• Q&A With WFAN & SNY’s Sweeny Murti

    Posted by on June 22nd, 2009 · Comments (15)

    Continuing with our Yankees Beat Writer Q&A series, I recently had a chance to do a new session with Yankees beat reporter Sweeny Murti of WFAN and SNY.

    Sweeny Murti first joined WFAN in 1991 and he’s been their Yankees beat reporter since 2001. Later, Sweeny joined SNY in 2008 as that network’s Yankees beat reporter. In addition to these current gigs, he’s worked for the YES Network and WCBS-TV Channel 2 in New York. Murti is, in my opinion, the Mariano Rivera of Yankees beat reporters – providing excellence and making it look effortless. It’s no wonder that more than one outlet wants him as their Yankees beat reporter. Here’s our exchange:

    WW: Based on your experience, what are the biggest pros and cons of covering the team as a beat reporter as opposed to being a beat writer? Are there advantages and/or disadvantages to reporting as opposed to writing? What are they?

    Sweeny Murti: Well, I think the only thing that’s different is the output based on the medium (radio vs. newspaper). I spend the same amount of time at the ballpark and spend just as much time preparing for my job at home (I think) as all the other reporters. I just do the best I can to be as informed as possible. An advantage for my audience used to be that the radio station was on 24-hours a day while the paper only came out once a day. We were the only place to go for instant information. But the internet and blogs and tweets and things like that have changed everything. We are all 24-hour news services now.

    WW: Having been a member of the more immediate media, rather than the print media, do you feel that’s put you a step ahead of the evolution that’s happening with respect to the fall of the hardcopy newspaper media? And, why do you feel the way that you do on this?

    Sweeny Murti: I wouldn’t say I’m a step ahead. I just continue to work in the medium I’ve worked all along. I’ve actually gone the other way a bit if you consider the writing we now put on our website. I feel bad for the friends who have lost their jobs, but I trust (hope, actually) there will always be jobs for people who know how to write well. Its a skill I admire.

    WW: Speaking of skill, having covered the Yankees for as long as you have, what adjustments have you had to make, in covering the team, through the years? Related, what’s changed in Yankeeland over the past, say, nine years that has brought cause for those adjustments, if any?

    Sweeny Murti: Well a lot has happened, both in the industry and around the Yankees. First, as we just talked about with the internet creating a 24-hour news cycle, it just keeps you on your toes all the time. A story breaks and its almost like a race to get it out first. Ten years ago there were fewer places to get information that fast so it definitely affected the flow of that information. On top of that, the Yankees — after winning 4 World Series in 5 years — turned themselves into an even bigger entity than ever before, if that’s even possible. Baseball fans, especially in New York, are craving information at an incredible rate (hence the world of blogs, twitter, etc.). That thirst, and the forum online and on WFAN too, has caused so much scrutiny for each game. The Yankees turned themselves into a machine that is supposed to win all the time, so every loss feels like ten. There doesn’t seem to be any such thing as an average Yankee game. And the fact that they haven’t won since that run makes each game and season even more dramatic given the hundreds of millions of dollars spent chasing another championship.

    And the off-season has become a season of its own. You can go from the last day of the season to New Year’s and have a baseball story to talk about. But that’s all good to be honest. I wouldn’t be traveling all over the country following this team if that interest wasn’t there.

    WW: While it’s good for the media, and the fans, in your opinion, has this “scrutiny” on each single game and “supposed to win all the time” mindset created a situation for the Yankees team/players where the pressure is too great to succeed? And, why do you feel the way you do on this?

    Sweeny Murti: I don’t know if it’s too great to succeed. I think it just shows you how hard it is to win all the time, no matter how much you spend or what type of players you bring in. Every year that goes by I think fans appreciate more and more how hard it was to win in ’96, ’98, ’99, and ’00.

    There is pressure on these guys, no doubt. But they all know it. None of them ever come here and think winning 90 games and losing in the second round is good enough. Maybe it has more effect on the pitchers than anyone else. Whether it was trades or free agents, you’ve had guys like Jeff Weaver or Carl Pavano who have a great deal of pressure on them every start. A bad start you get a lot of questions, two bad starts you wonder whether he can handle this, three bad starts you wonder if he’ll stay in the rotation. Some people can handle it and deflect well. Others not so well.

    WW: Do you think that the Yankees, in the past, did a better job at identifying those players who could “handle it and deflect well”? Or, were Stick Michael and/or Bob Watson just lucky finding guys like Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Mike Stanton, David Cone, Joe Girardi, Jeff Nelson, Chad Curtis and Darryl Strawberry? And, has Brian Cashman just been unlucky finding guys like Rondell White, Todd Zeile, Jose Contreras, Javier Vazquez, Carl Pavano, Kei Igawa, Kyle Farnsworth and LaTroy Hawkins?

    Sweeny Murti: Well, I don’t think its as black and white as you say. Michael and Watson missed sometimes too (Danny Tartabull and Kenny Rogers come to mind). And while I agree Stick Michael was responsible for bringing this team back from their low point in the early 90′s, Cashman’s task was to keep them at that level and that’s not easy.

    There have been plenty of missteps and mistakes over the years and they’re all on Cashman’s record, so I won’t tell you he is blameless. But was it his fault the Yankees blew a 3-games to none lead to the Red Sox? Is it his fault A-Rod wins MVPs in the regular season and can’t hit in the playoffs? Is it his fault Randy Johnson, one of the greatest pitchers of all-time, got knocked around in Game 3 two years in a row with the series tied 1-1?

    I can’t defend guys like Farnsworth and Igawa, etc. But bad decisions are one thing and bad results are another. Remember the Red Sox were courting Pavano and Contreras too, and they almost traded for A-Rod before the Yankees did. Does it make them smarter just because they didn’t close the deals?

    Finding those types of players is not an exact science and that’s the problem. And don’t forget this. Scott Brosius was coming off a season where he hit barely over .200 when the Yankees got him. Paul O’Neill never hit over .280 when the Yanks got him. It might be good scouting, but its also a little luck.

    WW: Excellent points about Pavano, Contreras and A-Rod. It would be interesting to see how the baseball timeline may have been different, over the last five years or so, had Boston acquired those players. Moving forward, what do you think of the Yankees this season? Do you think they’re a post-season contender? In any event, are there any issues with their team that need to be addressed sooner rather than later?

    Sweeny Murti: Of course they are a postseason contender. They are in quite a rut right now, but they had about a month where they were playing really well and it’s hard to believe there are that many teams better than they are in the AL. Boston is, but then who? Texas? Detroit? Toronto? Tampa Bay?

    I think they get themselves into the playoffs. Sabathia and Burnett are key. A-Rod is a huge key. If he isn’t healthy enough to pull through the rest of this season and put up decent numbers, then that throws everything into question. The bullpen needs some help, but Bruney and Hughes are superb additions right now. They’ll tinker with that too as we go along.

    That’s it. My thanks to Sweeny for granting this Q&A and for all his time and attention towards my questions!

    Q&A With The Star-Ledger’s Marc Carig

    Posted by on June 3rd, 2009 · Comments (1)

    Continuing with our Yankees Beat Writer Q&A series, I recently had a chance to do a new session with Yankees beat reporter Marc Carig of The Star-Ledger.

    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!

    Q&A With The New York Times’ Tyler Kepner

    Posted by on April 27th, 2009 · Comments (6)

    I recently had a chance to do a quick Q&A with Yankees beat reporter Tyler Kepner of The New York Times.

    To me, Tyler Kepner is the Peter La Fleur of Yankees beat writers/media bloggers. I do not ever recall seeing a blogger and/or Yankees fan post something on the ‘net that was even close to a rip at Kepner’s work. And, I’ve seen many praise him for his style/approach at covering the team. (And, for the record, I’m one of those “many.”)

    This quite unique – as even the best of Yankees beat writers/bloggers will have someone go cranky over them at some point or time. But, again, I’ve yet to see this happen to Tyler. Maybe we should call him “Kool Kat Kepner”? He’s earned that label. Here’s our exchange:

    WW: How do you manage being the father of four young children while also being a beat writer covering the Yankees? What are the biggest challenges on both sides of that fence for you as you try to manage a work-life balance that fits your needs?

    Tyler Kepner: That’s been the essential question of my life for the last 10 years. But this much is obvious: it would be impossible to keep any kind of balance without a supportive and patient wife and a fair and understanding boss. I am very lucky to have both.

    All of my editors at the Times have treated me wonderfully, allowing me to build some flexibility into my schedule so I don’t miss too many family things. Over my 10 years on the beat at the Times (2 with the Mets and now 8 with the Yankees), I can remember missing a series in Seattle for a birthday, the All-Star Home Run Derby for another birthday, the last game of a series at Tampa Bay for a school play, a series in Baltimore for a dance recital, a series at Minnesota for a wedding, and so on. I still end up covering probably 75 road games a year, but having a boss who understands that you have a life outside your job is just so crucial. It takes away the burnout factor, which is a very real risk but has never been an issue. By knowing the editors respect my personal life, I can give everything I have to the job on the days I work. And on the days I’m off, I don’t do any work at all. Most of the time, I don’t even watch the game.

    There are challenges family-wise, mostly because of how different life is when you’re covering games on the road compared to the way it is when you’re covering games at home. On the road, you’re naturally focused on yourself and your job, and at home, of course, there are more responsibilities. You’re constantly adjusting mindsets, back and forth. But I really don’t feel like I’ve missed much as a parent because of the job. Lots of parents leave for work before their kids wake up and get back when their kids are in bed — five days a week, all year long. The way I look at it is, when you factor in the days I work from home, especially the off-season, I probably get more face-time with my children that the average working dad. The hours and days are unconventional, for sure, but we make it work. And, again, pretty much all of the credit for that goes to my wife.

    The one thing I never forget is that I’m doing exactly what I’ve wanted to do since I was 14 years old. Not a lot of people get that chance, so I’ll take whatever comes with it.

    WW: It’s true: Anyone who gets to do something that they’re passionate about for a living is lucky – because then it’s not work. Somewhat related, many diehard fans have a fear of skipping a game (involving their favorite team) and then getting that dreaded phone call from their buddy that starts with “You’ve missed the greatest game – EVER!” Has there ever been a game that you missed that you wished you had covered? If yes, what game was it? If not, what kind of game would it have to be to make you lament missing it?

    Tyler Kepner: A no-hitter. I’ve never seen one, except when I was at Vanderbilt and an Arkansas pitcher threw one. So I guess I’d say that I wish I had been there for the Astros tag-team no-hitter at Yankee Stadium in 2003, though that’s probably the lamest no-hitter ever. I was dying the day Wang took a perfect game through 7 innings against the Mariners while back. The other games I can think of are at least one of the Giambi walk-offs. Somehow I covered his whole Yankees career yet missed the walk-offs against Mike Trombley, Jose Mesa and B.J. Ryan. It also would have been nice to be there the day Clemens showed up in Steinbrenner’s box. Despite how it all turned out for Roger, that would have been a dramatic moment to see at the time.

    WW: It’s interesting that the first part of your answer was a no-hitter reference. You’ve pitched for the New York media in those games where the New York baseball media plays against the Boston baseball media. Would you describe yourself as someone who would lean towards the pitching side of the game, rather than the batting side, if you had to make a choice between the two in terms of the angle of the sport that you enjoy the most or feel more connected to it? And, what’s the reason behind your answer to this question?

    Tyler Kepner: Absolutely, I’m more inclined to the pitching side of the game. My first year following baseball was 1982, when I was 7, and my team was the Phillies. Steve Carlton won the Cy Young that year, throwing high fastballs and killer sliders, striking out everybody, and I was hooked. Throwing strikes was (and still is) the only athletic skill I have that is anything above average, and the chance to pitch in media games has been a real privilege.

    The pitcher just has so much control over the action and, ultimately, the outcome of each game. There’s so much going on, mentally and physically, with each pitch. I love learning about pitching grips, the action on the ball, the the thought behind pitch selection, even mechanics. I would never say I understand pitching the way the professionals do, because everything they do is on a level none of us can truly relate to. But I understand the mentality of pitching a lot better than I understand hitting, and because I’m more curious about it, I think I relate better to pitchers than to position players.

    WW: So, growing up a Phillies fan back then, did seeing Charles Hudson pitch well for the Yankees in 1987 bother you? Just kidding! Staying on tossing the pill, in your opinion, what one thing in the pitching department will be a pleasant surprise for the Yankees and their fans this year? And, also in your opinion, what will be the biggest pitching disappointment in Yankeeland this season?

    Tyler Kepner: I was just glad the Yankees took Marty Bystrom in exchange for Shane Rawley. He pitched pretty well for the Phils.

