The last week in July is arguably the most fun time of the baseball season from an editorial perspective, with the non-waiver trade deadline drawing ever closer. I also thought August was fun, when teams start unloading players onto the waiver wire and buyers eye the last piece or pieces to put together a run to the postseason.
The big questions every year were: Which teams are buying? Which teams are selling? Who’s available? What will the market bear? And where do the Yankees fit into all of it, because they’re always involved somehow.
The most difficult aspect of this, I found, was separating truth from rumor. At YES — the dot.com at least — we were at a slight disadvantage because we weren’t around the team every day, and while we had contacts both internally and within the league, we were under strict orders to not break news. We were not a news gathering organization, although we tried to report. This was the Catch-22. Come trade deadline time, I didn’t mind this so much, but selfishly, I wanted YESNetwork.com to be the go-to place for Yankees content, and I wanted us to be the first to get the story. If I noticed something in a blog or in a local paper or TV/Radio broadcast, I’d pitch a reaction story to one of our broadcasters or outside contributors for some analysis and perspective on the matter. We also had access to wire copy and could run with an AP story.
How is the 2007 trade deadline being handled? If the Yankees were closer to the Red Sox, or even in first place, I believe there would be more of a push from the papers and the talkies to stir activity. Right or wrong, it’s part of the fun of this time of year. This week and the days leading up to the Winter Meetings are the days you see information come from “sources close to the situation.” The only trade the Yankees have made thus far was acquiring Jose Molina from the Angels in exchange for minor league pitcher Jeff Kennard.
There was the annual convention of team brass to discuss the grand plan, which the papers all used as Notebook leads from Tuesday night’s game coverage. Brian Cashman has told reporters for months now that one trade is not the answer; it won’t be enough to help the team because the current players haven’t played to their capabilities. According to numerous reports, Cashman is intent on holding onto Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain and using them as the foundations of the Yankees’ future pitching staff. He will not sacrifice them to land Mark Teixeira; he took a similar stance 2 ½ years ago, refusing to include Robinson Cano and/or Chien-Ming Wang, his best trade chips, in any deal.
The hot rumor has been Ty Wigginton for Scott Proctor, and that story has taken a couple of twists. First the Rays were interested; the Yankees wanted to give them Kyle Farnsworth, but he was too expensive. Then the Rays said they didn’t want to trade within the division. Then they were interested again, but wanted Proctor because he fit the Rays’ budget.
Perhaps the best trade to be made is one made from within, as Joel Sherman suggests. But is Joe Torre ready to stop giving Kyle Farnsworth the benefit of the doubt?
There’s still talk of bringing in a first baseman not named Andy Phillips: Wigginton, Shea Hillenbrand, and Big Tex are the names being bandied about, but until something happens, it’s best to think a trade involving the Yankees is hearsay.
STERLING’S TARNISHED SILVER
Many of you expressed your enjoyment of John Sterling several posts back when I posed the question about your preferences for Yankees, Mets and Red Sox coverage. I will concede that Sterling is a capable entertainer. Sports are a form of entertainment, and with his flair for the dramatic, he fits that bill perfectly.
But John Sterling the baseball announcer is not as formidable as John Sterling the entertainer. Mike and the Mad Dog razz Sterling for his melodramatic calls and his homerism, and in many cases, it’s justified. The 28 seconds of dead air that followed A-Rod bouncing into the 9th-inning double play in Game 4 against the Angels in ’05 is just one example of patented Sterling. It sounded as if he took off his headphones in disgust, walked out of the booth to collect himself, and then came back when he was ready. Had Suzyn Waldman not been camped near the clubhouse to prep for postgame coverage, one of two things would have happened: 1) Sterling would have stayed put; 2) If Sterling was frustrated enough to cut off his speech, Waldman likely would have picked up on it and rehashed the double play and transitioned the broadcast to the next at-bat.
Most recently, Sterling has fallen into the “I think” syndrome. It surfaced Monday night during the Kansas City broadcast, specifically Alex Gordon’s second at-bat, when was discussing how two of the Royals’ recent top draft picks — Gordon and Billy Butler — were in the lineup. It had potential to be a good note and a chance to educate Yankee fans about a player to watch for years to come. Except … in Sterling’s description of Gordon, he mentioned how the 23-year-old third baseman “was a star at Wichita State, I think.”
I’m sorry, but Sterling should have known Gordon played college ball at Nebraska and not Wichita State. He has the Royals’ media guide. He has game notes. He has access to the Internet. He has every means necessary to be more than adequately prepared for such a talking point during the broadcast, and he dropped an I think.
In April, during the Yankees’ first trip to Tampa Bay, when A-Rod was on his first home run binge and hit his 12th homer of the season, Sterling estimated how many home runs he needed to reach the 500 benchmark. The math was simple. He started 2007 with 464, and had 476 at the time of that home run. He needed 24 to get to 500. Sterling should have known the number — put it on an index card or something.
As a fan of the game and, at one time, an aspiring broadcaster — my dream job was to be a baseball PBP announcer, and I continue to study anyone I can. It upsets me when Sterling or anyone in such a position makes simple mistakes like the ones mentioned above, which give the audience the impression that he’s unprepared.
I did play-by-play for five different sports in college, including baseball, and was fortunate enough to do a couple of minor league games each of the past two years, and the most important thing you can portray to your listeners is a knowledge and understanding of the game itself and of the players represented on both teams. Sterling only does this in spurts. You might say I’m focusing on the mistakes, but to me, mistakes like this are inexcusable. Especially when you’re dealing with a team like the Yankees, whose fans are arguably the most passionate and knowledgeable in all of baseball.
John Sterling has a great voice. But in this town, I think we deserve more than just a voice, theatrics, stories and a few chuckles.