When a man has pleaded guilty to driving under the influence, not once but twice, he loses the right to preach about rules compliance. This is especially true in a big-league clubhouse when he’s 76 years old and managing various Gen-Zers and Millennials who want to shout, “Take a nap, coot” — unable to say “Boomer” because Tony La Russa is too ancient for the description.
But never one to self-muzzle, La Russa chose the absolute wrong time to voice old-school objections to 2021 sports realities. There are no rules on a baseball field these days, if he hasn’t noticed, and for him to publicly rebuke his own player for a mere peccadillo in the scope of post-pandemic life — well, it’s just not prudent or advisable. Needlessly, La Russa has created a storm in an otherwise dreamy season for the Chicago White Sox. And suddenly, he is starting to look like a fossilized liability who was all wrong for the gig.
He simply could have shrugged or mildly disagreed when Yermin Mercedes, the team’s rookie phenom, clobbered a 47-mph lob for a home run in the ninth inning of a 16-4 rout of the Minnesota Twins. Much more importantly, the Sox had delivered another humbling message to their supposed lead rivals in the American League Central: We own this division and are serious about winning the World Series. Instead, La Russa lit into the rookie for taking advantage of pitcher Willians Astudillo, an infielder struggling to throw a strike. The right way: Go talk to Mercedes privately, man to man, and tell him the Twins might remember his homer in future meetings, as exhibited the next night when he watched Tyler Duffey’s first pitch fly behind him.
The wrong way: Ripping Mercedes in the media, saying, “Big mistake. The fact that he’s a rookie, and excited, helps explain why he just was clueless. But now he’s got a clue.”
No, La Russa has a problem. Seems his Mercedes Benz doesn’t care about unwritten rules, declaring, “I’m going to play like that. I’m Yermin. I can’t be another person, because if I do that, everything changes.” And his teammates are backing him, which suggests La Russa already has alienated his players not two months into the season. The consensus being, once an opponent uses a position player to pitch, anything goes — though it appears their issues with the manager are more elaborate.
“No negativity. We all support Yermin,” ace pitcher Lucas Giolito said. “We all love home runs here. That’s it.”
“There are no rules,” veteran pitcher Lance Lynn said. “The more I play this game, the more those rules have gone away.”
Two days later, La Russa actually was firing back at Lynn. “Lance has a locker; I have an office,” he said. “I would be willing to bet that there wasn’t anyone in that clubhouse that was upset that I mentioned that’s not the way we compete. If someone felt that way, then it’s my job to correct it. You don’t swing 3-0 when you’re up by that big a lead.”
If he wants to be a gatekeeper to baseball’s unwritten bylaws of the last century, La Russa cannot win his private war. The players will do what they want and celebrate as they please, knowing the sport has the bigger issue of labor unrest that could lead to a work stoppage next season. What bothered them is that La Russa kept going on and on and on about Mercedes, dissing a startling, come-from-nowhere cult hero on the South Side.
“There will be consequences he has to endure here with our family,” La Russa said. “I took several steps from the dugout onto the field, yelling, `Take, take, take.’ The way he was set up, it looked to me like he was going to swing. I was upset because that’s not a time to swing 3-0. I knew the Twins knew I was upset. He missed a 3-0 take sign. With that kind of lead, that’s just sportsmanship and respect for your opponent.
“I’m always doing Yermin. For that reason, I’m here right now. For that reason, you guys are talking to me right now. If I’m not Yermin, if I’m not doing that, nobody wants to talk to me, nobody wants to know what I’m doing.”
Is it me, or is La Russa resentful of a free-spirited godsend who is hitting .368 with 6 homers and 25 RBIs? “I’m certain that will not happen again with Yermin,” he said. “It’s a manager’s responsibility. It’s a teaching moment. You want them to understand why there’s a take sign in that situation. I heard he said something like, `I play my game.’ No, he doesn’t. He plays the game of Major League Baseball, respects the game, respects the opponents. And he’s got to respect the (take) sign.”
Then, regrettably, La Russa went deeper with his get-off-my-lawn complaint. He said Fernando Tatis Jr., the sport’s most charismatic player, shouldn’t have swung at a 3-0 pitch during a blowout last season. Major League Baseball is waning in American culture, in part because it can’t market the fun quotient of exciting players to young media consumers who don’t watch or care. There’s a reason Mercedes is the talk of Chicago and a hot national story. Why doesn’t La Russa get it?
