These MLB playoffs have seen several broadcasts conduct in-game interviews with players while they’re in the field, and that’s led to some unusual situations. On Thursday, the broadcast aired a f-bomb from Oakland A’s center fielder Ramón Laureano during a play, and then bleeped out a later one. But it’s not the A’s who are upset about this practice (seen before during All-Star games, spring training games, and even some regular season games, but not the postseason) at the moment. Rather, it’s Los Angeles Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts (seen above during a team workout Tuesday).
During the Dodgers’ wild card game against the Milwaukee Brewers Wednesday, third baseman Justin Turner wore a microphone for an inning and did an in-game interview with ESPN’s broadcast crew. Unlike what happened with Laureano, nothing was hit near Turner that inning, and he continued the interview from the dugout in the bottom half of the inning and wrapped it up before he returned to the field. But Roberts still wasn’t happy about it, and while he can’t specifically ban this practice (it’s an arrangement between broadcasters and the players’ union, and it only happens if players agree), he said ahead of the team’s game Thursday that he doesn’t like the idea of his players doing it. Here’s more on that from Bill Plunkett of The Orange County Register:
“I got wind of it about an hour before the game and personally I’m not a fan of it,” Roberts said. “I just — I don’t know the arrangement and I learned late. So I don’t know. Baseball is kind of evolving. But yeah, I just — I don’t know. I don’t know.”
…“I think that’s a decision Justin made. But I don’t see that happening with our guys going forward. Going forward, I don’t want our guys to do that.”
“But I do think that if there’s any player that can balance it and still be present, it is certainly Justin. But I just personally — I think that I wouldn’t mind if (Brewers outfielder Christian) Yelich did it or any other team we’re playing.”
When it comes to the distraction element, we haven’t seen notable effects on play yet. And if anyone can separate out talking to broadcasters between plays and still making plays when called upon, ultra-focused professional athletes are probably the ones, and they are choosing to do this. But Roberts’ perspective that this does perhaps pose a threat of distraction isn’t necessarily invalid, and if a player makes a mistake while wearing a mic for a live in-game interview, there’s definitely going to be some blame placed on that interview.
So it’s certainly understandable why Roberts would rather just avoid this. And that’s especially considering that his primary job as a manager is to find every little edge he can to help his team win and avoid every possible pitfall; he’s not really out there to promote the game or help the broadcast. And there’s a whole lot of debate about if this does either of those things; there’s been a lot of criticism for this idea from fans, media, and even active players, and it’s not clear that it enhances the broadcast or gets anyone new to watch. And while Plunkett notes that Roberts himself has been doing between-innings interviews during regular-season games on SportsNet LA this year, there are several differences there; he’s not actively involved in the play on the field, those usually aren’t carrying into the on-field play much, and that’s the regular season. (And there are plenty of during-play interviews during the regular season that haven’t stoked much controversy, and that’s because they’ve been conducted with managers, or with not-currently-participating pitchers or hitters.)
Are Roberts’ criticisms going to change anything? Not necessarily. He can’t directly stop players on his team from doing this (although they might opt to stop to not upset their manager), and he certainly can’t stop anyone else from around baseball. But his criticisms are certainly notable. And they illustrate that this in-game interview idea really isn’t going over well with a lot of people, both inside and outside baseball’s clubhouses.
[The Orange County Register; photo from Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports]