Take a trip around Manhattan with Todd Heisler. It’ll make your day.
I’m quoted a few times in Richard Sandomir’s article about the YES network’s declining ratings this season:
As a corporate progeny of the team, YES needs spectacular, star-driven winning as its business rationale. Fans have come to expect the same.
This season might have stripped YES’s Yankees viewership to its core viewers, without casual and fair-weather fans.
“It’s like the N.B.A. after Michael Jordan,” said Alex Belth, the founder of the Bronx Banter blog. He added: “There is an apathy that takes place when a team is so successful for so long. And this coincides with the end of the Jeter-Rivera era.”
Not to rub it in or nothing but it sure was nice to see ol’ Russell Martin hit two homers last night wasn’t it?
[Photo Via: The Redhead Riter]
he snow burst through the trees with no warning but a last-second whoosh of sound, a two-story wall of white and Chris Rudolph’s piercing cry: “Avalanche! Elyse!”
The very thing the 16 skiers and snowboarders had sought — fresh, soft snow — instantly became the enemy. Somewhere above, a pristine meadow cracked in the shape of a lightning bolt, slicing a slab nearly 200 feet across and 3 feet deep. Gravity did the rest.
Snow shattered and spilled down the slope. Within seconds, the avalanche was the size of more than a thousand cars barreling down the mountain and weighed millions of pounds. Moving about 7o miles per hour, it crashed through the sturdy old-growth trees, snapping their limbs and shredding bark from their trunks.
The avalanche, in Washington’s Cascades in February, slid past some trees and rocks, like ocean swells around a ship’s prow. Others it captured and added to its violent load.
Somewhere inside, it also carried people. How many, no one knew.
[Photo Via: Mr Freakz]
The physical penalties paid by the catcher, of course, are not often characterized by the spectacular violence of a wide receiver clotheslined by a safety. Neither are they frequently accompanied by the angry acoustics of a crunching hockey check into the boards.
The price paid, as much as anything, is one of plain, penetrating exhaustion, both mental and physical. It is about enduring a grinding, dirty routine, where, in St. Louis or Arlington, Tex., in August, a catcher can shed 10 pounds in a game. In 2007, when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Martin started 143 games behind the plate.
Three times this season, Martin has caught at least six games in six days. From May 11 to 17, he caught seven consecutive games, and once, from June 5 to 13, he caught nine in a row.
“When you’re going through it, you don’t notice it,” Martin said of the grind. “It’s when you stop for a day or two and then the aches from the foul tips and the fatigue kind of bubble to the surface and you’re like ‘Whoa, did I get hit by a train?’
“Sometimes I’d rather just plow through and keep playing, just soldier on, because it almost feels harder when you’ve been off for a day and you come back.”
Worth your time.
[Photo Credit: Jyekn; Thomas Ferrara/Newsday]
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.
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.
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.
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]
Over at the Village Voice, Allen Barra talks Murray Chass and the New York Times.
There’s a very good and very disconcerting piece up by the New York Times’ Michael Schmidt today, about independant baseball academies in the Dominican Republic – some of which seem somewhat morally queasy, and others like flat-out Dickensian exploitation.
Recognizing that major league teams are offering multimillion-dollar contracts to some teenage prospects, the investors are either financing upstart Dominican trainers, known as buscones, or building their own academies. In exchange, the investors are guaranteed significant returns — sometimes as much as 50 percent of their players’ bonuses — when they sign with major league teams. Agents in the United States typically receive 5 percent.
The investors include Brian Shapiro, a New York hedge fund manager who, along with Reggie Jackson, tried to buy the Oakland Athletics several years ago; Steve Swindal, the former general partner of the Yankees; Abel Guerra, a former White House official under President George W. Bush; and Hans Hertell, a former United States ambassador to the Dominican Republic.
Educators and Major League Baseball officials worry because there is no oversight of the investors’ academies, and they question why the investors want to be part of a system that takes teenagers out of school and has been involved in scandals over steroid use and players lying about their ages.
Even in cases where the academies are well-run and above-board, as Steve Swindal’s is described as being, wealthy Americans “investing” in impoverished 14-year-olds as if they were stocks strikes me as pretty damn unsettling. And in cases where they’re not…
An hour and a half by car from Santo Domingo, at the end of a dirt road in the town of Don Gregorio, a piece of the Dominican baseball system can be found in a small house surrounded by concrete walls and metal fences topped with shiny barbed wire. The entrances are locked.
