Sports | March 8, 2022 11:16 am

“Objective” ESPN Baseball Journalist Apologizes for Saying What Everyone Already Thinks About MLB Owners

Jeff Passan called MLB owners’ final offer to players before canceling the season’s first week of games a "shit sandwich”

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, the face of MLB owners, answers questions
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, the face of MLB owners, answers questions.
Julio Aguilar/Getty

After nine straight days of negotiations between Major League Baseball’s owners and players failed to result in a new CBA last week, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced his sport was scrapping regular-season games over a labor dispute for the first time in 27 years.

Tasked with covering the negotiations for ESPN, MLB insider Jeff Passan was privy to the final offer that was made to players by owners and Manfred prior to the season’s first week of games being canceled. Passan, who would probably much rather be covering games than board-room squabbles, called the offer a “shit sandwich.”

“I looked at the offer the next morning and I texted a few players and I texted a few agents and I said to all of them, ‘Are you really going to take this s–t sandwich?’ ” Passan said on Pablo Torre’s podcast. ESPN, which is a broadcast partner of MLB, edited the comment out of the audio it posted online and got Passan to issue an apology.

“On a podcast recently, I took the phrasing of a source and mistakenly did not make clear they were his words, not mine,” Passan said in a statement. “ESPN and fans rightfully expect me to be objective, and my record shows I’m extremely committed to representing all sides of a story. In this instance, I fell short of that standard.”

ESPN, which walks a thin journalistic line with its coverage because it is a financial partner of many of the leagues it reports on, also issued a statement on the matter.

“We’ve addressed the situation with Jeff directly and as you can see from his statement, he understands his mistake,” an ESPN spokesperson told The New York Post. “We fully trust that going forward he will cover this important and sensitive topic in a fair manner.”

All things being equal, we’re not sure how important or sensitive the topic of MLB labor negotiations really is, nor are we convinced that what Passan said wasn’t fair. He’s a reporter. He’s informed. He’s allowed to have an opinion. And it just so happens that his opinion is shared by the majority of baseball fans who are paying attention.

In a new Morning Consult survey of self-identified MLB fans, respondents were more than twice as likely to say the owners are most responsible for the failure to reach an agreement (45%) as they were to say the players deserve the lion’s share of the blame (21%) for the lack of a new CBA. The last time the two sides were at odds in the summer of 2020 while trying to figure out how to return to play in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, 33% of MLB fans blamed owners for the lack of a deal while 24% said the players were at fault.

The owners’ slice of the blame pie will only get larger if another week of regular-season games is canceled, an outcome that will occur if a new CBA can’t be reached by Tuesday night.