Translating Baseball Interviews 101
Baseball is back and with all the predictions out of the way everyone has kicked it up several notches as the warm Florida days are a thing of the past. We were all treated to some wonderful pitching duals and some great opening week games. The New York Mets began the 2012 season 3-0 while their powerful cross town rival New York Yankees began 0-3. The Pittsburgh Pirates took two of three from Philadelphia and the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t blink without their former future Hall of famer Albert Pujols. The Kansas City Royals had great pitching and Florida Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen’s mouth quickly and once again landed him in all kinds of hot water. It all points towards a very good 2012 season.
As pre and post game interviews are well under way this season I thought now would be a good time to remind fans everywhere of he said she said and what all of these questions really mean.
It seems far too early in the season for my favorite owner/GM statement but one never knows. You know the one-the kiss of death in any sport for any coach or manager. The statement goes something like the following. “We have every confidence in (fill in the name) and have no intention of making a change at this time or in the near future.” In each and every case, that coach or manager is fired within two or three days. Everyone knows what’s going to happen yet the quote is written down and reported as if it will, this time, be the truth. Never happens and probably never will.
Even sillier is what happens at the press conference following the firing of one coach or manager and the hiring of his replacement, definitely one of my all time head scratchers. The explanation of the firing of that former coach or manager usually goes something like this. “He did a tremendous job and was a credit to the organization but we felt that we needed to go in a different direction. The poor performance of the team had nothing to do with him or with our decision to make a change.” Huh? This is the type of illogical doublespeak which would make even a politician proud. This type of statement comes straight out of the book of what to say to a group of sportswriters who are looking for a quote they can print but really doesn’t say anything.
Translation-we, the front office and ownership really don’t have a clue how to run this team around and don’t want to admit that the team is bad with little or no hope for improvement in the near future. Management can’t be blamed as we don’t make mistakes so it must be someone else’s fault. As it is not our fault and even a collection of poor players should be able to win with the right coach or manager, the solution is obvious. This move should satisfy the fans and writers and proves that we are committed to bringing a winning team to our fans.
Sure it does.
Over the course of any baseball season coming up with new questions or new answers becomes difficult as the season wears on. Most questions and answers slowly begin to fall under the category of the painfully obvious or the painfully cliché. Nobody’s fault really, both writer and player try to be conciliatory and uncontroversial. Here are some of the more common ones I and every other interviewer has asked and heard answered.
“How does it feel to get the game winning hit?” “It feels great but I was just trying to get some wood on the ball. I just want to contribute anyway I can and sometimes you get lucky.”
Translation-“You just got the game winning hit. You’re the hero of the game today.” “Yeah I know. If it wasn’t for me we would have lost another one. I think I’ll go ask the owner for some more money. The guys will be buying me drinks tonight and I get to tell all the good looking women in the bar that I’m a hero.”
“You pitched into some bad luck tonight. It was a tough loss. It was just one of those games every pitcher has from time to time wasn’t it?” “You can’t get them job done every time out. I felt like I pitched well but I just couldn’t get the job done today.”
Translation-“Your pitching really sucked today. What were you thinking out there? You looked like you shouldn’t even be in this league. How can you not sneak out of the clubhouse after apologizing to your teammates?” “ I did suck and I’m totally embarrassed and I should be. I didn’t prepare well for the game and I have no excuse. I should just pack it up and go home.”
“The team isn’t having much success this season. Nothing seems to be working well and you haven’t been getting the breaks. What can you do, as manager, to turn this team around?” “The guys are playing hard. We just haven’t gotten any breaks yet. I know these guys and they have a lot of pride. We’ll turn it around any day now I can feel it.”
Translation-“This team is bad and there is no hope for the future. You guys are lucky to win any game and even when you win it’s not pretty. Isn’t it time you gave up and stayed home to save yourself the obvious aggravation?” “I’d rather be home watching television or taking care of my garden I can tell you. I can’t manage as team with nothing but lousy players and lousy fans. I ran out of excuses halfway through spring training and I’m desperately looking for some new ones. Maybe I’ll get lucky and they’ll replace me before long.”
Print out this column and the next time you’re watching an interview use it as a handy reference. It will make things much more clear easier to understand. I promise.
By: Doug Bird