Reporters Are Allowed To Report
11:25 AM EDT on October 13, 2023
Sometimes it's hard to shake the feeling that the MLB playoffs are specifically designed to eternally reproduce the most annoying conversations in sports. Every year we get Is Clayton Kershaw actually bad? and Does the regular season even matter anymore?? and Playoff expansion ruined my life??????? We got all of those again this year, with the added bonus of an even worse topic of debate entering the discourse, that being: Is it in fact a crime against journalism and human decency for a reporter to report things?
This all started with Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia talking some objectively mild shit about Bryce Harper after Game 2 of the NLDS. Arcia shouted, "Atta boy, Harper!" several times in reference to the fact that Harper ended Game 2 by getting thrown out on the base paths. Arcia did this in a room full of reporters, voice recorders, and video cameras. Fox Sports reporter Jake Mintz included what Arcia said in his game story, as did the Washington Post's Chelsea Janes, though she did not identify Arcia by name because she didn't see who was doing the shouting. By now we all know that none of this worked out very well for Arcia and the Braves.
It was lame but not necessarily surprising when the Braves were sour about this after their loss in Game 3. Arcia indicated that he didn't believe the things he said out loud in the clubhouse during media availability should be considered on the record, and Travis d'Arnaud said some dumb stuff about how the "sanctuary" of the clubhouse had been breached. What was more surprising, and thus much more lame, was how many other players and media members were willing to side with Arcia and d'Arnaud. The Braves received particularly vociferous support from MLB Network contributor Alanna Rizzo, who was previously a member of the broadcast teams for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies and has spent a lot of time in MLB clubhouses. She went on High Heat on Thursday and lit into Mintz, calling him a "jackoff" and an "idiot," for doing his job.
"I am so irritated with all of these people, these bloggers, or podcasters, not even reporters, not even journalists, going into the clubhouse," said Rizzo. "You're ruining it for the rest of us. The guys that come in in the postseason, and don't have any clue of the pulse of the team, it's making it worse for the people that are there every single day.
"The clubhouse is a sacred space. I've been in clubhouses for the last 16, 17 years, and I remember I would go in there, get my job done, and get out. That is their space. So for this idiot to go in there and take something out of context, just to give himself a name, is ridiculous. And I completely understand what Travis d'Arnaud is saying."
The clubhouse may be a "sacred space" for players much of the time, but not during open media availability. The difference between a closed clubhouse and an open clubhouse does not exist in some gray area, nor is it up for interpretation. The amount of time that reporters are allowed in the clubhouse and the access that they have to players are both governed by specific clauses in MLB's collective bargaining agreement, which is ratified by the players. It's certainly possible that not every player understands how media availability works and wrongly assumes that everything they say in the clubhouse is off the record unless explicitly stated otherwise, but that's not correct and any misconception is not anyone in the media's fault.
The weirdest thing about this controversy is that Mintz's reporting didn't cause any material harm to anyone. You could see how players and media members might be upset if he had reported some embarrassing personal detail about Arcia that was being talked about in the locker room, but all he did was accurately portray Arcia's thoughts and feelings. That's his job as a reporter: to paint a picture for readers and give them insight into how the Braves were feeling after their Game 2 victory. If Arcia and the Braves feel that Mintz's portrayal was an unflattering one, their real problem was that it was accurate.
Update (1:41 p.m.): Rizzo went back on the air today and apologized to Mintz.