Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Yankee Panky #10: Stripe Poker
2007-05-22 05:45
by Will Weiss
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

I’ve received some flak for not accompanying the weekly items with enough links. I’m not going to apologize for this, because sometimes I believe adding the links is warranted, whereas other times I don’t. However, I understand the frustration of certain readers who want the direct access to an article I’m referencing. Moving forward, I will try to add as many as I can within my posts, within reason. There can come a point where posting too many links detracts from the objective of the column, and I’ll be honest here, I have an ego and I don’t want you to click away from here if you’re reading my words.

Please note that the number of links will fluctuate on a week-to-week basis.

* * *

Now that that brief venting session is over, I’ll say this: you can tell it’s going to be a strange day in coverage when the Late City Final editions of the Post and the Daily News carry the same backpage headline: “THE YANKEE CLIPPARD.” If the rookie starts being called “T-Clip,” or “Ty Ballgame,” we’re in trouble.

 All joking aside, the Mets took two of three from the Yankees in Round 1 of The Series Torre and Randolph Hate to Acknowledge Is on the Schedule. And if we learned anything from the weekend — other than Mike Myers shouldn’t be the first arm out of the pen, nor should he be allowed to pitch to righties — it’s that New York is still the Yankees’ town, at least in terms of media favoritism.

An example of this is that none of the major papers sent a secondary writer to Boston to interview Braves players about facing the Mets. Their rivalry is arguably the National League’s best and has been since 1999. Those columns were written from New York as a means of rationalizing the Mets’ loss Sunday night, and editors had a day to play with as the team traveled to Atlanta. But with a crucial Yankees-Red Sox series necessitating immediate attention and David Ortiz capping his dissertation on the 180-degree flip between the rivals this season by saying, “It ain't the same right now, homey,” editors’ priorities were simple. If faced with a similar decision, I too would have sent people to Boston on a Yanks-Sox preview assignment. Yankees-Red Sox will supersede Mets-Braves 99% of the time.

Regarding the Yankees’ lone victory in the series, I was disappointed at the lack of originality displayed in the presentation. (Last week, I recall a comment in this space saying “Once again, we must rely on blogs and nontraditional media for the best coverage.” That’s true to an extent.) The angles were obvious, and the outlets followed through accordingly, but almost to the point where if you looked closely, you’d swear some of the writers were copying off each other. Mike “Post to Post” Puma (formerly of the Connecticut Post, now with the NY Post), and Roger Rubin of the Daily News ended their Boston-based previews with Big Papi’s tabloid-friendly “homey” quote.

The similarities extended to the descriptions of the young Yankees starter. Newsday’s Johnette Howard referred to Clippard as “jug-eared”, while Filip Bondy called him “teacup-eared.”

I was most disappointed that more writers didn’t attempt to look at Clippard’s start from alternate perspectives. Watching Clippard, I couldn’t help but think of Brandon Claussen, who starred in his MLB debut in the Subway at Series at Shea in 2003. Joel Sherman astutely recognized the parallel when analyzing the effect Clippard’s success may have on the rotation. Sherman added observations from Ron Villone, who spent the first six weeks of the season with Clippard in Scranton.

Bringing forth parallels is not something the papers do too often anymore, and it’s a shame. I always tried to put the current game — regardless of its significance — into a broader historical context. I made the same suggestions when discussing angles with my writers on-site for YES. Placing such info within a simple game story or column not only demonstrates consideration for the intelligent fan, it shows that the writer or editor knows the team. It’s a credibility enhancer. Roger Rubin did a good job of this also, in his assessment of the Red Sox’ 30-13 start.

To get the broader analysis, you need to dig beyond the Big 8 – Daily News, Post, Newsday, the Times, Journal News, Star-Ledger, Bergen Record, and the Hartford Courant — for columns like Steve Goldman’s piece in the New York Sun, comparing this year’s Yankee squad to the 1982 team that finished 79-83. If you don’t go there, you’ll have to hit the message boards, Baseball Prospectus, or one of the numerous blogs.

* * *

Goofy/attention-getting notes from the weekend’s broadcasts:

  • Saturday, during the 6th or 7th inning, FOX’s Ken Rosenthal, who I respect a great deal, botched an analogy, and his explorers. When discussing the Yankees’ myriad troubles, he equated it to “Vasco da Gama looking for the fountain of youth.” As a history buff, this made me cringe. Firstly, Ponce de Leon, according to the legend, was searching for the fountain of youth while on his colonizing voyages to Florida in the early 1500s. These trips by De Leon, a Spaniard, were a good 15 years after da Gama, the Portuguese sailor who went the other way, becoming the first person to sail around Africa to the East Indies, with the goal of expanding Portugal’s colonialism and developing the spice trade. The fact that no one on the FOX broadcast team called him on the fact error concerned me. (This happens all too frequently on local broadcasts. Perhaps that’ll be a column later this season.) Would it have made him look even worse had that happened? Could a producer at least have gotten in his ear and said, “Uh, Ken, it was Ponce De Leon, not Vasco da Gama. You might want to correct yourself. Joe? Tim? Want to help him out?” The Jeopardy watcher in me has nervous tics just thinking about it.
  • During the Sunday ESPN airing, Joe Morgan’s analysis of Clippard falling off to either side of the mound was, for lack of a better word, interesting. “He falls off to the third-base side, and then to first. But it doesn’t depend on the pitch.” When breaking down the replay, “See? Here’s what I mean, on one pitch, he falls to first, and then to third.” Consecutive slo-mo replays showed him finishing his delivery toward first base. And we never found out the reason for the quirk in Clippard’s delivery. Three minutes of broadcast time we didn’t get back. The bizarre thing wasn’t the commentary itself; it was that the guys at let him off the hook.
  • While Peter Gammons dismissed Kyle Farnsworth’s opposition to the “Clemens Clause,” calling him an “insignificant member of the team,” Morgan agreed that while Farnsworth speaking doesn’t have the same effect as a Jeter, Rivera, Posada or Damon, he does have the right to speak his mind. Morgan was correct.

* * *

Overall, some of the biggest stories in Major League Baseball merged in pinstripes. The Yankees’ tailspin into a double-digit deficit to the Boston Red Sox had SportsCenter recalling the largest separation between the two teams prior to the All-Star break (this note, of course, had the Yankees trailing, because ESPN is just a larger outlet for Red Sox lovers, right?), and again furthered the “Fire Torre and/or Cashman” speculation. Interleague play had the likes of the Yankees and Braves crying foul that they are forced to play a third of their respective schedules against the Mets and Red Sox, respectively. (MLB has done the equivalent of covering its ears and singing “La la la la la la” when such complaints are reported.).

But the more significant story was an off-field item that could affect the Yankees more than another pitcher landing on the operating table. Jason Giambi’s comment/apology/confession/admission (you can play “Mad Libs” on this one to pick the appropriate word) to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale for his use of performance enhancing drugs, and the league’s ignorance of the problem.

This is a story, like Giambi’s mullet, that will not go away any time soon. Newsday’s Jim Baumbach questioned the timing of the story, while Wally Matthews and the crew at No Maas praised Giambi’s honesty, damn the consequences he’ll face from MLB. Fans, for the most part, are supporting Giambi as long as he’s hitting. The Yankee organization? That’s still to be determined.

The Daily News was the first to report the team investigating the possibility of voiding the remainder of Giambi’s contract. The Post and others corroborated the story and quickly published short items of their own. Depending on how quickly MLB reacts with disciplinary action, the Giambi story will live as a supplement to the forthcoming items on Roger Clemens, Phil Hughes, Kei Igawa, and whatever the team is planning to announce regarding Carl Pavano.

Reader challenge: Put on your editorial hat. How would you cover the Giambi story as it relates to the rest of the team’s troubles? Is it a separate issue?

Until next week …

2007-05-22 10:05:55
1.   JL25and3
"Jug-eared" was exactly the term I thought of.
2007-05-22 10:21:38
2.   bp1
"How would you cover the Giambi story as it relates to the rest of the team's troubles? Is it a separate issue?"

The Yankees were struggling prior to Giambi's "confession", so I don't think it makes sense to write a story relating Giambi's situation with the team's on field performance. I doubt the discussion affects anyone on the team outside of Brian, Joe, or Jason. The rest have been through this stuff a zillion times with a number of players on the roster. Giambi saying or not saying something is not going to keep Rasner from breaking his finger, or the rash of hamstring injuries. No way can Bobby Abreu blame his sucking on Giambi's situation. The Yankees are struggling, but I can't imagine a write of any repute trying to lay that at Giambi's feet for his USA Today interview.

Also note how it took all of 10 seconds for the "Yankees trying to void Giambi's contract" talk popped up again. Were those stories just in limbo waiting for an opportunity to get in print, like how TV and print news have obituaries ready for famous people who are past their expiration date?

Guys like Tom Verducci seem to revel in predicting doom and gloom for the Bronx, an attitude that has infected most mainstream media outlets. It's almost a sport unto itself - hammering away on the Yankees for whatever reason - well informed or not. It's so out of hand that it almost becomes white noise.

Honestly - the only voice that is worth listening to anymore is Bob Sheppard's.

2007-05-22 10:33:34
3.   williamnyy23
The Giambi story is a NON-issue. Personally, I think the whole steroids story has become a chance for sports writers to feel more important by weighing in on a great "social issue". I don't think the level of interest among fans comes anywhere near the amount of media coverage.
2007-05-22 10:39:14
4.   williamnyy23
While Goldman is usually a good read, I think his analysis of the Wild Card race completely missed several key points. In indentifying Detroit and Cleveland as main competitors, he is correct. Where he missed the boat was failing to mention that both teams have to play each other 19 times! What's more, Detroit has already burned 9 games against KC. In fact, if you look at their record closely, you'd see they are 15-3 vs KC, Baltimore and St. Louis. Meanwhile, they're 7-9 vs. Boston, Chicago, Anaheim and Minnesota. Guess which teams they have to play more (not to mention Cleveland)?
2007-05-22 10:57:30
5.   Chyll Will
2 "Honestly - the only voice that is worth listening to anymore is Bob Sheppard's."

Yep, and here's a couple ways to distract yourself whenever you have to listen to all those other voices:

Bob Sheppard as John Rooney in "Road To Perdition" yelling at John Sterling (I CURSE... the F@#$%in'... DAY!!!... you were born... I CURSE IT!!!)

Bob Sheppard in response to anything Suzyn Waldman says (BAH-jees?? WE NO NEED NO STEENK-ING BAH-jees!!)

or, how's this PSA (Your attention please: this is a stickup. Please hand over the contents of your purse or wallet to the nearest usher...)

2007-05-22 11:08:17
6.   Sliced Bread
Excellent stuff as usual, Will.

Goldman's columns are often rich with historical perspective. The '82 comparison was very interesting. Tim Marchman took that idea a step further in his piece in the Sun today, suggesting a Yankee failure to make the postseason this year wouldn't be such a bad thing if the team learned from its mistakes.

Maybe I'm being too sensitive, but Gammons has seemed waaaay too gleeful reporting about the Yanks problems lately.

Late last week, maybe Friday afternoon before the first Mets game, Gammons was all aflutter with the news that the Yanks might void Giambi's contract. He sounded like he might wet his pants.

And did you catch this odd item in Raiassman's column today?

the talk about Joe Torre's Yankee future, or lack thereof, is like gum stuck to a shoe - annoying and hard to get rid of. The story goes beyond the obvious speculation. It's not good enough to just predict whether the manager will stay or get the boot.

Who will make the decision? And who are Mr. Torre's detractors inside the organization? That's the direction ESPN's Peter Gammons was headed Sunday night in the fourth inning of Yankees-Mets.

Jon Miller asked Gammons if Torre could lose his job. Gammons said it's "not impossible" and reported that George Steinbrenner likely would have something to say following the Bombers' current series with Boston.

"There are some problems (for Torre). Randy Levine, the club president who apparently is back in power, is no Joe Torre fan," Gammons said. "There is no question there is pressure coming from George Steinbrenner and some other people in the organization who question Joe Torre despite his resume of remarkable achievement."

Bringing Levine into the equation is curious. Or is it? In recent years Levine's role with the Yankees has been clearly spelled out. He is in charge of the business side, so it must have been surprising for him to hear he is back in power.

It really does not matter what Levine thinks of Torre. Even in Steinbrenner's weakened state, he - or the family member running the Yankees that particular day - is not going to place an urgent call to Levine and get him involved in pure baseball decisions.

For Gammons to leave the impression Levine has enough juice to pull the plug on Torre is a huge reach. As usual, there could be more here than meets the eye, ear, nose or throat.

For many years - and this is not a well-kept secret - there has been animosity between Levine and Gammons. They don't speak. The bad blood came as a result of Levine taking issue with a Gammons report about the Yankees acquiring a player for major dough. Levine called an ESPN executive directly, telling him Gammons' report was not accurate.

Needless to say, Gammons was not thrilled about this.

So, could Gammons' attempt to cast Levine as the heavy in this Torre drama be payback for Levine showing him up, and going over his head?

