As a new kid on the Yankees beat writer block, Marc is taking it “Step by Step” and “Hangin’ Tough.” (Hey, how could I pass on some NKOTB jokes here?) And, Carig is doing a fine job covering the Yankees as a beat writer and a blogger. While he hasn’t made as loud an immediate splash as Nick Swisher during his freshman campaign in Yankeeland, Marc Carig has the edge over “Swish” in terms of being productive and consistent in terms of doing his thing. Here’s our exchange:
WW: Prior to covering the Yankees, you worked with the Boston Globe and Washington Post. How does working in New Jersey/New York differ from Boston and Washington?
Marc Carig: Remember when Mariano Rivera was unavailable and Phil Coke had to close out the game instead? Though his job remained exactly the same — get guys out — he said that in the ninth inning, “everything was way more amplified.” That’s how I feel about working in New York. As a reporter, my goal is simply to learn as much as I can about the thing that I’m covering at the time, all so that I’m position to tell good stories. Whether in Boston, Washington or New York, that part hasn’t changed. But how you go about reaching that goal is the biggest difference.
My experience in Boston was as a summer intern for the Globe, so I don’t think I can fairly compare New York to Boston because I wasn’t there long enough to do it fairly. However, I was in Washington for 2 1/2 years, and it was drastically different than what I’ve seen so far in New York.
Most of the challenge here is distinguishing yourself from the pack. When I was with the Post, I covered the Orioles. Only three of us reporters were with the team virtually every day, so it was relatively easy to build relationships with players, coaches and executives, especially when we were on the road. It just wasn’t a big deal to talk to a player one-on-one for awhile, and to me, these are the most valuable interactions.
In New York, such time is alot tougher to come by because there are so many more reporters vying for the same thing. Think about it: the Yankees writer travel roster includes King, Feinsand, Abraham, Kepner, Hoch, Caldera, Boland, Murti and myself. That’s an entire starting lineup! It’s even tougher at home, where some of the other papers can have as many as four reporters at the game. And then you get reporters from media outlets that don’t travel. All of it makes for a crowded clubhouse. Just like Coke said, everything here is amplified.
The other thing I’ve noticed right away is how so many of the folks who cover sports in the New York/New Jersey area are native to this place. And that’s a great thing. Nothing can replace the knowledge and comfort of understanding a place so well. That’s in complete contrast to Washington, where everybody is from someplace else.
WW: As a “newbie” to the Yankees beat-writer line-up, were there any challenges with respect to fitting in with the group? Did you have to prove yourself to the old guard? Is there such a thing as beat-rookie hazing? Related, how about dealing with the Yankees players and front office? Any issues dealing with them as someone new to the scene?
Marc Carig: If you’re asking if I’ve ever had to carry George King’s luggage at the airport, the answer is no. As far as I can tell, there isn’t much beat-rookie hazing in this press box. As far as fitting in, I think it’s gone well. Almost everybody here has been friendly and willing to offer advice without helping. For the most part, it’s a very good group of very good writers and reporters. Good guys, good competitors. As far as “proving myself” to the old guard, I really don’t feel any of that. Of course, I’d love to gain the respect of my colleagues, especially those who I respect. But my only real concern is doing a good job for the readers. And by extension, that includes those who are involved in the active community of fans/bloggers.
As far as dealing with players and the front office, the issues are what you would expect. There isn’t much of a relationship yet, and you do the best you can to build one. That takes time. The toughest part is accepting the reality that the guys who have been around awhile have an advantage because they have that history. For instance, if Tyler Kepner and I were call Brian Cashman at the same time, and he’s only got time to return one phone call, who do you think he’s going to call back? All you can do as the new guy is to keep making the calls, keep hustling. And at some point, maybe those phone calls start coming back your way.
As for the players, in New York they tend to be more media savvy than any other place I’ve worked. So, most of them knew me by the end of spring training. But again, building a relationship based on trust takes time. There’s no getting around it. Fortunately, the guys in this clubhouse seem to be understanding.
WW: You were in Boston during 2004. If you had to compare the state of the current Yankees front office and clubhouse to that of the Red Sox of 2004, what would stand out the most in terms of how they are the same and different?
Marc Carig: I didn’t deal enough with the front office types so I can’t speak to that as much. As for the clubhouses, I probably would have never thought to compare them. Also, keep in mind, I was the low man on the totem pole, and not the beat guy, so my perceptions could be different. But now that you ask about the similarities, off the top of my head, they are kind of freakish. Those Boston teams had a mix of good players brought in from the outside along with a well-defined core of guys who had been around for awhile. That’s not much different from what’s going on in the Bronx now. Going down the list:
- Mercurial superstars? Check. (Manny vs. A-Rod).
