Did the Yankees censor blogs in the wake of the Rafael Soriano deal?

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TYU has a new post up that raises an interesting ethical question about the Yankees and the blogs with which they’re affiliated:

When news of Rafael Soriano’s signing filtered onto Twitter on the evening of January 13th, many Yankees fans were aghast at the length of the deal and the fact that the club had sacrificed a draft pick to obtain an 8th inning man. A number of those fans used their platforms as bloggers to criticize the signing. In particular, Mike Axisa and Joe Pawlikowski expressed displeasure with the move over at River Avenue Blues (RAB), while Steve Goldman penned a critical column entitled, “What the Heck Are the Yankees Doing?” that ran at his Pinstripe Bible blog. What happened next reeks of censorship and raises questions about the degree of journalistic integrity required by a sports network that is owned by the team that it purports to cover.

TYU then lays out evidence suggesting that either the Yankees or the YES Network — wanting to head off ire from Yankees management — made Pinstripe Bible tone down its criticism of the Rafael Soriano signing and punished RAB by taking away its YES toolbar for a few days in the wake of its critical post.

My take: while there’s no true smoking gun here — neither the RAB guys nor Pinstripe Bible would comment for the post — the case that this was censorship is a fairly convincing one. Mostly because of the subtle changes noted — especially the headline of the Pinstripe Bible post — and because neither blog is the sort of place that would ratchet back its criticism the way TYU observed Pinstripe Bible to do on its own accord.* They’d do a later post saying, in effect, “we’ve had some time to let this soak in and maybe it isn’t as bad as we first thought …”  or something like that.

Why? Because they’re responsible blogs that handle such inevitable shifts in opinion with great transparency. The changes TYU observed between the initial and later posts are anything but transparent. Rather, it appears that dissension from the party line was noted, disapproved of and corrected by either YES or the Yankees.

This may very well be an isolated incident. I don’t know of any other time RAB or Pinstripe Bible has pulled punches, and I find them to be two of the top Yankees blogs going.  Indeed, if there was some heavy-handed editorial control here I presume it was borne of the unusual fact that Hal Steinbrenner and Randy Levine pulled the trigger on this deal, not Brian Cashman, and someone, somewhere in the Yankees or YES hierarchy was scared that they couldn’t handle the criticism.  In no way do I consider this a black mark on RABs or Pinstripe Bible’s ledger.

But it is the sort of thing that makes one wonder about the relationship between ballclubs and the media scene which they increasingly control through their ownership of RSNs and the power they exert over their online properties.

*An earlier version of this post incorrectly suggested that RAB changed its post. It did not. TYU merely observed that RAB lost its YES Network toolbar for a period after the Soriano post went live. The toolbar has since returned to RAB.

Aaron Judge out of Yankees starting lineup for finale after No. 62

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Yankees slugger Aaron Judge wasn’t in the starting lineup for New York’s regular-season finale, a day after his 62nd home run that broke Roger Maris’ 61-year-old American League single-season record.

When Judge homered in the first inning Tuesday night, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Texas Rangers, it was his 55th consecutive game. He has played in 157 games overall for the AL East champions.

With the first-round bye in the playoffs, the Yankees won’t open postseason play until the AL Division Series starts next Tuesday.

Even though Judge had indicated that he hoped to play Wednesday, manager Aaron Boone said after Tuesday night’s game that they would have a conversation and see what made the most sense.

“Short conversation,” Boone said before Wednesday’s game, adding that he was “pretty set on probably giving him the day today.”

Asked if there was a scenario in which Judge would pinch hit, Boone responded, “I hope not.”

Judge went into the final day of the regular season batting .311, trailing American League batting average leader Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315. Judge was a wide leader in the other Triple Crown categories, with his 62 homers and 131 RBIs.

Boone said that “probably the one temptation” to play Judge had been the long shot chance the slugger had to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.