(Updated) Why we knew a Royals’ pitcher’s dad died before he knew

In the aftermath of last night’s World Series game, a real mystery continues to swirl around the starter for the Kansas City Royals’ starting pitcher. What did he know about the health of his father and when did he know it? And why did we know it first?

It’s an incredible tale of drama which the TV broadcasters decided not to mention but felt compelled to report it on Twitter instead, while congratulating themselves for keeping it a secret.

Edinson Volquez took the mound to start the game, hours after his father died in his native Dominican Republic.

The best and the brightest in the news media still can’t seem to get on the same page, however, on the question of whether he was informed of his dad’s death before the game, or whether the decision was made not to tell him.

ESPN said the Royals manager, Ned Yost, declined to tell him about his father until after he was finished pitching.

“We found out about an hour before, and we said, ‘What do you want us to do?'” Yost said. “And the family said, ‘We don’t want you to tell him. We want him to pitch this game.’

That conflicts with what ESPN’s own reporters are still saying, even in the face of evidence to the contrary: that the young man was informed just before starting the game.

“One player, however, told me he was ‘100 percent’ sure that Volquez knew during the game, and other players suggested as much with their postgame comments,” FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal insists in his column today.

The New York Times, however, says some other players were told — notably another potential starting pitcher — but not Volquez.

According to the Royals, Roandy Volquez, the pitcher’s wife, told General Manager Dayton Moore what had happened and asked him not to tell her husband until after he had finished pitching the biggest game of his career, his first World Series start. The team then asked the broadcasters on Fox not to announce the news, because Volquez routinely goes into the clubhouse between innings, and the broadcasts of the game are usually on.

Shortly after that, news reports began to circulate that Volquez’s father had died, and even as Volquez went to the mound unaware of what had happened, many people around him knew.

All of which brings up a distasteful, ethical question for broadcasters and journalists: whether to withhold a big part of a story from an audience?

Why did it matter? Because the same journalists who were keeping it a secret on TV were tweeting about it, which put the rest of us in an uncomfortable position of knowing a person’s father had died before the son knew.

Awkward.

“You see Eddy out there competing his butt off, and you keep thinking, ‘Well, what’s coming next?’ ” Yost said. “The news is coming next. It kind of put a damper on things for us.”

Well after he had pitched his six innings, the team told Volquez, and Fox later announced the man’s death.

It’s a family’s decision, of course, when to tell a son his father is dead. We cannot judge anyone in such a difficult time. But if a family and team had made a decision in their best interest, sportswriters should have kept their mouths shut on Twitter.

Just as local sportswriters proved by keeping the condition of Flip Saunders a secret, the rest of us had no right to know.

Update 2:48 p.m. Rosenthal’s comments to the Washington Post defy all logic.

“Maybe he knew. Maybe he didn’t. We weren’t going to take the chance we were going to tell him. I’m convinced today it was the right move. I’ll always be convinced it was the right move. We have a special responsibility. We’re not Twitter.”

That’s a not-very-veiled slam against Twitter, I suppose, but it’s worth pointing out that the person primarily responsible for the “irresponsibility” on Twitter was Rosenthal, who, incredibly, was not asked by the Post to explain why he felt it was OK to publicize the father’s death on Twitter, but not on TV, particularly when most of the fans in the stadium have more access to Twitter than FoxSports on TV.

  • Jack

    How do we know that he didn’t find out from Twitter or someone who saw the comment on Twitter?

    Sometimes media people are clueless. Maybe karma is what happened to Fox Sports during last night’s broadcast.

    Full disclosure – Bob is NOT clueless.

  • BJ

    ratings

  • crystals
    • crystals

      In response to your update/question, re: why it’s okay for Rosenthal to put something on Twitter but not say something on the broadcast, I thought that was answered. The broadcasts are often on in the clubhouse, and pitchers sometimes go into the clubhouse between innings.

      Yeah, people in the stadium are seeing it on Twitter but they’re not in a position to actually inform Volquez. The broadcast in the clubhouse could. That’s my take on it, at least.

      • I don’t think that’s answered at all.

        First of all, if you don’t want a pitcher to see the TV when he goes to the bathroom in the clubhouse, that’s an easy problem to solve; you shut off the TV in the clubhouse.

        The fans absolutely are in a position — frankly, a better position — to inform a player.

        There’s a foolproof way of preventing someone from hearing something you dont’ want them to hear: you keep your mouth shut.

        Look,, you can’t have two sets of ethics based on a medium. You can only have one.

        If Rosenthal really wanted to be as responsible as he’s taking credit for — on behalf of his company — you wouldn’t tweet it.

        Period.

        • crystals

          I get all of that. (Truly!)

          Tweets went out separate from Rosenthal, though, and before he tweeted anything. I saw his being in response to all the tweets and questions about why FOX wasn’t saying anything on the broadcast.

          I also don’t have super strong feelings about this, don’t know much about how media should work, and more than anything feel badly for a guy who lost his dad and has millions of strangers dissecting what was both a wonderful and a horrible night for him.

          • I don’t have any problem at all with the family’s decision, no matter what the family’s decision was.

            Frankly, I don’t know a father anywhere who would have wanted his kid not to pitch in that situation.

            But I do have a problem with the Fox organization’s self-congratulatory attitude while at the same time dismissing a medium in which they work as “that’s Twitter.”

            They sound like old men with flashing clocks on their VCRs.

            The other thing totally ignored by the Washington Post writer was that Rosenthal, even as late as midmorning today, was insisting that his sources were telling him that the kid knew.

            So I wish Rosenthal and Fox would get on the same page with their stories.

  • tboom

    >>Just as local sportswriters proved by keeping the condition of Flip Saunders a secret, the rest of us had no right to know.<<

    I assume you’re making an exception for Patrick Reusse. “Patrick Plus” in the Star Tribune Sunday morning, all but announced Flip’s condition.