Jockbeat: What Is It with the New York Times and the Yankees?


Every few weeks, in this age of big-money, drug-riddled sports, comes a piece that is so mind-numbing irresponsible that it takes a while to know how to properly respond to it. Such a review ran in the July 26 New York Times Book Review section.

The piece was a review of three books: A-Rod, The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez by Selena Roberts, The Yankee Years by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci, and American Icon, The Fall of Roger Clemens and The Rise of Steroids in America’s Pastime by four New York Daily News staff writers. The review’s author was Toure, who has written for the Times on cultural subjects. To be honest, we still don’t know how to respond to it, but Will Weiss did a masterful job on this morning’s Bronx Banter. In case you’re wondering why you should check this out, we’ll give you a few paragraphs to chew on:

“The New York Times is arguably the most reputable name in journalism. But with the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal, the Judith Miller trial, the introduction and shuttering — all of which took place over the course of two years – of the quarterly sports magazine PLAY, and the recent public display of the media conglomerate trying to jettison one of its major holdings, the Boston Globe, it’s been a rough stretch for the institution formerly known as the Paper of Record. Now the Book Review — still a staple of its kind and a section I’d look forward to when I was a subscriber — is under fire, and rightfully so…

“I stumbled upon the review online during my Sunday morning scouring and this question immediately sprung to mind: ‘Did anyone on the NYTBR editorial staff sound the dead horse alert?’ I clicked on the link and read it anyway, to see if the synopsis would contain any new information or analysis. It did not. When a colleague told me that Toure was a pop culture writer for the Times, everything started to make sense…

“It didn’t have to, though. Many writers have crossed platforms and been successful.

“I saw a real opportunity here for Toure to write a good story, even if the theme was not germane to the news of the day regarding the Yankees. But he failed. There is no fan reaction anywhere in this piece, which begins with a sweeping generalization and a question that immediately undercuts his credibility and – rightly or wrongly – gives the perception that he knows little about being a fan.

“‘Why do Yankee fans still love the Yankees? The team has embarrassed its supporters by leading the league in steroid scandals – thanks, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez. It’s also made them cringe by strong-arming New York City into giving the team public funds to subsidize its new $1.5 billion stadium while simultaneously flexing its herculean financial muscle to grab expensive free agents like a spoiled heir stockpiling rare sports cars.’

“Did the steroids scandal embarrass you as a fan? And how could you mention the steroids scandal and leave out Jason Grimsley? Because he’s not a name player? He was arguably the worst offender of all the Yankees involved with steroids and PEDs through the years.

“Toure continues: ‘Rodriguez consistently fails in the clutch in the regular season. That doesn’t move the turnstiles.’

“He’s wrong on both points, but so off-base on Point two he’s in foul territory. The Yankees have averaged 4.2 million fans four years running. Turnstiles aren’t moving as much this year due to pricing, which has been well-documented and reported here.”

Weiss wasn’t the only who teed off on Toure and the Times.’s reliable Rob Neyer also nailed it. Again, we’ll quote Rob a little so you’ll see why it’s important to pull up the entire piece:

“Doesn’t this seem like a strange time to note the Yankees’ dysfunctionality? Considering they’re now sitting in first place and look like a
fantastic bet to return to the playoffs this fall?… “(But) That’s a trifle. What’s not a trifle is the endorsement of Selena Roberts’ efforts at exploring the inner world of Alex Rodriguez. My personal opinion is that Roberts simply is not qualified to psychoanalyze Rodriguez. Not unless she’s prepared to explain away all the little boys who have been abandoned and scarred and still somehow managed to excel in their chosen professions, and occasionally even succeed in high-pressure moments.”

Why does such arbitrary seemingly unedited and unchecked pot-shoting pass for journalism at the New York Times? Most baffling of all, no one at the Times — not Nicholas Dawidoff in his May 14 review of Selena Roberts’s book, nor Toure — seems to be aware of what former New York Timesman Murray Chass wrote about Roberts on his blog. We posted this a couple of months ago but we’re happy to serve it up for you again.

Note to any future Times writer weighing in on this subject: heed Chas’s comment in the first paragraph that Roberts’s book is “a journalistic