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Tag: Jack Curry

Bronx Banter Interview: Jack Curry

Jack Curry

Jack Curry is known to Yankee fans as one of the faces of the YES Network’s Yankees reporting team, but he wasn’t always a “TV guy.” Prior to joining YES in 2010, Jack enjoyed a decorated career as a sportswriter, most notably at the New York Times. He forged his path without having to go to smaller markets and work his way back east, a rarity for those who work in media, particularly in New York. His full bio can be found here. You can follow him on Twitter @JackCurryYES.

Jack was a staple on the Yankees beat when I covered the Yankees from 2002 through 2006 for yesnetwork.com. At that point of his career, he was one of the Times’s National Baseball Reporters and I was a punk trying to figure out how to become a better reporter and writer, assignment editor, and do all of it without getting in anyone’s way. I recall that Jack was a pillar of professionalism; someone not only I, but also every other writer respected and liked. He’s the same person on camera as he is off camera.

Over a series of conversations and e-mails, Jack and I discussed a number of topics, ranging from what inspired his career choice to the move from print to TV and Internet, and more.

Bronx Banter: At what point did you “know” that you wanted to become a sportswriter? Was there a “eureka” moment while you were at Fordham?

Jack Curry: When I was in the seventh grade, I started a newspaper at my elementary school. It was only two or four pages. But I remember the jolt I felt when everyone at the school was commenting on my articles. It was the first time I had a byline and I loved how that felt. Writers like to know what people think of their writing so I grew to love the idea of being a sportswriter. I hung on to the dream of being a major league player through high school, but that faded. I played high school baseball, but I was a much better writer. I went to one baseball practice at Fordham under coach Paul Blair. It lasted four and a half hours and I missed dinner that night. Even if I had made the team, I would’ve been a backup. So that one practice told me it was time to stop playing baseball and start covering baseball (and other sports). I funneled all of my energy into journalism and broadcasting after that.

BB: Who were the writers that you admired growing up, and how did they influence your reporting / storytelling style?

JC: I grew up in Jersey City, NJ, and the Jersey Journal was the first newspaper I remember reading. They syndicated Jim Murray’s column so it always had a prominent spot in the sports section. But, since I didn’t know anything about syndication as a kid, I just thought Jim Murray was some guy from Jersey City who had the greatest job in the world. He covered all of the biggest sporting events and, man, he could write. I wanted that job. When I finally realize who Jim Murray really was, it didn’t change my thoughts. I still wanted that job. I got the chance to meet Jim Murray at a college football game, which was an absolute thrill. My regret is I didn’t tell him my “connection” to him. I’m guessing he would’ve thought it was pretty cool.

BB: How did you get from the Jersey Journal to the New York Times?

JC: I worked for the Jersey Journal for three summers while I was in college. I’m going to bet that I covered more Little League baseball in those summers than anyone in the state of New Jersey. But I loved it. I loved going to the games and watching which kids cared and which kids were coached well and which kids were so much better or, unfortunately, so much worse than the other players on the field. Trying to get decent quotes out of 11- and 12-year-olds can be more challenging than trying to get decent quotes out of some major leaguers.

Jack Curry

After I graduated from Fordham, I worked at the Star Ledger of Newark for about a year. I covered high school sports there, but I wanted to do more than that. I applied for a position in the New York Times’s Writing Program. Basically, the Times hired you to be a clerk for 35 hours a week and then you could use your days off or your hours off to pitch story ideas and to volunteer to cover events, etc. When I was hired as a “writing clerk,” I wrote a lot of stories that appeared without bylines. The Times had some arcane rules about not giving the clerks a byline, which I always thought was nonsensical. When you were hired as a writing clerk, you were told that there was no guarantee you’d ever be a reporter at the Times.

Anyway, once I got my foot in the door, I was on a mission to do anything and everything to stay there. I wanted to do enough so that they had to keep me. I needed to prove to them that I could be a sports reporter there. It took about three years, but I was finally hired as a reporter.

