Lessons in Transparency from Jorge Posada

How does a baseball player become famous? By playing the game well. Whether it’s a pitcher who seems to strike out every batter he faces, or a hitter who sends balls out of the park with each at-bat, some players are enshrined in the hearts and minds of baseball fans everywhere for their fantastic ability to play the game.

So, what would you think if a player started attracting attention for not playing the game?

That’s exactly what’s happening to New York Yankees’ designated hitter Jorge Posada. After being removed from the Yankees’ lineup on Saturday, shortly before the start of their game against the Boston Red Sox, Posada has sparked controversy and debate across the baseball world.

This intriguing sports story holds a lesson for public relations practitioners about the value and necessity of transparency.

Yankees DH Jorge Posada

In order to fully understand how this relates to PR, you should familiarize yourself with the Posada situation. After serving as the Yankees’ regular catcher for more than 10 seasons, Yankees manager Joe Girardi moved Posada to the designated hitter role this year. Posada will turn 40 in August, and moving from catcher to designated hitter allows him to play a less physically taxing position.

However, he has been struggling all year in the DH spot. By the time of Saturday’s game, he had the lowest batting average in the major leagues. Shortly before that game, media reported that Posada had removed himself from the lineup, but controversy has been swirling: Did Posada ask for a day off (reportedly to rest his aching back), or did Yankees manager Joe Girardi remove him because of his poor performance?

Rather than set the record straight, Posada and the Yankees have kept things under wraps and left everything to speculation. In his post-game news conference, Girardi dodged reporters’ questions about Posada’s absence from the lineup, saying Posada simply “needed a day.”

Differing reports are coming in from all over the sports media landscape. Neither party has clarified its position with an official statement, so media and fans are left to piece the story together on their own. ESPN The Magazine senior writer Buster Olney believes that “we will never hear just one unchallenged version of what actually took place” during Posada and Girardi’s conversation.

Because neither Posada nor the Yankees have volunteered to fully disclose what happened during the Posada-Girardi pre-game

Yankees Manager Joe Girardi

conversation, fans and media can interpret the situation however they’d like. The issue will linger until someone steps up and reveals the true reason why Posada did not play.

“Things tend to blow over when you tell the truth,” Sports Illustrated writer Chris Mannix said this morning while guest hosting The Dan Patrick Show. While he made this comment in reference to Posada, it holds true for any public relations situation. Withholding the truth gives the public power to speculate and come to their own conclusions about who is at fault.

Obviously, this is not a life-or-death situation. The world will still go on even if it is revealed that Jorge Posada told Girardi to take him out of the game. However, regardless of the weight of the situation, it emphasizes the importance of transparency in sports public relations and the way in which a quick, honest response can shape public opinion in your favor.

Photo credits:

Posada: Mike Segars, Reuters (from this New York Times article)

Girardi: Keith Allison, Flickr

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