Chris Russo Angered A Lot of MLB Players and Then Doubled Down: TRAINA THOUGHTS


1. SiriusXM radio host and MLB Network host Chris "Mad Dog" Russo went ballistic Tuesday afternoon—as he does on a regular basis.

The reason for this particular rant was that Russo felt Bryce Harper and Trevor Bauer didn't have the right to voice their opinions about baseball's current labor mess because they didn't produce on the field in 2019.

This wasn't a case of Russo saying something off the cuff and getting busted. Instead, his show's official Twitter account posted the video Wednesday morning. That's when the fun began with one MLB player after another attacking Russo.

The most prominent player to take on Russo was Brewers star Christian Yelich.

Yelich's tweet, however, missed the mark because Russo is one of the most successful hosts in the history of sports radio. Whether you like Russo or hate Russo, that's just a fact. Someone clearly got to Yelich, though, because he did a quick mea culpa.

Here's the thing about Russo. He doesn't do Twitter. He doesn't tweet. He doesn't read mentions. He doesn't read his feed. As he told me on the SI Media Podcast last September, his producers do everything. He has nothing to do with Twitter.

So from a personal standpoint, I enjoyed watching a slew of players rip Russo while knowing that he didn't see any of the tweets. Obviously, his producer read some of them to him or gave him a recap, but it's not like the Mad Dog was scrolling through his mentions in a frantic way like the rest of us would have.

And because Russo doesn't care about Twitter, he didn't get rattled by the social media heat. He went on his radio show and doubled down.

Not only did Russo say that he was better as his job than Trevor Bauer was at his job, he also said he'd put up his entire career against the career of any current player.

I spoke to Russo Thursday morning about the entire kerfuffle and whether he has any regrets. The Q&A ended up turning into a venting session for the veteran radio host. You've caused quite a stir this week.

Chris Russo: If you're gonna go on Twitter, gonna go tweet stuff, there are people who are gonna react to that and the player has to understand that. If you're going to put yourself out there on social media, there might be somebody who doesn't like it. That somebody the other day was me. You can't be on social media, tweet something and sit there and say, "why should I get abuse?" Don't go on social media then.

SI: Do you have any regrets about anything you've said this week?

CR: Certainly nothing about Bryce Harper. Maybe I probably shouldn't have done my résumé deal on the air, but I was feisty. Do I have to pat myself on the back? Maybe that comes across a little self serving, and I don't mean to do that. That's not my way. So maybe that.

SI: I do believe out of TV, writing and radio, that radio is the hardest gig of the three. But you said you think your job is as hard as Trevor Bauer's. Do you stand by that statement?

CR: To do it right? Absolutely. Here's the better way to say it. I do my job better than Trevor Bauer does his. Trevor Bauer is not as good a pitcher as I am a talk show host. Now, he can say it's harder. Fine. I can't pitch. We know that. We know that he has worked hard and he's been gifted. But I can guarantee you that Trevor Bauer can't do a four-hour talk show under any circumstances. I'm not talking about going out there with a host for an hour once a week on SiriusXM. I'm talking about going on there day after day after day with a blank screen and doing a show. Very, very few athletes—actually, very few people, period—can do that, and do it well.

I'm getting tired, and there's been this feeling here—and I'm getting sick of it—there's this feeling right now that anyone can do what we do. Talk show hosts, not just me in particular. "I can go on the air and scream and yell"... no you can't. You know how hard it is to do this god damn thing? It's not that easy if you're a talk show host, going on there and doing a show properly by yourself. Not working with a seasoned pro who sets you up with a thousand questions and leads you into commercial breaks and puts the calls on. There's a lot of things to do as a talk show host and I feel–and I'm not the only one who feels this because I've had a lot of discussions–it's almost like people think this is easy. No it's not. This is freaking hard. And that was my reaction.

SI: But the flip side is that you can't go pitch and hit.

CR: I agree with you on that. I can't. The thing I don't like is the feeling with the athlete that our job is lesser than their job. "Well anybody could be a talk show host." Bullshit, anybody can't be a talk show host. 

That's what I don't like. That we are doing things that anybody can do. "Be a pitcher, we'll show you hard it is." Kevin Kramer, "let me see him get behind the batter's box." OK, well let me see Kevin Kramer go on SiriusXM for five minutes to do a show. He couldn't do it. You're right, I can't hit and you can't do a show. But there's this feeling that's bothering me right now that what we do as talk show hosts is that we're inconsequential. Screw you, inconsequential. I worked just as hard as you did for crying out loud. You think I just showed up and here I am. I worked just as hard as you did. Maybe I didn't get that across properly, but that's what bothers me.

SI: You said this on Tuesday. This didn't become a story until Wednesday when your show's Twitter account posted the video and the players started ripping you. But you don't use Twitter, right?