    I actually think the Yankees’ bullpen won’t be too bad. I like the way Girardi handles the guys, the way he really gives himself a chance to see who can pitch and who can’t. And when injuries arise, like this elbow issue with Bruney, we’ll learn something about Robertson and Melancon. I think they’ll be vital pieces as the year goes. As for disappointments, that’s tough. I suppose you could say that given Sabathia’s salary and the inevitable comparisons to Santana, he’s got a really tough standard to reach. From what we’ve seen so far — a startling lack of fastball command — he might qualify as a disappointment, though it’s very early. My question is, what would be considered successful for a pitcher making $23 million a year? If he wins 15 games and has a 3.50 ERA, is that a disappointment for the money? I guess it would be.

    WW: True, $23 million for 15 wins would be an interesting scenario in terms of the fan reaction. If I recall correctly, the Red Sox have a policy that says you should only pay $1 million per expected win from a starter. And, there’s no way that CC is going to win 23 games this season. Since you’ve brought up Girardi, I have to ask: If the Yankees win less than 90 games this season and do not make the post-season, do you think General Joe will he return to manage New York in 2010? Why?

    Tyler Kepner: My guess is he’d still come back. The Yankees always take measures to shake things up in a very obvious way each off-season. The way to do that next year will be to bolster the offense with Matsui, Damon and Nady all leaving. If Matt Holliday has a great year in Oakland, chances are they’ll sign him to a monster deal, sign someone else (plus maybe a pitcher) and feel as if they’ve fixed everything. To fire Girardi, someone would have to be really motivated to get rid of him, and I don’t see who that would be. Hal Steinbrenner runs the team, and he’s not rash and impulsive the way George was. My guess is Hal would defer to Cashman, who is signed through 2011, and I doubt Cashman would blame Girardi if the team doesn’t win. That’s not the way Cashman thinks.

    WW: What’s your opinion on the M.O. of Hank and Hal Steinbrenner with respect to running the team? Is their approach a good or bad thing for the Yankees?

    Tyler Kepner: Well, when you talk about Hank and Hal, you’re really just talking about Hal. He’s the control person for the Yankees. Hank talked a lot after the 2007 season and spent like crazy, but since then it’s been Hal’s team. Hal was the one who actually went to Yankee Stadium last year and met with Cashman and Girardi and tried to learn the baseball side of things as well as the business side. He’s in charge.

    I think Hal’s a smart businessman and a commanding authority figure in Tampa. Not in the same way as his father, of course. George was in people’s face about everything. Hal is more measured, a lot quieter, and he keeps people guessing about what he’s really thinking and how he will really act. What we’ve seen so far is that he’s willing to uphold the 2000s trend of the Yankees not just spending more than everyone, but spending a LOT more than everyone. The Yankees shrewdly capitalized on their late-90s success to build a business empire capable of sustaining such a payroll, and I can only assume that will continue. Hal also seems to trust Cashman, and that’s a good thing, I believe.

    Is Hal’s approach good or bad? I guess it’s good to spend the money as long as they have it. Fans know they care about winning, and they care about the star power those expensive players bring to the network. But it does lead to paying guys for work they did in the past, often with other teams, a trap the Yankees fall into over and over again.

    That’s it. My thanks to Tyler for granting this Q&A and for all his time and attention towards my questions!

    Q&A With The Journal News’ Pete Abraham

    Posted by on April 7th, 2009 · Comments (10)

    I recently had a chance to do a quick Q&A with Yankees beat reporter Pete Abraham of The Journal News.

    In case you’ve been living under a rock, and without an internet connection, Pete is the Grand Poobah of the Loyal Order of Yankees Beat Writer Bloggers. Without Abraham’s blogging efforts, paving the way for other media members to blog, we in Yankeeland would have a lot less information coming at us on a near-real-time basis. And, that’s why he’s the Duke of Yankees Bloggers, A-Number-1. Here’s our exchange:

    WW: According to the numbers/reports that I’ve seen, “The LoHud Yankees Blog” is the most popular Yankees-related blog on the internet. As its author, why do you think it’s so popular? Is it the secret sauce?

    Pete Abraham: I wish I knew the exact formula because I would market it to others. I am blessed to cover a team that has a large, rabid fan base that hungers for information. I also started my blog in 2006, just when the demand for information via the internet or other mobile platforms was taking off. That was fortunate timing. I do try and update as often as possible as even small nuggets of information seem to generate interest. I think to some degree my writing style is a good fit for the internet. But I had no idea of that at the time I started.

    WW: You are great at maintaining a frequent posting pattern at the blog. How do you manage to keep that up without it starting to feel like a blogging ball and chain?

