Chicago Tribune: Profile of White Sox marketing chief Brooks Boyer; Challenging environment coming off rough ’13

This isn’t exactly sports media, but I wanted to share my Chicago Tribune profile of Brooks Boyer, the head of marketing for the White Sox.

You also can access the story via my Twitter feed at Sherman_Report.

Actually, Boyer is heavily involved with sports media with the White Sox TV and radio deals. With the Sox coming off their worst season in 43, the environment is challenging.

From the story:

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Brooks Boyer’s business is baseball, but he goes back to his basketball days to describe his approach to the job.

The Chicago White Sox vice president and chief marketing officer preaches “wanting the ball in the fourth quarter.” It stems from the way he played the game as an all-state high school shooting guard from Concord, Mich., and as a two-year captain at Notre Dame.

Boyer reflects on a disappointing loss against his high school’s big rival to start his junior year. He was horrible, he said, scoring one point while going 0-for-14 from the floor.

“I couldn’t hit the ocean,” Boyer said.

Boyer vowed to his teammates that things would be different when the two teams played again. Sure enough, with his team trailing by one point with 15 seconds left, he canned a 3-point shot to pull out the victory.

“If I got the ball, there was no chance anyone else was going to take that shot,” Boyer said.

Boyer’s game is different now, but his philosophy is the same.

“Wanting the ball in the fourth quarter is about how are you going to (make an) impact, force yourself on the outcome of a game or a situation?” Boyer said. “Nobody wants to be on the bench in the fourth quarter. You want the ball. I’d rather lose with me taking responsibility for shooting the ball.”

Now, it seems as if Boyer, 42, is going into the fourth quarter with a 20-point deficit in his situation with the White Sox.

The flush of winning the World Series in 2005, spiking attendance to an all-time high of 2,957,414 in 2006, quickly evaporated with the Sox making only one postseason appearance since then. It bottomed out last year with the Sox losing 99 games, their worst showing since 1970. Fans responded by staying away from U.S. Cellular Field, with attendance plummeting to 1,768,413, the lowest since 2002.

While the Sox received some raves for adding young players during the offseason, fan apathy likely will be entrenched until positive results are seen on the field. Meanwhile, Boyer continues to hear constant comparisons with what occurs on the North Side, where the Chicago Cubs still draw a crowd to beloved Wrigley Field despite a string of terrible teams.

Yet, Boyer still wants the ball.

“I can’t control what happens between the lines,” Boyer said. “I can control the experience fans have when they come to the ballpark. Our job is to make winning and losing as moot an issue as possible.”

 

15 years later, Jeff Pearlman, John Rocker still mixing it up over SI story

Jeff Pearlman did a piece for Bleacher Report recalling the 15-year anniversary of his famous Sports Illustrated story on John Rocker.

You remember, the story where the Atlanta reliever showed he was off his rocker, so to speak.

He writes:

We are eternally attached.

John Loy Rocker will always be a part of my life. And, I suspect, vice versa.

Later Pearlman writes:

Truth be told, upon returning to New York I struggled mightily with what, exactly, I should do with the interview. The words were all right there, on multiple tape recordings that covered our full time together. He was a bigoted, xenophobic caveman, and I felt no need to protect a person with such beliefs.

Rocker has maintained, on multiple occasions, that the quotes were pieced together and/or taken out of context. This is 100-percent untrue. When Rocker first made the case, I said I would play the tape for him. He never responded.

And yet…he was also young. And dumb. And naive.

Maybe he’d been showing off for a reporter. Maybe this was his way of playing the role of John Rocker, WWE superstar. Maybe I should have cut him a break. Hell, there was a story already written—John Rocker: Misunderstood Baseball Star.

Pearlman writes about the considerable fallout and the effect it had on him. He even is feels guilt about what happened to Rocker because of the story.

This is where the guilt kicks in.

When, on June 27, 2003, Rocker was released by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, multiple reasons were cited for his demise.

Lost control.

Declining fastball.

Arm troubles.

Sports Illustrated article.

