Jeter media

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.

Johnny Monell signs with KBO’s KT Wiz

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 06:  Johnny Monell #19 of the New York Mets runs back to the dugout after he scored in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on July 6, 2015 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.

Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.

The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.