"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Yankee Panky #10: Stripe Poker

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.

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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.

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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 firejoemorgan.com 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.

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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 …

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver