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Yankee Panky #55: There is a such thing as bad publicity
2008-06-20 09:51
by Will Weiss
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

It’s impossible to discuss New York baseball without mentioning the Yankees AND the Mets. They’re inextricably linked, going back to Casey Stengel. In my opinion, Mike Lupica and William Goldman, in their superb and hilarious book, “Wait ‘Til Next Year,” – which is unfortunately out-of-print now – did the best job of describing the differences of the two teams and not only how they perceive themselves, but how they want their fans and the media to perceive them.

That is, of course, if you believe in the adage that perception is reality.

I got to thinking about this in the 72 hours since Willie Randolph’s unceremonious dismissal, and instantly compared it to Joe Torre’s resignation last winter. Both situations were mishandled by their respective former employers. Both proved to be high-caliber public relations gaffes. Both men, through the professional way that they handled losing their jobs, elicited sympathy from the media that was simultaneously channeled into anger at the Yankees and Mets. With the Randolph situation, the blunder was viewed as another in a long line of managerial miscues in Queens. The Times’s William C. Rhoden went so far as to proclaim that the Mets are “again the subject of national derision.”

That’s the perception. I’m a believer in the adage.

Let’s examine the sequence of the two events and how they shaped the public perception of the two situations, and the media coverage:

YANKEES – JOE TORRE

·         The Yankees were coming off a 12th straight playoff berth under Torre but a third straight loss in the Division Series. When the expectation is to win a World Series and anything less is viewed as a failure, despite the trials and tribulations of getting to the playoffs, the effort wasn’t good enough.

·         Torre, up for a new contract, received a one-year offer from the Yankees that included a paycut, but was laced with incentives provided the team won the division, then each subsequent round of the playoffs, and the World Series. Torre considered the Yankees’ offer an insult, which he didn’t need as an incentive to win. Bob Costas jumped all over this and made it a hit point on his HBO show.

·         Torre resigned. Every local news media outlet staked out his house to get a glimpse of him in advance of his closing press conference, which YES broadcast live. Torre, after a brief statement, fielded questions for more than an hour.

·         The local beat writers and columnists had choice words for Randy Levine and other members of the Yankees’ front office. And while the reaction to Torre’s leaving was mixed, the consensus was that he was one of the greatest managers in team history, and was the perfect fit for this city and this team, particularly in the savvy way he managed the media circus on a daily basis. In short, he respected the writers and reporters, and the feeling was mutual.

 

METS – WILLIE RANDOLPH

·         Presided over a team that lost a 7 1/2 –game lead in the final two weeks of the regular season to miss the playoffs. With roughly the same team returning, save the addition of Johan Santana, expectations were high.

·         A slow start, plus various incidents in which Randolph let his true feelings about race emerge -- taking umbrage to the coverage on SNY -- led to rumors of his firing.

·         The Mets held a press conference two weeks ago to say that Randolph would not be fired.

·         The Mets, after a 3-3 homestand and a double-header split with Texas, fly out to Anaheim to play the Orange County Angels who Claim To Be From Los Angeles to Reap More TV Dollars in the LA Market.

·         GM Omar Minaya uncharacteristically flies out to Anaheim, unannounced, with the decision having been made to fire Randolph, pitching coach Rick Peterson and first base coach Tom Nieto. Following the Mets’ victory Monday, he calls them into a room at the team hotel and informs them of the decision.

·         Minaya claims it was his decision, but it doesn’t help change the thought that the Wilpons and Minaya had Randolph fly to California and be fired there in order to avoid the intense scrutiny at home. In fact, it may have made it worse. Wednesday’s Daily News backpage of a frowning Mr. Met with the headline MEET THE MESS said it all.

·         Randolph wishes the Mets well, is thankful for the opportunity to have managed the team.

The media’s job now is to highlight the facts and present them as they come to the fore. There has been and will continue to be analysis of the situation for as long as the Mets continue to struggle. If they turn it around, you might see comparisons to the Billy Martin-Bob Lemon switch in 1978.

But that also comes back to Willie Randolph. 

The public face on how the Mets treated Randolph – if there were rumors surrounding his job security at the beginning of the year, why not fire him after the collapse last season? – is another example of the Mets demonstrating why they’re considered the “other” team in New York. They’re not unlike the New York Football Jets in that, organizationally, no matter how hard they try, they mismanage various events to inspire anger and hurt among the media and fan base.

Not that the Yankees and Giants are without their flaws. However, but in my observations, bungled organizational matters are forgotten with the on-field product. Regarding Torre, Yankees fans, while they may agree on his resignation coming at the right time – and even that the offer was an insult, it appears they’ve forgiven the Yankees’ brass for the way it was handled. Mets fans will hurt for a long time, and the media will perpetuate that hurt unless the organization does something to fix it. 


That’s where the differences lie between the Mets and the Yankees.

 

 

Comments
2008-06-20 10:11:18
1.   Sonya Hennys Tutu
0 One other difference - the Mets SUCK!

Sorry, couldn't resist.

2008-06-20 10:29:36
2.   williamnyy23
The manager heads keep rolling...Gibbons out and Cito Gaston back in at Toronto.
2008-06-20 10:35:34
3.   williamnyy23
There is a huge difference between botching a firing and offering someone a deal that could make him the highest paid manager in baseball history (again). To be quite honest, most of the Yankee fans I know were very pleased with the transition from Torre to Girardi.

