The Pinstriped Curtain And The Little Gatekeeper

Drunk with power and taking quite literally his wide-ranging parameters, the Yankees czar/zealot/dictator of a media director Jason Zillo refused access to writer Michael Sokolove as Sokolove wrote a piece for the New York Times Magazine about the natural, age-related decline of athletes with Derek Jeter at the center.

It’s a combination profile, statistical and historical analysis not of Jeter alone, but of athletes in general as they age.

What jumped out at me was the behavior of Zillo and the Napoleonic arrogance he shows in what apparently is perceived as all-encompassing power.

I was baffled when I read the following:

The prospect of this article did not sit well with the Yankees, or at least elements of its hierarchy. Jason Zillo, the team’s media director, would not grant me access to the Yankees’ clubhouse before games to do interviews. I have been a baseball beat writer, have written two baseball books and have routinely been granted clubhouse credentials for a quarter-century, as just about anyone connected to a reputable publication or broadcast outlet usually is. “We’re not interested in helping you, so why should I let you in?” Zillo said, before further explaining that he views his role as a “gatekeeper” against stories the Yankees would rather not see in print.

Hearkening back to Jane Heller‘s tongue-in-cheek book, Confessions of a She-Fan—which was a love-letter to the Yankees and was actually more about being a fan and how it affects one’s life—Zillo also refused Jane access to the club in any way; not even John Sterling was able to help her in her efforts to talk to the players for a book that was written in a comedic, fan-centric tone.

What is this?

Are the Yankees seriously trying to stifle the media like a paranoid carbon-copy of the Nixon Administration?

Jeter is the catalyst for unending debate; his game is being put into perspective as to whether it’s intangibles, performance, personality or all of the above that have created this mythic figure.

On one end of the spectrum, you have Michael Kay’s orgasmic verbal expulsions when Jeter grounds a single through the middle and the caller who told Mike Francesa that Jeter was going to do something “special” (whatever that means) before this season ends; on the other end are the media members like Rob Neyer who imply Jeter shouldn’t be playing at all, the fans who want to give his job to Eduardo Nunez or call him “Captain DP” among the more printable references in a family-friendly blog.

But this isn’t about Jeter; not about the wide-ranging reactions he receives as his skills diminish; it’s about Zillo and the Yankees (because they’re the entity Zillo represents) as he wallows in a self-created, all-encompassing power he believes he has and is in the process (a Brian Cashman word) of embarrassing the Yankees organization with his growing megalomania.

It’s despicable.

MLB should examine the “Zillo Policy” and step in to prevent these kinds of random refusals of access from happening again.

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  1. #1 by norm depalma on June 26, 2011 - 8:21 am

    As a Jays and occasional Mets fan, I was wondering what you think of the chances of a trade involving David Wright…say wright and pagan for lawrie, thames and aminor league pitcher or 2, or wright straight up for lawrie plus 2 minor league pitchers?

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