Saturday, October 15, 2011

John Sterling, Suzyn Waldman, and the Yankee Radio booth

John Sterling has called every Yankee post season game from 1995 to the present along with 162 regular season games from 1989. He has seen most if not every pitch thrown in regular and post season for 23 years. A recent NY Times article quotes Michael Kay saying Sterling does 162 games a year and that seems like a lot to Kay who does about 125. While stating he's done about 3800 games the article doesn't make clear that Sterling has done 156 post season games. No one else has done that. TV doesn't do that.
  • Yankee radio and its voices have provided continuity for fans through entire seasons, Sterling since 1989 and through post seasons starting in 1995 and Sterling and Waldman since 2005.
Unhappy with Yankee stadium attendance in the mid and late 1990's Yankee ownership said "nobody would come to the Bronx," and wanted to move the stadium to Manhattan (parag. 6) (cit. #4). Suzyn Waldman remembers this, because she's been covering the Yankees since the late 1980's first as a radio beat reporter, later as an analyst, and since the mid '90's on television in varous capacities, and has been Sterling's partner on radio since 2005. In 1996 the Yankees were 7th in AL attendance. In 1998 they ranked 8th in attendance through August (parag. 18). They didn't get to #1 in AL attendance until 2003. These facts don't usually come up in conversation and don't fit the narrative that the Yankees always have more attendance, more money, and are just luckier. As a fan it's preferable to listen to someone who has experienced all this and who will fill in important details others may leave out. 21 of those 156 post season games went into extra innings. Sterling did share play by play with partners until he began doing all innings in 2005 but he called the majority and likely was watching most of the rest. Now that the Yankees are successful and have a somewhat porous front office with out of town owners (context below, citation 7), the Yankee radio booth is prime for exploitation. Whether by a celebrity-seeker or for what some perceive as the pot of gold, the glittering financial opportunities of shaping public opinion.
  • "Then the best quote of all:

"Yankees fans who like him are people who just want someone to root for the team," (Phil) Mushnick said.

  • Or is more boring than geometry?

And it's not like Sterling and Waldman never criticize the Yankees. They do it often. (Just wait till they fail to advance a runner)....

