There was a great deal of hand-wringing during the 2021 season about the Yankees’ radio and television broadcast crews refraining from making road trips. And rightfully so.
The pandemic had moved to a manageable place by the spring, so it was no longer a safety issue. It was a cheapness issue. Audacy and YES Network deserved to get called out for that. It also felt like a prestige issue. Do you think George Steinbrenner would have tolerated John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman calling games against the Red Sox on a monitor 200 miles from Fenway Park? And, above all else, it was a quality issue. The broadcast is better when the talent is in the building. Period.
Which brings us to one of the most puzzling aspects of this current season: YES allowing Paul O’Neill — reportedly unvaccinated — to call games from his house in Ohio. The network even has Michael Kay “turn” toward O’Neill during the broadcast open when he brings him into the banter.
A bit YES itself is responsible for. There is no MLB or government mandate keeping O’Neill out of the broadcast booth. It’s YES that has set the mandate. And then, for whatever reason, has opted to create a sub-optimal product to afford for a work-around.
“It’s not ideal, but it works,” YES executive John Filippelli told The Post’s Andrew Marchand.
“This situation will find itself through and I’m sure Paul will find himself back in the booth at some point. It is certainly not ideal, but we have managed to figure it out and work through it. I don’t think we have suffered at all, I really don’t. Have there been some hiccups? Do I think it is ideal if it keeps going? No, I don’t, but I do think we have managed to make it work and I think our fans have accepted it.”
OK, but why? The merits of O’Neill’s personal decision are really irrelevant in this whole thing. But what is the point of the YES mandate if the network is going to adversely impact its product to accommodate O’Neill? Either do away with the mandate and get O’Neill on site or get someone else to call the games. O’Neill is a good analyst. But he’s not irreplaceable. And it’s not like YES is lacking warm bodies to work games. It’s not the end of the world, but it is a strange approach.
O’Neill’s vaccination status is back in the news with his August 21 number retirement ceremony fast approaching. The Yankees will be able to have a typical on-field celebration, according to The Post. Current coaches and players just cannot participate due to MLB guidelines (they can watch from the dugout). Which is not a big deal, as there is no one glaring that will be missed from the festivities.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]