Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
YES is calling it a "season2remember." For the sake of everyone concerned, it had better be, given the focus that will be on Derek Jeter from Game 1 in Houston on Tuesday night.
Regardless of what he does in 2014, Jeter's accomplishments speak for themselves. But there is no avoiding that the celebration of his career in local and national media will lose something if he is not both healthy and productive.
The magnitude of Jeter's farewell tour was evident Friday when two of the most powerful people in the baseball world -- commissioner Bud Selig and ESPN president John Skipper -- spoke about old No. 2.
After listing several of the game's rising stars, Selig said, "While the younger players are generating this buzz, I suspect ESPN will spend some time covering Derek Jeter's final season.
"Derek for me and for everybody has been the ultimate ambassador for baseball and a role model for fans and the rest of the players in our league."
Funny Bud should mention that, because Skipper was thinking along the same lines.
"What I am personally most excited about," he said, "is the juxtaposition of the opportunity to document Derek Jeter's last season while we have all these great young players. It is one of the views of baseball, the sort of sense of tradition and continuity which exists."
As usual, ESPN and Fox have not been shy about scheduling Yankees games for their ratings pleasure, with Jeter's pending departure as an added lure.
But the majority of his games will appear on YES, which plans to drop vignettes and features into its coverage during the course of the season, including takes from current and past teammates and opponents.
When a Daily News columnist suggested last week that if Jeter slumps, it will put YES in an awkward position, YES spokesman Eric Handler tweeted simply, "No, it won't."
Yes, it might. But no matter how his season unfolds (assuming he still is ambulatory), those last few regular-season games in September are certain to be a major event, both at Yankee Stadium and on TV. (As of Monday, the least expensive ticket on StubHub.com for the home finale Sept. 25 was $184.30.)
Selig called Jeter "the face of baseball" and said MLB is considering a variety of "appropriate celebrations" of him, pending what the man himself is comfortable doing.
Skipper will have his camera operators at the ready.
"I'll commit that whatever the commissioner and Derek Jeter and the Yankees decide to do," he said, "we are perfectly willing to document every second of it."
Francesa calls for patience
Opening Day began a new era in local baseball media, with the Mets on WOR radio and Mike Francesa hosting a WFAN show during a Mets game for the first time.
Tuesday night will bring another change: YES carrying a simulcast of Michael Kay's ESPN New York radio show on a day when YES' play-by-play man will call a regular-season Yankees game.
The plan on the road will vary by stadium. In Houston, Kay will have a setup on the broadcast level. For home games, he will host his radio show, as he has in the past, from a trailer outside Yankee Stadium, but it will be dressed up to make it more TV-friendly.
(CBS, which owns WFAN and thus radio rights in the stadium, can and does bar ESPN Radio from broadcasting live inside the stadium.)
Two months into his YES simulcast, Kay has been averaging ratings approximate to what Francesa had before him, about 0.2 percent of homes.
It is too soon to fully assess Francesa's numbers on Fox Sports 1 and 2, but figures for the latter have been very low for his 2 1/2 hours per day on the channel, which has much less distribution than YES or FS1.
Also, Francesa faces TV pre-emptions because of other Fox content, such as soccer games Tuesday and Wednesday.
Regarding his ratings, he said on the air: "In 12 years with YES, I never once looked at simulcast ratings. It's a radio show first and foremost."
Regarding the inconsistent schedule, he said: "Things are going to be a little up and down for the beginning. Just have a little patience."