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Schadenfreude Follies: Sucka GMs

Posted By Alex Belth On July 28, 2009 @ 10:11 am In Bronx Banter | Comments Disabled


It’s tricky taking pleasure in the misfortune of others–karma does have a way of coming back to bite you–but here are two stories that are making plenty of folks chuckle. The first is local and it involves Omar Minaya’s unfortunate press conference yesterday, ostensibly about the firing of team executive Tony Bernazard. Instead of being a routine firing, it turned into an attack of a journalist’s ethics.

Minaya called out Daily News beat writer Adam Rubin in an attempt to discredit Rubin’s recent coverage of the Bernazard controversy. Funny how a personable and seemingly unflappable guy like Minaya can fall apart like this. Just goes to show you what happens when things get too hot.

The SNY broadcast team ripped [1] Minaya. Bob Klapisch adds [2], “There’s a flurry of Internet chatter now that likens Minaya to Isiah Thomas; Wilpon is the new James Dolan.”

Ah, the kiss of death, bringing the Knicks into the equation. That’s when you know the ship be sinkin.’

I exchanged e-mails this morning with our own Will Weiss about the Minaya press conference:

Q: Are you surprised that Omar Minaya, who appears so savvy with the media, unravelled like he did yesterday?

WW: No. While it was an unenviable position to be thrust into, it’s not the first time he has bungled a public-speaking engagement. During the NY Baseball Writer’s Annual Dinner following the 2005 season, he mistakenly called Braves manager Bobby Cox “Bobby Cock” and never corrected himself. It became a running joke around the room for the rest of the night. But if you go through the last year, the item that particularly sticks out is the way he publicly handled Randolph’s firing. He’s an intelligent man but I think is uncomfortable in difficult public relations situations. He’s not as adept at spin as Brian Cashman. Few GMs are. The mistake Minaya made was the same mistake that can easily be made in our profession: he made it personal. He made it clear that it pained him to fire Bernazard, and rather than say that, he felt compelled to point a finger. I feel terrible for Adam. The irony of the situation is tha this might be a great thing for his career.

Q: Did Minaya’s performance seal his own fate?

WW: Without question. The players standing behind him are doing the right thing by publicly stating their loyalty, but given what’s happened with the Mets under his watch over the last 2 1/2 years — the two collapses, the mishandling of Willie Randolph’s ouster, the continuing transgressions of Tony Bernazard, Jerry Manuel’s perpetual ho-hum attitude at the state of affairs with no reaction from up top — I would be surprised if he remains the Mets’ GM past this season.

Q: Are the Mets really this bad at public relations or do things like this just come out when a team is going badly?

WW: Yes, and when the team is going poorly, their PR foibles are further exposed. Like the Jets, they operate in the vacuum of a “second-class citizen” mentality, and for whatever reason, they can’t get past it to make things right. It’s a shame, because their fans deserve better.

Q: What’s your take on Rubin?

WW: I’m inclined to believe his reports. The only thing I take issue with is his asking career advice from people within the organization he covers. I can’t help but think of my own experiences. While I was friendly with many people on the Yankees’ staff during my years at YES, I would not ever have considered asking anyone there for career counseling. The supposed reward wouldn’t have been worth the risk. That said, I did have a career conversation, albeit unintentionally, with someone from a different Major League franchise. It was in 2005; I happened to sit at one of the dinner tables in the Yankee Stadium Press Room with an advanced scout for the Oakland A’s who was there to observe Aaron Small. We got to talking baseball, I asked him a few questions on the record about Small and I told him my observations. When we were done with the elements for my story, he asked me if I ever considered working in a baseball front office, or even as a scout. I said no and when he asked why, I told him I never considered it because I enjoy being on the media side. That was it. We exchanged business cards, shook hands and set out to do our jobs for the night.

The other piece is about Billy Beane. From Howard Bryant’s excellent piece over at ESPN.com: [3]

For his singular, unapologetic iconoclasm in the face of the game’s long tradition, Lewis lionized him six years ago in “Moneyball,” which became a must-read for both baseball and business aficionados. Beane became the lead evangelist of a new baseball orthodoxy that emphasizes greater statistical analysis in the scouting and development of players. The Moneyball way also diminishes the field manager’s organizational influence while it increases the power and profile of the general manager position — a job that was once largely invisible. In the 140-year history of Major League Baseball, the office of field manager has never held less power than it does now, in the wake of Moneyball.
…If Beane didn’t singlehandedly reinvent how hitting is evaluated, he almost certainly has become the face of the massive change in prioritizing how certain components of the craft are now compensated.

In the process, he also became a corporate sensation. Fortune 500 CEOs suddenly were interested in him as that rare commodity: the athlete thinker. He may very well be the most influential figure in the game over the past 25 years, and some in the sport seem to have never forgiven him for it. Now, he was about to be immortalized on the silver screen, portrayed by one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. And it is in this spirit, as his team suffers in last place without a single .300 hitter or a box-office draw, that the knives sharpen.

“So much for the genius…He doesn’t look so smart anymore, does he?” an American League scout sneers while looking up the paltry batting averages of the A’s hitters before a June A’s-Padres game. “Let’s see them make a movie out of that.”

I’ve never been convinced that Beane is all that brilliant. I don’t fawn over the intellectual gifts of baseball executives, though there is no denying there are beaucoup brianiacs running front offices all around baseball these days.

But I think Beane is a compelling and vivid character, the dream protagonist for Michael Lewis. It’s understandable why there is a backlash against him now (dogpile on the rabbit, dogpile on the rabbit):

“A profile of me? Oh, jeez,” Beane wrote in a text message recently. “I’m so yesterday. Can’t I just live out my J.D. Salinger existence and just fade away?”

The revolution, in a way, has consumed the revolutionary. He cannot escape.

Something tells me that Beane, no matter how things turn out for him in Oakland or in baseball, for that matter, will have the last laugh. I’m not sure the same can be said for Minaya.

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URL to article: http://www.bronxbanterblog.com/2009/07/28/schadenfreude-follies-sucka-gms/

URLs in this post:

[1] SNY broadcast team ripped: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/mets/2009/07/28/2009-07-28_sny_voices.html

[2] Bob Klapisch adds: http://www.northjersey.com/sports/Klapisch_Omar.html

[3] Howard Bryant’s excellent piece over at ESPN.com:: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/otl/columns/story?columnist=bryant_howard&id=4357166

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