Both the Mets and Yankees have witnessed an exponential growth in their fan base over the years. But it’s the evolution of those “fans” today that’s intriguing…
My first recollection as a fan of baseball is sneaking out of English class as a seventh-grader, so I could pull my transistor radio from my pocket to get the latest “static infested” score that would tell me if the Yankees were holding off Warren Spahn and the Milwaukee Braves in the 1958 World Series. Yes, back then the World Series was played exclusively in daylight.
Whereupon, I would draw the ire of our teacher, Miss LeMoine, by disrupting the class to report “the news” to my friends in class. I didn’t care – this was the World Series!
Every Wednesday, I waited patiently for the mail to arrive with the weekly edition of The Sporting News, which included roundups of every team and box scores of games played the previous week. But in the offseason, these reports became smaller and smaller, composing nowhere near the appetite of baseball fans for news.
Fans of the Mets and Yankees will recall the existence of as many as five daily newspapers, all competing for a piece of the only audience in town, readers of newsprint on pages that left your fingers black with ink stains after flipping through the pages.
Back then, and until the explosion of the internet and readily available televised games, “information” about the Mets and Yankees was mainly limited to recaps of their games played the day before. We learned, for instance, that Ed Kranepool had three hits, and drove in two in a Mets loss. The stories we read were composed of breaking down the boxscore, along with the traditional who, what, where, when – but rarely the why behind what took place.
If, for instance, a story said that Bobby Richardson committed a fatal error in the eighth inning of a game the Yankees lost on a ball he “should have fielded” – well, that was it – and who was there to say otherwise?
Today though, it’s all about the why. “Breaking news,” for example, about the Mets trade for Robinson Cano lasts all of about ten seconds before it’s picked up by thousands of outlets including the information God of today – Twitter – who cover baseball.
The average fan of the Mets and Yankees knows everything there is to know about their team, regarding personnel changes, and who did what in yesterday’s game. What fans don’t know, but crave to know, is an analysis of how these developments affect their team.
Sportswriting has changed to meet these needs to the point where analysis trumps everything. Don’t tell me what happened – I already know that. But tell me why you think it happened, and then, I’m all in. And with that fans themselves have enough ammunition (translate – information) to form opinions of their own – and they do!
I know this because in writing for my website, Reflections On Baseball, and subsequent postings on several Mets and Yankees Facebook Group Pages, the reaction to my stories is intense, combative (in a good way), and constructive in developing conversations between fans, who otherwise would never have “met” each other.
Dial up some of these groups, and you’ll see what I mean: New York Yankees, New York Mets Country, Baseball Is A Religion and a host of others, and what becomes apparent is that fans of the Mets and Yankees are finely tuned into their teams. To the point even where, in another life and another set of circumstances, they could easily find jobs in the front offices of any major league team.
With this evolution has come the need for general managers (especially) to explain what they are doing, and more significantly, why they are doing it. No longer can they operate in the shadows. Instead, Mickey Callaway and Aaron Boone must meet with media before and after games, explaining why they did this or didn’t do that. One misstep, and the headline tomorrow, or ten seconds later on Twitter, is sure to advertise their inability to handle a situation, creating the need for “follow-up” the next day.
With information comes power. And with power comes the ability to incite change. Rightly or wrongly as an example, the Yankees fan base soured on Sonny Gray long ago. To wit, Brian Cashman did not hesitate in announcing to the world that Gray was on the trade block. There’s some push back now, including a story from this writer, but initially, Cashman (presumably) felt safe in making his intentions known. That wouldn’t be the case, of course, if he had plans, for example, of trading Gleyber Torres.
Moreover, I wouldn’t do what I do as a hobby, wasting my time and yours if all I did was to report on who did what in last night’s game and who’s pitching tonight. Today, readers want and deserve more. Analysis of anything is, of course, subjective, and therefore is open to different interpretations.
And unlike the generation I grew up in where there was little or nothing to read that had any thought behind it (save for local writers like Dick Young and Jimmy Cannon), but that’s where the fun comes in. And after all, it’s always the exchange of ideas that leads to a better idea.