Among the legion of loyalists sweating out Aaron Judge’s decision on what uniform he will wear in 2023 and beyond are executives of the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network. If No. 99 takes his skills elsewhere it will be impossible for Bombers’ brass to replace the lost star power.
As long as he is in the lineup, Judge is gold, a ratings magnet. The viewership numbers he generated on YES during his home run chase were sometimes better than the ones recorded by national baseball telecasts. In the future, when fans will have to pay yet another streaming service a subscriber fee to access Yankees’ games, having Judge in pinstripes would be a huge asset when selling the product.
With Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner keeping their strategy for pursuing Judge mostly on the down-low, it’s doubtful YES suits have previewed CashBrenner’s blueprint — or process. And that includes alternate plans should Judge decide to bolt the Bronx. Nonetheless, until Judge makes his decision, YES’ Bombers business for 2023 is on hold. The Yankees TV value is worth a lot more with Judge in the Bronx. He changes assorted financial equations.
Without Judge in the lineup chasing HR history during the second half of the past season, when the Yankees were 35-35, YES would not have attracted enough eyeballs to average 368,000 viewers for the entire season, the best audience average for Yankees baseball on YES since 2011. So, if Judge is ultimately wearing Giants’ black and orange, the suits running YES will let off steam while praying a Plan “B” actually exists.
YES will cover the Judge story through its Hot Stove shows. And judging by the way the studio crew covered the Yankees postseason flop, they won’t be pulling their punches. A member of YES’ playoff studio, Yankees TV voice Michael Kay, also has his ESPN-98.7 radio platform to offer opinions on Judge’s free agent fandango.
After all the negative postseason analysis, could there be a residue of tension between the Bombers and YES, which Yankees Global Enterprises owns 26% of? We believe there is. During the postseason, Kay, Jack Curry, John Flaherty, David Cone, Jeff Nelson and Paul O’Neill were highly critical of Aaron Boone’s situational managing in both the Cleveland (ALDS) and Houston (ALCS) matchups.
Boone, who came to the manager’s gig from ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” booth, gets paid for his weekly in-season appearances on Kay’s radio show. Besides the three-year contract extension, he signed after the 2021 season, Boone also has a services-contract with YES. Boone’s tone of voice on the radio indicated his frustration with Kay’s analysis.
Yet, on YES, the other analysts, especially Flaherty and Curry, were as pointed in their critiques of some of Boone’s moves. Maybe Boone believes Kay’s criticisms were agenda driven, designed to bring more attention to his ESPN-98.7 radio show and juice the ratings. Currently, Kay’s radio show, featuring Don La Greca and Pete Rosenberg, is fighting an uphill battle in the ratings department with WFAN.
Yet Kay’s critiques, mostly directed at Boone, were not all that different from other Gasbags in the choir. Like before Astros-Yankees ALCS Game 4 at when Yankees mental skills coach Chad Bohling assembled a video of the Red Sox historic 2004 ALCS comeback from a 3-0 deficit to the Yankees. The mission was to motivate the current club before they walked the plank.
On his radio show, Kay said: “How can you be that tone deaf? Talk about bad optics. Are you out of your mind? Here’s the amazing thing, they told the media (about the video). Aaron Boone TOLD the media.”
Has Boone’s frustration over comments like this subsided? Well, for those expecting to see Boone at the upcoming shindig celebrating the Kay show’s 20th anniversary, don’t hold your breath.
SATURDAY WAKE-UP CALL
In case anyone forgot that coaching in the NFL is akin to being a brain surgeon, they got a wake-up call from all the blowback Colts owner Jim Irsay received for hiring ESPN analyst Jeff Saturday to replace Frank Reich as Indy coach.
With their reliance on jargon and technical breakdowns, NFL TV analysts make the game of football seem more complicated than it really is. The mechanical analysis is just part of the NFL mystique. Considering how difficult they make their analysis seem, you would think they might applaud Irsay for putting one of the genius/TV analysts, Saturday, on the sidelines.
Maybe they should look at their own profession: If CBS could hire Tony Romo, with no TV experience, for its No. 1 NFL analyst gig (and pay him more than most NFL coaches earn) what’s wrong with Irsay taking a head-coaching flyer on Jeff Saturday?
MONDAY NIGHT FLOP
When they look at the rest of ESPN’s Monday Night Football schedule Joe Buck and Troy Aikman might be longing for their days in Fox’s NFL booth. At least there they could count on working a marquee matchup each week.
Now, Buck/Aikman are staring down the barrel of a Week 10 Washington vs. Philly “MNF” matchup, followed by San Francisco vs. Arizona, followed by Pittsburgh vs. Indy. And it doesn’t get much better the rest of the season.
Still, Buck and Aikman can take solace in the fact they are being paid well to call this dreck. ESPN is paying Buck $15 million per year, while Aikman earns $18 million. And next season flexible scheduling comes to “MNF.” This will give the NFL’s scheduling Gnomes the ability to assign more meaningful games to “MNF” down the stretch.
AROUND THE DIAL
An irate Brandon Tierney said the Brian Cashman/Aaron Boone recent press conferences didn’t have “any juice.” Was the GM and manager there to amuse Tierney? Did he want them to tango? Arm wrestle, perhaps?… On “First Take,” Christopher (Mad Dog) Russo is very consistent when it comes to getting under Domonique Foxworth’s skin. On previous occasions, Foxworth used to take out the heavy artillery on Dog but now (as a Sports Pope used to say) Foxworth is using a “peashooter.” … Considering they are going down the toilet, it’s going to be rough getting through HBO’s in-season “Hard Knocks” with the Arizona Cardinals. Getting a tour of Kliff Kingsbury’s home can’t be used — again — to kill time. And now, veteran safety Budda Baker, who starred in the first episode, is out with an ankle injury. Something tells us the crew at NFL Films will find a way to have him appear in episode two. … On his radio show, Norman Julius Esiason called Jim Irsay’s decision to hire Jeff Saturday: “Disrespectful to all other coaches out there.” NJE is just mad because Irsay fired his pal Frank Reich. … RIP Fred Hickman, 66, the mellow-mouthed sports anchor who died last week. Hickman was the first voice of YES. Hickman really made his mark working on the same team with the late great Nick Charles at CNN Sports. Hickman was solid, a rock. Charles was edgy and all-knowing. They projected different types of charisma. They were a must watch.
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DUDE OF THE WEEK: DUSTY BAKER
For winning his first World Series championship as a manager. The engaging baseball lifer, 73, came to Houston in 2020, in the wake of the cheating scandal, to navigate the Astros through troubled waters. Baker came up big. He led Houston to the ALCS in 2020, and two straight World Series appearances — losing to Atlanta in 2021 and beating Philly in the recent Fall Classic. This cat knows how to manage.
DWEEB OF THE WEEK: FIFA
The clown-car organizing body of soccer still doesn’t get it. Now it’s asking all 32 nations heading to Qatar for the World Cup to cool it when it comes to speaking out on alleged human rights abuses. The “request” came in the form of a letter asking the teams to just concentrate on the game itself.
What Derrick Rose said: “We’re trying to figure ourselves out.”
What Derrick Rose meant to say: “I’m not playing enough to figure myself out.”