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February 7, 2012

The BP First Take

Tuesday, February 7

by Daniel Rathman

Over the past few weeks, two relatively prominent writers have had their voices silenced for making disparaging comments about their respective teams’ owners. First, it was Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, whose accidental tweet about Browns owner Randy Lerner resulted in his removal from the beat. Yesterday, LoHud Mets blogger Howard Megdal learned that his book Wilpon’s Folly had put his press credentials in limbo.

Despite these parallels, there are important differences between the two cases.

First, Grossi’s tweet was unintentionally sent to all of his followers, many of whom were “forced” to read it before he deleted it from his timeline. Megdal’s book, on the other hand, is available for sale, so those who purchase it are making a conscious choice to read about Fred Wilpon’s missteps.  Second, the Plain Dealer reassigned Grossi—perhaps due to pressure from the Browns—while the decision to censor Megdal came directly from the Mets.

The above distinctions only serve to amplify the seriousness of the Mets’ decision. Megdal’s book was published in December, and as he points out in the afore-linked post, the claims in it were corroborated by The New York Times and by ESPN New York scribe Adam Rubin.  In the days leading up to its publication, Megdal was invited to participate in a conference call with general manager Sandy Alderson, and given no indication that his access to the Citi Field press box and clubhouse was on the chopping block.  Megdal wrote yesterday that he was granted credentials, “100 percent of the time my editor here, Sean Mayer, has requested [them].”

By yanking Megdal’s credentials, the Mets are accomplishing two things, and it is hard to say which is more worrisome. The censorship of a reputable writer—whose book was positively reviewed on Amazon.com and drew support from colleagues on the beat—is problematic enough. On top of that, the Mets have effectively made Megdal an outsider, a decision that not only impacts his ability to cover the team but also his livelihood. By making clear to the Journal News that only Megdal’s personal credentials have been taken away, the team has given the paper a direct incentive to part ways with Megdal and replace him with a writer who would have the ability to provide the insider perspective Megdal previously could offer. The team, not Megdal’s employer, has put his job in jeopardy, and Mayer deserves praise for supporting his writer through it all.

The Mets obviously have the right to limit access to writers in whatever way they choose. If they do not want Megdal around, he will not be around. But the decision is the latest in a string of bad PR moves for an organization that cannot seem to do anything right. And in some ways, this one is the most serious, because of the implications it carries for all of the writers who are given access to the Citi Field press box—the only direct connection between the team and its fans. 

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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