Times are changing.

Back in 1989, one needed to make a trip to the local newsstand and gather the courage to purchase a copy of Penthouse magazine to get the dirty lowdown on a big league player, if one trusted the testimony of an alleged mistress.

Today, with a simple keystroke, anyone with access to a computer has the ability to instantly discover when a player is about to be traded, if that player is having an extramarital affair, or even when he is napping in the clubhouse.

Granted, sports journalism has evolved in itself. Now, we have the internet and this thing called “blogging”, where even amateur writers can post up-to-the-minute information about teams, standings, statistics, opinions, when a player gets a haircut, or where the same player may indulge in a post-game beverage. All this information is at our fingertips.

That being said, it’s very difficult for today’s professional sports journalists to stay on top of their games. In their minds, reporting the same old monotonous daily beat just isn’t enough. They still have that itch inside of them to try and set themselves apart from other writers, to compose that one story that’s going to turn the entire sports world upside down.

But the line needs to be drawn somewhere.

On May 9 Larry LaRue, who has been a Seattle Mariners beat reporter since 1988, thought that he uncovered a story that would give him fame and glory as a sportswriter. In retrospect, LaRue, although he doesn’t admit it, probably wishes he would have presented his story differently.

After getting an inside scoop from two younger players on the Mariner squad, LaRue reported that Ken Griffey, Jr. was unavailable to pinch-hit late in a game because he was allegedly asleep in his chair inside the Mariner clubhouse.

And it wasn’t so much about the information rendered– it was how he presented it.

LaRue wrote: “And now, less than 35 games in the 2010 season, Griffey is in his final days as a player. He could lose his job as the left-handed designated hitter within the week. He might lose his position on the 25-man roster nearly as soon. If you want to see Griffey in a Seattle uniform again, watch him on television this week. It could be your last chance.”


Nicely done, Larry; you get word that Junior may have been napping for reasons unbeknown to you, and now you are dictating the retirement terms of one of the greatest players of our generation.


Twenty years ago sportswriters wouldn’t even dream of putting those words into print.




Some 1100 miles down the coast in California, another situation is brewing in Los Angeles.


If the Dodgers weren’t the hottest team in baseball and quickly closing in on the NL West division lead, speculation would be in newspapers and blogs everywhere.


On April 27, Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti appeared on KABC Radio’s “The Peter Tilden Show” and when asked about the dismal performance of his team, he pointed his finger specifically to center fielder Matt Kemp.

Colletti told Tilden that Kemp’s defense and baserunning were below average and speculated aloud whether Kemp’s new contract, a two-year, $10.95 million deal he agreed to in his first winter of arbitration eligibility, might have made Kemp a little too comfortable.

Like LaRue, although he doesn’t admit it, Colletti probably wishes he would have presented his information a bit differently.

Nevertheless, Kemp and Colletti met behind closed doors the following day. And when asked if everything was fine, Colletti stated, “It’s fine with me”. Kemp refused to comment about the details of the meeting.

End of story? Not just yet.

Enter ESPNLosAngeles.com writer Tony Jackson.

Jackson covered the Dodgers for the Los Angeles Daily News for more than five seasons. He has covered Major League Baseball on a regular basis for 15 years in Denver, Cincinnati and Los Angeles.

On Wednesday May 12, during an ESPN SportsNation chat session, Jackson added fuel to a seemingly smoldering fire.

When replying to a question from a Dodger fan named Earl, Jackson stated: “I have it on good authority (NOT from Colletti, from others) that if anything, Ned UNDERSTATED the issues with Kemp. This kid is really full of himself, to the point that it is becoming an issue in the clubhouse.”

And later in the chat, Jackson responded to another question, stating: “Kemp has been somewhat difficult with the media almost from the time he came to the big leagues. What I’m hearing now is that he is difficult for some of the coaches to deal with, that he gets his dander up when they try to offer him advice on certain things. I do know that one coach (I can’t say who) has gone so far as to recommend to the front office that they trade him.”


Is this proper etiquette from a sportswriter with more than 15 years experience in the clubhouse?


Although Kemp has been somewhat scratchy with the media at times this season, these comments from Jackson seem unwarranted. To say to readers everywhere that a coach on the team has recommended a trade for Kemp is outlandish.


Kemp, who is 25-years old, still has a way to go in terms of mental maturity, but his work ethic is stellar, as he is the first player to the stadium everyday working on his fundamentals prior to team functions.


Is Jackson entitled to express any opinions he wishes to his audience? Certainly.


But one can easily sense the lack of respect that Tony Jackson has towards Matt Kemp. One would also say that Jackson should have approached Kemp (and the same with LaRue approaching Griffey) before such statements were made.


As a result of handling the situation the way he did, Larry LaRue is no longer welcome in the Mariner clubhouse. On May 13, Cliff Lee halted his press conference until LaRue left the media room.


And a few months down the road when Tony Jackson approaches Matt Kemp for an interview, Kemp should deny Jackson as well.


Without a doubt, players should be held accountable for their actions; baseball is just too large of a business to have it any other way. Teams are now managed like multi-million dollar corporations, as they should be. But aren’t players entitled to some level of privacy?


And what gives Larry LaRue, a journalist with more than twenty years experience, a genuine right to reveal to the world the terms of Junior’s retirement? Does Tony Jackson have a genuine right to discuss Matt Kemp’s potential problems with his coach? Shouldn’t such situations be resolved behind closed doors?


Twenty years ago there was an imaginary line drawn that the press knew better to cross.


Where does that line exist today?

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