Now, as far as the media is concerned, the Yankee backlash was more the result of reports sticking up for their "friend" Joe, while the Willie situation was more like shooting fish in a barrel.

2008-06-20 10:37:31
4.   mehmattski
USS Mariner referred to the "wait till a road trip to fire the manager" as a Viking Funeral. Great term.

But you forgot to mention that Joe Torre eventually took less money than the Yankees offered him to manage the Dodgers, only a few weeks after he said he was done with managing.

2008-06-20 10:56:36
5.   rbj
And Willie's lovely parting gift is a copy of his contract reminding him not to say anything bad about the Mets. Way to stay classless, Omar.
2008-06-20 11:09:55
6.   JL25and3
3 No desire to beat a dead horse, so I'll just say this: the perception among some of us was that the offer was intended to be refused. More than anything else, it was their take-it-or-leave-it refusal to negotiate - which Will left out - that made it look high-handed at best.

And with that, I'm done.

2008-06-20 11:10:27
7.   RIYank
And everyone's heard that Schilling is headed for surgery, right? He says himself there's a good chance he's thrown his last MLB pitch (and added that if that's true, he's okay with it).

I hate to be happy about a guy's injury, but (a) this makes the Sox worse, or rather ensures that they won't get better by adding Schilling, and (b) (this is how I make the news relevant to Will's entry) it makes the organization look bad for insisting earlier that Curt did not need surgery and getting into a petty and embarrassing financial dispute with him.

2008-06-20 11:11:08
8.   RIYank
6 And...
Nah. I'm done with that topic too.
2008-06-20 11:13:25
9.   pistolpete
The difference also lies with the timing. Yankees fans had a whole winter to get used to the idea, and 2008 became all about a fresh start. It's pretty hard to play out the rest of the season under these circumstances.

Yankees fans who suffered through the 80's know this for a fact.

2008-06-20 11:19:28
10.   Raf
7 Who's to say the Sox don't add someone better than Schilling?
2008-06-20 11:25:14
11.   standuptriple
10 I kind of wanted Schill to come back and get swatted around too, or at least string them along past the deadline.
2008-06-20 11:30:56
12.   RIYank
10 11 Right, could be. But the Sox won't trade for anyone -- they are convinced they have great depth in their starting rotation. It's possible that Justin Masterson will pitch better than Schill would have. I think it's pretty doubtful that the Red Sox are better off using Bartolo Colon in September than they would be using Curt Schilling.
2008-06-20 11:47:27
13.   williamnyy23
7 At this point, I think Schilling's return would make the team worse if it meant taking Masterson out of the rotation. Masterson has been very effective and really is a big reason why the Sox are in first place. So far, the Sox have the upperhand on pitching prospects as Lester and Masterson have really come through, while Kennedy and Hughes have not. Hopefully, Joba will be the great equalizer.
2008-06-20 11:48:40
14.   williamnyy23
9 I posted this on another thread, but the Yankees have not fired a manager in season since 1990.
2008-06-20 11:49:53
15.   Shaun P
12 I was worried about Masterson until I saw his BABIP: .151 (IIRC). That's not going to last.

I'm not sure what the Mets can do to make things better, outside of win. Without some significant help, I'm not sure the Mets can pull that off. And, of course, if their current team was winning, then Willie wouldn't have been canned!

2008-06-20 11:53:42
16.   mbtn01
#3 -- The backlash on the Randolph firing in fact was very much like the support for Torre. It was driven by the outrage of guys like Bill Madden who have been going to bat for Randolph forever. I don't get the sense the Met fan is nearly as outraged as the media over this.

Adam Rubin's story in the Daily News today provides a fascinating take on Randolph's stubbornness, paranoia and churlishness, and on the front-office machinations that made this unraveling so complicated.

I won't give the Mets enough credit for orchestrating it this way, but by martyring Willie Randolph they've done him an enormous favor.

2008-06-20 11:54:22
17.   JL25and3
Firing Willie, even midseason, was a completely defensible move. But if they want to convince fans and press that they intend to compete this year, how can you pick Jerry Manuel and AAA coaches as replacements? That makes it look like they're just going the cheap and easy route, without any kind of vision - without actually getting it at all.
2008-06-20 11:56:02
18.   Raf
14 And even that was controversial, with Dent getting the axe in Boston.
2008-06-20 12:01:32
19.   williamnyy23
18 Yep...the outcry was how could you fire Bucky at the very place of his moment of glory.
2008-06-20 12:21:40
20.   Bob B
17 Isn't that the point? The Wilpon's took the cheap and easy route, without any vision and don't get it at all. Next to go will be Omar, who is actually more deserving of being fired (and didn't he sound like an idiot saying ok,ok after every sentence?).
2008-06-20 12:36:41
21.   pistolpete
14 Found this:

http://tinyurl.com/6nbxpb

"Bucky Dent will be my manager all year", LOL.

2008-06-20 12:41:47
22.   JL25and3
20 Yeah, you're right. I shouldn't have said "makes it look like"; it's how they really are, not just how they look.
2008-06-20 12:43:04
23.   Will Weiss
6 17 Good points, both, JL. I should have mentioned that the clincher was the Yankees' refusal to negotiate. Your note in 17 outlines the entire theory of my column. If actions do speak louder than words, then the Mets are screaming to be painted as losers once again.

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