It's OK to enhance the product with some personality, you know. As if being a Yankee fan is controversial or worse, the Times quotes a fan saying some people think the team should have a 'network level' play by play announcer--implying someone who wasn't a Yankee fan. (So it doesn't matter what you give Yankee fans they'll always be there, besides we want a Bud Selig/ESPN robot in there who'll talk up what a great idea it would be to let the best Yankee pitchers all go and pitch in the next World Baseball Classic because it would show the Yankees are 'unselfish'--might be the thought process). The article does state Sterling freely rips the team when they do something wrong just like the average fan. The word 'homer' doesn't remotely apply to Sterling if it means only saying good things.
  • 'Not being a Yankee fan' means something different than not being a fan of most other teams.
There is often deep bitterness whether conscious or not. Perhaps due in part to 24/7 anti Yankee negativity (parag. 3). The Yankee fan experience, images of its players and the like are easy to destroy because a lot of people want to and no one is really looking out for them. Attack squads are usually at the ready to diminish the Yankee fan experience. No one tries to stop them when they get on a roll-not even in the interest of common decency. Apparently lead to believe they don't deserve to be a fan as much as anyone else, some fans retreat at such times, passively thinking oh well, it's part of the territory with the Yankees. One NY tabloid whose owner made his fortune via his company Boston Properties has shown a fixation with Roger Clemens. Perhaps some people will never get over Clemens. The publisher adores dictator Fidel Castro, and both are baseball fans. This person has been allowed to insert one of his employees inside the Yankee Radio booth during play by play every 5th inning for several years. It's a paid sponsorship capitalizing on the Yankee name and the implied endorsement of John, Suzyn, and the Yankees to advance the advertiser's particular baseball agenda. The goal of any advertiser in any medium is to sell something, to influence public opinion. No amount of money makes this an editorially sound idea for the Yankees. I've never heard a booth guest who could provide more than Suzyn's peerless reporting though she and John are generous and welcoming to 'guests' and create an environment in which the guest can appear to be adding something. The main individual selected by the tabloid owner to represent him in the Yankee radio booth the past few years is not a Yankee fan. This was not news to me having seen this person's version of events when he was on Bud Selig's copywriting staff at MLB.com a few years ago. That this individual given a half inning inside the Yankee radio booth about 5 days out of seven is not a Yankee fan was great news to a professional Yankee hater. As the Yankee hater said, "After all, if you ain’t with ‘em, you’re usually against ‘em!"
  • The fan experience of the Yankee Radio booth is on hold until the tabloid reporter leaves. Suzyn and John are such pros at smoothing things over a casual listener might not realize something unpleasant and even disrespectful just happened.
I trust both Suzyn and John to give the good and the bad but always from a perspective of someone who cares about the team. Not someone who's trying to be smarter or make a name for themselves or get on ESPN. Being 'a homer' to NY credentialed media doesn't mean voting for a Yankee in post season awards. It can mean helping the Yankee front office to smear favorite players in the media. Yankee suits can certainly request radio broadcasters cover player issues one way or another. Why wouldn't they since it's well known they do it in other media? I haven't heard Suzyn or John say they've been told to say one thing or another of course. Neither would do that. As a listener with particular interest on this topic, I've heard a few instances that sounded influenced from outside the radio booth. There is one person most likely to be giving editorial orders to Yankee radio and if you're reading this you probably know who it is. The few instances I refer to were 'high value' issues. Once or twice I've had to turn the radio off for awhile after one of these events.
  • Widespread bias against the Yankees or anyone is stealing. Stealing from players, the team, their life work and lastly it steals from fans.
Others can have a fan experience but Yankee fans can't, is the idea. I need to know the voices in the radio booth know what we as fans are up against everywhere in the outside world. John and Suzyn have been the antidote. They have endless knowledge and they know the big picture and I hope they both stay as long as they wish. What is waiting to replace the gracious environment they have created are shrill, formulaic bores. Sterling is a natural talker which is one of the reasons he's good at play by play. Many of those I hear doing play by play are not natural talkers or great personalities. They rely on formulas to get them through. The ear splitting high decibel chirpy, sing-song affectation is common, for example with Mets radio guys. The technique is to end a phrase on a low register, then pick up the next phrase 2 or 3 octaves higher, splitting the average ear drum.
  • This is a violation of the first law of radio, which is that it's a one to one medium, one person talking to one other person. Or allowing us to listen in on a one on one conversation.
