Trying to make sense of the Joe Buck-Oscar Taveras comments

sfgate.com

sfgate.com

Oscar Taveras is a spoiled, entitled baseball player getting preferential treatment by the organization’s front office, and the players aren’t happy.

Or so we’ve been told to believe.

Fox Sports broadcaster Joe Buck, who has a ton of obvious connections to the St. Louis Cardinals, made a few peculiar remarks during Saturday’s Red Sox-Yankees broadcast. These came shortly after a trade that sent Allen Craig and Joe Kelly to Boston in exchange for pitcher John Lackey.

The move also propelled the rookie Taveras into the starting right field job, a move that many Cardinal faithful  as well as General Manager John Mozeliak  had been wanting for a while.

To understand this issue fully, it’s important to understand that when this trade was made, there were several reports that the clubhouse was shaken and upset to see two of their teammates and best friends leave.

That was corroborated by manager Mike Matheny acknowledging as much. That much I believe.

Now let’s go to some of Buck’s comments (via Ray DeRousse):

“The clubhouse isn’t happy about being force-fed Oscar Taveras in right field…”

“(The players) aren’t happy with the way (Taveras) has gone about his business since being in the majors…”

“I don’t know if anyone in the clubhouse can speak up about this. Albert Pujols used to be the guy who would do that…”

I just have so many questions.

Joe Buck isn’t around the team. How does he know what the clubhouse dynamic is like? Does he just know some players really well and heard this from them?

Are these comments based on recent activity, and were they connected with the Craig trade? Or was this something Buck had heard a while back and is still referencing it now?

Is this just his opinion or is it this actual stuff he’s heard from actual people around the club?

We don’t really know. They’re just sort of out there, and boy have they taken off.

What gets me is that everyone seems to just be accepting Buck’s comments as legitimate because of who he is. I get that, to an extent. But if I were covering the team, the absolute first thing I would do is work to confirm whether or not these comments are true.

I don’t think we’ve seen that from anyone who covers the team, nor has anyone outwardly spoken about it, whether to confirm or deny it.

These comments were made on national television, so you’d hope that Buck wouldn’t just be slinging mud. But is it not curious that no one has really come out said, “yes, I can verify that certain players are unhappy about Taveras,” or something like that?

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch decided to pen a column about this.  Here’s an excerpt:

I say “controversial” because the deal apparently upset members of the good ol’ boys club in the Cardinals clubhouse. It was funny to hear Joe Buck on the Fox national telecast on Saturday, talking about how Cardinals players aren’t happy about Taveras being planted in right field — apparently over their objections. And according to Buck there’s dissatisfaction among the boys over the way Taveras goes about his business.

 This is precious, no?

Let me see if I understand this correctly: A group of hitters who have spent most of the season in a trance, stroking ground ball after ground ball — with the Cardinals scoring fewer runs than all but one MLB team — don’t like the way a rookie goes about his craft?

Really?

Do they have mirrors in the Cardinals clubhouse?

I don’t know how many players are engaging in this. It certainly isn’t fair to assume that the Taveras slams are widespread. But all of this stewing over the Craig clearance sale needs to end.

Bernie is extremely good at his job. As someone who works in the journalism field myself, he’s someone I look up to a ton.

But how in the world would Joe Buck have a better idea of what’s going on in the clubhouse than someone who is constantly around the team? Why should Bernie have to go off of what Buck says to write this column? It seems as though the next logical step would be to ask the players, manager or anyone around the team whether these claims have any validity before spreading this narrative to a mass audience.

This is not at all intended to be a knock on Bernie, but as a journalist, my aforementioned thoughts are what went through my head when reading this column. It’s all very accusatory without much substantiation for the supposed offense.

I challenge any Cardinals media member to try to clear up whatever is going on. Right now all we have is a few third-hand remarks and maybe some vague and passive comments. Are we just talking about Taveras’ work ethic, or do the players just not like Taveras? I don’t really know, and some of the things I’ve read have insinuated both.

It just sounds like it’s mostly hearsay, and frankly, it’s unfair to Taveras.

But, again, I’m still skeptical of that.

I get that this team is extremely close, but there are also a ton of veterans who have had immense success. I just can’t picture a scenario where such a well-led team resorted to acting like a high school lunch table. It seems out of character for anyone on the team to throw a teammate under the bus.

This is how rumors and perceptions get started, and there are likely plenty of Cardinals fans who now have a jilted opinion on Taveras for something that may or may not be true, or at least not to the extent that it’s being made out to be.

