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In 2020, There Are No Unwritten Rules

“The stuffy lords of Major League Baseball receive a much-needed jolt from Fernando Tatis Jr.: Fun and theatrics, not old-school etiquette, must be emphasized to save the sport.”

Jay Mariotti

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The only safe assumption in 2020 is that there is no safe assumption. Pay full tuition, show up on campus, have no in-person classes to attend. Work hard, help the company, lose your gig when the headcounter decides you’re invisible. Wear a mask, maintain physical distance, catch the virus anyway when a COVID-iot cyclist sneezes into your convertible.

So why would a 10-3 lead, in a sport where balls are spiked and hitters are juiced and the season is a discombobulated slog, ever be considered a safe assumption?

If I’m the manager of a San Diego Padres team on a five-game losing streak, in part because we can’t protect leads without our injured closer, then, uh, yeah, I want the indescribably gifted Fernando Tatis Jr. to pad our edge by swinging on a 3-0 pitch even if it’s the eighth inning. And If I’m the manager of the Texas Rangers, Chris Woodward, I’m not assuming Jayce Tingler is giving us a break in the other dugout just because he’s a close friend and former team colleague. With the bases full, Woodward had three realistic options: (1) Walk Tatis and eat a run, not a bad idea; (2) Find a way to get him out, somehow; or (3) Resign on the spot. But here is where the skipper made a tactical and cultural mistake that might change baseball — delightfully — forevermore: He assumed Tatis would take a fastball down the middle, according to old-school protocol that says a team shouldn’t run up the score.

Tatis Angers Rangers With Late Slam in Padres' Rout – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort  Worth

What transpired was a blond-dreadlocked blur, a grand slam that ignited a heated generational debate in a country primed to argue about everything and anything. The subject: baseball’s unwritten rules and the absurdity of anyone, particularly a big-league manager, to think they still should apply amid the changing norms of extraordinary times in a desperate world. “I didn’t like it, personally,’’ Woodward said of Tatis’ swing and mighty blast. “You’re up by seven in the eighth inning; it’s typically not a good time to swing 3-0. It’s kind of the way we were all raised in the game. … I don’t think we liked it as a group.” With typical frat-boy petulance, he ordered that the next pitch be thrown behind Manny Machado’s head, earning him a one-game suspension.

Just as galling as Woodward’s reaction was that of Tingler, who said Tatis had missed a take sign from the third-base coach and was told to apologize publicly … for hitting a grand slam that insured a slide-stopping victory. “I’ve been in this game since I was a kid,” Tatis said. “I know a lot of unwritten rules. I was kind of lost on this. Those experiences, you have to learn. Probably next time, I’ll take a pitch now that I learned from it.’’

Please don’t take anything, kid, except this advice: Swing away in that situation, every damned time, for the rest of your career. And that goes for all the young, dynamic stars that electrify Major League Baseball today, in spite of a clumsy institutional inability to market these prized assets. Think about it: Both managers — in their early 40s, hardly geezer lifers — were sticking to a 20th-century script that must be shredded and burned for the sport to have any existential chance with 18-to-34-aged viewers. It was just last year when MLB was running an ad campaign, “Let the kids play.’’

Then let them play, would you? Live by your own slogan. Let them admire long home runs and slow-trot around the bases, as Juan Soto did to give the Nationals a ninth-inning lead the other night, to the chagrin of the Atlanta reliever who allowed the clout, Will Smith, who cursed at Soto. Instead of apologizing, Washington manager Dave Martinez stood behind Soto, as he should have, saying, “Will Smith said something to Soto that I didn’t really appreciate. So I just want to let him know, hey, it wasn’t Juan who threw the ball. His job is to hit so just be quiet and get on the mound. You threw the pitch, make a better pitch.’’

Baseball's Unwritten Rules? Not Worth the Paper They're Printed on | Larry  Brown Sports

By some quirk of unintended good fortune, MLB actually might benefit from Tatis’ No-Take Tater. Young people, the very demographic that would rather contract COVID-19 than watch baseball on TV, have been driving the debate this week. They don’t care about the World Series, but they shriek when a hitter is chastised for swinging away on 3-0. It’s their way of telling an industry of stodgy, bumbling leaders: If disco music and pet rocks were retired in the 1970s, do the same with your unwritten rules. It’s refreshing to hear accomplished managers, vets who have worked dugouts in October, finally come around on a long-outdated courtesy.

“I think the unwritten rules have changed and should change,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “And each passing day, we’ve got to continue to break some of those rules, and that’s a good thing.”

“I think it’s a little bit silly. I think the needle has moved a long way,’’ Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I think, look, now more than when these started even 10 and 50 and 100 years ago, things are different. … If you really break it down, guys should not be offended by, for example, somebody swinging at a 3-0 count.’’

Said Angels manager Joe Maddon: “Back in the day, it took 10 singles to score six runs. Now it happens, like, with three two-run homers.’’

Even Tingler, after absorbing the national buzz, was flipping. “They’re going to feel how they feel and he’s going to feel how he feels,” he said the next day of Woodward and the Rangers. “And they’re trying to kick our ass and we’re trying to kick their ass and win. And that’s the bottom line. So, we can’t sit here and worry about people’s feelings.”

foxsports.com on Flipboard: Jayce Tingler after Padres' thrilling walk-off  win over the Rangers (VIDEO)

So maybe, in an apocalyptic year we’d like to forget ever happened, a maligned sport has been enlightened by the youth it can’t connect with. Back when baseball was King in America, flamboyant characters such as Reggie Jackson had no problem swinging away on any pitch. It was no surprise to see Jackson weighing in on Twitter: “Fernando Tatis keep playing hard and playing great, it’s a pleasure to watch you play, love your success and the Padres rise to be a winner. Keep leading the way. It ain’t easy to hit Hrs. Keep bringing energy you have to the game, we need players like you.’’

A night later, the Padres were leading the Rangers by six runs in the fourth inning. With Ian Gibaut on the mound — the pitcher who had thrown behind Machado in retaliation — Fernando Tatis Jr. did what any fiery, enterprising, MVP-aspiring competitor would do.

He stole third base.

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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