Gee, does that kind of stuff really happen?

Overtly rooting for the Red Sox is one thing, Mr. Gammons, but meddling in the Yanks business would be pretty bitchy stuff, even for a Sox fan.

2007-05-22 11:42:40
7.   Yankee Fan In Boston
6 i've met peter gammons a couple of times. he was very personable and patient with my friend and i.

when my friend jokingly asked if he needed an assistant, gammons said that he might, and gave the kid his email address. mr. gammons then replied to an email, stating that he didn't need any help after all. even apologized for getting his hopes up.

sure, i'm letting a small sample size skew my expectations, but i don't want to believe that he would be so petty.

...but anything is possible, i guess.

here's to hoping that tavarez's extraordinary luck wears off at roughly 7:03 PM tonight.

2007-05-22 11:45:09
8.   ric
im curious as to what you guys as Yanks fans think about this article...,0,7559777.column?coll=ny-yankees-print

2007-05-22 11:50:11
9.   Jersey
5 How about Bob Sheppard as The Lord Humungus in the Road Warrior: "THERE HAS BEEN...too much VIOLENCE...too much PAIN...JUST WALK AWAY...Just WALK AWAY...and there will be an END...TO THE HORROR. END, HORROR."
2007-05-22 11:50:40
10.   Yankee Fan In Boston
8 i read that this morning. wakefield has had some success against the yankees in the past. in the 2003 series, up until boone's HR, he had shut the yankees down. there was talk of him being the series MVP if i recall correctly.

wakefield has lasted as long as he has for a reason.

i don't buy what he's selling, but that's my opinion.

2007-05-22 11:50:43
11.   yankz
8 Did you do that on purpose?
2007-05-22 11:57:52
12.   Bama Yankee
8 is your friend... ;-)

Seriously, posting those long link can seriously mess up the view for some people. It's better if you use

2007-05-22 12:03:23
13.   ric

sorry, i guess... how does it mess up someones view?

2007-05-22 12:05:20
14.   Yankee Fan In Boston
13 it can stretch their browser so that they have to scroll sideways and back to read other comments.
2007-05-22 12:17:22
15.   JL25and3
Wow, that article was really harsh. Me, I like Wakefield. For 13 years now he's shown up, worked hard, kept his mouth shut, and done his job to the best of his ability, in whatever role they decide to put him in this week. What's not to like?
2007-05-22 12:20:14
16.   RIYank
ric, it's on the moronic side, imo. What's the point of the article? Wakefield pitches slow, the games he pitches in go slow. True. So? The Yankees have hit Wakefield pretty well lately. True, but Wakey has pitched well against other teams, with (until last night) the second best ERA in the league.
I like Tim W., too, but that's independent of why I think the article is stupid.
2007-05-22 12:30:05
17.   JL25and3
16 Well put, and I agree. It was a nasty and gratuitous hack job.
2007-05-22 12:41:01
18.   Sliced Bread
The tone of the Wakefield story might have been inappropriate to a Wakefield fan.

Matthews doesn't like watching Wakefield work, and doesn't appreciate his skill. You can't hang the writer for that.

What I took from the piece is that one should not conclude that the Yankee bats are out of their collective funk, just because they smacked a soft-tossing knuckleballer around last night.

Other than that, the worst thing I can say about the piece is that it wasn't particularly illuminating.

2007-05-22 12:43:29
19.   Jim Dean
Will -

I love the preface - nothing wrong with setting expectations and answering criticism. Well done.

On the Claussen-Clippard comp, I'd say it's too easy - more superficial based on their first games than substantial. Not only is Tyler two years younger in his debut, but he also has much better mL numbers of the two leading up to their respective debuts. In other words, Clippard is further along and at a much younger age. Except for Claussen being a lefty, the Yankee Clippard projects much better.

On Clippard's wayward falls, and Morgan's "analysis": - we discussed it here and there was general confusion about what it meant, if anything. To me that suggests the general diservice Morgan did in wasting that time. Not only did he keep referring to it but he left everyone confused about what it meant. Trying to criticize an argument without a point is like trying to shoot a butterfly with a laser scope. Where do you focus? Probably why the FJM guys left it alone.

On Giambi: I'd say you contrast the public statements with the leaked testimony and ask if there's a legal case to be made if the latter isn't available to a judge. If not, then you start to wonder if it's a negotiating ploy (turn up the heat) to get Giambi to waive his no-trade agreement. Otherwise, no news = no stories.

