Monday, November 26, 2007

"Stealing the Yankees Thunder"

Ian O'Connor of the Bergen Record thinks that the Mets need to make some moves. No, not to specifically address team needs, fill gaps, or add organizational depth in a prudent and well thought-out matter. No, they need to do it to "steal the Yankees thunder."

This notion -- that the New York teams should make moves that land them on the tabloids' back pages instead of at the top of the NL East standings-- is a common one among New York baseball writers. "Please provide us column fodder and circulation increases," guys like O'Connor are demanding, "winning should not be your primary objective." If you think I'm being unfair about this, just look at O'Connor's own words:

On arrival, [Minaya's] can-do personality transformed the sad sack Mets into believers. Minaya was the first executive to convince Fred Wilpon he had to have the stomach to go big-game hunting if he ever wanted to take the market from the Yanks . . .The GM had the nerve to chase the ace of the 2004 world champions. . . Now Minaya looks hopelessly boxed in. It appears he can't get Santana without seriously compromising his team, and again he's left to rely on the decomposing bodies of Martinez and El Duque Hernandez.

It's not about the wins, see, it's about "taking the market from the Yanks." It's about doing things like signing "the ace of the 2004 world champions" even though he turned into a "decomposing body" a little over a year into the deal. Just make a move, O'Connor counsels, it doesn't have to be a good move, it need merely be big!

This is what people are talking about when they talk about how hard it is to play in New York. The GMs can't simply build solid teams, they must do it with panache. The stars can't simply smack the cover off the ball, they must fill some vaguely defined role as "hero" as well. If the stars manage to do that at some point, they can never be judged on their performance going forward, for to speak ill of the hero is blasphemy. This, in turn, makes it very difficult to be that star's manager or teammate. The whole scene presents an entirely different competing set of demands than that which players and execs are used to having, and the only consistent thing that seems to be driving it is a competitive media market.

This isn't news to most people, I imagine, but it's helpful to remember once in a while that the genesis of this dynamic isn't some complicated genetic deformity on the part of tri-state baseball fans which makes them impossible to satisfy. It simply springs from the typewriter of columnists in places like Bergen, New Jersey who need to find something else to say besides "the Mets need a couple of starting pitchers" because, hey, the dude at the Gazette said that on Wednesday.


Pete Toms said...

C, I disagree.

I think the Yanks & the Mets compete not only against each other for corporate $$$, TV audiences etc. I think they're also in competition with the Giants, Jets, Knicks, college, Broadway, concerts etc.

Baseball teams, all pro sports teams, don't operate in a vacuum.

Nowhere is the competition for the entertainment dollar ( sports is a big part of that ) more fierce than in NYC. I do think it's not simply enough to win in NYC but you do have to win with some flamboyance, superstar appeal, whatever you wanna call it. I don't think it's all a function of the NYC sports press.

George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees for a paltry $8.7 million in 1973 and not just because they stank and the stadium needed work. They were a nothing story.

Osmodious said... usual, a seemingly simple Shyster point/post proves to be rather thought-provoking.

My initial reaction was whole-hearted agreement. I have often decried the way the media in this are of the country acts (I spent much of the 2006 season telling anyone who would listen that ARod would be OK if the media would just lighten up on him a bit). Quite often, the Jersey papers are even worse than the NY papers...not by much, though.

There are a few excellent columnists around here...Bob Klapisch springs to mind, and Tyler Kepner has his moments as well...but for the most part, they tend to be 'sensationalists'. Part of that is just the way 'big media' is today, with 'the story' and ensuing attention being more important than the subject or the long range implications of their positions.

But I think a lot of it is 'the lie' that seems to have consumed America these days...that appearances are more important than actions/plans. By spending tons of money, teams can appear to be 'trying to compete', without all that work (and risk) that goes along with ACTUALLY trying to manage appropriately. We see this all over, from the government merely going after speeders rather than addressing the underlying safety problems of poorly engineered and maintained roads and an incredible lack of effective driver education (well, revenue from tickets is a factor there as well) the things we all experience on a daily basis in the corporate world. Hey, why actually SOLVE a problem when you can expend so much less effort and APPEAR to have at least tried?

By spouting off about every little thing a team's general manager does, the sportswriters can claim that they are doing their job...they are 'informing the fans', even if they are not providing the thing that the fans really want and need...cogent analysis of the intricacies involved. Hell, we can take any of our team's activities at face value and make a judgement on it, or even have a knee-jerk reaction to it...a good sportswriter is privy to additional information that might provide some more perspective on events to help us develop a REALLY 'informed opinion'.

Data without analysis is just data, obtainable from any one of a hundred different sources. Data plus analysis is INFORMATION, which is what I seek when I'm reading the sports columns. Unfortunately, 'information' is in short supply from the newspaper is beter found in the blogs (and articles) of the Gammons, Neyers, Olneys and, yes, Shysters of the web.

Perhaps this is yet another reason that the newspapers are dying?


P.S. Pete made a good point, though I would temper it with this: there is no crossover from Yankee to Mets fan. Around here, you are for one or the other. I've never been able to figure out precisely why (a whole column, or book, on it's own), but that's the way it is. Of course, there is such a HUGE fanbase here that the dollars will flow in depending on performance, as you state...I'm just saying there really aren't any crossover dollars (my bucks will NOT be finding their way to Queens if the Yankees start to suck, for example...though I do enjoy watching the Mets from time to time, being a fun team, I will never be a 'fan').

Pete Toms said...

Earlier this evening I was reading the Nov 12-18 SBJ and in particular a guest editorial from Robert Tuchman, President of TSE Sports & Entertainment ( whatever that is ).

Anyway his editorial concerns the glut of new pro sports facilities recently opened - Prudential Centre - or soon opening - Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, Nets in Brooklyn, Giants / Jets - in NYC / Jersey and the competition amongst these clubs for the NYC corporate dollar.

"Simply put, there are not enough funds to go around for everybody to get what they want. Corporations that own the majority of suites usually pull money from one budget. Unfortunately, they do not set aside funds for individual sports but rather for entertaining as a whole. This means that teams will have the additional obstacle of competing with nonsports-related properties such as Broadway and the Sports Museum of America...."

He also comments - I don't know if it's accurate - that one luxury suite in these new facilities can generate more revenue than 5,000 seats. That's depressing, but I digress.

This is why A Rod commands $300 million in NYC. This is also why it is important to "make a big splash". The big time clients that desire to be entertained in these suites don't know OBP from PECOTA from VORP from....but they do know who A Rod is - hey, he has Warren Buffet's cell # - and if he's the biggest celebrity in NYC - on or off Broadway - then he's worth the dough.

What determines the price of anything? Supply & demand.