With just under two months left in the regular season, Rob Manfred, and his cohorts, should pump their hype accelerator to the floor, making every Aaron Judge at-bat television appointment for a national audience.
If MLB and its commish cannot make that happen, the suits will be guilty of turning a red-hot opportunity into an ice sculpture.
As Judge challenges Roger Maris’ historic single-season Yankees record of 61 dingers, the last “clean” HR seasonal milestone, the opportunity is there for Judge to become MLB’s high-profile ambassador to more casual eyeballs, along with new, younger, fans in search of long-ball thrills.
The Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network has already been doing some heavy hyping with its not-so-subtle Judge Home Run Chase spots. And during the games YES carnival barkers, er, voices have made viewers aware of what’s going on. That’s to be expected. And with the hardcore Bombers loyalists already regularly tuning into YES in large numbers, Judge’s HR chase won’t drastically expand Al Yankzeera’s viewership.
That’s why MLB needs to find ways for Judge to expand its national reach. Baseball should go farther than relying on its own network (MLBN) to air live cut-ins of Judge at-bats. Those tuned into MLBN are watching most nights anyway. In order to expand viewership, MLB should “encourage” its national linear TV partners (Fox, ESPN, Turner) to air as many Yankee games as possible in August and September.
Manfred wouldn’t try hiding Judge’s HR quest by selling more Yankee games to streaming services like Amazon Prime, Apple TV or Peacock, would he? Would he really put money ahead of growing the game? Are you laughing yet?
Nonetheless, if necessary, MLB and its national linear TV partners should waive the maximum appearances rule in their contract to allow bonus Bombers games to air. Imagine the size of the viewership if Judge has tied Maris and goes into the last day of the Yankees season with the game televised to a national audience? All these outlets covet “event” TV. Judge trying to break Maris’ record with the season running out fits that category.
Chronicling Judge will also provide some much-needed electricity going into October. With the Yankees on track to be a playoff participant, the story of Judge will continue. It should provide some ratings momentum for a sport that needs it.
The other story filtering through Judge’s HR escapades, is the slugger’s contractual situation. In April, Judge turned down a seven-year, $230 million contract extension. He gambled on himself and, up to this point, he won the bet. That part of the plot brings a human element to the story.
Seven years ago, Manfred said Judge is a player “who can become the face of the game.”
Now, Judge, with an assist from MLB’s TV partners, can make that happen.
There’s something to be said for restraint.
The YES crew could have used some Wednesday afternoon after it took exception to a third-strike call by home plate umpire CB Bucknor (Mariners-Yankees). The call was highly debatable. YES analyst Paul O’Neill pointed that out. Fine.
If that wasn’t enough, YES cameras lingered on a close-up of Bucknor. This gratuitous shot amounted to rubbing it in, making Bucknor look bad. OK, enough was enough, right? Of course not. Instead of moving on and putting the figurative salt shaker away, YES decided it was a swell idea to pour some more on the wound.
The crew scurried back to its archives for video of O’Neill (aka the Hidden Analyst) back in his playing days, arguing with Bucknor. O’Neill started walking to the dugout but pulled an about-face, scrambling back to home plate. He got in Bucknor’s face before getting tossed from the game. If YES’ mission was to “kill” the umpire, it succeeded.
At least YES didn’t blame Bucknor for the three, first inning home runs Gerrit Cole gave up Wednesday.
That Cole was able to last six innings against Seattle, gave Michael Kay and O’Neill time to attempt a thorough autopsy on the six-run first Cole stumble-bummed his way through.
Yet it wasn’t until the postgame show, when YES cashed in. The interview between Cole and the reporters covering the game revealed the high-priced ace to be a tortured soul desperately searching for answers. The lengthy Q&A was one of the best we’ve seen at a time when these sessions have become routine, hollow, say-nothing affairs.
YES studio analyst Jack Curry punctuated the Cole interview, bringing even more reality to the moment when he said: “That [interview] it was more like a therapy session.”
Of all the glitzy names hired to work on NFL telecasts, Jason Garrett really didn’t reside high on the TV food chain.
Yet his work (he was a game analyst) on NBC’s USFL telecasts was a lot better than the average rookie broadcaster. And his debut as a studio analyst on the Hall of Fame edition of “Football Night in America” provided evidence Garrett, the former Cowboys coach, has the chops to shine. Let’s just say Garrett did not have us clamoring for the return of Drew Brees.
Garrett’s energy, enthusiasm and believability jump off the screen—naturally. There’s no contrived personality or look-at-me shtick. He is a storyteller who, at least Thursday evening, came with interesting stories to tell. On “FNIA” he worked in a crowded house, including Maria Taylor, Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison, Jac Collinsworth, Chris Simms and Matthew Berry, but still managed to stand out.
Keep an eye on this guy.
Coming off a recent verbal skirmish with his colleague Keith McPherson, WFAN’s Sal Licata is feeling strong. On Tuesday, filling in for Norman J. Esiason on the morning show, Licata was upset, screaming because the Mets had yet to make a trade deadline move. “Wait until tomorrow,” Licata ominously bellowed. “We’ll pound them even more if they don’t make a move.” Yep, we’re sure Billy Eppler and the entire Mets baseball operations department were quaking in their boots. … Sometimes it’s worth wondering where VOS Gasbags come up with their questions. At Jets camp last week, ESPN-98.7′s Peter Rosenberg asked Jets GM Joe Douglas: “Can you grade yourself year to year?” huh? Guess Rosenberg thinks Douglas has plenty of free time on his hands. … Sounded like FAN’s Craig Carton was absolutely thrilled to tell Brian Cashman, Suzyn Waldman’s November induction into the Radio Hall of Fame is a “great lifetime achievement.”
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The Pinstripe Express
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DUDE OF THE WEEK: JOEY GALLO
He had a rough road at the plate and was consistently hammered by those wanting him exiled from the Bronx. Yet the new Dodgers outfielder never went off the deep end or fired back in anger. Or as Yankees radio voice Suzyn Waldman said, Gallo “was always accountable, always worked and never complained.”
DWEEB OF THE WEEK: MIKE RIZZO
The Washington GM thinks Nats fans are easily distracted by shiny objects. Why else would he wear his World Series ring to a press conference explaining why he dealt Juan Soto to San Diego? The ring “ceremony” blended with Rizzo’s healthy ego. “I wore this ring purposely, OK?” Rizzo said. “It shows what we’ve done and what we’re going to do in the future.” OKAY?
que Kyle Higashioka said: “I think we [me and Gerrit Cole] are in accordance with one another.”
que Kyle Higashioka meant to say: “I wish I could read Gerrit’s mind.”