Like many of you, I came across Bob Brookover and Frank Fitzpatrick's articles in Sunday morning's Inquirer on Ryan Howard's rehab down in Clearwater and thought they might cause a stir. Turns out they did.
You can read Brookover's full piece here, but the basics are that he was twice removed from Bright House Field last week, as the Phillies are attempting to keep Howard's workouts media-free. Needless to say, Brookover wasn't happy with the treatment and the article isn't exactly "pro-organization" in its tone.
Fitzpatrick's piece, on the other hand, is a bit more problematic, as it questions the Phillies' rationale for administering a cortisone shot to Howard last September and how that decision may have contributed to the rupture of his Achilles just three weeks later.
On Sunday, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. -- who is quoted in Brookover's piece as saying he's "uncomfortable" with having a player's rehab become "a public issue" -- addressed the team's beat writers and denied that the team had endangered Howard's health.
ESPN's Jayson Stark offers these tweets on the media's access to Howard:
Ruben Amaro on #Phillies efforts to keep Inquirer reporter from seeing Ryan Howard rehab: "Not trying to hide things. That's not our job..."
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) May 20, 2012
Amaro said #Phillies just want to make sure Howard "gets ready at his own pace without having (media) people get involved."
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) May 20, 2012
As for the cortisone controversy, Amaro firmly denied that the shot and Howard's injury were related.
"I wanted to clear up some of the insinuations regarding a cortisone shot," Amaro said Sunday during Philadelphia's game against Boston [via the AP]. "The cortisone shot was treated for some (other) issue he had. It was not part of the Achilles' injury. We didn't feel it was an issue. That was resolved by the time he had his injury. One thing had nothing to do with the other."
"We're probably one of the most conservative clubs in baseball in administering treatment, and we always want to make sure we have the player's best interest."
Inqy Phils scribe Matt Gelb, an obvious colleague of Brookover and Fitzpatrick, wasn't exactly thrilled with the reaction and pointed out how the Phils could have been out in front of this story, rather than behind it:
The Inquirer offered the Phillies plenty of opportunities to comment before stories ran. Now team and Amaro cries foul.
— Matt Gelb (@magelb) May 20, 2012
Gelb also mentions in a separate tweet that "they," the Phillies, are more upset with the implications in the cortisone story than the access story.
He frames the dispute as the Inquirer merely attempting to report on the rehabilitation of a player who, he reminds us, is owed $125 million.
Much in that same vein, Brookover wrote in his piece:
"If you're willing to put down $20 to $40 a ticket for a ball game and you have an interest in the team, it's not unreasonable to want a firsthand progress report about the Phillies position player making the most money... We're paid to be the eyes of the fans and we have access to the places they cannot go."
This isn't the first time local beat writers have taken issue with a team's front office over access to specific players, but those matters have more involved a certain hockey team. In previous discussions on these issues, many of you have commented that you've been less concerned with the media's perceived slights and more concerned with success on the field/ice/court.
That said, if the Phillies don't have anything to hide, and I'm not saying they do, is it unreasonable to expect reports on the recovery of a star player?
Assuming the Inquirer did offer the Phillies a chance to comment on both articles, the club could have squashed some of this in advance without having to do damage control after the fact.
There's a number of issues at hand here, including some real petty stuff back and forth about the difference between media access during spring training versus rehabilitation stints in-season, but where do you stand on the Phillies controlling the coverage of an injured superstar?
Update: Courtesy CSNPhilly.com, who has it via NBC10's Howard Eskin, this cell phone video of Ruben Amaro addressing reporters at the meeting: