A shifting future for the Yanks’ radio broadcast

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On Monday morning, New York City’s long-running R&B station Kiss FM will lose its music. Shortly after midnight, the station will flip from music to sports talk radio as ESPN is moving its operations from 1050 on the AM dial to 98.7 FM. It’s a big move for New York City radio as sports now invade FM, and it’s a move that could impact the future of the New York Yankees’ radio broadcasts as well.

Currently, the Yanks are wrapping up an extended radio stay on WCBS AM 880. Their long-term deal expired after the 2011 season, but with an ESPN move rumored since early last year, the club opted to re-up for one more season with CBS before setting off a radio bidding war. In doing so, the club allowed ESPN to find a radio home that would boost its signal and provide a more inviting home for the Yanks’ radio broadcasts.

With this weekend’s looming format change, then, the pieces are in place for a fight over the rights to the Yanks’ broadcasts, but it’s currently unclear what that deal will resemble. Currently, according to Phil Mushnick, CBS pays $14 million to broadcast the Yanks and $7 million for the rights to the Mets on WFAN. Supposedly, the media company loses money on the Yanks’ broadcasts, but that doesn’t mean WCBS isn’t interested. In fact, with the Mets’ deal expiring after 2013, CBS could retain the Yanks but move them to 660 AM a year later.

Of course, ESPN may have something to say about that as well. According to numerous reports, ESPN is spending big bucks on the move to FM in order to attract some baseball. With a better signal, they’re in a position to make an enticing offer for a New York team. While these behind-the-scene machinations are all well and good for clubs looking to line their pockets with broadcast dollars, what does it mean for those of us listening at home?

For starters, if the Yanks were to move to FM, their extended radio network becomes a lot more important locally. Take a look at the vast WCBS signal coverage map and compare that with 98.7 FM’s map. While the FM signal will be crisper — the better to hear John Sterling — its reach is not nearly as expansive as WCBS’. (For what its worth, night-time coverage for AM 1050, ESPN Radio’s current home, is limited.) So while New York City residents and those who live nearby will be able to better hear Yankee games, the folks a little farther away will have to find a local affiliate. As an AM landing home, WFAN, with its vast signal coverage area, would be ideal.

The bigger question though concerns two of the most controversial members of the Yankee family. Would the club retain John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman, not-so-affectionately dubbed Ma and Pa Pinstripe by the New York City tabloids? If it were up to those same tabloid writers, the two broadcasters would be replaced tomorrow. Phil Mushnick of The Post has held a vendetta against the liberties Sterling takes with his play-by-play duties. Recently, Mushnick slammed Sterling for botching a call in the bottom of the 9th of a one-run game. Yesterday, he claimed a new radio deal could spell the end of Sterling and Waldman. “It’s highly unlikely,” he wrote, “that ESPN, if it lands the Yankees — especially attached to a big price tag — would be bound to retain the team’s current longtime broadcast duo of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman.”

In The Daily News, Bob Raissman has pushed a similar argument, but I don’t agree. For better or worse, Sterling is a part of the Yankees’ image right now. He’s been with the club since 1989 and serves as an M.C. on TV and at Yankee-related events. The club will likely require its next rights partner to retain Sterling. Waldman’s job is less secure, and last year, Moshe ran down a list of possible replacements. Still, I’d be more surprised if the duo weren’t together next year on a new station than if they are.

So the wheels are turning indeed. It doesn’t sound as though the Yanks are inclined to start their own radio network, but their rights will be in play. I’ve heard the games on FM up in New England, and the sound is certainly clearer than that traditional AM broadcast. To win the games though with a more limited signal, ESPN Radio will have to pay heavily. With the Yanks, though, money talks, and they won’t say no if the dollars are right.

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  • http://www.rationalpastime.com J-Doug

    I get both CBS 880 and FAN 660 on most nights down here in Washington, DC. I’ll miss getting the Yanks in the car down here should they switch to FM.

    • DAVE

      Agree with Raissman and Mushnick, its time for a new voice of the Yankees. The old time needs new vitality and different approach.

      Have heard a young voice that fits the bill. Presently the broadcaster of the Long Island Ducks independent league team. A young Ithaca graduate with strong marketing knowledge, this is one for the Yankees and their radio future. Listen to liducks.com and hear a true Yankee and sports fan, Michael Polak.

      • Midland TX

        There’s No Such Thing As A Broadcasting Prospect.

    • Peter R

      agreed, I am looking for range from the Yanks radio…not signal quality.

    • Eitan

      Also in the DC area, and LOVE being able to listen to night games in the car or @ home. I have radio on the iPad, but it’s not the same.