BB: So many sportswriters jump from sport to sport now. I can think of a number of current beat writers from several of the area papers who have shuttled back and forth. What drew you specifically to covering baseball and keeping yourself on that beat?

JC: I covered college basketball and football and the New Jersey Nets at the Times before I started covering baseball in 1990. I wanted to cover baseball. To me, there was no other sport to cover. I was fortunate that the Times recognized that and trusted me with covering a baseball beat. I took over the Yankees beat at the All-Star break of 1991 and have essentially only covered baseball since then. I like basketball and I’ll watch some football, but I would have never been as happy covering those sports as I was in covering baseball.

BB: When I started at YES and began setting the editorial direction of the website, we were trying to do something completely different in our coverage of the Yankees. Our goal wasn’t to compete with the papers, but to be considered legitimate. How did you view YESNetwork.com’s presence on-site in those first few years?

JC: In the early years, I viewed YESNetwork.com’s presence as another entity that was immersed in covering the Yankees. When I first started as a beat writer, you were concerned about the other beat writers and what they were doing. But, with each year, more and more outlets began to cover the team and you had to pay attention to them, too, and see what they were producing.

BB: What struck you about the way YESNetwork.com covered the team, and the games? How, if at all, has that changed since you became a YES Network employee and contributor to the dot.com?

I think YESNetwork.com has tried to be different than the traditional newspaper sports website, as it should be. The Yankees are the brand and there’s obviously an attempt provide as much Yankee content as possible. I think there’s more interaction with the fans, which is another positive. What I’ve tried to do is use the 20-plus years of experience that I have covering this team to offer analysis on players and trends, develop feature stories and, obviously, push to break news.

BB: Describe the events that led YES to call you and offer you the YES job, and what drew you to make the jump to TV on a full-time basis.

JC: After 22 years at the Times, I decided to take the buyout and pursue other opportunities. The timing was good for me. I felt confident about making a career switch in my 40s. I’m not sure if a person can do that in his 50s. I had always had a good relationship with John Filippelli of YES because I had been a guest on “Yankees Hot Stove” since 2005.

Jack Curry, Ken Singleton, John Flaherty

Before I even took the buyout, YES was the place where I hoped I would land. Shortly after my departure from the Times became official, I heard from YES. There was mutual interest and I was excited about the chance to transition from print to broadcast. My colleagues at YES, people like Flip, Michael Kay, Bob Lorenz, Ken Singleton, Jared Boshnack, Bill Boland, Mike Cooney, John Flaherty and so many others, all welcomed me and helped make that transition a smooth one for me. I work with a lot of very cool and very talented people.

It’s rewarding to work for and with people you admire and respect and people that you consider your friends.

BB: Peter Gammons and Jayson Stark were among the first two prominent baseball writers who became “multimedia” guys. Later, your former colleague Buster Olney, Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci followed. Did it just make sense for you to do the same?

JC: You forgot to mention Michael Kay. Michael had worked for the Post and the News and did clubhouse reporting for MSG. Obviously, he also was a radio announcer before moving to YES. He was the one person who implored me to give TV a try. I will admit that I was resistant. I liked being a baseball writer. There were times where I thought I would end my career as a newspaperman. But I’m very happy to have made the switch. I love what I’m doing at YES. They have given me terrific opportunities in the studio with Bob Lorenz, who is as selfless as any co-worker I’ve ever had. Flip has also trusted me with chances to do work in the booth during games, which have been great experiences.

BB: In the last 10 years — heck, the last five even — so much has changed in how sports are covered on a daily basis. Responsibilities include blogging and tweeting, in some cases web-exclusive video reporting. The beat writer/columnist’s audience is broader than ever. Has that caused you to change your journalistic approach?

JC: My journalistic approach hasn’t changed. I’m trying to find insightful and interesting stories and tell them as adeptly as I can. I’m trying to dig up timely and pertinent information and deliver it as quickly and as accurately as I can. That’s the way I did the job at the Times. That’s the way I do the job at YES. But I am moving faster in telling those stories and chasing that information. Because of Twitter and blogging, we’re all doing that. When I was a beat writer in the early 1990′s, my world revolved around deadlines: 7 PM, 11 PM, 1 AM, etc. I’m on TV now, but, when I write for the website or I tweet, it’s usually about getting it done as quickly as I can, not about getting it done by 7 PM.

