Weekly media notes version 04.27.16: Really, we’re waiting for a big NFL/Rams reveal?

kiperFor those on the spectrum of conspiracy theoreticians, there’s one going around this week that the NFL has squeezed the Rams to wait until Thursday evening — when they’re officially on the clock at the 2016 Draft in Chicago — to reveal who they’ve decided to pick with the No. 1 overall choice.
Don’t spoil the suspense for ESPN and the NFL Network, both of whom air the draft that officially starts at 5 p.m., or prime-time in the East. When it’s up against “The Big Bang Theory.”
0ap3000000577742_thumbnail_200_150It became a topic, interestingly enough, on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” on Monday. Co-host Michael Wilbon got a little squirmy about it — as he should. He’s now asked to comment about whether the company he works for about whether it should comply to this request.
“Are we sure the NFL asked this, or did the TV networks ask it?” he responded.
Co-host Tony Kornheiser seemed a lot more subdued about it. It’s a TV show, he rationalized. He was fine with it.
“You want to get higher ratings,” he said, “You get higher ratings if there is a certain amount of suspense … If there is going to be a team that would help to create drama to make ratings, it would be a team in Los Angeles. I am OK with it, I don’t think it is bad.”
We’re bothered by the assumption that the league can so easily manipulate a network, even its own. Yet anyone with a true journalistic sense of duty would take this as a challenge to dig deeper through all the obfuscation. Produce a nugget of information prior to when it’s officially announced — a no-doubt true find. Perhaps it would then be just a matter of whether his editors would allow it to get on the air before the pick.
You could go with the Stephen A. Smith method and just guess loudly, with your chances here appearing to be 50/50, and wait for the outcome.
With that, ESPN’s 37th year of coverage begins officially with a “draft countdown” from 4-5 p.m. Thursday and the first round scheduled from 5-8:30 p.m. It’s a production that includes 27 cameras to capture Chris Berman, Mel Kiper Jr., Jon Gruden, new “NFL Front Office Insider” Louis Riddick, reporter Adam Scherfter, Suzy Kolber and a host of others.
Trey Wingo and Todd McShay join Kiper, Riddick and Schefter for coverage of rounds two and three (Friday at 4 p.m.) and rounds four to seven (Saturday, 9 a.m.)
The Culver City-based NFL Network boasts of more than 70 hours of live coverage during the week that started last Sunday. Rich Eisen and Mike Mayock are the point men, with Charles Davis, Daniel Jeremiah, Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders, Kurt Warner, Michael Robinson, Steve Mariucci, Brian Billick, Ian Rapoport, Melissa Stark and Rhett Lewis. Their “red carpet” special starts Thursday at 3 p.m.
At NFL.com, Matt “Money” Smith anchors the coverage starting at 5 p.m. Steve Wyche is the NFL Network reporter covering the Rams’ draft party at LA Live.

Chris Mortensen during Day 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft. (Photo by Rich Arden / ESPN Images)

Chris Mortensen during Day 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft. (Photo by Rich Arden / ESPN Images)

== As for Chris Mortensen, continuing a second round of intense treatment in Houston for Stage IV throat cancer since January, and about to miss ESPN’s coverage of the NFL Draft this weekend for the first time in 25 years.
The 64-year-old told us in a recent email that speaking right now “is somewhat painful, although I have numbing med for it. Radiation.”
He said he has at least another month of treatment to go.
“The draft was always my top calendar date,” he wrote. “It’s the first time I appeared (thank you, Fred Gaudelli) on ESPN in 1991. Can’t believe I’m going to miss it, though I am pretty wired through the magic of text messaging.”
Mortensen, a North Torrance High grad and El Camino College alum, covered high school sports and the Dodgers for the Daily Breeze before leaving to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution in 1983. We tried several times this week to tackle a Q-and-A about the draft and how he might be participating, but additional treatments precluded him from being up for it.
Prayers continued as we keep him, as well as TNT side reporter and SI cover story subject Craig Sager, in our thoughts. Continue reading

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30 baseball books for April ’16, Day 27: Holy Mack-erel

June 12, 1939, Hall of Fame, opening, Eddie Collins, Babe Ruth, Connie Mack, Cy Young, Honus Wagner, Grover Alexander, Tris Speaker, Napoleon Lajoie, George Sisler, Walter Johnson.