- Dynamic 3-4 duo? Check. (A-Rod and Teixeira vs. Manny and Ortiz).
- Top of the rotation star recently imported from elsewhere? Check. (Curt Schilling vs. CC Sabathia).
- Undisputed clubhouse captain? Check. (Varitek vs. Jeter).
- Clubhouse jokesters? Check. (Kevin Millar vs. Nick Swisher).
- Then, there’s Johnny Damon, who played for both.
Though things seem to be getting looser in New York, I seem to remember that Red Sox clubhouse as being pretty loose. Though I admit that perception could be a product of Kevin Millar being really, really, loud all the time.
WW: Funny you should pair Millar and Swisher. I cannot watch Swisher without thinking he’s a younger, switch-hitting, version of Millar – in terms of personality and offensive style with the bat. Having seen the Yankees play the Red Sox five times this season, how do you think the two teams match-up? Does one have an edge over the other?
Marc Carig: To me, the Red Sox and Yankees are pretty close. Both bring strong lineups, both boast deep starting pitching. I’d still give the Red Sox a slight edge because the Yankees bullpen has proven to be so unreliable, and I’m not sure if that’s going to change much this season. I think it’s very misleading to base any opinion off the five games we’ve seen the two teams have played, simply because A-Rod wasn’t there. The difference that Alex Rodriguez has made in the Yankees lineup can’t be underestimated. Right now, with Rodriguez back in the picture, they are a completely different team. (Of course, one could argue that the Red Sox have been without David Ortiz all season).
WW: It’s been shared by some of the other Yankees beat writers that A-Rod is not the most accessible person in the clubhouse. And, I’ve heard that he’s one of the last to show before a game and one of the first to leave after it. How has your experience been, in dealing with him, as a member of the media?
Marc Carig: When it comes to one-on-one dealings, my experience with Alex has been pretty limited. That’s not the ideal situation, but Alex’s situation is not typical. I started on the beat maybe a week after A-Rod’s big steroid press conference in Tampa. So when he did interviews, they were always in big group settings, and often about uncomfortable topics. In the spring, he was rarely in the clubhouse long enough to even approach for a one-on-one interview, or even a quick introduction. Then he got hurt and wasn’t around at all. I didn’t lay eyes on A-Rod again until his first day of rehab in Tampa. That’s also the first time I even had the chance to shake his hand and introduce myself. Seemed friendly enough. Since coming off the DL, he’s spoken to reporters every few days in big group settings. And if you can catch him alone at his locker, I notice that he grants one-on-ones just like the other guys. But it’s not often that he’s sitting at his locker alone. Even if he is, it’s a guarantee that there will be another reporter there in a nanosecond, ready to chat Alex up. I’m not sure that he’s any more or less scarce than the other guys. But I haven’t been around long enough to say for sure. So the short answer is that my sample size of dealings with Alex is much too small to make any meaningful conclusions.
WW: O.K., now, the really big question: What’s the deal with your baseball cap collection? How did you get started with that – and where do you see it going?
Marc Carig: Well, I’ve been a baseball fan my whole life. But when I was younger, one of the things I really liked was the team colors and logos, especially the caps. I liked all the different designs. Anyway, in high school, a buddy of mine came in one day wearing an old Houston Astros cap. The dark blue ones, with the orange star. I thought it was cool. So a few years later, I was in Atlanta and found one of those red, white and blue Braves caps from the 1970s. The collection started there. At first, I went for the kind of caps that teams wore in the mid 1980s, when I started really watching baseball. Then I figured, so long as the caps are no longer worn, they were fair game. You used to get them for next to nothing. The trick was going to some mom and pop sporting goods shop, where you’d see a $5 table full of these caps nobody wanted. I remember getting an old LA Angels cap with the halo on top (like the kid in The Sandlot), a ’59 White Sox cap and a brown St. Louis Browns cap — all for 15 bucks. Sometimes, my brother and my best friend would go out to the city (San Francisco) sometimes just to hunt for these things. Then throwback stuff got really popular, so while it was easier to find old caps, they also got a lot more expensive. Plus, it took the fun out of hunting for them. Anyway, there’s still a few caps I need to finish the collection. There are a couple of Brewers caps from the mid 90s that I’m trying to find. After that, I’m going to start collecting Japanese baseball caps. Lots of the Japanese media covering the Yankees go back and forth to Japan during the season. So before the season is out, I’m going to ask one of them bring me a Yomiuri Giants cap.
That’s it. My thanks to Marc for granting this Q&A and for all his time and attention towards my questions!