Link to Radio Appearance On Breakin’ the Norm

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My recent appearance with Les Norman on Breakin’ the Norm is now available to listen to via podcast on Les’s site here.

Miraculously (or not) I wound up being right about Mike Napoli winding up with the Red Sox. We discussed other goings on in Boston, the Blue Jays trade with the Marlins for Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, et al., the Marlins mess, the Mets, Zack Greinke, the Angels, free agents, trades and much more. Click on the link and check it out.

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Being Bobby Valentine

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As I’m sure you’re aware, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine had a newsworthy interview on The Big Show with Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley on radio station WEEI. You can listen to it here.

This concisely sums up Valentine’s tenure as Red Sox manager. Valentine came on the line and asked whom he was talking to. The reply—I believe from Glenn—came in a derisive tone referencing Valentine’s weekly appearance on ESPN New York with Michael Kay as if the very idea of appearing on a New York based radio show with an unabashed Yankee-lover like Kay was a transgression in and of itself and an insult to the people of Boston.

Valentine was asked if he’d checked out on the season and Valentine replied by saying that if he was in the room, he’d punch Glenn in the mouth. Then he laughed loudly and somewhat ludicrously. It was over-the-top. He was kidding with an implied, “Wanna see how serious I am? I’ll punch you!” It wasn’t funny, but that was the intent. He wasn’t going to punch anyone.

At the mentioning of Valentine showing up late for a game against the Athletics in Oakland, Valentine got truly and legitimately angry—understandably. He wasn’t late. He got to the park at around 4 PM. The game was due to start at 7:05 PM. The reason he was late? His 29-year-old son hadn’t seen him manage all season long and was coming in to the Bay Area for a visit. The flight was late due to the fog in San Francisco and Valentine got stuck in traffic. That’s why he was at the park “late” when he really wasn’t late. But the intimation was that Valentine showed up late because he doesn’t care; because he wants out as Red Sox manager. Valentine then demanded to know who said that he was late. The hosts looked it up and found that Nick Cafardo and Sean McAdam, among other unnamed people, had reported it. Repeatedly Valentine referenced Rays’ manager Joe Maddon’s preferred time of arrival as 4:00 for every night game. Valentine said he’d talk to Cafardo when he saw him. I doubt he’s going to punch him in the mouth.

When asked about his meeting with Red Sox owner John Henry and GM Ben Cherington when both flew to Seattle to see Valentine (stoking speculation that the manager was about to be fired), Valentine tried to make a joke out of it saying that there was no brown sugar for his oatmeal and Henry’s ham was overcooked. It was cringeworthy in a way similar to Valentine’s famous “stoned” dance while he was managing the Mets and imitated a hitter trying to bat while high. But he was kidding. Was there a bit of sniping under the joke? Possibly. But this is Valentine we’re talking about. Everything he says drips with condescension. Some of it is unintentional. (I think.)

When asked a question from a fan as to whether he regretted coming back. He said no, but admitted that this season has been miserable. What was he supposed to say? That he’s had a ball with the team underperforming, the players trying to get him fired, the press baiting him, and having his reputation destroyed in large part because of a mess that was present and unfixable when he arrived?

At least he was honest. The season has been miserable. Had he said anything different, he’d have sounded like a delusional fool.

After that, he brought up the accusation of having been late again. That really bothered him.

Was this as big a deal as it’s being made out to be? No. This is a microcosm of what’s gone wrong with Valentine and the Red Sox from day 1. He wasn’t the choice of the GM; he was taking over a dreadful situation that no manager would’ve been able to navigate successfully; the media was waiting for him to trip up and trying to trip him up; it took him time to get back into the swing of big league managing after not having done it for 10 years and not having been in the American League for 20; and he’s Bobby Valentine. Being Bobby Valentine invites madness in and of itself.

As a polarizing figure, the only way for Valentine to succeed in 2012 was if the Red Sox were 100% healthy; if the players who were responsible for the 2011 collapse took responsibility for what went wrong; and if they got off to a good start to wash away the bad taste permeating the organization inside and out since last season.

None of that happened. It got worse and worse and it’s come to this. Valentine didn’t threaten anyone, nor was the interview something to treat as a headline story. It was awkward. That’s all.

But that doesn’t really matter, does it? At first when Valentine took over the Red Sox, they were a disaster. Now they’re still a disaster, but it’s a lawless land where the story isn’t the club, but the endless stream of controversies. Until the manager is gone, it’s not going to stop. The managerial death watch is on and there won’t be a reprieve. He’s not innocent, but he’s not exactly guilty either.

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Who Cares What Michael Kay Says?

