Thursday, November 02, 2006

YES Network hates the Yankees--my 2nd letter

September 11, 2006

Mr. Woody Freiman
V.P., Production and Programming
The YES Network
405 Lexington Ave., 36th fl.
New York, N.Y. 10174-3699

Dear Mr. Freiman:

Thank-you for your thoughtful letter of August 30 in response to my letter of August 28 regarding the portrayal of Mariano Rivera. I’m aware of Yankeeography, and my issue isn’t with Jim Kaat, Michael Kay and the others. I’ve noted cameras show Rivera in the bullpen if he may be coming into the game. Yet, the other points I made remain. Assuming we have Rivera for 1 more year, that still leaves little time.
  • Again Saturday 9/9 YES had a clip of LESS than 1 second of Mariano in the montage closing the post game show. This isn’t MTV, and this kind of thing doesn’t help the baseball fan. (Unless you're other than a Yankee fan).
The 3 issues are: 1) Pre and post game coverage, 2) What the Yankee fan wants or needs to see, and 3) A behind the scenes awareness that Mariano has never come close to winning any post season awards due to institutionalized bias; the votes are secret. The same people could easily deny him the HOF. If the YES Network chose to present Mo in the manner he deserves, they could be the lone voice in the wilderness (aside from SNY).

I enjoy general baseball news and noticed the emotional and glorious footage YES showed of Johan Santana at the end of the Yankee post game show on Sunday 9/10. This is exactly the kind of coverage Rivera should be getting from YES studio productions but doesn’t. As I mentioned in my earlier letter to Mr. Filippelli, a sad example of this is the YES version of game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, of which Rivera was MVP. At the end of the game, he’s lifted onto the shoulders of his team mates and carried across the field. The edited version YES shows includes less than 1 second of this emotional scene (I saw the original, and it was much longer than that).

There’s a constant media barrage deifying pitchers not named Mariano. There was a brief respite this year during the All Star break when Ozzie Guillen put Rivera in the news. Regarding Bob Lorenz, I’m glad he appreciates baseball, but much of what he says and how he says it on the air are directed by someone else, e.g. the length of time looking at a stat, what is said about it and in what tone. In the past year, I’ve chosen to take time to document in detail the efforts of mainstream baseball media to minimize Rivera including writers and contributors to,,, the largest baseball websites, and newspapers from around the country. The only outlet I’d logically hope to put his performance in correct context is the YES Network. Explicitly acknowledging the media bias might backfire, and has for the Yankees in the past when Hideki Matsui was overlooked. Mr. Steinbrenner’s unhappiness about this was reported in the press, and a writer who failed to vote for Hideki became an instant national celebrity and was delighted. Jon Miller said on the ESPN-TV game Sunday 9/10 that San Diego general manager Kevin Towers started a campaign last week to have Trevor named NL Cy Young. This isn’t the kind of thing I’m suggesting the YES Network or the Yankees do. It may even work in their case, but wouldn’t for the Yankees.

ESPN of course ignored the fact Ozzie named Rivera as his All Star game closer on July 5, and on Baseball Tonight, the host even said he’d only be his 4th choice for closer, behind Papelbon, Ryan, and Jenks. The Boston Globe wrote the day before the All Star game that the long game against the White Sox in which Papelbon was involved, must’ve been the reason he wasn’t named as the first closer, apparently unaware of the fact Rivera had been named on July 5.

The media’s goal is to put anyone they can in front of Mariano, and one of their picks is Trevor Hoffman (their long-time pal). His botching the All Star game sufficiently behind him, the campaigning for him is back in force, with recent articles on,, and a 9/8 headline and article on Saturday 9/9, yet another on the page by one of their big writers, with headlines Hoffman should be in the Hall. He hasn’t done anything special, is still adamantly a 1 inning pitcher in a low pressure environment. Another site on 9/9 refers to the MLB article in a headline and puts forth the idea he should win the NL Cy Young. This is 4 front page headlines in about 10 days, plus probably the most widely read internet site. Even from this small sampling of what I’ve documented, you may see why I hope for fair portrayal from 1 media source, YES. The opposition is overwhelming, and most who recognize it just shake their head and say, what can you do? Well, not showing the total saves stat would be a start.

The Hoffman group sailed for years saying he’d go the Hall. But now they worry, what if voters consider who was dominant in his era? Their hope is to minimize Mariano. The best stat to choose for that is the one YES showed, total saves. Some may have seen it as you suggested, gee isn’t it amazing so many other guys are doing better than Mariano. But, first, that stat does not show they’re doing better. I mentioned in my last letter how many other factors go into the closer’s performance. Drawing attention to this stat (which was done again briefly on Monday, September 4 in either your pre or post game show) is strictly ammunition for the mass media.

