game. It’s pretty hard to feel really bad for any of them.
Last Tuesday, Frazier admitted, “The plays were what they were. I sucked,” which is basically the same thing Matt Barnes said last night, when he ruined yet another Chris Sale start. But unlike Barnes, Frazier pivoted, saying, “I don’t regret it. And to be fair, I don’t think I owe anyone an explanation, because it’s not a rule that I have to speak.”
In fact, it kind of is a rule. Under the collective bargaining agreement, MLBPA’s media guidelines for the regular season state, “It is very important to our game that ALL players are available to the media for reasonable periods and it is the player’s responsibility to cooperate.”
This isn’t an attack on Clint Frazier or the Yankees, or Joe Kelly, or even the Red Sox bullpen. Celebrities, in general, are treated differently. But at the bare minimum, athletes should be held accountable for their actions on the field. They’re barely held accountable when they abuse their wives or drive drunk. We really need to set the bar somewhere.
It comes down to respect for the game, for your teammates, and for your fans. When players hold themselves accountable, it shows they care about those things more than themselves. It’s Mookie Betts calling his performance so far this year “unacceptable.” It’s Chris Sale saying, “This is flat-out embarrassing, for my family, for my team, for our fans.” It’s David Price admitting that the team is frustrated with themselves this season. It’s Matt Barnes, blowing the game last night and admitting, “I sucked.” It’s any player who doesn’t piss on your head and tell you it’s raining.
Photo: Alex Gallardo / Associate Press