YES to debut new in-game graphics

When the Yankees and the Red Sox face off in a few hours, those watching in the New York area will tune into the YES Network as the Yanks begin their title defense. Instead of the familiar YES graphics, however, we’ll see something new. For just the third time since its launch in 2002, the YES Network has overhauled its in-game graphics, and the network – RAB’s partner – gave us a sneak peak at the new look.

The new starting lineup graphic with an extrusion effect. (Click to enlarge)

Designed by the Venice, California-based design firm MFactor, the new graphics carry with them a more sophisticated look and incorporate 3-D effects. MFactor and YES worked together over the off-season to redesign the in-game presentation while retaining familiar elements, such as the Yanks’ colors, in the broadcasts. “We wanted to try to separate ourselves from the rest of the pack,” Jared Boshnack, a YES producer, told me.

The most obvious change in the interstitials will be the 3-D look. As the lineup at right shows, the names of highlighted players will now extrude as the announcers discuss these players. It’s a far cry from the two-dimensional focus of YES’ old graphics package. “The graphics,” Boshnack said, “essentially pop out at you.”

Another obvious change that viewers will notice right away are the changes to what those in the industry call the lower thirds. While the interstitials ? the lineup, the defense array, scouting reports ? are on the screen for 15-20 seconds, the lower thirds are either on the screen for much longer or just a few seconds, and as such, three-dimensional graphics would be both distracting and unnecessary. Instead, YES and MFactor have streamlined the score bar and batting line elements.

The image atop this post shows the new scaled-down score bar. Boshnack called it “totally sleek and much more efficient and streamlined.” It will no longer occupy the entire length of the non-HD broadcast and will instead be off to one side. It will also include a new “Pitches” category that will tally pitchers’ pitch counts after the tenth pitch. When the Yanks are up, the opposing team’s pitcher will have his count there; when the Yanks are in the field, the Bombers’ starter will be inch ever upward. As fans are more attuned to importance of pitch counts, this addition will enhance at-home viewing.

The hitter's stat line gets a new look. (Click to enlarge)

For the hitters, the batting line gets a refresh as well. It’s not nearly as drastic an overhaul as the score bar received, but it does offer a more condensed look. I’d like to see a players’ slugging percentage added to the line as well, but the presence of on-base percentage in TV broadcasts has been a step in the right direction.

Of course, as with any graphical overhaul, MFactor and YES, with Rick Deutschman managing the graphics team, considered the way sponsorships will be front and center in the look as well. Boshnack said the design teams asked, “How do we give them the exposure they’re looking for and integrate them into the look?” Such are the demands of baseball economics.

Overall, I think the graphics are an improvement. I’d love to see more information available during the broadcast, but I realize that I watch many games with the Internet at my fingertips. TV stations face a balancing act between a good look for their graphics and the right amount of information. After the jump, a few more screenshots. Click to enlarge. [Read more…]

Gardner’s just a regular guy

Photo credit: Julie Jacobson/AP

On the morn of his second Opening Day start for the Yankees, Brett Gardner must feel on top of the world. Last season he started in center field, beating out Melky Cabrera in spring training. This year the left field job was all but his, and while he hit only .200 this spring his competition actually fared worse. We don’t know how long a leash the Yankees will have with Gardner, but it will likely be longer than last year’s.

Thomas Grant of the Times and Democrat profiles Gardner and his rise to the majors. A third round drat pick in 2005, Gardner was initially denied a place on the College of Charleston baseball team. It took plenty of effort not only by Gardner himself, but by his father, to secure a place on the team. They didn’t regret it, of course, as Gardner broke the school record for runs scored, among other achievements.

Gardner answered the call by rushing through the minors. He showed a pattern from AA through the majors, struggling during his first stint but excelling in the second. In 2007, with 207 PA in Scranton, Gardner hit .260/.343/.331, but upon his return trip he hit .296/.414/.422. Similarly, he hit .228/.283/.299 during his first 141 PA in the majors, but came back last season to hit .270/.345/.379 in 284 PA. There’s hope for the undersized Gardner to succeed at the majors. After all, he did post a .389 career minor league OBP despite initial struggles at higher levels. He knows, though, that the same approach might not work in the majors.

“With the Yankees, obviously, I was probably the weakest bat in the lineup,” Gardner said. “The last thing guys are going to do is be careful around me and pitch around me and wanting to put me on base for (Derek) Jeter and Nick Johnson and those guys on the top of the order like Alex (Rodriguez) and Tex (Mark Teixeira). Those guys can drive in runs. The last thing they want to do is put me on base for those guys. So I’m going to get pitches to hit. It’s just a matter of being consistent with my swing, being consistent with my approach and going up there and having good at-bats.”

He’ll get his chance starting tonight. Yesterday Sucka Got No Juice wrote that the Yankees “could be in the market for outfield help quickly” if Gardner gets off to a slow start. I’m not so sure, though. They know that their problem amounts to the No. 9 spot in the lineup, so perhaps they’ll extend Gardner more leeway than last year. In fact, I’m almost certain they will. If Gardner, Winn, and Thames don’t produce the team will surely look for an alternative, but I wouldn’t expect any such movement until June at the earliest.

On the brink of the start, thinking of repeating

Precisely five months ago to the day, the New York Yankees downed the Philadelphia Phillies on a Wednesday night to claim the 27th World Series championship in franchise history. Today, the title defense begins, and no one wants to see the Yankees repeat more than the 25 men who make up the 2010 Yankees.

Over the last month, as the Yanks have played through their Grapefruit League schedule, we’ve previewed the individual pieces that make up the 2010 club. We haven’t, however, offered up an overview of the team. Instead of running through the typical tropes — the Yankees need to stay healthy, the team has to hope that its aging core can stave off the inevitable decline — let’s just enjoy the day.

