Paul: Reds could use lesson from Tigers in team-reporter relationships

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Bryan Price

Detroit -- Bryan Price probably needs to expand his vocabulary -- as well as his understanding about the role of sports journalists.

The second-year manager of the Cincinnati Reds had it out with reporters before Monday's game, accusing them of not helping his team.

You see, a long-time and respectable reporter from the Cincinnati Enquirer had the gall to break the news that a) catcher Devin Mesoraco hadn't made the trip to Milwaukee, and b) a catching prospect was being promoted.

Price took exception to this.

On the first count, he was furious the reporter had made public the fact the Reds would be without Mesoraco, because he felt that would give the Brewers an unfair advantage.

And on the second count, he was furious because he hadn't yet told another other young catcher that he was being demoted.

Price made his feelings known in a six-minute-plus rant that was laced with 77 f-bombs, and a few other profanities for good measure.

It had the vibe of the famous Lee Elia rant from 32 years ago, when the Cubs manager went off on the fans.

The Elia rant was hilarious.

But the Price rant was just sad.

And it's sad, because Price's rant was, in many ways, an indictment on the state of sports journalism today.

The lines in sports journalism have never been blurrier than they are right now, because there have never been more sports journalists than there are right now -- between the traditional newspapers, websites, magazines, TV stations and radio outlets, and the writers from team websites and fan blogs.

What Price suggested -- that the reporters should be looking out for the Reds -- is downright silly, but you should understand why he'd actually believe that.

That's because these days, most professional sports teams employ their own reporters for their own websites, and in almost all cases those reporters are used to relay the team's preferred message to the fan base.

That's not to say many of those team-employed reporters aren't quality writers and analysts; it's just that their criticism often is tempered, often significantly so.

The Tigers, Lions, Pistons and Red Wings all have reporters for their websites, as does Michigan and Michigan State.

The Tigers do not pay their reporter, Jason Beck. Beck, and his colleagues who cover the other 29 teams, are paid by Major League Baseball, and each of the stories ends with the disclaimer that the story was not subject to approval from the league.

But then you see that pretty much ignored the Price meltdown, and that looks awfully bad -- and helps to validate what Price was saying, or screaming.

This has the potential to be a great era for sports journalism, given all the choices fans have today, from the dailies to Grantland to Bleacher Report.

Fans, though, need to know what they're reading, and consider the source -- and decide for themselves if they're getting real analysis, or some level of spin.

Meanwhile, Price needs to understand that no matter how hard he tries, he can't control the media, and the media is not there to be his personal mouthpiece. C. Trent Rosencrans is paid by the Cincinnati Enquirer, not the Reds. Just like I'm paid by The Detroit News, and not the Tigers.

I'll give the Tigers credit, by the way. I heard Jim Leyland swear a lot -- including one beautiful rant of his own -- but I never once heard him tell the media what their job is, the same with Brad Ausmus, the same with Dave Dombrowski and the same with Ron Colangelo, vice president of communications.

They don't always like what I write. They like what I tweet even less.

But they know the barriers, they know who signs my checks, they know it's my job to dig for the truth, which doesn't always coincide with the team's official message.

In short, they know what Price doesn't: It's not my job to help out the team.

Last July, about a week before the Tigers traded for David Price, I reported the Tigers were discussing a possible blockbuster deal for the lefty. Now, that was of zero help to the Tigers, myself having let everyone -- including division rivals -- know who their chief target appeared to be.

So, how many calls did I get from Dombrowski or Colangelo or Ausmus? Zero.

That's because the Tigers respect our jobs, like we respect theirs.

Bryan Price could use a lesson there.

I suspect given the attention his blowup has received, the crash course already has begun.