I should make it clear that yes, I acknowledge that there is the likelihood that Buck’s comments could have some validity. But as a journalist I was taught to always be skeptical, and until I see some actual reporting that these sentiments are in fact held by some players, I just have a hard time giving this story any validity.

The way the story sits currently isn’t satisfying enough for me to fully accept it. I look at the proof of what I can see, and what I see is a team that outwardly seems to be embracing a young player who has brought a ton of energy and offense since being given the full-time starting job, as Bernie also noted.

However, I can’t help but wonder if there were any players who read that column or heard Buck’s comments and were just as confused as I was. A little clarity would certainly help.

You can reach Cole Claybourn at highsocksunday@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @HighSock_Sunday.

  • John Smith

    Oscar was very well liked by players and other workers while at Springfield. I doubt anything has changed much, besides a little more jealousy at the ML level, perhaps.

  • Carl

    I don’t know Bernie, but I have lost a lot of respect for him this year. He seems to have something against Matheny.
    Someone should have blown up Bucks twitter after those comments instead of feeding into it. However, it is a new controversy that sells and writers need money and since they get paid now based on hits to their page, I guess this is as good as any rumor.

  • NBS

    I think Joe Buck is all wet and needs to be forgotten. He had a burr in his shoe fro some reason. Move on, nothing to see here.

  • Here’s the problem: players and coaches often lie when asked directly about these things. Case in point: the Colby Rasmus Problem, which we eventually discovered was festering for more than a year before it finally boiled over. The team repeated their denials until it could no longer be contained.

  • cynicwithtaste

    I firmly believe that Buck’s comments have a source of some sort. He’s not some beat writer who needs to stir the pot to get attention, so I’m convinced that Buck heard something if he raised the issue. Maybe it’s only something that 1 or 2 players have said, but there’s a source.

    If this situation truly is a problem in the clubhouse – and I’m not sold that it is, as I said this could be only 1 or 2 guys spouting off right after Craig was traded – then Matheny needs to fix it ASAP. If it festers, he’s the person who I blame more than anyone else. I thought that the main reason for hiring Matheny – who has never managed before and is not some sort of innovative tactical guru – is that he’s a leader of men able to manage the clubhouse personalities. That’s important, and he needs to do it.

  • cynicwithtaste

    One sort of off the wall thought / question – could some of these grumblings (if true) be because Taveras apparently has a translator and (I therefore assume) doesn’t speak much English?

    Obviously the Cardinals have other Latin players, but does anyone know if the team has provided a translator for any of them? Other than Carlos Martinez, I think that the rest of the Latin players who have been with the Cardinals, at least this year, speak fluent English. It also may be easier for a Spanish-speaking pitcher to fit in with the Cardinals because Molina and (I’m pretty sure) Cruz both speak fluent Spanish.

    One or more of my assumptions might be wrong, but just a thought that the language barrier, and a perception that the organization is babying Taveras because of it, is a problem here.

  • Carl

    Not too many rookies do enough to make veterans happy, do they? except maybe Pujols. But Harper, Colby, Puig, didn’t and etc. It’s a non- issue that’s being blown up. If he doesn’t hustle things will work out good or bad.

  • Tim J

    Why would even think to say these things – true or not – on national television? Wouldnt he consider the damage it could do to the Cardinals clubhouse? Or was he only interested in appearing knowledgeable?
    I, too, would dismiss this mess without first checking out others sources, as any reputable journalist would.

  • ceeza

    Whatever this is makes it 100% clear that this trade HAD to happen.. This team was like family.. A large happy underperforming family.. Seems like they forgot this is a performance based business..

  • Gary Todd

    I majored in journalism and was a news photographer for 30 years. I have covered sports team college and professional. I lived in Jacksonville and covered the Jaguars for 5 years. The reason behind this biography is I have experienced a lot of team problems and hearsay and rumors regarding team disharmony not to mention experience a lot of arrogance and immaturity. Rule of thumb was to never go to air without a second reputable source on any story. I would like a second reputable source…preferably someone on the team. And even then can you even be sure you are getting the truth or just a cover up i.e Rasmus. Until then, the results speak for themselves.

    • Tim J

      Any journalist who cares about facts follows that rule of thumb, Gary Todd. But I have yet to see anyone reporting this story who has done that – not DeRousse, not Miklasz, nobody.

    • ColeClaybourn

      Exactly, Gary. That’s largely the point I’m getting at. Noone wants to confirm anything. Simply spreading this all and giving the story validity based on one person’s comments seems incredibly irresponsible.

  • Gary Todd

    one more point I learned covering sports..an unwritten rule in the clubhouse..what goes on in here, stays in here

  • Pingback: Full transcript: Joe Buck’s comments on Oscar Taveras()

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