      880 has an amazing signal. I was driving down from Jersey back to DC during the last Rangers game and was able to listen to the game for 80% of the ride.

      • http://www.yankeenumbers.com Mr. Sparkle

        While on vacation a couple of years ago, I was picking them up in Virginia, on Assateague Island. I’d hate to give that up for “better signal quality.”

  • Rich in NJ

    I will miss the R&B.

  • Rich in NJ

    As for Sterling, it’s becoming kind of cruel to have him as the play-by-play guy because he misses so much. If sentiment is permitted to trump performance, make him the color guy for a younger man or woman who can actually do a first rate job.

  • Pat D

    The hard rock FM radio station out of Belvedere, NJ, is my current station for the Yankees here in Iron Pigs country. I say that because the local ESPN station here had the Yankees but then dumped them once the Iron Pigs started. Swine.

    • Dale Latimer

      You should be happy that Bone 107 is even in the mix. Their signal overlaps WCBS’s in parts of northern NJ, and will overlap 98.7’s if they take over the Yanks. You don’t know if Emmis or ESPN will fight Bone’s continued affiliation even harder than CBS did.

  • J.J.

    would kind of love to see it move to ESPN to possibly have a guy like Ryan Ruocco take over Suzyn Waldman’s duties. I dont think Sterling is going anywhere; nor should he if he is a color guy and “the Voice” let someone else do more play-by-play like Michael Kay used to do in the 90’s. Ruocco does a great job on his show on 1050 and is already a part of home games at the stadium why not give him a shot if the yanks move to his dial.

  • https://twitter.com/Mattpat11 Matt DiBari

    I always thought it was funny to read a schtick filled Bob Raissman article where he complains about Sterling’s schtick.

  • David N

    I notice that that article mentions Jon Miller as a possible replacement for Sterling. No, no, a thousand times no.

    Having listened to some broadcasts from other teams, I have to say that, for all his flaws (and they are several and well-cataloged) we could do worse than Sterling.

  • Ramondo

    Sterling and Waldman are like family members that make you shake you head all the time BUT you need them in your life because that weirdness or annoyances sometimes is needed. It’s one of those “you won’t know what you had until it’s gone”.

    • Marsha

      No, I don’t need them and would not miss them if they were gone.

  • Michael Cole and Tazz

    If Sterling and Waldman are canned from radio you know one of the two will wind up on YES. I could see Sterling doing half of the play-by-play games on YES to spell Michael Kay.

    • Rich in NJ

      When Kay and Sterling were teamed together on radio years ago, it was the only time I found either of them tolerable. It was almost as if their individual suckitude was negated.

  • Plank

    I have never understood the Suzyn Waldman thing. It’s been going on for a long time too. I’ve heard people say they don’t mind her, but that’s about the strongest endorsement I hear. Is that the standard for the biggest media market? I think they can do better and they should.

    Sterling doesn’t really bother me. He gets away from the game a lot. He seems like he enjoys the game still and I’m convinced he would be a blast to hang out with.

    I still wish there were multiple broadcast crews catering to different interests. That would be much easier on TV since multiple audio feeds is already built into TVs.

    • Midland TX

      Standard for most cities is an old curmudgeon play-by-play guy who is a human Ambien tablet shilling for the home team, paired with a platitude-spouting retired dumb jock.

      Over 1400+ innings, give me a beat reporter and an impromptu guy any day over the normal pablum. Do I wish he would cut out the home run calls? Yes. Do I wish he would stop letting his Broadway anecdotes overrun the on-field action and then make up the fill-in parts? Yes. But on the whole they’re better than most.

      If you need to know exactly what’s happening, go look at one of a zillion online gamecasts or get MLB.TV.

  • Plank

    How much does a clear channel station cost in the NY area? I wonder if the Yankees would consider buying their own YES-radio station.

    • Kevin Winters

      I would love to see that happen to give the Yankee fan base a place geared toward the franchise. Minor league news and notes, analysis of players progressing through the system, interviews with Cashman regarding the current and future composition of the team, etc.

  • Manny’s BanWagon

    Phil Mushnick has to be one of the most miserable human beings on planet earth. It amazes me that the Post has continued to run his whiny drivel for this many years.

    • steve s

      Amen. Mushnick is abysmal.

  • JonS

    WTF? I swear I read this exact article here last year. Have I lost it?

  • KeithK

    I just don’t get the recent push to put sports radio on FM. “The signal is crisper”. I understand why this matters when you’re listening to music. But when you’re listening to a guy call a baseball game? I can very easily understand the action even if the signal is a little scratchy and it doesn’t bother my enjoyment at all. Seems like a mis-allocaiton of resources to me.

