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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Life, Post-Whirlwind.

The last two weeks have been nothing short of crazy.

Since my last post, I have:

• Turned 20
• Seen my mom and sister in person after nearly a month
• Attended baseball games at Citi Field, Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park
• Sat in on a satellite media tour (in which the editor-in-chief of Bicycling does several short interviews with morning news anchors in various cities)

Whew. It’s been a whirlwind, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Tour de France started Saturday, so Bicycling had a lot on its plate. If you’re like me, you associate “Tour de France” with “Lance Armstrong,” but there are a lot of other great riders out there who I am excited to follow this year, like Lance’s bitter rival and defending champion Alberto Contador of Spain.

We’ve been doing a lot of work to promote Bicycling’s coverage of the Tour de France: its website features tons ofslideshows, previews, rankings, analysis and videos. I created a list of notable and reputable cycling bloggers and am now reaching out to those bloggers – basically, showing them how Bicycling is covering the Tour and letting them know that we’d love for them to take advantage of those resources.

It’s awesome, because I get to practice pitching and communicating with media while learning how to pitch bloggers and traditional media differently.

On the morning of my birthday, July 1, we went to a studio in Manhattan where Loren, Bicycling‘s editor, basically sat on a set for three hours and did short interviews with morning news anchors in different cities (known as a satellite media tour, or SMT, in the PR world). She previewed the Tour de France,

Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel was doing an SMT in the same studio that morning - you can see his being announced on the left screen. Loren is on the right.

answering their questions about the race, Lance Armstrong’s chances, doping, etc. My main job was to record the questions she was asked and just soak up the experience while hanging out in a posh “green room” filled with muffin trays. I was able to see and hear all of the interviews through a screen hooked up in the green room. My view:

Despite not being the world’s greatest socializer, I’m doing a pretty good job of keeping busy and getting out into the city with friends. Lately, I’ve been a baseball fiend, seeing Mets, Yankees and Red Sox games (all in one week). I went to the Mets game with a couple of friends – the Mets lost, but it was fun to see their new stadium (it opened last season) and be part of an enthusiastic crowd. Sorry, Yanks fans – I’d take a game at Citi Field or (gasp!) Fenway over Yankee Stadium game any day.

Going to Fenway Park was ridiculously cool – it’s kind of like a baseball Mecca. (Yankee Stadium is, too, but I have

An outside shot of Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.

been to the new and old stadiums before this year so the excitement has worn off.) Fenway is old with narrow concourses, but Sox fans are great, the atmosphere around the park is fun, and singing “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the 8th inning – a Fenway tradition – embodied everything that is great about baseball.

Tuesday night, I saw the Broadway performance of Mary Poppins because the housing service I rent through was offering cheap tickets. Yes, it was a little cheesy and geared toward a younger audience, but it was fun, especially the part when Bert tap-danced on the ceiling.

Thursday was my 20th birthday. Birthdays are so much better because of Facebook. Of course, they wouldn’t be the same without the customary phone calls and birthday cards, but opening Facebook to find bunches of notifications from friends and extended family is a sweet reminder of how many fantastic people are in my life and how blessed I am to have such dear friends.

The day was made even sweeter because I got to see my mom and sister. I hopped on the Bolt Bus to Boston after work and met them there so we could spend the long weekend together in a city we’ve never explored. (Bolt Bus = free Wi-Fi and electrical outlets = glorious.)

We toured MIT, which my sister is considering for college, saw the Sox game and walked the Freedom Trail (which I highly recommend – educational and enjoyable, especially if you’re into American history). The Freedom Trail can be a bit of a trek and ye be warned: climbing to the top of the Bunker Hill Memorial will leave your legs in pain the next day.

My sister Hope (left) and I with the Paul Revere statue on the Freedom Trail.

Another cool Boston spot is the JFK Presidential Library and Museum. It’s situated on a beautiful spot overlooking the bay. You can’t go wrong in a museum where they feature a bunch of Jackie’s outfits, Frank Sinatra music and old Walter Cronkite live footage.

After getting in last night, I headed downtown to watch the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks display on the Hudson River. I didn’t get too close in an attempt to avoid a huge mass of people, but I watched from a sidewalk and had a pretty good view. Even more impressive than the fireworks, though, was this (pardon my crappy phone-quality picture):

The Empire State Building decked out in patriotic colors.

Speaks for itself. Hope you’ve had a relaxing 4th of July weekend, and thanks for reading!