Even though I told myself—repeatedly—that his downfall had nothing to do with my piece, well, I knew it was a lie. Before the Dec. 27, 1999 issue of Sports Illustrated, Rocker was one of baseball’s elite relief pitchers. After the Dec. 27, 1999 issue of Sports Illustrated, Rocker was Doug Sisk. This wasn’t the reason I’d become a journalist—to ruin people’s dreams.

All in all, it is an honest account. Probably much better than Rocker deserved.

Pearlman’s story, though, didn’t go unnoticed by Rocker. He fired back via Twitter yesterday.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

I trust this will be the last time we hear from John Rocker–at least until the 30th anniversary of the story.

 

‘Priceless’: Hall of fame writer Ross Newhan and MLB son share unique baseball bond

Want to share this video produced by The Post Game at Yahoo! Sports.

Ross Newhan, the 2000 Spink Award winner for his work at the Los Angeles Times, had the good fortune to see his life in baseball extend beyond the press box. In a compelling and emotional interview, he talks about his son David’s career in the big leagues.

Here is an excerpt from a Father Day’s column in 2004 in which Newhan wrote about David’s Major League career for the first time.

In his debut game at San Diego, appearing as a pinch runner, David stole second, turned a fine double play and scored the winning run.

His mother and sister were up cheering each of his contributions, but I sat amid the crowd at Qualcomm Stadium, not sure of how I should respond but beaming internally nonetheless, thinking of my father and knowing the baseball dots extend to the old Wrigley Field in Los Angeles and all those times my dad and I sat in the last row of the top deck watching the Angels of the Pacific Coast League – most often doubleheaders that had me begging to go by mid-game of the nightcap while my dad would say, “Patience, only a few more innings.”

The seeds were planted then, as they were probably planted for a young David on those wonderful March afternoons when I was covering the latter-day Angels in Palm Springs and he had the opportunity to serve as a bat boy for exhibition games and soak up the environment while sweeping the clubhouse.

I suspect it was then that David began to realize the best way to communicate with Dad was through baseball.

 

Chicago news: WBBM leading candidate to land Cubs games on radio

My latest Chicago Tribune column is on how a WGN tradition dating back to 1925 could be ending for Cubs radio.

You also can access the entire column via my Twitter feed at @Sherman_Report.

Here is an excerpt from the column.

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WBBM-AM 780 has emerged as the leading candidate to become the new radio home of the Cubs.

The CBS-owned outlet is using all of its local stations in a synergistic bid to land the rights to the Cubs, beginning with the 2015 season, according to team and industry sources. If the team goes with WBBM, it would end its long relationship with WGN-AM 720, which dates back to 1925.

The Cubs wouldn’t comment on the situation. However a team source said, “We believe there is a very good market for Cubs rights.”

It was WGN’s decision to put the Cubs’ rights on the market after it exercised an option to reopen its contract with the team last fall. Broadcast sources say WGN is losing significant money on the Cubs broadcasts, with listeners and advertisers tuning out a ballclub that has lost 197 games in the last two years. The station still will air Cubs games in 2014.

Rod Zimmerman, senior vice president and market manager of CBS Radio Chicago, and WGN President Jimmy de Castro both were out of town and unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Reportedly, the Cubs have one of most lucrative radio deals in baseball, valued at an estimated $10 million per year. Despite the rough times, there is an expectation the Cubs still will be able to maintain that revenue level, and perhaps even improve it.

“They are looking for someone to write a big check and someone will,” a local radio insider said.

CBS could be in the best position to add to its sports inventory. The station already airs Bears games on its AM outlet along with a simulcast on its FM station, WCFS-FM 105.9. CBS also has White Sox games on its sports talk outlet, WSCR-AM 670.

Brandon Phillips isn’t talking to media; Cincy reporters noted his stats declined

It appears as if Brandon Phillips is in a bit of a snit over the way he has been treated by the media in Cincinnati.

It seems as if the reporters had the audacity to report that Phillips had a poor second half for the Reds last year, and that his stats have been declining.