CR: I don't read it. I did not see it. I don't even know what Sirius puts on social media. I do the show and [my producer] Eddie and everybody else decides. They put this stuff on Twitter to get a reaction. I do the show, turn the microphone off and I go watch Laurel Canyon for three hours and play tennis.

SI: Do you even have the Twitter app on your phone?

CR: No. God, no. These players, oh my God, you can't make a comment. I made a comment about Harper from a baseball standpoint. I thought his 2019 season, for 40 million bucks, was very underwhelming. That was basically my point.

SI: But what people are reacting to is, they don't want you or anyone telling others who is allowed to have an opinion and who's not.

CR: Harper is allowed to tweet and I'm allowed to have an opinion about his tweet. Harper can tweet, but if I don't like the tweet, I'm allowed to comment on it. What are we, living in Russia? Harper tweets something and I can't say, "Hold on now, I gotta listen to Bryce Harper, who for $40 million a year had an underwhelming season." I don't want to hear it. That is an opinion. You're allowed an opinion. And they're allowed to fire back all they want. And they're firing back because right now they're in a very sensitive situation.

SI: The tweet that went out said you didn't want to hear from players who underperformed.

CR: I also said Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole can say what they want. They've earned it.

SI: But that's what people resent. You're saying who's allowed to comment and who's not.

CR: And that's an opinion. If they don't like it, they can say anything they want. That's how I feel about it. The guy who has earned it can say something. Do you wanna hear from the eighth player on the Lakers or do you want to hear from LeBron?

SI: But the point is that every person, the eighth person on the Lakers and LeBron, has a right to an opinion.

CR: Yes, 100%. And if they put that opinion on social media and I read about it, or someone tells me about it in this case, I have a right to comment. And if they don't like it, tough. What am I gonna do? Not do a talk show because they don't like it? I can't worry about that. Or I'm gonna worry about guests? I can care less if they come on. Love to have them, but I'm not that wrapped up on the guests. I've done this show for 37 years.

SI: I read a comment from someone who said players should never go on your MLB Network show again.

CR: Absolutely. They very rarely come on to begin with. I get the managers and the GMs on. The players don't come on.

SI: Most players—90%—are terrible interviews anyway.

CR: Yeah, 90%. Let me get this straight. I can't have an opinion on a Bryce Harper tweet when last year he did not perform up to the $40 million he makes, the team underachieved, the manager got fired and the team he left won a world championship, and I can't have an opinion on that?

SI: The counter to that is whether Bryce Harper hit 10 home runs or 40, he's allowed to voice an opinion.

CR: And I'm allowed to say that I would prefer to hear from players who have earned the right to tweet. And if they don't like that, that's tough. That's my opinion. If Trout wants to say something, go ahead. Gerrit Cole, I can understand it. Harper did not have a good year. 

And I'll tell you something else. I gotta hear from Trevor Plouffe, really? Trevor Plouffe? Who's doing podcasts? I gotta hear from him who's killing me left and right. Trevor Plouffe never heard of Ty Cobb, I mean, come on, stop. I can't listen to this. Anyway, it's gonna hurt me with MLB Network a little bit, but I can't worry about that.

SI: But it's probably been your best week at Sirius.

CR: You wanna look at it the other way, Jimmy? I shouldn't tell you this, but if you wanna look the other way, a million views [for that video].

2. Kendrick Perkins eviscerated Kyrie Irving on ESPN on Wednesday morning.

That led to Wilson Chandler ripping Perkins.

And led to Kevin Durant retweeting this video.

3. I think Dr. Anthony Fauci is a fine man, but I also think he should stop doing interviews about the future of sports leagues because he can't stop changing his mind about what should happen.

4. Gronk + rhythmic gymnastics + a Foreigner classic = soul soothing.

5. This week's Sports Illustrated Media Podcast features two interviews.

First up is New York Post sports media reporter Andrew Marchand to discuss several recent sports media stories, including MLB signing a new contract with Turner Sports for big money, the future of Trey Wingo at ESPN, how NFL broadcasts will handle kneeling this season, Drew Brees's status with NBC and much more.

Following Marchand, L.A. Times sports columnist Arash Markazi joins the podcast to talk about Las Vegas's reopening. Markazi was there for a week and tells us what the casinos, tables, pools and sportsbooks were like in the age of COVID-19.

You can listen to the podcast below or download it on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher and Google Play.

6. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: I will always maintain that Chris Russo's 10-minute rant about the killing of Harambe, the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla, is one of the greatest moments in radio history.

7. SPORTS VIDEO OF THE DAY: Bryce Harper vs. Hunter Strickland was an outstanding fight.

Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on Apple, Spotify or Stitcher. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram.