Coverage of the Yankees' aftermath begins in the second week of October for the third straight year. Had the Yankees received better starting pitching from their ace and gotten timely hits in more than one game, we might be talking about the insane hype of Yankees-Red Sox IV instead of counting down the days until spring training.
So now, we ask a ton of questions and simultaneously search for answers to what went wrong, and what's next. Aside from Joe Torre, the A-Rod question looms largest among all the potential players who could be gone in 60 days or so. The Post's Mike Vaccaro notes A-Rod's reluctance to answer that question immediately following Game 4.
Perhaps our friends at Replacement Level summed it up best:
"I'm not sure what I feel right now. I'm disappointed obviously, and there will be a tendency to find scapegoats and blame people on the Yankees, but the Yankees lost to a pretty damn good team in Cleveland. Sometimes you get outplayed by a team that is better. I'll be pulling for them in the ALCS."
Now we enter the silly season of coverage. Where "sources close to the situation" determine everything, and a greater emphasis is placed on getting the story out as opposed to getting it right. In such a competitive atmosphere to scoop everyone, this is understandable — the rumors sell papers — but it blurs the line of truth even further. Just yesterday SI.com's Jon Heyman told the talk-radio audience that Tony LaRussa is the leading candidate to replace Joe Torre. If you're Bill Madden, you're absolutely positive that Steinbrenner wants LaRussa and have anonymous sources to back it up. If you're George King of the New York Post, your sources say LaRussa isn't interested and that Don Mattingly's the favorite to replace Torre, followed by Joe Girardi. This is, of course, provided that Torre either opts not to return or is ordered not to.
The bitterness and anger that followed last year's early exit was gone this year. By no means was it a love fest, but in general I thought the papers and the broadcast media did a good job of capturing that emotion and the closeness that this Yankee team appeared to have compared to others that have faltered in recent years. The way the stories were presented — especially from those who ventured away from the podium in the press cafeteria — I got the sense that the players viewed this loss as a greater disappointment than the last two, that there was an even greater sense of finality. (More on this below)
My question in all this: Based on their playoff performances the last four years or so, should the YES Network change its slogan to "The Home of Teams That Lose In The First Round"? Through six Yankees seasons and five Nets seasons, both teams have reached the playoffs each year, and reached their respective championship rounds only once.
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Some other notes:
• I didn't hear this until I stumbled upon it on a blog called Awful Announcing, but Suzyn Waldman actually cried on the air during the Game 4 postgame show on WCBS 880-AM. The description of the audio led me to believe that Waldman was sobbing on the air. In actuality Waldman, while gauging the situation in the locker room, took a few moments to collect her emotions while projecting the changes that are sure to come. Following a brief comparison of the mood in the locker room being akin to the mood on the flight back to New York from Seattle after the Game 5 loss in 1995, Waldman welled up as she discussed the potential changes in the coming months. The spill of emotions made John Sterling uncomfortable — there's an obvious change in his vocal tone that seemed to say, "Holy crap, how do I handle this?". The whole exchange straddled the lines of professionalism. But it made for captivating radio.
She told the NY Times today: "That's what I felt. I am who I am. I'm emotional. A lot of people like it, a lot of people don't. I didn't do it in a game, and I recovered."
A debate ensued regarding the circumstances in which it's OK for an announcer to cry. It was about 70/30 in favor of "never." The consensus was that when a player dies, all bets are off. (This exact scenario happened a year ago tomorrow, with Cory Lidle's plane crash. The Yankees were already out of the playoffs by this time, so there wasn't a chance to gauge how Waldman or any other Yankee broadcaster handled the situation in a game or reporting situation.) Three game-related examples cited were Joe Buck crying following the sudden death of Darryl Kile, and after his father, the Hall of Fame announcer Jack Buck, died; and producers waiting until after the game to tell Vin Scully that Don Drysdale had died. Given the 35-year friendship of the two men and that Scully was there for Drysdale's entire playing and broadcasting career, a catharsis would have been understood. Scanning through the comments, I was fine with many of the responses until a few members of their intelligentsia started generalizing Yankee fans as "deluded" and went into full-on hate mode.
Listening to the Waldman exchange again, I've concluded that her histrionics in the booth when Clemens announced his return to the Yankees were much more of a credibility killer.
• Anyone else see or read our fellow Banterer Emma Span blogging for Newsday? Great stuff, and kudos to Newsday for adding her work to their solid coverage.
