Tag Archives: Yankees

NY BASEBALL Report Card- YES and SNY

Written By Tough Tony

PART ONE- NON GAME CONTENT

When the Yankees and Mets each said they would launch their own sports networks many people wondered how they would fill 24 hours of programming – especially during the five-month long off season. The short answer to the question: they each sold their soul to hair replacement infomercials in the wee hours of the night – a common practice for novelty cable channels. As far as day time and prime time programming are concerned, YES and SNY have gone about things in different ways.

The Yankees launched the YES Network in 2002 and while they may have alienated non Yankees fans with sycophantic programming, they have done a great job catering to their fan base.

The first smart move YES made was to pay to broadcast the “Mike and the Mad Dog” radio show for five and half hours a day. Say what you will about “Mike and the Mad Dog” but their take on sports can either be dead on the money or infuriatingly closed minded; meaning: they draw you in no matter what. They also get the most star-studded guests of any sports show. Michael Jordan and Tiger have been on the show. A-rod, Jeter and several other key Yankees and Mets come on during the season. They basically have the equivalent of Oprah’s guest list but for sports.

The rest of YES’ programming is a little more Yankees-centric. There is the award winning Yankee biography series appropriately named “Yankeeography” which is very well done. Michael Kay hosts “CenterStage,” an interview show which is good or bad depending on the guest. And YES re-runs classic Yankee games. Throw in a magazine style show directed towards kids, an NBA news show and a football news show and YES has no problem bridging the gap between Yankees game broadcasts.

But that’s not to say they haven’t had some misfires. “Ultimate Road Trip” is their lame version of MTV’s “Road Rules” but without the attractive cast. I’m also dying to know what happened to the George Steinbrenner CenterStage interview. They ran promos for months, it aired once and it was never seen again. What did Steinbrenner say that warrants its burial?

Speaking of promos, the YES Network really shines when it comes to self promotion. They run Classic Yankee moments throughout the day and legendary PA announcer Bob Shepherd can be heard every other hour doing the network I.D. “Ladies Gentlemen you are watching the YES Network, the home of championnnnnns.” No one can accuse the Yankees of not knowing how to market their history.

For the non-Yankees fan, Mike and the Mad Dog are extremely un-biased and have no problem knocking the Steinbrenners. They balance out the level of Yankees ego on the network. And if you’re a general baseball fan you will enjoy the “Yankeeographies” on legendary players like Ruth, Gherig, Dimaggio and Mantle. YES Network gets an A for creating content for Yankees fans. If you’re not a Yankees fan it might not be your first destination in sports TV but you have to respect the quality of the network’s shows.

SNY – the newer of the two networks (launched in 2006) – has had more trouble forming an identity. The Mets aren’t as recognized a brand and don’t have as much history to draw from as the Yankees. Instead SNY chose to be not only the home of the Mets, but a sports news network as well. It’s a bit of an identity crisis.

They seem to only have three classic Mets games they like to repeat. I don’t know if they just don’t own the rights to their own games but there has to be more classic Mets games than the Mets opening the season in Japan, Game four of the 1969 world series and game one of the NLDS in 2006. Those three games are replayed ad nauseum yet I have never seen anything from the ’86 playoff run. The NLCS game six against the Astros or the infamous Bill Buckner game should be no-brainers.

SNY’s flagship show “Geico Sports Nite” is like “SportsCenter” light but it provides more straight forward news without as much fluff. The rest of their news programming leaves a lot to be desired. “Loudmouths” and “The Wheel House” are awful rip-offs of superior ESPN programming “PTI” and “Around the Horn.”

SNY should keep “Sports Nite” as the flagship show but ditch the other news style programs. You’re never going to be the place sports fans get their news and opinions. Here are some things you can do to draw in the more casual viewer:

1) The Mets have had some legendary and eccentric players. Why not produce “Met Chronicles” on Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez,Tom Seaver, Mike Piazza and the entire 1986 team. Come to think of it the 1986 Mets team could be like a 12 part Ken Burns mini series. I’m not asking for a re-enactment of Kevin Mitchell killing his girlfriend’s cat or actual video of wild coke-filled nights with Darryl and Doc but these are the juicy tales that tend to interest people. The 1986 Mets need to be exploited more. Same goes for the 1969 miracle Mets. Get a feature producer on this, SNY.

