It’s that time of the year where baseball starts to lead the back pages because there’s nothing else worth noting in New York, thanks to the area’s winter sports teams hovering between anonymity (Devils), mediocrity (Rangers and Islanders), or suckdom (Knicks and Nets). So with snow on the ground, it’s the media’s function to get fans even more excited about the baseball season, which is now five weeks away.
The two weeks before the Grapefruit League schedule starts can be a hit or miss in terms of feature writing. At times, it appears as if writers are trying to create stories that aren’t really there. Sometimes, there’s value in the features.
Of all the papers, the Post, in my opinion, had the best combination of team or roster related stories and human interest features. The two primary guys, George King and Joel Sherman, arguably do the most digging and find the most creative angles for their stories. The Times does a good job of this also. The big reason: they throw in minor league stories and look beyond the obvious. For example, Sherman’s story on Mark Melancon, who the Yankees drafted in 2006 along with Joba Chamberlain, gives us one of those “who to watch for” pieces at the perfect time of year. Great, we’ll file the name Mark Melancon. Keeping with the Chamberlain theme, Joe Lapointe’s feature on Joba’s role in enlivening the clubhouse is the ever-popular clubhouse chemistry feature, yet cleverly, he never mentions the two words consecutively in the piece. Lapointe’s story on how Joe Girardi plans to rotate Hideki Matsui, Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon is one that will be monitored for the entire year.
When games start, you’ll see the gamut of stories about players in the system and any potential surprises that arise, such as Bubba Crosby and Enrique Wilson in 2004.
What I’ve found interesting to date is that Chien-Ming Wang is already being touted as the Opening Day starter. A done deal before we even reach March. Joe Torre was always coy about this announcement, even if he knew how he was going to line up his arms. He typically would not divulge this information until the second or third week in March, and only then would he arrange the starters toward the season opener.
The other game that’s fun to play: read as many of the papers as you can and see who has stories different than their competitors. There’s a lot of that to go around in the Spring, because there's just so much to cover, and only so much space to devote to full-length features.
OH THAT A-ROD
For every article praising Alex Rodriguez's talent, there are another three that give the impression that the press is out to tear him down. Rodriguez exaggerated last week about how many drug tests he was administered during the 2007 season, which hurts his credibility. Today, the big news, at least in the Post (I consider this story interesting, but not lead-worthy), is the note that A-Rod’s mental toughness could slip without Larry Bowa and Mike Borzello in the clubhouse to kick his butt. Is he that co-dependent? Is that a story that could have waited until mid-April or May, if he got off to a slow start and the writers then clamored for reasons why? What do you think?
AND ABOUT THOSE DRUG TESTS …
Kudos to Derek Jeter for taking a stand on HGH testing and saying that blood tests, despite it having to be collectively bargained, is the best and preferred way for the league to operate its drug testing platform. Jeter’s position differs from many of his teammates, according to Mark Feinsand of the Daily News. It’ll be interesting to see how the philosophical differences play out as this story progresses, because as we all know, it’s not going away.