When the Yankees announced a one-year renewal of their radio deal with WCBS AM last week, it seemed clear that something was going on. The Yanks wouldn’t just renew their preexisting — and lucrative — contract for one year without a plan, but at first, the story hadn’t emerged. And then The Post got their hands on it.
In a small and easy-to-overlook item in Saturday’s paper, media reporter Phil Mushnick wrote of a brewing radio war between the Yankees and the Mets. As a few readers had speculated, the Mets’ deal with WFAN expires after the 2012 season, and the Yanks could be looking to find a more high-profile radio partner willing to pony up the big bucks. It helps that WCBS and WFAN are owned by the same company, and the end of the Mets’ contract gives the Yanks leverage to demand preferential treatment.
Mushnick offered up a few more tidbits about the ongoing radio machinations. ESPN Radio appears to be quite interested in landing the Yanks in an attempt to boost their popularity as a sports talk outlet, but their current home on 1050 AM offers up a weak signal. To placate the Yanks, they are looking for a 24-hour clear-signal station on either AM or FM. One possible target could be 101.9 FM, a station that recently flipped from rock to news with a disastrous impact on its ratings. Its owner is searching for something to anchor the network.
For Yankee fans outside of New York City, the perfect answer would likely be WFAN if the Yanks jump ship. Like WCBS, it is a clear-channel AM station with a signal that reaches from Boston to Washington if listening conditions are just right. WEPN, on the other hand, barely reaches Albany. In the immediate area, 101.9 has a strong signal, but as an FM station, its overall reach is limited. (For what it’s worth, local stations that rebroadcast games as part of the Yankees Radio Network will not be impacted by the flagship deal.)
With all of these radio happenings, though, the question of who will be behind the mics remains. John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman will be coming back for at least 2012, but the sports media world has featured some on-again, off-again rumblings of a new radio team. A new flagship may want to find a younger team or the Yanks may elect to maintain or replace Sterling and Waldman. Despite his roll as the long-time Voice of the Yankees, John Sterling is a very divisive person among Yankee fans. His home run calls may get laughs, but it’s tough to tell which game he’s watching when he broadcasts. As one columnist once wrote, the Yanks play two games — the one on the field and the one John Sterling calls.
And so like all good or bad things, 2012 could be the end of a Yankee radio era. Waldman, for the trail she has blazed for female radio personas, won’t draw too many tears if she is jettisoned. I personally won’t miss John Sterling. His repetitiveness and willingness to play fast and loose with the game on the field make for an exhausting broadcast. But I know a few people who find this personality far more charming than a rote play-by-play guy. So as the Hot Stove League begins to heat up with free agency looming, on this night in November, I leave you with a poll. What would you do with John Sterling?