The Mets might not have the Yankees’ championship history but they have had enough wacky personalities to exploit. You could hire Dr. Drew and do awesome psychological profiles on Met’s catcher Mackey Sasser’s inability to throw the ball back the pitcher, why Greg Jefferies was such a pansy and why Bobby Bonilla couldn’t handle New York.

2) SNY suits should watch the Best Damn Sports Show Period. (If they can find out when it airs because most people can’t) The show saved itself from extinction with sports countdown specials. People love concise lists; the Mets should capitalize on that. They could do the top 10 Mets plays of all time, the top ten Mets blunders and the top ten Darryl Strawberry moments. How has no one brought this up at a staff meeting?

I also have to point out to SNY from a real estate stand point that no one is impressed that you tape at Rockefeller center. The number one name in sports news broadcasts out of Bristol “freakin” Connecticut. It’s about the quality of the show and not where it tapes from. You would be better off taping in cheap studio space in Queens and spending your money on more cutting edge programming.

Final grade for SNY on creating content: C plus. They decided to try to make themselves the number one stop for New York sports news and they just come off as ESPNews with a New York twist. Where is the actual Mets content for your Mets fans? Look at how YES does a weekly show with Joe Girardi. For hardcore Yankees fans that has become like our version of a fire side chat with the president. Beyond more Mets content SNY should ditch the CNN vibe and imitate MTV circa 1987. Cutting edge sports videos and countdown shows will always have a home among sports fan. Call me if you need this explained further.

PART TWO – GAME COVERAGE

When it comes to baseball coverage both SNY and YES do a fantastic job.

Not much more can be said about SNY’s Emmy award-winning broadcast team of Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez that hasn’t already been said. The way they blend analyzing game play with tales of their own heroics is extremely fluid and neither Darling nor Hernandez are afraid to call out a Met for sloppy play.

In the homer filled world of sports broadcasting Darling and Hernandez are refreshingly candid when a verbal smack down needs to be layed upon their own players. When Jose Reyes hits his inconsistency periods or when Tom Glavine couldn’t get out of the first inning of a do or die game you can count on the SNY boradcast team to not pull any punches. Maybe they don’t have any friends in the Mets club house but Keith Hernandez was an MVP and a Seinfeld guest star; does he care? Cohen’s flowing play by play combined with Darling and Keith’s brutal honesty and penchant for knowing when to relate their own game experiences is what makes them the premier broadcast team in baseball.

Kevin Burkhardt, their in-game field reporter, does a great job with updates and player interviews. You heard it here first when I say he will be an elite play by play or sportscaster once ESPN or Fox steals him away. He has the personality, knowledge and hair cut to be accepted by America. He combines the right mix of pressing players in interviews without coming off like an instigator. I think he could be the next Joe Buck minus the annoying annunciation and holier than thou attitude.

SNY also just landed an excellent analyst by adding Harold Reynolds to their already solid pre- and post-game show. Overall SNY gets an A minus for game coverage.

YES does a great job at game coverage minus the fact that their rotating collection of announcers can get annoying. On any given day it can be a combination of Michael Kay or Ken Singleton on play by play with Paul O’Neill, David Cone, Al Leiter and John Flaherty rotating in and out as color guys. It’s hard to hit that rhythm you expect from your broadcast team over the course of 162 game season when every day is a new combination. Neither Kay nor Singleton does the strongest play by play in baseball and they can both be a little bland sometimes but neither makes me want to turn the volume down.

Michael Kay and his large head are not universally loved by fans. He likes to flex his Fordham education by using big words and this turns off much of his blue collar audience. To their credit some of his broadcast partners have done a good job bringing him back down to earth. (Especially Paul O’neill who will make fun of him about his head size, his waist size and his pretentiousness) Almost every partner he has will make a comment like “That’s just my opinion but I didn’t go to Fordham.” It’s these types of light hearted jabs between Kay and the ex Yankees that make me think he doesn’t have as big a chip on his shoulder as some fans think. While the majority of fans like their play by play guys to be some one they think they can go get a beer with: The Vin Scully type who has a good story for every occasion. Michael Kay is more of a game show host. He likes to moderate the chaos of the game and add in a witty line every now and again.

Say what you will but Kay is a knowledgeable Yankees historian who knows how to draw from his partner’s actual baseball experience. At times, unfortunately, he can go too far. A typical Michael Kay play by play goes like this: Kay starts relating a story about Bruce Springsteen to how the Yankees are on such a long road trip and then every once in awhile he will stop his story to tell you what the count is. When the ball is finally hit we get this:

“The 2-2 offering is…Hit on the ground towards third. A Rod fields and fires to Giambi. Giambi scoops it up…HE GOT EMMMMMM…So Paul, tell me what was going through your mind in the late nineties when you would hit a routine ground ball to third.”

There’s a time and place for Paul O’Neill and David Cone’s stories. They should only be told when they relate to a significant play on the field or if the Yankees are winning or losing by a large margin.

Getting past the rotating announcers and a few Michael Kay flaws, YES does a really good job during games and an exceptional job on their pre- and post-game coverage. Kim Jones, being a Yankees employee, has access to all the key players and is not afraid to ask a tough question. Over all Yes gets a strong B plus on its game coverage.

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NY baseball Misconceptions- Melky’s Potential

Written by Tough Tony


Statement: “Melky Cabrera is what he is” Said by the majority of stat heads.

The book is still out on Melky Cabrera. But there seems to be an Internet movement that says Melky Cabrera will never be more than what he is now. Some baseball nerd websites will tell you his defense is only slightly above average and his hitting regressed last year (I like to imagine the nerds saying these statements with a slight lisp and a mouth full of braces. Even 30 year old Rob Neyer) And while his hitting did dip last year, I like to call it a sophomore slump more than regressed because the word regressed seems so final. The kid is only 23 years old.

Some more level headed baseball pundits say with improved plate discipline and maybe with a slight power increase he can become a better than league average hitter. A Juan Peirre type when Juan Peirre used to have over 170-200 hits a year. These well wishers are usually called Yankees fans but even some outsiders have given credit where credit is due to the “Melk Man.”

I think his glove, arm and penchant for always being in the middle of big innings will make him a productive major leaguer for a long time. Either as a starting center fielder- a nice role player on a team of super stars or maybe as a useful 4th outfielder who can spot start at all 3 outfield positions down the line. One thing the nerd sites don’t take into account is how a player fits in on a certain team. Melky fits for the Yankees.

I watch the Yankees every day and I have never felt like Melky held the team back. He can be a quick out some times but his defense and intangibles always even it out for me. On a team of super star robots he is a nice change of pace. I used to watch Gary Sheffield refuse to try to take a pitch the other way, even with a runner on second and the defense practically daring him to do it. He was more interested in hitting a loud foul ball that could potentially kill a kid in the left field upper deck. Melky Cabrera has been good for the Yankees. In those close and late situations Melky seems to shine. I think I once saw him bunt some one over. What a concept.

Regardless of what has happened the past two years in the playoffs. To me the Yankees took a drastic organization turn in 2006. They went from a one dimensional team that bullies it’s opponents to one that can beat you in different ways in the year 2006.

In 2004 and 2005 the Yankees used to clobber Tampa Bay 14-6 and then lose a heart breaker 3-2 the next night. They were an annoying team to watch. It was feast or famine and you never knew what you were getting out of the offense. While they may have scored almost 900 runs in 04 and 05, if you watched day to day you saw a team that scored a lot of the their runs with big innings off bad middle relief.

Then Cano and Wang became sophomores in 2006. Melky came up and provided some excitement and ended up coming in second in the AL in outfield assists. When the five game Boston massacre happened, Melky and Cano were in the middle of almost every big inning that weekend, smiling with each hit. I remember thinking to myself, since when have the Yankees smiled? Kevin Brown, Gary Sheffield and Randy Johnson certainly didn’t smile. And while I understand smiling doesn’t equal winning, as a fan, you could just sense that the youth of this team was energising the rest of the team. Like that movie “Little Big Leagues.”

Some people say 2007 is when Brian Cashman’s youth movement took effect over the team. We got our first glimpse of Hughes, Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain in 2007 and Shelley Duncan hit a bunch of home runs and slapped five with a bunch of people in 2007. But it was 2006 when the youth movement really started. And Melky was one of the three founding fathers along with Wang and Cano. This was not the George Steinbrenner, superstar, Yankees your father knew.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I do need to clarify that when given the opportunity I will always take a Gary Sheffield over a Melky Cabrera but the point I’m trying to make is that when Jason Giambi is clogging a roster spot and Hideki Matsui and A Rod are both guaranteed 100 RBI’s do you need an aging and angry Gary Sheffield at that point? It’s good to have a little balance to your line up.

Despite some of The “Melk Man’s” limitations, like his low line drive numbers, I think compared to his best friend Robinson Cano, Melky is the one who has the most room for growth. He doesn’t seem like he has filled out into his body yet and he is even younger than Cano. I know Melky has the speed to steal bases but he hasn’t figured out when to do it. He has started off hitting well this season. I would like to think this is the beginning of consistency for him.

It’s also worth noting that another small and scrappy center fielder came up from the Yankees farm system the last few years. In 2004 a guy got everyone excited for his potential with some nice defensive plays. His name was Bubba Crosby. He even hit a walk off home run once but you know what? He sucked at the plate. Yankees fans have been so starved for a youthful player we all over rated Bubba Crosby. Melky is everything Bubba should have been and what we thought Bubba was.

He may never have an all-star year but Melky is a more than serviceable major league center fielder. While he may improve drastically, he may also fall off the face of the earth. But one thing is for certain, what Melky is now is not what he will be two or three years from now. It’s safe to say he is going to improve. Maybe 15 points higher in average and an increased slugging percentage. Melky has similar numbers to Bernie Williams at the same age in the Major Leagues and Melky is allready assured to live in infamy because of his defensive gem on June 6th of 2006 where he robbed Manny Ramirez of a home run. If you havn’t seen this constantly replayed on YES your cable company obviously doesn’t carry YES.

Maybe I’m blinded by what Melky represents to the Yankees but I just think it’s a safe bet that he will be even better when he hits his prime years. At age 27 he will have five full years of experience. That has to count for something.

Or maybe I’m just fooling myself.

Melky Cabrera may never be much but while the majority of the Yankees roster has given up home runs to Manny Ramirez, Melky took one away. I hope it’s true what they say: The “Melk man” always knocks twice.

NY Baseball Misconceptions- Cano’s Power

Written by Tough Tony

“Once Robinson Cano fully develops he will hit over 30 home runs a year.” Said by Joe Bronx

You have heard your annoying Yankee friend say it. Probably multiple times. Maybe even non Yankees fans say it who are tying to fit in. The hype on Cano started when he got called up to replace Tony Womack early in the 2005 season. He got the promotion because the Yanks were sputtering and they needed to shake up and inject youth to the line up. It worked. Yankees fans started to like Cano’s solid hitting and the YESNETWORK started to plan an early Yankeeography for him but somewhere the hype went a tad too far.

And let me be perfectly clear: Cano is a very good player. Though he has the same stigma as Alfonso Soriano when it comes to lackadaisical defense he seems to care more. He turns the double play well, has descent range and is an excellent contact hitter. (He also seems to like getting a late start to hitting each year.) But if anything is going to improve and take him to the next level it is going to be his plate discipline not his home run power.

Now, I’m not a baseball nerd. I can’t break out stats that will dazzle your senses and wow your imagination. I can just tell you what I see from having watched almost every game of his carreer: Cano is a solid hitter who doesn’t have the swing or the power to mash 30 home runs a year. And even though he is young, let’s be honest: Young is a reletive term when it comes to baseball players south of the border (Just ask Miguel Tejada and ESPN) Cano looks pretty grown up and I don’t think he is going to get any bigger. I’m not saying he is a Dominican Gary Coleman, I’m just saying he seems fully developed. (It sounds weird to call a man fully developed but I just did)

His first season in 2005 Joe Torre casually mentioned to some reporters that Cano’s swing reminded him of Rod Carew’s and the Yankee PR machine took off and ran with it. Every game YES would show Rod Carew highlights when Cano was batting. If you were deaf and your closed captioning didn’t work you would think Robinson Cano was Rod Carew’s illegitimate son. And I’m not saying it’s a bad comparison but then people started going wild with Cano’s potential and everyone just started assuming he would double his early home run production and easily hit 30 home runs a year eventually.