    • Delaware – Ralph

      +1 I totally agree. Not once I have I ever complained about the quality of the broadcast. (Insert joke about Sterling botching a call here) But seriously I prefer having a wider range signal than a crispier signal.

      Plus am I missing something. If a wider range signal means more people can and will listen to the game does that make advertisements more valuable?

    • Midland TX

      But wait ’til you have heard the sunflower shells hitting the dugout floor in High Def.

  • forensic

    I’m in Vegas, and there have been numerous Saturday afternoon games that have been broadcast out here on the local ESPN station (though there have also been issues with that station). I have no idea if it’s some random thing with the FOX blackouts or what. I also seem to remember some Sunday games, but I could be totally imagining that.

    I don’t know if this happens in any other far out of town areas, but I wonder if that could be a selling point, as in they’d put it on more often than one afternoon a week?

  • Rob G

    I am in the South Jersey/ Philly area and most nights can get the CBS signal pretty clear down here. If it moves to NY FM, I assume I will lose the ability to listen to Sterling and Waldman and will have to listen to them on Sirius when they are at Yankee Stadium. I hope WFAN picks them up….

    • MannyGeee

      word…

      I am in Southern New Hampshire and I get 880 clear as a bell at night for the games (until i drive under power lines).

  • DannyC

    That’s baseball Susan

  • Yardisiak

    Who are the peIple who’s sentiment keeps ma and pa employed? I don’t ever run into them. They make baseball on the radio(which should be a beautiful thing) frustrating and unenjoyable. Anything that gets them off the air I am for.

  • Jeter Meter

    When I listen to other teams’ radio broadcasts, it’s as if I’m listening to the TV while in another room. It’s dry as hell. Sterling gives you that old timey baseball on the radio feel. I say keep him till he croaks.

    • Adam Parker

      Exactly.

  • Kevin

    As annoying as Sterling and Waldman can be..I’ve found listening to other broadcasters that it could be far worse.

  • Mike

    I was told from a person in the NY radio world that Ma & Pa work for the Yankees, not CBS Radio and that it will be up to the Yankees to decide if they are retained, not the radio affiliate (they are a part of the package). Also, YES radio is a distinct possibility if Yankees Global can get enough nationwide affiliates. The Yankees will extend another year with CBS and then YES Radio will premiere on WFAN for 2104 season with the Mets looking for a new radio home.

  • Celarino Sanchez

    As a Yankee fan for over 40 years I can not believe that the best the most storied franchise in sports can do is Sterling & Waldman. I live in South Florida and all games are broadcast on AM 640 WFTI. I pick that station up all the way down to Homestead. A few years ago the games were on an FM country station and the coverage area was half of what the AM coverage is. The sound was crisper so I could hear S & W read all the advertisements very clearly before each pitch.

  • nick

    would this effect the broadcast on ESPN 97.9 in Ct?

  • John Cerra

    I have been able to pick up the WCBS signal in rural North Carolina and Florida at night with a car radio. Yes it was a bit noisy, but I listened…. I wonder how many fans need that extended signal?

  • Bonnie Parker

    Sterling and Waldman have gotta go. They need to both be replaced, not just one. One needs to be an ex-Yankee ballplayer and the other a younger, fresher play by play man. And neither Sterling nor Waldman should be on YES broadcasts. Those are reserved for Kay, Kenny, and ex-Yankee ballplayers or managers.

  • Nick

    Ah, that fool Bob Raissman. I swear someone from the Yankees must have boned his wife or something. The disdain he has for them is intense.

  • BigLoving

    I truly don’t understand how Sterlind and Waldman continue to the be the voices of the Yankees. I would rather listen to nails being scraped on a chalk board. There are so many faults in what they do I am not even going to get into them because I don’t want to write a 5 page essay right now. It has gotten to the point, for me at least, that the only time I listen to the yanks on the radio is during the subway series when I can tune in to the Mets broadcast. It is a shame too bc I would much rather listen to a decent duo on the radio as I putter around the garage than have to commit my night to sitting and watching the TV.

  • JohnC

    I Like Sterling. I know he makes mistakes occasionally and jumps the gun sometimes on home runs, but overall I always thought he was very good and enjoy listening to him. I never liked Waldman. She is so annoying as she laughs at every little thing. She has gotta go. Liked it when Sterling and Kay were a team on radio in the 90s and early 2000s before Kay went to YES

  • MikedJones

    Please, anyone but sterling and Waldman. I remember back in the day with Kay and sterling I’d mute the tv and listen to the radio. Now I don’t even listen to the games when I’m in the car.

