This is not simply a Kevin Mather problem. Rather, this is symbolic of what ails baseball — the rancid byproduct of an ongoing leadership crisis that would allow a hateful, xenophobic, sexually harassing cheapass to ever become CEO of the Seattle Mariners.
Like a purpose pitch in the face, the sport cannot get out of its own way. Just when spring training was generating buzz after the $340 million signing of dazzling Fernando Tatis Jr., by a San Diego outlier that wants to compete for championships regardless of market size, here we have the usual hubris from the corporate ranks. If you’re a Mariners fan — and who would be, going on 20 seasons without a playoff appearance? — you’re apoplectic today that Mather could survive longstanding accusations of workplace harassment to reach a point where he’d disgrace himself during a Rotary Club breakfast speech and tender a forced resignation.
But frightful as it was to hear him ridicule the language struggles of two international players, what should concern the American sports kingdom was Mather’s naked, arrogant acknowledgment: He didn’t care if the Mariners were competitive, as long as he was protecting the team’s bottom line, manipulating the service time of prized prospects and showing no interest in appeasing the paying customers. In that context, he wasn’t outing only his franchise.
He was outing Major League Baseball, where I could argue that maybe 10 teams care about winning the World Series this year, leaving the other 20 to impugn competitive integrity and take advantage of fans who should view it as a consumer hint. You know, do something else with your lives than waste time, energy and money on tanking ballclubs during a pandemic.
Of course, Mather’s mindset reflects that of many MLB owners. With the collective bargaining agreement expiring at season’s end and a devastating work stoppage looming in 2022, why spend and try to win? We never figured the chief executive and president of a franchise would publicly admit as much. If ever a team needed to market young stars immediately, it’s the Mariners, who can’t keep dusting off ancient films of Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson and a baby Alex Rodriguez. But instead of showcasing outfielder Jarred Kelenic and pitcher Logan Gilbert, Mather aimed to bilk them out of service time and make them wait an extra year for potential free-agency jackpots, the device used by too many teams to save millions by shipping them back to the minors.
“There was no chance you were going to see these young players at T-Mobile Park,” said Mather, preferring to trot out “my big tummy out there in left field” rather than invest early in the gifted Kelenic.
Worse, Mather seemed bitter when discussing Kelenic’s decision to reject a contract that kept him under club control an extra season, saying, “He’s a 21-year-old player who is quite confident. We offered him a long-term deal — a six-year deal for substantial money with options to go farther. After pondering it for several days and talking to the union, he has turned us down. And in his words, he’s going to bet on himself. He thinks after six years he’s going to be such a star player that the seventh-, eighth-, ninth-year options will be undervalued. He might be right. We offered, and he turned us down.”
What’s the point of disrespecting the life decision of a potential superstar? Especially when you’re running a team burdened by the longest postseason drought in North American sports? As offended as Kelenic was, Seattle fans were enraged — as Mather was praising a lesser prospect, first baseman Evan White, for accepting a $24 million guarantee and not asking the MLB Players Association for advice as Kelenic did. “I like Evan White,” Mather said. “He’s a nice young man.”
And Gilbert? “You won’t see him April 1,” Mather said on Feb. 5.
All of which led Mariners managing partner John Stanton to toss Mather into Puget Sound, a fate he should have faced years ago. “There is no excuse for what was said, and I won’t try to make one,” said Stanton, who becomes acting CEO. “I offer my sincere apology on behalf of the club and my partners to our players and fans. We must be, and do, better.”
Not a week earlier, MLB players were excited that Tatis, just 22, had signed a 14-year extension with the Padres. “I want the statue on one team. I want to be able to stay on one team and build my legacy in San Diego,” he said. Was there actually hope in the labor clouds? Please. Poison always seeps from the management suites, and that quickly, talk turned from the game’s abundance of magnetic young stars to a swindler in Seattle engaged in talent suppression. Is it any wonder Mike Trout, still the sport’s face as he nears 30, says he talks to union chief Tony Clark “probably once a day” about the impending doom?
“No idea,” Trout said when asked about a work stoppage. “I’m just learning new stuff about it, and when stuff comes up that (Clark) asks me, I answer it. Hopefully it gets resolved, and everything coming up, because Major League Baseball is a great thing for our country, especially now during the pandemic. And we need it to go forward.”
As a Trout admirer, I’d like to include the Angels among those trying to win it all. They aren’t — a waste of an all-time great who has experienced one playoff series in his 10 seasons. They are sandwiched between the majors’ best two teams, the Dodgers to the north and Padres to the south, and the winner of this fascinating SoCal scrum probably will face the Yankees in the World Series. The White Sox, after years of rebuilding, finally are contending in the American League, along with the Twins and Blue Jays. The Braves, Mets, Nationals and Cardinals are trying in the National League. I omitted the Rays, because the minute they yanked Blake Snell from Game 6 of the Series, then traded him to San Diego, they morphed from a miracle to a tanker. The Astros? Without a cheat code, they aren’t trying.
Ten teams. That’s it.
No Cubs. No Red Sox.
And a National League Central that looks like a Triple-A league.
The union is disgusted. Sure, it’s cool when Tatis and other stars get paid, but the next level of veterans again is being ignored on the market. As Mather put it, as the Bellevue breakfast crowd choked on its pancakes and bacon: “We have taken the position that there are 180 free agents still out there unsigned, and sooner or later, these players are going to turn their hat over and come with hat in hand, looking for a contract.”
Poor Seattle. This might be as painful as losing the Sonics.
Among the prominent names in labor negotiations will be Gerrit Cole. Yes, he of the nine-year, $324 million deal with the Yankees. When two-thirds of the franchises aren’t spending what they should — and projected team payrolls in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cleveland are less than Trevor Bauer’s $40 million salary with the Dodgers — the players are more concerned about a lopsided system of haves/have-nots than the fans.
“For me, it just goes back to competitiveness,” Cole said. “We have a lot of great veterans that offer great entertainment, a quality style of baseball, that continuously are being pushed out because surplus value on younger players is too high — the analytics are driving the game in that direction.
“When it comes down to it, if we have clubs that aren’t competing and they aren’t doing right by their fan base. Clubs that win multiple World Series and then just tear it all down, I worry about losing a generation of fans. I worry if we’re doing fans in those cities into disservice. I would like to see the middle of divisions, the middle of the league, incentivized to compete.”
If pitching for the Dodgers once felt like a curse, with the pressure to win a Series every year, Clayton Kershaw now cherishes his good fortune after finally claiming a ring. “The motivation is the fact the Dodgers are one of the few teams that are actually trying, you know?” he told the Los Angeles Times. “Like when you look around the league, we have a great opportunity to win another one. So there’s motivation in that, knowing that I’m very fortunate to be on a team that actually tries to win every single year is pretty cool. You see around the league, a lot of these … big-market teams are not trying to win and trading guys and doing different things and not spending money.”
Said Padres reliever Mark Melancon, who, years ago in Pittsburgh, played for a talented small-market team that didn’t keep its best talent: “It’s sad when there’s only 30 teams out there and you get a sense that a lot of them don’t want to win. So to see San Diego step up and be in a little bit of a smaller market and really go for it is fun and exciting. It’s a shame to see big-market teams kind of dump, you know?”
Cubs. Red Sox.
Sensing a theme?
“Being in this game, you know what (Mather) said is true to about 99.9 percent. It happens. It’s just not out there and it’s just not said,” said Cubs star Anthony Rizzo, who has watched teammate Kris Bryant subjected to the same service-time manuevering. “There’s stories written on it. There’s teams that manipulate service time. There’s teams that do it all the time. … I’m happy it’s out there in the public now and people are seeing that this is the way it is.”
Seattle isn’t a major market, but two decades without a taste of October is a travesty. Mariners ownership had no choice but to remove Mather or forget about ever signing a serious free agent. Imagine the CEO of a franchise long defined by Ichiro Suzuki, saying this about former Mariners pitcher and current special assignment coach Hisashi Iwakuma: “Wonderful human being — his English was terrible. He wanted to get back into the game, he came to us, we quite frankly want him as our Asian scout/interpreter, what’s going on with the Japanese league. He’s coming to spring training And I’m going to say, I’m tired of paying his interpreter. When he was a player, we’d pay Iwakuma `X,’ but we’d also have to pay $75,000 a year to have an interpreter with him. His English suddenly got better. His English got better when we told him that.”
And imagine what Latino players thought when Mather said this of another top prospect: “Julio Rodriguez has got a personality bigger than all of you combined. He is loud. His English is not tremendous. Everybody says he’ll be here in 2021. He won’t be here till 2022 or 2023.”
If ever a U.S. sport needed relegation, it’s baseball. Unlike the English Premier League, which demotes only the bottom three teams, MLB could relegate the Mariners, Pirates, Orioles, Rockies, Tigers, Rangers, Royals, Diamondbacks, Reds, Marlins, Giants, A’s, Brewers, Indians …
And Cubs. And Red Sox.
But, hey, have you heard? They’re deadening the baseballs! After six years of farcical home-run totals — coinciding with Rob Manfred’s reign as so-called commissioner — the overlords think fans suddenly want sacrifice bunts.