Inside is a pensión, a dormitory for about a dozen prospects as young as 14. They are trained by California Sports Management of Sacramento, a firm run by the agent Greg J. Maroni and financed by his father, Greg G. Maroni, a dentist who owns several fast-food franchises.
Although one coach supervises the dormitory at night, two other prospects had gone over the fence earlier this year, Mr. Paulino said in September. “It’s to make sure they don’t get out,” he said.
A few weeks later, though, the younger Mr. Maroni and Mr. Paulino said that Mr. Paulino’s characterization of the barbed wire was incorrect and that it had been installed to prevent break-ins.
Yeah, that’s not creepy at all.
As fellow SNYer Ted Berg noted:
Not entirely surprising, but it sort of puts a human face on a bunch of stuff you could pretty much figure out was going on if you ever really thought about it.
For every kid that makes it to the majors and finds success and financial security in the U.S., how many dozens or hundreds are left stranded without even a high school education once they’re no longer a promising investment? And to take up to 50% of a player’s bonus? This whole system makes my skin crawl. The article is well worth reading, but I do wish Schmidt had gotten the chance to talk to former prospects and/or current MLB players who’ve been through the system, because I’d very much like to hear their thoughts on this.
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.
An open letter to A-Rod’s handlers …
To whom it may concern:
In light of recent events where Alex Rodriguez has spoken to the media, in both controlled and extemporaneous settings, it is my belief that you should consider a gag order for your client/relative. (New York Times columnist Harvey Araton agrees.) Certainly, you’ve read the analysis of his press conference performance in this space and elsewhere, and are aware of the dent your client/relative’s credibility has taken. This past week, his comments about Jose Reyes would have been fine if he hadn’t added these 13 words: “I wish he was leading off on our team, playing on our team.” In fact, it spurred the Daily News to run a Top 10 list of dumbest A-Rod quotes last Wednesday.
Now, with the labrum tear in his hip — naturally, people will jump to conclusions that it’s steroid-related, despite reports to the contrary — there are greater questions to ponder. Why do the partial surgery as opposed to getting the whole thing done? Is this short-term solution best for the long term? What led to that decision? Is Alex in consistent pain? Does the hip hurt after extended periods of rest? Sleep? How about walking up and down stairs? While cortisone shots would help, would they have an adverse effect on the healing process? Inquiring fans want to know, provided he can tell us something without inadvertently offending someone and then issue an apology through a publicist. Maybe the Yankees don’t want him to speak and potentially say anything incriminating. Judging from the commentary of how the organization has handled his hip injury over the last 10 months, you have to wonder if Brian Cashman and the rest of the brass are not fully committed to nine more years of Alex Rodriguez in a Yankee uniform.
We know Alex is going to be a target. He’s the highest paid and arguably most talented player in professional baseball. In general, Yankee fans are concerned about his health, mainly because it’s impossible to replace the production he can provide in the lineup. He’s still the most important piece to their offense. We want to see Alex recover, get back on the field and help the Yankees win their first World Series since the turn of the century. What we don’t want to see is him speaking to the media, fumbling his words and giving us more reasons to liken him to Manny Ramirez with a different type of insanity. Some fans are already at that point.
Maybe Bernie Williams is right; time away from the team, and the game, will be good for him.
We hope so.
• Harvey Araton espouses on the First Amendment, A-Rod, and Selena Roberts in a column published last Monday. For anyone entering Journalism School or interested in reporting and mass communication/media theory, this is a must-read. [Props to Diane Firstman for the recommendation.]
• With A-Rod out, the shift in Yankee coverage is shifting toward C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira. This makes sense, since both will be under even more pressure to perform, now that the team will be without Rodriguez for an extended period of time.
• Though he’s not affiliated with the YES Network anymore on a full-time basis, Jim Kaat shared his thoughts on the PED issue with Kevin Kernan of the Post, and proved once again why he’s one of the classiest individuals you’ll ever meet.
• Maybe this is being nitpicky, but did anyone else notice that the flag patch on the right sleeve of the United States’ World Baseball Classic team’s uniforms had the stars on the wrong side? (It was in the upper right corner, instead of upper left.) Neither Dave O’Brien nor Rick Sutcliffe noticed it on the ESPN broadcast. And nothing I read as far as game coverage noticed the gaffe.
NEXT WEEK: What should the key stories be as we count down to Opening Day, and how would you like to see them covered? Send your submissions here.
Until then …