BB: Speaking of journalism, you broke the story of Andy Pettitte returning to the Yankees. What was the internal reaction to your scoop?

JC: My bosses at YES were elated that we broke the Pettitte story. I first tweeted about it and wrote a news story that was up on our website five minutes later. About 25 minutes after that, we led our spring training broadcast with the news about Pettitte’s return. Since that story came out of left field, they were thrilled that we led the way.

Jack Curry's Andy Pettitte Tweet

BB: What was the reaction to the Twitter war that ensued due to ESPN claiming credit for the story?

JC: It doesn’t behoove me to revisit what happened on Twitter after the Pettitte story broke. From a journalistic perspective, that was a very good day for YES. That’s what’s most important.

BB: Is the rapport with former players you used to cover, like Paul O’Neill, John Flaherty, David Cone, and Al Leiter, any different now that you’re on TV, considered an “analyst” like them?

JC: What’s interesting about all of those guys is that I had a great relationship with all of them when they were players, so those relationships have simply carried over. I liked talking baseball with all of those guys when I was a writer. I like talking baseball with all of them now that we’re colleagues.

BB: Which part of your career was, or has been, the most challenging?

JC: The most challenging part of my career were the earliest days at the Times, but, to be honest, those were also some of the most enjoyable days. Like I said, when I first started there, I wasn’t guaranteed anything other than a future of answering phones. I had to show a lot of different editors that I could write and report.

At first, I was going to answer this by saying the most challenging time was being a new beat writer on the Yankees. But, by that point in my career, at least I had become a reporter at the Times. I knew I had made the staff. In the early days, I didn’t know if that would ever happen. I’m glad it did.

[Photo Credits: YESNetwork.com, New York Times, Twitter]

Don’t Cha Know?

I was flipping around the channels the other day and found a baseball game on the MLB Network. And there was Robinson Cano playing for the American team in Taiwan. It took me a moment to adjust to seeing him in uniform. It was like seeing someone still wearing their Halloween costume. Then I wondered, “Hey, should you be playing? Don’t guys get tired or hurt if they play in November?”

But I remembered that he’s a professional baseball player and that’s what he does. Then Cano smiled and I felt relieved and turned back to the football game.

Over at YES, Jack Curry has a little piece on Cano in Taiwan.

[Photo Credit: Washington Post]

Much Ado About Nothing

Here’s the recap: The Twins beat the Yankees on Saturday night, blitzing through A.J. Burnett and cruising to a comfortable 9-4 win.

Now here’s the interesting part. Burnett was bad. Unspeakably bad. He couldn’t locate either his fastball or his curveball all night long — and by “all night long” I mean an inning and two thirds. Over the course of those five outs he gave up five hits, walked three, and was tagged for seven runs. He had his usual wild pitch to allow the game’s first run in the first, then yielded a sacrifice fly for another run before finally escaping.

He gave up a home run to Danny Valencia to open the second inning, then found more trouble when Luke Hughes doubled with one out, and Ben Revere singled him in an out later. It was 4-0, but it could’ve stopped there were it not for some bad luck. Revere took off for second and Russell Martin threw a dart across the diamond to nail him — except the umpire incorrectly called him safe. After a walk and another wild pitch, Burnett found himself at a crossroads. There were men on first and third and he had worked himself into a full count against one of the three recognizable names in the Minnestoa lineup, Joe Mauer. Burnett’s pitch came in at the knees and started off the plate before darting back towards the corner. It could’ve been called a strike, but it wasn’t. (To Burnett’s credit, he acknowledged afterwards that you shouldn’t expect to get a call on a pitch like that when you’ve had no command of the strike zone all night.)

