Scenes from Spring Training: No, Marty Brennaman is not Bob Uecker

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This morning’s fears of severe cloudiness notwithstanding, it ended up being a very nice day at the ballpark. A bit cool, but not too bad. And a ton of sun, so take that weatherman.

The game: OK. Not great, but OK, which is as good as we can hope this time of the year.  Early on there was some nice defense, particularly by the Indians, but then things got out of control. The early crispness was helped by the fact that both teams ran out what — apart from the absence of Shin-Soo Choo and the Reds’ use of the DH — could be Opening Day lineups.  Things turned into a hot mess by the seventh, but I was occupied with more important matters by then.  Random notes:

Before the game started there were no less than three scouts hanging out near me in the press box: one — Jim Fregosi’s son, Jim Jr. — is a Phillies scout. There were also scouts from the Rays and the Braves. Fregosi and the Braves guy seemed like old friends and talked about hotels and the way the game has changed and the kind of stuff that old friends might discuss.  As a human being I was quite happy to hear all of this niceness. As a Braves fan I was utterly disgusted at the fraternization.  When they left for lunch I stole Fregosi’s notebook and put it in the Braves scout’s bag. (Note: may have only happened in my mind).

Speaking of lunch, the media spread at Goodyear Ballpark was easily the best I’ve had covering this beat. Hot dogs, hamburgers and barbecue chicken. I think they realize here that, if the writers are gonna bail on the media spread, it will be in order to go get a hot dog down on the concourse. By serving hot dogs, they cut off the competition.  Also: when you’re trying to feed a lot of people, keep it simple, OK? None of this flaming scrambled eggs on a skewer crap.

I noticed a distinct deemphasis on Chief Wahoo around here.  The Indians have the block C on the scoreboard and the script I is used a lot as well.  I don’t think this is an accident. In fact, I suspect it’s part of the Indians’ long, long-term phasing out of Wahoo. Do it slowly and subtly like this and you never have to announce anything and you thereby cut off an ugly fight. Smart play, Cleveland.

In honor of the deemphasis of Wahoo, I purchased a navy block C Indians cap in the team store. Well, partially in honor of that. Partially because I really like that cap and have wanted one for a while.

There’s a microphone hung on the screen behind home plate and the sound of the game is piped in through the speakers here in the press box.  The crack of the bat and the crowd noise makes working in this box approximately 400% better than other press boxes that sometimes serve as sensory deprivation chambers.

When Austin Kearns came to bat a lone man in the stand booed him, and did so lustily.  How can anyone work up enough hate to boo Austin freakin’ Kearns? Oh, and Darryl Thompson got the win today, so I consider that to officially close the book on the highly controversial Kearns-Felipe Lopez trade. Well, highly-controversial, like four years ago, and only by weirdos like me who defended it from the Reds’ perspective.

In the middle of the game I took a stroll around the concourse. When I stopped for a minute a middle-aged man in a Dodgers cap started talking to me. After a while he noticed my press pass, after which the following conversation ensued:

Guy: [gesturing to the press box] You been up there?

Me: Yep.

Guy: See the guy in the 1 … 2 … 3… third window over?

Me: Yep.

Guy: Isn’t that the guy from the movie “Major League?”  The “Juuuust a bit outside” guy?

Me: No. That’s Marty Brennaman.

Guy: Huh. When did they change announcers?

Me: What? Brennaman has been the Reds’ announcer for over 30 years. He’s an institution.

Guy: So they used a Reds announcer to be the Indians announcer in that movie?

Me: … Hey, nice talkin’ to ya. Gotta go upstairs.

As I type this there are two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the Reds and Indians have decided to do the “everyone gets to play” game.  What is happening on the field right now is damn nigh a crime against humanity.

As I hit “post” and await for the game to end before I beat my retreat, I cast a glance over to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer and Jordan Bastain of MLB.com who have to actually write up a story out of all of this nonsense.  Poor sods.

Talk to you from HoHoKam Stadium tomorrow!

Derek Jeter: no longer the media’s darling

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There was a time, not too long ago, where the baseball press practically gave Derek Jeter awards for providing them no information whatsoever. As a player, he turned not answering questions into an art form. To the point where, eventually, the press just stopped asking him substantive questions almost entirely.

Unlike a lot of players who shut out the media, Jeter did it rather politely, so he did not get that passive aggressive treatment — or, occasionally, the aggressive-aggressive treatment — the press often gives uncommunicative players. To the contrary. He was positively lauded for his lack of communication. Lionized, even.

Take this column from Jeff Peralman at CNN.com from 2014, under the headline “Derek Jeter: Baseball’s Humble Hero”:

Throughout the first 18 seasons of his career, Jeter has often been labeled “dull” by the media. His answers to questions are unimaginative and full of cliché baseball nothingness blather. In hindsight, however, such lameness is almost to be admired. We live in an era where too many athletes feel as if they need to draw attention to themselves — for confidence, for commercials. If you’re not tweeting trash talk, you’re texting trash talk. Or making bold promises. Or demanding money or respect . . . he’s a guy who merely wanted to be a guy.

How about this from the New York Times around the time of his retirement:

Jeter’s ability to maintain a posture of sustained inscrutability — or, if you must, dignified comportment — has extended especially to the spoken word . . . he has played his best defense in front of his locker: catching every controversial question thrown to him and tossing it aside as if it were a scuffed ball unsuitable for play.

In a major league career that dates to the Clinton administration’s first term — he is the only Yankees shortstop a generation of fans has known — inquiring reporters have gathered around Jeter in the clubhouse thousands of times. He has maintained eye contact, answered nearly every question posed to him — and said nothing. This is not a complaint, but rather an expression of awe; of admiration, even. His batting average and fielding percentage aside, this kid from Kalamazoo, Mich., entered the New York meat grinder two decades ago and came out the other end looking as sharp as Joe DiMaggio’s suit.

This opinion of Jeter was pervasive throughout his career, but especially pronounced at its end of it. Jeter was deified by the press for saying nothing to the press. Praised for making the media’s job harder by the media itself. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Times, however, have changed.

Some minor grumbling about Jeter’s non-answers to media questions began soon after he took over as Marlins co-owner. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post wrote a column about it all back in October, saying Jeter’s “Crash Davis Rules of Media Relations don’t apply anymore.” Not too many people echoed that at the time, probably because it came in the wake of a pretty boring introductory press conference and the stakes were pretty low. I did wonder at the time, though, if the media was waiting to turn on Jeter once he actually started making moves in his new role.

I think we can now say the answer to that is yes.

In the wake of the Giancarlo Stanton trade, a lot of baseball writers had a lot of questions for Derek Jeter. Jeter, however, decided that he didn’t even need to show up here at the Winter Meetings to answer them, despite the fact that he lives just a couple of hours away.

On Monday morning Buster Olney of ESPN made conspicuous note of it:

Later in the day Jeter deigned to talk to the media via a conference call. As usual, he said mostly nothing, but unlike 1997, 2007 or 2014 (a) he got testy about it; and (b) the press made a note of it:

They likewise noted when he passed the buck to someone below him on the org chart:

Last night I think a dam broke, and I don’t think Jeter will ever be able to sweet non-talk his way out criticism again. It all happened at a football game:

To sum up:

  • Jeter is now bad for not talking to the press;
  • Jeter is not lauded for his composure anymore; and
  • Jeter is being called out as a poor leader who does not face the music.

What a difference a few years and a change of role makes.

All of which, one would think, would make me at least a little happy. I mean, I’ll totally own up to rolling my eyes at the kid glove treatment Jeter got back when he played. About how his attributes, however great, were elevated even above their actual greatness and how his faults were, perversely, spun into attributes. You’d expect that, in light of that, I’d be sorta pleased that the tables have turned.

I’m not happy, though. Indeed, I have something approaching sympathy for Captian Jeets.

Why? Because, while I’d like to see him face the press, defend his moves as owner and explain his vision to Marlins fans everywhere, I know that he cannot. I know that he has no good answers to any of the questions he might be asked because the real answer to all of them is “hey, we need to make money for the ownership group and everything flows from that” and that’s not an answer he’s prepared to give.

Have some sympathy for Derek Jeter. He’s really in a tough, tough spot. Even if he put himself into it.