But why was his home run potential so assumed?

Rod Carew never was a home run hitter. His career high for a single season is 14 home runs. He did it twice. Did the Yankee PR machine fail to mention that?

I love Robinson Cano. He was named after Jackie Robinson. He’s a free swinging line drive hitter who can spray the ball. From all accounts he seems like a good guy who enjoys the game. In 2006 he hit .342 without playing a full season, finishing third in the AL. There’s no reason not to think that one year he will hit well from April through September and win a batting title.

But where this forgone conclusion about home runs came from I’ll never know. Cano hit 14 his first year, 15 his second and his third year he hit 19. I reasonably expect him to top out at 27. Maybe one year he will hit 30 but to say he will be a perennial 30-40 home run hitter is absurd.

If you go to baseballreference.com and look up similar hitters by age you will see that Cano most favorably matches up with Tony Lazzeri, Jason Kendall and Joe Mauer. I know, I know, the 3 biggest home run hitters not in the 500 home run club. Oh, Cano is also compared to another guy by the name of Shanty Hogan. That’s actually not Hulk Hogan’s poor nephew but a catcher in the 1930’s who’s career high in home runs for a season was 13. None of these players ever have or ever will hit 30 home runs in a season. Of the top ten most comparable hitters by age only Nomar had a significantly higher slugging percentage and he actually did hit 30 home runs his first full year.

If you think of some of the other modern day 30 plus home run guys they all reached the 30 home run plateau within their second year in the majors. Gary Sheffield hit 33 his second full year. Troy Glaus hit 29 his second full year. Andruw Jones hit 31 his second full year. Vlad hit 38 his first full year. A-rod hit 36 his first full year. Soriano hit 39 his second full year. Manny Ramirez hit 31 his second year (after playing 91 games the year before.) The list goes on and on. It took Ken Griffey till his 5th year to hit over 30 but he hit over twenty his second through fourth year in the Majors.

There’s a vicious cycle when it comes to the Yankees and Red Sox young players in this day and age. Most of them are over hyped. (Think of the the Craig Hanson, Ian Kennedy, Jon Lester situation) Some of them are under hyped because we assume they are over hyped by each team’s propaganda machines. This usually makes people not want to admit what they are seeing to be true. We heard so much about Kevin Youkilis’ pate discipline before he came up to the majors that when we finally saw it for ourselves it became old news. The guy is the definition of OBP. I’m pretty sure Bill James has a poster of him in his bathroom.

And in Robinson Cano’s case I think he gets under valued because he is a Yankee. People assume his production is because of the line up or it’s just the Yankee hype machine. But Cano has a chance to be truly great. Probably a lifetime .310 hitter with solid but not spectacular defense who has the chance to threaten Tony Lazzeri, Joe Gordon and Willie Randolph as the best Yankee second basemen ever.

But what I just don’t see is the 30 home runs a year potential. And who says he needs to? Look at some of the legends Cano’s stats favorably compare to: Lazzeri, Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra. All are Yankees and all are in the Hall of Fame. No reason Cano can’t get to Cooperstown on 20 home runs a year. (Don’t repeat that to Steve Garvey though.)

The next time the annoying guy in the bar tries to propagate this myth that Robinson Cano’s home run potential is coming: call him on it. You’ll feel like Will Hunting when he puts a verbal beat down on the annoying Harvard guy in Good Will Hunting.

“Yea well Robinson Cano is gonna hit 30 home runs one year and you’ll still be serving my kids fries on our way home from a ski trip.”

“Yea? Maybe your right on the fries thing but who says Cano needs to add power to his game. No one said he needs to be Jeff Kent. At least Cano can say he’s original.”

Or something like that.