Media bias isn't just limited to politics.
If the Dodgers defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series that begins Friday, they'll advance to the World Series for the first time since 1988. There is a strong chance they will face another storied baseball team--the Boston Red Sox.
The two teams have been closely linked together since last summer, when they engaged in one of the biggest trades in baseball history. That deal brought to Los Angeles slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, speedy outfielder Carl Crawford, starting pitcher Josh Beckett, infielder Nick Punto, and a quarter-billion dollars in payroll.
Reporters on the Red Sox beat had given those players reputations as malcontents. Boston is notorious for being a baseball pressure cooker, and sometimes they can be unfair. Here's an example.
A year after the trade, when the Dodgers reeled off one of the most dominant stretches in history, they got some national attention (there is also an East Coast media bias against the West Coast, but that's another matter). The Boston Globe sent Dan Shaughnessy to Los Angeles to interview Crawford, Gonzalez, Beckett and Punto.
Crawford and Gonzalez refused to speak to him. Shaughnessy writes:
Suddenly, Crawford is at his locker. A radio guy is with him and it looks like they might be planning an interview for later. I walk toward Carl. He sees me and bolts for the door that leads to the "no media" area with the food room and trainer's room. Carl is muttering something as he disappears into the safe haven. From my distance, all I made out is, "[expletive] talk to the [expletive] Boston media . . . ''
It's not like we weren't warned. Back on Wednesday in San Francisco, Boston reporters asked Red Sox PR people to approach Dodgers PR people to see if Crawford and Gonzalez would be made available before the first game in Los Angeles. Early Friday afternoon, we got word that Carl and the Cooler (Gonzalez in the last three seasons has been part of historic folds by the Padres, Red Sox, and Dodgers, hence, "the Cooler") would not be speaking with us.
Gonzalez and Crawford speak regularly to the Los Angeles media, and are widely regarded as good teammates. Both are having productive years outside the Boston fishbowl. You can get a glimpse as to why they were frustrated there.
First, the Cooler. Shaughnessy writes that Gonzalez was "part of" historica folds in the last three seasons, the obvious implication being that he played a role in the late-season swoons. The facts, however, show that Gonzalez batted .319, .318, and .294 in the last month of each of those years. "Cooler" seems to be little more than name-calling.
But baseball players have thicker skin that that.
So Shaughnessy, spurned by the decline for the interview, writes that the married Gonzalez had time to speak with and hug attractive NESN reporter Jenny Dell. Is Shaughnessy subtly but intentionally trying to kick up some dirt?
Finally, Shaughnessy uses a quote from former-Sox-manager-turned-Dodger-broadcaster Kevin Kennedy to bash Crawford and Gonzalez.
"Boston's not for everybody,'' said former Sox manager Kevin Kennedy, now a Los Angeles media guy. "Some people can't handle it.''
People like Carl and the Cooler.
Out of context, Kennedy's quote looks like he's criticizing the two players. However, nobody has been gushing more of Crawford than Kennedy, who broadcast games in Tampa Bay when Crawford played for the Rays. Just about every night he sings Crawford's praises, how he's a great guy, and how unfair the press was in Boston, to the point where it's a bit of a running joke on the program. So here's the context missing from Shaughnessy's article, from the Dodger Talk episode that aired the day after it was published:
"The players like him on the other side," Kennedy said. "A couple media members--I happened to be sitting next to one killed him all the time. I know what that place is like and what they do to you...A couple of those writers absolutely killed him. When I talked to this particular writer he said well he didn't play close to what was in Tampa Bay. I said, 'Yeah I know that'--I said, 'But he was also hurt and he played hurt and he tried to play through it.' Both with his shoulder and his elbow and his wrist."
Seems like Kennedy agrees with Crawford and Gonzalez that the Boston baseball media is unfair. And now we can all see why. Misleading quotes, missing facts, and innuendo are far too common in journalism, whether the story is about professional sports or politics.