As I mentioned earlier, in his 10 pennant winning seasons (possibly 11), Rivera
has not come close to winning a Cy Young or MVP award (although he was 1999
World Series MVP and 2003 ALCS MVP).
  • Joel Sherman in the Sept. 1, 2006 NY Post, states, “Rivera deserves Cy Young and MVP but Will Not Win.” Last year, he was the clear statistical winner, #1 in the Bill James/Rob Neyer AL Cy Young predictor, but among award voters, he wasn’t even close. 6 of the 28 voters left him off their ballot entirely. Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal said, well, it was just another good year for him & he’s had so many good years, he’d “probably have to have 65 saves for anyone outside of New York” to notice. Ah, the total saves stat defense. (Mo saved or won 6 1-run games in September 2005, worked 3 days in a row twice in a 2 week period, 6 out of 8 days, allowing the team finally to tie with Boston, and become the technical winner of the AL pennant). Mike Lupica recently wrote that Rivera could be the “most important Yankee of all time.” In the Sept.1 Sherman column, he also says Mo should’ve won these awards in other years. He doesn’t delve into why he’s been rejected by voters, although he probably knows. Sherman is a present or past member of the HOF board, and knows what’s going on. The ‘elephant in the living room’ is long-standing institutionalized bias.
  • Those looking for an excuse not to vote for Rivera (this concept was presented in SI), could in some cases use a total saves stat. And, the YES Network of all places should be including his 34 post season saves (from 111+ post season IP) in any ‘career saves’ stat, which was not done or spoken of when he got his 400th regular season save. I don’t mean passing mentions by announcers, I mean produced video highlights of great moments.
Baseball writers, of course, should be removed from any voting on baseball awards, and a number of newspapers have already stopped their employees from doing so due to ethics concerns. Hopefully, more will join them very soon.

On August 10, Rivera and Ron Villone both made great contributions to the game, but little was said about their efforts on the post game, focusing mainly on Randy Johnson. The reply might be the oft-used, “well, everyone knows Rivera is great,” and change the subject.

Interesting torrent of media support this year to give as many as 3 post season awards to Boston’s new closer. He had maybe 8 weeks on the job when people starting handing these out. (A Washington Post columnist wrote about half way into the season that he could qualify for 3 awards). After 11 years of historic work, Rivera has never come close to winning a single one. Do you begin to see the bias here, Mr. Freiman, why I’m bothering with this? It’s not your job to run a personal campaign for a player, but that total saves stat and lack of ‘glory and majesty’ shots can be far reaching. Many could say a 6 out Rivera save is the same as someone else’s 1 out save. Aside from what the Yankee fan might appreciate seeing, awards voters will grab what suits their bias.

Saturday 9/9 was another example of the problem on the post game show, around 7:30 PM after the 3-2 win at Baltimore. I looked very closely, YES showed Farnsworth’s last out, but LESS than 1 second of a person clapping on the sidelines (Mo), who’d just put his head down in the clip you chose. I was again stunned. Why not give a few seconds of the guy? YES didn’t even allow the viewer to see who was clapping. This isn’t MTV. If the YES network doesn’t think it’s important to give him time, that’ll be fine with the opposition.

The YES studio staff no doubt work long hours in complex situations. But I see no evidence that Mariano gets more than cursory consideration, if that.
  • Mike Lupica and Joel Sherman aren’t alone in saying he’s unlike any human being we’ve ever seen or ever will see, but on daily YES network studio shows (or replays of classics), this feeling is clearly absent. It won’t be taken care of by a Yankeeography, or passing mentions by the announcers. Something like the dramatic portrayal you gave Johan Santana on Sunday is what’s needed.
Incidentally, the Yankee radio people, John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman, have seen every pitch Rivera has thrown (Suzyn may’ve missed a few while preparing her interviews in the 9th inning). They are exactly correct in their portrayals of Mariano, and include references to him at appropriate times.

Lastly, on Monday, August 21, on either the pre or post game show, Bob Lorenz stated Mike Timlin gave up a sac fly in the 8th inning (to Giambi) the night before. It was Papelbon who gave up the sac fly.

Susan Mullen
  • P.S. Those of us who are Yankee fans remember this about Johan Santana: in game 4 of the 2004 ALDS, he apparently took himself out of the game after 5 innings (Twins were leading 5-1). The game was finally won in 11 innings, 6-5 Yankees. Mariano Rivera was the winning pitcher.


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