John Fay at Cincinnati.com contends Phillips has engaged in some “revisionist history.” He writes:

“I don’t have nothing to say to those cats,” Phillips said to Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com about the Cincinnati media. “They know what the deal is. They just talk about how I was falling off and declining. How the (expletive) am I declining? I had 100 … ribbies (RBI) last year. And I did that with one … hand. And I won a Gold Glove? So how the (expletive) am I declining? Come on, man.”

Phillips isn’t talking to me, C. Trent Rosecrans, Mark Sheldon and Hal McCoy because he says we wrote that he struggled in the second half without mentioning he was playing hurt.

Phillips can talk or not talk. That doesn’t matter to me. There will be 24 players on the roster who will talk. But the notion that we didn’t write about his injury is blatantly false.

It was mentioned over and over again.

Later, Fay writes:

We checked the archives. Phillips’ struggles were never mentioned on Cincinnati.com without a reference to the fact that he was hit on the left wrist on June 1 in Pittsburgh by Tony Watson. I’m sure that’s true with the other local media outlets as well.

Phillips was hitting .296 with a .347 on-base percentage and a .481 slugging percentage when he was hit by the pitch. He hit .241/.288/.349 after returning.

It’s to Phillips’ credit that he played through the pain.

But it’s also fair to mention (as long as you put in the caveat that he played hurt) that his offensive numbers have declined. Phillips is an anti-sabermetrics guy, so I won’t go all advanced stat to make my point. But his average has gone from .300 to .281 to .261 over the last three years. His doubles have gone from 38 to 30 to 24. He stole five bases in eight attempts last year. In 2012, he stole 15 in 17 tries.

Yep, those dang numbers.

Fay concludes:

Phillips seems to thrive on anything negative, or that he perceives as negative, that’s written or said about him. It seems to motivate him. He’s crushed St. Louis pitching since he became Enemy No. 1 in Cardinal territory.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have a big year this year. Whether he’ll want to talk about it or not is hard to say.

So in essence Phillips now has called more attention to his stats decline by not talking. Good move, Brandon.

 

Smoltz-Vasgersian to team up for Fox Sports baseball; likely No. 2 team

The release doesn’t say John Smoltz and Matt Vasgersian will be the new No. 2 team for Fox on baseball, but Smoltz’s presence would suggest that’s the case.

Many people felt Fox should have gone with the former Braves pitcher for the No. 1 team with Joe Buck. Instead, the network tabbed Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci.

Smoltz has shined as an analyst for MLB Network and TBS. He and Vasgersian will make a good team.

The official rundown from Fox Sports:

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FOX Sports added to its already deep MLB lineup, today announcing that former Cy Young Award winner John Smoltz and nationally renowned broadcaster Matt Vasgersian team up to call MLB games on the FOX Broadcast Network and FOX Sports 1. The announcement was made by John Entz, Executive Vice President, Production & Executive Producer, FOX Sports. Smoltz and Vasgersian join the game roster that already includes Joe Buck, Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci, reporters Erin Andrews and Ken Rosenthal, and play-by-play announcers Kenny Albert and Thom Brennaman.

“We are thrilled to add Matt and John to our arsenal of MLB on FOX broadcasters,” Entz said. “Both are very well respected within the game, and each has a style that resonates with viewers.”

A familiar face to sports fans, Vasgersian has called MLB and NFL on FOX telecasts and hosted FOX Sports’ national pregame show from the MLB Network studios in Secaucus, N.J. He continues to work in the booth and studio for MLB Network, and along with recently announced MLB on FOX lead game analyst Harold Reynolds, has been part of the multi-Emmy Award winning program MLB Tonight. Vasgersian has also worked on NBC Sports’ Olympics broadcast team, most recently having called ski jumping at the Sochi Games, a role he also held in Vancouver (2010) and Torino (2006). Before joining FOX Sports and MLB Network, Vasgersian served as the television play-by-play voice of the San Diego Padres and Milwaukee Brewers.

Smoltz pitched more than two decades in the Major Leagues, primarily with the Atlanta Braves, earning eight All-Star selections and winning the Cy Young Award in 1996. After undergoing Tommy John surgery, Smoltz made the switch from starter to reliever, spending four seasons in the bullpen before resuming his starting role. Smoltz is the only player in MLB history with more than 200 career wins and 150 career saves, and is one of just two players to have recorded a 20-win season and a 50-save season. Smoltz also continues to work as a game and studio analyst for MLB Network and previously spent time in the booth for TBS during the network’s regular and postseason games. Smoltz made his television broadcasting debut in August 2008, and served as an analyst for 45 games during the 2010 season on Peachtree TV.

