YES takes its cuts during a most bizarre day and night
Alex Rodriguez had just singled to end one of the most scrutinized at-bats in recent Yankees history when YES' John Flaherty tidily summed up a long, strange night and day thusly:
"Alex called it a nightmare. I call the whole thing a circus."
That was in the second inning in Chicago, after many hours of written and spoken analysis of A-Rod and the 211-game suspension that remains suspended as he appeals a punishment for performance-enhancing drug use and related naughtiness.
Credit YES' studio crew, Flaherty and play-by-play man Michael Kay for not shying away from the issue on an expanded, one-hour pregame show and during the game itself, contrary to YES' long custom of limiting talk about off-field issues.
They extensively discussed the A-Rod soap opera, which eased the awkwardness of YES' odd decision not to carry live Rodriguez's pregame news conference even as SNY, ESPN, MLB Network, CNN, Channels 2, 4 and 7 and at least five local radio stations did.
YES was busy showing a Gene Michael "Yankeeography.'' But the network did show the news conference in its entirety during the pregame and replayed highlights during the game.
The commentary floodgates had opened after the news became official at 3 p.m., ending weeks of frenzied, shameless leaking that in effect had the sides negotiating through the media -- fueling a saga that landed A-Rod on the cover of Newsday's sports section 15 out of 19 days. (Tuesday makes 16 of 20.)
Union boss Michael Weiner lamented the epidemic sharing of information meant to be private and promised changes.
The suspensions of Rodriguez and 12 other players (none of whom plans to appeal) prompted blanket coverage on national and local television and radio -- led by ESPN and MLB Network -- full of insights from a conga line of current and former New York baseball writers.
Most everyone got into the act, but not YES, which declined to interrupt its encore presentation of Sunday's Yankees-Padres game with the news. YES usually relies on its Mike Francesa simulcast for breaking news, but he is on vacation this week.
(SNY, the Mets' flagship station, cut into its regular programming with a report and analysis.)
But there was no shortage of early commentary from YES' Kay on his ESPN New York radio show, which began just as the Rodriguez suspension was announced. He opened by referring to the expected scene in Chicago, saying, "Right now, it's turned into a freak show.''
Kay pointedly criticized those who have suggested the Yankees were working behind the scenes to get rid of Rodriguez and his contract and suggested this unlikely course of action: "If I'm the Yankees, I might sue A-Rod.''
Kay expressed similar sentiments during the game, questioning cynics who have surmised that the Yankees did not want A-Rod to ever return to the field.
Which, of course, they didn't. Proving it is the challenge. As MLBN's Harold Reynolds said: " Randy Levine is not the one you want to mess with when it comes to labor situations.''
The good news for the Yankees was that Rodriguez's return was certain to boost YES' TV ratings Monday night, helping stem its season-long slide. It didn't help, though, that Andy Pettitte's awful night sucked much of the drama out of the non-A-Rod portion of the game.
As the White Sox took a 7-0 lead in the third, radio play-by-play man John Sterling said, "This is about as anti-climactic an experience as you can have.''
When Rodriguez finally came up for his first at-bat after a long first inning, Kay noted the oddness of the moment and the mixed emotions Yankees fans presumably experienced.
It was that kind of day, and there will be more as long as A-Rod remains in uniform.
The circus is coming to town. According to TiqIQ.com, the average asking price for tickets to A-Rod's home debut Friday has risen from $80.14 July 31 to $94.11 Monday night. As Kay correctly said before A-Rod first strode to the plate: "It really is a hard thing to wrap your mind around.''