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.

Gaylord Perry, two-time Cy Young winner, dies at 84

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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GAFFNEY, S.C. — Baseball Hall of Famer and two-time Cy Young Award winner Gaylord Perry, a master of the spitball and telling stories about the pitch, died at 84.

Perry died at his home in Gaffney, Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler said. He did not provide additional details. A statement from the Perry family said he “passed away peacefully at his home after a short illness.”

The native of Williamston, North Carolina, made history as the first player to win the Cy Young in both leagues, with Cleveland in 1972 after a 24-16 season and with San Diego in 1978 – going 21-6 for his fifth and final 20-win season just after turning 40.

“Before I won my second Cy Young, I thought I was too old – I didn’t think the writers would vote for me,” Perry said in an article on the National Baseball Hall of Fame website. “But they voted on my performance, so I won it.”

“Gaylord Perry was a consistent workhorse and a memorable figure in his Hall of Fame career,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement, adding, “he will be remembered among the most accomplished San Francisco Giants ever … and remained a popular teammate and friend throughout his life.”

Perry was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and spent 10 seasons among legendary teammates like Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who said Thursday that Perry “was a good man, a good ballplayer and my good friend. So long old Pal.”

Juan Marichal remembered Perry as “smart, funny, and kind to everyone in the clubhouse. When he talked, you listened.”

“During our 10 seasons together in the San Francisco Giants rotation, we combined to record 369 complete games, more than any pair of teammates in the Major Leagues,” Marichal said. “I will always remember Gaylord for his love and devotion to the game of baseball, his family, and his farm.”

Perry, who pitched for eight major-league teams from 1962 until 1983, was a five-time All-Star who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991. He had a career record of 314-255, finished with 3,554 strikeouts and used a pitching style where he doctored baseballs or made batters believe he was doctoring them.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame said in a statement that Perry was “one of the greatest pitchers of his generation.” The Texas Rangers, whom Perry played for twice, said in a statement that the pitcher was “a fierce competitor every time he took the ball and more often than not gave the Rangers an opportunity to win the game.”

“The Rangers express their sincere condolences to Gaylord’s family at this difficult time,” the team’s statement said. “This baseball great will be missed.”

Perry’s 1974 autobiography was titled “Me and the Spitter,” and he wrote it in that when he started in 1962 he was the “11th man on an 11-man pitching staff” for the Giants. He needed an edge and learned the spitball from San Francisco teammate Bob Shaw.

Perry said he first threw it in May 1964 against the New York Mets, pitched 10 innings without giving up a run and soon after entered the Giants’ starting rotation.

He also wrote in the book that he chewed slippery elm bark to build up his saliva, and eventually stopped throwing the pitch in 1968 after MLB ruled pitchers could no longer touch their fingers to their mouths before touching the baseball.

According to his book, he looked for other substances, like petroleum jelly, to doctor the baseball. He used various motions and routines to touch different parts of his jersey and body to get hitters thinking he was applying a foreign substance.

Giants teammate Orlando Cepeda said Perry had “a great sense of humor … a great personality and was my baseball brother.”

“In all my years in baseball, I never saw a right-handed hurler have such a presence on the field and in the clubhouse,” Cepeda added.

Seattle Mariners Chairman John Stanton said in a release that he spoke with Perry during his last visit to Seattle, saying Perry was, “delightful and still passionate in his opinions on the game, and especially on pitching.

Perry was ejected from a game just once for doctoring a baseball – when he was with Seattle in August 1982. In his final season with Kansas City, Perry and teammate Leon Roberts tried to hide George Brett’s infamous pine-tar bat in the clubhouse but was stopped by a guard. Perry was ejected for his role in that game, too.

After his career, Perry founded the baseball program at Limestone College in Gaffney and was its coach for the first three years.

Perry is survived by wife Deborah, and three of his four children in Allison, Amy and Beth. Perry’s son Jack had previously died.

Deborah Perry said in a statement to The AP that Gaylord Perry was “an esteemed public figure who inspired millions of fans and was a devoted husband, father, friend and mentor who changed the lives of countless people with his grace, patience and spirit.”

The Hall of Fame’s statement noted that Perry often returned for induction weekend “to be with his friends and fans.”

“We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife, Deborah, and the entire Perry family,” Baseball Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark said.