A lot is being made right now of the Kevin Hart/Steven Jackson situation from last night. No, this situation had nothing to do with their on-field performance. It had to do with what happened in the locker room after the game.
Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and John Perrotto of Pirates Report both write about how Kevin Hart avoided the media after the game, while Steven Jackson sent word through the media relations director that he would not be commenting on the game.
From my perspective, I could care less whether Hart or Jackson talk after the game. It’s not like we’re going to hear earth shattering material. It would probably be the usual “It was a tough outing”, “It’s always hard to lose a game like that”, “I’m hoping to do a better job next time” comments. The only time the audio clips are earth shattering are when the player says something totally astounding (hello, Ian Snell). I’m not saying the audio files aren’t a good source of information, it’s just something that’s never appealed to me (right up there with MLB.com chats with Frank Coonelly, and the opinion of a player from the agent selling that player’s services).
That being said, I can understand the frustration from Kovacevic and Perrotto. It’s their job to provide content from the game. When guys like Hart and Jackson refuse to comment, they can’t do their jobs. Taking the situation to the extreme, if no players talked to the media at all, what would separate Kovacevic and Perrotto from someone like myself, just providing opinions and comments on the Pirates without access to the players? The only difference is that they rely on a paycheck for their work. My paycheck will come from teaching middle or high school math (as soon as I finish my certification), which is why the situation with Hart/Jackson doesn’t bother me as much. It doesn’t directly impact me.
In my opinion, Hart and Jackson should have talked to the media, for reasons outlined above. They are preventing guys like Kovacevic and Perrotto (two guys who I read daily) from doing their jobs. On the other side of that, I consider this a situation between the players and the media. I don’t think Hart’s “no comment” should take anything away from his quality start which put the Pirates in line for a win. I don’t think Jackson’s “no comment” should make his outing considered to be any worse, or his demotion any more deserving.
As I’ve said before, I have no clue what’s happening behind the clubhouse door, but I can speculate why these players didn’t want to comment.
In Hart’s case, he was in the rotation with the Chicago Cubs, a team currently in first place in the NL Central. Hart made four starts with the Cubs, with a 2.86 ERA in those four starts, and a 3-1 record as a result. His first start for the Pirates wasn’t bad. He left the game in line for the win, with the Pirates on top 6-3, needing nine more outs to win. Not only did the Pirates bullpen allow three runs in the next two innings to give Hart a no-decision, but they failed to score in the six innings following their four runs in the bottom of the sixth, despite having a great chance to win in the bottom of the 11th. That’s got to be frustrating for Hart, who went from pitching on a playoff contender, to pitching for a team contending for the number one draft pick next year.
In Jackson’s case, he allowed five runs in two innings of work, picking up the loss, and was subsequently demoted to AAA. Dejan Kovacevic mentions that most pitchers talk even when they are demoted to AAA. Jackson’s case doesn’t seem that black and white. The interview request came right after allowing five runs in the top of the 12th, sealing off a very disappointing loss, capped off with his second trip to AAA in the span of a month. So I could see how he would be more frustrated than the average person getting an interview request right after being sent down.
Overall I can see why Kovacevic and Perrotto are upset. I can also understand some circumstances why Hart and Jackson may be too frustrated to comment, although I have no clue if these circumstances are the case here. In the end I’d have to say that Hart and Jackson should have commented. They’re preventing guys like Kovacevic and Perrotto from doing their jobs. In the long run, that has an impact on the game of baseball, as the more publicity baseball gets, the better the game does. Maybe that’s not as important on a nation-wide scale, but in a city where two sports teams are reigning champions, and the third team is in a rebuilding process while losing their 17th year in a row, the third team can’t afford to stay out of the media.
The situation kind of seems like a smaller scale version of the Roger Maris vs the media conflict in the move “61*”. I’m not saying that Kevin Hart is losing any hair over the media requests. What I am saying is that it’s a situation between the media and the players, with the fans getting drawn in to the situation and picking sides, and perhaps unfairly judging certain players in the process.