With many of today's baseball radio talkers it's sounds more like a puppet show. Perhaps it's intended to make the game sound more exciting. ESPN's Dan Shulman uses another device, an affectation of the voice rising, rising in crescendo to thunderous level at inappropriate times. I'm thinking he's about to tell me something big and it ends up being nothing, like a routine catch of a ball in the outfield and a normal throw to first base with no big effect either way on the game. One team's booth has a schtick where they try not to allow a second to go by without the other guy filling it up with unnecessary words. Fans thereby aren't allowed moments to hear the stadium presence. This shows a lack of confidence in an announcer's ability to do spontaneous give and take in a booth. John and Suzyn aren't like that, they talk in normal, conversational tones (with the occasional exception of a home run call which other guys do as well but none with famous tags attached to players that become known around the world, 'don't-cha know.') Sterling's voice allows one to relax and enjoy the game.
  • Joe Castiglione is one of few others out there who seems like a natural talker where you're not always worried he's going to trip over himself.
As noted in the NY Times article, Sterling has never missed a game. I was quite surprised to learn from the article that he only makes $375,000+ in salary. I would have thought around $1 million. Regarding Phil Mushnick's remarks about him I see no reality whatsoever. As far as occasional mistakes, I've listened to other guys and they all make them. In Sterling's case, Waldman usually corrects what needs to be corrected and she does it graciously.
  • The Yankee TV side, the YES Network, is like a junior ESPN.
It's run by a conglomeration of interests with the Yankees owning a reported 35%. The majority is owned by Goldman Sachs and hedge fund people who it's said "want a partnership with the Yankees about how the games are broadcast.'' For years YES Network Yankee studio shows (pre and post game) have promoted a non-Yankee player who is also a Bud Selig and ESPN favorite. YES promoted the non-Yankee player's record for a regular season stat when they mentioned Mariano Rivera's name which certainly helped the image of the non-Yankee player. The same player received similar free promotion on Yankee radio this year.
  • I hope both John and Suzyn remain on Yankee radio as long as they want. If something different happens, I probably won't be listening.
  • Citation 1, NY Times article on Sterling, 10/1/11
10/1/11, "Voice of Yankees Draws High Ratings and Many Critics," NY Times, Bill Pennington ---------------------
  • Citation 2, a total of 4 items on spreading a culture of negativity around the Yankees:
Two items from Joel Sherman, first from his 2006 book on the 1996 Yankees, second from one of his NY Post articles; followed by an item from MLB Network 7/31/10, followed by a Bud Selig statement on WFAN, 10/5/06
  • Joel Sherman finds the Commissioner's office to be the source of much anti Yankee negativity. From his 2006 book about the 1996 Yankees, "Birth of a Dynasty," p. 311:
"Unfortunately for the legacy of this group, the success of these Yankees (1996 team) coincided with
  • a powerful push by central baseball to convince fans that the disparity between the financial "haves" and "have-nots" was destroying the competitive balance of the sport. The Yankees came to embody the big-market superpowers. They were demonized for buying championships.
They were cast as villains by a Commissioner's Office that saw the advantages of portraying them as a prop in a strategy to win salary concessions from the players in collective bargaining,
  • Thus the Yankees of this era do not receive near the amount of credit they deserve for what they accomplished."...
Page 311 from Joel Sherman in his 2006 book, "Birth of a Dynasty," about the 1996 Yankees. The Yankee organization has failed to address this problem as baseball media has become even more centralized under Bud Selig. It wouldn't take much effort and it could make a big difference. Negativity is used because it works. On the other hand, it seems 'the Yankees' (whoever that is) view the media as a tool to smear their own players. From Joel Sherman's column, 9/21/07: "As a rival executive (of the Yankees) said recently,
  • “...It is staggering the amount of negative noise that comes in New York (from media and fans) when your team spends that much money, has their expectations and has their history. It is bad anywhere, but in New York it is so much louder and so much more relentless. To stay the course, to stay yourself, I really admire that.”"
From Joel Sherman's NY Post column, 9/21/07, "Steadiness and Sturdiness"
  • ----------
  • MLB Network host compares Yankees to dictators abusing human rights:
7/31/10, "Yankee deadline moves trample others as if they were third world victims" MLB Network TV anchor's response to what the Yankees did at the trading deadline noted by commenter to Yankee LoHud blog:
  • 7/31/10, ""Betsy July 31st, 2010 at 4:52 pm
MLB Network's "Matt V. (Vasgersian) is really a freaking clown; he just said the Yankees tramped over the other teams from blog thread, Park designated for assignment," 7/31 /10
  • (This is the line Bud Selig wants MLB media people to beat into the ground. ed.)
4th item, 10/5/06, Bud Selig on WFAN: Chris Russo on WFAN: Bud, I know you probably won't answer this but you must be happy the Yankees lost today, must be thrilled, because this helps your argument for parity.
  • How about that?
Bud Selig answers: "Well, you're right, Chris, I'm not going to answer that."
  • ----------------------------
  • Citation 3, two Mike Lupica articles:

12/5/2010, "Shame on Yankees for dropping ball and insulting Derek Jeter during heated contract talks,"

  • Mike Lupica, NY Daily News
""They wanted it to look, in the more heated parts of this, as though Jeter was the greedy one. They were twitchy to get out there what they said Jeter wanted, that Jeter wanted $23 million or $24 million a year, whatever the Yankees said he was asking for.
  • Not just delighted. Thrilled.
They thought it made them look good. But you know who has always made them look good? Jeter has. Second Lupica article: -------------------------------
  • Citation 4, Yankee attendance in 1998, and "nobody will come to the Bronx" 9/28/1998:
"To (George) Steinbrenner's annoyance, the Yankees ranked
  • per home game through August (1998)."...
...From Business Week article, "The Yankees: Steinbrenner's Money Machine," 9/28/1998, by Anthony Bianco with Mark Hyman in Baltimore
  • And,
5/03/2008, "Nobody will come to the Bronx," Remember those days, asks Suzyn Waldman on Yankee Radio, XMMLbChat.blogspot.com
  • ----------------------------
Citation 5, YES Network and Goldman Sachs items 8/3/2007, "SPORTS BUSINESS; A Stake in the YES Network Is on the Market, but Not the Yankees' Share," NY Times, R. Sandomir ''It's a bit of a sideshow if the Yankees stay in or out, if they do or don't sell,'' (Gerald) Cardinale said. Any new financial partners, he added, ''will want a partnership with the Yankees about how the games are broadcast.'' 8/2/2007, "Goldman Sachs would consider YES Network sale for right offer," AP, USA Today
  • "The Yankees formed YES in 2001 and launched the network the following year. Yankee Global Enterprises, the team's parent company, owns about 35 percent of the network, with the remainder controlled by Goldman and Providence Equity Partners, and an investment group headed by former New Jersey Nets owner Ray Chambers."
  • ---------------------------
  • #6, Suzyn Waldman citations
7/16/10, "Yankees radio announcer Suzyn Waldman cultivated unique relationship with owner George Steinbrenner," Bob Raissman, NY Daily News
  • "Right from the late 1980s when she landed in the world according to George M. Steinbrenner.

"I like my women to spend my money and look real pretty," Steinbrenner bellowed during their first face-to-face meeting in 1988. "I don't like them to be pilots, policemen or sports reporters."

Waldman wrote that her 5:05 p.m. WFAN "Yankees Report" was heard by more people than those who read all the metropolitan area newspapers combined ("I should be taken seriously," she wrote). Her letter made the rounds of the ladies in Steinbrenner's office. Waldman walked in a hero, only to be greeted by Steinbrenner's chauvinistic babble....

That's how this relationship began. Early on, long before she became the Yankees radio analyst, he critiqued her work, canvassing his favorite Manhattan saloon keepers and asking: "What do you think of that girl?" In times of trouble, Steinbrenner was there. He became a coveted source, providing the kind of access and info other reporters did not normally receive."...

  • Citation #7, Yankee leadership, 2 Ken Davidoff articles
10/2/08, "Cashman aims to win with dysfunctional Yankees," Newsday, Ken Davidoff (link inactive but posted elsewhere) ""But in their quest to regain the mantle as baseball's elite team, they still face a quandary that shows no sign of going away:
  • From speaking to employees up and down the organizational food chain, you still get the sense that
Whereas George Steinbrenner ruled all in his prime, obsessing over both $189-million agreements with Derek Jeter and uncollected garbage on the practice field in Tampa, the
  • 1. Hal Steinbrenner. He has worked hard in the last year to establish a relationship with Cashman and the baseball people, commuting to Yankee Stadium from his Tampa home nearly every week. But he is human, unlike his dad, in that he can't get his tentacles over everything.
  • 2. Hank Steinbrenner. The "advisory-board" comments -- there will be no advisory board, Cashman confirmed Wednesday -- provide further proof that Hank is a highly entertaining fraud. As long as he's got his last name, however, Hank won't be ignored altogether.
  • 3. Felix Lopez. The husband of George Steinbrenner's younger daughter Jessica, Lopez has exploited Hal's and Hank's limits to gain a surprising amount of power over the Tampa-based operations. Lopez is known as such a bully and a boor that he makes Hank Steinbrenner look
  • like a gentleman and a scholar, in comparison.
  • 4. Randy Levine. The head of everything in New York, including the Yankees' role in YES and the new Yankee Stadium, team president Levine used to be predictable in that he would carry out George Steinbrenner's wishes. Now, with The Boss largely resting in the background, Levine sits as more of a wild card.
From this, you have people wondering who really runs things. It's a question that, in reality, probably will fade only if, or when, So in the interim, the Yankees will put forward their best words." from Ken Davidoff Newsday column, 10/2/08, "Cashman aims to win with dysfunctional Yankees"-------------
  • Second Davidoff article:
5/16/11, "Decision-Makers off-target again," Ken Davidoff, Newsday (Newsday is subscription) Ailing reliever Rafael Soriano said after the game that George Steinbrenner's son-in-law, Felix Lopez -- whose background is in gardening, not medicine -- advised him to take
  • a couple of weeks off to rest his ailing elbow....