The Baseball Hall of Fame opens on June 12, 1939, with Connie Mack (first row, second from right) sharing the billing with (front row) Eddie Collins, Babe Ruth, Cy Young, (back row) Honus Wagner, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Tris Speaker, Napoleon Lajoie, George Sisler and Walter Johnson.

The book: “The Grand Old Man of Baseball: Connie Mack in His Final Years, 1932-1956”
The author: Norman L. Macht
The vital statistics: University of Nebraska Press, 672 pages, $39.95. Released October, 2015
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com. And the publisher’s website

412pzQxZs9LThe pitch: Combining the 742 pages already documented for “Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball” in 2007, and 720 more for “Connie Mack: The Turbulent and Triumphant Years, 1915-1931” in 2012, Macht has managed to convince the publisher to allow 2,134 pages and hundreds of thousands of words to go beyond the summation of the life and baseball times of Cornelius McGillicuddy, a man who was managing his 50th and final year with the Philadelphia Athletics when Vin Scully began his broadcasting career in Brooklyn in 1950.
Mack died six years later, at age 93.
From exhaustion, perhaps.
The exhaustion that one would even have after reading the 5,700-word piece that Wikipedia fashioned for him.
51t3UNty6SLWe won’t pretend to say we made it through the first two editions of the “Tall Tactician” that chronicle in every-so-detailed detail his five World Series titles, his ridiculous amount of 3,731 wins — almost 1,000 more than anyone else, despite a sub-.500 record — and a 10-year-playing career before all that from 1886-96 (the last three as player-manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates).
This third deposit gets through the weight of a far less joyous time in his life than the first two – here, his sons fight over control of the Philadelphia Athletics, watch it go bankrupt at Connie Mack Stadium, then sell it off and can’t stop it from moving to Kansas City.
51g7ymMHoAL (1)We’re just pleased that having had nearly six months to get through this final volume,  we’re still not sure if the effort this time was inspiring enough to go back and dig through the first two tomes we’d previously set aside, mostly because of intimidation.
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30 baseball books for April ’16, Day 26: Holy Yasiel, and in Bjarkman we trust with Cuba’s baseball lore

Yasiel Puig, left, talks with Arizona Diamondbacks left fielder Yasmany Tomas, right, in center field before the start of the Dodgers home opener on April 12. Both are Cuban defectors. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Yasiel Puig, left, talks with Arizona Diamondbacks left fielder Yasmany Tomas, right, in center field before the start of the Dodgers home opener on April 12. Both are Cuban defectors. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

The book: “Cuba’s Baseball Defectors: The Inside Story”
The author: Peter C. Bjarkman
The vital statistics: Rowman & Littlefield, 386 pages, $36. To be released May 5
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, and at the publisher’s website

51xVnQJaNbLThe pitch: Yasiel Puig and Aroldis Chapman made us read this.
So did President Obama, who paraded in with the Tampa Bay Rays onto Cuban soil this past spring for an exhibition game/demonstration of what ports of business American baseball can open.
Our curiosity about how this all plays into human trafficking also drew us in.
And, because it’s Bjarkman, a writer for BaseballdeCuba.com and frequent SABR award winner in this field, we felt we were getting it straight.
For example, he’s already won an award from the baseball super-research group for this particular effort.
Aside from his resume of biographical histories and encyclopedias, kids series books and baseball “scrapbook” series, he did, In 2014, did a history of Cuban baseball from 1864-2006.
718eo7LpNlL In 2005, he did “Diamonds Around the Globe: The Encyclopedia of International Baseball” which also won a SABR award. In 1999, it was “Smoke: The Romance and Lore of Cuban Baseball.”
Bjarkman writes in his intro that his attempt to “explore the daring and often tortuous migrations of some of the better-known Cuban stars who have abandoned low-wage celebrity status in their homeland to endure life-altering (and occasionally life threatening) pilgrimages in search of multimillion-dollar celebrity status on center stage in Norther American major leagues” is as complex a thing to watch as well as write about.
There are “proud successes” and “soft underbelly failures,” not just of the Cuban socialist baseball structure but how the MLB operates and benefits itself.
Bjarkman most notably argues “our mainstream media – especially in the wake of Barack Obama’s bold December 2014 efforts at placing a belated wedge in a long-standing United States-Cuba stalemate – has rather badly misconstrued and misreported the stories of Cuban ballplayers” flocking to the U.S.
“Popular press accounts have mostly gotten the whole story essentially backwards” and in the end, “Cuban talent drain may now haunt MLB’s survival every bit as much as it haunts Cuba’s own baseball future.”
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30 baseball books for April ’16, Day 25: Buck stops by for an update … from the crouch, not grouch, position