The last time the Yankees had a chance to repeat when Opening Day rolled around was in 2001. It was the middle of my senior year in high school, and in a pre-Sept. 11 world, the Yankees were flying high as back-to-back-to-back World Series champions. That team knew that Paul O’Neill would probably be playing his final year in pinstripes and that Tino Martinez would perhaps wind up elsewhere in favor of soon-to-be free agent Jason Giambi. We didn’t care though because the Yankees had beaten the Mets just a few months before. They were kings of New York and lords of baseball.

Today, we’re back there again after nearly a decade away. The rest of baseball hates us; Boston’s fans are itching at the chance to stick to the World Champion Yankees tonight; and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s always great being on top.

The next six months are going to be a marathon of baseball. We’ll see, yet again, the ins and outs of the regular season. We’ll see the team win some games, lose games. We’ll nitpick pitching changes and offensive decisions. We’ll bemoan the at-bats given to Marcus Thames or the innings giving to some bad reliever at the expense of the Next Big Thing down in Scranton. We’ll scream at Derek Jeter when he squares around to bunt, and we’ll sigh in exasperation as Brett Gardner takes a mighty hack and hits a pop up. We’ll watch A-Rod strike out; we’ll see Mariano Rivera blow a save or two. We’ll see Bad A.J. and Good A.J., Home Run Javy and Untouchable Javy. It’s all just the nature of the game, and it’s all baseball.

In ten hours, the title defense begins. In ten hours, Josh Beckett will deliver a pitch to Derek Jeter, probably a fastball, probably a pitch Jeter will take, and baseball — honest to goodness regular season, this time it counts baseball — will be back. I can’t wait.

After talk, MLB ‘very happy’ with A-Rod

A-Rod tees off during Friday\’s Grapefruit League action. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

Although Alex Rodriguez never had an opportunity during Spring Training to meet with the feds investigation Anthony Galea, the Yanks’ third baseman did speak with Major League Baseball’s own investigators late last week. According to subsequent reports, MLB officials were, in the words of A-Rod, “very happy” with his answers.

Michael S. Schmidt of The Times reports that A-Rod denied receiving any performance-enhancing drugs from Dr. Galea. Rodriguez says he received anti-inflammatories for his hip from Galea but did nothing illegal. “It went well,” A-Rod said to reporters. “I cooperated. They were very happy. And that’s it. I can’t really get into it that much.”

Meanwhile, A-Rod’s meeting with the feds may finally happen this week, the Daily News reports. Originally scheduled for Thursday, the meeting was postponed when A-Rod’s lawyers requested an extension. They wanted to avoid a media scrum in Buffalo. Yankee and MLB officials, however, would prefer to see this interview over and done with, and there’s an outside chance that the feds will accept notes from A-Rod’s meeting with MLB in lieu of a statement from A-Rod himself.

As various news outlets have reported, the Yankees have been less than thrilled with A-Rod for his connection to Galea. Both the team and Marc Philippon, the doctor who preformed A-Rod’s hip surgery last spring, say they never gave Galea the OK to treat Rodriguez, and A-Rod apparently went to the Canadian doctor himself.

The Yankees have two days off this week, and hopefully, the government can find the time for A-Rod then. I want to be optimistic and say that once A-Rod meets with the feds as a witness, this will be the last we hear of Galea this year. With A-Rod, though, you just never know.

Open Thread: The 2010 New York Yankees

Here’s the 25-man Opening Day roster…

Jorge Posada
Frankie Cervelli

Mark Teixeira
Robinson Cano
Derek Jeter
Alex Rodriguez
Nick Johnson
Ramiro Pena

Brett Gardner
Curtis Granderson
Nick Swisher
Randy Winn
Marcus Thames

Starting Pitchers
CC Sabathia
A.J. Burnett
Andy Pettitte
Javy Vazquez
Phil Hughes

Mariano Rivera
Joba Chamberlain
Damaso Marte
Sergio Mitre
Al Aceves
David Robertson
Chan Ho Park

The exhibition season is over, the team is heading up to Boston, and tomorrow night the grind begins. I can’t wait.

* * *

Here’s the open thread for the night. The Islanders already won, but the Devils, Rangers, and Nets are all in action. That Rangers’ game is another one with major playoff implications. Talk about whatever you want, but make it count, this is the last open thread of the 2009-2010 offseason.

Spring Training Health Report: Everyone’s okay

The Yankees suffered a rash of minor injuries in the final week of camp, but they’ll have everyone available when the season begins tomorrow night. To put it succinctly, Jorge Posada‘s stiff neck is fine, Nick Johnson‘s bruised knee is better, Damaso Marte‘s shoulder isn’t cranky, and Al Aceves lower back is a-okay. Frankie Cervelli‘s sore hamstring is good to go as well, and he’ll be available off the bench. Thankfully everyone’s healthy, and the Yanks can start the season with everyone intact.

2010 Draft: Paxton lands in Grand Prairie

Via Baseball America, former University of Kentucky southpaw James Paxton has signed on with the Grand Prairie Air Hogs of the independent American Association. Paxton was ruled ineligible for his senior season after the NCAA found out that he used an agent (Scott Boras) to negotiate with the Blue Jays last summer when they made him the 37th overall pick. He’ll get about three weeks to show off his stuff to scouts before the draft in June.  I mentioned Paxton as a player the Yanks could target with their first round pick a few weeks ago.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Paxton’s manager at Grand Prairie will be former Yankee Pete Incaviglia. You probably remember him Rangers and Phillies, but he hit a clean .250-.250-.250 in 16 plate appearances with the Yanks in 1997.