It’s no secret that being a Yankee is unlike being a member of any other major league team. With 12 beat writers—the Mets have eight, the Red Sox seven—the media crush is unrivaled and can eat players up. The unprepared can react badly and become villains—as happened with pitcher Randy Johnson when he first signed with New York and shoved away a cameraman seeking a picture…
…Still, it was not until 2007 that the Yankees did any serious media training. They were largely reactive, dealing with each crisis as it came up.
After one too many problems, Cashman said he had had enough. He sat down with media relations director Jason Zillo, and the two began work on a media training strategy…
…The media training has evolved from a short video to a multi-day effort that involves guest speakers, role playing, mock interviews and a printed media training guide. Pitchers and catchers undergo two full sessions, and catchers then have another specialized training session. All players with less than three years of major league service time sit for their own special training.
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.
Even though going through the minor leagues is in of itself media training in a way, when players make it to the majors they’ve still only had minor experience with the media compared to some of the beat writers out there who have literally been at the job since the 80’s. Heck, even some of the veteran players coming from small market teams have very little experience when it comes to dealing with the media.
This is a smart move by the Yankees because these players need to know how to deal with the hordes they face on a daily basis. Not just to limit unnecessary incidents, but it just makes everything easier for everybody, the players and the media, and it makes the presentation nicer for the fans.
Most importantly, this could seriously help the longterm quality of the team. Sometimes occasionally players have run-ins with teams and it just isn’t one incident and then over. When Johnson had his problems with the cameraman his first week it seemed to set the tone for his entire time in the Bronx. That can become a big distraction in the club house and not only could that potentially cause problems on the field, but it could create a bad perception of the team and make it harder for them to land quality free agents.
The only real drawback from media training that I can think of is that it separates the players from reality. Instead of getting an honest answer to questions we get more filtered cliches that make players seem robotic. In a time when we are in the golden age for watching and discussing baseball, players are becoming less grounded and more separated from the fans that pay good money to watch them play.
What do you think? Do you think that this is overall a good thing? Or does it make the players more guarded and less honest when answering questions?