The Sale of a Story and the Yankees DH

The White Sox went into the 2010 season with the intention of keeping the DH spot unclogged so manager Ozzie Guillen would have more flexibility.

With that flexibility, they wound up using Mark Kotsay as their DH in 49 games. In addition to Kotsay, they also used Andruw Jones in 14 games as the DH.

That’s not the kind of flexibility they were looking for when they decided not to reunite with Jim Thome, who wanted to return to the White Sox and signed with the Twins after the White Sox chose to go in another (wrong) direction.

The why is relatively unimportant, but the fact that it failed is one of the litany of reasons the Yankees have zero intention of entering the season with Jones and Jorge Vazquez as their primary DHs any more than they intended to go into the season with A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes or Ivan Nova as their number 2 starter.

What you’re seeing now as the “idea” is floated in the media is the give and take that goes on between clubs and media to control the message and do what amounts to market testing to see how a concept will be received.

In essence, they’re putting out the question of, “can we get away with this?”

The Vazquez/Jones platoon combination is not being well received because it won’t work.

Clubs and media have a working relationship that creates this dynamic. In collaboration with the editors of websites and newspapers, there’s a separation between nuggets, actual news, non-stories and editorial mandates.

An example of a nugget is the idea of a strange decision like Vazquez and Jones starting the season DHing for the Yankees. Practically, Jones is a player from whom a club will get production for 50-70 games as a defensive replacement, giving a rest to their everyday outfielders and hitting the occasional home run. Vazquez is a journeyman minor leaguer who, for some reason, has captured the fancy of those who apparently have never seen him play, don’t know how to interpret stats or are enamored of his “story”.

In today’s game, if a player is productive at any level he’ll find a place to play.

Vazquez hasn’t found a place to play other than Mexico and the minor leagues. The reason for this is he strikes out a ridiculous amount of the time, doesn’t walk and has no position.

But we see people mentioning him as an “option” at DH.

For the Oakland Athletics he’s an “option” at DH.

For the Yankees, he’s a name they’re using as a litmus test to see how far they can push their fans with the similar type of nonsensical propaganda that played up Brian Bruney and other Yankees “finds” that eventually revealed themselves as what they were as they disappeared from the landscape.

If a player bounces around or never gets a chance in the big leagues despite some aspect that would indicate he should receive an opportunity, most of the time there’s a reason that we haven’t been informed of.

Actual news stories such as the Yu Darvish posting fee are relatively straightforward and easy to write and understand. It is what it is. He’s a star player from Japan who wants to come to North America. He has an interesting heritage and personality. He’s a wonderful talent.

Easy.

Non-stories are the things you see (and I’ve done this myself) when a posting is needed but there’s nothing to write about. I happen to be better and finding things to write about and making them interesting than others, but much of that is contingent on what would garner some attention to baseball in the dead of winter.

Editorial mandates play a part too.

Do you think Tim Kurkjian wanted to write an ESPN piece about Tim Tebow as a baseball player?

Of course not. But ESPN does careful study in what the visitors to their site and stations are looking for and serves their desires by presenting content about Tebow. It’s got nothing to do with a tacit approval of Tebow’s Christianity. It has to do with his popularity. People want to read about him, so ESPN tells their people to write about him.

Simple.

If you think the Yankees—the Yankees—are going into the 2012 season with Andruw Jones or Jorge Vazquez as their DH, forget it. They’d reunite with Hideki Matsui or Johnny Damon before doing that not only because those players would be willing to take a short-term contract and have proven that they can handle New York and the Yankee nuthouse, but also because they know Jones/Vazquez wouldn’t work much better than Kotsay and it’s salable to the fans.

It’s nothing more than that.

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