  • Kuck Fruk

    Hopefully this means the end of the pseudo-commercials after nearly every play.

    “Jeter’s safe at third! And you can keep your family safe with life insurance from New York Life. New York Life, the company you keep.”

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      Sadly, the in-game sponsorships aren’t going anywhere. Why would they? They’re highly lucrative for the team. It’s always about those dollars after all.

    • David N

      I doubt Sterling has anything to do with that. Take him away, and you’d just get another voice reading the same spots.

      Yes, it sucks. But this one you can’t blame on him.

    • Midland TX

      That’s been going on for at least 60 years, and it’s not going away anytime soon:

      http://www.barrypopik.com/inde.....tine_beer/

  • steve s

    Ben’s last line says it all. The Yanks will take the most money. I think they will hold out to retain some rights to approve the on-air voices but if the $$$ is big enough they will give that up to. One thought. Being that YES is so successful why don’t the Yanks pioneer a YES-like radio presence and buy their own radio station? With some simulcasting possibilities it probably would help YES TV programming as well.

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      As far as I can tell, the reason why the Yanks wouldn’t set up a YES-like radio station is because terrestrial radio’s a dying medium. They’d have to compete with two other established sports radio stations, and there’s not a lot of original sports radio programming you can do other than call-in shows. No one is going to listen to Yankee Classics while plenty of people will watch them.

      • steve s

        Its funny you should mention whether people would listen to Yankee Classics on radio. There is a tresure trove of radio broadcasts going back to the 1930’s (both for historic games and run of the mill ordinary games, many of them Yankee games) that are available for purchase by the general public through a company called Danrick Enterprises (they always have an ad in Baseball Digest if you are familiar with that publication). I have purchased a few and they are amazing to listen to (the early John Sterling games before he fully developed his main schticks are very interesting listens). You couldn’t fully program a radio station 24/7 with this but I’d bet many would tune in during December/January to hear Mel Allen call a 1961 Yankee game with Maris and Mantle homering or just to listen to Scooter and White again.

  • pat

    If I had to hazard a guess I’d say Yankees jump ship to ESPN and Dave Sims from the Mariners becomes the new radio guy.

  • gc

    I love when fans who criticize John Sterling get to the end of Yankee win and they start screaming, “The Yankees win!!! THEEEEEEEEEEEEEE YANKEEEEES WIINNNNNNN!!!!’

    Like it or not, John Sterling is the voice of Yankees baseball and I think he will remain so for a very very long time. And for one simple reason. A lot of people actually like him. Go figure.

    • Dummies Playing With Balls (formerly Rainbow Connection)

      A lot of people also like George Bush or Obama, too. Doesn’t mean they are intelligent people. Doesn’t make them right.

    • Adam Parker

      Its more than that. “You can’t predict baseball Suzyn”… “An A-Bomb from A-Rod”… etc.

      Everyone quotes him, and still hate him… go figure.

  • Ghost of Kim Jones

    I would like them to replace Suzan with Kim Jones.

  • mclusky

    Sterling is the worst. Frankly, his greatest asset is that he gives you something to laugh about (or, more accurately: laugh *at*) with friends. That’s not totally without value, from the Yankees’ perspective: Is it better to have brilliant analysis that is widely respected, but not necessarily memorable, or an outright clown whose Granderson home-run call has been memorized and mocked by millions? (I’d prefer the former, but from the Yankees’ POV, pleasing sabermetrically inclined fans who obsess over analysis may not be high on the list of priorities.)

    Ignoring all his other faults (and they are legion), why they hell does he emphasize the word “the” in “The Yankees win”? Why not “Yankees”? Or “win”? He’s an outright idiot IMO.

    • Dummies Playing With Balls (formerly Rainbow Connection)

      He’s an extremely selfish douche. Remember that time when he walked in front of the team during a televised WS group interview-type thing? He literally thinks he’s as important as the team.

  • Dummies Playing With Balls (formerly Rainbow Connection)

    Sterling and Waldman are garbage. Good riddance.

  • Jerry

    This is great news for Yankee fans – I dread listening to Sterling and Waldman. Unfortunately you can’t turn the sound off when driving in the car and listening to the game on the radio, these two make you wish you could. If they were around when I was a kid listening to Yankees games on the radio I may have become a Phillie fan!

    Get XM Radio – It would be better than listening to the 2 clowns they have now

  • Wayne’s World

    I don’t agree that Sterling would be retained under a new deal; though I think the Yanks would hire him for in-house stuff so he isn’t thrown out onto the street. His voice would be very much in evidence in the ancillary video and audio material at the ballpark and he’d probably have some presence on Y.E.S. programming other than the games.

