Thursday, May 19, 2011

Waiting for Dejan Kovacevic's Retraction or Apology on Tony Sanchez and Twittergate

(Some of the links for this entry require a PG+ subscription. My apologies. This was originally published on my Extra Innings blog yesterday.)

This topic has been blown completely out of proportion and I think the Pittsburgh media missed the mark in a big way. Tony Sanchez said a bunch of things he shouldn't have on Twitter. He ripped the umps after a game and essentially accused them of cheating. He ripped the city of Altoona (where he plays) a few times or at least that's how it came off regardless of his intentions. It is certainly how I read those tweets.

I honestly was surprised that someone didn't discuss this with him sooner, but yesterday he signed off Twitter permanently. The media immediately jumped to the conclusion that the Pirates forced Sanchez to shutter his account and subsequently killed the organization. Dejan Kovacevic wrote that Sanchez, "...did this under orders from baseball operations." He continued, "That's yet another sign how thin-skinned this management team is." John Perrotto tweeted, "Memo to #Pirates catching prospect Tony Sanchez: Free speech is permissible in this country, don't be strong-armed by a paranoid employer."

(In response to Perrotto's tweet a commentator at the excellent Pirates blog BucsDugout wrote the following:
A journalist of all people should know that free speech as protected by the First Amendment means that the government isn’t allowed to regulate your speech. It doesn’t mean that your employer can’t fire your ass for saying something they dislike; there’s ample court precedent that your employer can discipline you up to and including firing you for pretty much any reason, including things you say off the job, if you don’t have a contract that says they can’t.
Rather than coming of as a protector of free speech, Perrotto comes off as uninformed. These journalists don't have any concern for Sanchez, they only have their own selfish interests in mind and want to have easy access to Sanchez and his comments through Twitter.)

While Kovacevic acknowledges Sanchez's "dumb" tweets, he doesn't seem to recognize, or at least doesn't state in print, the negative implications those tweets have for the player or team, particularly after it was widely reported that the Eastern League was looking into the situation and considering suspending Sanchez. I just can't fathom how this isn't blindingly obvious.

Dejan updated his blog last evening to state that the Pirates' Kyle Stark, Director of Player Development, emailed him to say, "The organization has not told any player they cannot use Twitter." Kovacevic added, "That was the whole statement," seemingly suggesting he deserved a longer explanation.

He got one today from Pirates President Frank Coonelly who shared his thoughts with Kovacevic. The opening line of Coonelly's statement to DK reads, "The Pirates did not force Tony to shut down his Twitter account." He goes on to discuss Sanchez's obligation to be professional, the Eastern League and MLB contact with the team and their concerns and how tweets can be misinterpreted. In discussing social media Coonelly reiterates "...we have not banned players from doing so."

This all seems pretty clear to me. The Pirates organization as a whole has a job to help the young men under contract to the organization develop into the best baseball players they can possibly be. In an attempt to further educate and develop Tony Sanchez, someone from the organization had a conversation with him about his Twitter account. It is a conversation that I, as his agent or father, would have had weeks ago. After the conversation, Sanchez decided to close the account.

After printing Coonelly's response, Kovacevic writes, "We can debate all day the semantics as to whether or not the Pirates indirectly told Sanchez to stop tweeting..." We can. The Pirates definitely wanted to get a point across. What we can't debate is whether Kovacevic owes the organization an apology or at least needs to retract his initial statement that, "He did this under orders from baseball operations." Kyle Stark and Frank Coonelly have both responded that the team did not order him to close his account. Kovacevic said they did. He should either correct himself or he is inherently saying the Pirates are lying to him. Let's see what he does.

UPDATE: Not surprisingly, Kovacevic is not going to apologize or retract his statement. To quote another commentor from Bucs Dugout
Have we really reached the point where management telling an employee to be professional is considered thin-skinned and oppressive? I mean, what Sanchez said about those umpires WAS unprofessional, by just about any imaginable standard.
I don't know if it's his ego, his clear dislike of the Pirates' front office or both, but Kovacevic is wrong here. He's hiding behind semantics and missing the larger point. I expected better.


cocktailsfor2 said...

Perrotto misinformed?


Guillemineg said...

Great callout. I didn't read the original piece, but it sounds as if Kovacevic is really bemoaning the fact that he will have fewer chances to report on controversial comments from players, which is completely hypocritical. One of the worst elements of sports reporting is the hack who keeps trying to tease a "quotable" comment out so he can splash it across the front page and rip the player. I'm sure he'd be rooting hard fo rfree speech if Sanchez had posted something about the fawning nature of Pittsburgh press or their lousy reporting ... 

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