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How the Yankees train their players to be media savvy. Even A-Rod.

Mar 23, 2011, 1:00 PM EDT

Jeter media

I’ve recently gone on about how teams are taking greater control of the media message by doing their own reporting via their websites and affiliated networks and by becoming increasingly restrictive with outside media.

Well, there’s another part of this too: intensive training of players and team personnel in the ways of media relations.

Today the Wall Street Journal takes a deep look at how the Yankees handle this. About how on Day One of Yankees spring training, the first thing that is done is putting everyone though a media 101 seminar:

Through a training video and in-guest speaking sessions, media-savvy players like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera give tips, beginning with the standard stuff: don’t lie, own up to your mistakes, recognize that you’re on the clock even when you take off the uniform.

Then they move to finer points: Don’t take a picture with a fan without looking at what’s written on their shirt; don’t address outside topics like politics; and never, ever, take a naked picture of yourself and send it to someone.

All wise things, of course. Especially the naked picture part.  And indeed, the stuff about not lying, owning up and making oneself available is both critical to keep players out of media controversies and to make the job of the reporters easier too.

But of course, it’s not all about convenience and courteousness for the media. It’s not mentioned in the article, but I would be utterly shocked if there wasn’t a healthy bit of information passed along in these seminars about how to deflect and dodge media inquiries without seeming like a jerk. Perfecting the non-answer or coaching them about how to take uncomfortable inquiries into more comfortable ground.  I mean, there’s a reason why so many interviews with Yankees players either peak with some little joke or some reference to Yankee tradition allowing only for victory and nothing else. Those are nice responses, but they also tend to be conversation enders. You can’t really go anywhere from there, and I’m guessing that’s by design.

I guess my point is that this media training, while something that is totally admirable and understandable from the club’s perspective, and in the best interests of the players, is also something that — intentionally or not — pushes us a little bit farther away from the players as people and their very human reactions to the game and that which surrounds it. Which, unless I’m wrong, is the whole reason reporters go into locker rooms to talk to guys after games. If not, we’d just ignore everything that happened after the 27th out and go home.

It’s also something that, in my view anyway, makes outside perspectives on what’s going on in the game a little more valuable and putatively inside perspectives a little less valuable.

  1. Lincoln93 - Mar 23, 2011 at 1:09 PM

    They need to get Crash in there: [i]You’re gonna have to learn your clichés. You’re gonna have to study them, you’re gonna have to know them. They’re your friends.[/i]

  2. yankeesfanlen - Mar 23, 2011 at 1:09 PM

    “I’d like to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee” circa 1950
    Same paraphrashed, 2011 Nick Swisher.

  3. phukyouk - Mar 23, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    ‘and never, ever, take a naked picture of yourself and send it to someone.”

    what if the pic is not a naked one but… say…. a picture of your junk which you then txted to a cheerleader. is that ok?

  4. proudlycanadian - Mar 23, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    I’ll take “Foot In The Mouth Disease” for $1,000 Alex.

  5. bklynbaseball - Mar 23, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    In this the era of the “gotcha!” soundbite, and the TJ Simers’ of the world, why does the professional non-statement surprise anyone??

  6. iftheshoefits2 - Mar 23, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    Ahh, Craig, being a lawyer didn’t steal your innocence completely, did it?

    I agree with you, that’s the theoretical purpose, and some media types (you, JoePoz, Gammons, etc) actually aspire to those kinds of ambitions.

    But the sheer overwhelming numbers of the douchey media types (I’m looking at you, T.J. Simers) who are out to get a quote or make a story out of nothing make it prohibitively expensive for players to interact this kind of way. Peter Gammons gets these kind of intimate interviews and answers, because the players respect him and trust he’ll be respectful, and players open up because of it.

    Players can’t win- they say nothing (like Jeter) and they’re boring- they actually give opinions, and they’re volatile. Best for them to say nothing and go on their merry way.

    How long until 1st pitch?

  7. yankeesgameday - Mar 23, 2011 at 2:22 PM

    I think the days of the beat writer are numbered.

    Once upon a time baseball writers were the single most important currency the league had to romanticize the game to a country that could only read about the action on the field in the next day’s newspaper.

    Those days lasted from the 1800s on through even the late 1990s. Even with weekly televised games or Johnny Bench doing “This Week in Baseball,” if you wanted to follow your team on a daily basis you went to your local newspaper. ESPN highlights, Baseball Tonight and internet based Fantasy Leagues gave us a taste of a daily dose of baseball, but nothing compares to what MLB was able to do when the internet truly exploded with broad bandwidth about six or seven years ago.

    Once the technology of streaming games directly onto your computer brought every single daily game right to the fan’s office desk what need did we have to search out the paper for the local summary of the game?

    Major League Baseball is more in control of bringing its games to the fans now than at any point in history and so they have no reason to coddle or encourage the myth makers and myth busters within the print media anymore. Training your players not to go off team and league message is the one of the smartest things they can do because the only thing left for the beat writer to do is trap you in a gotcha moment.

    In about ten years, everything will be done in house by the league on their own twitter/website/team/player blogs and MLB You Tube Channel. There won’t be the need to allow sports writers with their own agendas anywhere near the locker rooms because they will be creating and marketing their own legends while streaming the games directly into our corneas.

    Once the MLB Network on cable gets more carriage on local cable systems like Time Warner, Cablevision, Comcast etc and the channel number assigned to it is under 50, so you don’t search for it around 276 they will be able to keep all playoff games and the World Series on their own network, reaping all of the advertising dollars and if anyone like ESPN goes off message they will be able to restrict their access without worrying about repurcussions.

  8. brg8105 - Mar 23, 2011 at 2:37 PM

    dear Craig

    27 outs is exactly one half a game. Do you leave after the first half?
    I know it’s the mighty Yankees that you are writinbg about, but even they, when they play, must play a whole OTHER TEAM. Or do consider that only Yankee outs are real outs….

    Maybe you should take one of those media savvy classes so as not to pissoff baseball fans who dont have the loin-moisties for the Yanks by signalling inadvertantly that you do.

    • phukyouk - Mar 23, 2011 at 2:55 PM

      he forgot to sign this. i will be more than happy to do so

      Sincerely,

      Douchbag

      • brg8105 - Mar 23, 2011 at 3:14 PM

        LOL…

        yea what I said was dooshy….to be even dooshier…

        you spelled douchebag incorrectly

  9. macjacmccoy - Mar 24, 2011 at 1:32 AM

    I could care less about the personal lives. All I want to know in a interview is the players reaction to a move the club made, to the outcome of the game, there outlook on where the teams headed, what there trying to accomplish on the field in the outcoming days, sincere comments about injury or production problems, and things like that. I dont like when reporters get into there personal lives it makes the players cagey and less likely to answer the real questions we want to know about. Its none of our business who there dating etc.. We pay our cable bills and buy tickets to watch them play there sport they shouldnt be put in the position to have to answer anyones questions that dont relate to that. Yes they get paid alot of money to be in the public eye but they dont get paid to tell else what they ate for dinner. Excepting that money gives the public the right to be involved with there careers nothing else.

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