Chris Russo to get new daily show on MLB Network

Chris Russo will be coming to your television five days a week courtesy of MLB Network.

Here is the official rundown:

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This spring MLB Network will launch a brand new weekday studio program as Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo, one of the most accomplished sports radio voices in the country, hosts his first TV-based baseball talk show, High Heat with Christopher Russo. Starting on Opening Day, March 31 at 12:00 p.m. ET, Russo will bring his passionate opinions and energetic delivery to MLB Network for a one-hour live program every weekday with discussion on all 30 MLB clubs and interviews with players and club personnel.

Each show will begin with “The Brushback,” Russo’s opening monologue on the day’s biggest headlines, followed by “Coast to Coast,” a fast-paced look at the top news around the league with a roster of on-air contributors including MLB Network analysts Al Leiter, Dan Plesac, Harold Reynolds and Bill Ripken, insider Tom Verducci, and national and local beat writers and broadcasters. High Heat will also highlight the voices of the game with “Curtain Calls,” where Russo will give his take on the most talked about game calls from the previous day, while viewers will have the chance to give Russo their feedback in a voicemail segment called “Man Bites Dog” to close out every show.

After Opening Day, High Heat will lead off MLB Network’s live studio programming schedule at 1:00 p.m. ET unless a game telecast is scheduled at that time, in which case it will air live at 12:00 p.m. ET. High Heat will be produced by MLB Network and simulcast on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM.

Russo joins MLB Network’s programming lineup in addition to his roles hosting “Mad Dog Unleashed,” his all-sports radio show, weekdays on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio, and serving as SiriusXM’s Baseball Ambassador on MLB Network Radio. Russo joined SiriusXM in 2008 after nearly 20 years in New York hosting the popular Mike and the Mad Dog show. Russo can be followed on Twitter via @MadDogUnleashed.

Why Fox went with three in the booth for its A baseball team

Ultimately, Fox decided it would take two men, Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci, to replace Tim McCarver with its A baseball team.

Why the threesome with Joe Buck navigating extra traffic? The principles explained yesterday in a teleconference.

From Richard Deitsch at SI.com:

Fox Sports management said it has known that Buck, Reynolds and Verducci would be its lead MLB team for a couple of months after the three had a practice broadcast together in St. Louis late last year. Rehearsal games often do not go well in sports broadcasting, but management said it was particularly impressed by the chemistry between the three men. Said Shanks: “The thing you look for in television is, do the guys like each other? Do they respect each other? Do they work hard to make the guy next to them look good? That’s what we found. It was surprising right off the bat that it was there, so we have high hopes.”

Network executives said they did not enter the search with a preconceived notion about using a two-person or three-person booth. John Entz, the executive producer for Fox Sports, said that he was impressed by the hundreds of hours Verducci and Reynolds worked together in the studio at MLB Network.

“It would be a heavy decision in any case but when you have someone taking the mantle from Tim McCarver, I think we all felt an extra layer of pressure,” Entz said. “We had several meetings on it and it was the topic of conversation over dinner, hallway conversations. This was not a simple one and done meeting where we decided it.”

Buck said he was nervous during the practice broadcasts because he had developed such an innate feel with McCarver over 18 years together. But he came away feeling very positive.

“I can tell you literally, within five minutes, this was going to be the combination if my opinion had anything to do with it,” Buck said. “This felt very easy, and three-man booths are not easy. But I think the three-man booth can work when the two guys come at it from different perspectives and they can debate something or they look at different parts of the game or different parts of a pitching sequence or whatever it might be. I told anyone I knew: We found it and this is going to be really, really special.”

Special? Obviously, that remains to be seen.

As I wrote previously, the sportswriter in me is hoping the Tom Verducci component works. If it did, it might open the door for more sportswriters to sit in the analyst’s chair for games in all sports.