TBS'S GAME COVERAGE
• Save for Richard Sandomir's take in yesterday's NY Times, where Chip Caray was rightfully skewered for making critical fact errors and not called to task, the reviews for the TBS in-game team were pretty good, while the studio group left a little to be desired. For the purposes of this entry, the TBS studio team of Ernie Johnson, Frank Thomas and Cal Ripken is irrelevant; they add little to the broadcast when called upon. The team of Chip Caray, Bob Brenly and Tony Gwynn has been the best of the four teams calling the Division Series, largely because of Brenly and Gwynn. Their analysis has been fair, and they've raised points outside the obvious. I could watch Gwynn break down slo-mo replays of hitting for hours. And Brenly, with experience as a major league catcher, broadcaster, and World Series-winning manager, has a sense of when he's said enough. Rarely have I heard him repeat an issue to the point of sounding the dead horse alert. Caray, on the other hand, has wavered from "OK" to "mute-worthy" as a play-by-play man. Where he's succeeded in setting up Brenly and Gwynn and engaging discussion between the analysts, he's gone overboard in creating drama when it's not warranted. On three different occasions in the first three innings of Game 3 — each time when the leadoff man reached base — he said, "Here come the Yankees." Twice, the next batter grounded into a double play. In the third inning, after the Yankees did get on the scoreboard, Jeter bounced into an inning-ending double play. Also, in Game 3 — maybe it was because Roger Clemens was on the mound? — every hard-hit ball was a "rocket." In Game 4, before his first at-bat, Caray called Matsui "red-hot." Getting on base four times in one game — two by walk — after going 0-for the series does not merit being "red-hot." … I've seen Caray do some solid booth work calling playoff games for FOX in the past. I think he's better than what he showed. Maybe he isn't.
• One other thing: can someone please educate the PBP guys how to read Web addresses? All week, Caray promoted the TBS Hot Corner at mlb.com "backslash" hotcorner. Production assistants, anyone in the truck, it's your responsibility to bring corrections to your producers' attention. In this case, "/" is a slash, and "\" is a backslash. What's worse, looking bad because you've made a fact error, or acknowledging that you made a mistake?
• Completely unrelated to the Yankees, Don Orsillo did a good job calling the Red Sox-Angels series, but I was surprised that TBS enlisted him for that gig, since he's the primary PBP man for the Red Sox on NESN. You can either praise them for bringing in someone with knowledge of the team, having been there since February, or vilify them for the taking the risk of having a "homer" on a national broadcast. Orsillo handled himself with veteran aplomb.
YES NETWORK'S POST GAME COVERAGE
• My only real criticism of YES's post game is that it was too long. It doesn't need to last for more than an hour. With that said, I thought he setup they had this year was ideal: Flaherty and Justice in-studio with Bob Lorenz anchoring, and Kay and O'Neill providing on-field analysis with Kim Jones providing pool info from the clubhouse. Lorenz, Flaherty and Justice played off each other well, and Lorenz has gotten even better in the YES anchor role. He's very underrated. Kay excels in this role that he held during the MSG days; he was great in this role last October during the Tigers series, and he was good again this year. In the Game 4 post, it was obvious that Kay was trying to prod Paul O'Neill to call out a few players, particularly when he asked what was missing from the last few clubs compared to the four championship teams on which he played. O'Neill didn't take the bait.
• The NY Post Online supplemented their written content with clips from the YES postgame. I had not heard of a content-sharing deal between the two entities.
• Examples of Justice and Flaherty really bringing their A-games: 1) In the Game 3 post, a graphic displayed the Yankees' offensive numbers in Game 3 versus Games 1 and 2. Justice correctly pointed out that the Yankees kill middle-of-the-rotation pitchers, as did Paul O'Neill during the on-field segment. 2) When asked about Chien-Ming Wang's success threshold starting Game 4 on short rest, Flaherty brought up an interesting point about how being slightly fatigued will enhance the downward action on his sinker.
• To me, the big question of Game 3, aside from the Steinbrenner ultimatum, was Torre's decision to have Joba Chamberlain pitch the eighth inning. Based on the result, I think reporters on the scene took Torre to task on the wrong inning, and here's why: If the score had remained 5-3 after six, I would have agreed with the Joba move. After they broke it open, why not ride Phil Hughes through the seventh and save Joba for either the eighth inning or a sticky situation (whichever came first)? Perhaps Torre and Co. looked at Hughes's pitch count (63) and thought long-term for Game 4 or 5, and want to save him for another potential long-relief spot. From all that I read, Madden was the only one to present a similar theory.