No. They want teams to invest their profits into the product.
And try to win instead of committing consumer fraud.
Adam The Bull Is Giving Cleveland Something It’s Never Had Before
“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?”
After spending 22 years on the radio, Adam “The Bull” Gerstenhaber was ready for a new adventure. In fact, the former co-host of Bull and Fox on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland did not have a new job lined up when he signed off from his 11-year radio home last month.
“I was already leaving without having a new project,” admitted Gerstenhaber during a recent phone interview with BSM. “I left before I knew for sure I had a ‘next project’.”
Gerstenhaber was preparing for his final show with co-host Dustin Fox on April 1st when he was contacted by an executive producer for TEGNA, a company that was developing a Cleveland sports television show on YouTube. The executive producer, who had just found out that Bull was a free agent, made it clear that he wanted Bull to be a part of the new project.
It all came together very quickly.
“Let’s talk on Monday,” Gerstenhaber told the executive producer. “And within a week they signed me up.”
The Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show on YouTube featuring Gerstenhaber, former ESPN personality Jay Crawford, 92.3 The Fan’s Garrett Bush, and rotating hosts to make up a four-person round-table show, made its debut last Monday. The show, which airs weekdays from 11am to 1pm, features passionate Cleveland sports talk, live guests, either in-studio or via Zoom, as well as interaction from the audience through social media.
“I’m very excited,” said Gerstenhaber. “It’s a definite adjustment for me after 22 years on radio doing television. For the last 11 years, I’ve been doing a radio show with just one other host and I was the lead guy doing most of the talking and now I’m on a show with three other people and it’s such an adjustment. So far, I’m having a ball.”
And so far, the reaction to the show has been very positive.
A big reason why is that it’s something that Cleveland didn’t have and really never had, unlike a city like New York, where there are local radio shows that are simulcast on regional sports channels.
“There’s nothing like that in Cleveland,” said Gerstenhaber. “And there was certainly nothing like this with a panel. Cleveland is such a massive sports town and now people that don’t live in Cleveland that are maybe retired in Florida or Arizona, now they actually have a TV show that they can watch that’s Cleveland-centric.”
The new venture certainly represents a big change in what Bull has been used to in his radio career. He’s enjoying the freedom of not having to follow a hard clock for this show. In fact, there have already been some occasions where the show has been able to go a little longer than scheduled because they have the flexibility to do that on YouTube.
Doing a show on YouTube gives the panel a great opportunity to go deep into topics and spend some quality time with guests. And while there is no cursing on the show at the moment, there could be the potential for that down the road.
Don’t expect the show is going to become X-rated or anything like that, but the objective is to be able to capture the spirit and emotion of being a sports fan and host.
“It’s something we may do in the future,” said Gerstenhaber. “Not curse just to curse but it gives us the option if we get fired up. It is allowed because there’s no restrictions there. The company doesn’t want us to do it at the moment.”
There’s also been the shift for Gerstenhaber from being the “point guard” on his old radio show, driving the conversation and doing most of the talking, to now taking a step back and having Crawford distributing the ball on the television show.
For a guy called “The Bull”, that will take some getting used to.
“Jay is a pro’s pro,” said Gerstenhaber. “He’s the point guard for this but he’s also part of the conversation. I’m not used to not being the point guard so I have to adjust to that. I think it’s gone pretty well and the chemistry is pretty good and with time we’ll get used to the flow of it.”
Gerstenhaber’s move from sports radio to an internet television show is a perfect example of how the industry is changing. A good portion of the listening and viewing audience these days, especially those in the younger demographic, are not necessarily watching traditional television or listening to terrestrial radio. For a lot of sports fans, watching and listening on a mobile device or a computer has become a very important way of life.
The desire to adapt, along with a shorter workday, was very enticing to him.
“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?” wondered Gerstenhaber. “There were things about my job that I was unhappy about. I was doing a five-hour radio show. It’s too long. That’s crazy. Nobody should be doing a five-hour radio show at this point.”
Broadcasting on the internet has arrived and it’s not just a couple of sports fans doing a show from their garage anymore. The business has evolved to the point where the technology has provided more opportunities for those who have already enjoyed success in the industry and are looking for new challenges.
Kind of like Adam The Bull!
“I think years ago, probably like many people in the radio business, we looked at internet and podcasts as like whatever…those guys aren’t professionals…they’re amateurs,” said Gerstenhaber. “But the game has changed.”
Gerstenhaber, Crawford and everyone associated with the “Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show” should not have much of a problem attracting the younger audience. That demographic is already accustomed to watching shows on YouTube and other streaming platforms. The challenge now is to get the more mature audience on board. There are certainly some obstacles there.