    Pete Abraham: Two of the things I enjoy are writing and baseball. Blogging doesn’t seem like work to me. I’m also motivated by the passion that the readers have for the team. It’s more fun when you cover a team that people really care about. I also have a selfish motive. As journalism turns toward a digital future, I’d like to have a skill that makes me employable in the field I enjoy. Having the ability to produce a product people want on line is hopefully something that will keep me gainfully employed. I look at the work I’m doing now as investing in my future.

    WW: Seeing your success to date, and the way e-journalism is evolving, can I invest in your future too? (Just kidding, kinda/sorta.) While, one the whole, reaction to your blog has been favorable, you have also managed to develop a pocket of critics out there who are fairly harsh with their comments on your work. Does this bother you and why?

    Pete Abraham: Criticism doesn’t bother me. I criticize the Yankees, so feel free to criticize what I write. What is troublesome — and this is the case throughout the internet — is how anonymous critics will make it personal and attack you. But that says more about them than it does about me.

    WW: Amen on that – and then some. Since you’ve brought it up…when you’ve been critical of someone in the Yankees organization, albeit at your blog or elsewhere, has that party ever come back to you on that? Is that a difficult position to be in? How do you, or how would you, handle that?

    Pete Abraham: It’s never happened beyond a joking stage. The players and team executives understand that criticism is part of the terrain, especially in New York. If it did occur, I’ll happily defend anything that I write and if I’m wrong, I’ll correct it.

    WW: How do you think the new clubhouse, etc., in the Bronx will impact dealing with players now? Do you expect them to be more accessible or are you expecting a lot of them to find places to hide? Or, does it all depend on how the team is doing?

    Pete Abraham: At this point, I’ve covered one exhibition game there, so I have no idea. But the Yankees are a generally accountable group and media relations director Jason Zillo does a great job of stressing that to them and getting them for interviews. He has built a lot of bridges that didn’t exist before. If a guy wants to duck out, he can duck out anywhere. The only player who can be difficult to pin down for a postgame interview is — you guessed it — Alex Rodriguez. Everybody else is accessible and friendly. Some guys, Jeter especially, make it a point to be accessible. They consider it part of their job.

    WW: That’s good to hear. And, it makes sense. I know that the media around the Yankees has a rep. But, through the years, it’s been proven, if you’re a stand-up and cooperative person, it will be rare for the media to make you look bad without a legitimate reason. Getting back to you, what can we expect to see next from Peter Abraham? Will you be doing a book someday on the Yankees or something else? Should we expect to see you working with the YES Network someday? Or, after a while, would you be looking to do something radical, like becoming a professional Red Bull taste-tester?

    Pete Abraham: Wow, good question and I have no good answer. I am not one to change jobs without reason and/or a lot of thought. I covered the UConn basketball team for a small paper in Connecticut for 13 seasons and left only because they made me the sports editor against my will and I hated that side of the business. I’ve been at The Journal News since 1999 and have no desire to leave. They have treated me well and my bosses, particularly executive editor Henry Freeman and sports editor Susie Arth, have been extraordinarily supportive. But newspapers are falling apart financially and I love covering sports, so I need to be open to change and whatever opportunities are out there. I’m not a writer whose style is particularly conducive to writing a book, although I would like to tackle another book project in the future. For now, I’m going to do what I’m doing and hope that as newspapers change, I still have a place with them. If not, it’ll be dealing blackjack at Mohegan Sun or being a limo driver. If there is one thing I know how to do, it’s get to the airport.

    That’s it. My thanks to Pete for granting this Q&A and for all his time and attention towards my questions!

    Q&A With Newsday’s Kat O’Brien

    Posted by on March 4th, 2009 · Comments (13)

    I recently had a chance to do a quick Q&A with Yankees beat reporter Kat O’Brien of Newsday.

    Kat’s the Andy Pettitte of beat writers. She’s experienced, professional and among the best at her craft. But, at the same time, she’s one of the nicest people that you can possibly meet. (Seriously, we’re talking “Mayberry” kind of “nice.” And, it doesn’t get any better than that.) Here’s our exchange:

    WW: Having spent a good chunk of time covering the Yankees lately, after covering the Texas Rangers, has your view of the game changed? If so, how?

