Ever spoken with a recently terminated employee? Ever heard what they have to say about their former employer? Even if you haven’t, if you read the comments from Mat Latos in an interview with Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, you’ll see how it goes.

Sour. Slanted and bitter. Often alarmingly transparent. Latos actually nailed it to a single “T.”

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to what he said—or at least some of it.

The comments regarding the medical staff were fraudulent and insulting. I don’t have any special insight on the matter, but anyone can Google back to last June and read how not only eager Latos was to return to the mound, but how miffed he was at the idea of another minor league stint. 

“It’s pretty bogus I have to go on another rehab assignment,” Latos said to John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer. “But it it is what it is. I don’t make the decisions around here. I’m a puppet on a string. I get told to do what I need to do and I do it.”

Bogus indeed. And while nothing would impress @SportsDad more, the fact of the matter is that we know by his very own admission he wasn’t being rushed back. So personally speaking, I gave little thought or merit to any comments regarding the medical staff. 

And it makes sense why he’d point the finger at them. Right now, Latos is damaged goods. He unwillingly wears the tag like an American Eagle shirt does its logo. Multiple stints on the DL will do that—it’s beyond his control. So a comment like that selfishly removes accountability, making it more about the doctors than his body, an important detail as he nears free agency.

It’s the comments about the clubhouse that interest me most. Comments about preparation, dedication, leadership—the kinds of things Reds fans have been talking about since Scott Rolen retired and Dusty Baker was left to juggle the egos of 25 professional athletes, or chainsaws for short. 

Many considered Baker’s inability to do this as a massive shortcoming. Baseball managers aren’t so much about X’s and O’s as they are about establishing a pace or a tone—an expectation. And with Baker’s dismissal came the expectation that new manager Bryan Price may satisfy that need.

“A culture of accountability,” it was called in an interview with Paul Daugherty of The Cincinnati Enquirer, via The Indianapolis Star.

So naturally—and especially if you were particularly not fond of Dusty Baker—Latos‘ comments about the clubhouse may be too tough to swallow or at least a little unpleasant going down. Because if there is any degree of truth to what Latos said, then the culture of accountability was about as real as Narnia.

And that means, maybe, belief in Price changing the culture is just as fictional. Maybe.

Of course, anything we take from the spat is speculative. But why would Latos go into that much detail about player behavior if it wasn’t true? Why would he boldly list years of service or player roles—clues for us to determine who he was talking about? How does that serve him?

Because he was hurt? And in typical fashion, like we discussed at the beginning of this article, because bitter former employees lash out to ease the pain?

OK. Let’s say that’s the case. Let’s proceed as if Latos‘ assumed Johnny Cueto jealousy is real and it’s the crux of the malice Latos is dishing. Remove Latos from the equation.

Would you honestly be shocked to hear Aroldis Chapman was sleeping in the clubhouse early in games? Would you really be baffled to hear that there’s been a serious leadership void post Rolen and Bronson Arroyo? 

Of course you wouldn’t, because leadership was already a topic of concern. Remember Paul Daugherty’s article in The Cincinnati Enquirer, authored some eight days before Latos dropped the bomb—an article entitled, “Bryan Price says Reds problem isn’t leadership.” 

Leadership was already a hot topic. And while the temptation to dismiss Latos like an agitated, resentful former employee is enormous, there could be an uncomfortably large degree of truth to what he said about the Reds’ clubhouse.

There is typically truth to the words from an employee who leaves his or her organization on unfavorable terms. That’s why most companies have separation agreements. Latos needed a separation agreement. 

And what about the good things he said? Why did he go at lengths to acknowledge specific players? No doubt they were friends, but his comments about them seemed pretty genuine, no? How does discussing Joey Votto’s criticism and how wrong it is play into the narrative of the dishonest, bitter former employee?

A common reaction to Latos‘ comments is that he’s only demonstrating what a terrible leader he was. But so what? What does that matter, and how is that relevant to the Reds now that he’s pitching for the Miami Marlins? Who in Cincinnati cares about Mat Latos‘ leadership now? It’s about the team he left behind. And it’s plausible that team has a serious void in leadership, the same gap fans have routinely questioned for nearly three years; the same gap that Reds ownership sold us on being filled.

I can’t emphasize enough that I’m not validating any of what Latos said. I’m suggesting there’s a reason he said it. I’m suggesting that there probably is a void in leadership, and I’m suggesting you already know this. So knowing that from the beginning, you have to at least acknowledge what Latos said as more than just “tabloid B.S.,” as Price described it to C. Trent Rosecrans of The Cincinnati Enquirer, via USA Today.

“If this was a court of law, the cross examination would go after the credibility of the witness,” said Reds starter Homer Bailey in the same article. Indeed. But this isn’t court and Latos’ testimony is very admissible.

Were the comments unfair? Absolutely. But what does fair have to do with it? Latos‘ maturity and his reluctance to demonstrate how improved it is will mean more to his agent after next season. But the Reds’ apparent inability to find a leader and set an expectation in the clubhouse may mean a little more to you. 

If it’s true, of course. 

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