October 21, 2011
ST. LOUIS — As the rest of us debate whether or not Albert Pujols(notes) and the other St. Louis Cardinals stars were in the wrong for bolting early on Thursday night, Lance Berkman(notes) took to the satellite waves on Friday afternoon to defend their early exits from Busch Stadium.
Speaking to hosts Jody McDonald and Kevin Kennedy of MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM, Berkman said that he, Pujols, Matt Holliday(notes) and Yadier Molina(notes) left early because they did not believe they had played key roles in the game and that contributors like starter Jaime Garcia(notes) and pinch hitter Allen Craig(notes) would be able to handle the media crush.
Berkman also said the fact that none of those four players were asked to speak in the media interview room after their 2-1 loss in Game 2 played a part. The interview room normally provides a much more-controlled environment.
"I just, I kinda wanted to call in and defend our guys because I feel like we have an upstanding group. And the thing about the World Series, as you guys know, is the media crush is pretty remarkable and, for that reason, they do have that interview room set up where they can request to talk to who they want to talk to and that way you avoid having to answer the same question 500 times. It's not a matter of our guys not wanting to accept responsibility for anything that happens. We have a group of stand-up guys that always take responsibility. And this is a little different than the regular season when you might have 10 different reporters in there, some beat guys maybe. You're talking about probably 100 to 150 media people in there and it seems like they are not satisfied with the things that [are] set up where they can all go to the media room and ask pertinent questions to the key players in the ball game. It's like they all want their own individual interview and you can literally spend an hour and a half after the game answering everybody's questions. Everybody has family here. The games are late. We're leaving early. There's all kinds of factors. It's not simply a matter of running away and hiding and not wanting to talk about a tough loss. So I think that needs to be said. And my question is: At what point does the player's responsibility end? Do you have to stay there an hour? Do you have to answer every single question? Do you have to answer only the questions from the major networks? How do you define taking responsibility?"
"What ends up happening, and I've done plenty of these and done plenty of them in the postseason, you stand at your locker, you get asked questions about the game and the next thing you know you're answering the same questions for a new group of reporters, and then 15 minutes later you're answering the exact same questions for a new group of reporters. And it becomes so redundant. And I agree with what you guys said, that the players do have a responsibility to take time with the media and to give insight but by the same token neither Matt, nor I, nor Albert had really anything to do with that game last night. None of us did much of anything in the game and the real story was the Allen Craig hit and the Jaime Garcia start and if you want to talk to Jason Motte(notes), the closer, I mean, those are the things that really had a bearing on what happened during the game. And I understand wanting a star's perspective but I just don't see that that is an undeniable right of the media to talk to whomever they want to, whenever they want to under any circumstances."
Berkman's concerns about the inconvenience of the whole situation are well-founded. It's far from a perfect situation and it's not like reporters relish being part of the mob as they try to get their work done. We've already gone round and round about what a star's responsibility might be to the media, his fans and his teammates, so there's probably no reason to go on any longer (though I do want to point out that the mob of 100-150 reporters becomes a lot more manageable and spread out if there are more players to talk with).
I will say this, however: The normal interview room procedure after a postgame loss is to bring the losing manager in for an interview, followed by the winning manager and two or three winning players. It's a very rare situation when a losing player is made available. If what Berkman is saying is true and they were under the impression that no one wanted to interview them in the media room, then it's a breakdown on the part of the league's public relations people. If Berkman doesn't like doing five waves of interviews, then his postgame guidelines are also something that should be laid down beforehand and better enforced by a media rep. We'll see if the situation gets fixed going forward.