    Kat O’Brien: I would not say that my view of the game has changed significantly since going to New York. Covering the two teams is very different, mostly in that there are so many more media around the Yankees. That makes it a little tougher to get to know guys. It takes a little longer just because there are so many other reporters around, but eventually, as a beat writer, they realize you are around a lot and tend to open up a bit. A lot more attention is paid to the Yankees than a mid-market team such as the Rangers, and there are a lot more star/highly paid players, but the game remains more or less the same.

    WW: Speaking of the media crush around the Yankees, what’s been your experience dealing with the other beat writers? Is it dog-eat-dog or is the a camaraderie among the group?

    Kat O’Brien: It actually is less “dog-eat-dog” than one might think. Obviously it’s very competitive to get stories and be first with given stories, and nobody is sharing exclusive information. But people do get along for the most part. Some are closer than others, but I’ve gotten lunch/dinner or drinks with everyone on the beat at one time or another. There are things you have to be competitive about but not 24-7.

    WW: Now that you’ve been a baseball beat writer for a while, is it an occupation that you would endorse for some youngster who had an interest? Or, does it fall into the category of “If you like sausage, then you should never go work in a sausage factory”?

    Kat O’Brien: Ha-ha, that’s a funny question. Given the state of the newspaper industry and media in general, it would be difficult in good conscience for me to recommend studying to become a journalist of any sort, let alone a beat writer. My younger brother is interested in journalism, but the way things are going, those of us already in the industry worry about holding onto our jobs. So my take that I probably wouldn’t recommend becoming a baseball beat writer has little to do with the job itself but more to do with job security. The job itself is great, though there is typically a high burnout rate because the travel and hours get to people after a while.

    WW: Now that you’ve been blogging about the Yankees in addition to your traditional media duties, do you see the role of beat writer evolving into something new? If yes, what’s your best guess towards what that new role will be?

    Kat O’Brien: That’s the million dollar question that applies to just about every job in journalism these days. The role of beat writer (as that of columnist and other jobs) is changing, and faster than most people could have imagined. Blogging is an important aspect of the job for most people. Another big change is that of deadlines. We now write news for the internet, as in ASAP, and perhaps rewrite for the actual print product.

    As for what all this means for the future, I wish I knew. Some have speculated that print newspapers will not exist within just a few years, or at least that many of them will not. I hope that isn’t the case.

    WW: It wouldn’t shock me if that happened. It’s sad. I can remember, as recent as 1998, when reading the morning paper and digging through baseball box scores was a daily staple. But, I doubt that many people under the age of 50 do that now. Switching gears a bit, what’s your thoughts about the 2009 Yankees? What do you think are their strengths and weaknesses?

    Kat O’Brien: I think this is a really strong Yankees team. There are no glaring weaknesses to me in terms of offense, defense, starting pitching or bullpen. The one potential weakness is age. They have a fair number of older guys, which may make them more susceptible to injury . Some guys are already injury concerns, such as Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui, just because they are coming off of surgery. Then again, the Yankees actually got younger by trading in Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu for Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher.

    The strengths are many. The rotation is top-notch. What team wouldn’t trade its rotation to have CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain and Andy Pettitte? The bullpen should be very strong as well, as long as Mariano Rivera is healthy and his usual self. And the offense has the potential to be terrific. I expect Posada to have a solid season. Even though his surgery was much more serious than that of Matsui, I’d actually be more concerned about Matsui, given that Matsui has had knee surgery in consecutive offseasons. The one thing to worry about offensively, IMHO, is how Alex Rodriguez fares after admitting to using steroids.

    WW: There are opinions out there going both ways on Alex. Some say that he’s going to fold under pressure this season. And, others offer that this mess will have him focused like he was in 2007. You’ve been around Rodriguez more than most – having worked in Texas and New York. How do you think he’ll handle all this and perform this season?

    Kat O’Brien: I think getting off to a good start will be more important than usual for him. However, Alex Rodriguez has a remarkable ability to block things out. I really don’t think he will be too affected by outside things, unless there is just a continual flow of further information coming out. He’ll probably have a terrific season.

    WW: Speaking of terrific, in all the time that you’ve been covering the Yankees, what’s the one thing that you saw that you will never forget for the rest of your life?

    Kat O’Brien: I will never forget having attended the final game at Yankee Stadium. That was really special to be at such a historic event. I might add, I’m sure I will never forget being at the stadium opener either this year. But it was really great to attend the final game and see just how much the Stadium meant to so many people.

    That’s it. My thanks to Kat for granting this Q&A and for all her time and attention towards my questions!