"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Yankee Panky #15: The Song Remains The Same

If I was still working the editorial front on a full-time basis, an off-day like Monday would have been a great time to reflect on the recent 1-for-6 showing the Yankees posted in Denver and San Francisco and engage some of the broadcasters and freelance contributors to weigh the state of the team as the season draws closer to the non-waiver trade deadline. It also would have been a good time to put together a secondary package of how Derek Jeter has performed in games played on his birthday (he turned 33 yesterday).

I mention this because as I watched the Yankees return to Square One, I got to thinking about whether the overall coverage of the team was more complete, concise and analytical when it is middling or struggling as opposed to two weeks ago, when it steamrolled opponents and seemingly could do no wrong.

In other words, do the local and national media do a better job of being the eyes and ears of the fan in trying times?

The tabloid headlines are certainly funnier when the team is losing (I personally enjoyed the Post’s “ROCKIE III” marquee following Thursday afternoon’s sweep-inducing loss at Coors Field). I’ve found the tabloid headline humor to be a reflection of fan frustration. Despite how well the Rockies had been playing, did anyone believe the Yankees would get swept?

I usually found it easier to write about the team when it wasn’t playing well. Perhaps it’s just a function of my personality, but when the team is going well, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of writing in a fawning, admirable tone. That’s not good either.

The most noticeable bit about what’s being written and discussed now is that you could take stories from six weeks ago and find similar historical references (the Yankees haven’t been x many games below .500 this late in the season in Joe Torre’s 12 years as manager, for example), and similar quotes, especially from Torre in reference to Bob Abreu. “Lack of patience, pretty much on his heels,” is how he described Abreu’s current 4-for-28 slump following last night’s loss to the O’s. Figuring out what to write when the only stories are the same ones you’ve been writing all year are a beat writer’s greatest challenge. (Makes you wonder how the guys in Kansas City do it. They’re probably already looking ahead to Chiefs camp.)

In addition, paper space and air-time dedicated to off-field matters almost equals that of on-field events during hard times. Perhaps it was unfortunate timing that Jason Giambi acquiesced to Commissioner Selig’s demands to comply with the Mitchell investigation at the same time the Yankees were facing Baseball’s primary suspected steroid target, Barry Bonds, but the story could not be ignored.

Most of what I read or watched focused on Mitchell and MLB using Giambi to get to Bonds, but Harvey Araton of the New York Times openly questioned what Mitchell was trying to accomplish. In the form of an open letter without the greeting or closing (Araton uses this column form quite well), Araton opined that Mitchell should follow the same path he did when discussing the drug culture at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, and would be best served asking not only the players, but Commissioner Selig, similar questions.

Now’s the time to start eyeing the rumor mill. This portion of the season is where guys like Joel Sherman (Post), Bob Klapisch (Bergen Record), and Ken Davidoff (Newsday), make their money. Davidoff might be the best of the three in terms of newsgathering, but Sherman and Klapisch are excellent when it comes to player analysis.

Here’s to the Yankees hopefully putting some kind of a streak together to bring the deficit to single digits before our country’s 231st birthday.

Joe Girardi was scheduled for analyst duties for this week’s series in Baltimore, but following his rejection of the Orioles’ managerial vacancy, the Network removed him from the booth to “avoid a hectic atmosphere,” as the New York Times reported. I don’t know about you, but while I respect the Network’s decision — it’s definitely the safe move from a public relations standpoint — I would have loved to hear him discuss the job and his reasons for not jumping at the first job that opened up.

Something tells me, though, that Girardi would have been smart enough to answer the question without really answering the question if and when the subject arose.

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