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Getting angry at Michael Kay for what he says is like screaming at your cat if he throws up on the floor. He’ll look at you, uncomprehendingly, then go about his business without understanding why you’re yelling. Nor will he care. Then when he feels like throwing up again, he’ll do so, probably in the exact same spot he threw up in the last time.

Kay is the obnoxious Yankee fan at whom even his fellow Yankees’ fans cringe, hoping that at some point, he’ll shut up or go home so they can enjoy the game. The major difference is that he happens to be the Yankees’ play-by-play announcer on the YES Network and has a mid-afternoon radio show on ESPN in New York. Now there’s an uproar on Twitter because Kay said (I’m paraphrasing) that he hopes the Mets lose every game for the rest of the season. He also said that he stands by his statement because the Mets fans weren’t interested in having a civil discourse, so he “handled” it in his own way.

Handled it?

Does he have a special phone with access to the Baseball Gods with Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Babe Ruth, Alexander Cartwright and Christy Mathewson so he can make his petulant, “I know you are but what am I?” whims come to fruition?

Who cares what Michael Kay says about anything? Does his tantrum have one ounce of an effect on the rest of the Mets’ season? No. So why reply to it?

The easy temptation here is to cite the numerous examples of why Kay’s not someone who should be paid attention to in regards to a baseball-related matter, but why? It’s like arguing with a monkey. The end result is to exhaust yourself with nothing resolved or accomplished. There are calls for him to be fired from ESPN Radio and accusations of unprofessionalism, but the scuttlebutt is that Kay is probably on his way out at ESPN by the new year and he’s never exhibited any form of objective professionalism to begin with, so why enable his childish ranting by engaging him?

He doesn’t like social media and the way fans react to him? He has a choice: block them, ignore them, or fight with them. This silliness of wishing the Mets to lose every game for the rest of the season is something out of the third grade, which is convenient because that’s essentially the venue where Kay would be on an even playing field in a baseball argument. And he’d lose.

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Kay’s and ESPN’s Radio Ratings Conundrum

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Michael Kay’s shtick is deigned for a Yankees’ loving audience. It works on the YES Network because that’s what the YES Network wants, but it isn’t going to work on a radio show.

Therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Kay’s poor ratings are now attracting notice since ESPN added an FM signal by taking over 98.7 in New York.

You can read the reports of Kay’s low ratings here on BobsBlitz.com.

Prior to the ESPN NY shift to FM, there were viable excuses for Kay not to have the ratings of Mike Francesa on WFAN. The station was hard to find if you weren’t looking for it; the signal for 1050 AM was weak.

Now that he’s on FM and ESPN is trying desperately to establish a foothold in the New York radio market, it comes down to the bottom line and the bottom line for Kay is he has to get ratings for the station. If he doesn’t do that, he’s going to be replaced. What makes the situation all the more untenable for Kay is the vulnerability of Francesa as a solo act. ESPN has to be asking itself where they’d be if they had a host who could attract those disenfranchised Francesa listeners who don’t want to hear him talk about horseracing or golf.

Kay worships the Yankees and says utterly idiotic things in fulfilling the mandate of the YES Network of selling the club above all notions of objectivity. That extended to his ESPN show and unless you’re a masochistic Mets’ fan or a sycophantic Yankees’ fan seeking validation, it’s not something to willingly listen to.

If Kay claims his persona on the YES broadcasts is an act taken to its logical extreme, that isn’t going to assuage the irritation of the fans who don’t want to hear his voice interjecting itself into their enjoyment with a pre-prepared, poorly written and narcissistic narration of such moments as Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit or Mariano Rivera’s record-breaking save; of omnipotent declarations that the 2010 ALCS was “over” after the Rangers blew game 1; of his statements that he “protected” Joe Torre while he was managing the team as if that was part of his job.

You can’t go from being a Yankees’ shill to an objective analyst.

Yankees’ fans don’t want to hear him, so what chance does he have attracting an audience for a radio show when fans have a choice they don’t have during the games on YES?

His ratings are weak because of him, not because of the signal and not because of other issues. I don’t see any possible way for him to stem the tide that will end in him being replaced with someone more marketable to a wider-ranging New York audience.

The ratings in the time slot wouldn’t be worse if ESPN NY had a syndicated national show that was just as likely to talk about the BCS and Alabama’s, Michigan’s or LSU’s chances at a National Championship than they are now with Kay talking about the Yankees.

That’s a clearer signal than you’d get on AM, FM or if you were being screamed at in your own home.

It says in the above-linked piece that he has the football season to get it right, but I don’t think he has that long. When the baseball season is over, so might be his show.

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