Tough, tough times for the Yankees. "This is where you're tested as a team," Girardi said.

Successful industries, be they baseball, banking or bagels, place their personnel in a position to succeed. And calibrate their expectations accordingly.

Both on and off the field Monday, the Yankees failed at that skill. They can blame only themselves for the intensifying storm surrounding them....

At 20-19, three games behind the Rays in the American League East, the Yankees feel like a team in crisis. Of course, most teams carry that aura when the results stink....

And what in the name of Thurman Munson was Yankees brass thinking when it interrupted Derek Jeter's day to discuss the comments he made Sunday about Jorge Posada's Saturday boycott?...

  • Speaking of not being surprised, you could have set your watch to Jeter's comments on Sunday.
He defended his longtime friend and teammate while standing clear of Posada's feud with the Yankees' front office.
  • Of course Posada received preferential treatment from the team captain. Of course Jeter wouldn't have been so effusive had this been Alex Rodriguez or Nick Swisher pulling themselves out of a game against the Red Sox an hour before first pitch.

This is who Jeter is. He isn't much of a captain. The Yankees knew this when they agreed to bring back the iconic shortstop last winter for an over-market deal. So as long as Jeter isn't planning a rally on Posada's behalf,

  • it probably would've been better to ignore Jeter's comments."...
--------------------------------- 2/27/09, "'A Great Day to Surf the (radio) Waves'," Cincinnati.com, Daugherty We take our baseball broadcasters personally here, as personally as we take the Reds."...
  • ============
Columnist Dan DiMauro is a fan of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman "Let me just say this: I don't care whether you like him. I like him. And Suzyn Waldman, too. So do millions of Yankee fans, otherwise known as the target audience. Sterling and Waldman are part of every day from April through October, eccentric, eclectic, entertaining and everywhere the season takes us....
  • The (NY) Times reported that Mushnick "has written more than 270 articles about Sterling," calling him a "narcissistic, condescending blowhard."

Then the best quote of all:

"Yankees fans who like him are people who just want someone to root for the team," Mushnick said.

  • Or is more boring than geometry?

And it's not like Sterling and Waldman never criticize the Yankees. They do it often. (Just wait till they fail to advance a runner)....

It's OK to enhance the product with some personality, you know.

  • John Sterling makes you listen because of what's coming. And what's not.

Like one night this summer. We're on vacation in Ocean City, N.J., sipping some euphoric nectar on the porch listening to the ballgame. Sterling is apoplectic that home plate umpire Jerry Layne is taking too long to call balls and strikes. Suddenly, he breaks into song:

  • "Everybody's hand in hand ... waitin' for Jerry Layne."

It's a takeoff on an old Sinatra lyric ("everybody's hand in hand, swingin' down the lane.")

  • I'm sorry. But that's perfect, brilliant and the essence of John Sterling.

  • And I want him back for as long as he wants to do it.

I believe I speak for Yankees Universe on this.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro."
  • --------------------
  • More on radio and baseball generally:

8/26/2009, "Radio is what sold me on baseball," Hossrex, Dugout Central (I copied this material from Dugout Central in 2009. (The original link is inactive now, so I use the link on my blog).

Hossrex: "There’s something classic about baseball,

  • there’s something classic about radio, and there’s


  • Misc. citations

"The Clemens File: Rocket on the Back Page," Roger Clemens back pages of the NY Daily News

  • ----------------

1/7/10, 'Roger Clemens will obviously wear a Red Sox cap if he goes in the Hall of Fame,' Rob Neyer, ESPN

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  • I think that John Sterling is just great. He, in my opinion, is the best announcer ever. I also love it when someone hits a homer. He always has a jingle and it's fun. It also makes me jump up and down with joy. He just shouts like he's having fun too. He gives so much emotion.

    By Blogger Daniel Kim, at 6:05 PM  

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