Buck Martinez, left, and Royals pitching coach Troy McClure converse before a xxx game. (www.battersbox.ca)

Buck Martinez, left, and Royals pitching coach Bob McClure converse before a 2011 game. (www.battersbox.ca)

The book: “Change Up: How to Make the Great Game of Baseball Even Better”
The author: Buck Martinez, with Dan Robson
The vital statistics: Harper Collins Canada, 320 pages, $27.99. Released March 15
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Powells.com, at the publisher’s website.

51Jyr6GaWSLThe pitch: Where you been, Buck?
John “Buck” Martinez is a voice that needs to be heard, but lately, you need to live in Toronto to do so.
Seventeen years as a big-league catcher (Kansas City, Milwaukee, Toronto), 28 years as a broadcaster (an analyst at ESPN and TBS, also with the Blue Jays, but now doing play-by-play for the Blue Jays on Rogers SportsNet, along with Dan Shulman), and a little more than a season as a Blue Jays manager (2001-June of 2002). That’s enough of a resume to resume interest in what his take might be on today’s game.
Old school? All the way. But in a good way.
From page 227: “We have learned so much about this game. We have found so many new ways to analyze it. So many new ways to evaluate and judge talent. We have, in many ways, come a long way. But if you really think about it, for all this talk about how the game has changed, the formula for winning has stayed the same: homegrown talent, pitching, defense and a team that knows how to play together. Sometimes a clear view forward requires a good, long look back. And that’s how you change up.”
That’s the message he leaves the reader with after the previous 21 chapters reinforce his beliefs that “teams” today have been lost to “individual brands,” too much time is spent on hitting instead of fielding, and there’s not enough “feel of the game” is taken into account when decisions are made.
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30 baseball books for April ’16, Day 24: A fixer-upper for the 1919 Black Sox ‘Betrayal’

hith-black-sox-world-series-Eight_men_banned-VThe book: “The Betrayal: The 1919 World Series and the Birth of Modern Baseball”
The author: Charles Fountain
The vital statistics: Oxford University Press, 290 pages, $27.95, Released October, 2015
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com and at the publisher’s website. (The publisher, by the way, is the same that makes the Oxford Dictionary).

61zSPKXvyGLThe pitch: We admire Charles Fountain’s gumption for trying to fix something about the most well-known fix in baseball history.
For all we know, or think we know, about this incident creeping up on its 100th anniversary, this journalism professor from Northeastern University and former sportswriter who has already churned out a 1993 bio about Grantland Rice and the rites of spring training (which we reviewed as the first book of the 2009 season) finds a need to  revisit something with a fresh set of cynicism.
This came out during last year’s World Series, so it missed the 2015 review list, but we’re not going to let it slip by that easy.
Much like what Glenn Stout did with the 1919 sale of Babe Ruth, Fountain is all about setting the record straight.
9906635792In a very subtle way, for example, he refers to Eliot Asinof’s “Eight Men Out” as “the best known if also the least-reliable book on the subject” just a few sentences into his book. So there goes any reference point you might have had in the literary world.
He acknowledges that the 1963 classic is  “the single most influential telling of the Black Sox story, for it has shaped every telling that has followed. It has also made subsequent retelling of the Black Sox story difficult, for while ‘Eight Men Out’ is confidently presented and highly readable, it is also questionably sourced, and as much a work of imagination as history … (and) Asinof made no apologies for seeing and telling the story in dramatic terms and had originally conceived the project as a screenplay.”
Fountain is hardly spouting off. And we’re drinking it all in.
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