Are the Yankees moving down your radio dial? Neil Best has the story for Newsday.
Then, there is the case of ESPN’s “Sports Guy,” Bill Simmons. The two have been mutual admirers for some time. In a fawning 2006 column Simmons called Mike and the Mad Dog “my favorite radio show ever.” Francesa, in turn, views Simmons as incredibly witty and when Russo left the show in 2008, he even called Simmons to gauge his interest in co-hosting. Since then, Francesa has watched Simmons’s role at ESPN expand from writer and editor to serving as host of his own podcast – The BS Report – and appearing on ESPN’s NBA pregame show, NBA Shootaround. Francesa does not seem to approve.
“When you find something you’re good at, stick with it,” Francesa says – voicing a personal philosophy that runs counter to Simmons’s recent career developments.
“I think what happens in our business is that people get to a certain level, and then they’re like, ‘OK. I have to go prove I can do this now.’ Why? Why can’t you just stay there and do it really well? When you do something well, why can’t you stay there, and perfect it, and prove that you can do it really well?”
In response to a direct question about Simmons, Francesa shares an experience from his own career, illustrating a fundamental difference between the two iconic personalities. “A year-and-a-half into Mike and the Mad Dog, I got offered an enormous TV deal to leave, and I turned it down. It was the best decision I ever made. I could’ve left. But understanding where you belong, and understanding where you’re supposed to be and what you’re good at – I never entertained another serious offer. But I had a very serious offer that was wide in scope, and was a very big opportunity. And I turned it down.”
[Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle, Newsday]
Today’s column is written as a fan, not from a myopic, academic viewpoint of the media’s coverage of the team.
I’ve been traveling a bunch over the past couple of weeks, doing a lot of driving. Naturally, since radio stinks and I don’t feel like listening to the same CDs on a loop, I fall into the sports talk radio trap. All I wanted to do yesterday on my drive to Pennsylvania was get into some Yankees-Red Sox chatter and analysis, since Aug. 6 has been marked on the calendar since the two teams were tied atop the AL East at the All-Star break.
Instead, I got drivel from Craig Carton about how last night’s game was a “look-ahead” or trap game, that it was irrelevant in the grand scheme. This, we all know, is ridiculous, because the victory combined with the Sox’ loss gives a 2 1/2 game cushion heading into the weekend. On ESPN Radio, I got next to nothing on Yankees-Red Sox ALL DAY. It was so bad that for two hours during the afternoon drive, Don LaGreca and Ian O’Connor, who were pinch-hitting for Michael Kay, were discussing why Eli Manning is not a beloved quarterback in New York and comparing his numbers to Joe Namath. Yes, for two hours.
(I don’t know about you, but as a fan I can’t really get into football until the Yankees are done. Let the Met-Jet fans get excited about football season now. They’ve got nothing else to root for. At this point, I don’t care about Manning’s contract or where he ranks among other NFL quarterbacks or debating the merits of his contract. It’s all about Yankees-Red Sox, dammit. Where are the priorities?)
Thank you to WFAN’s Evan Roberts and Joe Benigno for getting me through a crawling jam on the Belt Parkway during afternoon rush hour. They didn’t spend a lot of time on Yankees-Sox, but Roberts made a point to mention that this weekend is all about CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett. One caller asked to compare the Yankees’ record during their starts to the Red Sox’ record when Josh Beckett and John Lester have started. The Sox have a four-game edge — 30-13 to 26-18. In terms of the pitchers’ records, Beckett and Lester are a combined 22-11, while Sabathia and Burnett are a combined 21-12, an even one-game difference.
Roberts, who I covered many games with and for whom I have a great deal of respect, opined that neither Sabathia nor Burnett have performed to the “ace” level at which they’re being paid to perform. I will grant that based on the aforementioned records that may be true. All but Beckett are considered to be having off-years. Roberts went on to say that Sabathia and Burnett haven’t been “lockdown guys;” that if you polled Yankee fans if they have confidence the Yankees will win when Sabathia or Burnett are pitching, they’d say no.
I disagree on both counts.
The past 10 days have seen an immense range of stories leapfrog to the forefront of New York sports fans’ collective consciousness. In no particular order, with some analysis and commentary mixed in…
• The Yankees slashed prices for the primo seats, an altruistic move that still leaves many of us thinking, “You know, you have your own network, and it’s on my cable system. I’ll contribute to your bottom line that way and I won’t feel like I got stabbed in the wallet.”
• Alex Rodriguez did everything necessary in extended spring training and returned to the lineup Friday. He punctuated the return with a home run on the first pitch he saw, thus fulfilling his job as the media-anointed savior of the team’s season. He proceeded to go 1-for-10 with two strikeouts in the remainder of the series, and perhaps fearing aggravating the hip injury, didn’t hustle down the line to run out a ground ball, thus reclaiming his role as the team’s most prominent punching bag.
• The Yankees lost two straight to the Red Sox at home and have lost the first five meetings of the season. (Sound the alarms! Head for the hills! There’s no way the Yankees can win the division without beating the Red Sox! Except that they can, and they have. In 2004, the Yankees went 1-6 in their first seven games against the BoSox, ended up losing the season series 8-11 and still finished 101-61 to win the American League East by three games.)
• Joba Chamberlain 1: His mother was arrested for allegedly selling crystal meth to an undercover officer. Following Chamberlain’s own brushes with the law during the offseason, it stood to reason that the tabloids attacked this story like starving coyotes. It’s remarkable that he was able to pitch at all given the negative attention he received.
• Joba Chamberlain 2: Flash back to Aug. 13, 2007. Chamberlain struck out Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff in a crucial late-inning at-bat to end the inning and in the heat of the moment pumped his fist in exultation. Yesterday, following a three-run home run in the first inning that gave the O’s a 3-1 lead, Huff mocked Chamberlain’s emotional outburst with his own fist pump, first while rounding first base, and again when crossing home plate. Apparently, Mr. Huff holds grudges. Thanks to the New York Daily News’s headline, “MOCKING BIRD” with a photo of the home-plate celebration, this story will have wings when Baltimore comes to the Bronx next week. Even better, as it currently stands, Chamberlain is due to start in the series finale on Thursday the 21st. Get ready for a rash of redux stories leading up to that game.
• Mariano Rivera surrendered back-to-back home runs for the first time in his career last Wednesday night, a clear signal that something is wrong. Maybe.
• The team as a whole. The Yankees are 15-16 through 31 games, and some rabid fans (the “Spoiled Set,” as Michael Kay likes to call them; the group of fans between ages 18-30 that only knows first-place finishes for the Yankees) are calling for Joe Girardi’s head. As in the above note on the Red Sox, some context is required. The Yankees’ records through 31 games this decade:
2000: 22-9 (finished 87-74, won AL East)
2001: 18-13 (finished 95-65, won AL East)
2002: 18-13 (finished 103-58, won AL East)
2003: 23-8 (finished 101-61, won AL East)
2004: 18-13 (finished 101-61, won AL East)
2005: 12-19 (finished 95-67, won AL East)
2006: 19-12 (finished 97-65, won AL East)
2007: 15-16 (finished 94-68, won AL Wild Card)
2008: 15-16 (finished 89-73, missed playoffs)
2009: 15-16 (finish TBD)
No one is going to make excuses for the team with the billion dollar stadium and the highest payroll, least of all your trusted scribes here at the Banter. Looking at the last three years — including 2009 — it should be noted that similar issues of injury, age, and woes throughout the pitching staff have befallen the Yankees.