We have a name for this in our business. We call it journalism.
Now, I'm going to concede that Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. knows more about baseball than I do. But I'm going to insist that Amaro doesn't understand journalism as well as The Inquirer's reporters and editors do.
This became an issue Sunday when Amaro chose to call an in-game news conference, assembling a couple of dozen reporters in a tiny room behind the press box at Citizens Bank Park, to complain about "innuendo and insinuations" in the article. He proceeded to give the Phillies' side of the decision to give Howard a cortisone shot.
This explanation would have been a great help several weeks ago, when the Phillies told The Inquirer's Frank Fitzpatrick they would "take a pass" on cooperating with his report. The lesson, if anyone is willing to learn it, is that it would have helped the Phillies as well as the paper. It also would have helped that future athlete looking for all the information possible to make a similar decision.
Amaro thinks it was unfair for the paper to ask whether such a decision was entirely Howard's or whether the team influenced him. It is very fair. Ask the 2,000-plus former football players suing the NFL over its handling of concussions. The relationship between players and team-affiliated doctors and athletic trainers is rife with potential conflicts of interest.
"I think there is an insinuation that the organization didn't have the best interests of the player at hand," Amaro said. "That's not true at all. Obviously, we have a tremendous investment in Ryan. To be frank with you, we're probably one of the most conservative clubs in baseball when it comes to cortisone shots. I just want to make sure people understood we certainly have the player's best interests at hand, short term and long term."
There is no reason to believe otherwise. As Amaro mentioned, the Phillies have a huge financial stake in Howard. Unlike the situation in the NFL, where non-guaranteed contracts make players more expendable, the Phillies' interests and Howard's are pretty much the same. But it's more than that. Amaro, Charlie Manuel, club president David Montgomery - there's nothing in their history or character to suggest they'd jeopardize a player's well-being.
But there is plenty in their history to illustrate that they choose secrecy and a kind of condescending disdain when dealing with the media, who in turn convey information to the millions of fans who pump millions of dollars of revenue into this franchise. The decision to "take a pass" on answering reasonable questions was consistent with their history. So is disliking the outcome.
They usually cite the player's privacy. Sunday, though, Amaro was extremely forthcoming about Howard's situation, and he cleared up some vital points.
"Ryan was treated for a bursitis issue he had that was not part of the Achilles," Amaro said. "When that was treated, that was treated by a world-renowned specialist. It was ultrasound-guided. We didn't feel like there was any issue. Dr. [Michael] Ciccotti and I discussed this prior. Dr. Ciccotti obviously knows about some of the issues that surround using cortisone in that area and compromising the Achilles.
"The injury was something that occurred, that was much further away from that area than I guess anybody really knew. Again, after talking to [surgeon Mark] Myerson about it, the bursitis thing was already taken care of and was resolved by the time Ryan sustained his injury. We don't feel, frankly, that one thing had anything to do with the other."
Wouldn't it have been better all around if this information and context had been in the original article? That's why Fitzpatrick tried to reach the Phillies, Howard, and Ciccotti: to get a complete and balanced report. That's what journalists do, no matter the innuendo or insinuations to the contrary.
Contact Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Sheridanscribe on Twitter. Read his blog, "Philabuster," at www.philly.com/philabuster. Read his columns at www.philly.com/philsheridan.