In any other year, the Yankees would be starting their Division Series with the inappropriately-logoed team from Cleveland today, or even yesterday. But by virtue of MLB’s insane methodology to let TV further dictate start dates under the guise of giving the team with the best league record "an advantage," we must wait until Thursday.
But we won’t have to wait too long. With early starts to all the games in the Yankees-Indians series — Games 1 and 2 start at 6:30 and 5 p.m., respectively, Sunday’s Game 3 start is scheduled for 6:30, Game 4 is next Monday at 6 and Game 5 next Wednesday at 5 — we have at least a week before we see the annual "playoff games should start earlier so kids on the East Coast can stay up to watch it" column from Post Sports TV critic Phil Mushnick. I’m looking forward to that one, because he always cuts through the B.S., and provides me with a good laugh.
At any rate, since we do have some extra time, let’s quickly reflect on the 2007 regular season coverage and look ahead to the playoffs. Feel free to agree or disagree with your comments below.
Disclaimer: The opinions presented are not reflective of the proprietors of Baseball Toaster or my esteemed colleagues here at Bronx Banter, who allow me to put my warped thoughts in this space.
MOST THOROUGH NEWSPAPER COVERAGE
• NY Daily News. No paper sends more writers to more places, and gets as many different angles. The Times may break more stories and have more words to work with, but the Daily News fills space and gets straight to the point.
BEST NEWSPAPER BLOG/BLOGGER
• LoHud, Peter Abraham. He understands the in-game blog function and doesn’t try to be something he’s not. The NY Times’ "Bats" item, with Tyler Kepner, Ben Shpigel, Jack Curry et al, is a close second.
BEST BEAT WRITER
• Tie between Tyler Kepner (NY Times) and George King (NY Post). I would likely choose these two even if I had not seen them in action and know how they go about their business. One is a by-the-book, work the phones guy who looks for angles and stories where others may not; the other is a clubhouse schmoozer who has sources pretty much everywhere. They are both extremely effective reporters in their way, and good writers. I have a tremendous amount of respect for all the beat guys, because it’s a thankless grind of a gig, but Kepner and King consistently churn out high-quality work.
Honorable mention: Dom Amore, Hartford Courant. A veteran beat man who’s witnessed plenty of Yankee history. I’m continually amazed at the accuracy of his quotes, given that he barely jots down notes or uses a recorder. His brain capacity is incredible. I’ve seen him in action. It’s uncanny; because many of us aren’t directly exposed to him due to his Hartford base, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
• Bob Klapisch — The Record/ESPN.com. I chose Klapisch over Joel Sherman for the following reason: Klapisch, who pitched at Columbia and still plays some semipro ball, thinks like a player and brings a knowledge of the game that pierces his stories.
BEST YANKEECENTRIC BLOG
• Being wholly unbiased, Bronx Banter. Although I must say, now that I’ve had a chance to read more of the blogs listed on the right side of the screen, there’s a lot of strong information outside the mainstream, which has restored my faith in the intelligence of Yankee fans. After five years of eyeing and moderating the YES boards, reading your comments here and viewing the other communities has been educational.
BEST YANKEES BLOGGER • There are many talented Yankee wordsmiths. For consistency in tone, fairness, humor, etc., Steven Goldman is the best.
BEST YANKEES TV COMBINATION
• Tie between the following: Kay, Singleton, Flaherty Kay, Girardi, Leiter
We saw it at the tail end of last year; there’s no way to replace Jim Kaat. With so many permutations of people to match with primary play-by-play men Michael Kay and Kenny Singleton, YES’s two-man setup suffered a bit because Kaat transitioned so well between the analyst role with Kay and the dual role with Singleton.
With that said, I was very impressed with some of the three-man arrangements, particularly the ones noted above. If Joe Girardi doesn’t take a managerial job next year, I look for his workload in the booth to increase to 75 games or so. Same with John Flaherty.
Flaherty and Girardi prove one of the unwritten rules of baseball coverage: if you want to gain information on the team and learn more about game strategy or what makes opposing players tick, the backup catcher is the best resource.
BEST YANKEES STUDIO ANALYST
• David Justice. He’s fair, he’s complete, and he’s honest in his assessment.
Now to the general on-field stories…
STORY OF THE YEAR I
• Alex Rodriguez. If his batting average was 50 points higher, we’d be talking Triple Crown. Easily one of the top five composite offensive seasons ever by a Yankees right-handed batter, what’s interesting about his performance was how all the tabloid stories stopped once he decided to shut up, say "F— it" and focus on baseball.
STORY OF THE YEAR II
• Joba Chamberlain and the cult following he’s gained. A couple of weeks ago, Times columnist Harvey Araton echoed sentiments presented in this space by this author — make Joba the Shut (down reliever) Mariano Rivera’s heir apparent. He’s got a ringing endorsement from another hallowed Yankees stopper: Goose Gossage.
• Andy Pettitte. Not that he won 14 games, but if the bullpen came through for him in the first six weeks of the season, he might have had a shot at 20.
• 3-way tie between Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, and any reliever not named Joba Chamberlain (yes, that includes Mariano Rivera). I don’t know about you, but I’m surprised the criticism of the aforementioned players wasn’t more pronounced. Winning has a way of masking cynicism among the scribes.
WEIRDEST MEDIA-RELATED DRAMA
• Joe Torre boycotting the Daily News writers in Boston following the publication of the bonehead headline "Torre to A-Rod: Shut Up." I’ve seen Torre verbally pants writers without raising his voice when asked a question that he considered to have crossed the line of professionalism. This, however, was undeserved, since the actual reports have no control over the headlines associated with their stories.
STAT THAT RAISED MY EYEBROWS
• Of all the ridiculous offensive numbers and ZIP code level ERAs posted by the pitching staff at various points of the year, Bob Abreu’s 123 runs scored stood out as the quietest, most unassuming gaudy number among the starting nine. Through all the derision and prolonged slumps he endured, I was stunned to find that Abreu’s run total was second in the AL only to A-Rod’s absurd 143.
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To review, I thought the composite coverage during the regular season was solid. There are always going to be some kinks, but over the course of an eight-month grind, mistakes will be made and quotes, columns and stories will be misinterpreted.
We’re all wondering whether guys like A-Rod, Abreu, Clemens and Mussina will raise their games against the Indians. (The "pressure’s on A-Rod" stories were published in full force Tuesday, and Mike Greenberg issued a "cut him some slack" missive on Wednesday’s ESPN Radio show.) I’ve found that the writers are at their best in the postseason also. Do you agree? Do Playoff Pullout sections of the local papers enhance coverage or is it a bit gluttonous? Overall, what improvements do you think should be made from the mainstream coverage? If you were on the beat or were being paid to lend your opinion to the postseason Yankees coverage, how would you make your coverage stand out in the various media platforms, given the various constraints that may be placed upon you by your employer? How would you juggle staying at a press conference to get a quote with going to the clubhouse to get something that may be more useful? These are all considerations that must be made on the fly, as the entire coverage process becomes more standardized and teams relinquish control of information flow and player availability to MLB.
Next week … a review of TBS’s TV coverage and YES’s pre and postgames.