With the bases now loaded, Joe Girardi made the decision to lift Burnett, and this is where things got interesting. The YES cameras zoomed in on Burnett as he stared hard at something. He could’ve been staring in disbelief at Girardi, or he could’ve been staring at a popcorn vendor in the stands. It was impossible to tell without a wider perspective, but Michael Kay and John Flaherty in the booth told us that he was staring down Girardi, and Kay jumped on the moment, calling all his fellow villagers to light their torches and storm the castle.

“What does Burnett want?” he asked incredulously. I’m just guessing here, but maybe he wanted to pitch better. Maybe he was upset that he had just faced a marginal AAA team and only managed to get five outs.

After he handed the ball to Girardi, Burnett walked towards the dugout but then turned back to the mound and clearly said, “That’s fuckin’ horseshit!” Flaherty then took the kerosene from Kay and said, “Looks like he had some words right there for Joe Girardi.” To which Kay responded, “I don’t know what those words could be that would be legitimate.” (As an English teacher, I cringe at the construction of that sentence, but that’s really what he said.)

Even as I watched it the first time through, I saw the whole exchange in a different light. Girardi looked like he responded to Burnett, but whatever he said was directed towards home plate and seemed to be peppered with the word “pitch,” as if we were telling home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn “That was a good pitch, that was a good pitch” in reference to the 3-2 pitch to Mauer that could’ve ended the inning. More on all this later.

So Burnett walked off the field, into the dugout — and straight into the clubhouse. The YES cameras later caught Girardi hopping off the bench, heading down the tunnel into the clubhouse before returning with Burnett, who dutifully sat on the bench and watched as Ayala allowed all three of his base runners to score.

Michael Kay, John Flaherty, Ken Singleton, and Jack Curry would all interpret these events the same way. Burnett was upset with Girardi and cursed him as he left the mound. He was so angry that he violated baseball protocol and went straight to the clubhouse, hoping never to return. Girardi would have none of this, so he chased him down, scolded him, and dragged him by his ear back into the dugout. Presumably, there would be no dessert for him either.

I don’t think any of this happened. When Jack Curry asked Girardi about what had happened between Burnett and him, Girardi looked legitimately stunned, then became as angry as I’ve seen him in his tenure as manager. “You can write what you want, and you can say what you want. He was pissed because he thought he struck out Joe Mauer.” When asked about the dugout situation, Girardi only got angrier. He explained that he had gone down into the clubhouse to look at the replay of the pitch. Curry kept pressing him, but Girardi finally shut him down.

As for Burnett, he looked just as surprised when asked about the “confrontation,” and his explanation made even more sense. He explained that Martin had said to him that 3-2 pitch had been a strike (Girardi also mentioned this), and that his horseshit statement was simply expressing his agreement with Martin’s assessment of the call. When asked about whether or not those comments might actually have been directed at his manager, “I was not talking to Joe, absolutely not. No matter how mad I get. That guy’s taken my back, every day I’ve been here. No matter how boiling I’m gonna be, I’m not gonna say that towards a manager, not him, not a chance.”

The only two voices that mattered were the only two voices that made any sense.

What doesn’t change, though, is that Burnett isn’t getting people out. There’s been a lot of talk recently about how Burnett’s contract should be separated from any discussion about his effectiveness, but the pressure will only continue to build the closer we get to October. Regardless of how large his paychecks are, can Burnett be trusted to take the ball in Game 2? Only time will tell.

[Photo Credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images]

Burnett or Fade Away?

Alex Belth’s post yesterday, which highlighted Jack Curry’s stance on A.J. Burnett, ended with the word, Amen. It was an emphatic agreement of a report detailing what many Yankees fans feel at the moment. In my own post about Jorge Posada’s demise, I wondered if Joe Girardi would have the guts to pull Burnett from the rotation and give him what we might as well start calling “The Posada Treatment.”

Girardi’s dilemma is not a matter of “will he or won’t he,” it’s more “should he or shouldn’t he.” Jon DeRosa, in his recap of Wednesday night’s loss, made an interesting and salient point:

… Nova was better tonight than Burnett was last night. Burnett ran into trouble in the sixth. Nova made it to the seventh and that’s an important distinction. But the difference was not nearly as great as will be felt tomorrow.

