As the Thursday negotiation deadline neared an end, the Yankees and DirecTV have averted a blackout. The two sides have renewed their deals. Terms have yet to be disclosed, and we’ll update this post as we hear more. Yankee fans with DirecTV will not miss Friday afternoon’s contest against the winless Red Sox.
Following Rafael Soriano’s eighth inning meltdown last night, the Yanks’ high-paid set-up man made himself some unwanted headlines when he left the clubhouse before talking to reporters. In New York City, where sports writers are the arbiters of a newly-minted Yankee’s personal character and the tabloids don’t take kindly to snubs, this move was met with outrage from the usual suspects. It seemed, in fact, worse that Soriano, upset with his pitching, hadn’t give a rote apology than that he had blown the game.
When the clubhouse opened today and reporters ambled in, Soriano was ready with his apology. He apologized for not speaking with reporters and said he was upset for blowing CC Sabathia’s stellar start. In fact, he was too upset to speak with his mother who asked if it was too cold for him last night. He also said that he couldn’t find his balance on the mound during that fateful eighth inning. (For a more complete transcript of his apology, check out this ESPN NY piece.)
Clearly, as CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler noted, the Yankees’ Front Office and Scott Boras told Soriano to speak with reporters, and Joe Girardi said Soriano’s quick clubhouse exit last night is not a clubhouse issue. Yet as another high-priced star pitching in the Bronx, Soriano has the responsibility to answer to the media after his failures. It might just be part of the same old song and dance, but that’s what happens under the New York microscope. I’m sure Soriano has learned his media lessons; hopefully, we won’t see too many more late-inning meltdowns either.
As YES and DirecTV continue to negotiate a renewal deal, the Yankees’ network will not pull its signal from DirecTV until at least Thursday, the YES Network announced this morning. While the package deal expired yesterday, the two sides have agreed to extend their negotiating deadline until Thursday, April 7. The YES Network, a RAB partner, said it granted the extension “in order to continue negotiating with the goal of reaching a new agreement.” Today’s game is on FOX but the next five games are on YES. We will continue to follow this story.
Yankees fans nearly faced a cataclysmic situation last fall. FOX, which had exclusive broadcast rights for the World Series, was involved in a contract spat with Cablevision, which serves millions of customers in the tri-state area. Thankfully for Yanks fans, the ALCS was broadcast on TBS. But had the Yankees advanced to the World Series, those fans might have been blacked out, as Fox pulled its programming from the cable carrier. The two parties averted disaster, though the point became moot when the Yankees were eliminated.
The situation now facing DirecTV customers will affect Yankees fans on a greater level. While the World Series is the main event, as the Yankees showed last year, it doesn’t matter much if you don’t get there. The regular season, though, goes 162 games whether there’s a broadcast or not. Today the agreement between DirecTV and YES Network expired, leaving those Yankees fans in limbo. Could they possibly miss a portion of the regular season because the two parties can’t reach a new deal?
The two sides have had their says in the matter. Says DirecTV: “DirecTV customers should not be forced to pay a penny more for YES Network.” The company claims that YES is seeking a fee “significantly higher” than it receives from other cable providers. A YES spokesman says, “We are negotiating in good faith with DirecTV in hopes of resolving this matter quickly.”
This current incident brings to mind a nearly decade-old dispute between, surprise-surprise, Cablevision and the YES Network. When the network debuted in 2002, Cablevision did not carry it. The Yankees had previously been broadcast on MSG, which is owned by Cablevision. Only government intervention brought the two parties together.
It is not clear whether the two parties have made any progress in the matter. DirecTV says they will keep the station alive during negotiations, but YES could opt to pull it. It’s unfortunate to see these kinds of disputes, since it ultimately hurts the consumer in the end. Still, it could be worse. You could be a Dish Network subscriber. That carrier has never broadcast the YES Network.
Here’s some links for you night owls…
Surviving the Media
The New York media can be something else, to put it kindly, so Dan Barbarisi of The Wall Street Journal took a look at what the Yankees are doing to help their players cope with all the attention. It wasn’t until 2007 that the team put some sort of media training in place, when Brian Cashman sat down with media relations guru Jason Zillo to hammer out a plan of attack. Now the club has mandatory training that includes mock interviews, guest speakers, and more, and young players (three or fewer years of service time) are stuck with even more intense training. I recommend giving it a read, stuff like that often goes unnoticed and unappreciated.
Yankees win 2011 Bobby Murcer Award
Two years ago, the Baseball Assistance Team announced the creation of The Bobby Murcer Award, which is given annually to the team whose players contribute the most to B.A.T. through MLB’s payroll deduction program. The Yankees announced yesterday that they have won this year’s award, just like they did in 2010 as well as in 2009. B.A.T. gives aid and support to members of the “baseball family” who are unable to help themselves, and this is an award I hope the Yankees win every year.