Thanks again - great stuff!

2007-05-22 12:45:12
20.   Voice of Reason
Fox's broadcast did unearth the fact that Ken Rosenthal's knowledge of baseball usurps his knowledge of globe-exploring cultural rapists, but I can cut Kenny some slack. He is a writer after all and we all know that the best sideline reporters have to be either marginally-attractive blondes or tomboys that Joe Namath can find attractive.

I let Fox (and Kenny) off the hook because of one simple intro bumper coming back from commercial break. For the first time in recent memory, a music montage recapping the highlights of the game were accompanied by something other than a Foo Fighters/Green Day/Panic at the Disco song. Yes, Billy Joel's New York State of Mind was an obvious choice for the story, but think of this dichotomy.

Television exists to cater to the youth. Old viewers don't matter despite the fact that there are exponentially more of them than the young. (And get this, they spend more, too.)

Like a veteran pitcher dealing with a rookie battery-mate, baseball has to constantly shake off its old, crusty and boring reputation. This is an instance where the very network that whores itself to younger viewers more than any other aired on the older side; the refined side.

As a television producer, I can say with some authority that it wasn't perfect execution, but the net deserves some credit for the effort. (It was hard to ignore the fact that the video was cut to a song with a much quicker beat and the eventual choice seemed to be somebody's afterthought. No matter the case, this is a momentous occasion if only for the fact that I really can't remember the last time that a network thought at all.)

Food for thought: perhaps the reason Mike Myers' pitching prowess is slipping because he's moonlighting as a co-star in Adam Sandler movies as womanizing limo drivers and going by the name Allen Covert.

2007-05-22 12:45:33
21.   ric

thats how i felt.. its one thing not liking a slow game or a boring pitcher... but to call the guy "not a major league pitcher" is lame. i think watching the knuckle move when it on is not boring.

2007-05-22 12:49:34
22.   Jim Dean
4 6 Great stuff.
2007-05-22 13:34:30
23.   Bama Yankee
20 Speaking of sideline reporters, check out the way Coach Bear Bryant handled being questioned about his choice for QB during a game 25 years ago:

Just once I would like to see a manager react in a similar fashion to one of Tim McCarver's silly questions/comments during those dugout interviews on FOX...

2007-05-22 13:55:07
24.   Will Weiss
Thanks for the note, Voice of Reason. I've met Kenny on a couple of occasions, and I think he's one of the best baseball reporters out there. And he's a nice guy, to boot. I know what he was going for with his analogy, and I'm sure he knows he fudged the history a bit. I was just using it more as an example of something that made me go, "What?!?" and as another item of how when broadcasters err on the air like that, rarely do they cover themselves.
2007-05-22 14:42:59
25.   Will Weiss
Jim Dean, I can take the heat ... I want to make sure we keep the readers, you know? Regarding your comment: "On Clippard's wayward falls, and Morgan's "analysis": - we discussed it here and there was general confusion about what it meant, if anything. To me that suggests the general diservice Morgan did in wasting that time. Not only did he keep referring to it but he left everyone confused about what it meant. Trying to criticize an argument without a point is like trying to shoot a butterfly with a laser scope. Where do you focus? Probably why the FJM guys left it alone." ... I hadn't thought of that. Great observation.
2007-05-22 15:14:46
26.   Jim Dean
25 Sorry if I implied you couldn't! I just admire how you handled it and redirected it.
2007-05-22 15:30:59
27.   Will Weiss
Jim Dean, no harm. You didn't imply that at all. We're all friends here. Thanks for the compliments and the feedback, both positive and negative.
2007-05-22 15:56:02
28.   Voice of Reason
23 Great clip. Thanks for sharing. Bear Bryant was the face of the program and a stylish one at that. (Love that fedora.) Nowadays, coaches/managers are so soft and watered down that there are few who would dare to tell a sideline reporter where to stick their mic (and even fewer corporate bosses who would let them). Parcells did it. His buddy Bob Knight largely defines himself by doing it. Jim Leyland will lash out sometimes between cigarette puffs. Coaches who used to now quit halfway through a mediocre season for elective surgery (Pat Riley) or get exported to Japan (Bobby Valentine). Our TGI Fridays-strip mall society is too watered down. Too soft. Too much of a façade. And the coaches just fall in line with that notion. In the vein of telling it like it is, who's left?
2007-05-22 16:53:06
29.   Al Rogers
Thanks, Will !!

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