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What Bryan Price’s rant was really all about

Getty Bryan Price

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.