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Has Speaking to the Media Evolved Since Steve Carlton?

A Recent Moment with the Current Philadelphia Phillies Pitching Coach Brings Back Memories of the Great Silent Steve

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COMMENTARY | Once upon a time - 1973 actually - Steve Carlton of the Philadelphia Phillies decided to stop speaking to the media. Lefty was plodding through one of the worst seasons of his career when the local press got wind of some of the pitcher's unusual training methods and began questioning them. Thus began a moratorium on Carlton quotes for the rest of his days in a Phillies' uniform.

From time to time during the silent era that would run until Carlton was traded to San Francisco in 1986, the question would arise about his responsibility to media. Should Carlton have been compelled to answer questions from the press? It would have been interesting to see how he reacted had that been the case.

Today's media wouldn't stand for it. If interaction with the press isn't required in the major pro and NCAA sports, it's certainly expected. And with today's social media, it appears most athletes are responding anyway before they're even asked.

That's not to say some inquiries aren't met with resistance anymore. A quick search of YouTube will uncover any number of memorable rants by an irate coach or player that was caught on camera. But Phillies' pitching coach Rich Dubee had a bit of a different take on Sunday when asked about the recent upturn in the fortunes of Roy Halladay.

He answered by saying he didn't want to talk about it. What he did do was chastise reporters for what he saw a trashing the star pitcher previously over his struggles with mechanics and velocity dating back to his shoulder problems of last year. More than a few people have wondered of the end of the line is near for one of the best pitchers of the 21st century.

Now that Halladay seems to be finding his way in recent appearances, Dubee was asked for his take on that. He chose not to discuss it other than standing by team policy of allowing the great pitcher to do exactly that - find his way. Then he chose to sort of rant in reverse instead.

That's all well and good, but Dubee seems to be missing the role of the media, which is hardly unusual even for people who deal with it regularly. Halladay's fallibility has been a topic for discussion around Philadelphia bars and water coolers since spring training. Just because the pitcher said he felt fine and merely needed to make mental adjustments didn't remove that doubt. No one has ever challenged Halladay's grit and commitment. But considering his age - he'll be 36 next month - and his importance in the Phillies' big picture this year, questions about each performance are bound to include his own big picture.

No one takes well to criticism, even when it's not personal, as media assessments are never supposed to be. When the community is watching every play and you lose, it's the media responsibility to get your take on why, just as it is when you win. Because this is all unfolding before all the eyes in the world should they be looking in your direction at the ballpark, on TV or on the Internet, it's only natural for people to make some judgments of their own. It's also the media's responsibility to ask for your take on their take.

There was a time long before Steve Carlton's playing days that media scrutiny was limited and the key figures in the game had the option of ignoring it. But in today's world where everyone and their mother seems to have a video camera and a blog, the key figures have no place to hide.

To be sure, technology and information access have evolved beyond our wildest dreams. But thick skins still have a long way to go.

Ted Williams lives in Emmaus, PA and is a lifetime Phillies follower. He spent 20 years in print journalism, winning state and national awards. He covered the 1980 World Series, the first championship in Phillies history.

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