No, it means he needs to give the media material to write about. That’s. All. This. Is. It has nothing to do with “the fans,” and it definitely has nothing to do with the other players on the Cardinals. It’s all about the reporters.
The open secret no one ever wants to talk about is this; beat reporters really don’t provide much in the way of added value to a story. That’s not a knock on individual reporters, mind you, but on the job itself. In the modern age with so many mediums for interacting with the game and so many ways to disseminate news, you really don’t need any function the beat writer provides. Missed the game? Watch the highlights on SportsCenter, or check out the condensed game through MLB TV (or watch the entire game after it’s archived, for that matter). Wondering where Albert Pujols is going to sign? Well, it’s not exactly Watergate, they’re going to announce it. They have big fancy press conferences and everything!
This is basically the right way of looking at it. Once upon a time, baseball teams were dependent upon the local print media for promotion and keeping fans engaged. Now they’re not. Now the teams have a variety of means to achieve their goals, and the media is dependent upon the teams to set them apart. Because the only thing a beat writer has that everyone else lacks is access, and that access is granted by the team and the players. Even the best beat writers aren’t getting scoops by staking out Brian Cashman’s trash or tailing Scott Boras around the country, they’re being fed information by the teams and the agents because it’s in their interest to do so. If beat writers as we know them ceased to exist tomorrow, someone would still be doing that function.
Of course, that’s a pretty frightening reality to the writers themselves, and that’s ultimately the issue here. When players skip out on talking to reporters, it punctures the myth that the reporters matter. If that’s allowed to happen too many times, more people might start to notice that fact, including the reporters bosses, and they might re-think the amount of money they’re dedicating to that job. So everytime this happens in a high profile manner, this is the response you get. Yankee fans are familiar with the routine by now; the media throws a fit, with pretty much everyone coming out of the woodwork to wag their fingers, the team wants to take the path of least resistance with the media, the agent doesn’t want the player getting bad press, so everyone tells him to be sure to apologize before the next game, the player issues some empty apology, acts contrite, and goes on without it affecting their life at all. And the media gets to have it reinforced that they’re really important, and that you’ll have to answer for it if you cross them.
Of course, the charade doesn’t change the underlying state of things, which is why the script has to play out over and over again. I can’t say that I blame the writers for that, considering that their relatively cushy jobs are at stake in the long run, and the degree of solidarity they show on the matter is actually pretty impressive, but it is what it is. The current state of the industry represents a very inefficient allocation of resources, which should mean that it’s just a matter of time before the industry re-organizes their resources. Incumbent reporters aren’t really crazy about that idea, and understandably so, so they create these media scandals from time to time to keep up the appearance that they’re really an important class in the game.
But don’t be fooled by the rhetoric about “accountability;” media scandals are always about the media.