Former Hall of Fame Cincinnati Reds second baseman Joe Morgan has long had an informal, ceremonial role with the team, called a “special advisor” by management. Like most former baseball legends, Morgan could occasionally be seen over the years puttering around with Reds players at Spring Training. As it should be.
(ESPN: ‘Confident’ Check From Reds Won’t Affect National Game Call)
Today that relationship changed as the Reds formalized Morgan’s employment with the club, naming him a Special Advisor to Baseball Operations at a press conference in Cincinnati.
Despite Morgan’s formal affiliation with a MLB team, ESPN released a statement to me today indicating that his role as a national analyst for the network will not immediately change: “Joe has a long history with the Reds. He tells us he won’t be involved with day-to-day baseball operations so we are confident this arrangement will not impact his role on Sunday Night Baseball.”
While there are no Reds Sunday Night Baseball appearances scheduled for the balance of the 2010 season, ESPN declined to specifically address what might happen if the Reds make the playoffs. Morgan works national ESPN Radio throughout the baseball postseason.
My qualm about ESPN electing to allow Morgan to formalize a paid affiliation with the Reds doesn’t involve any possible competitive or broadcast impropriety on Morgan’s part. I get that the Reds want to formalize ties with one of their legendary players and reap the public relations benefits.
But what if Morgan had taken a similar, official gig with the Yankees? Or the Red Sox?
How do you think the Boston (and national) media and Red Sox fans would react to Morgan calling Yankees-Red Sox games on national television or radio while he was getting a check signed by a Steinbrenner?
We all know the answer. As does ESPN, which I seriously doubt would allow Morgan to take a formal position of any kind with a high profile club like the Red Sox or Yanke
Ironic that ESPN hires its baseball analysts largely based on their credibility with the public. By allowing Morgan to double dip as a Reds employee, ESPN is impugning his reputation with that same public.