  • TP

    Ma & Pa Pinstripe have to go. They are the WORST announcing team in ALL of sports. Yankee fans deserve better. Let’s start with a color analyst who actually played a game of baseball once in their life.

  • Adam Parker

    The Yankees will lose me as a listener if Sterling/Waldman are not retained. I pay $15 a year to listen to them via the MLB app on my iphone and there is no way I would pay to listen to anyone else.

    It will be a sad day in our household if they change radio broadcasters.

    • Guillermo Condit

      I live in Mérida, Yucatán, México (home of Los Leones, las campeonatas de la Liga Mexicana) and listen to WCBS via Gameday Audio on my computer, too. Although our satellite TV carries the Yanks far more often than other teams, on ESPN and Fox (no, YES, por supuesto) often the commentary ¡es en español hablado muy rápido! Yes, the players’ names are pronounced semi-correctly (especially the latino players, duh) but everything else is a struggle to understand, save for the moving images on the screen. I turn on John y Suzyn and get comfortable again, like an old shoe. And the radio via MLB.com is never syncronized with the TV. Usually Sterling makes the call (or mis-call, as it were) before my eyes tell me he was right or wrong. Keep them both.

  • MikedJones

    You can’t figure baseball.

    Cackle cackle

  • Robinson Tilapia

    They don’t do everything perfectly, but I can no longer imagine a Yankee radio broadcast without John Sterling. I also think Suzyn brings something so different than some anonymous talking head. I can have my Jack Curry on YES if I want it, but mindless banter and kitsch have its place as well. John and Suzyn must stay.

  • Elmgrovegnome

    I liked the old duo of Hutton and Greenburg(?) better than Sterling and definitely Waldman. Waldman is unbareable IMO.

  • DontChaKnow

    Sterling’s great, even all his screw ups are entertaining. He brings a smile to my face, just a goof ball, but in a good way. Technically he’s not very good, but in the entertainment category I find him great.

    Waldman, not so much. I find nothing charming about her like I do with John. They could replace her with anyone and it would be a giant upgrade. I think people would tolerate Sterling a lot more if he had a partner that wasn’t so annoying.

  • Jay

    Both Raissman and Mushnik are pond scum. Who cares what either idiot says.

  • Darren

    “Of all the dramatic things!!! It’s the Scooter, Bill White and Frank Messer!!”

  • Don

    I listen to the WCBS broadcasts on 880AM after dark in Iowa. That opportunity would obviously be lost should the games move to other, more local, outlets…

  • http://yahoo Anthony DeMarco

    I live in Fruitland M.D.I can barely get Yankee games on cbs880.I ama die hard Yankee fan.I can’nt get the games on Tv.It would really stink if I can’nt listen to them……..GO YANKEES!!!!!!

  • Babe

    There is something special about a baseball radio broadcast. It has an old school feel and it’s alot more intimate. You feel like you really get to know the announcers. There is nothing like a great radio baseball announcer…Scully, Kalas,etc. Sterling and Waldman are clearly not included in the list. It’s a shame for team like the the Yankees which such great history and fans they don’t have better announcers. I’m not a Yankee fan but when my team isn’t on I switch over to the Yankees game and it’s very hard to listen to Sterling and Waldman. I would love to see a shakeup that gets them out. It would be nice to see a younger guy with great voice, good personality, and detailed call teamed up with a former Yankee player that could be in the booth for years to come.

  • Yogi

    A great baseball radio broadcast is art. If I lived in LA I would listen to Scully just to listen to him work. It’s alot more important to have good announcers on radio then on TV. They can either make the broadcast very enjoyable to listen too or completely ruin it. Sterling and Waldman are almost unlistenable. Sterling has his stupid home runs calls he repeats over and over and then the rest of the game has no clue what’s going on. Waldman is a waste of space. Her voice is terrible and all she does is read commmericals. I hope they change stations and get some new blood in there. Get a no frills play by play guy with a great voice and detailed calls and combo that with a former player with some personality that knows the game.

  • Hamburger

    Sterling can stay. Just please get the she-ogre off the air.

  • NY Harel

    Listening to Jeff Nelson fill in for Suzy right now (Yom Kippur) – it is so great to have someone who knows the game and personally knows the players doing color analysis, and such a bonus to have a voice and laugh that don’t shatter glass.

    I’ve always liked Sterling – tremendous voice and enthusiasm outweigh his many faults (my biggest peeve is his endless repetition of cliches, missed opportunities/LOB, etc).

    Pair Sterling with Nelson or another good player-analyst, and Yankees Universe will benefit greatly.