ESPN entered uncharted territory with its broadcasts during the MLB playoffs this week, as the network mic’d up players for in-game interviews. While they were playing.
MLB on-field player interviews are here, and Dave Roberts isn’t happy
The veteran infielder is simultaneously tasked with fielding his position as well as questions from the ESPN broadcast booth. At one point, Turner’s earpierce appeared to cut out.
Interviews with managers or inactive players during a game are a fixture of national broadcasts these days, but in-game interviews with players on the field are becoming increasingly common. They are often seen in spring training and the All-Star Game, and even in the regular season lately. Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo received praise for one such appearance in spring training this year.
However, interviewing a player as he attempts to play in a postseason game, which is infinitely more consequential than a spring training or All-Star Game, rubbed at least one person the wrong way: Turner’s manager.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters on Friday that he only learned of ESPN’s plan an hour before the game and said there would be no repeat performance on his team.
#Dodgers Dave Roberts said he "got wind of" ESPN plan for in-game interview with Justin Turner about an hour before the game yesterday. Roberts was not happy about it and said going forward LAD players will not be doing any more of that.— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) October 1, 2020
So that’s one unsatisfied customer. Another might have been ESPN the following day, when it mic’d up Oakland Athletics outfielder Ramon Laureano for a winner-take-all Game 3 against the Chicago White Sox.
A’s outfielder drops an F-bomb while mic’d up
While being interviewed as he occupied center field, Laureano had to field a double hit by Eloy Jiménez. Laureano’s reaction to the play was, um, NSFW.
It’s important to note here that Turner and Laureano were not forced to do this by ESPN, MLB or anyone else. As MLB reporter Robert Murray noted Friday, networks often ask players to do such interviews and are often told no.
The exercise is purely voluntary.
This is important context. Have heard from other player representatives that networks ask many players to do in-game interviews and are often turned down with “no pushback and zero pressure.”— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) October 1, 2020
Ultimately, Laureano had a choice and agreed to it. https://t.co/A35dxtt9Me
Still, it’s hard to imagine, say, LeBron James talking to ESPN announcers as he runs the floor in the NBA playoffs, or a linebacker breaking down what he’s seeing from an offense while on the field.
Baseball’s significant down time for fielders between balls in play makes it structurally different from those sports, but that doesn’t mean a manager is going to be happy knowing one of his fielders will have part of his attention elsewhere during a playoff game.
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