Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi has been making waves of late…radio waves that is. Over the past two weeks, the Yankees’ manager has caused such a stir in radio circles that even Heinrich Hertz would be impressed.
At the beginning of March, WFAN afternoon host Mike Francesa announced that Girardi would be expanding his weekly appearance into an almost daily segment before each Yankees game. Getting the manager of the city’s most high profile team on such an extensive basis was seen as a major coup for Francesa, but the win was short lived because less than two weeks later Girardi reportedly backed out of the deal. Despite suffering a small embarrassment, Francesa was gracious in acknowledging that the rigorous demands of a daily segment likely caused Girardi to have a change of heart. When the popular manager backed out a recent segment with Mad Dog Radio’s Chris Russo, however, the reaction wasn’t as understanding.
As reported by the Daily News’ Bob Raissman, the doggie went off his leash when Girardi allegedly backed out of a scheduled segment on his radio show, which has been touring various Spring Training camps during March. Russo reportedly took his program to Port Charlotte on Monday with the expectation that Girardi would appear, but was later surprised when the manager canceled. Needless to say, the Mad Dog became rabid, slamming Girardi and his agent, Steve Mandell, for pulling the plug at the last minute.
After enduring Russo’s on-air tirade, a Yankees source told Raissman that Girardi canceled his appearance, which was never guaranteed, because the manager was in the process of negotiating a deal to appear regularly on Sirus/XM’s (the same company that owns Mad Dog Radio) MLB Channel. As a result, Mandell did not want Girardi to appear on another company station until the terms were finalized. Apparently, that reasoning didn’t mollify Russo, who continued to bash both Girardi and his agent as well as question MLB’s promotional tactics.
But look how bad things are. I’m the only guy doing talk shows [from spring training sites] and [Bud] Selig and the powers that be wonder why a Richmond-Morehead State basketball game gets a better [TV] rating than a baseball playoff game. If they promoted their sport properly that wouldn’t be the case.” – Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, quoted in The New York Daily News, March 25, 2011
On the one hand, Russo has a very strong point. Even if the Yankees never guaranteed that Girardi would appear on his show, declining the invitation because of an ongoing business negotiation was a mistake. The “pay for play” implication of Girardi’s decision makes you wonder about where sports media is headed. Although talk radio has never been the pinnacle of journalism, having to pay for guests dispels all vestiges. If a baseball manager refuses to appear on a national radio show because of a private financial concern, then all of his appearances must be viewed as being dictated by a quid pro quo.
Russo betrays his naïveté, however, when he talks about promotion (not to mention ignorance about the nature of television ratings). After all, was the Mad Dog looking to conduct an interview or help the Yankees sell tickets? If the latter, then Russo is woefully behind the times because the Yankees don’t need any help. With every league and many teams owning various proprietary media outlets, there is no longer the need for second hand promotion. Furthermore, with the proliferation of information age technology, the traditional mediums are increasingly being rendered obsolete. We are already seeing athletes bypass traditional media to make news on social networking sites like Twitter, so who knows what the next 10 years will bring.
Russo’s frustration is understandable. During his 30 years in radio, the sports media landscape has changed drastically, lessening the importance and influence of traditional formats like talk radio. In the past, there were more newsmakers than news providers. As a result, those seeking publicity had to compete for attention. Nowadays, the reverse is true. Because there is greater means to disseminate and access information, the news makers are the ones in demand. That’s why Joe Girardi can demand payment to appear on various radio and television shows and turn his nose down on invitations asking him to hop aboard for free.
Speaking of Girardi’s hectic media schedule, which includes the Mike Francesa Show, the WCBS pregame, YES’ Joe Girardi Show, and the pending MLB Channel commitment, at what point do the Yankees say enough? It’s worth noting that all of those commitments are with the Yankees’ programming partners, so Girardi’s appearances not only line his own pockets, but benefit the team as well. At some point, however, there has to be a concern about overexposure. Then again, the Yankees and Girardi may be smart to control his media appearances by limiting them as much as possible to friendly outlets.
In the Daily News article, Russo concludes by saying, “I couldn’t care less if Joe Girardi ever speaks to me again.” He should care, however. And what’s worse, the feeling is probably mutual. Like it or not, Russo stands to benefit more from Girardi than vice versa. It might be a hard reality to accept, but in the current sports/media landscape, the tail is wagging the Mad Dog.