I know this from experience with trying to explain to my mother in Florida how she can hear me on the radio and watch me on television simply by using her tablet.
Bull can certainly relate to that.
“My mother is still trying to figure out how to watch the show live,” said Gerstenhaber with a chuckle. “The older fans struggle with that. A lot of my older fans here in Cleveland are like how do I watch it? For people that are under 40 and certainly people that under 30, watching a YouTube show is like okay I watch everything on my phone or device. It’s such a divide and obviously as the years go by, that group will increase.”
With the television show off and running, Gerstenhaber still has a passion for his roots and that’s the radio side of the business. In the next couple of weeks, “The Bull” is set to announce the launch of two podcasts, one daily and one weekly, that will begin next month. But he also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to terrestrial radio at some point.
“I have not closed the door to radio,” said Gerstenhaber. “I still love radio. I would still, in the right set of circumstances, consider going back to radio but it would have to really be the perfect situation. I’m excited about (the television show) and right now I don’t want to do anything else but I’m certainly going to remain open-minded to radio if a really excellent opportunity came up.”
The landscape of the broadcasting industry, particularly when it comes to sports, has certainly changed over the years and continues to evolve. Adam Gerstenhaber certainly enjoyed a tremendous amount of success on the radio side, both in New York and in Cleveland, but now he has made the transition to something new with the YouTube television show and he’s committed to making it a success.
Why You Should Be Making Great TikTok Content
“We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds.”
It feels like there’s a new social media platform to pay attention to every other week. That makes it easy to overlook when one of them actually presents value to your brand. It wasn’t long ago that TikTok was primarily used by teenagers with the focus being silly dance trends filmed for video consumption with their friends and followers alike. Now, as the general public has become in tune with how this complicated app works, it’s grown far beyond that.
TikTok is now an app used by all types of demographics and unlike TikTok’s closely related cousins Instagram and Facebook, this app provides a certain type of nuance that I think people in our line of work can really excel in.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of how you can use TikTok to your advantage and how to make your videos catch on, I think it’s important to first mention why this matters for you. Now, if I’m being realistic, I’m sure there are some that have already stopped reading this or those that could scroll away fast enough when they saw the words TikTok. You might be thinking that this doesn’t fit your demo, or maybe that it’s a waste of time because productivity here won’t directly lead to an uptick in Nielsen ratings. But I’m not sure any social network directly leads to what we ultimately get judged on, and we aren’t always pumping out content directly to our core audience.
TikTok, like any other app you may use, is marketing. This is another free tool to let people out there know who you are and what you offer in this endless sea of content. And the beauty of TikTok is that it directly caters its algorithm to content creators just like us. Bottom line, if you are a personality in sports talk, there’s no reason you can’t be crushing it on TikTok right now. All it takes is a little direction, focus, consistency, and a plan.
Unlike Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter where you can throw a photo up with a caption and be done for the day, TikTok’s whole model is built on creative videos that keep users engaged for longer periods of time. This approach works. According to Oberlo, a social media stat tracking site, people spend more time per day on TikTok than any other popular social media application. 38 minutes per day!
This is where this is good news for us in talk radio. We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds. TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t care how many followers you have, your level of credibility, or the production on your video. All ir cares about is 1) Is your content good. and 2) Are people watching it. 3) How long are they watching it. The more people watch and the longer they watch creates a snowball effect. Your videos views will skyrocket, sometimes within hours.
So, how do you create content that will catch on? It’s really not all that different than what you do every day. Create thought-provoking commentary that makes people think, argue, or stay till the end to get the info you teased up for them. I’ve found through my own trial and error that it’s best if you stay away from time-sensitive material, I’ve had more success the more evergreen my content is. That way, the shelf life expands beyond just that day or week. This is different for everyone and there’s no one-size-fits-all, but this is where I’ve seen the most success.
Also, put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to say something that people are going to vehemently disagree with. Again, it’s not unlike what we do every day. It’s one thing to get someone to listen, it’s another to get them to engage. Once they hit you in the comment section, you’ve got them hooked. Comments breed more views and on and on. But don’t just let those sit there, even the smallest interaction back like a shoulder shrug emoji can go a long way in creating more play for your video.
If you want to grow quickly, create a niche for yourself. The best content creators that I follow on TikTok all put out very similar content for most of their videos. This means, unlike Instagram where it’s great to show what a wildly interesting and eclectic person you are, TikTok users want to know what they’re getting the second your face pops up on that screen. So if you are the sports history guy, be the sports history guy all the time. If you are the top 5 list guy, be the top 5 list guy all the time, and on and on, you get the point.
