Being sick has its advantages. For one, it allows you to relax and catch up on some reading. While the Mets have taken hold of the back pages -- it’s the Spring, they’ll have their time in the spotlight again when they’re blowing a 7-game lead in September -- the feature writers have had some fun projecting next steps for the Yankee organization.
After all, this is a season of combined firsts and lasts: the last year in “old” Yankee Stadium, the first season with new manager Joe Girardi, the first season with Hank and Hal Steinbrenner at the helm, which could mean the last year of Brian Cashman as general manager. (There has been only speculation; Cashman has been mum on the topic. We’ve seen and heard this song and dance before.)
Two pieces most notably caught my attention, both for their similarities and for the differences. Both are profiles of Hank Steinbrenner. Ryan McGee’s piece in ESPN the Magazine traces Hank’s path to the Yankees, then to Kinsman Farm, and then back to the Yankees, capturing his bluster and portraying him as his father’s son. The New York Times Magazine also traced the lineage – what profile doesn’t? – and hinted that certain members of the organization believe that Hank is trying too hard to be the kind of managing partner, at least in the press, that his father once was.
The greatest difference was that the PLAY brought the siblings into it as if to demonstrate that the Yankees want to show a unified management front with the Steinbrenner children. Hank is the liaison to the press and handles the baseball decisions, Hal is the brains behind the business decisions, and Jennifer is helping on the real estate side, assisting in oversight of the New Yankee Stadium project.
Which portrayal is correct? You never know with the Yankees. I’m shocked they allowed such access to two relatively unknown writers, especially an ESPN writer, given the volatility of the Yankees-ESPN relationship in the last eight years.
Both stories were well written and are interesting reads, but ultimately came to the same conclusion: George II is named Hank.
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Amid all the game/injury report notes from Spring Training, the bout between the Rays and Yankees stemming from the home plate collision that injured 22-year-old catching prospect Francisco Cervelli Saturday. Joe Girardi was livid.
"During the season, I'm all for it," Girardi told reports. "As a catcher, I understand that. Spring training, I don't get it. I've always known that you don't do it."
(What about an All-Star Game? Is that the time to do it? Was Pete Rose just being Pete Rose when he nailed Ray Fosse, or was it a hard-nosed play that deserved commendation? Was it part of the game? Look at football. Was it “part of the game” for Rodney Harrison to go after Trent Green’s knee in a 1999 preseason contest? The injury ended Green’s season and, effectively any chance he had at being a starter in St. Louis again. … Rant over.)
The Rays, naturally, defended the actions of the assailant, Elliot Johnson. Even Don Zimmer defended it, saying that it was old-fashioned hardball and while it’s unfortunate Cervelli was injured, it’s part of the game. Cervelli took the high road, saying he didn’t think the play was dirty.
The play falls into the “Unwritten Rules.” We’re taught to “practice how you’d play” and “play hard all the time.” It’s part of our culture. Incidents like what happened in Tampa Saturday are direct responses to the culture that’s been created. Johnson is trying to prove himself and score the run. Cervelli blocked the plate. It was a bang-bang play and there was a collision. People’s livelihoods are at stake. Sure, it sounds extreme, but Johnson wouldn’t know if there’d be a red tag in his locker for not at least making an effort to score the run.
So what’s the media’s responsibility in covering such a philosophical debate? How do we deal with a slippery slope argument where both sides make strong cases for being correct? We salivate. We take any intellectualizing out of it, present it as tabloid fodder and stoke the fire of a brawl perhaps ensuing. It’s a reactive approach stemming from working the story off of Girardi’s fiery quotes. “There will be plenty of time to make up for it, with 18 meetings during the regular season,” was the general tone.
The story should not have legs any more than the context of the play. If a philosophical debate is to be engaged, let it happen on a broader scale. Let the beat guys or columnists follow with articles featuring quotes from former “hustle”-type players who may have or would have run a catcher in a spring game, league officials, umpires, etc. It has the potential to be a great story in terms of baseball context.
Or, let the incident sit as a one-off, refer to it when the teams meet again, and let it sit.
I wonder if Yankee management read the stories and picked up on the fact that Joe Torre might not have reacted the same way, the papers seized an opportunity and projected this incident as being even more of a signal that a new era is afoot in the clubhouse.
The new Joe isn’t taking any crap. And the press is loving it.