Ivan Nova has pitched seven innings or more and let up two or fewer runs five times this year. Same as Burnett. Nova’s been better and I’d rather see him on the hill than Burnett, but it’s not as simple as Jack Curry made out … A.J. Burnett is going to be on the team for another two years after this season. The Yankees are able to marginalize Posada because his career is over in a month and a half.

No doubt, Nova has pitched better than Burnett. He’s been more consistent, more aggressive, and gotten better results. Burnett’s outings have consistently looked like the last 99 holes of competitive golf Tiger Woods has played. Talk radio hosts and fans alike are calling for his head like he’s Piggy from “Lord of the Flies”.

My question is: Is this thought process too drastic?

Consider that in the last 10 years, the Yankees have employed luminaries like Jeff Weaver, Kevin Brown, Javier Vazquez, Esteban Loaiza, Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano, and Jaret Wright. Now put Burnett in that context. When Joe Torre summoned Weaver to pitch in the extra innings of Game 4 of the 2003 World Series, did you trust him? Esteban Loaiza in the extra innings of Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS? How about Brown and the mutant glove he wore to protect the broken knuckle on his left hand in Game 7 of that series and Jay-vee Vazquez afterward? Or Wright in what would be a decisive Game 4 in Detroit in ’06, looking like a shell of the phenom who nearly delivered a championship to Cleveland in 1997? Joe Torre didn’t have many more, or better, options. But Burnett, even in his current, scrambled state, would be an upgrade from those other misfits.

Through all his struggles, and 2 1/2 winless Augusts, Burnett has not shied away from reporters. His willingness to be held accountable breeds respect. You won’t hear Burnett sell out his teammates and say, “They play behind me like they hate me,” like Weaver infamously did. He did pull a Kevin Brown last year, cutting his hand while hitting the plastic casing on the lineup card on the clubhouse door; so we know he’s capable of fits of idiocy that don’t involve him throwing a 57-foot curveball.

The thing is, we know Burnett is capable of succeeding in big spots. The Yankees don’t win in 2009 without his October contributions. His performance in Game 2 against the Phillies may have been the most important game of that entire season. Two other games he pitched that postseason, against the Twins and Angels — both of which resulted in Yankees losses — were not his fault. (Coincidentally, Phil Hughes, the other side of this rotation / bullpen coin, was the losing pitcher of record in those games.) Part of why it’s so infuriating to watch Burnett is because as a fan, you want to root for him, but you have a hankering feeling he’s going to disappoint you at any moment.

Buried at the bottom of Curry’s column is the following nugget:

If the Yankees took Posada’s job away from him, they should be able to take Burnett’s job away from him, too. Even if it’s a temporary move, the Yankees could tell Burnett that he’s being bypassed in the rotation for one turn to work with pitching coach Larry Rothschild to improve. The Yankees can tell Burnett that he’s important to their success, so they want to get him better now, not later.

… how Burnett fits in to the rotation isn’t a question for the future. It’s a question for the present.”

So what’s the answer? Should the Yankees keep Burnett in the rotation because the glass slippers may fall off of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia much like they did for Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small in 2005?

I’d like to see the Yankees take Curry’s suggestion and pull him for a few starts, see if he gets his head right, and then get him going for the stretch run and the playoffs. I say this because I’m still not sold on Hughes, either. A.J. Burnett has major league stuff, and it’s still in there somewhere. Burnett and Rothschild just need to work together to figure out where it is.

[Photo Credit: Fickle Feline]

Star Turn

Nice piece on Robbie Cano by Jack Curry over at YES:

While interviewing Cano on his home turf, I was intrigued by how candid he was about wanting to be a megastar. Cano wasn’t cocky, just confident. Cano wants the Yankees to win a title. That’s the most important goal. But the better Cano is, the easier it is for the Yankees to win. Cano’s hopeful words should be refreshing to the Yankees.

“I want to see how it feels to do everything,” Cano said. “I want to see how it feels to win an MVP [award]. I already had a World Series ring. I want more.” He added, “I want to have a Gold Glove, which I have right now, an MVP, a batting title. I always want to know how that feels, to be there. So that’s why I work hard every single day to try and get better.”

The thought of Robbie having another strong season sure is appealing, ain’t it?

[Photo Credit: Billy Weeks]

Yankee Panky: The Tao of Pooh-vano

There was so much hype about Carl Pavano facing the Yankees. The tabloids ate it up, and Suzyn Waldman, as far back as the Texas series, said, “If there’s any justice, C.C. Sabathia will pitch against Carl Pavano in Cleveland.”

Sabathia and Pavano both pitched, but not against each other. Sabathia faced his No. 2 two years ago, Fausto Carmona, on Saturday, while Pavano squared off against Phil Hughes, which may have been a more intriguing matchup considering Pavano’s history with the Yankees and his five victories in May, and Hughes’ stellar outing in Texas and continued effort to stay in the rotation.

As I was listening to the game on the radio (another Sunday spent driving), I got to thinking about the myriad options the local editors and writers had for the game. Would Pavano be the lead? Would I make Phil Hughes’ mediocre start coupled by Chien-Ming Wang’s three scoreless innings of relief the lead, playing up the intrigue of Wang’s possible return to the rotation? Poor umpiring was a theme of the day. Where would that fit in? Are all these topics combined into one or do you do take one story as your base and go with the others as supplemental pieces?

I probably would have made Pavano the focus of the game story and made Hughes/Wang a featured supplement, tying in the early note that Andy Pettitte expects to be ready to start on Wednesday. How would you have presented Sunday’s game? Thinking of the broadest audience possible, how would you have set up your Yankees section as an editor? How would you have attacked the game if you were on-site? It’s two different thought processes. I’m curious to get your thoughts.

An examination of the eight local papers covering the Yankees revealed the following:

NY TIMES: Jack Curry had Pavano leading but alluded to the Hughes/Wang situation, melding everything into a tidy recap with analysis and historical context. Typical goods from Mr. Curry.

NEWSDAY: Three individual stories from Erik Boland, who’s now off the Jets beat and has replaced Kat O’Brien: Hughes/Wang leading, a Pavano piece tied with notes, and a short piece on Gardner’s failure to steal.

NY POST: As of this writing, only George King’s recap had been posted. Interesting to see that he focused on the bullpen, specifically Coke and David Robertson. (Had I been reporting, that would have been the angle I took with the game recap.)

NY DAILY NEWS: Mark Feinsand tied everything together, but it looked and read strangely like an AP wire story.

JOURNAL NEWS: No full game recap posted, but Pete Abe gives more in about 200 words on a blog than most other scribes do in 800.

STAR LEDGER: Marc Carig copied off Erik Boland’s paper in that he had individual stories on Gardner and Wang/Hughes, But he had a couple of other tidbits: 1) His recap was short and had additional bulletpointed notes. I thought this was an interesting format. It reminded me of an anchor calling highlights and then reading key notes off the scoreboard graphic. 2) He had a full feature on Phil Coke and his blaming the umpire’s call on the 3-2 pitch to Trevor Crowe. Check out the last paragraph. Looks like he copied off Pete Abe’s paper, too.

BERGEN RECORD: Only one story on the game from Pete Caldera, but boy does he know how to write a lead paragraph.

HARTFORD COURANT: Associated Press recap. Not much to say except this paper is an example of what’s happening in the industry. Dom Amore’s words are missed.

And this just in … on the “Inside Pitch” segment of the midnight ET edition of Baseball Tonight, Karl Ravech and Peter Gammons said the Yankees were the best team in baseball. This revelation comes hours after the ESPN ticker read “Pavano dominates Yankees” in the first half of its description of the game. I’m not sure what to make of this. I know Ravech, my fellow Ithaca College alum, is as good as it gets, but when Gammons agrees, I get concerned.

I’d say the best team is the team with the best record, and the team that’s playing most consistently on a daily basis. That team is being managed by Joe Torre.

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