Other simple tricks:
- Splice small videos together. Don’t shoot one long video.
- 90 seconds to 2 minutes is a sweet spot amount of time.
- Add a soft layer of background instrumental music (this feature is found in the app when you are putting the finishing touches on your video)
- Label your video across the screen at the start and time it out so that it disappears seconds later. This way a user gets an idea of what the content is immediately and then can focus on you delivering your message thereafter.
- Research trending hashtags, they are far more important than whatever you caption your video.
- Use closed captions so that people can follow your video without sound.
Finally, don’t be intimidated by it or snub your nose at it. Anything that helps your brand is worth doing and anything worth doing is worth doing well.
Does Tom Brady’s Salary Make Sense For FOX In a Changing Media World?
“The risk here doesn’t have to do with Brady specifically, but rather the business of televising football games in general.”
FOX is playing it too safe when it comes to adding Tom Brady.
That’s going to sound weird given the size of Brady’s broadcasting contract. Even if that deal isn’t worth as much as initially reported, it’s a hell of a lot of loot, especially considering Brady has remained steadfastly uninteresting for a solid 20 years now.
Let’s not pretend that is a detriment in the eyes of a television network, however. There’s a long line of famous athletes companies like FOX have happily paid millions without ever requiring them to be much more than consistently inoffensive and occasionally insightful. Yes, Brady is getting more money than those previous guys, but he’s also the most successful quarterback in NFL history.
The risk here doesn’t have to do with Brady specifically, but rather the business of televising football games in general. More specifically, the fact that the business of televising football games is changing, and while it may not be changing quite as rapidly as the rest of the sports-media industry, but it is changing. There’s an increasing number of choices available to viewers not only in the games that can be watched, but how they are consumed. Everything in the industry points to an increasingly fragmented audience and yet by signing Brady to be in the broadcast booth once he retires, FOX is paying a premium for a single component in a tried-and-true broadcasting formula will be more successful.
Think of Brady’s hiring as a bet FOX made. A 10-year commitment in which it is doubling down on the status quo at a time of obvious change. FOX saw ESPN introduce the ManningCast last year, and instead of seeing the potential for a network to build different types of products, FOX decided, “Nah, we don’t want to do anything different or new.” Don’t let the price tag fool you. FOX went out and bought a really famous former player to put in a traditional broadcast booth to hope that the center holds..
Maybe it will. Maybe Brady is that interesting or he’s that famous and his presence is powerful enough to defy the trends within the industry. I’m not naive enough to think that value depends on the quality of someone’s content. The memoir of a former U.S. president will fetch a multi-million-dollar advance not because of the literary quality, but because of the size of the potential audience. It’s the same rationale behind FOX’s addition of Brady.
But don’t mistake an expensive addition from an innovative one. The ManningCast was an actual innovation. A totally different way of televising a football game, and while not everyone liked it, some people absolutely loved it. It’s not going to replace the regular Monday Night Football format, but it wasn’t supposed to. It’s an alternative or more likely a complement and ESPN was sufficiently encouraged to extend the ManningCast through 2024. It’s a different product. Another option it is offering its customers. You can choose to watch to the traditional broadcast format with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the booth or you can watch the Mannings or you can toggle between both. What’s FOX’s option for those audience members who prefer something like the ManningCast to the traditional broadcast?
It’s not just ESPN, either. Amazon offered viewers a choice of broadcasters, too, from a female announcing tandem of Hannah Storm and Andrea Kramer beginning in 2018 to the Scouts Feed with Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks in 2020.
So now, not only do viewers have an increasingly wide array of choices on which NFL games they can watch — thanks to Sunday Ticket — they in some instances have a choice of the announcing crew for that given game. Amid this economic environment, FOX not only decided that it was best to invest in a single product, but it decided to make that investment in a guy who had never done this particular job before nor shown much in the way of an aptitude for it.
Again, maybe Brady is the guy to pull it off. He’s certainly famous enough. His seven Super Bowl victories are unmatched and span two franchises, and while he’s denied most attempts to be anything approaching interesting in public over the past 20 years, perhaps that is changing. His increasingly amusing Twitter posts over the past 2 years could be a hint of the humor he’s going to bring to the broadcast booth. That Tampa Tom is his true personality, which remained under a gag order from the Sith Lord Bill Belichick, and now Brady will suddenly become football’s equivalent of Charles Barkley.
But that’s a hell of a needle to thread for anyone, even someone as famous as Brady, and it’s a really high bar for someone with no broadcasting experience. The upside for FOX is that its traditional approach holds. The downside, however, is that it is not only spending more money on a product with a declining market, but it is ignoring obvious trends within the industry as it does so.