It’s been a weird few weeks with Paul O’Neill.
Midday co-host Brandon Tierney pulled the plug on O’Neill moments before he was supposed to promote his new book. The abrupt cancellation came after word was sent to Tierney and Tiki Barber that O’Neill would not answer questions about embattled Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson and his spat with White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson.
Donaldson called Anderson “Jackie” in a reference to Jackie Robinson. White Sox manager Tony LaRussa alleged his comments were racist. Donaldson, who was suspended for a game and fined, said they were not.
“[O’Neill] has a new book coming out, called, ‘Swing and a Hit.’ And (YES analyst) Jack Curry wrote it, along with Paul,” Tierney said, according to The New York Post. “We were told and Tiki, you don’t even know this because I was going through this while you were finishing up your thought on the air. We were told we can not ask anything about Donaldson and Anderson.
“I said, ‘We can’t do the interview if that is the case.’ I said, ‘Please tell Paul, we will navigate this responsibly. We will not belabor it.’ But I can’t have Paul O’Neill on the show after we spent an hour and 35 minutes talking about Tim Anderson and Josh Donaldson and not ask him about what transpired. … We have a responsibility to the show.”
Kudos to Tierney. It’s rare to see actual journalism practiced in sports talk radio. Especially when a flagship station’s team partner is involved. O’Neill isn’t a Yankees official, but he is very much part of the machine. It’s refreshing to see WFAN not carry water for the Yankees like they do so often for the Giants. And Tierney is absolutely correct. He cannot let O’Neill hawk his book without asking him about the biggest story around the team. O’Neill (and his PR handlers) should know better as well. He was going to get maybe two questions on the matter. Answer them and move on.
As for the YES broadcasts: If O’Neill doesn’t want to get vaccinated, that’s his call. But let’s not forget all the bellyaching there was last year about the Yankees broadcast teams not being at road games. And rightfully so. Audacy and YES deserved to get raked over the coals for their cheapness. This isn’t a minor league team in Topeka; these are the New York Yankees.
That is why it is baffling how it’s suddenly acceptable for O’Neill to call the games from his basement. It’s not like YES is hurting for bodies to put into the booth. And while O’Neill is a good broadcaster, he’s not Vin Scully here.
YES reportedly requires ballpark personnel to be vaccinated. So tell O’Neill he isn’t calling any more games until he gets the jab or the policy changes. If that happens later this year or next season, great. But until then, it is what it is.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]