Tuesday night: join the (media) circus

April 5th, 2009 → 2:49 pm @

The 24 hours immediately following Opening Day is always a bit of a let-down: there’s the months of buildup, the six weeks of Spring Training, that first game…and then an off-day? What, people already need a rest?

This year, the wonderful men and women at Gelf have decided to help out those of you living in NYC…and I’ve decided to help them. You guessed it: Tuesday night I’ll be part of a panel at Gelf’s first-ever Media Circus event – which, according to those in the know, is “a new monthly speaking series…held at JLA Studios in DUMBO, Brooklyn—only one subway stop away from Manhattan!” (Gmap for JLA at 63 Pearl St.) Besides me, Gawker media critic Hamilton Nolan and Portfolio’s Jeff Bercovici will be talking about how we’re all about to join the ranks of the unempl…er, about “how the press covers and consumes itself.” The event is free, drinks will be served, doors open at 7pm, and the panel starts at 7:30.

(And to those of you who think I haven’t learned anything in the past five years…I’ve forever retired the oft-mocked picture of me that accompanied previous interviews, etc. For the Q/A table-setter for this event — in which I talk about the Red Sox, drugs, the Kindle, and Russian Jews — I opted for a mostly obscured shot of me riding in a tank. So there.)

Post Categories: 2009 Opening Day & Gawker & Media reporting & Portfolio & Speaking appearances

Portfolio says Manny will be gone; toilet bowl overflows.

July 25th, 2008 → 1:02 pm @

This morning, Portfolio magazine — a Conde Nast business title, for those of you not living in the Manhattan media echo chamber — published a report with a juicy sub-hed: “Red Sox appear increasingly likely to let Ramirez go in 2009.” The magazine has had some buzz-worthy sports stories in the past, notably last year’s dispatch in which Franz Lidz gave the best evidence yet that George Steinbrenner is no longer all there (before this year’s golf-cart trip around the field during the All-Star Game, that is).

Lidz is the author of the magazine’s Manny column as well. Unfortunately, it amounts to — to further a metaphor that Lidz labors over in his lede — an overflowing toiletbowl full of crap. There’s a drawn out anecdote provided by a “prominent relief pitcher” about how Manny refuses to use toilet paper that sounds an awfully lot like similar tales peddled to me back when I was with the team in ’04 and ’05, except the way I heard it, the overflowing toilet was in a hotel room, not the clubhouse. There’s a quote from an anonymous “fuming” member of “the Red Sox hierarchy” saying that Manny is “totally passive-aggressive.” (It took an anonymous source to figure that one out?) And there’s a rehash of the much-discussed incident in which Manny watched three of Mo’s pitches sail by him for a called K to end the ninth of a tie game in the Bronx.

Besides that, the “evidence” Lidz marshals is a series of quotes from Andrew Zimbalist, a Smith College professor. Zimbalist has done some good work on the economics of sports, and has become a particular thorn in Bud Selig’s side in regards to his frequent, and frequently spot-on, critiques of MLB’s contra-logical profit-sharing system. But to say that he “has a pretty good idea what the Sox are thinking” is ridiculous; he has no better an idea of what the Sox are thinking than any stat geek with a well-thumbed collection of Bill James Abstracts on his bookshelves. He might, in fact, have a worse idea; Zimbalist’s conclusion is, according to Lidz, based on his belief that the team got “burned” when they signed Schilling to an $8 million deal and Zimbalist’s conclusion that Manny is an “adequate, injury-prone left fielder” with diminished sentimental value. Then, for good measure, Lidz reminds readers that the Sox placed Manny on waivers back in 2003, citing that as one of the “numerous occasions” that the team has “tried to bid farewell to Ramirez.” That’s like saying John McCain won’t carry South Carolina in the fall because he lost the state to George Bush in the 2000 Republican primary.

Back in 2006, I spent some time explaining why Manny would likely remain with the Sox and unpacking the extent to which the market has changed since 2003; these days, with low-revenue teams collecting more money from the rest of the league, it’s not as easy to spend $20 million on an immediate impact player as it once was. And the Sox are not, as Lidz quotes Zimbalist as saying, “very cautious about signing older players,” nor are they convinced that “performance peaks at age 28.” (See: Drew, J.D., signed at age 31 to a five-year, $70 million deal in 2007.) They are cautious — but they’re also cautious about signing younger players. And considering that Manny’s first year in Boston came when he was 29, he’s shown that players on the so-called downside of their career can do pretty well; in his seven full seasons with the Sox, he’s average 36 HRs and 114 RBIs.

This doesn’t mean that the Sox will pick up Manny’s $20 million option for 2009.* I could make arguments that would support either position, but at the end of the day, neither I, nor Andrew Zimbalist, nor Franz Lidz, nor anyone else who isn’t actually in the room has any idea what’s actually going on in the Sox’s front office. To pretend any differently is, well, a load of crap.

* It is worth pointing out that Manny is fourth in the league in OBP, tied (with Youk) for fifth in OPS, and ninth in RBIs. It’s also worth noting that while the last month or so worth of shenanigans are frustrating, they’re nothing the Sox haven’t dealt with before. Are there better players making less money? Of course. Are there better players that will be available next year for a one-year deal for $20 million? Unlikely.

Post Categories: Andrew Zimbalist & Franz Lidz & Manny Ramirez & Portfolio & Sports Reporters

The Bronx is Burning, 2.0

August 2nd, 2007 → 6:27 pm @

The new Conde Nast business magazine, Portfolio, launched in the spring. If you happened to be living in the NYC media world, you could be excused for thinking it was as big a story as Rupert’s purchase of the Journal. (I have some friends who work there, so I decided I’d wait until I saw some more issues before I decided what I thought of the whole project. I’ll leave it at that…)The new issue has at least one article with some fascinating dirt for baseball fans: this piece on George Steinbrenner, in which Steinbrenner’s son is quoted as saying one way to improve the team is to “get rid of my father.” (And that’s not the worst of it…at one point, Steinbrenner answers a whole series of questions by saying, “Great to see ya, Tommy.”)

It’s definitely worth checking out…especially when compared with this Fortune magazine story about the Yankees, Steinbrenner, and the YES Network. To be fair, the Portfolio story is a major investigative piece that, judging from the magazine’s publication schedule, probably took a year to put out; the Fortune story is a much smaller project. But man does it seem lame in comparison: “Off the field, an even weightier drama is playing out. George Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ demanding, combustible, and usually larger-than-life principal owner, has been strangely silent. This silence is feeding rumors of the Boss’s failing health.” Stop the presses!

Post Categories: George Steinbrenner & Portfolio

I guess I would have written it too…

April 20th, 2007 → 12:11 pm @

I’m not sure if this explains the Michael Lewis “Jock Exchange” piece or means it’s even more frustrating that there’s still so much A’s material in there…but there are rumors (via Gawker via Dealbreaker) that Lewis is making $12 a word(!) for his Portfolio stories. By that count, this post would net me a bit less than $1,500, and I’d have made somewhere north of a million bucks off of this blog. Instead, I’m paying for the server space.* If that figure is anywhere near accurate, one thing’s for sure: he’s a lot smarter than I am about monetizing his labor.

Update: According to any number of people who’re in a position to know, that figure isn’t anywhere remotely close to being accurate. Which makes me feel better. Or at least like less of a chump.**

* After two months, I took down the Google AdSense ads from the sidebar; they netted me a total of $15.79.

** I should know better than to think that anonymously posted comments put up in a blog have even the slightest relationship to reality. Actually, I do know better. Oh well.

Post Categories: Michael Lewis & Portfolio