He should not be involved in this argument. He should be managing his 26-16 team and enjoying the ride, yet he’s upset because a player ignored him and disobeyed his authority. Now, the question becomes whether La Russa can last into October without more crises if his players don’t respect him.
Not that this age-gap crisis wasn’t predictable, of course, from the very day last October when La Russa was hired by … Jerry Reinsdorf. That name is all you need to know.
In one of his many attempts to have me fired in Chicago, Reinsdorf tried to claim I was anti-Semitic. When an editor-in-chief asked if it was true, I said I’m nothing more than anti-dumb-owner. How many times has this man screwed up something good because he thinks he’s smarter than everyone else?
Given the blueprints of Camden Yards, he preferred a bland ballmall with a ski-slope upper deck that instantly became obsolete amid the cool retro parks to come. Blessed with Frank Thomas and a potential dynasty, he prioritized his desire to bust the Players Association — promising to be a labor “hawk” while the White Sox were riding high in first place — and enabled the cancellation of that autumn’s World Series. And you saw “The Last Dance,” when he inherited Michael Jordan upon purchasing the Bulls but only muddled the joy by siding with grumpy saboteur Jerry Krause at every dissension-torn turn, ultimately dismantling a six-ring machine because he and Krause — can I start laughing here? — wanted to build their own dynasty.
If not for Jordan, Reinsdorf would have exactly one championship with two organizations — in four-plus decades of trying. In the 21st century, his teams are among the worst-performing in American sports, with the Bulls sinking farther in a prolonged period than any championship franchise in NBA history and the White Sox missing the playoffs for 12 straight seasons, all in what is purportedly a major market. Now 85, Reinsdorf does not want to fade away in his fifth decade of ownership with only one title of his doing, which came 16 years ago in a World Series that America barely acknowledged.
But here he is, yet again, meddling in something good when he should have remained embalmed in his cave. When the Sox finally formed a championship-worthy team after nearly a decade of rebuilding, You Know Who decided he knew more than general manager Rick Hahn about appointing a manager. Rather than hire the industry standard in 2021 — say, a bright, dynamic, 40-ish former player who accepts analytics, understands the instinctual importance of heart and mind and, most significantly, can relate to players in their 20s and 30s in a modern clubhouse — Reinsdorf reached way, way, way back into the mothballs and pulled out La Russa.
The reason was typically selfish and out-of-touch: The Chairman, as he is called by his cronies, wanted to make amends for allowing his GM at the time, Hawk Harrelson, to dismiss La Russa in 1986. Know how many players on the current Sox roster were alive then?
Worse, one day before La Russa’s hiring, Reinsdorf was made aware of La Russa’s second DUI in February 2020, when his SUV hit a curb and was left smoking somewhere near the Phoenix airport … and still hired him. So if the Sox fall short because the manager failed them, it’s on the owner, as usual.
Meanwhile, the 76-year-old opinionist has become a running joke on social media among the usual MLB suspects. Tweeted Trevor Bauer: “Dear hitters: If you hit a 3-0 homer off me, I will not consider it a crime. Can’t believe we’re still talking about 3-0 swings.”
It’s the biggest story in baseball. The only one who doesn’t see it is Tony La Russa. “I’m surprised I’m getting so many questions on this,” he said. “It’s not much to-do about nothing. It’s much to-do about a little bit.”
That is, until the Sox fall short and Reinsdorf meddles again, perhaps opting for a new dose of the maniacal Ozzie Guillen. This is the owner, remember, who hired Tim Floyd to replace Phil Jackson. The smartest man in the room, he is not, or even close.
Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC
“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”
NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade. A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well. However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).
NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season. NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.
NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.
Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.
Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.
If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.
“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”
Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.
Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm.
“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”
While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.
Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock.
Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week.
My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic. When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV. Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams. After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England. They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.
I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.
I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters.
By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.
Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.
This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.
Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.” NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.
Media Noise – Episode 45
Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.
6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio
“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”
For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.
Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?
Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?
Well, let’s go Digging for Gold.
The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.
Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.
If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way? I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:
- Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
- Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
- Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
- Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
- FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $
- Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months
The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details.