How the Yankees train their players to be media savvy. Even A-Rod.

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I’ve recently gone on about how teams are taking greater control of the media message by doing their own reporting via their websites and affiliated networks and by becoming increasingly restrictive with outside media.

Well, there’s another part of this too: intensive training of players and team personnel in the ways of media relations.

Today the Wall Street Journal takes a deep look at how the Yankees handle this. About how on Day One of Yankees spring training, the first thing that is done is putting everyone though a media 101 seminar:

Through a training video and in-guest speaking sessions, media-savvy players like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera give tips, beginning with the standard stuff: don’t lie, own up to your mistakes, recognize that you’re on the clock even when you take off the uniform.

Then they move to finer points: Don’t take a picture with a fan without looking at what’s written on their shirt; don’t address outside topics like politics; and never, ever, take a naked picture of yourself and send it to someone.

All wise things, of course. Especially the naked picture part.  And indeed, the stuff about not lying, owning up and making oneself available is both critical to keep players out of media controversies and to make the job of the reporters easier too.

But of course, it’s not all about convenience and courteousness for the media. It’s not mentioned in the article, but I would be utterly shocked if there wasn’t a healthy bit of information passed along in these seminars about how to deflect and dodge media inquiries without seeming like a jerk. Perfecting the non-answer or coaching them about how to take uncomfortable inquiries into more comfortable ground.  I mean, there’s a reason why so many interviews with Yankees players either peak with some little joke or some reference to Yankee tradition allowing only for victory and nothing else. Those are nice responses, but they also tend to be conversation enders. You can’t really go anywhere from there, and I’m guessing that’s by design.

I guess my point is that this media training, while something that is totally admirable and understandable from the club’s perspective, and in the best interests of the players, is also something that — intentionally or not — pushes us a little bit farther away from the players as people and their very human reactions to the game and that which surrounds it. Which, unless I’m wrong, is the whole reason reporters go into locker rooms to talk to guys after games. If not, we’d just ignore everything that happened after the 27th out and go home.

It’s also something that, in my view anyway, makes outside perspectives on what’s going on in the game a little more valuable and putatively inside perspectives a little less valuable.

A child was carried out of Yankee Stadium after being hit by a foul ball

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A scary thing just happened in Yankee Stadium. A young fan, it appeared to be a young girl, sitting down the left-field line was struck by a Todd Frazier foul ball. Play was halted on the field as she was attended to. They carried her out, not waiting for a stretcher to come. It was hard to see how bad her injuries were, but those on the field — including Eduardo Escobar of the Twins — were visibly shaken.

Major League Baseball has encouraged — not demanded or required, but merely encouraged — teams to extend netting farther down the foul lines in the name of fan safety. Many teams have done so. The Yankees have not, and have remained somewhat non-committal about it all.

We’ll provide an update of the girl’s condition once it is known.

Everything you wanted to know about collusion but were afraid to ask

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Most of you are likely aware of baseball’s history of collusion. Specifically, the three instances between 1985 and 1988 when the league, the owners and their general managers entered into a conspiracy to suppress salaries by agreeing to share information and to not to sign free agents away from other teams. The scheme, which violated the explicit terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, led to a series of arbitrations which resulted in the owners being forced to pay the players $280 million in damages.

While you may know that large-arc story of collusion, there is an awful lot of stuff relating to it all that is seldom talked about. Interesting stuff which, despite its genesis over 30 years ago still impacts baseball to this very day. If you want to hear some talk about that, I was on the This Week in Baseball History podcast with Michael Bates and Bill Parker last night, and we talked about it, all in honor of the first decision in the three collusion cases which came down 30 years ago this week.

We covered a lot of topics you may not know arose out of the collusion cases. For example:

  • Did you know that the collusion cases led more or less directly to the existence of the Marlins, Rockies, Rays and Diamondbacks?
  • Did you know that it led, eventually, to Bud Selig becoming commissioner?
  • Did you know that it contributed greatly to the 1994-95 labor impasse which led to the cancellation of the 1994 World Series?
  • Did you know that it spun off litigation that continued for nearly 20 years after the collusion plan, so that in the year 2005 people were STILL talking about what Steve freakin’ Garvey was supposed to earn back in the 1980s?
  • Did you know that, in one key respect, the collusion cases of the 1980s had their genesis in something Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale did back in 1966?

Maybe you knew some of that, maybe you didn’t, but it was all kinda wild. If the topic interests you, I highly recommend you take a listen to the podcast. We go light on the legalities, heavier on talking about stuff like what might’ve happened if Kirk Gibson signed with the Royals in 1986 and never made it to the Dodgers in 1988. It’s baseball talk that you may not hear every day.