MLBTR’s Offseason In Review
We’ve written countless words about the Yankees and their less than stellar offseason here at RAB, but sometimes it’s good to see an outsider’s opinion. Tim Dierkes tackled the subject at MLBTR yesterday, and started out by stating the obvious: “Only the Yankees can spend $130MM on free agents and have it seem like they didn’t do much during the offseason.” He gave the team credit for landing Pedro Feliciano on a two-year deal when inferior relievers were getting three years, but in the end, Tim draws an all too common conclusion: “The main goal may be to wring a couple of good months out of the rotation candidates.” Hopefully the trade market takes shape sooner rather than later.
FanGraphs Top 100 Prospects
Marc Hulet at FanGraphs finally got around to posting his list of the game’s top 100 prospects on Monday, and Jesus Montero came in at number five overall. He trails only Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Jeremy Hellickson, and Domonic Brown. Manny Banuelos placed 18th, Gary Sanchez was 40th, Dellin Betances was 57th, and Austin Romine just made the cut at number 100. Five top 100 prospects seems to be the consensus this offseason, even if it hasn’t always been the same five names in the same order.
With the Yanks’ radio deal with WCBS AM 880 expiring after the end of the 2011 season, rumors of a potential switch to another station along the dial are swirling. As Bob Raissman reported in the Daily News this weekend, the Yankee brass would like to cash in on the value of their radio rights, and other prominent media companies — including ESPN — are prepared to enter the bidding.
This isn’t the first time this winter that Raissman has broached the topic of the Yanks’ radio machinations. In November, he questioned the futures of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. If the Yankees switch frequencies, the new station managers may opt to bring in their own on-air talent. Sterling and Waldman, after all, elicit strong reactions — few positive — from Yankee fans, and fresh blood could drive up the ratings.
But before the personnel decisions are to be made, the Yanks must secure a good deal for themselves. They currently earn $13 million a year from WCBS, but as Raissman notes, the club would rather get Red Sox money — $18 million a year. In a bad market for radio, could the team cash in? If the right outlet enters a bidding war, they certainly could, but the fans might lose out.
Raissman notes that ESPN-1050 with its weak and confined signal could be a likely landing space. He writes:
ESPN-1050 will be a player for Yankees rights. It could play the role of the “desperate” outlet. Acquiring Yankee baseball would instantly fill a huge void for a station hustling for ratings, bringing it higher visibility from a vast audience that has no idea ESPN-1050 even exists. A 1050 partnership with the Yankees would instantly turn up the competitive heat on WFAN, home of the Mets, by increasing – probably significantly – 1050’s ratings.
There’s a major stumbling block for ESPN-1050 – its weak signal. Two Dixie Cups attached by a string is a powerhouse by comparison. Seriously though, Yankees brass probably doesn’t want its games airing on a station with – literally – no juice.
ESPN can alleviate the problem by purchasing a station with a strong signal. Industry sources say ESPN has shown interest in buying RXP 101.9, an FM station owned by Emmis Communications. Emmis was asking $125 million for the station, but the price has apparently dropped to $100 million. If ESPN does not acquire a station with a big-time signal, but comes in with the highest bid, would the Yankees decide to glom the money at the expense of being stuck on 1050?
The Cardinals tried a similar move in 2005, but it backfired. Fan complaints pushed them back to the KMOX powerhouse this year, and the Yanks were certainly watching that saga unfold. Meanwhile, Raissman notes that the Yanks could try to push the Mets off of WFAN or they could buy their own radio station spots by purchasing time on another network.
No matter how this ends, two off-field storylines here are worth watching. The first concerns Sterling and Waldman. Older fans seem to enjoy Sterling’s histrionics while younger fans would prefer a better broadcaster. Will the next radio broadcaster opt for traditional or change? Second, will the Yanks flip to a weaker signal? Fans in Connecticut and New Jersey simply cannot get ESPN 1050 over the air, and the Yanks would alienate a significant portion of the fan base if they do. Such a change could have far-reaching ramifications for the club looking to cash in on valuable broadcast rights.
Joel Sherman is at the BAT dinner tonight, and he ran into the Yanks’ old pal David Cone who shared some good news with The Post reporter. Coney will be returning to the YES booth for 25 games this season. We don’t yet know which member of the Yanks’ broadcast team Cone will be replacing, but my money’s on Tino taking his talents elsewhere. I’ve always enjoyed Cone’s contributions to the telecasts, and it’ll be good to hear him on the air again. I wonder if he’s finally figured out his dance yet.