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Baseball players should play, not answer questions, during broadcasts

The broadcasters are trying to interview without distracting, the player is trying to listen while playing and the viewer is trying not to cringe at all of it.

In-game interviews with managers, such as the Cubs’ David Ross, often provide little insight.
In-game interviews with managers, such as the Cubs’ David Ross, often provide little insight.
ESPN/MLB.TV

Dave Roberts has won two National League pennants and five NL West titles as manager of the Dodgers, and I … I have not.

However, we do have something in common: We don’t like in-game player interviews.

To be clear, Roberts was interviewed between innings during games on the Dodgers’ SportsNet LA all season. So he doesn’t seem to mind managers being interviewed. But Roberts is no fan of players being interviewed during games, fearing they’ll be distracted.

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner agreed to be interviewed in the field for an inning during a wild-card series game last week. It went off without a hitch, but Roberts made his feelings known afterward.

“I think that’s a decision Justin made,” he told reporters. “But I don’t see that happening with our guys going forward.”

In-game player interviews have become more prevalent this season as MLB tries to connect fans with players. Networks have mic’d up players in spring-training games and the All-Star Game to positive reviews. You might recall the show the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant put on for ESPN in March.

But interviewing players in games that matter is out of place. Even with all the downtime during a baseball game, asking players to carry on a conversation while the ball is live is asking a lot, even if they’re willing to cooperate, which MLB and the players’ union have pushed.

During a Cardinals-Cubs game last month, Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong was mic’d up on the field for an interview with ESPN’s Matt Vasgersian and Alex Rodriguez. As DeJong went for a grounder, the earpiece popped out, and he bobbled the ball. After the game, he said he lost his concentration.

DeJong still said he enjoyed the interview, but it’s an awkward situation for everyone. The broadcasters are trying to interview the player without distracting him, the player is trying to listen to and answer questions while playing and the viewer is trying not to cringe at all of it.

I suppose it was interesting to learn about DeJong’s science background and his experiment with the effect of temperature on baseballs. But networks have developed a bad habit of detracting from the game, ESPN in particular, and these interviews can break the flow of a broadcast.

They also can cause trouble. During Game 3 of the White Sox-Athletics wild-card series last week, A’s center fielder Ramon Laureano dropped an F-bomb that ESPN’s censors missed and other cuss words that were caught.

Laureano had the misfortune of having three balls hit his way while being mic’d. You might think that’d be good for the broadcast, but play-by-play voice Dave Flemming went silent on those plays to not distract Laureano or talk over anything he might say. At least one of them could have used description.

Networks can stop interviewing the managers, too. The skippers have too much running through their mind and offer little of import. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt abruptly ended an interview in that Cardinals-Cubs game, saying, “Hey, guys, I gotta go manage,” as Harrison Bader hit a leadoff double.

If the broadcasters do get a question in, they can waste them. During Game 2 of the Marlins-Cubs wild-card series last week, ESPN’s Jon Sciambi asked manager David Ross about his gaiter and told him he couldn’t tell him and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy apart when they each wore one.

I like Sciambi, but what was the point of that?

Interviews belong before and after baseball games. Networks’ need to fill downtime with them is misplaced. They should take the sensible approach: Just call the game.